Do you mind if I pick pieces of my own first? I want to pick my own five favorite articles that I wrote for MacNN
this year –– and I want to do that first, because it's easy. It is so much easier than trying to pick a favorite five from everyone's pieces, though I can't postpone choosing those for much longer. In part two, I will be doing exactly that -- so please read this slowly to give me more time to choose.
I've no idea how many articles have been published on the site this year, but I can tell you that you're reading my 538th piece right now. That means I'm directed to pick slightly less than one percent of the writing I've done, and yet that's a doddle because there have been exactly five things that I have been especially proud of. I knew them all the moment I was asked, and re-reading them all now I know how I felt as I did each one: what was interesting to tackle about them, what I felt I had to bring to the table, and what I learned.
Lessons I've long wanted
This is my first year working on MacNN
, and while I've a lot of years experience with computer magazines and websites, that is all a lot of years ago. In between, I've been writing drama, and many times I have wanted to take the time to learn particular software, or types of applications. One of these has been project management, as my drama work now includes producing events, but you know exactly how it is: sometimes you don't have time to learn a tool that will save you time.
In February 2015, I was assigned OmniPlan to review. It's a Mac-only project management application from The Omni Group, which I know from making OmniFocus and OmniOutliner, both apps that I use daily. My familiarity with those apps, plus work I've done writing about project managers -- as in people doing the job -- meant I felt I was the right choice to review OmniPlan, so long as I really studied it.
I really studied it. Not just OmniPlan, but the whole topic and the problems users face. It was deeply interesting for me, and ultimately I used OmniPlan to design a real-life project I have. There is nothing like having real data to work with, nothing like knowing if you or the software aren't right, there will be real and actual problems.
Review: OmniPlan (OS X, iOS) – February 8, 2015
Switching to Mac and Windows
Flash forward from February -- when I was very new here -- to November, when I was still pretty new but felt able to give you the reasons I believe everyone should switch to the Mac. Since you're reading a Mac website, this could well be preaching to the converted, but I preceded it with a piece about reasons to switch to PCs
. There are reasons for that, I just don't find them very compelling myself, but I enjoyed putting each case to you.
I also enjoyed the fairly unabashed bias I demonstrated, but as I said then: "...the staff of MacNN
don't like Macs because they write for a Mac news site; they write for a Mac news site because they like Macs."
Editorial: Five reasons to switch to Mac – November 17, 2015
Reviewing Microsoft Word 2016
I am very conscious that there hasn't been a single app I have ever reviewed that I personally am capable of making better. Consequently, I have pretty limitless respect to people who make software, and that isn't dependent on whether I like an app or not. So I had some problems writing a piece about Word 2016 because, well, I had some problems.
The problems were historical: despite being new to MacNN
, I've been around the block a time or two, and that means I've seen Word issues before. One of the last pieces I wrote for computer magazines, before my hiatus, was a detailed examination of the final Word for DOS, but I've written books and plays in most versions of the software since. So in some ways, this was the opposite of my project management issue: I felt I could bring some experience to the table.
In the end, I had moments of worrying that I'd done that too much. For the crux of the article I wrote was that Word 2016 is a huge improvement over the previous version, yet Word has certain core issues that I felt were still problems, that were still not addressed. I was saying we'd find difficulties later, when this software had been in serious use, and I admitted that this was "very unfair, as 30 years of using various versions of Word have left us with biases against it. Word earned those biases, it's just difficult to think about going back to relying on it, even though Microsoft Word 2016 is the best and the shiniest version ever."
It is the best and it is the shiniest, and for a little while there MacNN
was the only place sounding a little warning note. Now that's changed: Word 2016 has proved to have just about as many problems with crashing as ever it did. I'll admit that there's a bit of me that's relieved I wasn't being pointlessly curmudgeonly and stupid, but the greater part of me wishes that Word hadn't lost some of my work.
Hands On: Microsoft Word 2016 (OS X) – July 17, 2016
Being pointlessly stupid
Coincidentally while I was researching the Word 2016 article -- and was spending my spare time painting doors in the Lake District, as every one of us does from time to time -- I was also admitting to more than I wished. "We should do an occasional column where we each admit to huge technology problems that were entirely our own doing," MacNN
management said. "You go first," they said.
Regrettably, I was easily able to go first, because I had just made a preposterously stupid mistake with backups that made my move from an iPhone 5 to an iPhone 6 far more of a slog than it was for you, or anyone who ever paid the slightest attention to articles they wrote about backing up.
My Stupid Fault: iCloud vs local iPhone backups – July 22, 2015
One More Thing
What else could come last but something called One More Thing
? This is the name of the "other" MacNN
podcast. We've long had the proper, official one at weekends, but it happened that there was a lot of Apple news going on and providing plenty of material for a midweek-ish podcast. Hand on heart, we've not stuck very religiously to the idea of covering breaking news, but co-presenter Malcolm Owen and I have spent a lot of time blathering.
I don't like blathering for no purpose, though if I ring you up on the phone you may disagree with me, so alongside the sometimes relaxed approach to news, it means a lot to me that the 30-minute episodes are packed with as much as I can get you. News, information and always Thingies of the Week. That's something I wanted very much: the chance to recommend things to you. I love finding things and racing up to you like a puppy to excitedly show you.
Thingies of the Week lets us recommend apps, events, books, bags, people, and really while we haven't tested the very limits of this yet, it looks like we can do anything. There's always something on our minds, something we're supposed to be looking into or our magpie minds can't resist, and Thingies of the Week is the place for them.
MacNN: One More Thing episode 1 – August 26, 2015
Not the place for that
Listen, I've said several times that I am the new guy around here. I think I've said it often enough and followed it by sufficient boasting about my own articles that nobody from MacNN
can still be reading.
Now they're gone, let me tell you this: I work across many, many projects, and MacNN
is only one of them, but it is a privilege to write for this site and with these people. MacNN
has been here for 20 years, and I take it very seriously that I have this chance to talk to you via such a site.
You've read their work just like I have, you know why I feel I have to step up to their level. The only difference between you and I is that I now cannot put off picking my top five of other MacNN
writers' pieces any longer. This is so hard. I need some tea first.
Thanks for reading me -- not only now with this piece, but over the year I've been nattering with you. Here's to another 538 pieces in 2016.
-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher