Archive for the 'News' Category

OmniFocus for iPad inching closer (and the surprising reason why I care about that)

June 27, 2010  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

The Omni Group recently confirmed that OmniFocus for iPad is probably technically on schedule.  They had previously slated OmniFocus for a June release on the iPad.  I am sure they think that all will be forgiven for missing their deadline just because they threw in a clever Star Wars reference.  But I am having none of that!

You might be curious at the renewed interest in OmniFocus.  After all, aren’t we using Things around here?

Well, yes, we had been using Things.  But it just didn’t seem to be helping us get things done.  It is simple to use and has a nice interface.  But there seemed to be something missing.  Something that I couldn’t put my finder on, keeping us from using it as our main task tracking system.  So we used Things as a supplement to Bento and iCal.

As you can imagine, the results were quite unsatisfying.

We have been using OmniFocus for the better part of a month — for everything apart from scheduling.  I have to say I am quite pleased.

I have found the following features particularly useful:

  • Deep folder hierarchies makes organizing tasks by topic and client much easier
  • Different views lets me easily see what I have to do from many different angles (home in on one project or see everything due within the next few days)
  • Action groups lets me make mini projects for a client engagement (the lack of nested projects was a major limitation of Things)
  • Syncing across multiple computers has enabled us to work on the road much more effectively

When I first took a look at OmniFocus, I thought it was too powerful for what I needed.  But I think that was because I really didn’t understand what I needed.  In a busy firm, living the philosophy that “if I don’t record a task, it’s not getting done” really takes a powerful tool.

We have decided that tool is OmniFocus.  And so far it’s working out nicely.

Mini Workhorse

June 16, 2010  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

When the first Mac Mini with Snow Leopard Server was announced in October 2009, I was intrigued.  A Mini with two hard drives totaling 1TB could certainly work as a file, mail, and calendar server for a small office.  And now Apple has upped the ante.

At first blush, the new Mac Mini Server seems like mostly a cosmetic change with a minor processor bump.  The headline always seems to be the processor, but a 2.53 GHz to 2.66 GHz jump is pretty negligible (and mostly irrelevant for file servers).  It’s nice to see that Apple now supports an 8GB RAM configuration.  RAM is at a premium on servers.  But even if you don’t want to spend the $400 to upgrade from 4GB to 8GB, you’re definitely going to enjoy the new 7200 rpm hard drives.

Previously, the Mini came with what were essentially laptop hard drives, 5400 rpm.  The server version now comes with two 500GB 7200 rpm drives.  It’s a subtle difference, to be sure.  But even minor increases in data access speed will start to add up over the weeks and months.

I have been looking into getting a server for some time.  At the moment we are using primarily syncing and sharing technologies.  But a central server has some appeal.  Now it’s just a matter of finding the time to implement it.  The new Mini is cute, but I don’t need another desk accessory.

iBiz Professional Gets Some Competition…Eventually

April 19, 2010  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

Our firm has used Billings for invoicing for a couple of years. It’s got a nice interface and produces great-looking invoices. The one thing that’s been holding it back is that it’s a solo app, not a small firm app. iBiz has a pretty good multi-user version called iBiz Professional. But Billings has been decidedly single user.

All that’s about to change, though. The Marketcircle website is now offering up a teaser for Billings Pro, a multi-user version of Billings. There’s not much to see so far. But they’re holding a closed beta in a “month or two” so hopefully more details aren’t too far off.

The iPad: A Context Changer?

February 2, 2010  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

I was very excited in the days leading up to Apple’s event last week. But I didn’t get to follow a “live blog” of the event, and I haven’t had a chance to watch the presentation since. So I have been coming up to speed slowly. Looking at Reading news sites and blogs.

The experience has been quite a surprise for me. I expected some poor reviews and an unenthusiastic segment. But I never would have predicted the reception that the iPad received.

One group seems enthralled with the iPad. Count me in that corner (unashamed Apple fanboy here). But others think its an absolute dud, destined to live out its life in obscurity like the Apple TV.

The most common objections seem to be:

  • It’s just a bigger iPod Touch!
  • Netbooks are the same price, the same size, and so much better.
  • There’s no camera (I won’t touch on this one, but I do find it interesting that so many people want to do video chats with a camera that sees up your nose and show mostly the ceiling).

The one comment that seems to appear more often than others is, “why would I need an iPad if I have an iPhone and a MacBook?” Of course, you can replace “iPhone” with any top end smartphone and “MacBook” with netbook.

But couldn’t we just as easily ask, why do I need a MacBook if I have an iPhone and an iPad?

Let’s set aside two types of users for the moment. First are the large firm business users. The road warrior who needs to use Exchange and Microsoft Word while flying from one city to another (because work never stops and IT said those are the applications we have to use). The iPad won’t replace the road warrior’s laptop. It almost certainly could — someday. But not today. Windows is too entrenched in the corporate culture for most businesses.

Second are the pro design users. The woman you see editing a video in Final Cut Pro at the local Caribou Coffee. Or the man you see designing a brochure in Adobe InDesign at Panera Bread. They won’t be selling their MacBook Pros anytime soon.

Now that we have those two groups out of the way, what about everyone else? Me, for example. I am occasionally in the second group, but most of that work is done in the office.

A MacBook, iPad, and iPhone all offer the same set of fundamental tools. Email. Web browsing. Chat and social media. Address book. Calendars and task management. Games. Movies.

The iPhone really runs into a wall in two places: (1) entering and manipulating data; and (2) reviewing large amounts of data. Add those two capabilities, and a device would meet the needs of most people.

I haven’t used an iPad yet, so this prediction is based entirely on Apple’s advertising and a few reviews from people who used one at the launch event. But it appears that the iPad takes a big step in the direction of satisfying those two capabilities.

When I first read about the iPad and watched the videos, I said to myself, “that looks great – wouldn’t be be amazing if it had iWork?” I look forward to seeing how well iWork really performs on an iPad. I do a lot of work in page layout mode. Will the iPad support that? Only time will tell. But the ability to do lightweight document drafting on the iPad will really cut down on the need for a laptop on many day trips or short overnight trips.

The iPad also has a screen large enough to comfortably review much more data than on the iPhone. Large webpages can be read on the iPhone by holding it 6 inches from my face. But almost every other app uses larger fonts and larger controls, limiting the amount that can be displayed.

But there’s an even more compelling thing about the iPad. It’s simplicity! Imagine device where you can do everything you’re used to doing on your computer…without any of the hassle of owning a computer.

Many people see this as a drawback. But it’s seen by some as a tremendous advantage.

The iPad is great for people who just want to do cool, useful things on a mobile device and don’t care about the underlying technology. Many of the criticisms seem based on the notion that the desktop metaphor we have been using the past 20 years is always superior. But maybe it’s time for something else.

And maybe – just maybe – that something else is the iPad.

Gift Wrapped Software

December 12, 2009  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

This year’s MacUpdate Promo Winter Bundle is here. I highly recommend this bundle to anyone who is a new Mac user. I regularly use Path Finder, Speed Download, DragThing, iRip, and GarageSale. The latter being much better than the very similar iSale. I also occasionally use Yep. I actually bought this bundle for the Socialite license and…because…well, you can never have too many Speed Download licenses.

The aforementioned five apps (plus Socialite) are really top notch applications. Most Mac users are going to find at least three of them very useful.

Disclaimer: I get absolutely no money if you click on the above link and buy the bundle. But I probably should, now that I think about it. Maybe next year.