end kvetch

Macs, productivity, &c.

My Revolutionary Not-Too-Exciting Note System

I’m not the kind of person who likes to take notes. This isn’t really the problem that it sounds like because I can member most things without having to refer back to a little scrap of paper.

Much of my note-phobia originates from a) my horrible handwriting and b) the difficulties in trying to come up with a good organizational system for pieces of easily torn notebook paper. My original solution, Levenger’s Circa, solved the second problem (for the most part) but not the first.

Prior to my Circa debut (no, this isn’t my life story, I am getting to the point) I had had one fleeting experience with computerized note-taking. These notes were marvelous, clearly organized and infused with sarcasm. I was in love. Sadly, at the time computerized note-taking was not practical (no, not because it was 1980 and computers were the size of small armories) because I did not yet have a laptop. This all changed in the winter of 2006/2007 when I got a MacBook of my very own. I started off, like most novice note-takers, in MS Word. But as I pointed out in my earlier journaling software review, Word lacks the capability to organize multiple documents. At this point I was using the glorious Schoolhouse 2.0 to organize my assignments (having recently moved on from the not-so-glorious iCal). Schoolhouse contains a fairly rudimentary note-taking system (basically a version of TextEdit which stores documents to the application rather than a file) which I used happily until the end of the year (its probably the reason I did so well in biology1).

It seems like a rather anti-climactic ended, right? Well its not the end. *Dramatic music*

Frankly, for all my praise Schoolhouse isn’t really the best solution for me (although that could all change with the possibility of a third version come-September).

(Sorry, putting this post on hold, there’s a new episode of The Burg)

Anyway, as I was saying, Schoolhouse isn’t really the best assignment tracker for me (I think I’m going to crawl back to iCal) and its certainly not the best note-taking system. This is where Journler (the winner of the first Software Sumo) comes in.

After realizing that lots of numbers and abbreviations make note titles frickin’ awesome2 I came up with a simple little cataloging system to use with the journaling superstar. The system has three components: the subject (a letter abbreviation), the quarter number and the note number. For instance, ENG.1.5 would mean the fifth English note of the first quarter. A title can then be tacked onto the back (making for “ENG.1.5: The Rise of Hemmingway”, which sounds an awful lot like a sci-fi film). Another nice thing about Journler (which I neglected to mention in the review) is its wiki-like linking between entries. So, if I make reference to a concept I can then link back to a full entry pertaining to it, something which I really liked doing in VoodooPad.

So, there you go. If you were able to read that entire thing I commend you and know you know all my note-taking secrets (which you probably didn’t want in the first place).

Footnotes:
1 Not to brag, but I was at near the top of my class.
2 As it were, that’s how I described the liver on my bio final.

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Filed under: Oldies, Productivity, , , , ,

Apple Has Drawn Me Out of Hiatus


With all of Apple’s new product updates I’m unable to resist coming out of my unannounced hiatus.

So, first off I’ve gotta say I’m not too thrilled about the iMacs (I was really hoping they would look like this) with their weird black thing and whatnot (I guess environmental friendliness comes at a price– which I’m not willing to pay). And with the slogan “You can never be too thin. Or too powerful.” it seems like they’re just asking for some mother’s watchdog group to accuse Apple or brainwashing their little fanboys girls. (I came up with the slogan “The new iMac– more than just iCandy”.)

As for the software updates– four letters for you: h-a-w-t. I gotta love a better iMovie but I think they over-simplified it a little too much, it just looks too simple. iPhoto is looking nice with its new features but it’s all the same to me, seeing as how I don’t use iPhoto. And as for iWeb, Garage Band, et all– whatever.

I got pretty pumped about Numbers (the new Excel killer) even though it looks (much like Pages) to be more for making your documents pretty rather than powerful. Sadly, when I downloaded the free trial it informed me that I would have to upgrade to OS 10.4.10 which I’m just not willing to do (seeing as I’d have to redo all the icons I’ve applied). So I’ll just have to wait for TUAW to dish out the news.

(Oh yeah, and those new keyboards aren’t half bad either).

Filed under: Apple, Oldies, , , , ,

Questing for Teriyaki

Today I went to the store. I wanted to exchange the largest bottle of teriyaki sauce I have ever seen. I had very specific instructions regarding the brand to replace it with and I had no idea how to go about doing it. Knowing what little I did, I got into the customer service line behind Mr. Creepy-Stringy-White-Hair-And-Bald-Spot, soon Mr. Scary-Just-Walked-Into-A-Column joined us. Based on what little I knew about customer service I assumed the service rep. would be in a dreadful mood and would try to bite my head off despite my simple request and valid receipt. After Ms. Bag-Full-Of-Thing-To-Return was done and Mr. Creepy-Stringy-White-Hair-And-Bald-Spot was done with his transaction (it involved a piece of white paper and a couple dollar bills) it was my turn to approach the dreaded CSR. I think she could tell I was an exchange n00b and she was nicer than I thought and everything seemed to be going well until the topic of the replacement product came up. No one had thought to tell me that I should bring that way with me too so I ran off looking for teriyaki sauce (which, apparently, is a condiment) only to find that I couldn’t find the right brand. Dejectedly I returned to the line and told her I just wanted a refund. She asked me if I had the credit card that had been used– no one had thought to provide me with that either. I told her ‘no’ and I could tell she was starting to dislike me. Then she asked if I had a penny– no one in their right mind would think to provide me with one. Once again I told her I didn’t and she sighed and gave me my $4.99 and made me sign and put my phone number on a little piece of paper. I then went on to shopping bliss (except I forgot to buy bread) but now I have to return a paintbrush….

Filed under: Oldies, , , ,

Skitch Invites

As you can see I just added a TUAW article to the sidebar. Those lucky devils have received 1,000 Skitch beta invites to give out and they are giving them away to their readers. Seeing how TUAW had a large readership I assume these will be going quickly if they are not already gone. Luckily for you I have received the princely sum of five invites and I am willing to distribute them among you, the huddling masses. Simply e-mail me either with the address you would like the invite sent to or with it in the body (subject should be “Skitch Invite”) and I’ll tell the good folks at Plasq to send an invitation your way. (I would say “first come, first serve” but I don’t think that’ll be a problem). Just a reminder, Skitch is a graphics annotation program for Mac OS X only that I use for all the graphics on this site (and don’t they look spiffy?). Skitch also comes with an online storage service akin to PhotoBucket.

Filed under: Apple, Oldies, , , , ,

Software Sumo: NewsNetWireLite vs. Vienna

sumo.png

Just to start off with a clear air I will admit right now that I am a diehard Vienna fan and not big on NNWL. My personal preferences aside, let the match begin!

Interface

Many people don’t like Vienna’s interface but I personally find it acceptable. For those of you who don’t know NNW (but not Lite) recently received a interface lift. Let’s take a look at the two apps now.


My biggest issue with NNWL is its interface. I can’t pin down a single part of it that annoys me but I find the whole package to be rather off-putting. However, this is purely a visual thing, I think the interface is perfectly navigatable and consistent with other OS apps. I think for someone who is less of an aesthete the NNWL interface will do fine. (The interface is also much improved in the new version of NNW). One last little minor thing that I don’t like about the NNW(L) environment is the non-standard dock badge (which you can judge for yourself).


As I said earlier, many people take issue with the Vienna interface. Two issues that tend to repeat are the brushed metal and its inconsistencies with the standard OS X environment (namely, the controls at the bottom and the thick window border). Strangely, for all of my love of consistency these things don’t bug me. This may be because I like my news-reader to be more of a widgetesque app (a simple program that is is simple and streamlined). One option that people like about Vienna is the three-column view (shown) that is not available in NNWL. Yet another nice thing about Vienna is the option to use different styles.

NewNetWire Lite: 7/10 – An intuitive but less-than-gorgeous interface.
Vienna: 8/10 – A controversial interface that I feel is diverse and effective.

Features

Now, even though I’m not big on bloated feature-full RSS readers I know some people are. I’m sorry to say it but Vienna wins out here too. Although free, Vienna has many of the features that are in the full version of NNW but absent from the Lite one (these include an integrated browser and a bunch of other stuff). Of course, you could shell out $30 for a couple more features and an interface you may find more appealing but unless you have a hedge fund to burn I’d suggest Vienna for features.

NewsNetWire Lite: 7/10 – Has the features I need but not enough for everyone.
Vienna: 9/10 – The developer(s) could make good money with features like these.

Overall

Vienna has one with a fairly slim lead. I feel that this is one that is really up to the user. It depends what you are looking for in an reader. Please share you opinions.

Vienna – Free
NewsNetWire (Lite) – Lite is free, $29.95 for the full version.

P.S Ignore any misspellings…it’s complicated.

Filed under: Apple, Oldies, Software Sumo, , , , , , , , , ,

Software Sumo: MacJournal vs. Journler

sumo.png

There has been a rematch! After complaints that an old version of MacJournal was used, I have reviewed these two apps again. Click here to see the new review.

I have finally caved to HitTail’s requests and now I am launching a new feature: Software Sumo! Software Sumo will evaluate two Mac softwares (often freeware…in which case I guess it would be Freeware Fencing). Today we will be kicking off with MacJournal vs. Journler. Soon I hope to evaluate NetNewsWire (Lite) and Vienna. Any other requests you have for match-ups can be emailed to me. And now your regularly scheduled programming….

As the names imply MacJournal and Journler are both journaling applications. For the purposes of fair evaluation I have chosen to match up the latest free version of MacJournal (2.6) against Journler.

Interface

In this first screenshot we see a comparison of the toolbars:


Journler has a nice unified look going while MacJournal has a split aqua thing going on (however, in the most recent, fairly pricey version they have moved on to unified). The buttons are fairly similar but I prefer the ones in Journler.

Next, lets look at the MacJournal window:


We see there are two drawers, one that holds journals and another that holds entries. In the middle there is a basic text entry area with a title box, a main body area and a small button to lock the entry. Pretty boring stuff especially compared to this next shot of the Journler window:


Here we see a three pane, Mail-style layout. On the side we see the Journals (as well as a nifty calendar), on the top pane we see entries (with plenty of information about them) and on the bottom we have the text. The text pane allows for a title and the body text as well as tags, a category and the date. There is also a handy word count ribbon at the bottom of the window.

I certainly prefer the interface of Journler because it is more compact without drawers hanging out all over the place, it provides more data and it just looks better (if not perfectly integrated with the OS’s interface).

MacJournal: 5/10 – Looks like it stepped out of Jaguar or Panther.
Journler: 8/10 – Doesn’t look completely at home among other windows but fairly nice looking.

Features

Both applications have rich text entry and picture capabilities as well as journal locking and statistics and blogging (which we’ll look at in the next section). In addition to these Journler has labels (arrived in a later version of MacJournal) and better media integration. I personally never use the media features but I’m sure people will find them handy. In my opinion, as long as the application has basic text and organization features it can pass as a decent journaling application (or at least an improvement from using MS Word).

MacJournal: 7/10 – Has the basic features but not much else.
Journler: 9/10 – The only feature I wish it had is new Blogger support.

Blogging

MacJournal has full support for LiveJournal and Blogger, Journler has support for most every blogging service. Journler clearly says that it does not yet support the new Blogger, MacJournal does not address the issue but I assume that is the case because it would not configure correctly (this is a problem I have had with all blogging clients besides MarsEdit and Flock). Obviously I cannot try out the blogging features (at least not until they get new Blogger support).

Overall

Overall, Journler has scored better with 17/20 as opposed to MacJournal’s 12/20. This certainly reflects my experiences, anyone else who has used these apps want to chime in?

Journler – Free ($10-20 Donation Suggested)
MacJournal – 2.6 is Free, Others $29.95

As you can see, at the moment applications are only being evaluated based on two main points, if you have more suggestions please email them in.

Filed under: Apple, Oldies, Software Sumo, , , , , , , ,

The (Continued) Quest For A Free Blogging Client

If nothing else, HitTail has helped me realize the obvious: if I want to find a free blogging client for Mac I should Google it (by the way, I’m the top hit if you do so). I did so and found several. The first two I came across, Bleezer and Qumana failed to configure correctly so I moved on to option three– Flock. Flock is a media-based web browser based on Firefox technologies that I have heard of before. Flock isn’t an ideal solution, seeing as how it’s a web browser and not a real blogging client which means the process of posting something isn’t as simple. The only way that it would be quicker to use Flock is if I migrated all of my web browsing to it, which I’m not willing to do.

So, lets look at the rundown of blogging clients…

1. MarsEdit: The best one, but its not free.
2. Ecto: Didn’t configure properly (and isn’t free).
3. Journler: Great app, but no new Blogger support.
4. Bleezer: Didn’t configure properly.
5. Qumana: Same as above.
6. Flock: Not much of an improvement over the Blogger entry client.

I think I’m just going to keep doing it the old fashioned way until I win the lottery (or find $20 in the street) and can buy MarsEdit.

P.S. Why do computers have such antiquated dictionaries? Flock (which I used to write this post) repeatedly told me that “blogging” and “Google” were not really words.

Filed under: Apple, Oldies, , , , , , , , , , , ,