Archive for August, 2007

Cure creative blocks with Oblique

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Oblique widget iconI’ve long been a fan of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies. These are decks of cards, each card containing a simple message, idea or question designed to “jog your mind” and overcome creative blocks. I find them very handy for everything from composing music through to marketing websites and writing blog posts. Example strategies include:

  • Retrace your steps
  • Are there sections? Consider transitions
  • Emphasize the flaws

While there’s nothing quite like using the actual cards, there’s a great way to access the Oblique Strategies on your Mac – and that’s using this handy widget. It contains the strategies from all four decks, letting you instantly access a random strategy with the click of a mouse. Perfect for those occasions when you’re stuck for inspiration!

A decent office app on the Mac?

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

Maybe I’m just a fussy git, but I’m pretty disappointed with office applications on the Mac. It’s not that there isn’t a lot of choice; it’s just that each app has its annoying drawbacks:

  • MS Office: It’s slick, but it’s expensive, it locks you into Microsoft file formats, and the next version won’t support Windows Office macros.
  • X11: Free, and supports a big range of file formats. However it’s clunky, it needs X11, it’s ugly, and it doesn’t behave anything like a Mac app.
  • NeoOffice: Free, and looks more like a Mac app than OpenOffice, but it’s slow as molasses, it has annoying interface quirks, and it insists on taking you to the developer’s homepage each time you start it.
  • iWork ’08: Slick, cheap and fast, but again it uses Microsoft file formats as well as its own proprietary format. It doesn’t support ODF.

So I was very pleased to hear of the first alpha release of Aqua for the Mac recently. Maybe this will deliver the holy grail of Mac office apps: open source, open file formats, and looks and behaves like a Mac app! Time will tell. I’ve played with the alpha a bit and it’s not exactly stellar so far – many functions don’t work properly (or at all), and it makes NeoOffice look like a speed demon – but it is only an alpha release. It definitely feels like a Mac app, which is cheery.

(There’s actually already a second alpha release of Aqua available. Thanks Eric!)