DT 3.0beta4 - some thoughts
I ‘bought’ DTPO 1. in 12/2006 but only fairly recently use it regularly (almost every day; in the early days, I found the steep learning-curve too time-consuming: the gradient has become easier - I am fitter too - but I often wonder whether I am anywhere near the top of how DTPO could cater for my requirements. Also, I have DevonAgent Pro 3 which I occasionally remember to use; and DEVONsphere Express 1 which I’d forgotten about until earlier today whilst checking my licences.
It seems to me that DT is marketed as a fairly comprehensive database organiser of documents, for note-taking, web clippings, and writing generally, a sort of one app fits all. From what I’ve read, DT is better for organising existing documents rather than creating documents from scratch. From scratch DT can do but as a note taker and for writing generally needs saveable customisation to make it user friendly: a user custom default template for example when clicking the Plain Text or Rich Text icons. I have found that the width of the editor can be narrowed with custom styles but document or page set up could be easier.
I got DTPO for the sorter and automatically date each entry, a feature I found lacking in other apps at that time. Perhaps to do with how I run my business, but I need to be able to automatically date each entry*. For me the sorter is the attraction because as soon as I hear the telephone ringing I select my keyboard shortcut so I am ready to start taking notes of conversation during the call before answering. After the call, click save on the sorter and I can resume whatever i was doing before the interruption knowing that the entry is safely in the inbox of my choice. *Since getting TypeExpander, having DT date each entry isn’t so important because I now keyboard shortcut prefix entries myself. So now I mainly use DT for clippings, random notes, and searching pdfs and from my experience this week OCR pdf, rather than Acrobat Pro X1 (but use Acrobat for my other needs).
As someone who creates efficient systems for my own management, the concept of the paperless office (life-style even) is attractive. Easier and quicker to search on a computer than in a filing cabinet. Presupposing that the computer is reliable! (Back-up to an external HD or some sort of ‘Cloud’ is ok but it still needs a computer in working order which is why I find it surprising back-up advocates rarely mention having a second computer available if the need arises.)
If in your life to date you’ve somehow managed to avoid paper communication or are setting up a new business or launching a new project from scratch then committing to software that suits your requirements is, with respect, a darn sight easier than those of us whose legacy is paper communication. In my case, my business, established in 1975, I have a small empire, much of which occupies seven 4-drawer filing cabinets, five floor-almost-to-ceiling bookshelves, odds-and-sods, 2 rooms. In a by-gone era, when scanning was rare except perhaps in very big companies, more than one sheet of paper on the same subject were often stapled together, duplex-printing unusual. To wade through one typically thick file of papers, removing staples paperclips and deciding what to keep takes me approximately 30 minutes - and that’s before scanning, itself not always straightforward when paper-sizes differ. In theory, to un-occupy physical space I could process one file a day but. in practice, apart from converting the past into gigabytes, about a month of my life would be spent concentrating on doing something unproductive.
That scenario is not I imagine untypical. Circa 5 years ago, I embarked upon the paperless principle. Outgoing communications to pdf, including printing emails to pdf (yes I know I could import emails to DTPO but I prefer to use pdf kept in Finder folders), most incoming similarly. I have partially kept up. Frequently, I hunt around for something only to find it where at the time I thought would be a good place to keep it. Every so often, I tidy up to get on track again. In the world of apps, the thought of enabling users to avoid such scenarios has resulted in a gamut of software developers, mouth-watering the prospect of making loads of money from selling apps to make life paperless. One only has to browse forums to realise just how many different similar apps people buy only to stop using soon afterwards. .
What’s all that got to do with DT3? All apps have their individual attractions but often, in my experience, their limitations are too limited, or rather the impression received by customers differs from the impression intended. The snag with any app that is not bespoke is that invariably the design is by people that have either created the app to fill a need in their own lives in the hope that others might have the same need, or base their thinking on the type of users they know. We customers, the vast majority I should think, are expected to adjust to what is on offer (and be educated/encouraged to imagine that how we do things now could be improved upon! ). Only if enough of us complain or agree with the wish list does the developer release a version with the ‘desired’ features. (Currently, I am using a beta of an app whose existing version I find very useful. I contacted the developer to find out how to alter the settings for something in particular. Not only did I get a reply by return, but also the latest beta incorporates a default setting of my requirement.) I appreciate that some apps are more complicated to code than others and DT is probably amongst the more complicated but as far as I am concerned the fact that my request resulted in a new feature, as distinct from, for example, being told as is common on this forum that there are no plans for the request, is, to my way of thinking the difference between a customer-focussed developer and one whose only aim is to get the app out of beta asap.
I have an acquaintance, a highly-qualified IT consultant, whom I describe as of the old-school. Unless he thinks something is logical, he dismisses any suggestion to the contrary. With respect, I have that impression of DT. Having in DTPO created software that in its time was quite possibly streets ahead of the competition, there has been no logical need to change things except to fix bugs and update to OS. But, during the 13 years since I first got DTPO 1 - now at version 2.11.3 - other developers in same target market haven’t rested upon their laurels. What others have capitalised upon is a new generation of customers, possibly younger but not exclusively, for apps that are beautifully-designed, intuitive and a pleasure to use. Personally, I think there is too much superficiality and not enough substance amongst consumer market apps, but that’s no reason to reinforce the substance as if the superficial were mundane. Design is not just about appearance but also how it works; and vice versa.
I appreciate DT3 is in beta and it’s DT’s product and DT entitled to do whatever they like with it, but a public beta ought to imply, surely, that it’s not simply about getting us to find bugs to be ironed out but also taking on board for the finished DT3 suggestions the developers may not have thought of? As DT’s customers, contributors might feel as though we are part of something ‘new’, rather than guinea pigs for testing what has been decided already.
I may be wrong, in which case I forgive myself, but I sense it might be taking development longer to get DT3 finished than envisaged. Sorry to say this but I can’t help thinking, in the process of updating the UI including redesigning layout and tightening the logic of features, that for users DT3 isn’t actually going to be as good as it could or should be. Had I not been a long-term customer of DT I doubt I would be excited by DT3. For example, with respect, the use of scripts seems to me, as a non-scripter and completely dependent upon the kindness of others, might not have been a bit of a cop-out >10 years ago when software for the masses was in its infancy but, nowadays, if scripts enable users to experience DT’s full potential then the feeling I have it’s as though the developers think it somehow beneath them to enable scripts to be used by also adding the feature icon to the toolbar, as distinct from searching for a script only via the menus.
The snag with software marketing is that benefits and features intended to attract customers are often easier said than done. I enjoy trialling software so it usually takes me seconds to discover whether beyond the hype an app is not all it makes out to be. With DT what attracts is an impression of ease of using and capabilities in popular parlance. Take, for example, save a workspace, I’m told from answer to my question elsewhere on this forum that the workspace save doesn’t include the user’s choice of columns in list view. Surely if you’ve taken the time to arrange the settings for what you see on screen to your liking it should be saveable so you can resume when you next open the app? Columns should also surely be auto-sizeable.
As for the sync, others don’t seem concerned so probably my failure to understand terminology, but I gave up long ago and unless this post results in simple one-by-one steps in plain English on what do to I can’t see myself having another attempt. I use Droxbox. With Scrivener, for example, the Dropbox sync set up was for me straightforward including the help and forum (which took account of my novice questions and misuse of terminology) so now whenever I save a project file I know that my other devices will have access to the latest version of the file whenever I sync update. In fact, it works so well for me that I am seriously considering using Scrivener for much of what I use DTPO for and from what I’ve gathered DT3 can do, whilst any pdfs I want with me wherever in Dropbox. And limiting my use of DT3 for web clippings, OCR and searching imported pdfs. (I also use Things: having had its limitations pointed out to me on this forum I now understand why DT doesn’t provide its own sync, but it does mean that whenever not at my iMac and copy content from the web I tend to use Things (or chunky copy to IOS Notes).
Conventionally, developers launch an app and, pre-supposing wanting a sustainable business, as time passes future releases incorporate user suggestions for features. Future releases might include bug fixes, but the main attraction to any user unaffected by the bug is the new features. Nowadays good ideas spread like wildfire and can travel around the world in nanoseconds. When the originator of a good idea launches an app but is subsequently slow off the mark, the popularity of the idea inspires newcomers to jump on the bandwagon promoting features that attract new customers but which to the originator are dismissed as nothing wonderful. When the originator does decide to update it looks like the update is catching up in which case nothing special so far as non-existing customers are concerned. Whereas what in my view should happen is that the originator should continue to be streets ahead.
Anyone can make money by providing what people want to buy now: the big profits come from anticipating what people will want and being there to provide it. And since the profit margin on software pricing is however much the market will bear, once the development costs have been covered, it is laughing all the way to the bank. (I note that DT promotes that DT is an investment, not a cost. With respect, it’s a cost. An investment is something that appreciates in value. Promoting cost as an investment is a proven way to justify the asking price; and since I understand DT gives discount to some categories of buyers, the higher price the rest of us pay subsidises the discount. )
It seems to me that DTPO.1 was streets ahead and DTPO.2 a slight improvement, but DT3 is a catch up, tinkering at the edges and putting off what users would like until some unspecified time in future. If I were asked to advise then I should strongly recommend DT3 be streets ahead again. Otherwise there is the risk that when DT3 is released, knowledgeable critics will be unfazed, new customers deterred by the complexity and omissions.
This might be too much to expect but if finishing DT3 is taking longer than envisaged then if only to avoid the disappointment that could arise if DT3.0 does not include most if not all of the suggestions made to the expiry of the final beta then surely it would pay for DT to take on board and become irresistible to the majority of the target market, not just existing users?