One Thing Well

22/01/2012 //

I use WriteRoom more and more these days. This spartan writing application is surprisingly attractive due to of its complete lack of distracting elements. That, of course, is WriteRoom’s entire point, its raison d’etre. (I’ve also tried using Ommwriter, another minimalist, full-screen writing application, which sports a serene winter landscape background and a soothing new-age soundtrack, without quite falling in love.)

Still, I find myself more and more attracted to single-use applications these days, and many seem to agree. (As a matter of fact, I’m rather late to the party.) Granted, the “one thing well” is partly the fad du jour, but after years of trying to find The One Perfect Application, I finally admitted to myself that it just doesn’t exist, and probably never will.

Some years ago, I found the brilliant (and free) Journlr, which seemingly did everything. What I failed to understand was that it wasn’t really what I had looked for, but you know, the price was right. I didn’t actually use it much, but when development ceased, I nevertheless started looking for a replacement, not wanting to be left in the lurch when it was broken by a future OS update. (It never was. Then development started again. Argh.) With no real thoughts about what I really wanted, I ended up springing for MacJournal.

I tried using MacJournal for a long time, but it never really clicked for me, so it usually remained in the Applications folder, unloved and unopened1.

Then I read out about a journaling application called Day One. It comes in two flavors: desktop and an iOS (which sync), and I decided to give it a shot. It was attractive, fun, and affordable. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now, and have found myself writing a bit every day, jotting down random thoughts, musings about my day, or a funny quote I’ve come across. It doesn’t do photos or PDFs or post to your blog or anything else. The iOS version can tweet an entry, though I haven’t bothered to set it up yet. To be honest, the lack of options felt quite liberating. (Insert tired Mac OS joke here.)

Day One also made me reassess WriteRoom and ShoveBox, both obtained through MacHeist a few years ago, neither of which had ever found a comfortable place in my workstream, despite all the raves and accolades. It was only when I finally gave up the idea of The One True App that I decided to give them another shot. And lo and behold, Shovebox finally made sense to me: a digital clutter room where I could dump ephemera and bric-a-brac. It did that One Thing really well, and blazingly fast to boot.

So these days, I’m definitely on board with single-use software. Admittedly, I know I could easily have written my diary in TextEdit, which I could also have used to write this. So clearly, the only real problem was with my own motivation. (I’m also aware that these applications won’t – and likely can’t – replace Office or Adobe’s CS pack or whatever major, dedicated software one uses)

Still, separating tasks into smaller parts seems to help focus me on the task at hand, which counts for a lot. And they’re pretty fun to use, which also counts for a lot. Hey, I’m a simple guy.

1 This isn’t a dig at MacJournal, by the way. It’s very good, it just wasn’t right for me.