My former workplace had very restrictive IT policies and so every computer was locked down, which meant that to install any software, you needed the administrator password. And the last time Canonical released a new version of Ubuntu, it was a living nightmare for me. I needed to download that OS as quick as possible to write about it, but as anyone who has downloaded Ubuntu on day zero knows, it’s pretty much impossible to do that through the direct HTTP download. And here I was, stuck on a PC that wouldn’t let me grab it off the torrent like I usually do.
How I wish I knew about BitTorrent Surf at that time…
Web apps are typically single-purpose: you use one app for one thing. That’s in sharp contrast to most desktop apps, where you might use the same app (hello, Excel!) for dozens of different things. Being focused is great, but it can also sometimes be limiting.
Take Microsoft Office Access, for example. For years it’s been the go-to app for small businesses when they need a new form-driven internal app. Instead of buying some new app, anyone with the tiniest bit of computer skills can put together a custom solution without too much trouble. It might not be as powerful as a full-featured app for the same purpose, but it gets the job done without too much trouble.
Papyrs, an intranet tool we covered a couple years back, has recently added a new Apps mode that makes it easy for anyone to turn a Papyrs form into a custom database app. It’s Access, reinvented for the web.
The independent cartographer’s future business options are looking a little shaky at present. There’s only one platform most of us use for visualizing addresses and researching locations, and it just happens to be attached to the world’s most popular search engine.
I am, of course, referring to Google Maps — a service which, due to its general-use popularity, seems to provide about nine out of every ten maps you see embedded around the web. There’s nothing terribly surprising about this, even when the restrictive nature of map-building with Google is taken into consideration — convenience, after all, is king. What is surprising is that no competitor has produced a similarly easy-to-use platform that also offers greater freedom. But things are changing.
A startup named MapBox, three years in the making, is out to corner the online cartographic marketplace. Its original breakthrough came in the shape of TileMill, an open source native mapping app. Now, however, MapBox has its own online platform — but can it snatch Google’s crown?
I’ve written on AppStorm before about how much I love Pinboard, a bookmarking service that allows you to privately collect and tag webpages for easy access later. Pinboard is one of those services that sounds completely ridiculous — until you try it. It’s a great service, and its developer, Maciej Ceglowski, is truly dedicated to improving it and keeping it consistently up.
As many people know, the service can also operate as a great Read Later service. You can mark webpages as unread. Pinboard tags them as such, and you can catch up later on the Web or with your favourite Pinboard app of choice. Until recently, there weren’t any apps designed to make Pinboard a true Read Later service in the same vein as Instapaper. With Paperback, we finally have a Pinboard Read Later client focused purely on the reading experience.
Traditionally, the perceived role of the written-word journalist is to depict an event, a place, or a scene, in eloquent prose. In most respects, this traditional perception still holds true, even in today’s multimedia-rich publishing climate.
There has, however, been one seismic change in the industry, which has completely altered how stories are written: data. Big data. Data so huge that it has only entered the mainstream in tandem with the recent advent of powerful home computers. Now, stories are told as much in numbers, averages and probabilities as they are in expressive paragraphs. But, bizarrely, the internet has yet to catch up; ever tried to include graphs or infographics in your blog? If you have, you’ll be well aware of the stilted nature of the task, and the unappealing bitmap-based finished product. In other words, it isn’t pretty.
That’s why I’m excited about the concept behind Silk, a new hosted CMS which has information, graphs and infographics at its heart. But is it the platform to start a data-driven trend in citizen web publishing?
When you want to make a quick flyer to advertise your yard sale or pull together a quick birthday card for your Mom, what app do you open first? Odds are, Word or PowerPoint. The former’s ubiquitous for page layout designs, even though its not really meant for it, and the latter was the app I used to reach for simply because it’s easy to use for basic graphics-heavy layouts. Either way, you could always get something basic whipped up in 5 minutes, flat, and it’d look ok.
Don’t settle for ok anymore, and don’t worry about needing more than 5 minutes. Canva, a brand-new online design tool, makes quick graphics design simpler than ever — and its results actually look great.