Posts made in April, 2009

JetLinked: Tweetie for Mac

Posted on Apr 22, 2009 in JetLinks, Mac, UI Design

Tweetie for Mac logoEnough has been said about Tweetie for Mac, so I’m just going to link to it, in case you’ve been living under a rock and have missed it.

Bottom line is: The UI is fantastic, support for dragged in images is great and I believe it sets the bar a little higher for UI design on the Mac in general.

There are some additional features I’d like to see at some point, but from the look of the responses on Atebit’s Get Satisfaction page, some of them are already planned.

  • Support for stored searches
  • Sync state with the mobile version and across Mac

You can find out more about Tweetie on the Atebits website.

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Review: Things – a stylish task management app for OS X

Posted on Apr 19, 2009 in Featured, Mac, Reviews

Things iconThings, a task-management application for OS X, debuted this year at Macworld after a lengthy public beta. Despite being Cultured Code‘s first foray into the world of task management apps, Things 1.x is an extremely polished, attractive app – but does it actually make you more productive? Read on to find out…

UI & Design

Cultured Code really nailed the visual presentation of Things: The UI is very “mac-like” and looks very nice. Features are easy to discover and UI elements are easily identified.

The list view Things uses to display your tasks feels as though it is very iPhone-inspired does a good job of displaying your tasks and metadata without clutter. Cultured Code make a point of not using the typical column-based layout you see in other apps, and only show the information you’ve entered – not empty columns.

Things main window

You won’t find any revolutionary UI innovations in Things, but the UI works and is well thought out – far more important in this type of application.

Ease of use

One issue I’ve had with other todo managers in the past has been the barrier of entry: Managing todos is something you can easily do with a pen & paper, so a dedicated application needs to offer functionality beyond that. However: if entering todos is too convoluted and time-consuming, you may question whether it’s worth the effort – particularly if the task isn’t that important, time-consuming or complicated. Task managers can only help you avoid “I’ll get to it in a minute”-syndrome if entering tasks doesn’t become its own chore.

Extremely stripped down managers tend to be too simple – preventing you from adding supplementary information or tags to your tasks. At the other end of the spectrum you have todo managers that are too complicated, overwhelming you with sub-categories and scheduling features – so you end up spending more time managing your tasks than completing them.

Things manages to strike a nice balance between those extremes. You can use it as a simple notepad to scribble down a list of things you need to get done, but you can also set up projects, repeating tasks and areas of responsibility, if you’re so inclined.

Quick Entry

To allow for even quicker task entry, Things offers a Quick Entry hud-panel, that can be activated via a system-wide keyboard shortcut. Tasks added via the panel will be discreetly added to your Inbox, allowing you to continue working on whatever you happen to be doing.

Quick Entry

Tagging

tag editorThings offers powerful tagging features, offering some features that cause clutter in other task management apps: You can of course just assign regular keywords, but Cultured Code also suggests assigning your tasks time estimates, difficulty ratings and priority levels. Using tags to add that sort of metadata is a very clever way of hiding complexity: Users that don’t need that kind of detail won’t be distracted by those fields cluttering up the task entry interface, but power users still get the features they need.

Adding tags to your tasks is also nicely supported: In addition to iPhone-esque tag autocompletion, Things also intelligently assigns each tag a keyboard shortcut. Just select a task and hit the corresponding letter on your keyboard to tag it. Shortcuts can be edited later on, but by automatically assigning keyboard shortcuts, Things removes another step on your path to productivity.

Syncing

Under preferences, you’ll find syncing options for iCal and a companion iPhone application, which I’ll be reviewing separately soon. Those two options make it simple to get your tasks onto your mobile device, but there’s no built-in support for Mac-to-Mac syncing. But Things does support selecting your own library location, so you can easily set up syncing using a free Dropbox account.

Suitability for students

Students will appreciate the flexibility Things offers: You can choose to create Projects for some more involved courses, or just add your assignments and reading requirements to a semester-specific project or area of responsibility.

For team projects, the ability to delegate certain tasks to teammates is also very useful, helping you to keep track of jobs and follow-up with collaborators if necessary. On campus the iPhone application has proven invaluable, as it allows me to quickly make a note of something I can later follow up with when I sync up with my MacBook.

(And if you think Things is a bit expensive on a student’s budget, be sure to check out Cultured Code’s generous educational pricing offer!)

project view

Hidden gems

While preparing this review, I found myself frequently coming across little points of detail in the application, that just go to show how much attention to detail was paid by the development team:

  • Ability to print lists with several formatting options
  • Support for teammates, including iChat status indicators and Address Book integration
  • Automatic regular database backups
  • The Things wiki is full of useful tips and scripts, such as a useful ‘Mail to Things inbox’ script

Conclusion

Things has definitely helped me get organized and plan out my university assignments, work to-dos, personal projects and other errands. It’s easy to pick up the habit of adding even mundane tasks to your Things inbox and there’s nothing more satisfying than crossing off something you’ve completed.

The intuitive interface makes it easy to enter to dos, but also allows you to focus on certain tasks and plan out your day – something more basic task managers usually don’t offer.

But most important of all: Things stays out of your way and allows you to focus on your tasks and not on managing them, allowing you to get things done.

Things is available for $49.95 or $34.95 after educational discount. Be sure to check out the free demo!

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Dropbox tip: Store documents there!

Posted on Apr 12, 2009 in Featured, Hints, Mac

dropboxdocssyncWe’ve talked about Dropbox here before on the site, but did you know that you can use Dropbox for more than just storing files? If you use multiple Macs, you may also want to store some of your application data on Dropbox, allowing you to keep your todo lists, passwords, clippings and other data in sync across all your machines. Of course you could also do the same with a USB drive or MobileMe iDisk, but the instantaneous syncing Dropbox does makes this very practical for users who use multiple Macs a lot.

So far I’ve tested Dropbox syncing with the following apps:

  • 1Password: Involves a few steps, but Agile has also written a great setup guide.
  • VoodooPad: Just drag your .vpdoc files to your Dropbox and you’re all set.
  • The Hit List: Just move the library file from “~/Library/Application Support/The Hit List/The Hit List Library.thllibrary” to your Dropbox, hold down the Option key while launching The Hit List and select the file on your Dropbox.
  • Things: Setup is similar to The Hit List, a user-contributed how-to is also available.

Most other applications can probably also be synced using one of the methods above, provided they support a custom library location or use documents to store your data. I have yet to run into any issues, however there are a few things you’ll want to look out for, to preserve your data integrity:

  • Try to avoid running your synced applications on both Macs at the same time – otherwise you might run into “lost updates” and other syncing conflicts
  • Occasionally check your Dropbox folder for aforementioned conflicts: Dropbox doesn’t give you a lot of warning if there are conflicts, so take a look every now and then to see if there is a “sync conflict” folder in your Dropbox.
  • Make sure you have the same version of the application on both Macs.
  • Your preferences are usually stored in a different location than your data, so don’t be surprised if those aren’t synced

Tip: if you sign up for free using this referral link, you’ll get an extra 250MB storage.

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First Look: Lounge for OS X

Posted on Apr 2, 2009 in Featured, Mac, Reviews

picture-13Stop the presses tweets! There’s a new Twitter app in town!

For a while now Twitterific has ruled the roost when it comes to desktop apps for OS X. This is primarily due to the fact that there actually aren’t that many decent Mac clients around, despite the plethora of options for the iPhone.

(Note: Yes, there are a whole host of Air apps, iChat plugins, multi-purpose social updaters and Dashboard widgets, but I’m only talking about Cocoa-based, OS X-ish Mac apps.)

That’s about to change: Bluebird, Beak and Lounge are three new OS X native apps announced for release this Spring.

First impressions

Lounge for the Mac is still very much a work in progress, but is already quite stable and reliable. The UI makes it easy to access all the Twitter features you’ve come to expect and the ability to save searches as Groups is also very useful. Unlike some apps the UI doesn’t try to overwhelm you with multiple message lists. Support for multiple accounts, retweeting, a Services menu and the ability to ‘drill down’ into people’s @replies, user profiles and links rounds out the experience.

picture-15

One feature that I’m particularly fond of is the ability to sync your read-status with the iPhone companion app that is already available on the App Store.

Pricing for the Mac version of Lounge hasn’t yet been announced, but you can test drive the beta version until its expiration date, July 1st.

Gripes

Lounge still lacks some features such as Picture support, built-in url shortening etc. that some users will probably miss, but it’s early days yet…

Conclusion

Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a slightly different take in the desktop Twitter app genre.

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