There are two good developments in Mac Software that I stumbled across recently. 'Good developments' meaning 'things that I consider nice to have' but don't have the skill or time make myself. One of them is real software, the other one is just an announcement right now.
The real one is BuddyPop. It's very simple and looks like an upcoming must-have for those of us who think Apple's address book is very neat but painfully slow. In addition to being fast it makes good use of transparency, has rounded corners and keyboard only navigation. So how does it work?
simply hit a key combination to invoke it. This will cause its transparent window to appear. Then you type the first few letters of the name – or nickname or other parts of the data you choose - and it tells you how many addresses are left. Hitting return will show the first of those addresses and arrow keys let you navigate. Hit the return key for another search or escape to make the window fade away - which it will also do when you continue to work in another application. It's simple it's neat and it's clean.
It's not quite perfect yet as well. Some rough edges, like the fact that I don't manage to move the window away from the centre of the screen still remain, but that should be easy to fix. In addition, the filtering isn't really live as it is in iTunes, say – you only get to see the number of matches. Not a big deal in this case but certainly something that'd be nice to have.
And it's probably my addiction to iTunes' instant filtering - and playlists, and categorising - that made me think about how nice it would be to have iTunes' organisation skills in the Finder: Sift through all your files quickly by entering any string from their metadata or content, have those 'artist' and 'album' columns for other metadata as well. Have a 'smart playlist' that contains all papers mentioning gerbes that were written after 1997 – sourcing both the PDFs on my hard drive and the contents of my BibTeX database… complete with the appropriate links to the preprint server and MSN of course.
Dreaming about such a Finder replacement and thinking that – while you may need extra indexing to have the performance I'd expect – this should certainly be within the capabilities of today's processing power, I was delighted to see that other, more capable, people thought along a similar line. And their effort may result in iFile as mentioned in an interview with TidBITS. Add to that that the person behind this is Bruce Horn, who brought the Resource Manager into the toolbox and you see me intrigued. While I never quite got the hang of toolbox programming, I did find the Resource Manager very intriguing, for its elegance and simplicity. While I have learned to hold my breath as far as computer-related things are concerned, this looks very promising and I am looking forward to trying it out.
Interesting developments in HCI on files and bookmarks management.
In retrospect, the nicest thing about file management on the old BeOS (which I ran for fun for about a year or so on a second computer) was that the filesystem supported live queries that you could treat just like directories, so you could open something that looked like a folder that consisted of, say, all the MP3 files on your computer that were larger than 3 megabytes and had mod dates between October and December of 2002. Coincidentally, one of the engineers that wrote Be’s filesystem works for Apple now, so maybe we’ll see this kind of functionality in a future OS X version.
Very good point. I actually meant to at least mention the word ‘Be’, but I somehow forgot. Thanks for covering up ;)
Just from anecdotes it seems like Be had achieved what could be seen as the holy grail of file management. As personally I have only ever seen BeOS once at a friend’s (I had a PowerMac 8200 with a 601 processor at the time…), I start wondering to which extent BeOS can actually live up to its image.
While I don’t doubt that the idea is very good, I wonder whether it really worked as smoothly as I imagine it should.
As for the engineers: Good to know, but not holding my breath as usual. Even less than usual, actually.
Just in case you didn’t know, Address Book integration has been a part of Launchbar for a few months now.
I would love to see more metadata like that in the Finder, too. And in Safari bookmarks. It’s one of the best features of iTunes. The fact that it has spread a bit into iPhoto (with the new “smart” photo albums) is a good sign for OS 10.4.
Clint: Thanks for that hint. I may actually give LaunchBar another try just for this.
Brian: Again, I wouldn’t keep my breath. Let’s hope that Apple actually developed a general and uniform technology that is used in the iApps and could be generalised to wider use rather than having devised their own distinct and separate engines for each app.
It’s about time that we start looking forward to X.4, being the sad Mac geeks that we are, I guess.
Like Clint Ecker, I’ve enjoyed the addressbook integration within LaunchBar. It’s well implemented and very convenient. After about three months of use, I have come to rely on LauchBar and would recommend it to anyone that spends more then a couple hours on their Mac per day.
I was interested in BuddyPop, and used it for a while, some time back, and only just restarted using it… I’d kinda hoped that there might’ve been more visible progress on it, but it’s not a bad, simple solution.
As a bit of a tangent, another nice addition to the Address Book, worth looking at is SmartBook, which adds, you guessed it, smart groups for organising your contacts based on multiple criterion. It runs as a background daemon, and organises your Address Book automatically. The rules are currently fairly basic, but they plan a plug-in architecture, so that you can develop your own, more complex rules.
I’d have to second the comments on iTunes-like functionality in the Finder… it’s been pretty clear that this type of functionality would be useful, esp. as ‘smart-playlists/albums etc. have started to spread through the iApps.
Amazing that this hasn’t made it into the system yet, really, since it was touted early on, as a feature of Copland… I’ve still got a bunch of ‘Mac OS 8’ demo CDs with Director mockups of that, and other planned features… ahh, memory lane! ; )
Esp. now, since column view, and the Sidebar suggest them selves for this type of feature… I guess we can only hope. : )
I’m also looking forward to seeing iFile… waiting on that announcement email… ; )
As a bit of a bridge, if you haven’t already, you might have a look at SmartFolders, which is fairly basic (just creates aliases based on fairly simple criterion), or LiveSearch, which obviously isn’t the same thing, but I’ve heard good things.
Let’s see how iFile works out. It looks promising, though.
Use System X like it were System 8 ;)
Received data seems to be invalid. The wanted file does probably not exist or the guys at last.fm changed something.