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!). 

Simplenote: notes made simple

Ok, I know. There are plenty of programs devoted to the useful task of storing your notes. One that’s very nice is surely Evernote. It’s really great. I use it for my attempt to move toward a paperless world (anyway, before I reach my paperless status I’d need not to forget to scan a lot of document – which I’m definitively too lazy to do).

But wait. Another service which I’m going to love more each day, is Simplenote. It’s perceptively more minimalistic in respect to Evernote, it’s easy to use, it has all the (nowadays) mandatory apps for Android and iOS (now it’s also coming a Mac app, which I’m eagerly waiting). Moreover, notwithstanding its apparent simplicity, it has a lot of interesting features.

Schermata 2013-09-16 alle 16.23.00
From Simplenote website

Taking advantage of the existence of different services, I decided some times ago to use Simplenote only as a laboratory for my creative writing attempts. It is a good thing to keep them separate from the rest of the daily stuff. Moreover, the fact that one can easily navigate trough the various revisions of a document, it’s deeply appreciated when one comes to creative writing, as you can easily understand.

Now when I enter Simplenote I feel more like home, in company of words and thought I like and that are mine. Not too different, I guess, as a painter can feel while he enter in the room where he works.

Simplenote and Scrivener are my art laboratory and my tools for writing.

Simplenote is interesting in this regards, also because my preferred tools for writing, which is Scrivener, can exchange data with this service. So it’s all connected  – once again. 😉

Stellarium, the sky inside your computer

Two new versions in just a few days: I’m talking about the popular software named Stellarium , which lets you explore the heavens, taking advantage of a large database that includes more than 600,000 stars (with extra catalogs of more than 120 million items!), with the representation of the constellations, images of nebulae (full Messier catalog), realistic representation of the Milky Way, planets and satellites. Stellarium also includes realistic effects of sunrise and sunset, zoom controls telescope, and much more … 

…  Briefly, there are so many interesting features that even those vaguely fond of astronomy can be convinced to try it!

ce of the planets above ESO headquarters, nearThe dance of the planets above ESO headquarters, nea
The dance of theplanets above ESO headquarters, near Munich.
The dance of the planets above ESO headquarter, near Munich
 Credits: Stellarium website

Version 0.10.3 has been released on 29 of January, with new features like plugins that allow to predict the position of artificial satellites, and a database with constellation for twelve different cultures.. and many other thinks that you’ll be glad to discover by yourself 😉

Version 0.10.5 has been released just some days ago; it features the correction of a lot of bugs, a reduced loading time and other improvements.
Stellarium is available for all the major operating systems (Windows, Linux and Mac OS X), it’s free and open source. Binary packages for Ubuntu 10.04 are now also available from their website. Could you ask for more…?

Stellarium website is www.stellarium.org