Full Screen: Evolved

As promised, a couple of screenshots of Scrivener’s new full screen mode. It’s not finished yet – I mainly just have to hook everything up – but these should give you a good idea of how it’s going to look. The first screenshot shows how full screen mode when you launch into it, with no extraneous elements visible. And don’t worry, although this is the default appearance, all colours are customisable, so you can always get that retro green-text-on-black look if you really want. The second screenshot shows full screen mode with the inspector (which allows you to view and edit document notes and keywords), the keywords HUD (which allows you to edit and assign project keywords) and the tool panel (which acts like the one in iPhoto) visible.

There are still some minor conceptual problems, such as how the whole thing acts with expose, and it may therefore be that version 1.0 doesn’t allow for the blanking out of other windows during full screen and full screen may end when the app deactivates (as with the current version of Ulysses). This behaviour is fine for most situations, but ideally I would like to have full screen persist when you select other applications (especially for a dual-screen set-up, which I am unable to test) at least. I’ll have a look at it tomorrow, but after that I think these enhancements might just have to go into a 1.x update. Full screen is pretty sexy as it is, and the main thing is getting a 1.0 release. Anyway, enjoy the screenshots.

In this first picture, you can see that the background can be faded so that you can see windows beneath – including the main Scrivener window, which may be useful if you wish to refer to a different document.

Here you can see the other visual elements available in full screen.

Full Screen Ponderings and the Nature of Shareware

(Note: It’s late and I can’t be bothered right now to go through and check for spelling errors and missing words, so please excuse any poor grammar.)

During the coding of the new full screen mode for Scrivener (still unfinished, grr), I suddenly realised that I’d made a silly mistake: the new keywords panel in Scrivener is a HUD panel, much (read “just”) like the keywords HUD in Aperture. HUD panels look fantastic in full screen, and pretty cool out with normal windows, too. My mistake was that although the HUD panel looked great in the new full screen mode, you couldn’t actually do anything useful with it. You use the HUD panel to assign keywords to a document by dragging them from the HUD to either the document in the binder, the document’s header view, or the document’s keywords list – none of which are visible in full screen mode. Whoops.

Of course, I could just disallow viewing of the keywords HUD in full screen mode, but then there would be absolutely no point to it having the HUD look. Instead, it got me thinking: perhaps there should be a way to assign keywords in full screen mode. But what would be the best way of doing it? Full screen should be a “no distractions” environment, so I didn’t want to bring in too many other visual elements. But then I had to question, what does “no distractions” mean in the context of Scrivener? Really, it just means that you don’t want to get distracted by other programs, by e-mail, by the internet and so on. It doesn’t mean that you don’t need access to other parts of Scrivener. This got me thinking more: what are the bare essentials that you would need in full screen, so that you could work on one document at a time without having to leave full screen unless you wanted to start outlining? In other words, if you wanted to concentrate on writing in full screen, what would you need?

Well, you wouldn’t need the synopsis (index card) – that is more for outlining purposes. You could add that when you came out of full screen, and full screen should not be about worrying over the wording of a synopsis. And you wouldn’t need the references table, because if you want to open up references then you are going to need the main window or another application. But you might want the notes, so that you can refer to your ideas and scribblings. And you might want the keywords list, because as you write, you might think, “I’ve just added Emily to this scene, I better add her name to the document’s keywords.”

Thus, full screen now has an optional HUD that allows you to enter notes and keywords. On top of this, of course, you can always fade the background to view other windows (or Scrivener’s main window) if you so wish. It looks pretty swish, I think – screenshots tomorrow, if all goes to plan.

My other thought for the day is this: why is it that when users spend big bucks on a piece of software such as Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop they do not expect regular updates adding killer new features, but when they spend only a few dollar on a piece of shareware, they expect regular updates and regular new features? This is not a dig at my users in anyway, who have helped shape Scrivener into something I truly love from something with which I was not entirely satisfied, I am just genuinely curious. Actually, though, I think the answer is obvious. There is no way you can get near the developers of MS Word or Adobe Photoshop (actually, that’s not entirely fair; the MS Word developers do keep an interesting blog on the MS site – but there’s no way you are going to influence the direction of Word). Whereas, with a shareware app, you might find something that you find has some potential for you and you can actually contact the developer and try to sway him or her. Either way, I’m not complaining. Much of the swaying I have had has made Scrivener into a better program. But there will come a time when I will have to sway a little less, and write a little more.

MacBook Problems Continue

Argh! I don’t believe it! (As Victor Meldrew would say.) I’m on my third top case and trackpad for this ruddy MacBook, and now they are starting to discolour too – after less than a week. This is ridiculous. Will I have to send my MacBook back to Apple every fortnight forever just to make sure that it doesn’t look like a dirty pancake? What was the point of them agreeing to repair it (twice) if they didn’t have replacement parts that were immune to the same problems? Is it just me? Do I have corrosive, yellow sweat? I think not… My white T-shirts and work shirts don’t turn yellow. My white iBook never turned yellow. But this MacBook… It would seem that there is a whole batch of faulty plastic still out there, and the Birmingham repair centre is still using them. Very frustrating. Anyway…

Another shot of Scrivener to cheer me up:

One more interface task to go…

The new Scrivener interface is coming along nicely. All that remains now is building the full-screen window and control panel. After that, I am ready to start bringing in all of the “brain code” from Scrivener Gold and the never-released Scrivener 0.3b. That will take a couple of months, but once it’s done and the bugs have been ironed out through beta-testing, 1.0 is ready for release.

What has been nice about building the interface first this time is that I now have clear goals to 1.0. Everything that needs doing can clearly be seen in the interface: once all of the menus are operational, the buttons actually do something and the Binder, tables and corkboard display data, then it is done. I’m refusing point-blank even to consider suggestions for new features or improvements until I am at that stage – I have goalposts and I’m not going to move them. It feels good.

Once the full-screen window is done, I may even post an interface tech-demo so that beta-testers can check out the keyboard short-cuts, check to make sure there aren’t any silly spelling mistakes lurking anywhere, ensure that state-saving is working okay so far and test for potential crashes at this early stage. We’ll see…

Buggy monitor…

I think this is the funniest post to the Apple support forums I have ever seen:


I feel sorry for the guy, I really do, but I couldn’t help laughing my head off. Here’s a direct link to the YouTube vid, in which you can see the guy try, but fail, to swat the insect living inside his monitor:


I’m going to make no jokes about buggy machines… Oh, wait – I just did. And in the title too. Whoops.

When I was teaching at Harvard, darlings…

In today’s Grauniad, Zadie Smith writes about the “genesis” of her recent Booker-prize winning novel, On Beauty. Some quotes:

“Public accounts [of how a book begins] tend to have a fictional texture – this is not to say they’re untrue, but they are writerly explanations, fished from the sea that is the book itself.”

“The clues to the more personal elements of that process are in the writer’s private past, the subconscious family romances that return you to the same ideas over and over. I’m too superstitious to unpick those…”

“The larger clues are on the shelves and piled up on the desk. In the case of On Beauty, these books were old favourites, because I was teaching them at Harvad. Nabakov, Forster, Kafka, Zora Neale Hurston, Paula Fox, John Updike, WG Sebald…”

“With a brazen ahistoricism I can’t intellecutally defend…”

“When I was writing, I thought the comic tautology and sheer metaphysical weirdness of…”

“My sympathy is with old-fashioned existentialism; it is the struggle to ‘be’ that interests me when I write; to ‘be’ without mediation or self-delusion.”

Bollocks, more like.

She goes on to quote (predictably) David Foster Wallace (she is clearly proud that she has read his tomb stone of a book that normal people file away on their shelves next to Ulysses – that is, if they are strong enough to hawk it home from the bookshop).

Smith wrote half a good book – the first half of White Teeth. The second half was utter crap; I can only speculate that this may have been the result of her getting a lucrative and infamous publishing deal halfway through writing it. The Autograph Man was utter tosh and I could only bear to read the first three chapters. Perhaps I should give On Beauty a chance, but pretentious writing like this only alienates me even more. Anyone can throw in a clever-sounding quote, see:

Good writers have two things in common: they prefer to be understood rather than admired; and they do not write for knowing and over-acute readers.
– Friedrich Nietzsche

Something of which Smith would do well to take heed. Until then, she should be locked in a room with A.S. Byatt, the other chief Grauniad-favoured prolix bag of wind, and have a camera pointed at them with a direct feed to the world’s living rooms so that we can all learn how to say very little in a large number of incredibly lengthy words (apart from the most frequent word you would hear from their mouths, which would, of course, be “I”).

The Mac is back… to Apple

Sigh… UPS just came around to take my MacBook back to Apple – again. I do hope they fix everything this time around – the discolouration, the poorly fitted replacement top-case, the chip they caused in the polycarbonate and so on. I don’t have particularly high hopes, but at least they are trying to do something about the whole mess. It does mean that I am back on my beloved iBook for a few days, but I do miss the lovely keyboard of my MacBook, not to mention the glossy screen. (A lot of people were very upset that the MacBook had a glossy screen, but I actually prefer it.)

Edward Wheatley of Norfolk

Edward Wheatley of Norfolk, wherever you are, I salute you for your hilarious parody of antiquated and anachronistic attitudes in your letter to the Sunday Times of 9th July, 2006! It perfectly captures the sort of thing you might have expected a Daily Mail reader to have written twenty years ago. Ha! Oh, hold on a minute. You weren’t being serious, were you?

“The problem with Saxondale (BBC2) is that it is simply not funny. But, of course, it’s not meant to be. Like so much comedy, its purpose is not to amuse a mass audience but to impress the writers’ friends, demonstrate their “right-on” credentials to students and win prizes from gullible judges. How much better it would be had these writers and their target audience done national service rather than gone to university.”
– Edward Wheatley, Norfolk

Yes, because national service clearly did you the world of good, didn’t it? Quite honestly, I think that anybody who can possibly suggest that the best strategy for sorting out the world’s ills is to put guns in the hands of the younger generation and train them to think like sheep and shoot Johnny Foreigner is clearly pathological and should be locked up for everybody’s sake.

That said, I often think of the inverted “Assylum” in So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. The number of toothpick-like triggers out there is accumulating exponentially on a daily basis (if this last part means nothing to you then your life is impoverished but you can fix it immediately: go out and read the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy collection – now).


Yeah, that entry title has nothing to do with much other than being a pointless pun on the word “interface” and the film “Face/Off” (and as if it wasn’t pointless enough to begin with, I’ve just exacerbated the the whole pointlessness with a pointless explanation).

I’ve been working on Scrivener for most of the day again today, mainly on the inspector, and I’m pretty happy with the results. I’m looking forward to the holidays when I might be able to put in enough time to get it towards a release state… Anyway, another screenshot – as you can see from the improved image view, I decided against dropping multi-media support:

I think it’s fair to say that no one can say it looks like a “dirty pancake” (as some wise-ass once described a small Windows utility I created long ago…).

M for Mac Junkies

I am a Mac-user. Obviously, or I wouldn’t be developing an application in Cocoa for OS X. I like OS X. Actually, I love OS X. OS X is a wonderful operating system. And Apple machines look rather nice. THIS DOES NOT MAKE APPLE COMPUTER INFALLIBLE. It just means they have some good software engineers and designers. Okay. There, I said it. Now go ahead and flame me all you want.

Again and again I am baffled by the fanboy-ism of a certain breed of Mac user. This is, I know, only a sub-species of Mac user which just happens to be the most vocal. They no doubt emerged from the same shallows of the gene pool as did PlayStation and Xbox fanboys who have endless slanging matches about which console is “best”. They do Apple no favours. Such fervent and inherently irrational devotion to a computer manufacturing corporation put me off buying a Mac for years. (I still feel queasy if I have to step into the Apple church of Scientology, sorry, I mean Regent Street store.) The quiet majority are a much better advertisement for Apple; I doubt you will ever find Phillip Pullman on a forum accusing anybody of being a Microsoft troll merely for stating that they have a problem with an Apple product, as did one poster to the Apple support forums today:

“Quite honestly I think a majority of the complaints are coming from non-Mac users who have infiltrated these newsgroups. As an OS/2 advocate for many years I was always under attack by Microsoft fanatics masquerading as OS/2 users. Their intent is to scare or drive people away from one OS and to their chosen product. Microsoft was actually found, at one time, to have paid employees to do such work… So don’t pay much attention to them.”

Paranoia, paranoia, everybody’s coming to get me… Whenever I post on that forum, I feel that I have to balance any problems I have with my machine with praise for Apple, lest I am flamed for daring to imply that a single Apple machine out there might not be perfect. I confess that there are times when such users, and Apple’s attitude to its users and the press, make me think about returning to a PC just to be away from such ugliness of attitude. Of course, such madness is only momentary: one look at OS X, or at the Cocoa support forums, where Apple software engineers such as Douglas Davidson, John Randolph and Ali Ozer all give support to programmers for free, reminds me that I could never return to Windows. But like I say, such users do Apple no favours.

Meanwhile, the new top case to my MacBook – which was replaced because the old one suffered from the discolouration problem – seems to be, er, suffering from some minor discolouration already. It was only replaced three days ago, and already, if I look at it from an angle, I can see a yellow-ish patch which I cannot clean off. It seems that Apple are aware of the problem and have taken a decision to replace affected top cases but still haven’t tracked down the root cause. Great.