Viktor Benei

Apr 16

Why I love Windows 8 (Pro, with Desktop)? Distraction free mode!

First of all I’m talking about the full Windows 8 with ‘classic’ desktop, not about the RT version.

Lot of people complain about the hybrid approach of Windows 8, that it’s stupid to include both a fully featured desktop mode and a more lightweight Metro/Modern interface. You have to get used to it, it’s true. Does it feels a bit awkward at first try? Yes it does.

But once you get used to it the two paradigms start to complement each other.

Why and how? Am I out of my mind?

I’ll explain how my workflow changed since I’ve switched from Windows 7 to 8.

On Windows 7 (and on Mac OS X if that matters) I had a bunch of apps running just to keep up with all the social/news stuff I follow.

Just to mention a few:

These are all really useful tools to get things (and some entertainment) done. What’s the problem with them? All of these tools ‘think’ it’s really important to notify me about every little change instantly.

You get an email, sure you’ll check it, it can be important to deal with it. Right after you finish writing your response to an important email you get a notification on social and you have to check it. Social is done, back to work - but hey, there’s a new message on Skype, I have to check it, it can be important. Done with Skype, now an app popup appears that I have to update the app right now. OK, I’m done, back to work… No way, I just received a new email, I have to check it, it can be important…

I think you get my point now. Since I started to use Windows 8 I try to replace most of my distracting apps with their Metro/Modern version and get less notification about ‘important’ stuff. It’s more than enough to check emails once or twice an hour, check social or update apps when I have the time for it.

I can deal with the really important thing (what I work on) quicker and generally it feels much more productive this way.

And when I want to do something without any distraction I can open a Metro/Modern app to do it. Like I do it right now, writing this post in a Metro/Modern text editor app without checking my mails or social notifications. I can still get my familiar desktop apps and mostly I work in the Desktop mode, but when I want to focus only on one thing I can still do it.

That’s the real power of Windows 8 and I’m glad I’ve spent enough time with it to realize it.

Why I prefer Windows over Mac

I work on both Mac OS X and on Windows daily. I’m constantly switching between the two operating systems for the last 2-3 years. I still choose Windows to work with when I’m allowed to do so.

Why? Because I prefer Windows’ windows management over Mac’s. Switching between windows instead of apps feels more productive for me.

Anything else? Not really. Both operating systems are ideal for work, entertainment, browsing the internet, anything what you want to do with your computer.

My point is there’s no real difference between Mac OS X and Windows. Sure there are things which fit better one or the other (gaming: Windows hands down, iOS development: you can’t do it on anything else than a Mac), but mostly it’s just a matter of personal preference.

Jan 10

Benefit from helping others

Recently I was approached by a friend of mine on Skype. He asked me to drop a tweet about his new cool Windows app ( http://www.ia-kar.com/en/laptop-battery.php if you’re interested ). I’ve composed a quick tweet about it and shared it on Twitter.

This happened at a time I’m usually not checking my Twitter. After I’ve published the tweet my eyes caught on the trending twitter hashes and found one which fits our recently launched startup (AppStream: http://www.goappstream.com/) so I’ve dropped some tips there too.

Almost immediately we’ve got a new follower for our Twitter account.

So today’s startup advise of mine is whenever you’re asked to help somebody which doesn’t take much time don’t hesitate, do it!

It may even help you and of course useful networking is always a good thing to spend time with.

Nov 23

Windows 8 shortcut: Win+Space to switch between input languages

Switching between input languages quickly and easily is one of my favorite improvements of Windows 8.

After you set up your input languages you can simply press the Windows + Space buttons and it switches between your defined input languages. If you hold down the keys it will present the list of your defined languages.

It’s a true bless for multilingual like me. The previously used solution was that you had to click the language selector in the system tray and pick the input language you want. This new shortcut is much faster and it’s a really handy shortcut.

Also Windows 8 refined the input language handling as well. In Windows 7 if you switched between the input languages it affected only the active application which was quite confusing if you switched between multiple applications and you had to remember / check the input language every time.

In Windows 8 by default the input language is effective for the whole system (you can switch back to the per-application setting if you want, but I don’t know about anybody who loved that solution).

Thank you Microsoft / Windows 8 team!

Nov 15

Use Quora for user survey / support?

Lately developers tend to move technical support to StackOverflow instead of providing an own solution. Brands and startups use more and more Facebook and Twitter for support and it seems like a trend to abandon custom solutions for FAQ and Support.

I’m a long time Quora user, registered my account when Quora was invitation-only. Recently I noticed that some services started to use Quora for user survey and for Q&A/Support purposes.

What’s great about moving away from a dedicated / custom Support or Q&A service to a more social one?

It holds a lot of advantage compared to a custom, in-site solution.

First of all you don’t have to implement it, just register the appropriate accounts/pages and give permission for your team to use it. It may not seem as a big win but still, especially for startups every work you can ‘outsource’ is a win. Your team don’t have to work with it, don’t have to support it or improve it. It’s quick and tested.

The second one is even more important: it’s more social, more engaging. I guess all of you familiar with Facebook and have a great perception why it’s a great tool for user engagement (compared to a simple in-site blog or static FAQ pages). Every time your customers interact with your brand’s/service’s Facebook page or Twitter account his/her friends and followers may get noticed about it. It’s viral and one of the most cost efficient marketing tools (of course it requires really great content which can motivate your followers to interact with it).

So what’s the story with Quora?
Today I checked my Quora feed/stream and noticed an interesting question:

Evernote: What would be an ideal integration between Evernote and a project management software for you? - Quora http://buff.ly/UI68Hl

It’s a customer survey, publicly available on Quora and it appeared on my feed. Quora now seems to be mature enough to host survey / customer Q&A s, at least for a big name like Evernote it is.

The advantage of Quora compared to Facebook or Twitter is that it fits better this type of interaction, because Quora is designed for Q&A and the users of Quora use the system to browse interesting Q&A topics and it’s not just a post in their crowded Facebook wall / Twitter stream. It fits Quora better in structure and users are more likely to click on it as well.

It’s a great time for startups / small teams. There’re more and more widely adopted services which can serve your business and can be more engaging than an own solution. Less work on non product related services, more time for your product/service and at the same time more engaging as well.

Have you moved your support to a social service or do you plan to do it? We’ll definitely use them for our soon-to-be-released service AppStream and I have great hope for outsourcing support and Q&A efficiently. What about you?

You can reach me at Twitter: @ViktorBenei

Nov 05

Microsoft should finally decide the name of WinRT / Metro UI / Modern UI -

shadedevelop:

Right now Microsoft haven’t decided how to call it’s new UI/UX system. The most common names for it are: WinRT (it’s also the name of the new Windows API), Metro (UI), Modern UI, Microsoft Style UI.

Why is this a real and emerging issue?
For a normal end-user it may be not. For them it’s just…

Nov 03

Apps or webapps? I want both!

This post was lost in my drafts for a long time. After reading it I decided to publish it now because I think it’s still relevant and has some really useful information and references.

Lately there are numerous discussions about what should be the future form of user clients, apps or webapps. I’ve found lots of debates pro or agains apps and webapps.

I’ll start with my opinion: I love both, and I want to use both!

Both manifestations have advantages and disadvantages, but generally I think every service has it’s ideal client form. Some are better as apps, others are better as web-apps.

There are cases when apps are better than webapps or easier / faster to develop than a webapp:

Also there is a design concern. A lot of user picks a specific operating system because they love how it works and looks. In this case you can provide the same design for every platform but your users may not love it if it doesn’t fits into the system they use. As an example: you can design your app the same way for iOS and Android but in almost every case your users will love it more if you design it separately. This is even more significant if you want to make a great Windows Phone 7 app which should look and feel completely different compared to the iOS app. The features of the apps are (should be) the same but the users expect visual consistency for the platform they use. As an iOS developer I can tell that a design works for Android users will not work work for iOS users most of the times.

There are cases when web-apps and browser extensions are better:

Additionally: I use apps for tasks I have to do (almost) every day, and webapps for less frequent tasks.

Irrelevant issues people still come up with:

you will end up with 100s or apps on your Desktop / mobile for every webpage”: not at all. You don’t download apps you don’t use. Or you delete it if you don’t use it anymore. Like: you won’t download 100s of news-sites’ apps. You will download only the few you really use every day and want to get an easy access to them. Currently you can switch apps faster and easier with the OS than with the Browser.

- From a different point of view: do you have 100s of bookmarks you really use every day? not really. You use only the few bookmarks you really use and forget about the others.

There’s no easy linking into apps”: actually there is - it’s called the URL scheme. AppWhirr uses this. You can link directly into the AppWhirr client app. And of course developers are aware of this. If it’s important to be able to allow indexing the content by Google developers will make it happen.

There are issues with web and web-apps which are rarely mentioned:

- Apps are more about data than webapps. Or at least more about free data.
If you have music in a webservice you can use your music only with the provided tools and apps unless the service implements a usable API, and even this case your ‘data’ can be used only the way the API allows it. Example: you have a music collection ‘in the cloud’ at a provider which does not allow to download it. In this case developers cannot create innovative apps like the Last.fm Boffin app: http://www.last.fm/group/Audioscrobbler+Beta/forum/30705/_/510180 
- a related issue is: your data belongs to 1 service. To continue with the previous example: you won’t be able to transfer your music from ‘service 1’ to ‘service 2’. Compare this with the traditional ‘you have the music file’ approach: you can use the ‘data’ (in this case the music file) with whatever app you want, and the apps can use it in any way they want.

Additional notes:

Nov 01

Best of Windows 8 - Part 1 - Cross app sharing

As a bit of a technical background: besides I’m the Co-Founder of AppWhirr ( http://appwhirr.com ) and also Co-Founder of our soon-to-be announced new service I’m a developer. I’ve developed for Windows, iOS and web and lately I started to develop two Windows 8 ‘Metro style’ apps as well. If you’re interested in my development experiences you can check out my dev blog: http://shadedevelop.tumblr.com/ .

I’m always inspired by new platforms and new development tools so I tried every publicly available release of Windows 8 and I switched to Windows 8 RTM as my main Windows version since about a month now.

So for now I think I’m experienced with most of Windows 8’s great and not that great features (fortunately there are very few bad/not that great features, later I’ll write about those as well) and decided to start a blog post serie about the best features and new capabilities of Windows 8.

I’ve decided to start with one of my favorite new feature which is also technically inspiring: the new ‘Share’ feature.

About a year ago, even before the first public Windows 8 version (Windows 8 Developer Preview) I came up with this idea and we had plans to integrate it into AppWhirr as well.

What’s this feature good for? You can share information segments from one app to another. Sure, you could do this in most of the major operating systems before but the ‘classic’ approach was to directly specify the target app which will receive the information.

With the new sharing feature it’s completely different. The app which will share the information is only required to specify the information’s type (is it an image? is it a web address or a simple text?) and Windows 8 will automatically search for the apps which can receive information with that type.

The apps don’t have to know about each other at all. You can develop an app which can share information for another app and another developer can create an app a year after your app and it can automatically register itself for that type of information and receive it from your app even if you don’t even know that the other app exists. No additional coding required to support the target app from your app.

With an everyday example it’s similar to Twitter’s hash-tag system: you can specify a hash-tag and you don’t have to know about who shared with the same hash-tag or who will share with it in the future but a user can click the hash-tag and will get all the relevant posts with the same hash-tag. It’s flexible and future-proof.

As I mentioned we had plans to provide a very similar feature with AppWhirr for traditional desktop apps but it’s much more powerful this way that Windows provides the service and developers can expect this feature will work without installing anything else.

That’s the reason why we won’t add this feature to AppWhirr but it’s a good feeling that every Windows user will be able to use it.

We’ve planned some other feature for AppWhirr which will never be part of AppWhirr because either Windows 8 or the Windows Store implemented it and we’re glad they did. When we decided to create an app store which will help people to do more with their Windows of Mac machine more easily we didn’t do that for the money, we did it because we saw there are things which could be done better than the existing solutions.

But that’s another story and another post(s). :)

Oct 16

Windows 8 shortcut tips: save a screenshot from anywhere

If you want to take a screenshot and save it to a file with 1 shortcut you can press the Windows-key + PrintScreen key simultaneously. It will save the screenshot to your Pictures/Screenshots folder.

Of course you can still press only the PrintScreen key which takes a screenshot and copies it to your clipboard if you want to edit the screenshot before saving to file.

Both works with the new ‘modern style’ apps.

If your Windows 8 freezes for a longer duration from time to time try this quick fix: http://bit.ly/Pz8mN0 (a Windows restart may be required after the change)
It worked for me for both the Windows 8 Release Preview and for the RTM version. It seems to be a bug with older processors (I tried Windows 8 on my 4-5 year old Asus laptop).
If you don’t know how you can open an ‘elevated command prompt’ then the easiest way to get it is to open the ‘Desktop’ and right-click the bottom-left corner of the screen which opens a list of useful quick commands. Check the attached screenshot for a quick look.
I didn’t have any other issues with Windows 8 and it definitely worth a try. It may not attract everyone but I love to use it for it’s speed (it’s much faster than even Windows 7!) and there’s already some well designed ‘modern’ style apps (Windows Phone style apps with a significant revision for Windows 8). Overall it works pretty good and it’s amazingly fast!

If your Windows 8 freezes for a longer duration from time to time try this quick fix: http://bit.ly/Pz8mN0 (a Windows restart may be required after the change)

It worked for me for both the Windows 8 Release Preview and for the RTM version. It seems to be a bug with older processors (I tried Windows 8 on my 4-5 year old Asus laptop).

If you don’t know how you can open an ‘elevated command prompt’ then the easiest way to get it is to open the ‘Desktop’ and right-click the bottom-left corner of the screen which opens a list of useful quick commands. Check the attached screenshot for a quick look.

I didn’t have any other issues with Windows 8 and it definitely worth a try. It may not attract everyone but I love to use it for it’s speed (it’s much faster than even Windows 7!) and there’s already some well designed ‘modern’ style apps (Windows Phone style apps with a significant revision for Windows 8). Overall it works pretty good and it’s amazingly fast!