The Pain Point
Vardy and Schecter - the Mikes behind Mikes on Mics - have a great episode of their podcast up this week with Matt Alexander, recorded live at the nerdgasmic Woodstock that (I’ve heard) was The OmniFocus Setup 2013. Matt pushes back - and hard - on playing too much with your tools. The high points, from all three of them: don’t get so addicted to a tool that you’ll be helpless if it breaks, don’t spend more time making the tool than making your thing, and don’t feel the need to adopt something new and shiny unless it solves a problem that’s causing you actual pain.
These ideas perfectly capture why I do all my todos in Taskpaper instead of Omnifocus: the file is simple and portable, I’ve got no qualms about just typing into it and organizing it later, and I’ve never actually been pushed to adopt an app with more features. The best part: my backup solution if it breaks, if my Mac breaks, if the grid goes down due to zombie attack: pen and paper. It’s the same reason this post got typed right in nvALT: I didn’t need the organization that comes from anything else.
Still, while we’re adjusting our sense of what’s important: in the grand scheme of things, being addicted to productivity apps is, like, the least bad thing you can be addicted to. So don’t sweat it too much.
Plain Text is the App
Android apps suck. Most of them, anyway. It pains me to say as much, as a regular Android user and sometimes evangelist, but it’s true. Google is doing some really promising things with Now and with its built in apps, and several cross platform mainstays like Instapaper and Comixology really shine on my Nexus 7, but for the most part, Android doesn’t have nearly the same healthy app ecosystem that iOS does. I know some of the reasons - Android users are less likely to pay for apps, developers are less willing or capable of developing for so many diverse devices, cell companies and device makers have been rather poor about keeping the OS on old devices up to date - but it still sucks.
About once a month, I confront this sucky reality when I go searching yet again for a new Android text editor. I’ve used Epistle for Android on my phone and tablet for years. Epistle is clean, it previews Markdown, it syncs effortlessly with Dropbox and it’s never given me problems in all the time I’ve used it. Still, it lacks some of the obvious shine and bonus features that apps like Nebulous Notes or Drafts have in iOS. And Epistle’s developer has gone completely AWOL: not only is the app not updated, I e-mailed him a month ago offering to send a little cash his way, and he has yet to write me back.
As beautiful and feature rich as those apps are, though, each month I’m left scratching my head trying to figure out what I need them for. I started using plain text, ostensibly, because the format was lightweight and didn’t require any one specific app or platform. Yet, here I am, searching for a complex, feature-rich solution for dealing with files designed to be simple and uncomplicated.
I wouldn’t give up my Macbook Pro, with all its text editors and scripts, for doing my work. Not for a minute. But when I’m on my phone? I’m opening files, referring to them, and occasionally adding or deleting things. When I’m on my tablet? I’m writing in exactly the environment where I don’t want the distractions of Microsoft Word, or even the distractions of my intensely agile favorite FoldingText.
There’s a niggling part of my brain that has yet to make peace with the inherent - at times the helpful - constraints of a software universe that can’t possibly deliver every single thing I want. That problem, the underlying problem, isn’t going to be solved by buying an iPhone 5.