Super Happy Software

Something I rarely write about is software. With music, photography, writing and chess being the things I do most (aside from driving around trying to remember what I was supposed to buy at the shop) there is a pile of software titles vying for my attention. Almost none of them are essential: I can enjoy music, chess and writing without a computer. Photography, the way I do it, does though. Despite the non-essential nature of the following software, I am excited about what they can do.

Aperture: Native to Apple, this is the one piece of software I’ve mentioned before. I could use iPhoto, or one of a variety of freeware titles but Aperture just seems to work the best for me. I do almost nothing with it, but the almost nothing makes a lot of difference to a photograph.  Installing and using Aperture has made me take photography that little bit more seriously and allowed me to have some more fun with it.

Scrivener: This is software for writers. I’ve had a copy of Microsoft Word (starting with Word 5) on all my computers until now. I had Apple’s Pages word processor to take care of all the bog-standard writing tasks such as letters, leaflets, posters, etc. and intended to get MS Office. But, Pages is doing such a good job (it reads Word documents seamlessly) I’m going to wait until I feel buying Word is a necessity. Scrivener, on the other hand, leapt out at me when I first saw it. For the long form things I write this is the perfect tool. I used to open a folder and fill it with word documents; often producing one Word file for each chapter in a book, say. This worked up to a point, but doing any kind of revision or editing became increasingly hard as changes often had to be made in and out of multiple numbers of documents. Almost all these projects were twinned with large sheets of paper and hundreds of post-it notes to keep track of all the changes on. Scrivener does away with all that. It is the most flexible, intuitive and invisible tool to write on ever to be seen on a computer.

Shredder Chess: For chess on computers I’ve either used unsatisfying simple chess programmes which were like playing a mute, unhelpful savant. Or I’ve used big, complex devices that have so many options I lose track of what’s going on. Shredder Chess is, for me, perfectly pitched in the middle. I can get on with a game, and feel that I’m learning as I go. All this without getting bogged down in complicated menus and graphics. There, I’ve said ‘bog’ twice now.

Ableton Live: For me, the best music software on the planet. It allows you to play with sound and music in a way that no other programme does. It’s less of a recording machine than an instrument. Albeit a hugely complex and multi-faceted instrument. Next year Ableton are upgrading to Live 9, which looks like making music making even more exciting.

Like I said. I could be happy with a bass and amp, a chess board and opponent and a pencil and pad of paper. But when well-designed software comes along that makes a given pursuit more interesting, it’s worth following up.



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