If you read this, chances are that you spend a good bit of your waking time online. The double edged sword of the World Wide Web brings us the world at our fingertips and also a world of distractions. Our attention is fragmented and increasingly there are many things vying for our attention online (thanks for giving me some of this!). This is something that I deal with everyday and I know many people who also feel their time and focus is splintered among the many outlets of content and information that are just a click away on the web.
Now that the iPhone/iTouch revolution is upon us, its clear that Apple has not just released a new device, but launched a new platform pushing computing forward into the mobile space. One of the most innovative things about the iPhone/iTouch is the way we interact with it. Using the patented touch and sensor technologies, Apple has brought about a new way to interact with our machines and our information. Apple has recently expanded their touch technology onto the MacBook Pro platform enabling traditional notebook users to use the new multi-touch features on their trackpad. I would guess this technology will eventually make its way into the entire mobile Apple computer line-up (it is still missing from Macbooks). It may even trickle into desktop systems via new displays (Apple please give us new displays!) and input devices… Now along comes Multiclutch.
A clever developer, Will Henderson, has just released a beta version of this utility. It has a nice review by Dan Frakes on Macworld. You really need to see the video to appreciate what it does. Basically, Multiclutch allows the touch technology to drive other aspects of your Mac computing experience in addition to the default built-in touch support which is fairly limited. It turns out that touch is actually a pretty good way to get around your Mac. You have the ability to customize gestures to a wide range of actions with various programs. Dan really likes how you can use Multiclutch to flip through our Spaces on your Leopard equipped Mac…
To give you an idea of how you might use MultiClutch, I’ve added gestures for Safari so that Zoom In increases text size; Zoom Out closes the current tab; Swipe Right or Left switches to the next tab to the right or left, respectively; and the Zoom Out/In combination creates a new tab. I’ve also set Zoom Out as a global gesture for Command+W, so I can close the current window in any program by simply pinching two fingers together; and Swipe Down is set to minimize the current window to the Dock—a rather intuitive gesture, in this case.
Another very cool use of MultiClutch is to switch between workspaces when using Leopard’s Spaces feature. A simple three-fingered swipe—up, down, left, or right—“swipes aside” the current workspace to switch to a different one.
The point of all this is that we are seeing the beginning of a truly new way to interact with our information. The keyboard and mouse I think will be with us awhile longer, but clearly touch screens and various motion sensors are coming into their own allowing our interactions to be more seamless, creative, fluid and hopefully more fun!
Disclaimer: Multiclutch is beta software so please proceed with caution if you download and install it on your system!
If you use Safari on the Mac, you may find this utility handy. I go back and forth as to whether the system wide Exposé feature of the Mac OS is useful day to day while working. Sometimes I use it and sometimes I don’t. Well, some enterprising developers took the Exposé idea and applied it to tabs in Safari. If you use Tabs for your web surfing, then TabExposé might make life a little easier for you. It installs a button in your Safari Toolbar that, when clicked, lays out all your tabbed websites for you to see at once. Click the site you want and jump right to it. For people who work better visually, this might be a good tool use with your tabs. Its not free, but its not too expensive (about $15). A preference setting allows one to turn off any animations on the page when they are laid out in expose mode. This helps if your computer is not the fastest in the world. Keep on tabbin’…
There are more Mac applications on the market now than probably ever before. The field is getting very crowded. You can find an Mac app for just about any use these days. Many of them have a slick Leopard interface and take advantage of things like CoverFlow and QuickLook. All good. There is one application that really stands out and its not published by any of the 800 pound gorillas (Microsoft, Apple or Adobe for starters). Rather its put out by the extremely talented Brett Simmons. The app is called NetNewsWire and it is a full featured RSS aggregator and reader distributed by NewsGator. It does just about everything one could hope for AND its free! (It used to cost $30 and was worth every penny). That’s right, all you need is a $1000 Mac and NetNewsWire is free. Just download it and go. I won’t go into all the details about the features that make this app great, so go download it now and give it a try. The good folks at NewsGator are continuing to develop this with Brett and they allow you to sync your RSS feeds between computers using their servers (or your .mac account). The app has an active community and Brett readily listens to suggestions from users.
If I had to start ranking general use Mac apps that are indispensable, NetNewsWire is one. For anyone who seriously surfs the web on a Mac, you just have to use this app. It is wonderful!