Stay on top of Apple Mail using Mail Perspectives

I was pleased to once again have a two-minute audio tip featured on Mac Power Users. In it, I describe Mail Perspectives, software that lets me stay on top of email by displaying a mini-window showing key information about recently arrived messages.

My tip starts here.

Listen to the whole episode here: #309: I Haven't Discounted The Possibility That You're Crazy

An archivist argues for archiving software, with a shout-out to George R.R. Martin

Researchers in April recovered Earthrise images from a 1966 Lunar Orbiter, after nearly 50 years in dormant tape storage.

Two days later, Carnegie Mellon researchers identified and retrieved graphics created by Andy Warhol on an Amiga 1000 PC in 1985. The “group forensically imaged floppy diskettes at the Andy Warhol Museum. After some elaborate intermediary steps, including reverse engineering the proprietary format in which the files were originally created and stored, the previously unseen images were released to the public.”

Archivists often talk about the need for preserving old applications, so that old documents can be read. But Matthew Kirschenbaum goes further, saying the software should be preserved for its own sake.

Software__It’s_a_Thing_—_Medium

Consider the case of George R.R. Martin and WordStar. A month after the Earthrise/Warhol recoveries, Martin told Conan O’Brien that he writes on WordStar on MS-DOS using a machine that isn’t connected to the Internet.

Martin dubbed this his “secret weapon” and suggested the lack of distraction (and isolation from the threat of computer viruses, which he apparently regards as more rapacious than any dragon’s fire) accounts for his long-running productivity.

WordStar has an honorable history:

Writers who cut their teeth on it include names as diverse as Michael Chabon, Ralph Ellison, William F. Buckley, and Anne Rice (who also equipped her vampire Lestat with the software when it came time for him to write his own eldritch memoirs). WordStar was justifiably advertised as early as 1978 as a What You See Is What You Get word processor, a marketing claim that would be echoed by Microsoft when Word was launched in 1983. WordStar’s real virtues, though, are not captured by its feature list alone. As Ralph Ellison scholar Adam Bradley observes in his work on Ellison’s use of the program, “WordStar’s interface is modelled on the longhand method of composition rather than on the typewriter.” A power user like Ellison or George R.R. Martin who has internalized the keyboard commands would navigate and edit a document as seamlessly as picking up a pencil to mark any part of the page.

And yet people branded Martin as a Luddite on social media.

Kirschenbaum writes that it’s “fascinating” that people view WordStar 4.0 as a key to its user’s personality — in this case, Martin’s.

The software, in other words, becomes an indexical measure of the famous author, the old-school command-line intricacy of its interface somehow in keeping with Martin’s quirky public image, part paternalistic grandfather and part Dr. Who character. We know, that is most of us of a certain age remember, just enough about WordStar to make Martin’s mention of it compelling and captivating.

Software, It’s a Thing

I’m fooling around with the Notebooks app.

It’s a writing app for the iPad, iPhone, and Mac. It has a Windows version too.

I think it might be the ideal app for me for nearly all my writing. That includes my professional journalism, personal blogging, creative writing, online comments, and random digital scribbles. It might replace a text editor, word processor, scratchpad app, Scrivener, and much of what I use Evernote for.

Or it might be a dog. I’ve only looked at the iPad version, and that for only a few minutes.

Still. Impressed.

www.notebooksapp