Software I Love
I think there's a particular malaise that often affects software
engineers and other kinds of computer nerd, which sounds like this:
- Ugh, software sucks.
- Why is everything so buggy?
- I'm gonna move to [wherever] and become an alpaca farmer.
I think these feelings build up over time from an endless stream of tiny
frustrations - little mismatches between what you expected and what
happened, rare bugs, an unwieldy menu structure, a modal dialogue
interrupting your train of thought. It's easy to think, in the heat of
that frustration, that all software is like that, that it has to be
for some reason, and that there's no escape from the minor annoyances. I'm
writing this list to remind myself (and you!) that that isn't true, and
that there is software out there that is beautiful, and wonderful,
and a joy to use.
Recovery Record is a meal-logging app for people with eating disorders.
It's so well-designed and so thoughtful that I find myself raving about it
to people all the time and constantly holding it up as an example of good
UI design and empathic engineering. I wrote
entire blog post about it!
Dash is an offline documentation reader. It sucks in documentation from
wherever - man pages, manufacturer documentation, even user contributed
docs - and displays them in a snappy, unified searchable way. I use it
both at work and at home and I really love it. I could write an entire
post about Dash too probably, but just as an example of how well-designed
it is, it registers a custom URL scheme, so you can open docs easily from
anywhere just by loading a URL, like
Newsblur is an RSS reader, available as a webapp. It has a kind of quirky
UI style that I've never seen anywhere else, but it does what it does
stunningly well. It also has a great mobile client that can cache stories
offline for reading later. One of the cooler things about Newsblur is that
it has a sort of password-optional design: you don't have to set a
password on your account if you don't want to. Anyone could then log in as
you if they wanted to, but Newsblur periodically mails you a backup of all
your subscriptions, so it's easy to undo such damage.
Pinboard is a bookmarking service. At first I didn't really understand why
I'd want a service that replicates something my browser can already do,
but I tried pinboard out anyway, and eventually I realized that being
able to tag my bookmarks and search them is really, really valuable. In
my browser, my bookmarks are forced into a heirarchical structure that
doesn't let me effectively categorize them. Pinboard also has the best
twitter account of any web
service ever :).
All of these apps have some things in common, but the most salient
probably is that they are focusing on doing one thing very well. They
aren't generic tools or libraries or platforms or services for doing
whatever; they're basically tightly scoped single-purpose programs.