December 09, 2014
Some software I've known

Aaron Bateman asks, on Twitter
"Does anyone feel especially emotional about a particular piece of software"

... I did a quick think. Certainly 'Slangemand', the Snake-clone I wrote and played for ages back in the 80s; Great times were had at home with that - my brother would put on a David Bowie record, we'd pop the tape in the Amstrad 464, load up the game, and play for hours.

I rewrote it for the browser some years ago - still play it. It still works on me.

In the 90s Word 6.0 felt like pure text processing perfection. I was particularly fond of the outliner - just a great great tool to plan a text, reorganize a text, get the structure right. To this day I miss that outliner - I've never met an outliner that was as good at getting out of the way and letting you think and write. Everything else I ever tried felt clunky and administration-heavy.
Even modern day Word isn't as good - keyboard shortcuts are missing, and you can't even set them up (on a Mac, at least)

But then I sat back and thought about how much more there is, really - of course the Rocky Horrow Show-game I got for Christmas and we then played, collectively as a family, for 48 of the next 72 hours inbetween all the meals.

There are so many tools that suddenly give you superpowers - and it's very easy to have fond memories of those. Figuring out regular expressions for text processing in MicroEMACS way back when. Running tons of fun simulations in Matlab. The fantastic way Mathematica's functional programming model just feels so reasonable to a mathematician wanting to code.

All that information AWK pulled out of text files for me.

The way Latex can make your shoddy mathematical thinking look as crisp as all the brilliant ideas.

It's different when you write your own, probably. I still miss the toolset we built while I was at Ascio. Sure it had a lot of quirks - but man, was it capable. I miss the fun of putting together a text messaging game system for the company christmas party in an hour, beer in hand, after hours, before going to the party.

I'm always looking for that in tools I use, that "you can actually do that in an hour"-feeling.

I miss the 'today' search in Finder every single day - the searches you can build on your own are not a perfect copy - somethings amuck with default ordering quickly going out the window - and basically 'Spotlight' and the 'today' search were the only things I genuinely love on my Mac. They gave me that quick little move I could make, 1-2 task done, and I can't anymore.

Some of the big IDEs have a lot of those power moves, and it's awesome - and I'm not embarrased to admit I miss Delphi for that - but then I also miss writing cellular automata in Turbo Pascal.

Android Lollipop feels like one of the recent things that'll make this list. The new notification system - with easy access to no buzzing, vibration and social media plings during night, make it possible to use notifications without being killed by your wife, because your twitter friends decide to favorite you at 3 in the morning (not even a goddamned retweet!), waking her up.

It's the little things that just work, that do it. I'm really happy with the code hinting in Atom - even if the editor itself is damned full of flaws and frequently vomits all over you. I fuck up less now I have it - I like not fucking up.
I've too many unhappy "why the hell doesn't that work" experiences with my daily tools to feel as good about them - damned happy about the power of perl and CPAN when I was using that; and pretty happy with Ruby a lot of the time, but so many stupid gotchas every day.

I would love to put a lot of creative tools on here - and it really saddens me I can't. I'd love to love 'that video editor' or 'that music thing' - but none of them give me that 'what you can do in an hour'-feeling. Which is just because I'm not, you know, good at it. But I'd like to be happy about that, not miserable. I'd rather be happily mediocre - but done in an hour - than still mediocre and hours from deadline.
I'm more of a Skitch guy, than a Photoshop guy - and pretty bummed they decided to fuck up Skitch.
I was hoping Macaw would do it for writing websites. I was hoping Imitone would be an instrument I could use - but none of them deliver that happy moment where, hey I actually did this! And it's done now! And I did it!.

Posted by Claus at 01:44 PM