You may have noticed a few little update-y things I’ve done on the blog, mostly behind the scenes, so perhaps not: I’ve re-added the MyBlogLog widget to the sidebar, re-activated my Google Sitemaps plugin, and added a Print plugin — I figure I write longwinded rambling posts, the least I could do is offer a way for folks to read them in another manner that might appeal to them more. And if I ever get off my ass and start posting articles and reviews, it’ll be doubly handy!
This is going to be something of a linkdump, just so you’re aware. There’s a number of things I want to mention that have come up in the recent past that I think are worth your attention. First up, for those of us who use Twitter, I really must point out the sexy and fabulous Twitterrific for all your OS X Tweeting needs. I know I’m late to the bus on this one, but it’s still worth pointing out. The interface is sleek and refined, and can be incredibly subdued and non-invasive if you want it to be. For one, it has no dock icon to clutter up your dock, though it does add a small “t” icon to your menubar for calling it up when you want (or you can set a hotkey to do that, which is what I did). I have the window set to appear when a new twitter occurs, and then after 30 seconds quietly disappears again. No noise, no clutter, and I don’t have to pay attention to it if I don’t want to. I like that philosophy for an application. I wonder if I could convince them to put together a similar system for RSS reading?
Which takes me to the next topic: RSS readers. I played with standalone RSS readers when RSS first became a “thing”, but was unimpressed with the offerings. It’s not to say they were bad — NetNewsWire for instance is an excellent and robust application, but the information metaphor they all seemed to run with just didn’t click for me. I still saw the invaluable nature of feeds, though, so I was quite happy when Apple put together RSS support built into Safari, and have been using their integrated solution ever since. It’s still not ideal, but it does dump the information in front of me handily, and I don’t have to think about opening another app or going somewhere specific: I just have a Feeds menu on my bookmarks bar, and it tells me when there’s a new feed, and I go click on it. Done. But, well, feeds have continued to evolve. Feed based technology drives all the various -casts going on out there (music casts, podcasts, photocasts, etc), using RSS Enclosures, mostly, which aren’t really all that supported in Safari. So, I decided to see what’s going on out there in Readerland, and took a stroll through a few. Results? I’m STILL not happy with any of the RSS readers out there. NewsFire seems pretty nice, though, and I like their a la cart licensing system ($18 for the basic license… for an extra $9, you can add a household license, and/or also for $9, you can add a “license for life”, which guarantees all future versions will be a free upgrade, no matter what). Overall, it has a clean interface, which seems to be a blending of Spotlight and Aqua Unified aesthetics, and its keyboard control is mostly intuitive and what I’d expect (not always, though). I’m still debating whether I’d actually use it if I spent the money on the license — I’m usually all for supporting independent developers, but a) I’m not entirely happy with it, and b) I need to watch my budget until I have a steady income. If either of those issues were alone, I’d spend the money (I bought Scrivener, after all, and I’m in the same budget minding now as I was then).
While I was exploring NewsFire’s developer site, and came across another of his applications that is just crazy cool, though. Safari, like most browsers, has a search bar in the navigation control. What Inquisitor does is cause that search bar to work like a Spotlight search: dynamic, real time results as you type, in a drop down window that you can click from. The interface is clean, and again, it just works, adding functionality to the browser in a very real way.
This is something I’m probably going to clean up and expand upon for a post over on Applegeeks, but one of the things about modern software development is that there really is room for small, specialized applications that are innocuous and efficient. The goal, as I see it, is to make an application do its job so well that it becomes invisible to the user. Every time a user of your application stops and says “Shit, that was easy,” then you did your job. Also, as is shown by applications like Twitterrific, there is room for applications that run separately that can still offer the same seamless functionality as if it was integrated into another application, without trying to shoehorn it INTO another app. I truly hope we see more and more of this sort of approach (I think any sort of push based information could feasibly work with it… RSS feeds and email immediately come to mind. Some IM already does, but I think there’s definitely room for improvement).