Reborn Mac mini set to take over the living room

Think Secret has a story today (Road to Expo: Reborn Mac mini set to take over the living room) about rumors of Apple launching a set-top Mac mini at Apple Expo next month. I’ve been waiting to upgrade my ailing 1st generation TiVo and ailing DVD player, and now it looks like maybe Apple will finally release the thing I’ve been waiting on. If they do, I may sprain my wrist whipping out my wallet.

Easy Envelopes is back!

Many moons ago, in the age of MacOS Classic, I used this great little app (desk accessory) called Easy Envelopes from Ambrosia Software. It was the best envelope-printing tool I’ve ever used. Fast, easy, and prints USPS barcodes and stuff. They never updated it for OS X… UNTIL NOW. Easy Envelopes is now a Dashbooard widget available from Ambrosia Software for FREE. Love those guys!

iWork '05 initial impressions

I received my copy of Apple’s new iWork bundle today. I haven’t checked out Keynote 2, yet, but other initial reviews speak highly of it. I use presentation software so rarely that I doubt I’ll do more than skim it for the foreseeable future. Pages, on the other hand, is the whole reason I bought the package.

While most of my work is done via email or blogging (ha!) or publishing websites or other web-related tools, I occasionally have a need to do some print work (so does my wife). I hate Word with a passion (so does she), and I don’t want to spend the big $$$ to get Adobe InDesign for a simple newsletter or other small print job. So, I was very interested in the advanced rumors surrounding Pages.

First impression: it’s like iMovie for print. That’s a good thing. It allows someone to easily make great-looking print documents. You can also use it as a basic word processor a la Word, too, though it falls short of Word’s huge feature set. Of course, I have need for about 1% of that feature set, so that’s okay with me.

I see Pages getting used in the following ways at our house:

  • letters and other correspondence
  • viewing Word attachments people send us
  • tests and quizzes (for Wife, who’s a teacher)
  • Brochures and correspondence for my consulting business
  • Invitations (for parties, etc.)
  • Newsletters (for clubs we help with)

I’ll update this post when I’ve done some more work with it. So far, though, color me impressed.

UPDATE (2004.01.25): Okay, so I’ve spent more time with Pages now. I still think it’s a cool app, but it’s got some issues. Because it’s both a word processor and a page layout app, you get some weird overlaps that cause problems. You add pages like a page layout app, but you remove them like a wordprocessor (i.e., by removing content). It’s VERY awkward. I expect to see this change soon. The export functionality is not great, either. The Word export works as long as it’s a simple word processing app (memo, letter, etc.). It breaks horribly on complex documents, including nearly any of the stock templates. Also, the HTML export is terrible, especially on complex stuff, again, like the stock templates. I plan on using it mostly for print stuff and opening Word attachments that people send me. It should be great for that (plus all the things I mentioned above), but anyone who’s wanting more/different things from it will likely be somewhat disappointed.

UPDATE 2 (2004.01.27): The good stuff: Pages is a perfectly good word processor for fairly simple stuff. This week, I’ve written an 8-page report (with lots of styles, etc.) and a few 3-4 page documents, and I really like it. The auto TOC feature is pretty slick, and I really like the way the Styles drawer works. I’d prefer having a style creation dialog, but creating styles from examples is okay, too. I’ve already set up a few templates for regular reports and correspondence that I write. There’s a LOT of power in the templates. I’ve barely scratched the surface of them.

UPDATE 3 (2004.01.28): Still working with Pages on a daily basis. I think it’s pretty much going to supplant Word for daily use. I don’t need revision tracking or any of Word’s other features 99% of the time, and — not surprisingly — Pages loads TONS faster and performs better on both the computers I’m using it on (400MHz PowerBook G4, 1 GHz iMac G4). I can only imagine how fast it’ll be on the new iMac G5 soon to grace my work desk!

UPDATE 4 (2004.01.29): Did I somehow miss this in the factsheets and hype and whatnot? Pages has non-contiguous selection! I love that. I found it accidentally in the Styles pane. If you select a style and then click on the down arrow next to the style name, you’ll find “select all uses of <stylename>”. After seeing that, I figured I could manually do it, too. And so can you: just select some text then cmd-select some more. Voila! Non-contiguous selection. Cool.

Apple's GarageBand

Daring Fireball: A Big Garage hits it right on the head:

“What’s so cool about GarageBand is that it exemplifies the market that Apple is going after. People who want to use their computers to make cool things. People who want to be producers, not just consumers. If it’s possible to distill into a single thought what it is that makes Apple Apple, and what has made the Macintosh so enduringly popular, that’s it.”

That’s what I’ve been trying for years to say about why I love Macs. I’m a producer on a pretty small scale, but that’s how I view myself.

I’ve already ordered my copy of GarageBand (along with the swank upgrades to the other iLife components). I can’t wait to get back to recording some of my music.

UPDATE: Well, as cool as GB seemed, it’s not really the right app for me on my machine. I was looking for a more robust app for recording a number of audio tracks, and GB ain’t it (at least, not on my 1GHz G4 iMac). It’s a great looping app, and it’s exactly right for the target market: creative folks who aren’t musicians (necessarily) but want to make some cool music for their iMovies or iPhoto slideshows or whatnot.

For a great (and really cheap) DAW app for OS X, try Tracktion, which is also available for Windows (and soon Linux, they say). It’s the bees knees.

Apple's sexy package design

Mark Morford wrote in last week’s SF Gate a tribute (of sorts) to Apple’s packaging. He was dead on. When I bought my iPod, I was amazed at the packaging. The iPod was presented like a piece of art or an elaborate gift. The origami-like box that kept folding open again and again. To be honest, I was almost as jazzed about the packaging as about the iPod itself. And the iPod didn’t disappoint either. It’s the most beautiful and usable MP3 player out there.
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