Posts Tagged ‘software’

OneNote for Mac

Posted: December 18, 2013 in Mac, smartphone
Tags: ,

I finally feel like my Mac computing experience is almost complete. I was a Mac fan for many years. When I started grad school many years ago, the need to easily exchange files with professors and classmates took precendence over any OS preferences, and I switched to a Windows computer. I bought a Macbook Pro a few years ago, and back in the fall I replaced it with a Macbook Air. For the most part my experience with the Mac has been a good one, but there was always one thing missing: Microsoft OneNote.

Ever since my first experience with OneNote on a convertible Windows tablet I’ve really liked the product. I’ve only recently (February 2013) gotten back into using it heavily, but in that time I’ve used it extensively. I’ve written two articles in OneNote. I’ve planned three trips. I’ve taken notes in coutless meetings, but all of that work was done either in OneNote on a Windows computer or using Outline+ onPad. Finally after literally years of waiting, the folks behind Outline+ have brought their product to the Mac with a functional editor.

I like it. A lot. As I’m getting started, the basic functionality is there. I’m typing and editing. I’m opening existing notebooks. I’m creating new notebooks and saving them to the cloud. All of that is great, but perhaps most importantly, the LOOK is there. It does seem strange to be talking about the look of a product as the most important thing, but the look is actually very important to me. I really like the way OneNote 2007 and 2010 look. I really hate the way OneNote 2013 looks. Yes, I know that hate is a strong word, but it’s an appropriate word. I really hate the way the Office 2013 apps look, and as far as that goes – SharePoint Foundation 2013 as well.

But Outline on the Mac . . . ah, now there’s an interface. It’s sleek and refined, and it’s close enough to the 2010 Microsoft OneNote interface that I actually ENJOY using it – just like it was the real thing.

I’ve written before about trying other OneNote wannabes, and for my personal preferences, this is the closest replica out there. It’s not perfect yet, and it’s still a little rough around the edges, BUT IT WORKS!

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and the Gorillized folks have come through for me. Thanks for the app!

Advertisements

Where did my tech support go?

Posted: January 31, 2012 in software, tech support
Tags: ,

With the incredible growth of the iOS app store, I’ve occasionally had a need for tech support for some of the apps I use. Increasingly though, I’m finding that the quality of tech support for some iOS apps falls between ineffective and non-existent. When you stop to think about it, this can be interesting, disconcerting, annoying, and understandable – take your pick.

 

Interesting – I find it interesting, because if people want to roll out a new software product, I’d think that they also want to provide support. Good products with good support usually translate into happy users. Happy users recommend the product to their friends, and that translates into even more happy users. So when companies have bad or no tech support, it sends the message that they want to make the initial sale, and they don’t care if it breaks after you buy it.

 

Disconcerting – It’s disconcerting as well, because when I find a product I really like, I tend to use it a lot. I want to know that the company is going to be able to take the product successfully through future OS upgrades. I’d also like to know that they’re still working on the thing. After all, if they’re just going to abandon the product (and ultimately me), I want to know that as well so I can find another product that does have some support.

 

Annoying – When you find a “good” or even “okay” product, it can take a little time to get it to do what you want, integrate it into your workflow, and find the little ways to get the most out of it. When you can’t figure something out or when something just plain doesn’t work, you want to be able to get an answer from someone.

 

Understandable – Finally, the lack of good tech support is understandable. A lot of apps are free. Many cost only 99 cents. If you’re not see much (or any) return on your work, there isn’t a lot of incentive to provide support beyond that of personal satisfaction and knowing that you’ve done a good job. Additionally, many apps are rolled out by individuals rather than companies. Often software development could be just a hobby or a sideline. With other responsibilities, perhaps tech support just isn’t one of them.

 

If my bad experience with tech support had just been a one-off, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to write about it, but increasingly I’m finding this to be the rule rather than the exception. I’ve found bad tech support on apps ranging from free to $15, from almost unknown developers to well-known companies with far greater resources.

 

As I said, the quality really varies. At worst, an e-mail to technical support just floats off into the ether never to be heard from again. The next step up comes from companies who helpfully provide an immediate auto reply but never actually follow up on the problem. Then there are those who actually reply, solicit a lot of technical details from you, and then do nothing with your feedback. There are developer who do painstaking testing, replicate the problem, but tell you that unfortunately there is nothing they can do about it. And then there are those who promise that it will be fixed in the next release.

 

And somewhere out there at the far end of the spectrum, there are those developers who see the problem and either help you fix it or roll out a timely update that addresses the issue.

 

Unfortunately, those developers are few and far between – at least in my experience. When I first started working with software, there was a lot more tech support. It wasn’t always good, but – given enough time – they usually got the problem solved. And at least they knew how to return a phone call or an e-mail message.

In considering the iPad, one of my early concerns was the lack of a stylus and handwriting recognition software. I’ve used good versions of these tools before, and I know how powerful they can be. While getting ready to head off to ALA, I decided that I would try a couple of iPad tools. The obligatory Googling led me to the WritePad app and the Pogo Sketch Stylus.

 

I’ve found WritePad to be a very functional application. The handwriting recognition is good – at least with a finger. It’s not so good with the stylus, but I find that to be a fault of the stylus rather than WritePad. More on that later. I would greatly prefer that handwriting recognition be thoughtfully integrated throughout the iPad OS, but Apple obviously doesn’t share my enthusiasm. As it is, handwriting is converted to text within the WritePad app. From there it’s a copy/paste job if you want to move it into another application.

 

Unfortunately, the Pogo Sketch Stylus proved to be a disaster. I bought it expressly for use at this conference, and it was so bad that I left it at home. No point in packing a useless item, right? I’ve struggled with how to describe the Pogo Sketch, and this is what I’ve come up with . . .

 

Remember when you were little and got a nice, new box of Magic Markers? Your pictures had crisp, clean lines, and all was right with the world. Then THAT KID got his hands on them. You know the one: the kid who smashed the markers down on the paper as hard as he could, thus ruining the tips and turning them into a mushy bunch of fibers. That’s what the Pogo Sketch feels like and looks like – a mushy bunch of fibers. Remember how you couldn’t really get a clean line after that kid smashed the marker tips? That’s how the Pogo Sketch responds. My handwriting isn’t the prettiest, but it is completely legible with pen and paper. With this stylus, it becomes almost unreadable. Just like a mushy Magic Marker, you can’t predict where the lines will fall. You wind up with stray marks and marks that don’t line up correctly. Not surprisingly, WritePad can’t really do anything with the resulting characters. I wish I could say that I just need more practice, but I’ve used styli for years. I had a sinking feeling as soon as I saw the tip of the Pogo Sketch, and my fears were confirmed when I actually used it.

 

So you can’t always get what you want. I’m still looking for the optimal combination. WritePad will be fine with the correct stylus, but it would be better if integrated throughout the OS. Pogo Sketch just doesn’t get the job done, so I’m still looking. *sigh* The iPad has such possibilities. Get with the program, Apple.

Google Goggles

Posted: December 11, 2009 in android, search engines
Tags: ,

If you haven’t heard about Google Goggles yet, it’s worth checking out. We all do text searches, and some folks are doing voice search as well. But how about a visual search? I don’t mean searching for an image – I mean using an image as the search object. Goggles is currently available for Android phones. I’m curious to see whether Google will roll out a version for the iPhone, WebOS, or other platforms. Goggles’ potential is easy to see (no pun intended). Time will tell whether there is a demand for this type of search. The things that work are interesting enough. However, I think the things that Google says it can’t do (yet) are even more interesting!

My Missing Software

Posted: November 5, 2009 in smartphone, software
Tags: ,

Sometimes you find a piece of software that works well for you on a number of levels. First – and most importantly – it does what you need it to do, and it does it well. Hopefully, it also matches the way you like to work. And occasionally you find a piece of software that just does something no other program does.

Right now I’m really missing my ListPro. I’ve used ListPro for years. Most recently it was on a Windows computer in conjunction with a Palm Treo. ListPro handles nested lists very well, and it’s very customizable so I can make my lists into just what I need them to be. The Treo version combined with the desktop application gave me a good combination that did just what I wanted, and I haven’t yet found its equal.

Oh, I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried – not because I WANT to move to another app. Ilium just doesn’t have an iPhone app on the market. When I considered the move from the Treo to an iPhone, ListPro was a must-have app. Unfortunately, although I saw the press release that Ilium Software was releasing an iPhone version of ListPro, I missed the later retraction that said the app wasn’t going to be ready on time. Yep. Completely missed it. I saw it AFTER I bought the iPhone and tried to find ListPro in the app store.

In a typical workday, I pull up ListPro (desktop) at least 4 or 5 times a day, and I used to pull it up even more frequently on the Treo. A recent development update from the company rekindled my hopes, so when I saw a tweet about an early shopper discount on ListPro I knew that the time had come and the app was nigh ready for release. Alas, it was not to be. And being so blatantly reminded that I can’t use ListPro on my iPhone reignited my search for a comparable app. I’ve tried several – some free, some paid – and I just can’t find it.

There are all kinds of list apps out there, but they’re too rigid. They want to be a grocery list, or a to-do list, or a checklist of one kind or another. They don’t offer the flexibility to work the way _I_ want to work. And then let’s talk about a desktop companion. For the most part, those other apps just don’t have it. There are a couple that try to get around it through e-mailings to/from the app, and there is one that offers an option to add data through a Google Docs template. But that’s just not what I’m looking for.

You wouldn’t think that a person could be so particular about a list-making app, but ListPro is just that good – at least for what I need it to do. And so I wait, not with bated breath, but with a kind of quiet, longsuffering patience. I have the desktop app, but no mobile counterpart. I’m not happy about it, but at the moment I simply don’t have any other choice. Unless . . . perhaps . . . Hey, Ilium, how ‘bout it? Maybe a little something underneath a guy’s tree?

Back in February we noticed a small problem on one of our public computers. It was primarily a cosmetic issue. It affected the way our printing software behaved, but the software still worked. Yes, it worked, but it didn’t work completely correctly, and it was annoying to see this problem on 32 brand spankin’ new computers.

After playing around with this issue for a bit, I called our vendor to see if they had a solution. They told me to install hotfix 10. This is the point at which I broke the second law of the universe: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I installed hotfix 10.

Hotfix 10 did not solve the problem. It gave us a nasty surprise though, when we realized that our print installer no longer worked. After that, things went from bad to worse. Following our vendor’s advice, we installed more updates and made more changes to the server.

Unfortunately, these were not benign updates. They began to undermine the stability of the service. At its worst point we were receiving over a dozen alerts each day about problems with the print system. After another phone call Monday, our vendor took a surprising approach by rolling some of our software back to a previous version. They admitted that there were some “known” problems with our current version.

At this point we remain hopeful but not optimistic. We’ve gone a day-and-a-half without receiving any service requests, and sadly, this feels like a victory after the nightmare of the last three weeks. I can’t think of another time in many, many years where I was so glad for a service to just work for a full day.

So what is the result of all this? Our confidence in this vendor is understandably shaken. Our confidence in the server itself was unnecessarily shaken. The frustration level has been through the roof for both patrons and employees has been through the roof. We’re seriously thinking of rebuilding the server because of this incident.

And – strangely enough – I’m thinking of moving to the next major version of the vendor’s software. When this stuff works , it’s rock solid. And it really does work . . . most of the time. When it doesn’t, it’s very, very, very bad. But the new version brings some new functionality that our patrons need. They’ve been asking for it, and I want to give it to them. But at what cost will it come?

Perhaps it’s the coolness factor, or perhaps I’ve just watched one too many sci-fi movies . . . whatever the reason, I’ve always been interested in the idea of talking to the computer, giving it commands, and having the computer execute functions based on voice input.

Over the years I’ve experimented with Microsoft’s built-in speech recognition software a number of times. I used it occasionally under Windows XP, and after moving to Windows Vista I decided to give the latest version a try. I worked through some of Vista’s initial speech training, but I have not yet completed any of the supplementary exercises that are supposed to improve speech recognition accuracy. Even without these additional exercises my initial impression is that Vista’s speech recognition is much better than its XP predecessor. I certainly found the text editing commands to be superior to those of the previous version.

Nevertheless speech recognition brings with it a certain level of frustration. There are times when the words appearing in my document bear absolutely no resemblance to my utterances. Sometimes the software seems to just get stuck. A voice command that has successfully worked several times previously simply stops working, and no amount of repetition (in any tone of voice) will encourage the software to start accepting my commands again. Perhaps it’s just tired of listening to me.

Beyond just wanting to experiment with the software to see how far it has progressed, a student recently asked if the library had voice recognition software. Under traditional library mentality it’s difficult to imagine a student sitting in a public area speaking aloud to a computer. Under the current model of information commons areas and group collaboration spaces, the idea is not so far-fetched. Somehow though, I imagine this student quickly becoming an annoyance to other patrons – not from speaking aloud, but rather from the endless repetition of some word or command that the computer stubbornly refuses to recognize.

In trying to create this post and the previous one with speech recognition software, Windows slyly pretended that it didn’t recognize the word “and.” Instead it pretended that it was the word “end,” and responded by pressing the End key when I simply wanted to type the word “and.” There were other pages and glitches along the way, and at times it was easier to simply type corrections than to talk Windows through them. Ultimately, I can still type a document faster than Windows and I can complete it through speech recognition. Needless to say some additional training is still required – for both me and the computer.  The coolness factor is still there, so perhaps between my improved “broadcaster” voice and a few more training sessions the software and I will arrive at a happy medium.