Posts made in January, 2010

3 Mac apps with perfect UIs for the iPad

Posted on Jan 31, 2010 in Featured, iPad, Opinions, UI Design

For the first time ever, the iPad gives developers the chance to design desktop-class applications for a multi-touch based user interface.
Here are 3 Mac applications with user interfaces that I think would work really well on the iPad:

1. Times

This fantastic RSS reader is already multi-touch aware and is a dream to use on MacBooks with multi-touch trackpads. You tap to read full articles, 3-finger swipe up to return to the overview or 3-finger swipe left and right to switch between sections. The gorgeous UI is the closest thing to reading a real newspaper on your Mac and Times could be a perfect match for the iPad.

Times RSS.png

2. CoverScout

The coverflow-esque UI in CoverScout is a perfect fit for the iPad: You can swipe through your albums, double-tap to start a search and then drag a cover from your search results to an album to apply it.
The search results bubble introduced in CoverScout 3 is also very reminiscent of the new popover list UI element introduced for the iPad.

Whilst you can certainly argue whether this is the type of application you would use on the iPad, the interaction style seems as though it would be an ideal match.

3. Djay

If there’s one application that would really work well with a touch-screen UI, it’s Djay. Being able to use a MacBook multi-touch trackpad as your DJ controller is nice, but a 9.7 inch touchscreen control would offer a much better, hands-on experience. Currently it looks as though access to the music on your iPad will be restricted though, making a real port of Djay unfeasible.

DJay.png

2010

It’ll be interesting to see which Mac applications will be turned into iPad versions and what level of sophistication iPad apps have. Will they stay simple and iPhone-esque? Or will we see Mac application developers come out with truely desktop-challenging versions of their products? 2010 should be an exciting year for developers…

If you like this article, shop at amazon.com and support Jetplane Journal.

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Jetlinked: iPad UI Roundup

Posted on Jan 28, 2010 in JetLinks, UI Design

Sebastiaan de With has posted a very comprehensive analysis of some of the new UI elements introduced on the iPad:

As usual with a large Apple product launch, I’ve written up this post to round up the good, the bad, and the ugly of all the new interface and interaction designs that were set loose on the world by the company that’s regarded as the most influential and skilled when it comes to designing experiences.

Man, where do I begin.

He’s done a terrific job of scrutinizing all the videos and screenshots on various websites as well: Cocoia Blog


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Review: Keyboard Maestro

Posted on Jan 25, 2010 in Featured, Mac, Reviews


If you use your Mac professionally, chances are you often find yourself typing out certain bits of text over and over again. Whether it’s a URL, a file path or email snippets, typing these snippets over and over again can waste a lot of time. That’s where utilities such as Keyboard Maestro come in handy: they allow you to define keyboard shortcuts that will type out phrases or execute commands for you.

Unlikea more general-use utilities such as LaunchBar or Quicksilver, Keyboard Maestro is designed primarily for text manipulation and keyboard shortcuts rather than general purpose file system actions and macros. Having said that, it can also replicate some of the functionality those programs offer as well, giving it a bit of an advantage over more basic text replacement tools such as Typinator or TextExpander.

Performance

If there’s one thing you need your text-replacement utility to do, it’s reliable text replacement. You want it to work immediately, regardless of which application you’re working in. If it causes any extra delay, it would interrupt your thought and you would probably be quicker off typing things out yourself.

Keyboard Maestro performed very well in this regard and worked instantly every time, regardless of which every application I tested it with.

Advanced Commands

Once you’ve become accustomed to basic text replacement, you start thinking about more advanced things.

I for instance use a number of text replacements that allow me to create URLs based on file paths I’ve copied. So by copying the path “/images/example.jpg”, I can simply type the shortcut “..imgloc” to turn that file path into the URL “http://jetplanejournal.com/posts/images/example.jpg“.

But Keyboard Maestro can also trigger non-text events, such as mouse movements, system events (e.g. volume, disk ejects etc.) open URLs etc. The Keyboard Maestro website has a number of ideas and suggestions to help you optimize your workflow.

But there’s more…

So Keyboard Maestro is a text replacement utility, a keyboard hotkey tool and a time saver. What other tricks does it have up its sleeve?
Well, it can also:

  • Store your clipboard history and manage multiple clipboards
  • Remote control your Mac from your iPhone using its built-in macro trigger webserver
  • Run regular scripts and jobs for you
  • Record GUI-based scripts

Gripes

Keyboard Maestro is a very powerful utility, but manages to be easy to use thanks to a fairly simple and straightforward interface. However, the UI could do with a little bit of extra polish here and there and one or two Macros that are enabled by default may be confusing:

  • Some of the icons could be more obvious, e.g. you enable and disable macros by clicking a (stateless) check mark. A “no entry” icon is used for delete instead of the conventional “—” icon.
  • To finish editing a new macro, you can either close the actions pane, or click the “+” icon, neither of which is particularly obvious.
  • By default, Option+backspace is remapped to forward delete, which left me scratching my head for a few seconds, as I generally use that shortcut to delete entire words.
  • Similarly, Ctrl+Tab is remapped to Keyboard Maestro’s own application window switching function (which is similar to the Dock expose feature in Snow Leopard) – I use that shortcut extensively to switch between tabs in Safari.

But these are all minor gripes that won’t annoy you at all once you have everything set up the way you want, so I offer them mainly as feedback to the developer.

What about the tools built-in to OS X?

I know a lot of users prefer to use the tools and functionality built-in to OS X whenever possible, so you might ask what’s wrong with those tools…

Well, although text substitution service has been beefed up significantly in 10.6, it’s still lacking the customizablity you’ll find in utilities such as Keyboard Maestro. You could also replicate a lot of the functionality in Automator, but in my experience, Automator is so slow to execute a command, it’s not worth the effort.

Conclusion

Keyboard Maestro is a great utility for anyone that spends a lot of time working with text on their Mac. Whether you might be thinking of using it to help you quickly answer repetitive email, create blog posts or just to map certain mouse-based actions to a keyboard shortcut, it’s definitely worth checking out.
I’ve tried a number of similar utilities, but in terms of extendability and scope, Keyboard Maestro seems to take the cake. At $36, it’s not cheap for a utility, but considering the time it’ll help you save I think it’s a fair price. I’d recommend you try it out and see how well it could fit into your daily workflows. A free demo is available.

Recommended.

Disclaimer: Peter Lewis, maker of Keyboard Maestro kindly provided me with a license for this review. All opinions are however, of course my own.

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Ripping Audiobook CDs with iTunes

Posted on Jan 17, 2010 in Hints, Opinions, UI Design

iTunes made it easy for everyone and their mother to finally join the digital music revolution. Ripping music CDs is straightforward and fairly easy to do, as is buying music via the iTunes Store.

But I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve showed friends and relatives how to import their audiobook / spoken word CDs properly. It was also one of the questions I was most often asked whilst working at an Apple retailer. There are a ton of tools and tutorials on the net that also address this issue, which seems to suggest people continue to struggle with this problem.

By default, iTunes imports CDs as individual tracks and adds them to your “Music” library. To rip something as an audiobook in iTunes 9:

  • Select all tracks
  • Choose Advanced > Join CD tracks
  • Select Import Settings and choose “Spoken Podcast”
  • Import CD
  • Select imported tracks, File > Get Info
  • Under options, select “Media Kind: Audiobook”

To make things easier, I would suggest Apple add a simple option screen, similar to the one they currently show if you select an empty media category.

This is a mockup of what it could look like:

With millions of iTunes users out there, I’m sure this would help a fair number of people, without being troublesome for other users.Comedy CDs and childrens stories continue to be popular on CDs so it’s not just audiobooks that could be ripped with this option. One could even envision some of the other import options being exposed this way, e.g. a “Import losslessly” option.

Anyway, food for thought.

Image credit: Audiobook icon by Splasm Software, Inc.

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Jetlinked: 20 Beautiful Mac apps

Posted on Jan 16, 2010 in JetLinks, Mac, Opinions, UI Design

Designreviver has a nice list of 20 Beautiful Mac apps that is worth checking out. There are only a few picks I disagree with:

  • Pixelmator’s black icons on a HUD window background have always bothered me and seem like a bad UI choice
  • iStatmenus is pretty, but never feels very Mac-like
  • TuneUp is the antithesis of a beautiful Mac app. It leeches onto iTunes and looks & feels more like a Firefox plugin than a Mac app.

But the list has a few lesser-known entries as well, so it’s worth reading for a few gems that you don’t see on every other list (I’m typing this in blogo which I hadn’t heard of before…).

Link

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