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:

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

(site) 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 an entire blog post about it!

Dash

(site) 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 dash://c:malloc or dash://CFStringRef or dash://x86:jmp.

Newsblur

(site) 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

(site) 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.