MacSparky and DEVONthink
Yesterday I had the pleasure of chatting with David Sparks about an upcoming Field Guide he’s doing on DEVONthink. He had asked for power users of the app, and given that I’ve been going back and forth with it for years I sent him a screenshot and let him know I’d be happy to help. He responded and here we are. If you’ve ever listened to David on one of his podcasts, he’s just as personable and friendly speaking with him one on one.
I loved Yojimbo for many years. I still think it’s the most “Mac-like” app for taking notes and storing data. The best thing about it was that when capturing data with the hotkey, it would look at your clipboard before presenting you with a UI, and customize the UI for the data. It was fast, fit in perfectly with the Mac, and was rock-solid reliable.
A New macOS
I’ve heard several people on podcasts or blog posts claim that they’d like to see Apple hold off on new features that nobody wants and just fix the existing bugs in the Mac. This claim is normally followed up with a missive that they can’t imagine what Apple could add to the Mac at this point anyway, since macOS is a stable, mature operating system. Well, I can think of a few things.
What Worked, and What Didn’t in 2016
Part of what’s been great about using Apple products is the feeling of living just a little bit in the future. The Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad paved a way towards a far less complicated future, where technology was seamlessly integrated into our lives, and enhanced our day to day interactions with our work and with each other. Apple, better than anyone, understands that technology is at it’s best when it’s nearly invisible. But, living in the future comes at a price, namely a sacrifice of stability and accepted norms of what works.
Files and Folders
I started writing this post talking about how I was using DEVONthink, and, as often happens when you write things down, I started thinking critically about how I interacted with the application. I took a folder full of screenshots, walked through some usage scenarios, and checked and double-checked what I was actually doing with the application. Then I exported everything to the Finder.
The Best of What's Around
Marco struck a nerve with his latest post lamenting the declining quality of Apple software. The post was picked up by “analysts” and debated on television by a panel of “experts”. While I understand the frustrations of those affected by more serious bugs than I’ve seen, I can’t help but wonder if they really understand what the alternatives are like.
New Mac Essentials - 2014 Edition
It appears I’ll be getting a new Mac soon, which means it’s time to take inventory of what I need. I’ve written about this a couple of times before, and it’s interesting to look back and see what apps stick, and which have gone by the wayside.
Sensible Information Organization
There is no one application or system that is right for managing all of your information. If there were, we wouldn’t need apps like Contacts or Calendar, those things would just be merged into the Finder, or whatever mythical computing system I found myself wishing for the past couple of weeks. This is a good thing, even if not having a single view into all my data drives me a bit nuts sometimes. Specialization allows applications to provide a better experience for the specific type of data they were designed to handle.
For The Fun Of It
I still need an anything bucket, and nothing fills that gap like my old friend Yojimbo. I was an early adopter of Yojimbo, back with version one, and I upgraded faithfully for version 2 and version 3, but I held off for a long time on version 4. In the mean time I tried Evernote, DEVONthink, Pinboard, and just the file system to fill the void that Yojimbo filled so gracefully. No more, I’ve come home, and it feels great to be here.
Desktop Setup For a Sysadmin
My Mac is a finely tuned machine. I have been using a Mac for Unix systems administration work since 2006, starting with a PowerMac G4, and have developed a smooth and efficient workflow. Most of the important tools are open source, and the ones that are not are very high quality.
Personal Information Architecture
For my computer to be useful to me I need to be able to quickly save information, and then easily retrieve it later. Saving and retrieving information sounds like a simple enough use case, but doing both quickly and easily does not. The more information you have saved on your computer, the more difficult it is to effectively retrieve the information you need the moment you need it. Researchers and developers have been tackling this issue for decades, but so far no one has come up with a single best solution that works for everyone. What we need is a way to store and retrieve information without having to stop and think about the method or means of organization. The organizational method should provide an effective affordance without resorting to decoding the method itself.
Forgotten and Beloved
I was given a clean slate of a Mac to work with this past Monday, so I gave some thought to which apps I wanted to use. Looking back at some of my favorites that have fallen behind, I was left with a bit of nostalgia for the apps that once made the Mac experience great. It is easy to tell which developers care about keeping their application up to date, just check the top right corner and look for the full-screen opposing arrows. If they are not present, there is a good chance that the application has been abandoned.
The Computer User I Want To Be
Learning about computers can be a dangerous thing. Breaking though the veneer of graphical interfaces reveals inefficiencies and inaccurate metaphors. For example, rsync copies files faster and uses fewer resources than the Finder. Copying lots of files is what rsync does best, but being a command line power tool there are a few subtleties with using it that are not readily apparent. As your skill grows, so to does the tendency to eschew modern tools in favor of “power tools”. You begin to see the inefficiencies of graphical tools as problems, problems that you need to fix. I’ve been down that road.
New Mac Essentials - Quicksilver