end kvetch

Macs, productivity, &c.

The Apps I Use (and Why)

I love software, I really do. Applications are just as fun as tangible objects, but they don’t take up space and often, they’re free. Below is an overview of the applications I use in my daily life an and explanation of why I chose them:

AdiumAdium: Adium’s a big one. I really like instant messaging (easier than talking and quicker than texting) and I use a couple different networks. Not only do most single-network clients suck, but I really don’t want to have several different applications open to do my IMing. Adium’s lovely because it allows you to use just about every network conceivable from the same window. Sure, iChat does something similar, but it doesn’t have nearly as many networks. Adium is also almost infinitely customizable, another reason it’s better than iChat (and other third-party applications like it). (Free)

ColloquyColloquy: I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with IRC. On one hand, I think it’s pretty crude, but on the other, I need it to get in touch with certain people. As those of you who’ve read the Software Sumo on the subject, I’ve used several IRC clients, but Colloquy is still my favorite. It’s simple, attractive, reasonably customizable and, of course, the price can’t be beat. (Free)

firefox1Firefox: This one may come as a surprise. I’ve long been a major advocate of Safari, mostly because of its speed and interface, but I recently went over to the dark side. The customizability of Firefox has long been a draw, but what really pushed me over the edge was a text entry bug in Safari (it wouldn’t recognize when I was in a text box and pressing the delete key would act as a page back and the spacebar would act as a page down). So far, I’ve found Firefox to be faster than I remembered (pretty comparable to Safari), although it takes a while to start up. The plug-ins and bug-free text entry more than make up for minor cosmetic issues. (Free)

pagesiWork: I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to spreadsheets and layout design. I love the layout tools in Pages (which rivals InDesign for simpler tasks) and Numbers is great for creating attractive and informative spreadsheets (which I’ll do whenever I have an excuse). Keynote is fine, but I don’t use or like it as much as the other members of the suite. iWork may actually lag behind Microsoft Office (which I also have) in terms of features, but it’s the interface that really sells it to me. Obviously, the UI is much more Mac-like and generally more attractive. The issue of compatibility can be solved with the simple export menu (or you can be passive aggressive like me and pretend you can’t give your awful coworker the file they need). Overall, iWork is a great alternative to MS Office, especially for us hardcore fanboys. ($79)

nnwNetNewsWire: As some of you may know, I haven’t always been the biggest fan of NNW. However, a while back, they released the full version for free (and with a much improved interface). What really won me over, though, was the NewsGator synching between the desktop app and the version of NNW for my iTouch: This means that both my feed list and the items’ read/unread status are synched between my devices. Especially when considered along with the great price tag (for both the desktop and the iPhone/Touch app), this is a great “selling” point for anyone with multiple computers or devices. (Free)

pixelmatorPixelmator: Pixelmator’s tagline, “Image editing for the rest of us”, is as accurate as it is clichéd. Since most of the image editing that I do is pretty low-key, I usually prefer Pixelmator to Photoshop. Pixelmator is much quicker on its feet (I would rather not wait a couple minutes for Ps to launch just so I can delete the background on an image) and I find it to be generally more user friendly (although both GUIs make the Apple Human Interface Guidlines a little queasy) than the behemoth. Of course, Photoshop has more features, but 95% of the time, Pixelmator does just fine. ($59)

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

Software Sumo: X-Chat Aqua vs. Linkinus vs. Colloquy

sumo.png

Yes indeedy, our first three-way match. Today, we’ll be looking at IRC apps (which for some reason have hard-to-spell named). IRC, in case you don’t know, is Internet Relay Chat and is basically a somewhat outdated (but still reasonably popular) group chat protocol. Wikipedia probably describes it best. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to say that I myself use Colloquy but if I wasn’t a penny-pincher I would use Linkinus. However, the owner of one of my most frequented channels is an avid X-Chat user (but, for the record, he is running Panther and isn’t big on the direction Apple is headed). Anyway, [insert wrestling announcer type phrase here].

Interface

Personally, the X-Chat interface makes me want to gauge my eyes out. It does not look like it belongs on a Mac, it’s nonstandard and non-graphical. My X-Chat loving friend claims you can “make it look like anything you want” but what he is really saying is “it can be any shade of ugly that you desire.” Unlike the other two, it does not allow for different styles (think message styles in Adium) but it does allow you to change the colors. Sadly, all the lipstick in the world won’t help this pig. X-Chat also has a horrible, text-based preference system that I find really hard to navigate.

x-chat-aquascreensnapz001.png

Linkinus is another story, it is attractive out of the metaphorical box and provides a number of message styles (the bulky but fancy Apt is shown) and a SDK to build your own (although I have not been able to find any more ready-made styles, which is a shame). One of my favorite interface elements is topic bar that scrolls if the topic is too long to be seen in one go. Otherwise the interface is nice and polished. (Also, the Linkinus icon makes me droll, I’ve even cannibalized it and am now using it as my Colloquy icon. Linkinus has a preference system very similar to System Preferences which I found somewhat out of place in an application but others may like. Finally, Linkinus is the only one of these apps with a menu item. I also believe that it may badge the dock icon with the messages remaining. These are both things I wish Colloquy did.

linkinusscreensnapz002.png

Like Adium, Colloquy has a customizable, polished (but still kinda rough-around-the-edges) interface. It has a variety of message styles (and an additional small selection online) and a handy tool for making minor changes to a style right in the app. The navigation sidebar is similar to Linkinus’s except room members are displayed below the room rather than on a separate pane on the other side of the window. The style in the screenshot is custom (but based off of Smooth Operator).

colloquyscreensnapz002.png

X-Chat: 3/10 – Ugly and cryptic with limited customizability.
Linkinus: 8/10 – Attractive and customizable.
Colloquy: 8/10 – See above.

Features

My X-Chat loving friend uses it because of the features. And I must admit, it does have the most features of all three. It displays IP addresses when people join (something that apparently is hand) and does all sorts of IRC power user-y stuff that I, being something of an IRC n00b, have no need for. X-Chat does support logging but the logs are horribly formatted and hard to read.

Linkinus is a midway. It also displays IPs on join and overall seems a little bit more powerful than Colloquy. However, since I squandered my 15 day trial, I wasn’t able to do much with an eye for reviewing. Linkinus also has logging and the logs are presented like regular messages, your chosen style and all (i.e., it does the same thing iChat does).

Colloquy lacks a lot of hardcore IRC features in favor of Mac-like simplicity. For instance, X-Chat friend has made fun of the /whois which instead of sending you an IRC message with the information, gives you a little inspector window (I personally like it). The IP is not shown upon join (and this has made me the butt of several practical jokes). Colloquy logging works the same way as Linkinus logging.

X-Chat: 7/10 – Most features, too many for me.
Linkinus: 8/10 – The features I need without a bunch of extra junk.
Colloquy: 5/10 – Needs a little more power!

Overall

All exactly three points apart, Linkinus took the cake and X-Chat came in last. Do you agree with this assessment? Do you use a different IRC client like Conversation? Weigh in.

X-Chat (Free): 10/20 – Being the aesthete that I am, X-Chat’s slew of features did not allow it to triumph over the very poor interface.

Linkinus ($20, $15 for students): 16/20 – Linkinus got top marks all around, now if only it were free.

Colloquy (Free): 13/20 – Colloquy is the best choice for the price, it has a good interface but lacks power.

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