Working all day on the computer, I am constantly looking for new shortcuts and improvements to my process. Here are two new tools I am and will be using for a while.
1. TabGroups+ - this Firefox extension adds another layer of organization to standard tabs, potentially allowing a single Firefox window to have hundreds of tabs, provided you have enough free system resources. Since whatever I work on usually takes a few tabs each, this means I can better organize all my browser instances into one window, for better or worse. Note that you can set Firefox to start with previously open tabs, preventing you from losing your tabs session after a crash. Also note this extension is experimental, so you’ll need to register for an account on Mozilla.
2. Dropbox - follows the current web trend and is a free online web service that stores your files on the cloud. You can download their cross-platform desktop app to as many computers as desired. When the app is running, it syncs whatever is in your special Dropbox folder on that computer with your Dropbox webspace. If you’re working on many computers throughout the week like I am, the few minutes of setup time is definitely worth it. Even more, Dropbox allows you to share folders with other users like your friends.
What really sold me with both tools is the easy of use and the general lack of configuration and feature creep. They do a couple things, but they do them really well, and it doesn’t take a tech wizard to use them.
In case you’ve been under a rock this week, the new Adobe CS4 was announced. CS3 didn’t seem too long ago, but the new Creative Suite is suppose to be shiny and awesome. I just find it interesting that this awesome image-resizing technology we posted about months ago will now come with the new PhotoShop. I can barely begin to imagine what people will do with this technology. Oh, and I put their new logo up there just for kicks, courtesy of BrandNew.
It’s TextMate for Windows and it’s new. And you can skip my intro to get it here.
And for those who don’t know what TextMate is, it’s Mac-only text editor that increases a developer’s productivity by folds through many useful features like color-coding, shortcut keys and commands for anything from simple processes like inline editing to large snippets across a majority of programming languages to compiling in a target program (i.e. Flash) through its bundles feature. The general consensus about what makes TextMate awesome is it’s ease of use for newbies and power users alike.
It’s good to see that E follows that standard over on Windows. E keeps bundles, but needs Cygwin (included in the installation package) to use the feature. It also adds remote folder access, but does not seem to have a built-in SVN client. Instead, there is a local version control feature called ‘history’ that saves any files changes. Bundles are easier to manage, but the project management and bundle editing in E feel very different and not in a good way. Luckily, there is a wiki to walk you through most issues.
When I first starting coding websites by hand, I used Dreamweaver. But soon like most other folks I found it lacking a lot of productivity enhancements that other more dedicated text editors (Dreamweaver targets mainly the visual web designer and has a lot of features I don’t need) like Eclipse and Notepad++. The only problem with the latter was it couldn’t deal with all the languages out there with its, last I checked, relatively weak support of languages like ActionScript 3 and Processing, both of which have TM bundles. The ability to save ‘projects’ took me from Smultron on the Mac to TextMate, which like E has a reasonable $40 price tag to register from the trial version. Imagine Photoshop costing only $40 and coming out of the box with 100+ fully-featured actions sets.
Other issues? the Windows keyboard doesn’t allow the same shortcut keys as on a Mac, but that will change too, since there was a lot of work done to ensure bundles worked on the Mac as they did on the PC. All of this for me means that for developing on the PC at home, I can hold off on learning something big like Eclipse.
The biggest thing is we’re seeing an application go from Mac to PC, when it’s more common the other way around. To me this has more impact than when Safari for Windows was released in the pre-Chrome days.
The headlines for this week will probably have “Google Chrome” somewhere. Google’s new browser, love it or hate it, is definitely going to change things. Initial likes? The comic, of course, which goes beyond a good marketing/advertising move to something more educational and fun, so you can read it to get caught up with the technical specs on Chrome. I read it and got amped up before installing the app itself. It’s very blue, and there’s no menu bar. Otherwise, it felt like any other, non-IE browser (although the interface at times felt very IE, especially the nav bar). A standout is the new start page, which shows thumbnails of visited sites and used search engines, something I thought smart and useful.
But after all this, one question. Why ‘Chrome’ and that logo?
I don’t have an iPhone and am unaware of any visual redesigns since this was published, but I think in general this video editorial is applicable in a lot of cases, including its case study for Apple’s general design strategy, where sometimes user-interface design prioritizes looks and associates that with a user-friendly design. Mr. Tufte in this video really sheds light on data resolution, and what it means to be simple while not being sparse. There ought to be no reason that constraints in the medium should affect the level of detail in the message.
While we’re on the topic of games, here’s an article that piqued my interest in the future of online gaming. I’ve never been a big fan of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft or Second Life, but if gaming could be made to actually benefit your real world self, besides powerful thumbs or trigger-happy clicking fingers, then maybe, just maybe, our lives will be that much more fun.
Despite it’s lack of kerning, this piece really speaks volumes. The choices in animation really improve in the second half, as the message builds up, when compared to the rather slow start.
I’m comparing this piece not to the GOOD animation from earlier, but to this one piece by Heebok Lee, who currently works at Prologue and was an inspiration to me (not the typeface, but the animation) when I had my fling with animated type:
It’s interesting to see quality animated type come from After Effects but not from Flash. And a little disappointing. Especially considering that there’s no real video in these pieces, and vector type will really improve the quality while keeping size down. The girl effect website itself, sleek as it is, could be a done in the same way as the video. We see type experiments being done here and there in Flash, like this one from a previous post, but hopefully more exciting and moving pieces will show up.