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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Chrome extensions

When the Chromebook first came out, I didn't find the "live in a browser" idea very compelling. But I spent a little while today looking at a couple of things that may change my mind: extensions that operate as light, attractive, highly focused apps. After a while, I can see that it could be quite possible to live within Chrome's tabs, especially as the apps and data are portable across Windows, the Mac and Linux (but not, alas, the iPad, although I imagine this will change eventually).

First up: Do It (Tomorrow). Its user interface will make you laugh. Click to open the book and you get two pages: Today and Tomorrow. No categories, no priorities, no subtasks, no Getting-It-Donnybrooks.

You can choose between two typefaces. After you type in something to do, you have three options.
1. Click on it to draw a line through it.
2. Click on a little arrow to move it to Tomorrow.
3. Don't do anything. It stays on Today.

That's it!

I realize that such a extravagantly minimalist interface wouldn't work for many. But I find myself absurdly pleased with it. I mean, Today or Tomorrow. When it comes to planning that's all we've got, anyhow, and we can't even be sure of tomorrow. How many functions and options do we need, really?

The learning curve is under 10 seconds. The app is free, and syncs automatically to Adylitica. If you would prefer to have it sync with Google Tasks, too, that's $4.95.

The second extension is Yommoo, "my sticky note whiteboard." It's free. Again, it has nothing like the sophistication sought by power users. Here's what you can do:

* create several whiteboards
* create a sticky note, and drag it around, off, or back onto the screen
* search the notes not currently on the screen
* use an "o" (the letter oh) before a line to make a task
* share the whiteboard via an email invite

The third is Mindmaps. This HTML5 mindmapping app has a couple of interesting twists in the User Interface. But it doesn't take long to work it out. It saves to Google Drive and Dropbox. I found some of the file management options a little odd (it seemed to make another copy of the file every time I saved it). But it makes for reasonably attractive mind maps.

Finally, I'm writing this in the "Memo Notepad" extension -- another one from the producers of Do It (Tomorrow). It looks a lot like the iPad notes app -- title on the left, ruled notepaper on the right. You can pay 50 cents to turn on direct email from the note, or $4.95 to save to GDrive or Dropbox. Otherwise, the notes stay local on your computer (in the browser cache). With yet another extension (Text statistics), a right click on selected text gives a word count, too.

My point: I'm noticing a decided turn in my preferences toward simple and ubiquitous. The Cloud approach means that you don't pay very much for the functions, wind up with a portable desktop, and the user interfaces are pleasure to use.

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