Welcome to what I hope will be a weekly feature at the Aerie: A listing of five “things” with a similar theme. This week it happens to be software; next week, it could be irritations, ice cream flavors, or beers. Who knows what may strike my fancy?
What Do I Mean By “Software”?
Well…how about “not hardware”? Okay, too easy. In this case, though, I’m defining software rather broadly: Standalone applications, web-based applications, browser plugins…essentially, code in many forms
Why’d You Pick These, Kes?
The criteria were pretty simple: What has struck my fancy lately, works well, and is relatively simple? In other words, “Hey, this is pretty cool!”
I should add one caveat: The order in which these are listed aren’t necessarily a ranking (in fact, I may simply reorder them alphabetically…we’ll see).
Evernote is a web-based application, also available for Mac, Windows, iPhone and Blackberry. Here’s the description from “What is Evernote?”
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere. Did we mention that it’s free?
Basically, it’s a virtual 3-ring binder, index card system, or whatever other metaphor you choose to use. Find a great recipe you want to be sure you print out later? Copy to Evernote, or simply save the web page there.
Do you have a boilerplate collection of text items you use frequently? I do, for the blogs I add to the Twisted Nether Wiki’s Big List of Blogs. I used to use a Google Notebook for these, but Google is no longer supporting Notebooks directly, and some of the changes to Firefox and Google have made them less useful (e.g., copy/paste is no longer formatted, so I have to re-create links). Enter Evernote, and a “TN Bloglist” Notebook.
Evernote provides a free monthly allowance of 40MB; halfway through the month, I’m at 3 percent of that, so for most people, this should be plenty of storage. However, if you’re a real power user (or a real packrat), a monthly fee of $5 enables a 500MB monthly upload allowance and stronger security via SSL.
You can email just about anything from your computer or phone into an Evernote notebook, and you can even use twitter to add items. Right now, I can’t think of anything more flexible and more comfortable to use for capturing and storing “stuff” that I want to use or look at later.
I just found out about Prism today, but I must say it is pretty cool. Essentially, it allows you to turn a single website into a desktop application. Read more about it at The Unofficial Apple Weblog.
The idea behind Prism is to allow you to have a window with one website in it. The most obvious use is as a desktop application replacement: Gmail, for example, for email and calendar (to replace, say, Outlook), or Meebo, for multi-platform instant messaging (instead of Pidgin, Adium or Digsby, especially if you can’t use those standalone clients in a business environment).
Yes, it does get away from the tabbed browser concept to some extent; on the other hand, if you use Gmail as your exclusive email client, as I do, it makes a lot of sense to be able to run it in a separate window, without all the overhead of a second browser instance.
Seesmic Desktop is a standalone Twitter and Facebook application that works much like TweetDeck. In fact, like TweetDeck, it uses the Adobe Air runtime platform. However, a major difference is that Seesmic not only updates Twitter, but Facebook entries from you and your friends as well.
Like TweetDeck, Seesmic is organized in columns, and you can create individualized lists for people and topics. But the big difference, of course, is that Seesmic also brings in Facebook updates as well as Tweets. For social networking power users (or even folks like me), this is really a very spiffy implementation.
Right now, Seesmic doesn’t have many of the customization options TweetDeck provides, but those are more esthetic than functional. Seesmic also doesn’t display Facebook notifications (Mafia Wars invitations/updates, for example); at least, not that I’ve found.
Personally, the jury’s still out on Seesmic, as I’m still evaluating the utility of Facebook for myself, but for those of you who regularly update or follow both, Seesmic could be a killer app for you.
Synergy allows you to use a single keyboard and mouse between two computers: Two Macs, two PCs, or a Mac and a PC. (Yes, it works with Unix boxes too, but check Sourceforge to determine whether your flavor of Unix/Linux is supported.) The two PCs do not have to share the same operating system.
For Windows, Win95, Win98 and WinME are supported, as are all versions of Windows based on WinNT, up to and including Windows 7. Mac OS X 10.2 and higher are supported.
Sourceforge: "The Mac OS X port is incomplete. It does not synchronize the screen saver, only text clipboard data works (i.e. HTML and bitmap data do not work), the cursor won’t hide when not on the screen, and there may be problems with mouse wheel acceleration."
Configuring Synergy is not as intuitive as one might like, at first glance. However, again at Lifehacker, Adam Pash has come to the rescue with a detailed, well-illustrated tutorial for setting up Synergy.
Currently, I’m sharing the Mac keyboard and Logitech (PC) mouse between the iMac and Macbook Pro, both of which are running OS X 10.5.7 Leopard. Moving from one computer to the other is almost perfectly seamless, although there are some tweaks in responsiveness I haven’t tried yet. For my purposes, though, it’s a free and highly effective alternative to a hardware KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) switch.
One thing I have yet to try out is whether I can “Synergize” between a Winows virtual machine on one of the Macs, with the other computer. If anyone’s done so, I’d be interested to hear about it.
For those of you who don’t have two monitors, but do have a desktop and a laptop, this is truly the next best thing.
If you use Gmail, Google Calendar, or Google Reader, you owe it to yourself to check out this outstanding “theme” treatment of these signature Google applications. Especially if you are a fan at all of dark backgrounds, not to mention a very clean layout, Google Redesigned (GR) deserves a chance to win you over.
The program itself is a Firefox extension (so if you’re using IE, Safari, Opera or Chrome, you’re out of luck), which installs easily, and adds a little button in the bottom right corner of the browser. The button can be used to check for design updates, but you can also allow automatic updates.
One thing to keep in mind is that GR is developed independently of the Google apps it skins. Thus, when Google makes changes to the apps, those changes could “break” GR until the designers get caught up; on the other hand, they are pretty responsive to such things, and despite the plethora of updates to Gmail and GReader the past few weeks, GR has not been noticeably compromised.
That’s All for Now
So there you have it…this week’s Friday Five software picks. I hope there’s something here you can use; if so, how about adding to the comments to share your experiences with others.
I’m also open to suggestions for other “Friday Five” topics, although I won’t touch roleplay topics: TooManyAnnas has that covered pretty well.