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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Quick Reviews: iPod shuffle, iLife, and iWork

I still do the vast majority of my work on a PC (that’s the “I’m not an Apple fanboy, honestly” disclaimer), but recently my PowerBook’s been the one making interesting new friends:

iPod shuffle

I wanted a 1GB USB drive anyway, so a nicely-designed one that also plays music is a bonus (it is limited though; for the same price you can get something with a display, microphone and radio). A slider in iTunes divides storage between files and music (mine’s set to mostly storage for carrying backups), and you can Autofill with a random selection (optionally biased towards higher-rated tracks). The only negative things I’ve noticed are that it takes a few seconds to spring to life when switched on, and there’s audible interference as it loads up the next track.

As feared, I’m not sure I can come to terms with the white headphones; they almost shout “hey look at me I’ve got a (s)wanky iPod”, which just isn’t me.

Oh, and the player itself is made of the same plastic as Lego, so anyone with fond memories of plastic bricks may find themselves strangely drawn to it.

iLife ’05

Nothing earth-shattering has been added, but it’s all maturing nicely. GarageBand’s name is still naff and it’s a terrible processor hog, and some interface elements are unnecessarily awkward, but it’s a genuinely powerful multimedia suite.

iWork ’05

Keynote 2’s themes aren’t as slick or varied as they could be, but it’s all about the flawless rendering of text and effects. It easily makes PowerPoint look cheap and shabby, and the Flash export (which doesn’t retain complex transitions but seems pretty good) addresses the problem of cross-platform playback. I’ve already started creating a company theme and can’t see myself ever willingly using PowerPoint again.

I wasn’t expecting too much from Pages, as it’s a version 1 product seemingly for creating pretty newsletters from predefined templates, but lurking beneath the surface is a powerful style-based hybrid word processor/DTP package. If Apple can add just a few more features for serious writers & businesses, keep a whole team slogging away at improved Word import/export, and fix some of the obvious usability blunders (e.g. you can only click on the icons in the top menu bar, not the text below each icon), then they’ll definitely have a cheap Word-beater on their hands. I’m already assessing switching to it for all my documents.


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