end kvetch

Macs, productivity, &c.

Look Under “K” for “Kvetch”: A Card Catalogue for Your Computer

productivity-banner

Recently, I was browsing Productivity501 and I came across a post by Arjun Muralidharan about a simple alphabetical system for your computer (specifically, your Mac).

The Old System

As of an hour ago, my filing system was based on two branches: documents and pictures. While, for some things, the distinction was clear-cut (essays or digital photographs, for instance), the line had a tendency to blur. Many of my projects have graphics associated with them and, while I could split every project into two segments, that’s not particularly intuitive. In reality, the Documents folder usually ended up containing documents and any graphics associated with them while the Pictures folder contained only projects that were entirely graphical.

The New System

So, I decided to try out Arjun’s system and start filing things alphabetically rather than by media type. I replaced my Archive folder (which contained the two branches I mentioned earlier) with an Index folder which contains another folder for every letter in the alphabet (twenty-six for those of you keeping track at home). Then I began to mercilessly rip my older directories apart, removing folders from their subject-related comrades and placing them into alphabetized group (for example, under the old system, I had a School folder which contained a subfolder for each class which I take. Now, the classes are spread across the filing system based on their name.

index

A short while after I’d implemented the new system, a friend needed me to pull up an essay I’d written for one of my classes. I attempted to use Finder to locate the file, but the new system threw me for a loop. At this point, I realized that I needed to reconcile myself with Quicksilver.

The Return of Quicksilver

Since the souped-up version of Spotlight included in Leopard accomplished many of the same things that I used Quicksilver for in Tiger (admittedly, I never got used to using its more advanced features), I had gotten rid of it when I upgraded. The new system is a bit unwieldy when accessed from Finder, but Quicksilver and its ability to search and drill down into folders quickly went a long way in smoothing things out (the larger folder previews also allow me to take full advantage of the fancy icons I use to further clarify the contents of folders).

quicksilver

(The lovely theme pictured above is Julius Eckert’s Showcase theme).

The Ribbon

I also decided to use DragThing to create an easy-acess “ribbon” for my card catalogue. I created a new dock set to display only the object name (i.e., no icon) and dragged all my letter folders in it. Then I turned the absurdly long ribbon into a drawer that sits right below my menu bar. When I click the screen edge, it comes sliding out and I can click a letter to jump to that folder. If I use Quicksilver effectively, I shouldn’t need to use the ribbon much, but it’s still pretty cool.

ribbon

(The ribbon uses StefanKa’s very attractive SimpleOne theme).

Arguably, since you’ll be searching for (almost) everything rather than retrieving it manually, you could do away with the lettered folders (which, really, are just a vestige of the paper filing systems this is based on) entirely and just throw everything into one big bin. You’d lose the ability to minimize certain letters groups and it wouldn’t be nearly as cool, but it wouldn’t take nearly as long to set up.

TIP

pse commented on the the original post at Productivity501 saying this:

Actually generating the folders just takes a few seconds if you use Terminal to do it: Type

cd Reference; for i in {A..Z}; do mkdir $i; done

and you are all set.

This will create all twenty-six folders in your home directory.  Simply sweep ’em up and put them in the folder you want.

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On Leopard

So, as I’m sure you’ve realized, I haven’t posted in a while. I’m going to try and get back into this, we’ll se how that goes.

Anyway, since I last wrote I have gotten 10.5 Leopard (if you don’t know what Leopard is, go. Just go). It has some really nice new visual things and some new features. So…let’s take a look.

Finder

Leopard Finder

Finder was one of the changes I was really excited about. I’m a fan of the iTunes sidebar (it just looks so cool!) so I was happy to see it was now permeating the rest of the system. The path bar at the bottom is also a nice thing to have.

Sadly, I was disappointed by CoverFlow. Although documents look nice (however, I think CoverFlow was designed more for people who do lots of layout design or other things that would involve colourful documents rather than the black and white essays that are the staple of my computer), folders and applications look really weird (especially folders). For the record though, I believe the folder weirdness can be blamed on my non-standard iconset (Agua, which has been updated for Leopard, by David Lanham). Regardless, I don’t really think CoverFlow is a good way to navigate one’s files (I also don’t like it much in iTunes, but that’s beside the point).

As far as other features go, the built-in smart searches are nice but I wish we could edit them and add to the list. Like I said above, I really like the new real icon preview (e.g., a MS Word document doesn’t appear as the .doc icon but as an actual representation of the document) even if my French papers are a little dull.

Quick Look is very nice (it can even play music!) and I’m sure it will be a big timesaver once I get in the habit of using it.

iChat

iChat is another one I was pumped for. With the addition of tabbed chats I was hopping it would finally overtake Adium. I tried it out and I quickly remembered all those little iChat things that just bug me.

  1. Huge contact list (often more than one).
  2. No meta contacts.
  3. Tab bar cannot be shown when you only have one chat open.
  4. Limited range of message views.
  5. Bad notification system.
  6. Very little customization overall.
  7. You must look at the chat window (not the contact list) to see if a buddy is typing or has sent you a message.
  8. Only a couple networks are supported.
  9. It insists on using your address card names (or worse, screennames).

In the end it was #8 that truly drove me back to Adium. Why did I even leave in the first place?

Safari

safari.jpg

Safari 3 and I got off to a bad start back in my Tiger days. However, when I opened it up in Leopard I was pleasantly surprised. By far, the biggest improvement is the more Camino-esque behavior (in fact, it filled Camino’s shoes so well that I no longer saw any need to keep Firefox’s little brother around). I was surprised to see things like the chat bar in Gmail load (they didn’t in Safari 2) and I have noticed a lot of Web 2.0 type stuff works a lot better in this version.

Features like resizable text boxes and improved search are also nice.

My only complaint is the lesser degree of plug-inability. Google isn’t the same without Inquisitor.

Mail

mail.jpg

Mail was probably the feature I was most anticipating. Stationary, notes, to dos, what’s not to love. Also, my old version of mail had been having problems and I was hoping this would offer a fix. Not only does Mail work again, but it offers a very nice little “iCal on the go” type thing and contains misc. improvements.

I haven’t tried any plugins with it yet so I can’t speak to that.

However, my main issue is the lack of badge customizability. In the old version of Mail you could just replace the ugly red badge in the resources folder with a new one, but in this new version (and other Leopard apps) I cannot find a way to change the badges.

Time Machine

I must say, Time Machine is pretty effin’ sweet. I have it hooked up to a MyBook Home and it’s working without a hitch so far (let’s hope it performs as well as it has been to date when I really need it). Super simple backup, I don’t even know when it’s going on. (As a n00bish aside, I’ve always used USB drives and when I got my first FireWire one I was blown away by the speed. Well worth the extra money).

Spaces

Spaces can be pretty handy. In one you can piece together a desktop portrait of perfect academic devotion. Then, in another, you can open WOW or whatever your time-waster of choice is, and play away until the time comes to do a quick Ctrl+1 and appear to be the angelic student that you aren’t. Not that I do that…ever…

If you have the money around, Leopard is defiantly worth it, but as Walt Mossberg(/burg?) said, “It’s an evolution, not a revolution.” (Or something like that).

P.S. My English teacher would be appalled that I ended an “essay” with a quote. But, I mean, it’s kosher to do that in journalism, right?

Update: I have installed Inquisitor and Safari Block into Safari and they’re working great. Chalk one more up for Leopard.

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