How Dedicated Things Are Better

Refocus

Hey there, blogosphere! Hope your 2020 is going well. My blog pace has slowed down in the last few months, but I’m still cruisin’ along here. This post is on the tech verve. Last week, my brain started to re-notice how single-purpose devices or services are often better than their multi-function counterparts. So here’s a re-visit of this tech topic.


Hardware

One of the things that stands out clearly for single-purpose devices is their clear direction. It’s the fact that when you look at some ‘thing’, you know it does this one thing. Like old-school point-n-shoot cameras, when you see one, you know exactly what it does and what it’s for. It exists for one purpose: taking pictures (oh okay, videos too I guess, so “images” that are either still or moving). So simplicity and clarity are nice benefits of solo-function-focus.

There’s another great advantage to a mono-tasked gadget: capability. Sticking with the camera example, not only do you know exactly what it does, you know it excels at what it does. Every part of the camera is designed with the explicit purpose of taking great photos. They typically have more functions and buttons to control the photo-graphing experience and produce the one thing it lives for: pictures.

It’s pretty obvious that certain gadgets do one thing and do it well. While a smartphone or a tablet can do a lot of things, sometimes single-purpose gizmos are best. Besides a camera, I tend to note the eReader (e.g. a kindle) is best for simply reading lots of books. And hand-held gaming devices, like Nintendo’s 3DS line or the Switch, excel at gaming (dedicated buttons!) more than a phone or tablet. These are examples of hardware tailor-built to one certain task. But the single-purpose paradigm also benefits software.

Software

Let’s start with the example of Microsoft Word. It’s a word processor made to do one thing: process words. Right? True, yet many people also know that Word was once a really simple program. But over the years, Word’s feature-set grew; its capabilities stretched beyond processing just words to processing whole documents of many sorts. Its simplicity in doing one thing was obscured by complexity, going beyond just typing and editing text.

Another good example of single-purpose software is a Journaling app. For many years, I used general note-taking apps for journaling in addition to storing all my notes across different subjects. Most general purpose note apps let you organize or distinguish your groups of notes, either in folders or with tags, for example. So I just set my journal entries apart as dictated by the notes-app. This worked well enough for bare bones journaling.

Then I found a dedicated journaling app that I actually like to use. Other note apps can store my daily musings, but a single-purpose journal app can do more and better, all while keeping things simple. The journal app I settled on is called, “Journey.” It has many features for journaling that a general multi-purpose note-app lacks, such as a calendar that shows your daily entries and a graph that shows your recorded moods over time. (For my more in-depth review of Journey, click this link.)

Companies

Since we’re talking about note apps, I should go ahead and note another category of single-purpose entities. Just as hardware and software can be singular-focused, so can software companies; they can be dedicated to doing one thing well. So both Apple and Google make many different software apps. In addition, Apple makes hardware, and now they also make services and entertainment content! Of the software, Apple makes a notes-app, and they also make Apple Music. While both are great, I’ve discovered that there’s an advantage to single-purpose companies for software and services.

Committed to notes, the company I like is Evernote. They exist to do one thing and do it remarkably well: create and maintain an app and cloud service for note taking. That’s it! They’re all about notes. The company’s purpose is laser-focused into a robust and reliable note-taking platform. All their energy and dedication go to providing people a way to record, store, and manage notes. Their reputation is banked on notes, nothing else. That’s their single-purpose.

And because they exist outside and independent of Apple or Google and those respective platforms, Evernote’s third-party status means they’re available everywhere. If you use them to take all your notes on an iPhone but then switch to an Android phone, you won’t lose your notes. Heck, you won’t need to migrate or transfer them either. Just sign-in on your new device and you’re good to go!

My last example is music. All the songs! I tried Apple’s and Google’s music streaming offerings…in the end, I settled with Spotify, a company with one function, a single-purpose: provide an awesome music service everywhere you are, be it on iPhone or Android or Windows or Chrome. All of Spotify’s resources are committed to excelling at this one thing: music streaming. Their mission is straightforward, and their vision is not clouded by side-projects. They just do music, and they stake their entire reputation on just that. So they strive to be the best at the one thing they do. As a Spotify subscriber, that gives me confidence in using their app and service across my Apple and Google devices.


The Point

So this post has kinda stacked the deck towards single-purpose things. But I do agree to the counter-notion that multi-use devices have their place too. As with most things, each person should weigh the pros and cons of whatever it is you are using or might consider using. Basically, smartphones are a “jack-of-all-trades” and master most of those multi-purpose skills. But as good as my iPhone is, sometimes a “real” camera is better. And I generally prefer my kindle for eReading.

You get the idea. So maybe think a little about what kind of device(s) you prefer. And go with what works best for ya.


Do you find single-purpose devices better? What do you prefer? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Switch From iPad To Chromebook – 2

Typing Tool

If you don’t have the right tool for the job, you try to make the most of what you’ve got. I tried to use my clunky bluetooth keyboard for a long time, pairing with my iPad to use it like a laptop. It wasn’t the best fit, so I searched for a better tool. And…you’ll never believe what I found!


Finding a Laptop

After my wife brought home her shiny new Chromebook, this tech-geek saw the solution: an elegant unified device, a display and hardware keyboard designed to work together, always attached and connected. The fundamental form-factor was all there; it was a typing machine!

I was techcited.

Chromebooks are very good affordable laptops for many people and most computing needs. They even match some of the best qualities of a tablet: simple, fast, all-day battery. So I was attracted, admitting the temptation in a recent blog post.

Then I began to realize that the whole time I’ve used an iPad plus bluetooth keyboard, the proper mobile writing machine I’ve longed for is a laptop.

Because the iPad is so nice to use, I tried to make the tablet do more and be more than it was designed to do and be: adding appendages or adapters, transforming its form-factor from slate to laptop. But it wasn’t the right tool for the job. It’s capable yet not optimal for long-form writing simply because it has no mechanical keyboard.


Apple to Google

I couldn’t just ditch my awesome tablet, upend my computing workflow, and run out to buy a laptop! I’ve been all-in with Apple: just an iPhone and iPad. Chromebooks are Google-centric; Windows laptops are by Microsoft. The problem with switching from iPad to Chromebook is you’re not just swapping out a device, you’re moving to a new ecosystem. And just like in the wild, that means you must adapt.

If I were to flip-flop to using a Chromebook, I’d have to test out the Google-verse, dipping my toe into the water before taking the plunge. Ever the tech-geek, I became curious enough to do it. The thought alone helped me begin to escape Apple’s Reality Distortion Field.

 

Going Chrome

The thing about switching to Google is how easy it is since Google’s apps and services are on the web; you don’t need to buy a special device. Google’s native computing platform is the web! So any computer you have – smartphone to desktop – lets you step into the Google-verse with a click or a tap.

After some initial yet futile resistance, I started assimilating into Google’s machine. First I Google-fied my iPhone, downloading all the Google apps I wanted to check out. I still had the empty shell of my previous Google account, so logging in was easy.

Second, I took my budget Windows laptop and downloaded the Chrome browser. Then I made all the Google web-apps into shortcuts, which open in their own windows, so they also have icons on the taskbar. This made my Windows laptop become a pseudo-Chromebook!

Enveloped by Google’s online apps, I started re-thinking my writing work-flow. I was reluctant to switch everything, but to me it just makes sense to go all-in and reap the benefits of a holistic computing paradigm. For example, this meant using Gmail instead of Apple Mail and stepping back from the Ulysses writing app to using Google Docs!

Overall, I was surprised and delighted by the capability and aesthetic of Google’s cloud computing platform. So in earnest, my hunt for a good deal on a Chromebook kicked off. Good timing too, because early August is the season for back-to-school sales.


Chromebook Replaces iPad

In short time, my primary computer has changed from tablet to laptop because I needed and wanted a better mobile web-writing machine. I found an awesome deal on an excellent Chromebook and have been typing away – loving it! This blog post is the fourth I’ve published from my new Chromebook – directly to WordPress, using the convenient WordPress Add-On within Google Docs!

For this blogger, compared to a tablet, the clamshell laptop is the right tool for the write-job: big self-supporting touch-screen at any angle, full web-browser, and a full-size mechanical keyboard – and this one’s also backlit!

The iPad lacks a physical keyboard, the most basic tool for modern writing. You can add a keyboard, but that doesn’t mean you should. I’ll let the iPad be a terrific tablet, that third category device Steve Jobs said could live between a smartphone and a laptop.

I’m smitten with this new Chromebook, so I’ll probably post more about it and the whole switch-a-roo. Whether you’re a writer or you pursue a different occupation, be sure and use the right tool for the job. Don’t be afraid to change it up if that’s what you need to do. You’ll be glad you did.

If you want to read the first part of this post click here: Switch From iPad To Chromebook – 1.


Are you a writer? Do you prefer a tablet, laptop, or pen and paper? What’s the best tool for you? Write below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!