roadrunnertwice: Weedmaster P: "SON OF A DICK. BALL COCKS. NO. FUCKING." (Shitbox (Overcompensating))
So I use an RSS reader to keep up with comics, blogs, essays, music, and a certain amount of srs bsns. At some point over the last five years, all RSS readers got eaten by Google Reader, and those that remained all used Google Reader to sync across devices. Then Google killed off Reader at the start of this month and everything was thrown into disarray and all my shit (NetNewsWire across a couple computers and an iPad) stopped working. Booooo.

Now I get to play with a bunch of not-totally-satisfactory newcomers to try and find something I don't mind. Supposedly my formerly beloved NetNewsWire is going to have SOME unspecified syncing solution and new mobile apps at SOME unspecified time, but Black Pixel missed the July 1 bricking deadline. Which kind of blew the goodwill I was holding out for them, and as far as I'm concerned they're starting from square zero with me, since a bunch of other folk have things that actually work today. They could well win anyway, but NNW can't be my path of least resistance anymore.

Anyway, first up is Digg Reader, just because what? Digg? That's a thing again? And because it was free. I've used it for three days or so by now.

I really like the per-article experience in their iPad app; it's enjoyable to read with, and it's easy to move back and forth between the naked feed version and the full website version of a post. And at first, when everything was unread because my shit had been broken for days, the experience of moving between articles was pretty nice too, with that scroll-to-the-bottom-and-keep-scrolling control.

Alas, less so when you have a mix of read and unread stuff. There's no "next unread" control, so you have to go back to the list and search through the haystack when you start hitting repeats. The read and unread articles only differ by font weight in the list view, so there isn't a blue dot or anything I can scan for, and I can't distinguish font weights when scrolling at speed. The unread counts in the source list are kind of wonky and unreliable. And the keep-scrolling-to-next control, which I like when I'm reading a whole list, is kind of crap if you decide to move on without finishing the current article; too much scrolling for what should be one button-press.

The web interface is just like Google Reader, but again, it doesn't let you filter down to just unread articles, so you have to manually search for 'em if there's a mix.

All that's awkward enough that I don't think I'll stick with it. What should I try next?
roadrunnertwice: A mermaid singing an unenchanting song. (Doop doop (Kate Beaton))

So I grabbed a new iPad text editor to play with! It’s called iaWriter, and you might have heard of it, since apparently it’s the one Stephen Fry uses or something. I like it a lot. It can’t replace PlainText, because its syncing and organizing are kind of barely sufficient (verging on crappy); it’s completely unusable for making frequent updates to a blizzard of smallish documents, and appears to be meant for working diligently on four or five large files, which will occasionally be switched out. It’s a text drafter, I think, not a text editor. Anyway, the upshot is that I seem to be able to write fiction with it at speed, which is one hell of a feature and which I always found too frustrating to keep trying for on Simplenote and PlainText.

The two real standout touches are that it uses a big ugly font that’s very readable no matter how I’m holding the device, and it extends the iPad keyboard with a row of extra keys – things like always-on apostrophe and quote keys, and cursor keys that can navigate by letter or word. It sounds trivial, but it ends up making a pretty huge difference, and I’m inclined to attribute its surprising usefulness to the amount of friction that takes away. I realize most iPad apps can’t do that with the keyboard, because it makes it take up like 3/5 of the whole screen, but it’s damn nice if you need to type for an hour.

It also has two standout annoyances: there’s a big old scrolling dead zone on either edge of the page, and it doesn’t switch the keys back after you type an apostrophe with the normal punctuation keyboard. Yes, you have a built-in key for that, but that’s no reason to punish me for picking up a little muscle memory elsewhere, geez.

I think I paid like a buck for it? It’s definitely worth checking out, even if you already have a main text editor.

(Oh, and apropos of nothing, apparently it saves newly created files as Little-Endian UTF-16. Who in the world uses that for ANYTHING? Weird!)

Epilogue

Dec. 20th, 2009 03:36 pm
roadrunnertwice: Rodney the Second Grade T-Ball Jockey displays helpful infographics. (T-ball / Your Ass (Buttercup Festival))

I played with Scrivener during November, and had decidedly mixed feelings about it. So I decided I should give the other main IDEs-for-prose a shot! My feelings about them were decidedly un-mixed.


Ulysses 2.0: I tried the first version back in '06 or so and loathed it, but my tastes have changed, and I figured its focus on markup-based* formatting might appeal more to me than Scrivener's NSTextView WYSIWYG. Yeah, no. God no. This program runs so counter to the way my brain works that I actually have a hard time imagining the existence of people who find it useful.** It has all the failings of an integrated writing environment, but it consciously rejects all of the benefits. I absolutely remember why I threw it aside last time and just went with BBEdit and a folder fulla text files.

StoryMill: Also no dice; even reading through the tutorial file made my head kind of spin. The dealkiller here was how much fidgeting and toggling and administrative nonsense you have to go through to do anything. Are you typing in the "Notes," or the "Text," or the "Chapter?" It's all the same text field, and you have to constantly fiddle with these controls at the top to make sure you're in the right place, which, NO, I have better things to do with my attention. (Also! It failed at importing some UTF8 text files and spat mojibake throughout. WTF? This is 2009, yo, I should not need to babysit charset conversion.)


In the meantime, it turned out that Scrivener'd made a good enough case for its utility during the trial period that I did, in fact, miss it. I have issues with it, but it's... actually a pretty good implementation of something that will make part of what I do a whole lot easier. And it fits with my current write-in-bits-on-the-train thing really really well. So, I bought it.


* Just for the record, what bugs me most about WYSIWYG composition is modal emphasis with no indicator. As in, you're looking at the screen and there is a blinking cursor: when you type something, is it going to be bold or italic? WHO KNOWS. Drives me bats. (Brief props: MS Word slants the cursor when you're in itals, which is cool. Everyone should do that, and make it blocky when you're in bold. That would solve the problem perfectly. But I seem to be the only person who's infuriated by the current situation, so whatever. Grumph.)

** Obviously they're around, and I am glad they enjoy it. Space aliens deserve good software too!

roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Crow on signposts)
Man, I have been trying to love Scrivener, and just have not found the trick yet. I like the idea of it, I think. I mean, an IDE for prose! Down with file management! What a great idea! But I've been using the extended NaNoWriMo trial edition, and its theoretical charms continue to outweigh its day-to-day appeal.

For one thing, it's WYSIWYG, which I've been kind of down on ever since I discovered HTML; doing formatting inline tends to bite me on the ass later. (Which is to say, I understand why people used to get all het up about WordPerfect's "reveal codes" thingummy and everyone else's lack thereof.) The export functionality is pretty impressive, but still requires a bunch of cleanup before it's ready to hit the web. Also, it seems like there're too many fidgety places to enter text? Which of these am I supposed to treat like I'll ever read them again, and which are write-only?

Well, anyway: I actually really like the texture on the corkboard. And how easy it is to split and re-arrange files. (Like Fission for prose!) And the way it'll do what can only be called a "build." And that it has some metadata about each snippet. (Not sure whether it needs THAT much, but.) Basically, I think I like the idea of editing with it, but that part isn't quite where I want it to be yet, and I can't stand composing in it.

If anyone here uses it, I'd love to hear what you dig about it.
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Drag)
Might as well share this. You know how sometimes you have a good song in a crappy file for a long time and it ends up in a bunch of your playlists? And then you finally get a good version of the file and it's a huge pain in the ass to get it in all the right places? I fixed that for you.

iTunes Body-Snatcher
---
AppleScript for iTunes to automate the copying of playlist info to a new track. GPL. Mac-only.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Default)
Backdating to avoid boring my friends. Remember how Star.app was awesome but got abandoned and now pretty much every iteration of the developer's domain is being squatted upon? Yeah, that was irritating. Well, when Star.app inevitably stops working, go get I Love Stars, a freeware app from the Potion Factory. Works mostly the same as the old iTunesRating.app. I think I like Star better? But this'll certainly do.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Default)
iTunesRating.app is dead; long live Star.app. Too bad "Star" is an incredibly hard string to search for. Also too bad the URL everything seems to think it lives at got taken over by squatters. Also too bad that the real root of the developer's site has absolutely no link trail to the Star section. Anyway, it's a good app! Wonder how long for the world this one is.

You can ignore this; I just needed to jot it down where I'll know where to find it later.

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