Archive for the 'Software' Category

I stopped using Safari this week

December 24, 2010  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

I have mentioned before my dissatisfaction with the stability of Safari.  It just seemed odd that in this day and age, a web browser would need to be “rebooted” occasionally to keep it running smoothly.  But the memory was also a concern.

As the Chrome releases piled up, I decided to give Chrome a test drive.  Using it for a bit revealed a very small (in comparison to Safari) memory footprint.  The final ounce of courage to make the switch was provided by a report showing Chrome blowing past Safari and reaching almost a 10% share of the browser market.

The Chrome experiment has been quite successful.  A quick check of Activity Monitor after using it for some time reveals a memory footprint about 75% smaller than Safari’s.  I did have one crash (that took down the entire application), but Chrome recovered gracefully when I restarted it.  Overall, I’ve had a good experience with Chrome.

Office 2011: Microsoft learning the worst practices of Adobe?

November 11, 2010  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

I’ve been using Microsoft Office 2011 since it came out, and boy is it different.  Up until now we had been primarily using Office 2004 (skipping Office 2008 because there was no compelling reason to upgrade).  We’ve had Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows for some time now, so the ribbon concept isn’t a new one.

But before I get into that, I wanted to comment on the major security update released this week for Microsoft Office 2011.  Why on earth did Microsoft decide to copy the most annoying installation feature from Adobe (which, surprisingly, Adobe seems to have rectified recently)?  Installing Microsoft Office 2011 and the update required me to shut down Safari.  I am sure there are some plugins being installed.  But couldn’t the installer ask me if even I want them?  Or just install them and let me reboot Safari later.  It’s been well-documented on this site that I use Safari as an important part of my workspace.  Forcing a Safari reboot is a major interruption to my workflow.

Apart from the update process, I have been quite pleased with the changes in Office 2011 (and more specifically, Word 2011).  For details of the changes, check out a few reviews by other sites.

When I first heard about the ribbon, I thought it would be a disaster.  But in practice, I have found it to be quite useful.  On a large display with many windows, going to the ribbon is much more convenient than finding the palette window.  I have actually wished a few times that iWork Pages would have something similar (the Pages palette always seems to get lost!).

There have been a few issues, though:

  • When updating, Word conveniently forgets to remember that I defaulted to DOC files in Office 2008 (reverting instead of DOCX files).  This seems unlikely to have been accidental.
  • Word stepped into the 21st century and added a Paste and Match Style feature (accessible with the keyboard).  There was much rejoicing in the Kabbe household…until I started using it.  The “Match Style” part of the operation does seem to match some of the font styling, but it’s far different from Paste Special — Unformatted Text.  Paragraph styles (including margins) are often kept with Paste and Match Style, rendering it fairly useless.  Why couldn’t Microsoft have just given us a keyboard shortcut to Paste Unformatted Text?

I don’t think the improvements in Word 2011 have made me want to switch and use Word as our primary word processor.  The layout is nicer, but the experience hasn’t changed too much.



MobileMe calendar takes a step forward

October 20, 2010  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

Before today’s Apple event begins, I thought I would squeeze in a note about an important Apple release from last week.  Apple updated the MobileMe calendar application.  The MobileMe web app now much more closely resembles the iPad app.  But more importantly, it now supports calendar sharing.

We previously had been using iCal server on Mac OS X server.  But this setup limits us to syncing our shared events to our iPhones by plugging it in.  Two years ago, that wouldn’t have been a problem because my iPhone couldn’t last an entire day.  But batteries and cell efficiency are far better now.  My iPhone 3GS lasts a couple days without being plugged in.  And working off a two day old calendar is a big no-no.

So we’ve tried setting up a few shared calendars using the new MobileMe sharing, and it works pretty well.  I ran into one situation where I updated the text of an event and it didn’t sync to the “shared” computer.  But other than that one hiccup, the sharing has worked quite well.

We still have big plans for Mac OS X server, but right now it seems that the plug is being pulled on iCal server.

Billings Pro hits the shelves

August 31, 2010  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

Marketcircle released Billings Pro today.  It’s a multi-user time-tracking system based on the quite successful Billings application.  We’ve used Billings for some time and are quite pleased with the workflow.

The main problem with Billings is that it is very inelegant at handling time from multiple workers.  It’s not even just that Billings runs on a single computer.  Billings simply doesn’t allow for multiple workers to be handled in a simple and transparent way.

Billings Pro aims to solve all of that, allowing multiple workers to enter their time from their OS X computer, via the web, and on their iOS devices.  But it’s not cheap.  Billings logs in at a svelte $39.95.  By comparison, Billings Pro costs $199.95 per user.

Given all that it Billings Pro does, the price is probably about right.  But small firms with only a couple of billing workers face a steep price climb by using Billings Pro, from $39.95 (lumping work for two people into one timesheet in Billings) up to $399.90 (managing two workers properly with Billings Pro).

But that one-time bump in cost may be worth it.  I’ll be checking it out over the next few weeks and report back.

A Tool in Search of a Problem

July 31, 2010  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

Have you ever come across a program that was just so cool that you really wanted to use it, but just didn’t know what to use it for?  For me, that program is Ortelius.  It’s software for making maps.  Very awesome-looking maps.

Some day I have dreams of making the world’s most beautiful map showing the location of our office.  I’m not sure that’s worth the trouble of learning how to use it, though.  Until then, I’ll just file the bookmark away.