OSX, a tale of complex simplicity

One thing I like very much about working with a Mac, it’s not the Mac itself. It’s the software. I found several pieces of software for OSX that have a sort of intriguing personality. At first glance they seems very simple guys: they are not intimidating you, they do not bother you with a lot of possibilities to do what they are supposed to do.They do their job in a simple way and most of the time you’re fine with them. Perfectly fine. 

Then it may happen; at a given point you want to search for a given feature that’s not so immediate, or you want simply to explore new possibilities of a program that it’s now quite familiar to you. And then you discover that normally you use your program (as your brain) only for a little part of its possibilities. In other worlds, the simplicity does not come at the price of reducing the possibilities and the features: I propose the terms complex simplicity to address this issue. I used linux for several years, sometimes even Windows, but only coming to OSX I found programs with this attractive peculiarity (be advised, anyway, that things may change, and my knowledge can be partial or biased).

This seems to me particularly true when I turn to writing software. Note that I am now on the point to reveal you which are my favorite programs to write down worlds in a computer (one of the things I like most, definitively). Just to start from here, I’m writing this post with MarsEdit, a program that fits wonderfully this paradigm of complex simplicity. It’s only after some time spent looking around that you discover what it really can do. At the first glance, you’re presented with a very simple interface, letting you to write down your thoughs without having to deal with an excessive amount of technology. MarsEdit can even be reduced to a simple windows, to just  write (see below). There are many option but you do not need to worry about them until you actuality start searching them.


 Writing this post with MarsEdit was a pleasure 🙂

At any rate, the software that surprised me most, about its complex  simplicity, is definitively MacJournal. I bought this long time ago, to be adopted mainly as a daily work diary (a task which it does quite well,in passing). It’s only recently that I realized how MacJournal is good at writing. I mean, writing short stories, as well as poetry. Wonderful, for that. I’ve adopted MacJournal to manage a series of short stories I’m developing. I created a diary named Racconti (which stands for Novels in Italian) which has various folders (you can organize your diaries at your pleasure), one for each project. Each entry in such folders is a novel, at various stages of completeness. For each post, I can easily see the number of words, I can make it editable or not, see the creation or last modification date, and a number of other useful option. Of course I have a full set of options for text formatting. I can even set a word goal for a specific diary, very useful when it does contain novels. When it comes to create, writing without distraction is easily done by choosing Focused Editing Mode, which turns MacJournal as a all screen application, showing text over a customizable background. There is much more in MacJournal, of course. This is just to give you an idea of an excellent software, very good for writing. And, needless to say, for each kind of journaling! 

But the first  great program for writing, you guessed, is Scrivener. Admittedly, Scrivener takes some times to understand how can you use it in an intelligent way (i.e., to really take advantages of its peculiarities). It is a kind of program which ask you to live with him for a while, before starting to use it at its best, moving inside its incredible set of features. Nevertheless, even with complex piece of software as Scrivener, you can follow a gradual approach. Thanks to its complex simplicity, you can be productive almost immediately, even you’re still barely scratching the surface of the sea of possibilities. I’ll probably talk more about Scrivener in a future post.

This was intended to let you understand why I like OSX software. And why I think that a writer feels at home with a Mac (no advertise intended!). 

Let’s get colorful!

Admittedly, I cannot escape from feeling a sort of pervasive excitement when Apple finally reveals its new products, as it happened just a few days ago. This time, I was very curious to see the “new” iPhone and mainly to understand if it could be really much better than the classic iPhone 5 (which I own, in passing).

Images credit: Apple website

Now that I realized that the differences between the new phones and mine are not-so-incredible, I can relax a bit… I am just curious, now, to see if this colorful iPhones will be appreciated by the people. The idea seems nice, anyway. On a minor side, I do not like very much the new case that comes with the iPhone.

I choose the color combination of my favorite Italian soccer team, A.S. Roma 😉

In particular, the back side – with all those holes – does not excite me at all. I checked Apple website for specific info about the case: they says that…

From the beginning, the iPhone 5c Case was envisioned as a significant part of the colorful experience. Every detail was meticulously considered…

Well, maybe. Maybe that every details was meticulously considered. But the holes of the cover let you see only a little part of the writing “iPhone” of the back side, and the overall effect seems a bit ugly , at my a first impression.

Ok, I am talking about a detail, I know. The iPhones are high quality products, nothing to say on this side. Anyway, maybe I’m not alone in this perplexity?

Play Books more closed than iBook?

This morning I installed Google Play Books on my Android device. It ‘s quite obvious that Google is trying to create its own ecosystem that will be a viable alternative to Apple, so Google Books takes its place alongside Play Music, the Store, etc…

From my first impression, I’d say that I like the graphics, the rendering of the books is excellent – even on small screen (like my Xperia Ray) –  and the possibility to read a book everywhere using the browser (unlike Apple iBooks) is appreciable. Moreover, synchronization between devices is an added value.
Among the things that I do not like, I have to mention that there is no possibility to highlight text on your mobile device (or at least I’m not finding it!), and (most annoying) it seems to me that you can’t upload your books, to be added to the library.
It ‘s the thing that leaves me more puzzled, because even Apple iBooks allows you to load books in ePub format (with no or Social DRM) in order to be addet to your library. I find this is a very a useful thing, and I am disappointed that you can not do it in Play Books (if there is, let me know, please!).
Definitively, it seems to me that you can only add books from Google Play Store.
Is Google getting more “closed” than Apple?

Unboxing my new iMac…

Finally it arrived! The day before yesterday, I took the box, bringing it at home with me. Heavy, but not that much. In the evening it was still closed. Well with a specific reason, of course: is a sort of gift for my son, and should come as a reward for scholastic achievement. Problem is, the results (at the moment writing) are, at least, controversial. 

At the end, we decided to unbox. I believe that anyone living in a family, as a parent or in any other role, knows quite well that the subtle art of compromise is a necessary quality, indeed often decisive for the proper handling of healthy family relationships. 

Please Dad, let’s unpack it! Just to try if it works… I do not want to play, I promise, I’ll only see if it works .. .. (no one believes, but there it is). 

For me, I was  looking at this large box and I was thinking… ok, I understand all, but it is a shame not to try it …. Moreover, I need  also to see if everything is fine …

Admittedly, the only thing that stopped me – at that point – was a certain amount of laziness: just imagining  the scenario of unpacking, assemble and configure all this stuff.. in a time while you could better stay in bed reading a good book, or sleeping…. or … 

Curiosity killed the cat, anyway, so that the request of my child won on my laziness. I decided to unpack. Hopefully it will be a quick thing. I still have memories of the other computer, the one with Windows. It was a mess. Attach the cables, the monitor, mouse, speakers, then the network cable (and at this point you already are in the midst of a forest of cables, that tend to weave in an exquisitely polymorphic way), then configure it all, then …then …. 

Well, this time it has been different. Boys, it was fast. Very very fast. Just, place the’iMac on your desk, plug it. You’re done. Keyboard and mouse come already configured to work with your brand new iMac (I do appreciate this care for small details). Put your network wireless password. That’s all. A spectacle. And it all works, now.

New, new workspace - 2011
Elegance matters… 

The screen, although only the smaller 21.5” (budget reasons forced me to buy the cheaper iMac, which is more than adequate for the domestic use, at least in my home), is also a spectacle. The computer itself steals very little space. And you have Mac OS X on board. With all the high-class software that you can easily install, often with a moderate expense (and I say this having spent years with Windows and Linux, I think I know rather well what’s around for other operating systems…)

I like. I really like. Elegant, comfortable, not bulky. I’m so glad that this time I did not try to save money, deciding for the classic PC with Windows (on which to carve the mandatory partition for Ubuntu).

What are you saying? Ah yes. Yes, you’re right. I have become quite Mac addicted, at this point. And (what’s worse), I do not regret it.