Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.
Gordon Meyer | Nov 11 2007
So there I was in Las Vegas, flush with cash and giddy with excitement. Seduced by the sleek lines, thin profile, and promised efficiency of the PRS-505. Call me “Sony Reader,” I imagined it purring, “and together we will travel the world.” It spoke to both the bibliophile and gadget hound that live deep within my soul. How could I resist?read more »
Margaret Mason | Nov 5 2007
The Four Agreements
I dread conflict. In fact, when I know a confrontation is imminent, it's all I can think about. I mull it over when I could be labeling file folders, I ponder it while my inbox burgeons, while my 3x5 cards gather dust. Conflict is my productivity disaster.
Fortunately, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz gave me a few significant tools for moving past conflict in any arena. The book is about four habits you can adopt that improve your life in general, but I find it especially helpful when I'm anxious about a tough meeting, phone call, email exchange, or personal conversation. Before I head into the lion's den, I review the agreements to put myself in the right frame of mind:read more »
Merlin Mann | Oct 24 2007
Hog Bay Software's TaskPaper was recently released in a completed 1.0 version (previously), and if you're the sort of person who casts about for a simple way to manage projects and tasks from a Mac, this just may be your app.
But, even more significantly, if you're not looking for a simple action management system -- if you're that particularly pathetic sort of character who's convinced that features like tagging, syncing, collaboration, graph paper generation, and the introduction of an onboard artisanal breadmaker are all that stands between you and getting your stuff done -- well, you may need TaskPaper more than anybody. Because, friends, TaskPaper is just about fiddle-proof, and, frankly, I know a lot of people who could benefit from that today.
Here's what a simple document looks like in TaskPaper:read more »
Merlin Mann | Aug 1 2007
To know me today, you'd never imagine how many hundreds of pages a week I read in college. Surprises me, anyhow. While I've devolved into an accomplished skimmer of Harper's and the The New York Times Magazine, I rarely find (or, make) the time to finish a whole book about anything that's not related to "work." That's why I'm intrigued by DailyLit, a service that leverages rather than battles the tendency to hang out online.
The idea is simple enough: select a "free" book that appeals to you, then, every day or two, via either email or RSS, the DailyLit robot sends you a section that's readable in about five minutes. If you want more at any time -- the digital equivalent of turning the page -- just click to have the next installment sent, then keep on a'reading.
The variety of available selections is handsome, including favorites like Tristram Shandy, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Devil's Dictionary and over 400 more. Feeling ambitious? Try War and Peace (675 5-minute parts), The Count of Monte Cristo (581 parts), or Don Quixote (448 parts). Want something a little lighter? You can't go wrong with Candide (42 parts) or A Modest Proposal (4 [still hilarious] parts).read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 31 2007
When you're testing a new version of an application (or just being a little paranoid), it can be a pain to deal with protecting your "real" data from being corrupted or overwritten. While something like SuperDuper is priceless for backing up a drive to a disk image, you want something that's not only lighter in weight, but that is smart enough to deal just with the settings associated with a single program. That's where roobaSoft's rooSwitch comes in.
rooSwitch's smarts come in being able to recognize which Preferences, Application Support folders, and related files belong to an app's settings (but, not -- it should be noted -- its documents), so that you can then backup, switch, and restore a group of settings whenever you need to. This can be quite a lifesaver.read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 2 2007
Well, the timing must have been right, because I bought a copy, and by the time I'd finished the first chapter, a switch had flipped in my head. I say "timing" because, while the book is pretty good (if perhaps not particularly groundbreaking), the author's observations on why people allow themselves to live with too much crap were an overdue existential bitchslap for me. And, I'll admit, he has simple cures for dealing with this seemingly intractable challenge, and for me that's a hard combination to beat.
Clutter of every kind has been the default state of my physical world forever. Although no official record of the conversation exists, I would not be surprised to learn that I tried to talk the staff who delivered me into letting me keep my first diaper; just because -- y'know -- you never know when it might come in handy. Bad habits formed early, bad habits stuck, and, for the most part, bad habits remain intact to this day.read more »
Merlin Mann | Apr 23 2007
I've only been playing with it for an hour or two, so I don't have anything revelatory to add to everyone else's reactions. But, so far, I'm very impressed with the ease of use and lovely design. That said, hiding under the pretty is a lot of great stuff that should make prosumer web designers' lives easier, including built-in SSH shell, a straightforward CSS editor, and a very configurable multi-paned window approach. I also love the low-key code validation, Hamburger Helper "Clips," and what looks like a pretty nifty "Bonjour" sharing functionality.
The care that the Panic folks put into all of their apps and the humor and humanity that they express as a company makes me proud to use a Mac. They're doing God's work, and, whenever the opportunity arises, I'm all too happy to give them my money.
Merlin Mann | Apr 8 2007
Merlin Mann | Jan 21 2007
Scrivener, a full-featured writing program that I've been raving about a lot lately on MacBreak Weekly, has now reached the 1.0 milestone and is available for purchase from Literature and Latte. Scrivener's product page has also been updated with a terrific explanation of why this app feels so different.
Personally, I like the excellent fullscreen mode, built-in (round-trip) outliner, tricked-out Inspector, and all-in-one form factor, but my favorite feature (which can be hard to explain without actually using the app for yourself) is Scrivener's use of the index card and corkboard metaphor.
If you write like I do (and I pray that you do not), you have a messy approach to drafting that is iterative, intuitive, and far from linear. You do a brain dump, then type a little, then research a little, then type a little more, then move a bunch of stuff around, then groan aloud, then 80% start over and so on until something is done. Yes, it would be more tidy if we all followed the mandate of our elementary school teachers and wrote perfect 5-paragraph essays straight from a completed outline. But, such is life. And Scrivener seems to get that.read more »
Merlin Mann | Jan 2 2007
Task List is a promising looking new app for students who want to track the tasks associated with homework and other assignments.
As a former dysfunctional student, I like the way you can filter work by class, gauge progress on assigments, set priorities, and then track the results, such as the grade you received, etc. It also has support for "Classcasts," syncs with .Mac, and seems to work nicely with iCal.
As with many tricked-out task apps, there's plenty of room for bogging down in the sort of fiddly meta-work that's more fun than, say, actually reading Bleak House, but this app is far from the worst attractive nuisance I've seen in that regard. Based on my 20 minutes of running through it yesterday, it looks like a useful application for managing the rat's nest of tasks standing between you and your sheepskin.
What are you organized Mac students out there using to keep it all together?
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