Do They Even Know Excel Script? Hmmmmm?

Jason Ward writing for Windows Central:

Despite rivals' success, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella isn't chasing an Apple- or Google-esque definition of cool. His mission for Microsoft is to make its brand a pervasive, intricate, and in many regards, a behind the scenes presence that helps make others cool.

I was going to write a response to this, but I honestly got lost reading the comment section at the bottom of the piece. The discussion being had level crazy. There's nothing I can write that would be more entertaining than this comments. Wow, just wow. For just a taste, here's one response to someone saying Chromebooks are a threat to Windows:

Tell me... what are the jobs that can earn a freshman 3k~ 10k+ a month? Def not arcade or convenient store staff.

How do you work efficient without menu key, shortcuts, multitasking, multi-windows, window snapping (with kb)?

Sure, maybe chrome os is eating US, but you aren't creating next-gen work force. Do they even know Excel Script?

Windows Completely Breaks My Blogging Workflow

Writing for this site is a hobby I’ve had for close to a decade at this point, and in that time, the workflow for getting content from my head to the site has gone through a million variations and has changed a ton. As technology has improved and App Stores have have allowed more interesting services, these changes have almost always been for the better; removing steps and friction along the way.

My switch to Windows these past few weeks has not only blown up those workflows, which was expected, but it doesn’t seem to have any suitable replacements that feel like they’re any better than blogging on the Mac/iPad was 10 years ago.

After a few weeks trying different solutions, this is what I’ve settled on as the best workspace for writing for BirchTree:

If you’re thinking “that looks like Word!” then you would be right. This is Open Live Writer, which is an open source version of an app Microsoft used to maintain, and it is basically a stripped down Word app with publishing tools. If you think writing blogs in Word is fun, then this if for you. If you want to write in a WYSIWYG editor then this might work for you, but I dramatically prefer Markdown. I know how my site renders the multitude of types of data a blog post can contain, and writing in Markdown (and switching to HTML if needed) is essential for me. Having an app convert my work to whatever HTML it thinks is right fills me with apprehension. I actually posted 3 drafts to the site from Open Live Writer before this post because I was trying to figure out how it would render things.

Beyond the WYSIWYG editor, this is also less useful for me in numerous other ways:

First, there is no way to quickly get information into the app for something like a link post. On the Mac there are extensions for apps like MarsEdit, and iOS has options that use Ulysses or Drafts to automatically pull multiple data points from a website and compile them into a new post with just a tap. With this it’s now bouncing back and forth between the site and app as I copy the post name, link, quote text, and post title one at a time.

Second, the publishing tools in the app are less robust than I’m used to with Ulysses. I can set a time, tags, and categories, but I lose the ability to do featured images, excerpts, custom URLs, and the option to post as Markdown instead of HTML.

Third, there is no way to make larger multi-part documents, which is something I rely on heavily for my longer pieces. My watchOS 5 review currently has 7 documents total and I’ve been able to move things around quite easily as the flow of the whole piece takes form as I write. No app I can find on Windows even has this concept in place at all. I would need to have one massive document with everything in it, which is a tough way to work.

And finally, this is a personal preference thing, but I really don’t find the interface to be pleasant at all. Like I said earlier, it feels very much like Microsoft Word, which is not an experience I cherish. Also, it just feels old. Check out the animation that plays when it’s publishing an article:

That takes me back to the Windows XP days.

I will strive to make this work for as long as I can, but it’s a markedly more painful way to work than what I had on all other platforms. Since I do this work a lot it’s going to be hard to not run screaming back to the iPad in a few days, but I’ll do my best. The watchOS 5 review is happening all on the iPad though, I literally don’t know how I’d make it work on Windows.

They told me the benefit of using Windows in a tablet was that it was the “no compromises” operating system. While there are a few small things I can do on Windows that aren’t possible on iOS, the vast majority of things I can do are basically defined by compromise. I’m compromising on app quality in almost everything I do.

Windows Getting Online Clipboard Sync

Windows Central on this new feature coming in the next Windows release:

With Cloud Clipboard, Microsoft is creating a virtual clipboard that can be shared across all your Windows 10 devices, allowing you to copy something on one PC and then paste it on another. This is useful if you're someone with multiple Windows 10 devices. It may even come to smartphones at some point.

This should sound familiar to anyone who uses iOS and macOS. Apple has had this on their platform for a while now, and it’s one of my favorite things about being all in on Apple’s platforms. Copy on my iPhone and paste almost immediately on my iPad. It’s magical.

This update will deliver a similar service, but only for Windows 10 devices. Time will tell how well it works, and the fact it’s only Windows to Windows sync means that most people won’t get a benefit as their phone/tablet is likely not running Windows, but there are 2 things about this that give me hope.

  1. This not only adds cross-device sync, it also adds a clipboard history. I can’t live without this on my Mac (Alfred) and PC (Ditto) and having it built in at the system level can only be a good thing. Even if it isn’t perfect, it should push third party apps to up their game.
  2. There is a chance this could come to Android in the future. Android can allow for apps to track your clipboard in the background (with the user’s permission, of course) and Microsoft could make an app to do this. It wouldn’t help iPhone users like me, but it could certainly be great for tons of people.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on this one.

Apple Could Learn Something from Windows 10's Multiple Desktops

I finally upgraded my work PC to Windows 10 a few weeks ago (from Win8, shudder) and the move has been a success overall. Outside of taking almost 4 hours to complete the upgrade, everything is running smoothly. The new operating system has a few features I like, but the thing that stands out the most is how it handles multiple desktops.

Multiple desktops have been a part of Mac OS X since 2009's Leopard release, and they have been an integral part of how I organize my digital life. My Mac setup is a single 23 inch monitor with 2 desktops for windows to live in (one for design, one for development) and a few full screen apps (Ulysses, and a few that cycle in and out)1. This organization system works well for me and helps me keep my work organized. Because this makes my side work so efficient, it's always bugged me that Windows didn't have a comparable feature that I could use at my day job.

Microsoft has not only answered my prayers for having multiple desktops on Windows, but they've actually done it a little better than Apple. Shocking, I know! To explain why Windows' solution is nicer, let's talk about why Apple's is a little frustrating.

Say I have 2 desktops running on my Mac. The first desktop has a Chrome window open with a couple tabs open. When I switch over to my second desktop, I realize that I want to search for something online, so I click Chrome in my dock to open a new window on this desktop. What macOS does is shoot me back to my first desktop because that's where Chrome currently lives. While I clicked Chrome to open a new window here, the Mac interpreted that as take me to the desktop with Chrome open. It's a simple disagreement of what my intention is.

In this same scenario on Windows, I would get the result I expect: a new Chrome window would open on the second desktop, having no impact on the already open windows on desktop one.

This problem is partially solved by right clicking on the Chrome icon in my dock and selecting "open a new window" which will do exactly what I want, but it's an extra click for something that should be easier. I would say 95% of the time when I click an icon, I want the computer to open that for me where I am, not to take me to where it is elsewhere.

Windows goes a step farther by changing the status of each app in the task bar. Going back to the Chrome example from above, if I have a Chrome window open on desktop 1, but not desktop 2:

macOS shows a dot next to Chrome no matter what desktop I'm on.

Windows shows Chrome as active on desktop 1, but not on desktop 2.

It's a subtle difference, but one that exemplifies how each OS maker thinks about multiple desktops. There is a harder separation between desktops on Windows than there are on macOS. Maybe Apple prefers it this way, but I don't.

As a side note, the Mac is infinitely better when it comes to navigating between desktops than Windows. The keyboard shortcut to switch between desktops on Windows is Ctrl+Alt+left/right arrow, which it's Ctrl+right/left arrow on the Mac. Even easier is the two finger swipe you can do on the Magic Mouse or Trackpad. And all these animations are butter smooth on my 2012 Mac mini while my high end PC stutters when animating the desktop changes on Windows 10.

Another note, you can tell macOS to not switch immediately to the desktop that has the open window, but it still doesn't open a new window for you, it just waits for one more click on the icon to bring you to the other space. It's a medium solution, but isn't ideal.

  1. There is no desktop for "fun" because all that has moved to my iPad. I really only use my Mac for things my iPad just can't do yet.