Thursday, October 04, 2012

Omnibus Software (and hardware)

I have several “Swiss Army” type tools. You know the ones with all the different blades, screw drivers and pliers in one tool. They are ok for simple tasks but for serious jobs I prefer a real screw driver, a real knife or a real pliers. I think most of us recognize the difference between multi-purpose tools and tools specially created to do one thing and do it well. Somehow for computers we ignore that though.

As I sit here I have four devices plugged in.

  1. A laptop
  2. A tablet
  3. A phone
  4. A Kindle

I can get to the Internet on all of them. I can read books on all of them. I can create email easily on three of them. I can write documents on three of them. Honestly I might be able to do some of those things on a different Kindle too. So why do I need four devices when all of them do everything? Because they don’t all do everything well. So I use them for what they are best at. There is a nice Kindle app from my Windows Phone but the reading experience on the Kindle device is a whole lot better to name one thing.  Generally I like special purpose tools for computing tasks just like I do in my shop.

That is what I like in my software as well. I think that one of the reasons I struggle with doing everything in the web browser is that it makes the browser a “Swiss army knife” when what I really want is a bunch of special purpose tools.

I like stand alone email tools. Well ok Outlook is a calendar and a task scheduler as well as an email tool but it’s still close. I like Twitter clients more than reading/writing to Twitter in the web browser. Web based editing is getting better but it still doesn’t compare to tools like Word or Windows Live Writer. I’m writing this without web access BTW. That would be had to do using my web browser.

I carry my all in one tool when I need to travel light and an not sure what tools I will need. That doesn’t make it my tool set of choice. The same is true with a web browser. It’s ok and gets me by for many things but it still feels slow, clunky, and a lot less powerful than a stand alone app. Moving away from the web browser doesn’t mean giving up “the cloud” either. In fact one could argue that it makes the cloud more powerful by making it more usable.

We tend to think of the Internet and the web as synonymous. They are not. And they never have been. The web is just one of many protocols that travel across the Internet. By thinking of the two as being the same we run into the old problem best expressed by “when all you have is a hammer all of your problems look like nails.” I know some will call ne a reactionary or a Luddite but there are days when I believe that moving everything to the web browser is a step backwards not forwards. What do you think?

3 comments:

Unknown said...

I love my toys- my kindle DX, my tf101 tablet, my evo, but I really wish you would consider spending 6 months without windows or macosx. Linux boxes really are my toys of choice - except the Kindle DX

Unknown said...

I love my toys- my kindle DX, my tf101 tablet, my evo, but I really wish you would consider spending 6 months without windows or macosx. Linux boxes really are my toys of choice - except the Kindle DX

Alfred Thompson said...

I was a UNIX user long before I ever touched a Windows computer. It was one of the worst operating systems I ever used and I've used a lot of operating systems. How does it compare today to other OS you have used other than MacOS and Windows?