It’s hard to pinpoint when it happened, but email has turned from a modern, convenient form of communication into an awful nuisance. It’s not just spam and unwanted solicitations; without strict attention, emails that actually need to be dealt with will pile up and important ones will inadvertently get pushed to the bottom of your inbox.
What we need is a better way to communicate. Where text messages and tweets encourage short, rapid-fire conversations, emails tend to be lengthier—and therein lies the problem. We put off responding because emails inherently require more time; even when a simple answer is all that’s needed, we tend to labor over what we write.
With the untimely demise of iPhoto earlier this year, Apple appears to have finally abandoned the last vestiges of the iLife concept introduced in 2002, leaving iMovie and GarageBand as the sole remnants of a once-great legacy of whimsical creative applications for average folks.
Many third-party developers are keeping this storied tradition alive in an unofficial capacity with spiritual successors to iLife, treading new ground with inspired Mac software that retains the familiar, user-friendly look and feel of Cupertino’s classic consumer software.
The best solutions are often the simplest. Time after time, Apple has unveiled revolutionary new input methods that seem obvious in retrospect but are ingenious in their simplicity; things like the mouse, the click wheel, and multitouch are so deceptively simple they have instantly changed the way we approach the respective interfaces they control, bringing faster and more efficient interactions with the various elements on the screen.
That’s precisely why menu bar apps are my favorite kind of utility. Over the years I’ve probably used hundreds of them, and as you can see in the screenshots below, there are no less than a dozen of them at the top of my screen at any given time (not counting the ones Apple lets me put there). Their beauty lies in their innate simplicity, putting important bits of information and controls in my line of sight and cutting down on the time I need to spend navigating complex interfaces.
Our iPhones have made it so we’re never more than a few seconds away from a weather forecast. Whether we’re querying Siri or glancing at a widget, there are myriad ways to quickly check the temperature and conditions around us.
But it’s different on OS X. Numerous apps that can turn our desktops into veritable weather stations, but the quickness of iOS is often lost under a mountain of features and statistics.
The human brain may be great at coming up with ideas, but it’s not always efficient at organizing such information in any meaningful way. That’s where a technique known as mind mapping comes into play, extracting information from your cranium and presenting it in a visual way that makes sense to others.
Despite a more limited feature set than rival Mac applications, MindNode Pro has long been one of the best and easiest ways to do just that. I’m happy to report its successor, MindNode 2 (Mac App Store link) has finally arrived on the scene, and it’s everything we could hope for—especially if you own the iOS version.
When a service you use has its own free software, why turn to a third party for an alternative? The folks at Tapbots continue to answer that question with each update to their Tweetbot client for Twitter, available both in iOS and OS X. Tweetbot provides a straightforward timeline view, threaded conversations appear with a double-click, and there’s no need to buy into each of Twitter’s sometimes dubious and sometimes useful innovations.
The latest OS X release, Tweetbot 2, is a welcome update with a more appealing design, but it still has some room to grow to feel polished and fully up to date. Given Tapbots’ ongoing development on both platforms, it’s easy to see where things are going, but they can’t get full marks for this version without further revisions.
Modern text editors are built on first impressions. Where the word processors of old inundated us with oodles of options that took months to master, today’s iOS-inspired versions dispense with the features and strip away the ribbons and bars to bring us the cleanest canvases imaginable. Lightweight and minimal, they do their best to emulate the classic pen-and-paper experience, removing nearly every bit of distractive clutter and noise to keep our eyes and brains focused on the task at hand.
Paragraphs (Mac App Store link) very much continues in this vein. One of the newest entries in an increasingly crowded field, the very plain text editor marries minimalism with meticulousness, carving out a very nice concept built around a a clean, smart workspace. Serious writers will undoubtedly be frustrated by the lack of features, but for notes and short blog entries, Paragraphs proves to be a worthy client.