One of the perennial complaints of Windows users about the Mac is that there “isn’t enough” software available for it, but in my experience – since the advent of Mac OS X at least – Mac software development is creative and robust, and there are hundreds of really useful applications available, most of them for not much money at all. I know a lot of people spend their entire lives looking for free stuff, but independent software developers sometimes deserve to get paid. Not long ago, I started using Things by Cultured Code. It’s a brilliant way of organising your Things To Do, dumping everything in a folder until it needs attention, and I’ve found it worth every penny of the $50 it cost for a licence.
Having a lot of stuff on your plate can be a recipe for inertia and procrastination. I’ve never suffered much from either, but I understand how it can happen. With Things, you just make a note of the due date and give yourself a realistic time-scale. Most tasks benefit from being broken down into 20-minute chunks, though that’s not compulsory. I’ve currently got 10 things in my Things inbox, ranging from big jobs (schemes of work) to one-off meetings. Everything is kept in perspective, and stuff only pops up when it really needs attention. In other words, you can enter it once, and forget about it until you need to do it.
Even more useful and utterly fantastic than Things, though, is Delicious Library 2 from Delicious Monster, which is $40 (worth every bit of it, and then some), or $39 as part of the current MacHeist bundle. Yeah, that’s right: $39 for several really useful software apps and a couple of great games.
Delicious Library is must-have. It’s a database for your stuff. Stuff like books, or CDs, DVDs, or anything – clothing, gadgets, power tools, jewellery. So far so that’s-what-computers-are-for. If you have a Mac with a built-in iSight, though, you don’t have to do any tedious entering of data. All you need to do is hold the barcode of the item up to your iSight camera, and the software adjusts for the bad focus (!) like something out of CSI and then populates your library with the item, complete with cover/artwork and full information. You don’t even have to look across to see what’s happening, because it beeps at you like a supermarket checkout and reads the title/author (or creator) out loud.
Boing! Just that alone is brilliant enough to make you smile. But there’s more.
Once it’s in your library, it’s saved in alphabetical order, and it can also link to reader reviews and recommendations. So if you like a particular artist/writer, you’ll get Amazon-style recommendations. Nothing much to write home about, but you’ve now got a complete database of your things, so if anything gets lost or stolen, you can provide information about replacement costs instantly. If you feel moved to sell something second-hand, you can start advertising it on Amazon with a couple of clicks. If you want to lend something out, you just drag it onto the person’s name in your address book, so (a) you’ll remember who’s got it and (b) you can be reminded in your iCal calendar of when it’s “due” back!
All well and good, and amazingly brilliant in action, but how does this help you with your bibliography woes?
You know how in iTunes you can create playlists? Any database is the same, so in Delicious Library, you can create a “shelf” of items – books you’ve referred to in an essay, for example. You can then export a bibliography – in a number of different styles (Chicago, MLA, Turabian, etc.) – as a rich text format document.
Boing! Done, and done. Like this:
Delicious Library Bibliography (Turabian Style)
Dozois, Gardner. 2007. The Year’s Best Science Fiction. St. Martin’s Griffin.
Dozois, Gardner. 2008. Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection. Griffin,U.S..
Dozois, Gardner, and Jonathan Strahan. 2007. The New Space Opera. Eos.
Williams, Sheila. 2007. Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine: 30th Anniversary Anthology. Tachyon Publications.
Takes seconds to do! You can also publish your library to a web site, print it, share it over a network, etc. Oh, and it automatically adds your iTunes library and will compare it to your “shelf” of physical CDs.
Absolutely brilliant. If you have a Mac with an iSight, get it! If you don’t have a Mac, get one! It’s that good. You will never get tired of scanning barcodes and hearing the item read out to you by little computer voice. I haven’t been this enthused about a piece of software since the original iMovie.