When things just work

It makes me happy when something — a gadget, a piece of software, a website, what-have-you — just works. I was reminded of this just now when I popped my Tom Waits Big Time CD in to the Mac for ripping. Single button press opens the CD tray, another closes it, then iTunes automatically opens, identifies the CD, queries CDDB (online CD database), and lists the tracks. From there a single click on the “Import” button rips and catalogues the tracks to my earlier-set specifications (AAC format, 192 kbps, do not play songs while encoding, do not include track number in file names, do not use error correction). The whole process takes mere minutes*.

iTunes pleases me. In the same vein, iPhoto pleases me. Yesterday I decided to finally clear the SD card on my little baby Canon. I plugged it in to the USB port on the back of my keyboard (those are damned handy), and iPhoto automatically opened, set up the import, did the import, and cleared the card all with a single mouse click.

While in California, I picked up a copy of iWork ($79 USD). I haven’t looked at Keynote yet, but Pages is really slick. It’s a full-fledged desktop publishing system akin to Word, only without the eye-stabbingly bad UI. The default UI is all most people need for most word-processing tasks, and it’s just nice and simple. It also has some extremely nice templates, and exports to PDF very nicely. All good.

Oh, in related (ie: software) news, I’ve started maintaining my TODO list in OmniOutliner. Another very slick, very useful, very usable bit of software that just does what it’s supposed to do without getting in my way.

It says something about bad software when one of the defining factors of good software is that it “doesn’t get in my way”. It sure is neat when technology verges on being transparent. I think this is why I like FireFox so much — the default configuration is nothing more and nothing less than what most people need to get around on the web, but there are piles of extensions that allow you to easily add what you want or need (but nothing else).

We sure have come a long way, and yet there’s so much farther to go…

* (While writing up this entry, I’ve also ripped Tom Waits’ Foreign Affairs, and Beautiful Maladies. Not quite sure why they weren’t already in my collection, but they are now, hooray!)

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