A lot of what we all do with our computers these days is online. A very large proportion of us forego the comfort of an email client and rely instead on a web based mail service such as Gmail or outlook.com. In recent years there has been a big push from a lot of big name companies — the likes of Google, Adobe and Microsoft — to encourage their customers to work increasingly in the cloud.
It is likely that the widespread use of webmail has helped to make the idea of breaking away from the confines of desktop software, but the ever-increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets can probably also claim some responsibility. The ability to work on the move on a smaller-screened device is obviously very liberating, but there are new considerations to keep in mind. It is all well and good being able to work away from the desktop, but there will probably come a time when you want to work on a regular computer rather than a portable device. Of course, you can plug your phone or tablet into your computer and copy files back and forth as required… but this is too much like hard work!
Collaborative writing has been one of the many things the web was supposed to simplify, and yet it’s still as broken as it’s ever been. Live co-editing like Google Docs offers only works for a very few niche scenarios, and newer tools like Draft and Editorially only work great for one writer and one editor giving feedback on a finished work. And the old style of emailing documents back and forth — or the slightly updated version of saving them to a shared Dropbox — is still far from ideal.
There’s one tech tool that’s seemed promising recently, though: git. The geeky version control system used most famously by GitHub is designed to let software developers collaborate on code, and is the very reason people around the globe can contribute to open source projects. Code is just text, of course, so earlier this year two dozen mathematicians wrote The HoTT Book collaboratively using GitHub. That was quite an undertaking, both for its unprecedented collaboration and for using git for writing even when it wasn’t exactly designed for it.
But what if GitHub was reinvented around writing? That’s what Penflip, a new git-powered writing app, aims to find out.
There once was a time when I followed gaming with verve and passion, soaking up every out-of-ten score in the Official Playstation Magazine, and cursing Nintendo for somehow making the latest Mario Kart game even more irritating than the last. But time has passed, and I no longer have my finger quite on the pulse.
However, I still do hear about most of the latest releases, one way or another, and I pay special attention to game launches with something interesting, unusual, or notable about them. A recent example was the launch of Zoo Tycoon, of which I learned thanks to my AppStorm colleague, Marius Masalar, and his fine taste in tweeting.
Whilst the sight of yet another Zoo Tycoon game was not terribly striking, the initiatives that Microsoft has taken, alongside the production of the game, are.
Our sponsor this week, Xehon, is a new app for keeping up with almost everything in your digital life in a totally new way. It’s got an incredibly basic interface that lets you add in the modules you want to turn it into your own web app. You can make your own file storage system, design basic graphics and flowcharts, organize pictures, write online documents in specific sections that can be moved around as you want, keep track of your appointments on the calendar, and even blog or run a forum, all from one Xehon account.
You’ll be able to work on any web browser, or natively on your Mac or PC with its Adobe Air-powered app. You can even easily use Xehon from your Android phone thanks to its free app in the Google Play store. And you can try it for free, then pay just for the amount of data storage that you use in the app.
Xehon is a bare-bones attempt to rethink how a number of the most popular web apps should work, and it’ll be exciting to see the new modules they add to the app going forward.
I’m a huge Dropbox junkie. I’ve got 19 GB of free space that I’ve managed to secure over the years (being a student and inviting friends used to help, especially before Dropbox really exploded over the past few years). But cloud storage is tricky, and I’m the paranoid type who believes you should never rely on only one storage solution — even if it is “in the cloud.”
I was intrigued when I heard about another cloud-solution that claimed to offer a few advantages to the Dropbox setup. It’s called NTI MiST. NTI has been in the software game for a long time, and have seen tremendous success in the industry. Read on to find out whether MiST continues to improve on their sterling reputation, or if it can replace or work alongside Dropbox.
Paginated publishing is back. When we originally turned away from print in favour of the digital world, web formats ruled the roost. But sales of touchscreen devices have boomed in recent years, and the knock-on effect has been to return the most natural format for reading to the ascendancy.
This arrival at full circle has triggered a brand new kind of platform — the e-publishing CMS. We may be just three years into the tablet revolution, but there are already numerous options for the journalist or novelist wanting to self-publish digitally. Apple’s introduction of iBooks was followed by the launch of near-frictionless services such as Origami Engine, ReadyMag and Type Engine, and many more have arrived since. It is a seriously competitive market.
Yet, I think the outlook for Creatavist, a new “web-based storytelling platform,” is actually quite good. A mammoth array of content options awaits potential users of this beta offering, and it also has the backing of Nicholas Thompson, the editor of The New Yorker’s website — he co-founded the developing company, in fact. So, can this new kid on the block make a meaningful impression?
Twitter is fast emerging as the go-to news source, with 1 in 10 Americans getting their news through the microblogging network, according to a survey. And the biggest news organisation on Twitter is undoubtedly Breaking News. Well, what started as a Twitter-only outfit has grown into a giant. And recently, they rolled out a whole new Web app, along with mobile apps for iOS and Android.
The new Breaking News 3.0 Web app has been completely redesigned and comes with a bunch of new features, like muting and saving topics, and a social element through ‘Whoa’. The iPhone app also has a cool Alerts feature to be notified of certain topics, which hasn’t yet been rolled out on the Web app. But the Web has the Maps interface for a look at the trending topics across the world. Let’s dive in…
The human brain really isn’t very good at processing masses of abstract data…well, I know mine isn’t, anyway. Brains can usually cope with a few things at one time (“must reply to that email once I get back from picking up the milk”), but when faced with a torrent of information, such as the web bombards us with, most brains start to struggle.
It is for this very reason that virtual dashboards have gained popularity. Developers recognize that even the most basic of web-apps, like a blog, can churn out a mass of data, which can only be seen with clarity if it is delivered in a human-friendly, visual format. Yet the idea of a personal dashboard, possibly the most useful matrix of this kind imaginable, still hasn’t really taken off, despite the traction that services such as iGoogle, My Yahoo and Netvibes gained in their early days.
Perhaps the smartphone has shoved the dashboard into outdatedness and redundancy. Or perhaps the desktop dashboard format just needs some reinvigoration. If the latter scenario is the more accurate, then Dash wants to be that reinvigoration. It is pretty, well connected and dynamic — but is it good enough to be your new homepage?