Sanebox – A Better Email Experience

September 23rd, 2013 § 37 comments § permalink

There is a worldwide epidemic happening, and I feel like someone finally needs to say something about the problem: email hoarding. We’re all guilty of it. It’s easy to rack up thousands of emails over the years. We can’t keep living in a world up to our eyeballs in mail, so what can we do about it? I decided to take the challenge head on and achieve Inbox Zero.

After searching around for a solution, I stumbled across SaneBox. It does what it implies: bring sanity to your inbox. It uses an algorithm to understand my past behavior and move less important emails out of my inbox and into a folder named SaneLater. If something’s in the wrong place, I just drag and drop it. That being said, it’s right almost 100% of the time.

It does way more than just filter though. As an entrepreneur, my favorite feature is SaneReminders. It lets me know when a contact hasn’t emailed me back, so I can be sure to follow up at the right time. It also has one click unsubscribe and snooze folders, which are an added bonus. Best, it works anywhere I check my email – phone, laptop, tablet, etc.

If you want to join me in the Inbox Zero revolution, you should definitely check out SaneBox.

10 reasons why windows 8.1 still dissapoint

September 20th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

after two months, i’m finally starting to see the other side of the new windows.

  1. IE 11 in metro UI is very interesting browser. why wouldnt we put tabs on the bottom and make them into thumbnails? why wouldnt we make browser black? the whole app feels much more comfortable than safari or chrome or opera with their ‘efficient’ focus. however, IE currently doesnt show rounded corners. even worse, it shows absolutely fugly X marks across every windows/div that should be rounded. it’s amazingly fugly. and amazingly annoying over time, to the point that i had to switch back to chrome.
  2. chrome on the other hand is crippled. plugins only work in desktop mode, which means i have to switch from metro every time i want to use flash or hangouts. also, in hangouts, my built-in camera doesnt work. i realize it’s not windows problem, but ironically it will add up to a potential decision to switch OS again.
  3. apps keep crashing. both evernote and trello and chrome, the apps i need and like the most, are unstable. i realize it’s because i’m early to use them, but still – it’s unacceptable to loose a note in evernote. repeatedly. i was forced to switch to desktop version of evernote, which is, meh. i really like metro one.
  4. despite efforts from apple, my macbook air seems to be unsupported – it started ok, but now less and less functions still work – brightness control (of any kind), earphones output, usb dies from time to time, and i still didnt figure out how hibernation / suspend work. lucky for me it’s mainly plugged into power these days. the brightness problem is hard on my eyes and might make me switch back in the end.
  5. the powershell is limited in width. that’s just incomprehensible to me. it’s hard to program this way.
  6. all my music is in itunes. i feel locked-in a bit, into ugly, non-metro itunes. disappointed by apple, but again, it might affect my decision.
  7. the computer sometimes just shuts off while i’m away, and i find it rebooted without explanation. it’s not hugely annoying, but it leaves bad taste and makes you feel insecure.
  8. there are no upgrades and fixes! well, to be honest, there was one. i couldn’t tell what changed. i’m waiting on them every day, since this is a year long preview, i assumed it’s because they want to actually fix these problems. at least the rounded corners or something.
  9. desktop mode is still, well, everything we hate about windows – bloated with features, severe lack of smart defaults, free-for-all platform that i dont want to use.
  10. mail and calendar dont really work with google account. i barely managed to get read-only calendar working, and it took me two days to enable two-factor authentication gmail account to work, which sadly stopped working after first month. i still didnt figure out how to fix it, and am forced to use chrome for mail now. i really miss that email client, even though it doesn’t support the ‘archive’ feature of gmail.
… all of these problems are slowly creeping up on me, making me feel more and more miserable. what hurts the most is that as a user, i can feel that the designers and coders and testers did not have me in mind when building this product. i feel neglected, alone and sad, because my gmail account doesnt work. i’m not so special – there must be hundreds of thousands of people just like me, who are ignored by such great people who designed this amazing product.
and this is the key lesson i got from these two months of the experiment. the users feel if you think about them, or if you dont. it’s felt in the details from their everyday life, not the overall design and decisions like buttons vs. tiles. those are really just the start.

10 reasons why windows 8.1 is better than os x right now

September 13th, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

i’m performing an experiment on myself this summer – i switched completely to the new windows 8.1 when it came out, and have used them exclusively. to be honest, i didn’t think i’d last a day, but then a week passed by, then a month, and i still wasn’t missing the os x.
i have a long history with OS’s. i started with dos and windows 95 of course, then used linux exclusively for 10 years, recently have been using OS X exclusively for 4 years. these switches were usually related to the changes in the work / fun i had with my computer. last few years i’ve turned into an office hog, with occasional perl and django programming. the point is, i know my way around different OS’s as a power user, and it’s been ages since we’ve seen any real innovation in the space.
so i did it. and i was fascinated. here’s why:
  1. great apps designed for touch, means they are clean on desktop. i dont have windows tablet, but i sure appreciate that i can use the same apps, that were designed for fingers, on my computer. the fact that all these great apps were redesigned from scratch for this new experience, gives them amazing usability advantage over the apps that started with ‘windows’ paradigm. evernote touch, trello, maps, and similar, are simply joyful to use. there is nothing but what i need from them on the screen at any point in time. nothing. nada. zilch. no buttons, no menus, no chrome, not even sliders. only me and the content i want to focus on. you can feel that the whole UI is designed for monotasking, and is driving you towards that, no-add usage patterns, that end up in lower blood pressure and better sleep.
  2. gorgeous email and calendar client. built on top of the previously explained monotasking UI paradigm, they finally did a good job with the basic apps. remember the revolution apple mail and calendar did ten years ago? the same leap is happening here.
  3. just enough stacking windows. i understand that back in the eighties, the big war of the OS’s was exactly about the ability to show windows that overlapped. but i feel so much better in the new metro UI with windows that can only stack next to each other, and can only do so on three places on the screen. smart and efficient default, that makes the user feel safe and in control. want to take notes while doing a skype call? no problem, just stack ‘one quarter’ of the evernote touch next to skype, and you can do that without being left with horribly looking set of overlapping windows, taskbar and desktop peeking trough holes.
  4. live tiles and start area. i was impressed when apple introduced launchpad into os X- the concept they learned worked on tablets worked just as well on desktop. but they stopped there, and microsoft didnt. it makes so much more sense to go all in, and make it the default screen, that is designed to give control to you fingertips. this time for real. and guess what – squares with sharp corners and text are just fine, i dont need stupid circular icons that don’t mean anything. building ‘dashboard widgets’ straight into the tiles themselves, is the ultimate simplification that basically merges four OS X features: launchpad, the dock, dashboard, task bar. beat this apple!
  5. works out of the box. it only rebooted twice and it just worked. i could start clicking around, setting it up in many useless but joyful ways. also, the new booting fish progress bar is cute.
  6. burns less battery. really, this is a big one. in today’s world of bloated software i really really appreciate OS that is economical.
  7. charms are small featurettes available trough a right pane that shows when you move the mouse to that edge. they are actually pretty useful – as opposed to os x’s random social media and notifications bar, charms are tools – print, scan, share, setup, search. it’s the same genius that was behind the apple icon in the fixed menu bar ten years ago, just better.
  8. new metro control panel – apple’s control panel with great search highlighter was brilliant. new metro control panel is better, because you dont really have to search it to find stuff – it’s so much simpler, and so much cleaner, that it takes you no time to find and change a setting. and there are no settings available, that wouldnt be obviously necessary, while everything else apparently just works so i dont have to think about it.
  9. external screen behaves by default either as a continuous desktop or two separate metro areas, giving you great flexibility to arrange a work environment, without loosing the benefits of cleanliness and monotasking focus.
  10. social response. it’s really fun to observe how my colleagues one by one noticed the hated OS on my machine, had a cynical or puzzled or worried comment, listened to my explanation and demo of these features with tilted head, and left with some respect in their eyes and a glimpse of excitement and hope. when you see these feature work properly, they are impressive.

as a bonus let me just add that everything else that used to be good at windows is still good, and more stable. my next step is to get a windows phone and see how they work together.

keep in mind, that i’m trying to behave as a somewhat normal user – i need my computer to give me a reliable and predictable access to web, mail, spreadsheets, notes, music, cloud, pictures, news and some other things. no power user crap this time.

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