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Software tryouts

After mucho hardware problems last week, I've been reorganising some data and have had a think about how I go about the work stuff and what tools I use. Here's some I've been trying out

Qumana: offline blog editor. Very slick (Java app). But the editor is poor - you can't afaict configure the typeface and the default type face is very very hard to read - I doubt I could use it for long periods. It also seesm to drop junk into your markup here and there. The drop pad feature is clever; you drag text or images onto a floating box and they come through to the post. If they fixed up the editor (it's core to blogging after all), there's a nice product here. Uninstalled for now, with a reminder to check again in 6 months.

w.bloggar: reinstalled now that I finally figured out how to get it to post to MT3.2 (the xmlrpc required the password be set separately from the user account - grr, that's been a problem for months). Still my favorite offline blogging tool.

ultraedit 12: after finding my v10 licence key (as resulting of moving some mail to IMAP), I bought an upgrade bundle. I think this will become my default text editor along with emacs - v12 is so much better than v10 which I always felt was a hodgepodge of features (albeit very useful ones) . The main reason to upgrade wasn't UE itself, but UltraCompare, which does 3 way diffs at a fraction of the price you'd pay for Araxis Merge (my version only supports 2-way diffing). You don't need to do 3-ways that often, and if you do there's something wrong with how you work (!), so it makes sense to go for the cheaper option. UE 12 also seems to load much faster than I remember v10 ever doing - slow load time was one of the reasons Textpad tended to get used.

Google calendar: so far I'm liking it, it's easy to use. It doesn't have any concept of events that get done or of bookable resources (like meeting rooms), which you tend to need for work reasons.

last.fm: I came across this via Cote. It's cool. I don't really know how to explain why it's cool - it has that del.icio.us/web2.0 pointless-but-so-useful quality. I guess someone will end up buying it for a stack of cash once they get a critical mass of users. At the moment they see to be having DB access problems, the site is sluggish and sometimes drops you altogether with a "come back later" message. But it's cool, and free, so it's hard to worry about uptime.They don't cross-reference with other users until you have about 300 items uploaded, which makes me think they're using old-school collaboarative filtering algorithms.

Copernic: searching email with thunderbird is a pig. I'm hoping Copernic will sort that out once it's done indexing. If it doesn't I'm going to have to figure something out with Lucene. Or get a better mailer (GMail isn't it). i dunno - everything seems to be evolving along nicely, except email.

SnagIt: We got some licences in work. Very good software; you'll never go back to copy and pasting into paint after using this.

Opus 8: I mentioned this a while back. Superb explorer replacement. If I could figure out how to get it to show me TortoiseSVN's icon overlays, I'd be set.

I've come to the conclusion that I need a 'rich todo' list. 37s tada lists or Confluence todo macros just don't cut it - there's insufficent structure and context in flat lists. I think this might be me. When I take notes it's rarely in list form and almost always in terms of mindmaps and diagrams - relating things to other things is how I cope best with new information. Todo lists are useful but tend to feel clumsy somehow (read Mark Forster for a better explanation). With tagging. And mindmap support - I am loving mindmaps. You can (and I do) look at a mindmap months after it was recorded, and it will make sense - their recall ability is fantastic compared to flat lists. Mindmaps are trees, so they're begging to to be exported to OPML or XOXO. An Ajax version of Freemind would be just about perfect.

April 17, 2006 11:19 PM


Sven Kloppenburg
(April 18, 2006 11:19 AM #)

as you are an emacs user, you might want to look at planner mode http://www.plannerlove.com/pmwiki/pmwiki.php as a todo list and associated

No Ajax, but mostly freeform with some structure. links nearly everything inside emacs and everything you can think up an url for.

Bill de hOra
(April 18, 2006 12:46 PM #)


Thanks! Planner mode looks cool; I'll give it a try.

Scott Mark
(April 19, 2006 12:38 PM #)

Bill - great run down; these types of posts are some of my faves on blogs! I am a huge UE user, so will have to check out v12. I will also check out w.bloggar; have wanted to look into offline tools for awhile now.

Last.fm is very, very cool - I have discovered some cool tunes by just checking in on friends listening habits. I also keep a micro-blog of music related thoughts there. I keep thinking I will go pro, but haven't yet... on the music front if you haven't yet, check out eMusic.

Ianiv Schweber
(April 20, 2006 04:49 PM #)

Bill, could you give me an example of some of the bad markup you've seen? I'd like to get that fixed.