Pet Peeve: Tech Switching

I read a decent amount of tech media/press. Barely a day goes by when there isn't someone in my RSS feed explaining how they dropped application X for application Y. This seems to happen most often for frequently-used applications or workflows like scheduling/calendars or email.

I won't call out the specific blog post that set me writing this post, but suffice it to say that I wish there was a clause (in the contract of life) forcing tech writers or bloggers to state why the application they're singing the praises of is better than the one they were using up to now. Specifically, are there any new features, or does it just look shinier? Also, have you been using it for longer than a day or two?

I'm pretty solid and stable in the applications I use. It'll take something pretty seismic to rid me of DevonThink or Tinderbox or Mailmate. But if you catch me flip-flopping in my tech-related writing, please call me out on it.

DevonThink Resurgent

There has never been a better time to get into DevonThink and Tinderbox. Winterfest 2016 is on, and you can get 25% reductions on both those apps, as well as a number of other really useful pieces of software like Scrivener, TaskPaper, Bookends, Scapple and PDFPen.

If you’re unsure if DevonThink is something you’d be interested in, they have a 150-hours-of-use free trial for all their different apps. MacPowerUsers podcast just released a useful overview of the current state of the app — an interview with Stuart Ingram. ScreenCastsOnline also published the first part of a trilogy of video learning materials on DevonThink.

If you’re a Mac user who is perhaps uncomfortable with Evernote’s privacy policies or just seeking to get more out of the data you’ve stored on your hard drive, give DevonThink a try.

Highlights + DevonThink = Pretty Great

I’m late to the Highlights party, but I’m glad I got here.

Like many readers of this blog, I get sent (and occasionally read) a lot of PDFs. In fact, I did a quick search in DevonThink, and I am informed that I have 52,244 PDFs in my library. These are a mix of reports, archived copies of websites, scanned-and-OCRed photos and a thousand-and-one things in between.

Thus far, my workflow has been to read PDFs on my Mac. Any notes I took while reading the file were written up manually in separate files. I would laboriously copy and paste whatever text snippet or quotation I wanted to preserve along with its page reference. These would be fed into DevonThink’s AI engine and magic would happen.

Now, post-Highlights-installation, my workflow is much less laborious. I can take highlights in-app, export all the quotations as separate text or HTML files and have have DevonThink go do its thing without all the intermediary hassle. If you’re  a professional researcher or writer using DevonThink as your notes database — and quite frankly, if not, why not? — the Highlights app will probably please you.

Music, Sound & Technology

Steven Johnson, the author of the fantastic book Where Good Ideas Come From, has been releasing podcasts episodes in advance of the publication of a new book. Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World seems to cover the relationship between innovation and 'play', ideas he has worked to explore in previous books. The podcast series offers a preview of these ideas, engagingly produced and narrated through a series of vignettes and smaller stories.

Episode 3 ("Strange Loops and Circuit Benders (Or, How New Music Comes from Broken Machines)") was an exploration of sound, how our sound universe has been changing alongside technological developments and cultural evolution. Johnson talks to Alex Ross (of The Rest is Noise fame) about how new sounds started to enter into the sonic vocabulary of musicians and creators. The other episodes are interesting, too. If you're interested in music and/or technology, you might want to check this one out.