I decided to use Fargo.io to write the previous post, since it was a long and complex piece with a lot of hierarchical structure. Lots of lists, etc. Let me preface by saying this is wonderful functionality and I am very excited about it, not least because it provides inherent backup of blog posts to dropbox.
That said, there are various issues that need refining. Here are some of my observations:
Fargo only selects the current heading and subheadings for the post. It will use the current heading as title and subheadings as the post content. This is not optimal; by default, Fargo should use the title of the entire outline as the post title and the entire outline body as the post body. I had to create a redundant heading and demote the entire rest of the outline underneath it to get it to work properly.
Headings and subheadings correctly use LI tags, but they force the CSS attribute “list-style-type” to “none”. In a blog post, you want the natural LI icons to appear and not be suppressed.
When exporting from Fargo to WordPress, adding paragraph tags is redundant, as WordPress renders the post content with them automatically. P tags should be stripped out when publishing to WP.
Likewise, there is no need for any additional class names (liConcord, pConcord, liLevel3, etc). All style is handled by WordPress themes and this CSS clutters the post content. We should not have any default styles added by the composer – clean HTML only, no CSS.
Numbered lists are not recognized by Fargo – I used a 1. 2. prefix but this does not create OL list type at the HTML end. Auto-detection of numbered lists is a must-have feature.
Entering new headings above the current one should be possible by placing the cursor at the start of a heading and pressing Enter. Currently, this opens a new heading below, not above.
Images are not supported. In fact if you add an image via the wordpress interface and then later edit the post again with Fargo, you will lose your images (it will overwrite the edits.)
Finally, it is not possible to copy and paste multiple headings and subheading content from the outliner. You can only select one heading at a time. There should be a plaintext export feature at the very least (with whitespace tabs for the indentation levels).
I don’t want to discourage Dave and the fine folks at Small Picture or seem overly picky. These are however important issues that affect a wordpress blogger’s workflow – I loved composing the post in Fargo but now I will have to re-edit the post after I publish to add images, strip out the CSS, etc. Due to that drawback, there isn’t a net value-add to using Fargo for WP blogging, yet. But there is so much potential here that I am very hopeful.
UPDATE: Dave responded to this post on Twitter:
@azizhp — Aziz, I still think we made the right choices, and if you use the product you will come to agree with them.
I am uncertain if Dave understood my critique – I was not asking for changes to Fargo’s user interface, but rather the formatting that is generated when exporting from Fargo to wordpress. I am happy to embrace the Outliner Way when composing, but Fargo imposes metadata on WordPress above and beyond outline structure. That metadata is not central to the user experience of Fargo si Iam baffled by Dave’s insistence that there’s no reason for change.
At any rate, I will certainly keep using Fargo for other purposes, but if the wordpress functionality is frozen at the current state then I cannot recommend Fargo as a WordPress authoring tool. I am still optimistic for Dave’s promise of Evernote support.
It’s the post-PC era, where we use apps and mobile phones and tablets and ultra-books, e-books, iBooks, and Nooks. We Kindle and we Hulu and we tweet and tumblr and like. Everything is in a cloud somewhere. This is quite a change from the halcyon days of when computing meant sitting down at your computer and launching a program to do something; now all it seems we do (if you live in the digerati echo chamber, that is) is consume and critique.
Most of the other tweets just repeat the author’s assertion that Word is “cumbersome, inefficient, and a relic of obsolete assumptions about technology.” The tweets above are useful in that they are explicit in their counter-assumptions about technology; namely, that the only real writing happens on the Web. It’s certainly true that using Word for simple text like email or blog posts is overkill, in much the same way that using a jet engine to drive your lawnmower is overkill. What’s peculiar is that rather than using simpler tools for their simpler tasks, these people have declared that the more complex and capable tool is “obsolete” and “must die”. This attitude betrays a type of phobia towards technology that I suspect has grown more prevalent as our technology interfaces have become increasingly more “dumbed down”.
In actuality, most of the writing in the real world is the complex variety that requires more than a few buttons for bold, italics and blockquote. Ask any lawyer writing a brief, a scientist writing a grant, or a student writing a dissertation how useful Word is and you’ll get a very different perspective than that of people writing tweets about how Word is too complicated for their blogging. Scocca himself acknowledges that he used Word when he wrote his book, which is a pretty telling reveal that completely undercuts his argument that Word has outlived its utility.
If I were to match Scocca’s hyperbole, I’d have to contend that Word is possibly the finest piece of software ever written, in terms of its general utility to mankind. That statement is arguably more true than claiming Word must “die” – especially since as of fiscal year 2011, Office 2010 had sold over 100 million licenses and drove record revenue growth. And note that the software division inside Microsoft that release Office for the Mac is actually the largest OS/X software developer outside of Apple, Inc. itself.
The reason that Word has outlived all its competitors, including dearly departed Wordperfect and Wordpro, is that it has evolved over time, to becoming an indispensable tool for a writer to save time and stay organized. Here’s a great list of 10 features in Word that any serious writer should be intimately familiar with. And even for casual use, some basic knowledge of Word’s features can let you do amazing things with simple text.
However, let’s suppose that you really don’t want to do anything fancy at all. You just want to write a plain text document, which is the basis of Socca’s argument. Is Microsoft Word really as bad as he makes it out to be? Here’s a quick summary of Scocca’s complaints, with my comments:
* Too many features that are left “on”. As examples, he uses the infamous Clippy (which hasn’t been in Word since 2003) and the auto-correct function (which is also enabled by default in Gmail, as well as TextEdit and OS/X Lion). If you really hate the autocorrect, though, it’s almost trivially easy to turn it off – a small blue bar always appears under the autocorrected word when the cursor is next to it. You can use that to access a contextual dropdown that lets you immediately undo the autocorrect or turn it off entirely, for example:
* Scocca finds certain features irritating, specifically “th” and “st” superscripts on ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc) and auto-indenting numbered lists. This is largely a matter of personal taste. Style manuals tend to recommend not using superscripts, out of concern on line spacing. Modern processors like Word can easily handle a superscript without breaking the paragraph’s layout.
* He thinks that Word incorrectly uses apostrophes and quotes. He’s mistaken; see the image below where I demonstrate single and double quotes. Note that if you insist on using “dumb” quotes, you can immediately revert by using CTRL-Z (which every Word user should be familiar with, hardly “hidden under layers of toolbars”).
* For some reason, the logo for the Baltimore Orioles uses a backwards apostrophe. And for some reason, Scocca believes this is Word’s fault. I have absolutely no idea why he blames Word for this. Try typing O-apostrope-s (O’s) into Word and you’ll see that the apostrophe is indeed facing the right way. I’m frankly unclear on why the backwards apostrophe on the Orioles’ logo is a threat to civilization, but even if so, it’s not Word’s fault.
* Word uses a lot of metadata to keep track of its detailed and complex formatting. This has the effect of marginally increasing file sizes by a trivial and negligible amount (the files taking up space on your hard drive aren’t Word documents, they are MP3 files, video, and photos). Bizarrely, Scocca tries to cut and paste the metadata back into Word as proof of excess, but this is a completely meaningless exercise which proves nothing. It’s true that if you try to open a native Word file in a plaintext editor, you’ll see a lot of gobbledygook, but why would you do that? If you open a JPG file in a text editor you’ll see the same stuff. Every file has metadata and this is a good thing when you use the file in the software it is intended. Of course, Word lets you export your data to any number of file formats, including web-friendly XML and plain text, so Scocca’s ire here is particularly misplaced and mystifying.
* Scocca sneers that Word still uses the paradigm of a “file” on a single “computer”. He says it’s impossible to use Word to collaborate or share. Perhaps he’s unaware of the fact that as of last month, email-based file attachments have been around for 20 years? Microsoft also is lauching a cloud-based version of Office, though, called Office 365, and with the advent of tools like Dropbox and Live Mesh the old one-file-one-PC paradigm is no longer a constraint. It’s actually better that Word focus on words and not include network-based sharing or whatnot; there are tools for that, and isn’t feature bloat one of Scocca’s chief complaints anyway?
* and finally, he calls the Revision Marking feature of Word “psychopathic” and “passive-aggressive”. I wonder if he’s ever actually collaborated on a document? The revision feature has literally transformed how I collaborate with my colleagues and is probably the single most useful feature in Word. It’s trivially easy to accept a single specific change or to do a global “Accept All” between revisions and users. The interface, with color-coded balloons for different users in the margin rather than in-line is elegant and readable. Scocca gripes that “No change is too small to pass without the writer’s explicit approval” – would he rather the software decide which revisions are worthy of highlighting and which aren’t? This complaint is utterly baffling to anyone who has ever actually used the feature.
Frankly, as a regular Word user for years myself, I find it pretty hard to sympathize with Scocca’s rant. None of his feature complaints are really valid, apart from some stylistic preferences (he’d rather bullet his own lists, etc) which are easily modified in Word’s settings. If the menus are really so intimidating, it’s trivially easy to google things like disable autocorrect, and if your google-fu isn’t up to that task then you can always leave a post at Microsoft’s super-friendly user forums where ordinary users themselves will be glad to walk you through it.
If Microsoft Word were to truly die, then we’d lose one of the most productive tools for complex and professional writing in existence. If that’s the future of the written word, where anything above the level of complexity of a tweet, email or blog post is considered too hard to deal with (and software gets dumber to match), then it’s a grim future indeed.
With iCloud, Apple is transforming the cloud from an almost tangible place that you visit to find your stuff, to a place that only exists in the background. Itâ€™s never seen. You never interact with it, your apps do â€” and you never realize it. Itâ€™s magic.
Compare this to Google, the company perhaps most associated with the cloud. Googleâ€™s approach has been to make the cloud more accessible to existing PC users. Theyâ€™re doing this by extending familiar concepts. Google Docs is Microsoft Office, but in the cloud. Your main point of interaction is a file system, but in the cloud. Gmail is Outlook, but in the cloud. Etc.
Meanwhile, another company now largely associated with the cloud, Amazon, has essentially turned it into one giant server/hard drive that anyone can use for a fee. But it takes developers to build something on top of it to give users a product to use. Some are great. But many again just extend the idea of the cloud as a remote hard drive.
While the fundamentals are the same, Appleâ€™s approach to the concept of the cloud is the opposite of their competitors. Appleâ€™s belief is clearly that users will not and should not care how the cloud actually works. When Jobs gave a brief glimpse of their new North Carolina datacenter that is the centerpiece of iCloud, he only noted that it was full of â€œstuffâ€ â€” â€œexpensive stuff,â€ he quipped.
How on earth can Apple’s approach to the cloud be the same and also the opposite? There’s a cloud alright, and it’s being smoked big time.
Someone explain to me how Amazon or Google force the user to care how the cloud actually works? When I read books on the Kindle app, “it just works” on iPad, Blackberry, or iPod – i put one device down, pick up the other, and start reading right where i left off. When I open a document in google docs in one web browser at work, I save my document and go home and open the same document from my PC at home, and “it just works”.
OK, I think Gruber had a better insight in pointing out that for Google, the Cloud is accessed through a browser window, whereas for Apple, it’s accessed through your entire screen. But then again, have we forgotten about AWS? Or App Engine?
whatever. get ready for endless droning on by the MG Sieglers of the world about how the Truth is In the Cloud. ooooooh!
Just announced at this year’s GDC, OnLive is an on-demand gaming service. It’s essentially the gaming version of cloud computing – everything is computed, rendered and housed online. In its simplest description, your controller inputs are uploaded, a high-end server takes your inputs and plays the game, and then a video stream of the output is sent back to your computer. Think of it as something like Youtube or Hulu for games.
The service works with pretty much any Windows or Mac machine as a small browser plug-in. Optionally, you will also be able to purchase a small device, called the OnLive MicroConsole, that you can hook directly into your TV via HDMI, though if your computer supports video output to your TV, you can just do it that way instead. Of course, you can also just play on your computer’s display if you don’t want to pipe it out to your living room set.
When you load up the service and choose a game to play (I’ll come back to the service’s out-of-games features in a bit), it starts immediately. The game is housed and played on one of OnLive’s servers, so there’s never anything to download. Using an appropriate input device, be it a controller or mouse and keyboard, you’ll then play the game as you would if it were installed on your local machine. Your inputs are read by the plugin (or the standalone device if you choose to go that route) and uploaded to the server. The server then plays the game just like it would if you were sitting at the machine, except that instead of outputting the video to a display, it gets compressed and streamed to your computer where you can see the action. Rinse and repeat 60 times per second.