MG Siegler has some interesting news on the new Twitter picture offering, including thoughts on iOS 5 integration.
MG Siegler has some interesting news on the new Twitter picture offering, including thoughts on iOS 5 integration.
While it is true that Apple and Lodsys have an obvious dispute about the scope of Apple’s license to the Lodsys Patents, we are willing to put our money where our mouth is and pay you something if we are wrong. Therefore, Lodsys offers to pay $1,000 to each entity to whom we have sent an infringement notice for infringement on the iOS platform, or that we send a notice to in the future, if it turns out that the scope of Apple’s existing license rights apply to fully license you with respect to our claim relating to your App on Apple iOS.
Well that is certainly a strong response, this is going to get ugly.
The Hit List just launched version 1.0 and announced over-the-air syncing for $20/year1 . Thus it is immediately better than Things, yet still can’t touch OmniFocus. Though as Shawn Blanc level-headedly points out:
In fact, for those that love the simplicity of Things but wish for the syncing of OmniFocus, then The Hit List might be right up your alley.
Time to forget about Things2 .
At least this one makes sense…
Now that I’ve used a WP7 phone for a few weeks, I’m asking myself the same question: should I go back to my iPhone? After looking at the clean, ascetic visual language of WP7 for such a long time, iOS suddenly seems garish, overdone, and kind of ugly. Looking at iOS 4 feels like looking at a screenshot of a pinstriped Mac OS X Cheetah from 2001.2 So I really don’t particularly want to go back to that.
This is an incredibly well written and in-depth take on Windows Phone 7 — to the point that I want to switch to Windows Phone 7 to try it out for a while…
Can we all just agree that there are some things that just “don’t work”:
The latest app from Information Architects, iA Writer for Mac, has been highly anticipated since iA launched their incredibly popular iA Writer app on the iPad. Writer is in every way, shape and form, an exercise in minimalism and focus. I have long been a fan of their iPad version and was really excited to […]
The latest app from Information Architects, iA Writer for Mac, has been highly anticipated since iA launched their incredibly popular iA Writer app on the iPad. Writer is in every way, shape and form, an exercise in minimalism and focus.
I have long been a fan of their iPad version and was really excited to see what they could do with the Mac version. This app is so very basic and simple, yet so very interesting that I find myself both struggling to describe what makes the app good and having to hold back praise of the app at the same time.
To give you a very short synopsis, iA Writer may once again make me rethink the way I write and that’s a good thing.
Currently I write everything in TextMate on my Mac, this was a conscious decision I made to standardize my writing environment. When I open TextMate I know it is time to write. Since OmniOutliner came out I began outlining posts on my iPad, tossing that outline into TextMate and writing and editing in TextMate. I did this all with the occasional post written in Notesy or iA Writer on my iPad when my Mac wasn’t convenient to use.
That’s what I did before iA Writer came out and before we get into what I am doing now (and what I think I will continue doing) let’s take a look at iA Writer for the Mac.
I am constantly testing different text editors on all sorts of platforms and because of this I have a standard way of testing these apps. Typically I open up a new document and just start writing stream of conscious thoughts about the app, once I am done those thoughts sometimes become reworked and interweaved into whatever I may write about the app. More often it is another text file that lies in a wasteland of old text snippets in Dropbox.
Here’s my first (unedited) stream of conscious thoughts on iA Writer for Mac:
This is a test to see how much, or how little I hate iA Writer for the Mac. It is a $17.99 Mac app, available in the Mac App Store — setting the bar high for the “focused-writing-app” category.
This falls in the category of apps that is made by people who actually use the product — in this case — writers.
Lofty words for having just played with the app for a few moments of time. Usually I cannot post those stream of conscious thoughts because they are laden with curse words and typos — that to me was most telling about Writer. (Not the lack of typos, just caught me in one of my better moods.)
When I immediately have a connection with an app I know there is far more than meets the eye — this is very much the case with Writer.
Of course many of you will note that apps like Ommwriter, WriteRoom (long time favorite of mine), Byword and many more have offered the “focused-by-way-of-fullscreen-mode” long before Writer came out. In this respect Writer is nothing new, rather just a new take on a classic app category.
What is different is the focus mode, which as far as I can tell is only available in ByWord and Writer for the iPad. It is a mode that fades out all other text except for the current sentence you are working on. I am going to touch more on this mode later, but for now let’s just say that focus mode, plus fullscreen makes for a very, well, focused writing environment.
The difference between Writer and Byword is very, very significant. Writer has zero preferences and while Byword has limited preferences it has far too many options. Allowing you to pick what you see in “focus mode” is nice on a bullet point feature list, but in practice it is far too much choice. On and Off is all you really need. Not to mention Byword doesn’t “lock” into focus mode nearly as well as Writer.
There is not a single thing you can change about Writer. Want it to be a different color? Too bad. What a different font? Fat chance.
The difference is full featured versus focus. It’s something that Hog Bay got right the first time with Writeroom — don’t bother with features, make the main feature the lack of features. Writer takes that thought process to the next plateau and does a really good job of doing so.
I paid $17.99 for an app that has no preferences, forces one font and one color on me and doesn’t even show me spelling errors while I type! Yet, I am perfectly happy with my purchase.
Byword is for people that know they want to do all their writing in one app. Writer is for people that just want to open something and write. CMD+D versus CMD+1, or CMD+OPT+1, or CMD+2, or… you get the point.
I often joke about how much time I waste in Keyboard Maestro crafting funky things, or how much time I spend in OmniFocus tweaking the look and layout of the app. The problem is that the more powerful something is — the more features you give the user — the more dangerous it is to tinkerers, and I am very much a tinkerer. Writer keeps me from doing any of those non-writing activities.
There is an amazing amount of attention that has been paid to the entire app — from the background and its subtle horizontal lines and slight grey-white appearance. To the not quite black appearance of the text, to the overly large and cyan-ish colored cursor.
There is not a single facet of this application that was not thought about in great detail. And as a user you not only see that, but you feel it.
I say that the design is a prominent feature of the app because it is so damned effective on keeping me writing. How often have you been working on a document, stepped away or switched out of the app, only to come back and not be sure where you were? Well the grayed out text will get you right back on track and the big blue cursor will make itself readily apparent — why don’t all apps do it like this?
I can’t speak eloquently enough about the idea of why this app feels so right, so let’s have another random designer do it for me:
It feels almost like, ‘well, of course it’s that way. Why would it be any other way?’
That’s Jonathan Ive speaking about how he designs in the film Objectified, but I think it perfectly encompasses what iA has done with Writer for the Mac.
Writer supports Markdown recognition and does so with title tags by pushing the formatting into the left margin. The side effect of this method is that you can quickly move through the document and see where your sections start — that’s much easier than a hard margin.
The rest of the Markdown support has been implemented very subtly allowing you the writer, to once again focus on your craft.
I teased above that I think Writer will change how I write for the better. The biggest problem that I face when I write is poor editing and structure. I solved a lot of structure problems by going back to outlining posts, editing though continues to be my problem.
I tend to gloss over goofy mistakes because I edit for flow and red squiggly lines. This means I read my posts very quickly and miss a lot of small things — much to the annoyance of all of you. Writer’s focus mode forces me to read sentence by sentence, meaning that I am far more likely to actually read the sentence instead of just flying by it.
The result has meant a slight revamping of my writing:
The neat thing is that all the formats are compatible and easy to use with one another. At first this seemed like overkill and using too many apps to me when I got by with just two before. However I have been sitting in this Starbucks now for 2 hours doing nothing but writing in Writer and have yet to get the normal urges I had to ‘go do something else’ — that’s what matters to me, not how many apps it takes me to get there, but the end result.
To navigate between sentences in the app you use the command key plus the left or right arrow keys. This is very nice and easy to do, but it means that you can no longer use CMD+Right Arrow to move to the end of the line. This is not completely a deal breaker, but it does trip me up at times.
When focus mode is on and you are in fullscreen mode I tend to page through sentences and the text does not scroll fast enough. I would very much like Writer to always keep a few lines of text below the current “focused” sentence so that the text doesn’t get paged off the screen. This actually is the biggest annoyance I have right now.
Go check out Writer on the fantastic site for it. Forget about the price and instead ask yourself if you think it would make you want to write more — if so, that alone is worth far more than $20.
Don’t bother asking how I am differentiating this statement from what I said about Tweetbot — because I fully intend on ignoring such statements. Suffice to say that Tweetbot is more like a theme applied to an app, rather than a radical rethinking of a category of apps — which is what I believe Writer has done. ↩
It’s official now, Apple will “unveil” Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud on Monday. Interesting that they announced this in a press release so early, meaning that there is potential for a “one more thing” that will be great.
Not sure what to make of this move — other than to say that even if we know what is going to be announced, we still don’t know the impact of what will be announced.
Shortly after I posted about Tweed, I was contacted by the developer of Worthwhile, an app in a similar vein of Tweed — but one that the developer of the product felt I might actually like. I was put on the developer beta list and took a look at Worthwhile and I think it is […]
I was put on the developer beta list and took a look at Worthwhile and I think it is worthwhile for you to check out.1
Let me start right away by saying that it is not nearly as visually stunning as Tweed. The app is very utilitarian feeling and likely won’t see anyone downloading it because it looks visually interesting. Like most good apps though, Worthwhile doesn’t need those visualizations to make the app useful for you.
Worthwhile turns your Twitter feeds, or your Twitter lists, into a large list of shared links. Tapping on a link will show the linked page to the right and provide you options to send the link to Instapaper. This is all very similar to Tweed, however unlike Tweed you can hit a button on the list itself, for each tweet, that will send that link straight to Instapaper — no need to open the whole page.
This is something that I really like and that makes the app really great for reading through links on Twitter lists. (I don’t actually have any Twitter lists that I made, but I ‘followed’ the ones that Shawn Blanc made — why do the work when he did it for me.)
When you first launch the app you sign in to Twitter and Instapaper. After which your feed starts to populate. You will notice that there is a button to hide the item, or to read it later along with the URL under the tweeted text. Luckily you can turn off some of this clutter in the settings preference. I turned off the hide button and the URL preview to maximize space for the tweet text itself.
Tapping read later will immediately send it to Instapaper and hide the tweet from the list. A very nice touch. You only see Tweets with links that were made in the last 24 hours, however by enabling ‘weekend mode’ the time span is extended on Mondays to include all of the links from the past weekend. This is a great example of a feature that was made because people actually used the app before they launched it — I love that little touch.
As I mentioned above the reason I was sent this app to try out is because the developer thought that I may actually find the app useful. With Tweed I never got into the app — it always seemed more cumbersome that using Twitter on my Mac or iPhone (I rarely, if ever, use Twitter on my iPad). I was pretty skeptical about Worthwhile when I saw it — but the ability to add links with one tap intrigued me enough to make we want to try out the app.
For my main timeline I think Worthwhile is useless — it’s just as easy to use Twitter on my iPhone to add things from my main feed to Instapaper — with the added benefit of seeing all tweets.
Where Worthwhile really excels for me is in the use of lists.
I never look at Twitter lists and never make them, but some of the lists that I follow, made by other users, are really great for using with this app. This allows me to comb through tweets that I would otherwise not see and potentially grab some interesting reads from them.
For that alone I have found myself popping Worthwhile open once a day to comb through some Twitter lists.
Worthwhile is in the App Store now for $3.99. Typically I don’t care about price once it is below $5 on the iPad and Worthwhile is no exception — a good buy. It’s not the prettiest, but it is highly useful and quick.
Worthwhile will truly turn your Twitter feeds into an RSS like tool that is not curated by you, but curated by people that you choose to curate it for you — this is an interesting concept. I rather like that idea.
Couldn’t resist that. ↩
On the other hand, the brain has about 1e15 synapses, making it analogous to five million contemporary 200 million transistor chip "cores".
I had the opportunity to beta test this app and have been doing so for a while now. It has been in the App Store for a bit at $4.99. There is a lot to like about the app, including its export of Markdown text to HTML text with Smartypants formatting. The preview is also very nice and the app is incredibly robust and full featured for what it is.
Personally it isn’t right for me right now — where I think it may fit nicely is for students taking notes (at least I would have like it for that).1 I could see myself as a student taking notes with the app and using the in-app browser to goof off when the professor goes on an annoying tangent. The extended keys on the keyboard would make for better and quicker note taking too.
I also have a lot of faith in this app’s future given the amount of features that are constantly being pushed to beta users — a sure sign of dedicated developers.
Which also makes me wish I wrote in Markdown back in college. ↩
Perhaps you haven’t heard, but Stephanie Koerner accused Urban Outfitters of stealing and outright plagiarizing her Etsy shop. It has long been known in the Etsy community that Urban Outfitters copies anyone and hides it under a cloak of occasionally wholesaling with some Etsy sellers.
Here is part of their response to the latest accusation, with my translations:
We are not implying that Koerner stole her necklace idea from one of these other designers, we are simply stating the obvious—that the idea is not unique to Koerner and she can in no way claim to be its originator.
Translation: “We are not saying that she stole the idea too, but we are strongly hinting at it. At very least we don’t see any creativity or originality in her work, unlike ours.”
Normally we would not respond publicly to Koerner’s allegations, but we believe the media response to her campaign is threatening to impact the dozens of independent designers we work with on a daily basis. For many of them, having their work sold at Urban Outfitters is a very positive turning point in their careers, and we will not allow their hard work and commitment, or ours, to be undermined by these false allegations.
Translation: “Normally we laugh internally at these poor schmucks, but this time she complained really loudly. This time it pissed us off a little bit, so we are publicly making fun of her. Also she is the one Etsy should be mad at — not us!”
This is certainly not what you would like to see happen. California courts ordered Twitter to hand over a users private details (email and phone number) as part of a libel suit. Whether or not Twitter did the right thing by law — they mot certainly did the wrong thing by their users.
It would have been much better PR if Twitter at all acted upset by the fact that they had to hand this over.
The USPS is a wondrous American creation. Six days a week it delivers an average of 563 million pieces of mail—40 percent of the entire world’s volume. For the price of a 44¢ stamp, you can mail a letter anywhere within the nation’s borders. The service will carry it by pack mule to the Havasupai Indian reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Mailmen on snowmobiles take it to the wilds of Alaska. If your recipient can no longer be found, the USPS will return it at no extra charge. It may be the greatest bargain on earth.
I love the USPS but they have been in trouble for a long time. It makes no sense to charge so little for such a enormous offering — I say it a lot, but they really must charge more.
If a company can’t create an app with added value, the authors said, they’re better off just making their website more finger-friendly.
In a post in the “Twitter Development Talk” Google group, Matt Harris posts:
We understand this means you might not be able to fully test your updated flow so we are going to extend the deadline until the end of June. This makes the new enforcement date Thursday, June 30th, 2011.
Nice to see the developers get an extension… I guess. But this last line really rubs me the wrong way:
Thanks for working with us to ensure users can make informed decisions about the access an application has to their account.
You can state something like that when you are the body forcing the change on people.
Exactly what you would expect from using the iPad version. Well done — high price (though to be fair still a real value).