Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Neat idea. Now go over there with it.

There are few phrases that frighten me more than, "I'm an idea person...".

Really? An idea person? Well hell, I gotta hang around your type more often!  Do tell, what idea do you have for me today? Oh, it's only part of the idea? Not so much an idea as it is a vague description? That's okay, I'm sure the details don't matter. 

The thing is, it's all details. That's the trick. All those high level concepts add up to zilch pretty quick.

I did a little research on People on the Desktop. Know what I found? It turns out, people have tried this before! A LOT of people! And they all categorically failed. Oh, but the press was so impressed. They went on and on about how this or that was a game changer. Everything was about to change, and you'd never use your computer the same way again. Your desktop was about to change, and you'd never figure out how things would work again. Your friends would change, and you just wouldn't recognize them anymore. 

Well it turns out, they came up with more of the same. As you can probably see from the videos (and just using the app), I am trying to mix things up a little. So I have a few new concepts I'll be throwing into Conjure pretty soon. Feel free to let me know your thoughts...

1) Minions - Many years ago, a screenshot of Copland made me so excited, I actually wrote a piece of software to try to mimic it, knowing very well that at any moment, OS8 would ship, and make my little app useless. Of course, Copland never shipped, and it turned out I had *read that article wrong*. Meanwhile, my implementation sucked. And after I wrote it, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how it should have worked. I think I have that figured out now. Or rather, now-ish. So I'll be adding 'Minions' to Conjure in a big way.

2) Super-Get-Info-Boxen - Why is it so hard to get a full path to a file in Leopard? And what if I want to copy the modified date of a file? Well, Conjure's about to get a 'Super' info window, complete with a giant text field of info about the file. One where you can copy everything you normally can't copy, straight out of the window. It's gonna be sweet.

3) Classrooms - We have teh interwebs. We have powerful computers. We have powerful search engines. So why is it that every time I want to learn something, I have to hit twenty pages on a search engine, comb through every result, and slowly (and manually) piece together notes on the topic? Conjure will introduce a new concept, the 'Classroom'. You tell it what you want to learn, and it does all the research for you. Then, it compacts the research into a single web page, and sticks that right on the page for you, along with all the links to relevant other material, including any applications and other miscellaneous files you might need.

4) Intelligence, Newton-style - If you haven't used a Newton, you need to. I highly recommend the 2100. Now, the Newton had a lot of things I'm not going to touch. But one of them is simply brilliant, and that's the little Newton symbol. Click it while some text is highlighted, and the Newton does something. Cool stuff. So yeah, something like that is going in there.

5) Return to iPod Island - Early versions of Conjure could store their notes internally, making the app entirely self-contained. The problem with this was that my users kept wiping all their data out by 'upgrading' to new versions, and overwriting the old one with the new one. Ouch. But it was a good idea. So I've got some new thoughts on how to do that, and we'll see how it works.

6) Super-Enhanced PDF support. Hey, why not? Why not let the user read PDFs like a book, with flippy-pages? It's not rocket science. Sure, it may be eye-candy, but it's tasty, and frankly makes some sense.

7) Web pages as objects, not just links. Again, why not? Why not be able to change a URL directly into an actual viewable, scrollable, resizable web view, right on the desktop? And yeah, I know Active Desktop already did this, and that you can slice up a web page and put it directly in Dashboard. But why not put it on your desktop instead? That way, it's there when you need it, per project. 

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