John Saddington worked on his new OS X publishing app, Desk, for about 250 days. I was priveleged to be invited to test the app for a few months so when it was released in the Mac App Store today, I immediately installed a copy.

John designed Desk to remove the distracting clutter from your mind and help you focus on what matters most: Your thoughts. It’s designed to be simple and intuitive, yet powerful and fast. Desk supports a number of publhsing platforms including:

  • WordPress (self-hosted and .com)
  • Blogger / Blogspot
  • Tumblr
  • Squarespace
  • Movable Type
  • Typepad
  • Facebook Notes

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When you first launch Desk, you'll see how minimal the writing experience is. I was presented with little more than a rectangular window into which I could immediately start writing or drag and drop and image. Desk support both WYSIWYG and Markdown style editing. There is no need to switch between these two choice. Desk uses both of these as the same time.

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With Desk I can save a draft locally on my iMac for completion later or store it in iCloud and continue editing from my MacBook Air. iCloud keeps everything in sync and automatically saves my edits.

Most of my blogging is done either via the WordPress web GUI or MarsEdit. While MarsEdit gets the job done the user experience is a bit dated and clunky. In comparison, Desk feels modern and light weight. Feature wise, Desk does everything I can do in MarsEdit.

  • Access, edit, and update existing posts and drafts
  • Drag-and-drop images right into the editor
  • Features for each publishing platform (e.g. Featured images, categories, tags, custom slugs/URLs, etc.)
  • Preview mode with real-time updating

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One nifty feature of Desk is that I can chose one platform and configuration as a default. Since WordPress is my main publishing platform and most of my posts are images post, I configured Desk so that publishing is just a single click.

One thing I have been paying attention to recently is the length of my blog posts. In the past some of my post have been long but quite a number are very short; about a sentence or two. While I want to increase the amount of long form content I create I also want to have increase the word count of my image post. I want to write at least 500 word per posts. The Desk editor window displays real-time metadata information such as character count, word count and time to read. Files can be exported as HTML, RTF,PDF and DOCX.

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John says that Desk is a product that has been more than 10+ years in the making and that he came up with the idea for desk in 2002 while on a road trip down the coast of Florida with his brother. It seems a good idea will persist and persistence can bring ideas to reality.

John-Saddington-2014-Desk-App-1

Lumy.jpgThe Lumy app does on thing and one thing only but does it with style. The apps help photographers find the magic hour.

Magic hour (sometimes known as golden hour) is a period around sunrise or sunset at which the light is often soft, warm and perfect for taking photographs. Professional photographers swear it as the time of day with the best lighting.

Upon launching the app, Lumy uses the iPhone's GPS location to find the magic hour for that location. The user gets a screen four times. One each for morning and evening magic hour, and one for sunrise and sunset. The cloud cover is displayed just under the times.

Swiping left across the time will show the amount of time before magic hour or sunset or the amount of time that has passed since it occurred. Swiping right will add or remove a reminder alarm for that time period. Swiping down brings up a calendar. Tap a date to see the magic hour and sunset values for that date. Swiping up will refresh the app with updated location information.

Tapping the gear icon in the lower right hand corner of the app reveals the app settings for alerts and weather.

MyTix

MyTix is the official New Jersey Transit mobile app for purchasing and using electronic tickets on the trains and buses in the garden state. I used it for the first time on a weekend trip with my family to the Highline in Manhattan. While we waited for the train to arrive, I downloaded the app and tried to buy one-way tickets for out trip from Princeton Junction to Penn Station.

The app has a rudimentary and unattractive user interface but provides the functionality needed to buy and use an electronic ticket. I was required to create an account using my email address and zip code and then linked my credit card to that account. Once I completed that step I was able to buy tickets. The app allows the user to set up more than one payment method. That's quite useful is you need to separate your business and personal expenses. I can use my business credit card to buy tickets for business trips and my personal credit card when travelling with my family.

Purchasing a ticket is straight forward. Choose the travel method, select an origin and destination, chose the ticket type -- adult, child or senior -- and then the payment method. It wasn't clear to me at first I had to activate the tickets before I could use them. I had some issues activating the tickets. Apparently the apps is very sensitive to network latency. Despite having enough cellar coverage to browse the web the app wouldn't active my tickets. I move around on the train platform until I got a signal strong enough to complete the process. However, once activated, tickets must be used within 24 hours. The app provides a count down timer. Active tickets appear under the Active tab in the My Tickets screen. The All tab has a history of the last few expired tickets. Tapping an expired ticket will show you the ticket details.

On the train I selected my purchased tickets and a QR code was displayed to present to the train conductor. She did a quick scan of the displayed QR code and indicated that she just needed to see the count down time and verify that the tickets had not expired.