Window Overload

21 February 2004

I understand what Tom’s going through; so many times I’ve ignored an important application update because I basically have too many things open to close.

Of course, your definition of “too many” will depend on who you are. When Safari gets more than a certain number of tabs, it scrolls them off the tab window into a dropdown. When that happens, I always work to reduce them immediately – just because the point of tabs is that I can see what I’ve got open. I have been known to use multiple Safari windows, but we’re talking two; one for browsing, perhaps the other for a specific set of tabs – a project, a job application, a single site tabbed out to logical extremes. That’s my breaking point. One afternoon last week, I was busy working at work, and getting more and more tense, and I realised that one of the major contributions to this stress was the sheer number of windows I had open; the taskbar was overloaded with tiny buttons. This is partly because of the pain of having to use IE instead of a browser with tabs – I had about 10-12 IE windows (webmail, two or three with content management/production sites from work, two or three with the actual live sites in, plus several reference ones), the Outlook Inbox, some emails, and two Notepad windows. My brain went: “too much!“. So I hit Windows-M, and went through them, one by one, culling anything bookmarked or saved, let the pressure off, and started opening windows again.

It might come down to screen resolution. My Powerbook runs at 1024*768, and I don’t have Expose, so I tend to make good use of the Hide function; quite often, almost everything runs hidden, and I tend to hide when I’m swapping between several apps – say, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Safari and Fetch. Both Dreamweaver and Photoshop are screenwhores – all those palettes – so they’re the first to be vanished. I really like the hide function; I’ve been using it since almost day one of my OSX life and it makes a huge amount of difference on the small screen.

I can see why Tom wants to save states and bookmarks. Part of my new portable-computing regime is that I can read lengthy posts or articles on the web at leisure. After breakfast, whilst getting dressed, I pull everything I want to read into seperate tabs, and then hide Safari. Presuming it doesn’t crash, I can work my way through them on the train. Obviously I can’t follow links, but that’s not my goal. I deal with overload faster than Tom does; I open almost every new link into a tab, but I close them sooner. For instance, when I have a Google search, I’ll open a result into a new tab; if it’s appropriate, I’ll leave it, if not, I’ll close it. When I’ve got enough result-tabs open, the original tab disappears. And so on. So, whilst not quite as window-overloaded as Tom (perhaps because of his higher screen resolution) I’m still using my browser more in the way that groc can’t understand. And whilst software and hardware companies offer us the choice and ability to work in this way, they ought to support it too.

Or else I’m never going to upgrade my software ever again.

Outboard Brain

21 February 2004

I’m beginning to discover the usefulness of the portable computer. I’ve already been introduced to the joys of Wifi inernet access; but now I’m discovering where the laptop really makes a difference to me.

Essentially, it makes good use of downtime. Every day, I have an hour long commute, and it’s usually about half an hour before I hit the underground. So I get 30 minutes of good, unbroken time. Now, I’m often not very awake in this hour. Sometimes I’m able to read – usually because my brain only knows it’s tired when it’s not got anything to divert it. Recently, though, I’ve had odds and ends to work on – site layouts, email, documents to read, articles to write – and have discovered this unbroken 30 minutes to be invaluable admin-time. I don’t have any net access for the laptop until I get home at night, either, so it’s a good time to work on things entirely unrelated to the internet (yes, there are several). For half an hour, I can’t check facts online, or grab my email, or open a chat client. I can look out the window, true; but basically, it’s half an hour of work. And it’s proving really productive; it’s a great time to do all the little things before I get to a net connection and need to be a reader, not a writer, again. Odd bits of image editing; covering letters; CSS jiggery-pokery. All these things are getting done, and it’s not taking up extra time; I’m just using my time differently.