Posts tagged “copy”.

Stop with the ‘worst of’ Apple lists

October 8th, 2009

top10hellspawn

Yes, we know – everyone hated the iMac puck mouse/Newton/Mac TV/Pippin. There’s no more need to include it in a “Top # Apple Mistakes” list anymore.

For the past few years, for as long as I’ve been writing Newton Poetry, these “worst of” lists have cropped up from time to time. Most of them mention a similar combination of the above Apple “mistake” products. Chances are, each list will feature the same disliked Apple products as every other what-were-they-thinking list.

It’s a sham, and it’s annoying.

First, the whole “top 10″ list is simply an easy way to be Dugg and Stumbled Upon. I should know – I’m guilty of it myself. The difference is that I didn’t have to browse through other sites, copy their content, and paste it into the site. Every blog and site these days has to have their own iteration of the “worst of” list. Sure, each post probably generates a bit of traffic and tons of comments. The result, however, is that the site ends up looking desperate and silly.

Second, these posts are unoriginal in the extreme. In fact, it’s easy to predict what products will be featured in any given list. Here’s a quick rundown of Apple products you should have never purchased, just off the top of my head:

  1. Apple iMac hockey puck mouse
  2. Some Apple Newton MessagePad or eMate
  3. Apple/Bandai Pippin
  4. Mac TV
  5. Mac Portable
  6. PowerMac G4 Cube
  7. Apple III
  8. Apple Lisa
  9. Some random Performa or LC model
  10. 20th Anniversary Mac

Funny that no one mentions the Apple Hi Fi or, as of yet, the Apple TV. Perhaps in a few years those products will be included, too.

Here’s the point: it’s as if, when tech blogs are pressed for fresh content, they generate some unoriginal, macabre list of Apple failures and run it as a “top 10″ post. Voila – instant page views.

Us Apple fans, and especially us Newton fans, deserve better in-depth analysis than what we all ready know to be true. I hope that Apple fans see past such drivel, and skip the link on Macsurfer.

“What the hell’s wrong with you?” our collective wisdom should tell these sites. “Get a goddamn life.”

No, Apple’s not perfect, and yes, we remember the devil-spawned puck mouse. Can we move on?

There for a while, I was reporting on every damned list that included the Newton. My knee-jerk reaction was outrage, of course, but after a while that outrage turned into a passive frustration. Now, it’s just annoying.

Because it keeps happening. Like clockwork.

Sure, we can argue all day about whether the Newton platform was a failure. And we could have some yucks over how clunky (yet beautiful) the Cube really was.

But we only need to have those conversations once or twice. Not every week.

Shame on the blogs that run these “worst of” posts, and shame, especially, to those high-traffic sites that have the resources and talent to generate perfectly good and suitably worthwhile content.

Don’t resort to everyone’s-doing-it posts like these. You ought to know better.

WritePad offers Newton-like features for the iPhone

March 30th, 2009

writepad

There are a few iPhone apps available that attempt to mimick Newton features, such as an updated PocketMoney and a few sketching applications.

The one that recently got my attention was WritePad by Phatware. WritePad is a free download, and offers the one Newton feature that the iPhone has been lacking so far: handwriting recognition (HWR). WritePad also offers cut and paste, a feature iPhone and iPod Touch users won’t experience until the 3.0 release this summer.

But how does it work?

Before we get into that, it’s worth noting that WritePad is a trial application. Phatware wants to test HWR on the touchscreen and is looking for feedback from WritePad users. That feedback will help develop the PhatNotes app. Hence the free download. Phatware also uses WritePad’s HWR engine to power other iPhone apps, like WritePad Events and WritePad Notes.

It’s basically a word processing program that lets you make and edit text files on your iPhone. The app includes a lengthy tutorial on how to use WritePad’s myriad features, like Auto Correct and user-defined dictionaries. There’s a lot to read and digest.

To start with, the logistics of “handwriting” on Apple’s new touchscreens are difficult. With only a few square inches to work with, and a thicker-than-a-stylus finger, your results will definitely vary. Accuracy is limited by the size of your scribbling, the size of your fingertip, and your handwriting style. And unlike the Newton, the iPhone’s relatively small screen size limits the length of your scribbles. WritePad employs a unique solution to the small screen size: you can overlap your letters in individual words. But is that even practical?

iTouch Tips give a great demonstration of the many features, like gestures and HWR options, and I’d recommend reading their post before digging in with WritePad’s options.

Without messing with the options or the tutorials, I went ahead and gave WritePad a test drive. Here are a few examples.

writepad_newton

Given short, one-word scribbles, WritePad does a fair-enough job. I made a conscious effort to write neatly and cleanly on my iPhone, and WritePad’s HWR did the job just fine.

writepad_writesmall

Given groups of complicated words, however, WritePad starts to fall apart. It reminds me of Newton 1.x’s brand of HWR: effective at times, but not nearly as good as 2.x.

writepad_eggfreckles

I made several attempts at writing “Egg Freckles” in WritePad, and none of the translations came up accurate. In fact, the text got more garbled the more I tried.

writepad_egghoriz

WritePad does offer a “learn your handwriting” option, where possible words pop up to match your own scribbles. And supposedly, after a while, WritePad will learn your handwriting style. So part of it is patience, and part of it is giving the system time to adapt.

The only problem is, your words-per-minute speed will be miserable using WritePad’s HWR. With the keyboard, it logically gets better. Maybe an iPhone stylus would improve things, but I imagine few iPhone users will bother with a stylus.

It’s too bad that WritePad’s HWR is limited to in-app use. I imagine developers could find some use for system-wide HWR using WritePad’s method, but HWR is probably one of those “background” features that Apple doesn’t allow.

The other feature WritePad offers is copy/cut/paste, and this is done fairly well.

writepad_paste

Here I write “Paste” using WritePad’s HWR (again, it does well at translating simple words).

writepad_pastehighlight

WritePad translates the word (above). To copy the text, tap twice and drag across the word to highlight it.

writepad_pastex

WritePad offers cut, copy, and paste buttons at the bottom of the screen. To cut my “Paste” word, I just tap on the little scissors icon. To paste, simple tap on the clipboard icon, and WritePad pastes the word as many times as you tap. Clean and easy.

With the buttons, WritePad’s style of copy and paste differs both from the Newton and the upcoming iPhone 3.0 way of doing things. I can’t say if it’s better or worse because you can only copy and paste within the app. When you’re in WritePad, the copy and paste buttons are an automatic part of the UI. They work as advertised.

I had hoped that WritePad could act as a Newton-like Notepad application for the iPhone. Since you can open and save text files within WritePad, you can accumulate a hefty amount of notes. The Newton Notepad offered easy ways to organize your notes, however, which is something WritePad lacks. With WritePad, you have a list of text files with no apparent folder or file system to organize your notes.

If you want an easy way to edit and write text files on your iPhone, WritePad is a fine enough word processor – assuming you use the keyboard. But any hope for using HWR in an iPhone app effectively, especially one that replicates the Newton, is dashed when you start to write longer-form words or sentences on the smaller iPhone screen. WritePad’s HWR doesn’t seem practical enough for extended use.

A WritePad app on a larger-form iPod Touch or tablet, however? The possibilities of Newton-like performance start to grow. And to be fair, WritePad is a simple testing application that provides Phatware with enough user testing to implement WritePad’s HWR engine into a new, improved suite of apps.

So we’ll see how it works out. In the meantime, WritePad offers a bit of Newton-like functionality with the HWR, and a preview of cut/copy/paste that we’ll see later this summer. And hey – it’s free, which helps.

‘Newton Poetry’ in Spanish: Newt in translation

September 24th, 2008

¿Qué te hace tan especial?

It seems iPodizados has taken my iPhone-vs.-Newton post and reposted it in Spanish. Now, it’s “11 formas en que el Newton sigue siendo mejor que el iPhone.”

Cool. At least they provided a “fuente” link.

iPhone cut and paste preview: how the Newton did it

September 8th, 2008

The idea for cut and paste on the Newton is simple: scribble a word, press the stylus on the word until the highlight marker appears, highlight the word, and then either (a) double tap and drag or (b) just grab the word and drag it to the side of the screen (above – but there’s a great video demo over at Mental Hygiene). Your “clipped” word will appear on the side of the screen, slightly smaller and truncated.

When you want to paste, simply grab the word with the stylus and drag it where you want it. It’s not true “cut and paste” because the word doesn’t disappear, but the effect is similar.

There is also “primary” clipping, says this site:

…which is the last clipping that you touched with your stylus. Some applications have “cut” and “copy” and “paste” menu options, for the benefit of people with keyboards — if you choose “cut,” a clipping is automatically created on the side of the screen and becomes primary. If you choose “paste”, the primary clipping is unhooked and pasted in.

But with screen real estate at a premium on the iPhone, a mini-word on the side might be too large still. How do you “grab” a word? Or highlight it? Can you have multiple items in your clipboard? Can we trust a cloud-based method, after MobileMe’s ups and downs? Will it be a third-party solution, despite Apple shutting down the OpenClip project? Is there a smarter way?

The technical side of cut and paste is far beyond my grasp. Besides, others have handled the explanation of how it was done far better than I could. But we can learn from the past. Just like the Newton and its standards (highlight, pull and drag, double-tapping for the keyboard, etc.), the iPhone has standard ways of doing things. Perhaps all that’s needed is a new standard, such as a hold-and-click, or like the keyboard buttons that MagicPad showed us.

But with evidence that copy and paste is on Apple’s to-do list, we’re left to wait it out.

Any ideas on how the iPhone should do copy and paste?