My launcher of choice - LaunchBar - just received a really nice update. It’s now v5.5.
This version brings support for text snippets, a finely tuned integration with Automator workflows, better iTunes support and many more features to the table.
LaunchBar now provides tight integration with Automator workflows, allowing you to run them from within LaunchBar, optionally pass text or file arguments, and to return the results back to LaunchBar.
Various Automator actions for getting workflow results back to LaunchBar and for accessing LaunchBar features from within your workflows.
You can read the complete release notes here.
I’m a longtime LaunchBar user and a fan. I tried Alfred, but somehow I always just felt more at home with LaunchBar. To be honest, I haven’t really sat down and gave Alfred 2 a fair chance because the dynamic duo I have with LaunchBar and Keyboard Maestro is all I could wish for.
With Keyboard Maestro I don’t have to remember what to type. I fire up one of my global palettes and can read from there on what I want to trigger next.
LaunchBar is the perfect companion app for me. I like that it just displays a small window at the top and I’m a frequent user of the folder navigation that comes with a fuzzy search algorithm. If I drill down a folder structure and type “12” it finds all files with “12” in it and not only the ones that start with this number. I never got it why I have to use a wildcard in Alfred to achieve the same thing. That’s one of the few tiny extra steps that make using Alfred permanently hard for me.1
I’m a Mac convert since 2005 and one of the first things I did was hanging around MacTHEMES (RIP)[^1] and starting to mod my Mac.
[^1}: MacTHEMES was a ressource for all things theming. Ever since iOS came along it went downhill being flodded with cheap icons on a daily basis until the admin decided to take it offline.
I did everything from modifying my
SArtFile.bin to building up an enormous CandyBar library. I did the same to my first iPhones and my girlfriend’s Mac. On her MacBook I changed the boot image and background color of the startup screen with BootXChanger. She has a sweet tooth and so I put a cupcake on it instead of that healthy gray apple. In addition I tweaked her login screen to display “Cake OS - 100% sugar free”.
I stopped theming a few years ago. OS X looks pretty sleek out of the box and way too often I uglified my OS instead of beautifying it.
However, I know there are a lot of people out there who still like to tweak the default OS X appearance a bit. Also being aware of the fact that it’s quite the task to modify some aspects of OS X, I always find it nice to see new applications appear which focus on an easier user experience to theme one’s Mac.
A couple of days ago Flavours was released and apart from applying themes you can also share you’re own creations.
Here are some screen shots from the official website so you can get a ruff idea what you can do with it:
I tweeted about Mr. Reader’s public statement right after he published his post because I’m most excited about what will become of my favorite iPad RSS reader – I check the blog every day to see if there’s something new. Today the link above appeared and I was eager to read it. Here’s my little story how I tackle the issue we all have: (soon) being without Google Reader.
After Google announced that they will abandon Google Reader I was bit upset. To be precise, I had a higher pulse for about 20 seconds and then realized that this is a great opportunity to improve RSS, which practically stagnated for about a thousand years when using the modern calendar of technological inventions. Using this technology always felt like the industry doesn’t care anymore with to consumer crowd only being a relatively small fraction of internet people and Google having a kind of monopol. The stereotypic consumer tends to use the big social networks to get his information and in economic thinking the though of mass trumps minority is still the most popular when it comes to earning cash. But where there is a market, there shall be opportunities. With the major player disappearing over night there must be something good in it for the RSS loving crowd. At least that is what I strongly believe in with technology being my chosen religion.
So, I tried to stay calm. My intention was to keep it that way until 10 days before RSS doomsday. The idea was to wait since 2 months isn’t a very long time span to develop a replacement for Google Reader or to restructure an existing service. Besides, I tend to dismiss a service or application quite fast when it doesn’t fit my needs. In my calculation every day I’d wait longer will provide me with a more mature service when finally taking a look on what is being offered on the menu. This seemed fair to me – who knows what the different services will bring to the table on the last 5 days before end of June? In addition, my plan B was crawling back to Fever waving an I’m sorry sign (at least until I found a fitting new RSS syncing service).
But, what I also knew was that sitting and waiting would be very hard. I’m not good at holding my fingers still when it comes to testing new applications and services. My natural curiosity is to big and owing to that on the next day I hunted down possible alternatives. After I hunter-gathered enough mammoth wool I realized that my initial thinking was right. Waiting is better. It was like having found a treasure chest with a lot of cozy warm furs for the coming winter. The thing is, as a fashion forward Stone Age man you have to wear matching boots – having a great RSS syncing service is nothing without a great iOS companion. I read about 70 percent of RSS in a web app and the rest on my iOS devices. I can’t just wander of if the latter isn’t equally good as the first.
Fast forward. I managed to do nothing about it, but two weeks ago I read “Feed Wrangler: A New RSS Reader With Smart Streams, Filters, Read Later Integration” from Federico Viticci and the next day I bought a subscription. I simply trust Federico’s opinion since he’s an overall good guy with a keen sense on what is or could become practical and useful.
My test drive with Feed Wrangler was a relative short one. Despite the idea behind the service being a great one, I missed folders too much. I’m old fashioned and like working on one feed at a time: opening a folder, drilling down and reading one feed, then advancing to the next. Having the ingenious “smart folders” was more than welcomed, but it wasn’t enough to convince me to stay (for now). I’ll check back on July 1st and can’t wait to see what’s new at that point in time.
Shortly after I got the ball rolling (aka trying on some of the new furs and matching boots), Gabe came along with his The Feed Reader Reviews: Newsblur and I felt right at home reading the article. I bought that one too. So far I’m happy, but also not too impressed. The good things that Gabe highlighted were definitely there, but having just tried out Feed Wrangler I already felt that I miss something. The smart streams are a real innovation – like Federico, I’d would love to see this kind of forward thinking more in other apps and services. What I also miss is a proper search function and moving folders in my custom order. One the one hand I’m nitpicking because all the basic features are there, on the other hand Newsblur has been around for a couple of years and I expect them to make bigger steps than a service which just launched.
Another very important point in deciding which service will be the right one was waiting for what Mr. Reader will support – to stick to the Stone Age metaphors: these are the fur boots that I’d like to wear; they are good looking, comfy, versatile and they are good for hiking as well as chasing mammoths at a high speed. You can only throw a spear far and precise if you have a good grip. The iPad is a great reading device and Mr. Reader makes it easy to file, forward and archive important articles. I really hope Newsblur gets up to speed with improving their API. To be frank, my hopes aren’t high in that regard – I can image that it will take some time and (scenario two:) I can imagine that they might not be interested in tweaking their API. An official statement would be more than welcome.
Overall I’d characterize my needs as very basic:
- A decent minimal web interface (preferably close to the screen shot in this post = one preview line is enough for me) and shortcuts would also be most welcome.
- Folders, folders, folders (preferably rearrangeable).
- iOS clients (preferably a superb API which makes it easy for existing apps to use the service – actually the API should be #1).
- A non freemium business model.
And, to repeat myself: although I think the list above is a simple one, I know that those small wishes add up and take time for developers to accomplish them.
For me, what it comes down to is this: I’m as wise as I was before. I (will) wait. Regarding developers I think their RSS service will rise and fall with their API. The mobile market with native RSS clients build around a service is too important to neglect it. The consumers like having a choice, some prefer simpler clients, others are in need of power tools. Making the transition as easy as it gets to the developers of these apps is crucial.1
Follow the (Mr.) Reader and get your API straight – then there’s a good chance we will meet again.