Things To-Do Manager for OS X

5 12 2008

thingsWhile there is no shortage of to-do lists for OS X,  many don’t fit the requirements that I need to have one that suits my needs. TaskPaper oversimplifies it, OmniFocus is fairly expensive and more complex than necessary and the built-in To-Do list for OS X doesn’t have enough features. This is where Things comes in.

Things, by the folks at Cultured Code, is a very simple and organized task manager that works with most users’ needs for a task manager. The Things sidebar is broken down into three main sections: Collect, Focus and Organize. Let’s start with Collect.

The Collect section in Things is where new to-dos that haven’t been sorted will be sent to. In short, it’s your dumping ground for to-dos. Once you’ve inputted all of your things that need to be done, it’s times to move into the second section, Focus.

The Focus section of Things is where you’ll be spending most of your time, and is also what makes Things so great to use. It’s divided into four main parts: Today, Next, Scheduled and Someday. Any tasks that you feel you should be able to complete that day, you can place in the Today section. The checkbox to the left of it will turn yellow indicating that it should be completed today. The Next area is where you will place items that you can complete once you’ve finished everything in your Today section. Scheduled is used if you want to repeat to-do items more than once on a regular basis or want a specific to-do to appear on a ceartain date. For example, you have to ask your boss something at work, but you aren’t able to do it because it’s the weekend and your boss is away, so you move it to the scheduled section and set it to appear on Monday in your Today section. Very handy. Finally, the Someday section is used for items that you don’t want to accomplish right now, but will want to eventually – such as re-doing the basement, but you don’t have the money right now so you file it under Someday.

Now for the final section: Organize. In here, you can create Projects and Areas. A project is basically a multi-step goal that you have that can be accomplished. An area on the other hand, is http://a5.s3.p.quickshareit.com/files/button5b9fa7.png that can not actually ever be finished. Taking the previous example of building a kitchen, lets say you finally have the money to do it. You would make a project  called “Redo Kitchen” and place all your to-dos for that inside there such as “Pick out backsplash” or “Find nice cupboards” etc. If you were to have a Work folder, you wouldn’t make it a project because it can’t actually be completed. This is what the Areas section is for. You can make a new area called “Work” and place all of your to-dos for it in there.

And that is the gist of how Things works as a to-do list manager. There are some other neat features that Things also has. First of all, you can invoke the Quick Entry panel using the hotkey of your choice (I use F5), which brings up a nice HUD for inputting all the things you need for a new to-do: title, tags, notes, due date and its location inside of Things. They also save your data in an open XML file format which means that third parties are able to communicate with Things and your to-do list is viewable using any modern browser, regardless of operating system. Cultured Code also has built a beautiful iPhone/iPod touch application that’s available through iTunes for $9.99 [iTunes link]. The app syncs over-the-air with your Mac as long as the application is open on both systems. The only issues I have dfound with the app would be the lack of support for Areas or tags for to-dos. To get around the Areas issue, I just use Projects section instead, which I haven’t found any issues with.

Overall, Things is a very solid application – and now with the ability to access it on your iPod/iPhone – quite versatile. My ONE complaint? No web-syncing.

Things is currently available as a free preview until 1.0 is released at the Macworld Expo ’09  on January 6. The price for version 1.0 will be $49, but if you sign up to their newsletter before it’s official release, you’ll gain a 20% discount bringing the cost down to $39.

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Reign of the iPod Over?

21 06 2008

Is it possible to imagine a world where Apple isn’t dependent or even manufacturing the iPod anymore? This may be approaching a lot sooner than one may think. If you look back at the keynote from Steve Jobs almost two weeks ago, he outlined the three central items that make Apple who they are: Mac, iPhone and “Music”. What’s interesting here is that he did not explicitly mention the iPod during this. Which is surprising, considering for one, that 40 percent of Apple’s profits ($24 billion) were generated through iPod and iTunes sales – the other half being from its iMac, Mac Pro and MacBook series, which have been increasing in sales immensely due to poor acceptance of Windows Vista and the popularity the iPod has created for the company. In 2007, the personal computer division sales rose around 40%. Now, if you contrast this with iPod growth, you see a totally different story. In 2004, the year-over year sales growth topped 500%; in 2005, it was around 207%; 2006 it was 50% and in 2007 it was only around 6% increase. Based on these trends, it is completely feasible that the iPod may reach a 0% increase, and even possibly a decrease in the iPod’s sales y/y.

Apple has obviously realized that the seemingly endless rise of the iPod can’t continue forever, seeing as they excluded even the title “iPod” from the keynote. They have begun to focus on the “new gadget” – one which they will try to repeat the phenomenon displayed by the iPod. The iPhone in essence, is an iPod, but with many more capabilities. It is where the current market is quickly heading – the all-in-one device. As society has progressed, we have seen more and more creations being packed in to smaller and smaller packages. Prime example – the calculator. How many people, unless they’re still in school, still buy a calculator? What’s the need? Most devices carry them in some form or another: computers, cell phones, even the iPod touch has one. Is this the direction the iPod is headed? I believe so.

If you take a look at cell phones nowadays, they already have the built in MP3 capabilities of an iPod plus the functionality of a phone. Why would anyone want an iPod when they can get a similar MP3 player with a phone included. Also, a large amount of people use their cell phones as their lifelines – all the more reasons to have everything in one device. A well designed interface can’t stave off the incoming challengers forever.

Instead of placing all of their eggs in one basket, Apple has done the right thing and hasn’t put itself into a corner where it can’t escape. Instead they’ve branched out into other markets (eg. iPhone) and tested the waters there. So will there be a day when children ask their parents, “What’s an iPod?”. I believe this future is closer than we think.





SketchBox – Sticky Notes on Steroids [Cool Mac App]

16 06 2008

Mac OS X Only: Here’s a neat little app that takes the simple of an idea of a sticky note, digitizes it and adds some really neat features.

SketchBox, by omz:software, allows you to first of all, type generic sticky notes that can be neatly organized in their sleek user interface and sorted into corresponding folders. They’ve also incorporated a drawing mechanism so that you can draw little doodles, take handwritten notes or make wacky shapes because you’re bored. Also included with this feature is tablet pressure sensitivity, line thickness variation and an eraser. If that wasn’t enough, wach sticky note has the ability to take a screenshot, which they implemented quite ingeniously. If you click the camera button in the bottom right of the sticky note, it transforms the entire note into a resizable frame where you can take your photo. Finally, the last feature (that I’m aware of) is a timer that you can set to go to a maximum of 30 days, 23 hours and 60 minutes.

Combine all of these features into one small package and you’ve got yourself one killer app, my friend. Also, as a final note, I programmed Quicksilver to invoke SketchBox when I press alt+cmd+z, that way I can call it up whenever I find anything interesting and take a quick screenshot and type up a few notes. Overall a fantastic tool for any mac user to have in their arsenal of productivity applications.

You can download SketchBox from omz:software here, and if you enjoy it, be sure to leave a donation.





Why I Chose Opera Over Firefox, Safari

14 06 2008

Ever since I bought my iMac, I’ve debated between what browser was the best. At first I thought the choice was obvious and decided to go with Safari. I soon realized that it was not my favorite though, as the new Firefox 3 rolled into town and I gave that a whirl. I also tried Camino, based on some recommendations from friends, but I wasn’t very happy with it (I didn’t like the bookmarking system). Finally I thought Flock was the answer to my prayers – my favorite Web 2.0 sites built right in, but the interface soon became clunky and over-complicated. Yesterday, I read about the new Opera release, 9.5, and decided to try it out. To my amazement, it was almost perfect. Below are listed some of my favorite things about Opera 9.5 and some reasons why you might want to consider it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Firefox is incredible and I’m not surprised in the least that many people use it as their primary browser. I personally used to think this before I tested out Opera 9.5. The main things I’ve noticed in Opera are the sleek blending into the OS X interface, the minimalist look, and the incredible speed.

Firefox 3 has tried to blend their browser into the OS X and Windows Vista interfaces and have done a fairly good job of that – more specifically with OS X. I personally just feel that Firefox can get a little chunky at the top which may sound surprising, but just wait until you check out Opera’s sleek user interface. This is a similar point to it being very “minimalist”. And when I say minimalist, I mean it. Since there is no Bookmarks Toolbar in Opera, that space is eliminated. Also, the main header, which contains the main controls and address bar is extremely small and can fit two times over inside of Firefox’s. It is pretty much equivalent to Safari’s but once again, has no Bookmarks Toolbar. Now this feature may shock some of you, because I know it shocked me. Instead, Opera has opted to go with a “speed-dial” which basically places your favorite sites in thumbnails that are clickable when a new tab is opened. The initial amount of programmable sites is nine, but is easily modified to larger numbers (I will be covering this in a later article).

Finally, this brings me to my final point, which is speed; one of the most important aspects of a successful browser. Kevin Purdy of Lifehacker did some testing with the leading web browsers and came up with some great results that point to Opera. In every test that he conducted, Opera came in either first or second, which none of the other browsers can tote.

Now on to the favorite features!

As I previously mentioned, the Speed-Dial feature in Opera is really nice, though it does take some getting used to. It also gives each site a keyboard shortcut depending on which spot it is placed in, ranging from Cmd+1 to how ever high you set it to. Another feature which is great is the trash can, located on the right of the tab bar. This allows you to go through and find tabs that you may have closed accidentally and wanted to re-open – very handy. And yes I know Firefox has this capability as well, but its not as neat and welcoming as the Opera version. Finally, built into the browser are things called widgets, which are simply put, almost identical to Dashboard widgets – just from Opera. They are free-floating mini applications that handle everything from the weather to your to-do’s and they sit neatly on your desktop.

After reading this article, I hope you consider giving Opera 9.5 a chance, and it’s definitely far from last place in the browser war. You can check out there web site here and it will run on OS X, Windows and Linux. Happy browsing.





Mac OS X 10.6 to Make Appearance at WWDC 08?

3 06 2008

The people over at TUAW are stating that they have received some ‘insider information’ on the fact that Apple plans on seeding an early development of the new OS to developers during this year’s WWDC, scheduled for June 9 -13.

They claim that it will not be a major overhaul but they will merely focus on “stability and security”. This would also apparently be an important landmark for the company, assuming that this release would be completely PowerPC free, leaving only Intel for the future. TUAW also believes that this is a plan in order to release 10.6 during the Macworld Expo in January ’09, only 15 months after their 10.5 release

Who knows how believable this insider source is, but you never know what Apple might pull out of its magic bag of tricks at WWDC this year.





Exposé in Ubuntu

25 05 2008

I was doing some digging today, looking in the Compiz settings to see if there was something similar to Expose, from the Apple OS – and of course, there was. If you open the Settings pane under System>Preferences>Advanced Desktop Effects Settings, you will be able to scroll down to a heading titled “Window Management”. In here there is an option called “Scale” – enable that by clicking the checkbox to the left of the icon. By default, the trigger is Shift+Alt+Up, but if you click on it, go to Bindings and find where it says “Initiate Window Picker”, you are able to change it to your preference. The first option titled that is for choosing a “hot corner” to trigger the program, while the second is for using a keystroke.

Note: You must install Compiz Fusion in order to get this effect to work. To do so, read the post on installing common programs in Ubuntu.





Pixelmator 1.2 Draftsman

30 04 2008

The Pixelmator team just posted a new article today on their blog talking about the future of Pixelmator. In summary, they’re going to be working all summer on 1.3 codenamed Tempo. Their goal with Tempo is all around performance. “Our task with Tempo is to stun every single user of Pixelmator by speed (think large images) of the app as much as we did with the UI and other never-before-seen things.” They also posted a screenshot on Flickr of 1.2 – most notably, you can see the Polygonal Lasso Tool (finally), Cuves and Guides. Visually, 1.2 looks the same as the current version and the team made no reference to the UI in 1.3 – which will presumably reman the same as well. You can read the entire post on the Pixelmator web site here.

Update: Pixelmator 1.2 Draftsman has been released and includes rulers, guides, grids, snapping, curves, color balance, auto enhance, a polygonal lasso tool and a completley reworked transform tool (allows you to use it as in Photoshop Elements with the box around each layer and isn’t glitchy like the prior version).








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