Home Screens – Gabe Weatherhead

This week’s home screen post features everyone’s favorite MacDrifter, Gabe Weatherhead (Twitter). In addition to being a PhD chemist, Gabe also has some serious IT and Mac chops. The MacDrifter is a prime example of a one-man blog with great Apple related content. Don’t miss it.

So Gabe, what is on your home screen?

What are your most interesting home screen apps?

Well, like you OmniOutliner is now comfortably on my home screen. Besides that I’ve been trying out a number of handwriting recognition apps lately. A few of them are stunningly accurate. I think that we still have considerable CPU overhead still available for all app categories other than games.

What is your favorite app?

My most used app is probably Simplenote but my favorite is OmniFocus. The interaction design as well as attention to detail is unequaled on iPad. It’s just a pleasure to use. The OmniGroup has a team of iOS design masters. I realize they are taking their lead from some Apple designs but they really nail some hard problems.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I love the idea of games, but I just don’t have the time or patience to stick with them. But if by “guilty” you mean the app that I waste a bunch of time in, then it’s a toss up between Tweet Library and Zite. Tweet Library is the most practical and useful Twitter client I have found, however there is still some debate for me as to whether Twitter is actually useful. Zite, on the other hand, gives me news tailored to my interests. In one Zite “issue” I can find articles about the iOS 5 features, interesting arguments for changes to the tax law, custom beer-brewing hardware and the latest kerfuffle over Arsenic based life forms.

What is the app you are still missing?

Up until a few weeks ago, I would have said OmniOutliner. Now I would just like real syncing in OmniOutliner. One of the killer features in OmniFocus is the syncing between all of the different devices I have. OmniOutliner is much closer in nature to OmniFocus than it is to OmniGraffle (which lacks sync). I have high hopes that the Omni Group will take advantage of the upcoming iOS5 cloud sync features with the rest of their products. 

I’d also love to see something like nvALT on iPad. Simplenote feels a little too simple now that nvALT has shown what low friction notes should look like. I recently jumped over to WriteRoom for iOS and it’s close to being what I want for a Simplenote client (except it uses Dropbox). I prefer the Simplenote syncing since it feels instantaneous in comparison with most Dropbox based text editors. Again, this all comes back to a dearth of sync options with iOS. It’s rather embarrassing that iOS 4 still needs to rely on Dropbox so much. It was obvious the first day the AppStore opened that these devices need to sync data. Hopefully we will finally get ubiquitous syncing with iOS 5. 

How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?

I use may iPad all day to track tasks and meetings. So, probably at least 50 times a day. More specifically I probably use it for 4 hours a day total time. That number looks stunning when I see it written out. However, my day jobs supports exchange mail on my iOS devices, so rather than being a slave to Outlook on my Windows machine, I just leave mail on my iPad and respond when necessary. It definitely reduces the Pavlovian response to reply immediately. So in a way, my iPad allows me to ignore Outlook more, which overall is a good thing. I gave up one master for another, but I feel more productive, which is what matters.

I also do almost all of my reading on the iPad. I read everything from eBooks, to RSS feeds, to Instapaper articles. Reading and writing are my two primary uses of iPad. It’s the first thing I pick-up in the morning and the last thing I put down before the lights go out.

What is your favorite feature of the iPad?

The iPad has encouraged application designers to forget that horrible user experience that has evolved with the mouse and file system. Because there is no such thing as a mouse hover event or contextual menu, UI design must be intuitive and app features easy to access. iPad just feels more natural and I can easily pick up most new apps without instruction. My 3 year old daughter, 60 year old mother and I can all effortless interact with the device and make it do wonderfully complex things. I can’t think of any other thing that has that kind of experience profile.

If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

That’s a tough question. Since Apple appears to be exceeding all expectations and inventing the future of technology I’m not sure I could add much. I would like to see them buy Dropbox and give everyone there a huge raise (and tighten up security a bit). The utility of iPad without Dropbox and Simplenote would be greatly diminished. Apple is missing the device connectivity that will be the future of mobile computing. As the desktop moves into the cloud, instant accessibility and transportability of data will be crucial. That does not exist in stock iOS devices today.

I am anticipating the full integration of voice recognition in iOS and the Mac OS. If I were in charge, I would push full steam ahead on integrating the Nuance technology at a low level. I believe voice control of rudimentary device functions is the next abstraction for user interaction. Instead of directly manipulating virtual controls through a touchscreen we should signal our intent as we would to one another through spoken words.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m a pretty big David Lanham fan for my Apple device backgrounds. While my lock screens are always photos of my daughter, my background images are always David Lanham art. I also have several of his prints hanging around my office and my daughter has this one in her room.

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