Tuesday, December 28, 2004

iPhoto 4 - Becoming a disappointment

iPhoto used to wow me, but I'm becoming, forgive the expression, disenfranchised, with it.

Before you comment that I'm nuts or too plain picky or that I might as well swith to a Windows PC, hear me out. :-)

My first mistake might have been using iPhoto Buddy and segmenting my library into 7 libraries. That was with iPhoto 2. Things worked well with the exception of slowness (and the fix-it features). Enter iLife 4 with iPhoto 4. Nice, faster and all that. The way Jobs showed it at MW Expo SF 2004, there was nothing close to it on the market. Probably true. Adobe Photoshop Album was on the prowl - too bad it hasn't come to the Mac, it's 1/2 way decent.

Importing my libraries into iPhoto 4 was easy, but for crying out loud, my library went from just over 1000 pix to over 4000 pix! Duplicates abounded. Long story short, I've futzed with iPhoto 4 for a long time, ended up digging through the cryptic library weeding out all photos, dups, thumbs, etc., and starting over.

Looking at the library of iPhoto was like rummaging through the Windows registry. Okay, not quite, but good grief, talk about complicated. IMHO, unnecessarily complicated.

Enter Kodak EasyPhoto. Not as fast as iPhoto 4, but very nice. I love the one touch feature - it gives you a movable divider down the center of the photo with a "before" and "after" of your photo. Really nice. Kodak has done a bang-up job with this free app. For those not into .Mac, it works seamlessly with Kodak's Ofoto service, also excellent - arguably way better than Apple's minimalist offerings for photo printing, etc., via .Mac.

Which brings me to a little thing that irks me with iPhoto. Why can't I have a button for BOTH clockwise and counter-clockwise photo rotation?! Simplicity, minimalism! Hallmarks of Apple hardware and software. Well, I usually like that approach except when it comes to managing my music and my photos.

Last. Printing photos works fantastic - as long as I use full-size photo paper. I have an Epson Stylus C82, latest OS X release, etc. Even with Kodak's EasyShare, it won't print 4x6 paper correctly. The problem is the driver as far as I can tell as Kodak's EasyShare on XP works perfectly with the C82. I don't fault iPhoto for this. The C82 driver is weaker in some respects on OS X than XP. The most current driver for this printer comes with OS X. Epson hasn't updated their driver for years.

Bottom line. I am less impressed by the day with iPhoto's photo management. I don't like the cryptic nature of how it does its thing (nested folders numerically named).

I hope iPhoto 5 (or 4.5 or whatever) answers some of these issues.

Question for those of you who are iPhoto experts: Why is the library managed the way it is? Should I not have the option of saving (i.e., overwriting) the "changed" photo rather than it being duplicated thus doubling the space taken by the photo?

Thanks for reading. And please be nice in the comments.

Monday, December 20, 2004

iTunes Feature Request: Customizable Cross-Fading

I use iTunes almost daily - for the obvious listening to tunes, talk radio broadcasts and spoken-word ... audio.

I've created a smart playlist for a particlular set of spoken-word audio that I've recently begun adding to my library. While listening yesterday I was taken aback to hear the next chapter start before the last sentence was read of the previous chapter. Realizing what was going on , I scrambled to the preferences and changed the cross-fading option ... and realized that this is something that should be fixed, or perhaps a better word is, enhanced.

If I could have one wish (at this point only one) for iTunes it would be that either the preferences would have greater control over cross-fading (i.e., turn it off for spoken-word, etc.) OR, and I like this better, let playlists and smart playlists have settings for cross-fading. So when I create a new smart/playlist, let the window where I choose genre, etc., have an option(s) for cross-fading - and while we're at it, why not have Equalizer settings there, too, so I can have greater flexibility in that area as well.

But sticking to cross-fading for now, I don't want a global cross-fading option only. I want to be able to drill down and choose - say for these 24 songs in this playlist, that I don't want cross fading, I want to hear each song in its entirety. Likewise, spoken-word simply doesn't work with cross-fading turned on. But I want the option for everything else and I don't want to have to go into the preferences each time to change it.

Anyone else feel the same way? Is there a way to do this already that I have simply overlooked ... was it staring me right in the face?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

BBEdit 8

BBedit 8: text/HTML/XML, etc., editor
By: Bare Bones Software
Type of review: minor, general comments, praise, criticism, no deep bone crushing code stuff.
I've spent a lot of time, nearly every day over the last year +, in one text editing program or another on the Mac, and some of the time on XP. I'm not sure that there is one editor to rule them all, but if I could combine two of them, they'd be BBEdit 8 and from the PC world, EditPlus. Maybe a BBEditPlus, if you will.

But that's not too fair, because between the two of them, I'd like all of what BBEdit has to offer, adding the tabs for windows and a few interface niceties from EditPlus. So really, BBEdit is as close to perfect as I've found on any platform.

Of the other editors on the Mac, I like Tex-Edit Plus (TE+). I bought a license for it and used it on my job for some time; however, there was one thing I couldn't live without - automatic syntax highlighting (Both BBE and EditPlus do this). To combat this in TE+, I used a script I wrote for text highlighting (so it'd look like BBE), but it only worked for existing text and had to be reapplied for every modification/addition. Not fun and not functional.

I used BBEdit 7.x.x in demo and built quite a few AppleScripts around it utilizing its excellent grep capabilities among other things, one aspect of the things that endeared me to BBEdit. But for sake of money and conscience, I turned to TE+. While powerful in its own right, it couldn't (can't) match the editing capabilities of BBEdit, driving me to learn other AppleScript solutions like fixing and tidying text on the clipboard.

But that still wasn't "perfect" - so the opportunity presented itself to me to obtain a BBE license finally and I've been quite happy ever since. While I miss some things TE+ allowed me to do (bold certain words, highlight words, etc.) BBEdit allows me to do other things better. Like perform grep functions better, in this sense - when I "set selection to clipText" in a script, that selection remains highlighted in BBEdit until I change the focus of the cursor. This capability allows me to run all manner of fix ups, etc., to the text w/o having to highlight it again, run a fix, ad nauseum.

BBEdit 8 presents a new layer of refinement and capability, the least of which is not the document drawer. Here is one thing that I do like, but prefer a tabbed interface a la Safari or EditPlus. I would LOVE for Bare Bones to add this option in the preferences. I realize that there is *sort of* a tab bar, but, to me, it is counter-intuitive. I have to click it, and a menu pops up of the docs I have open. Or I could click the right/left arrows to navigate thru my docs. But at least give me the option to remove those and place aquafied tabs of my docs.

In addition to the tabs, I need to be able to have a single keystroke to switch documents like I have when I switch windows - the command+` key. Instead, BBEdit forces me to use three-fingered commands - and two of them, to jump between documents. I find this inefficient and a waste of my time. Don't get me wrong, I like it better than having to have two windows open - I prefer it with the document drawer. But here's where EditPlus' tabbed documents would be a lovely addition.

So if you guys read this, would you mind adding that for me? :-) Purty puleeze?

At first the vertical lines bothered me, but I'm used to it now to the point that I don't like it w/o them. And it is great that the depth of preference is there for color, saturation, etc. I love the ability to identify which line I'm on by a subtle highlight spanning the width of the page at the cursor location. Excellent touches that make this app stand out from the rest.

Do I recommend BBEdit for serious programmers - absolutely. For web site builders/maintainers? Yes. My one major drawback is the retail price. I honestly think BBEdit is overpriced by ... well, a lot of money. EditPlus is $30 for a one-user license. If I had to live on Windows, there's no question I'd own it. It's a great app with a compelling set of features. BBEdit has more features, but for $150 more?? It is my sincere hope that Bare Bones will lower the price w/o compromising the functionality. Bring it into a price parity with the rest of the text-editor market.

What would I pay for BBEdit? Well, I think that even $80 is high, but I'd be willing to swing it if it had every feature I want. If EditPlus were on OS X (and was AppleScriptable), I'd wager it'd win a lot of converts on price alone. I realize Bare Bones is not Microsoft (apps also overpriced), and they deserve to make a good living for the great products they make, but it is tough to scrape up enough change to take the plunge.

Even so, I need BBEdit for peace of mind in doing my work. If I make an error in my tags, the syntax highlighting changes giving me a visual indication that something is wrong. This is a good thing. EditPlus does this, too, fwiw.

So the bottom line is that my only *real* gripe is the retail price of the package. Otherwise it is hands down the best out there.

Having read numerous reviews/blogs on this topic, I know there are those of you who hate BBEdit and prefer apps like TextMate, TE+, et al., so your opinion is fine, but I've tried many of the apps suggested on those blogs and found them to pale in comparison to BBEdit. FWIW, I still think TE+ is excellent and phenomenal on pricing. If Mr. Bender adds tabs and auto-highlight-syntax, it' be a strong pull to go back. But for now, my hat is hung with BBEdit.