Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

When Your Applications Overflow

2009-06-11

overflow-logoIf you’re like me, you’ve got many applications on your Mac.

Over the past two years, I have tried many applications to help me with the sheer number of applications I use.

The one that I use the most often is Mac OS X’s own SpotLight.

Sometimes, though, I feel a bit more like launching an app the visual way. That’s when I use Overflow, the only third-party application I have really grown to like:

Overflow

If it wasn’t of Overflow, I might just end up using the Applications Stack, which, even with the upcoming OS X 10.6’s new scroll bar, wouldn’t cut it at all:

overflow-many-applications

As you can see, I really need something like Overflow; and that’s why I wanted to write this review, as a big thank you to Stunt Software.

A Wagn in the Cloud

2009-06-11

wagn-logoI’m always on the lookout for a better wiki platform.

Wikis have already had a huge impact, from pet projects to enterprise solutions to Wikipedia, the popular free online encyclopedia.

Wagn could open up even bigger ideas about what online communities can do.

“Wagn is one of the freshest contributions to wiki since I coined the term.”
– Ward Cunningham, who invented wikis 15 years ago.

Wagn’s lead developer, Lewis Hoffman, explains Wagn this way:

“Like Wikipedia, all wikis give you the power to create web pages without speaking HTML. Wagn adds the power to create structure without speaking database, and it increasingly lets you create functionality without speaking programming code.”

The trick is in the cards. Wagn helps you organize all your information into “cards” that can be linked, nested, and formatted to create new structures. “Kind of like online legos,” says Hoffman. A given web page might contain dozens of cards organized into a set structure.

“Wikipedia has loads of community norms and policies, and their pages often have some structure, too. Look at the sidebar of the Wikipedia page for, say, “Wyoming,” and you’ll see structured information common to all the states: a flag, a seal, some nicknames… But the difference is that all of this information has been organized by hand. Someone had to go and manually insert that structure by adding special code to every single state page. So maintaining the pattern can take hours and hours of cut and paste. That strategy might work for Wikipedia, with its millions of contributors, but most wikis have more like five or ten editors who would appreciate a little more power.”
Ethan McCutchen, Wagn co-creator.

On the intention behind the concept of cards, we can read somewhere else:

So we started with smaller units than web pages, and we decided to call them “cards.”

We’re all familiar with lots of kinds of cards: playing cards, postcards, business cards, library cards…  They’re all different sizes and hold different amounts of information, everything from a picture to a filing record to a complete story.  The same goes for cards on Wagn.

As we started organizing cards of information about companies and products, we quickly saw patterns emerging.  We wanted company cards, for example, to include logo cards, address cards, etc.  This has been one of the driving ideas behind Wagn: cards including other cards in patterned ways.

One innovation of Wagn that’s worth mentioning is what they call Plus cards:

Also known as connections or connection cards, plus cards are one of the core innovations of Wagn.

The basic idea is that any two cards can be plussed together to create a third.  So for example, I might have a card about Dell Computers called “Dell” and another about labor issues called “labor”.  If I connect these two cards together I get a third called “Dell+labor”.  I can then enter into that card anything about the intersection of Dell and labor – Dell’s labor record in general, specific events, direct feedback, etc. Any time you see a + in the name of a card, you know you’re dealing with a plus card.

And something else is worth mentioning too: Form cards.

Wagn lets you create forms (called “cards”), and to apply a form to many cards, so that when you have a set of cards that are about the same kind of thing, you can be sure they will all contain the same information, in the same layout.

An example of a form card is that which every user gets when he signs up on the service: his User card. Each user’s card is made up of the user’s image, the user’s story, the user’s wiki, and finally, the user’s tags. You’ll see some of these in the screenshot below. Also note my highlights, were I have tried the Plus card feature, and the Inclusions feature:

wagn-daniel-jomphe

wagn-daniel-jomphe-edit

Note that my screenshots don’t show the whole layout of each page. There’s also comment boxes there and the whole site navigation cards.

Through the time I tested it, Wagn 1.0.0 worked well but showed many signs of immaturity: visual inconsistencies that needed me to refresh my web page to correct them (javascript issues), and a layout glitch when I tried the titled view style (which was otherwise very nice).

Wagn is available as a paid hosting plan, or as a free, GPL-licensed open source Ruby code project.

Were I to choose a wiki solution today, Wagn would be high in my list. That said, I believe the future Google Wave solution might eventually be used to kill quite a few wiki solutions out there. Meanwhile, here’s what the project leaders have to say about Wagn’s future:

Oh, it’s far from done — we’ve got literally hundreds of design ideas in our tracking system (which we built using Wagn).

Hat tip to Wagn 1.0+Press Release, The Story Behind Wagn 1.0, and the Documentation for most of the prose.

The #1 Best Place to Read

2008-08-31

It’s hard to cover the Web Information Collection news as good as CloudNotes does.  Be sure to check this blog out!  I just skimmed it and subscribed.  It’s already, in two months, something like 15 out of its 33 posts that I shared in Google Reader; that’s a very good signal-to-noise ratio.

Apple Mighty Mouse: Pros & Cons

2008-06-18

Here’s yet another post about the UnMighty Mouse.  I thought Apple needed me to spell it out loud and clear, short and sweet.  I’m often verbose, but this time, I ain’t gonna be.

Here’s my personal list of pros and cons after 6 months of full-time usage of the Mighty Mouse:

Pros

  1. I am addicted to its scroll ball, and
  2. it looks and feels great (glossy, light).

Cons

  1. But it sometimes right-click when I left-clicked, or the reverse, and it’s getting worse over time;
  2. I sometimes need to clean the scroll ball, and
  3. we cannot simultaneously click both left and right buttons, and
  4. right clicks are not 100% accurate, and
  5. right clicks cannot be done fast enough for action games, and
  6. the optical sensor makes the mouse cursor sometimes jump, while my non-Apple mouse never fails on the same surface, and
  7. generally, its optical sensor works much less well than my Logitech’s laser sensor.

I’ve cross-posted this list to the product reviews in Apple Store.

Oh, yeah: kudos to Logitech and Microsoft for their great mice.

A Review of the Mighty Mouse, pt. 2

2008-06-12

Update: My final list of pros & cons of this Rotten Rodent.

My wife and I stopped using Apple’s Mighty Mouse because we are unremeditably annoyed by two frequent problems it has.  First, the mouse cursor often jumps for no good reason.  Second, the mouse started a few months ago to make occasional errors of registering right clicks instead of left clicks.  What a chiefly annoyance!  Bye bye, UnMighty Mouse!  We’ll only miss your scroll ball

Together and Evernote: Updates Reviewed

2008-05-14

First, let’s get Evernote‘s business out now: I have updated my recent review to reflect its new beta 1.1 version.

Now, let’s take a look at TogetherIf you remember my comparative review of web information collection applications, you know I liked a lot Together.  Now that it’s been significantly upgraded in its new incarnation stamped Version 2.1, let’s see how our landscape of options evolved in the context of the comparative review.

  • Overall, with a global average score of 2.8, Together is more than ever a solid competitor to all the other 8 applications I’ve tested. Prior to its version 2.1, it only scored 2.4.  On many aspects, Together is now much more usable and mature. (more…)

MenuCalendarClock: Ugly Name, Great App

2008-04-18

Update (2009): It’s been at least a few months since I stopped using this. Maybe I’m no more busy enough. And I was a bit hassled by the fact this app doesn’t feel that much native to OS X. It needs a bit of interaction tweaking.

MenuCalendarClock for iCalUntil yesterday, it’s been a few times I resisted trying MenuCalendarClock.  Its name is ugly and its web site isn’t much better at selling it.  But it’s almost exactly what I was longing for.  I was tired of bringing up the whole iCal interface, or firing up the Dashboard, just to see my daily appointments.  I wanted something more streamlined into my workflow, more accessible but still capable, yet not distracting.  Thanks to MacUpdate’s Parallels Bundle and Chris Pirillo, I found the answer to my need in MenuCalendarClock.

It’s as slick as it looks in this screenshot and it’s even better.  The search box works wonders to bring up anything that’s been on your calendar but you don’t remember when, and it’s just where it’s needed.  Double-clicking on something either brings up iCal or a window to edit a task’s details.  In short, it rocks.

Of course, it could be even better.  I’d like to be able to specify the date format of the events view.  Repeating the year and month for each one of the three days shown looks silly to me.  I’d much rather see the name of the day completely spelled out, like “vendredi le 18“, “samedi le 19“, and “lundi le 21“.  (Yes, French is my native language.)

MenuCalendarClock comes at the price of 20$, for either iCal or Entourage.  If you’re quick enough, you could also get it like me in the great deal that is the Parallels Bundle.  Finally, if you just want the slick calendar view without the events and tasks view, the basic version of the application will come free to you.

Evernote for Mac Reviewed (beta version)

2008-03-22

evernote.png

Update (2008-05): The beta version was updated to 1.1, bringing support for PDF documents and some other minor goodies.  I’ve updated this post accordingly.  It also reflects the updated scores of Together 2.1.

In March, I was able to snag myself a TechCrunch invitation to try the upcoming Mac version of Evernote.  When I first discovered it in 2004 (for Windows), I soon became an advocate of Evernote for its organizational capabilities.  Evernote wasn’t perfect, but it was already a leader in the market and since then, it’s kept progressing at a steady pace.  Now that it’s starting to breathe on OS X, it’s time for a new testing round.

Today, I took a few hours to run Evernote against my web information collection test benchmark.  I’m now ready to share with you how Evernote, in its actual pre-release form, competes with the pack.

As this is pre-release software, please understand that Evernote will probably fare even better than now when it’ll reach Release Day.  Until then, here’s what I found. (more…)

EagleFiler 1.3 Reviewed

2008-03-14

Update (2008-05): Together and Evernote have been overhauled.  I’ve updated this post accordingly.

Reading this new version’s change list, which includes some great new features, I thought it’d be interesting to update my recent comparative review to see how EagleFiler now fares with its competitors.  But I’m not going to update the comparative review now, so I decided to simply post the score-changing differences here, along with their impact on EagleFiler’s evaluation.

  • EagleFiler’s global score for Collection brings it to become the second greatest of all the apps I’ve tested, for collection purposes (behind Evernote’s 65).  From 50, it raised to 62:
    • It’s now possible to import a selection of a web page as a web archive!  (You need to use Safari, or probably any other webkit-based browser.)  Until now, only Together supported this functionality.  This brings the score for Collection – Support from 26 to 29.
    • The addition of the optional window dialog to file what you collect (tags, comment, etc.) ups the score for Collection – Interaction from 18 to 24 and brings the score for Collection – Consistency from 6 to 9.
  • Various small improvements to EagleFiler’s tagging support bring its Organization – Tags integration score from 9 to 10, and its global Organization score from 30 to 31.

These changes bring EagleFiler’s global score from 124 to 138, with an average of 2.1 that now becomes 2.4.  That’s quite an improvement!

Now, there’s two more things I’d like to mention:

(more…)

Uninstallers: AppZapper vs Hazel

2008-02-12

trash.png

Update 2 (2008-12): MacApper posted a review of CleanApp 3, which has been released a month ago, and it looks even much more interesting than it did before. I’m yet to try it, though.

Update 1 (2008-04): Someone else compared many uninstallers, reaching similar conclusions.  Hinted at CleanApp possibly being the perfect solution.  Reviews on MacUpdate are fairly positive.  Cleanapp’s rating would be almost perfect if it wasn’t of some performance bugs that might get fixed when version 3 is released.

In the past few months, Hazel, an application that’s useful to automate your organization of files and folders, started lending a hand when you want to uninstall software from your Mac.

This move from the author is a really wise one, as it widens Hazel’s target market into the uninstaller utilities category of applications.  And indeed, that’s what convinced me to buy it, because first, I needed a good uninstaller, and second, I might someday want to build myself an automated workflow for my files and folders organization.

Now, the main question is:

How good is Hazel at uninstalling applications,
compared to the leader of this category, namely AppZapper?

I started my tests a month ago with the hypothesis that neither one would be really sufficient as a uninstaller, because unless I’m wrong, they both solely rely on Spotlight to find which files should be trashed when you uninstall something.

To verify this hypothesis and find an answer to the main question, each time I needed to uninstall an application, I would both use AppZapper and Hazel to see which one fares better.  It’s easy to do.  First, drag your doomed application to AppZapper.  Then, drag it to the trash.  You will end up with both AppZapper’s and Hazel’s suggestions as to what should be deleted along the application package.

The Short Answer

Neither one is that much better.  Neither one is sufficient.  Use both.

The Long Answer

(more…)

A Review of the Mighty Mouse

2008-02-11

mighty-mouse.gif

Update (2008-06): I now hate the Mighty Mouse.

Switching from a regular PC to a Mac also means, in most cases, switching keyboards and mice.  When I started using my brand-new iMac, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the Mighty Mouse, but I wanted to give it a chance, so I decided I would use it exclusively for at least two weeks.

My first impression was that I’d miss my back and forward buttons.  And let me tell you I do.  Next, I found it’s hard to use the side buttons, and up to this day, this hasn’t changed.  I was also really surprised to learn that the side buttons are in fact together only one button.

After a few days, I was hooked at its scroll wheel.  Er, sorry, I meant scroll ball.  It’s addictive.  It’s wonderful.  It’s even ergonomic.  Scroll wheels hurt.  Scroll balls don’t.  Scroll wheels wouldn’t if they were designed as small as this ball.  And I say that with some experience with carpal tunnel problems.

What’s funny is that after two weeks, I still hadn’t understood how to succeed at right-clicking every time I tried it.  Most of the time, the mouse would register a left click instead.  It would drive me nuts.  And it’s even funnier that my wife picked it up fine starting on day one.  But we weren’t able to find what it was I wasn’t doing well.

Seeing something was (ironically) wrong with me, I decided I wouldn’t revert to my Logitech mouse until I had solved this problem for myself and tried the mouse in this new glorified way for at least one more week.  And then, a few days later, I found out you have to make sure no finger remains on the left side of the mouse when you push on its right side.  That’s so counter-intuitive.  I mean, why should I need to lift my left finger before right-clicking?  My wife, on the other side of the fence, always did this with any mouse.  How (un)lucky she is!

The most annoying problem of the Mighty Mouse is that its cursor sometimes jumps from one place in the screen to another one when we’re moving the mouse, instead of following our movement.  At first, I thought I was facing some kind of bug in OS X.  Now, I believe it’s because this mouse’s optical system has some problems recognizing the surface of my desk.  When I try my Logitech mouse, I never face this problem.  Let me tell you it’s a really annoying bug, and no, I don’t want to use any kind of mouse pad.  That would ruin the careful looks of my workplace, wouldn’t it?

So, after 4 months using the Mighty Mouse, how do I feel?  Well, I think it’s time to buy a new desk.

Seriously, I hope Apple will make a better device soon.  I would gladly encourage them to continue producing half-crap devices by buying their next mouse instead of switching back to my previous mouse.  Until then, I’m going to rock (argh…) and roll (yay!) with my Mighty Mouse because I’m hooked at the Mighty Scroll Ball.