Software goodies

Launcher dilemma

I loved reading the program reviews in the August 2007 issue (“Software Treats”). While I found many of them useful, there was one that left me looking for more. The review of Butler was fine in and of itself. But when it comes to programs that help launch applications and manage other tasks, three names keep popping up: LaunchBar, Butler, and Quicksilver. I’ve found that people love whichever one of these programs they use. But I have never found someone who has tested all three and compared them. Which is the fastest? The easiest to use? The most feature-rich? And let’s not forget that Quicksilver is free. If one of the others is better, is the difference worth the cost?— David Jaffe

The challenge is that, although all three programs work similarly at a basic level, beyond that they’re very different. LaunchBar is likely the easiest to use; Quicksilver and Butler are more powerful, but their scope makes them a bit more confusing for users who just want to launch programs and open files. Butler probably has the most built-in features, including a macro tool for automating actions. Quicksilver is the most extensible and has a large following of users who add features. In other words, there isn’t one that’s the “best” for every user. We recommend downloading the free demos and trying all three out to see which you prefer.—Dan Frakes

How many colors?

Beyond the legal issue of misrepresentation, Jason Snell’s article, “When ‘Millions’ of Colors Equal 262,144” ( Mac Beat, August 2007), brings up a bigger issue: how many colors can the human eye see? The CIE chromaticity diagram generally represents the visual spectrum. The colors possible in a computer display can be described as a triangle on that diagram, the vertices of which are colors of the red, green, and blue phosphors (or LEDs). As far as I can tell from my research, no one knows how small a change in the chromaticity coordinates the ideal human can recognize under ideal conditions, which in turn would tell you how many colors that human can distinguish. But whatever that number is, it’s probably less than “millions,” and possibly even less than 262,144. Since we don’t know the number of colors a human can perceive, most representations of display colors remain merely hype.— Kimball Kramer

I remember in the old days, when Apple IIs and other early desktop Macs came with 13- and 14-inch monitors. To the rest of the PC industry, those were 14- and 15-inch displays. Apple chose to advertise the viewable area of the monitor rather than the raw CRT size. There’s no telling how many buying decisions people made on that distinction alone: “I can get a bigger monitor if I get a PC.” Here again, how many sales would be lost if they thought, “I can get millions of colors on a Dell or HP and only 262,144 on a Mac”? Sometimes you just have to go with the industry standard even if it goes against your own integrity.— Jim Newman

iPhone reactions

I love my new iPhone. It’s the most significant improvement to the way I interact with an operating system since the invention of the mouse. But in a few months, the romance will begin to fade. I’m going to wake up one morning and realize I have a mobile computing device with no printer support, no way to edit or save Word and Excel docs or PDFs, no word processor, no games, a Web browser without Flash, and a camera without image adjustment. It’s the best iPod yet, but it’s designed intentionally to forbid the use of non-Apple headphones. It’s the best handheld computer yet, but it’s designed intentionally to forbid the use of third-party apps. My eye will wander.— Andrew Payne

The next product I’d like to see from Apple: the iKeyboard. Using the touch-screen technology it used on the iPhone, the company could make an entirely flat, shiny black keyboard with no visible keys at all until you turned it on. The keys would be touch sensitive. To operate the arrow keys, you’d just move your finger in the direction you wanted the cursor to go. By pinching and unpinching your fingers, you could resize pictures in iPhoto. Other application-specific keys could be added for the rest of iLife. Apple could make it wireless or USB cable. They could make it wider for better ergonomics. Besides looking supercool, it would be easy to clean up—no more cookie crumbs between the keys.— Paul A. Gunneman

Another Google tip

I was glad to see your tips for Google’s document, spreadsheet, and calendar services (“The Google Office,” August 2007 ). I’ve been using all three for over a year, and I have been pleased. Here’s a tip I’ve found useful: If you’re using a tabbed browser, like Firefox, configure it to open all new windows as new tabs. This way, when you open a new calendar or document, it will open in the same window, right next to the original. It’s a great way to keep your online office organized in one window.— John Eischeid

Apple without Steve?

Regarding John Siracusa’s Spotlight column in your August issue (“A Day without Steve”): Someday Steve Jobs will no longer be running Apple. And while Jobs is driven to succeed, he’s lately come to understand that he’s not doing this alone. For example, at recent product introductions, he’s started thanking all of the people who made these things possible. It’s been a big step for him to do that, and it’s nice to see the people in the background recognized.— Michael Murdock

Win some

I am so grateful for Kirk McElhearn’s article “Breathe New Life into an Old iPod” ( Playlist, July 2007 ). I had an older 20GB iPod I was going to sell online. But after I read your article, I downloaded DasBoot, installed DiskWarrior, and turned my old iPod into a portable toolkit.— Gil Forrester

Lose some

My response to the back-page column ( Spotlight ) you introduced with the redesign of Macworld earlier this year: Wow! As in, what a Waste of Words (or rather a waste of space). I’m tired of people yakking about how much they know about Apple, the Mac, Steve Jobs, blah blah blah. How does any of that help me use my Mac? I get enough of it with Jason Snell in the front ( From the Editor’s Desk ). We don’t need any more yada yada yada.— Rob Bowers

There was a time when Macworld covered Macs. While this is still mostly true, I’m really tired of all the pages wasted on iPhone and iPod coverage. Why don’t you guys stop it already? Create a separate magazine for all that junk. I’ve been suffering through multiple screen replacements on my LED-backlit MacBook Pro as well as kernel panics while playing games (because Apple’s drivers for the Nvidia 8600M GT are terrible). Yet those problems get zero coverage in your magazine and on your Web site. It’s a Mac! Cover it! Apple can’t even make a computer right these days: that should be the story! Not phones and MP3 players!— Jon Gilbert

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