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Sunday, October 16, 2011

For the future generation: We need to change the look of the 'Save' button

The floppy disk icon must go away.
When was the last time you used or even saw a floppy disk? Ages ago. But even though its an obsolete item, we still use them - as a symbol to represent the 'save' action in interfaces. I agree that the symbol is familiar to the user and represents the idea of 'saving' something effectively. But that's for those of us who were born in the 80s or early 90s. But what about users who were born after say 2000. Most of them would never have used or seen a floppy disk. That floppy disk icon doesn't make sense at all to them. Many interfaces have stopped using the icon and have started using simple buttons just labeled as Save. It has always been a norm to have quick action buttons which have symbols which speak for themselves. For example the marker felt pen icon for 'highlighting text'. In a similar way, it would be great to have an icon for 'Save' as well. Something new but not the 'floppy disk' should be the face of the Save button. I thought about this and came up with three solutions. All of these would make sense to at least today's kids.

Solution 1: The down arrow button:

This one symbolizes a download. Downloads and saves are fairly related to each other. Hence, this icon would make sense.

Solution 2: The Hard Disk:

Hard disks have been and will be for the years to come, our primary storage devices. It easily conveys to the user that clicking it would save data to the disk.

Solution 3: The Thumb drive:
Thumb drives are also one of the popular mediums of storage. Even though this icon suits the 'save' button, thumb drives are also headed in the direction of floppy disks. They will eventually become obsolete.

 Future and beyond:
          There will come a day when all kinds of software interfaces will get rid of the 'save' action. Documents will be automatically saved, without the user's intervention and stashed away in to the cloud. Google docs and apps like Simplenote already do that. Cloud will be our new primary storage place. But that's a long way to go. For now, we must get rid of the virtual floppy disk icon.

Thanks for reading and DO share this article with others.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How to: Move all your Google contacts to iCloud

Right after I updated my iPhone 4 to iOS 5, I was greeted with iCloud and its syncing options. I enabled all options and thought I was good to go; before iCloud settings threw a warning that it will not merge my Exchange (google sync) contacts with icloud contacts. The problem is that I don't have any contact groups which  reside natively on my phone. All my contacts reside on google's servers. Since I had now enabled syncing of contacts on both iCloud and Google sync, it got a little messy- some contacts got uploaded to iCloud and the rest were in google contacts. Here's a step-by-step procedure to move all your google as well as phone contacts to iCloud:
  1.  Delete your iCloud account from your iDevice if you have added one.
  2. Connect your device to iTunes on PC/mac.
  3. Under the info tab, check "sync contacts" and select Google calendar from the dropdown menu.
  4. Now, when the sync is complete, eject your device and go to contacts app.
  5. You will see that there is a group called "Contacts from my PC" along with an "All contacts" group.
  6. Now in the settings app, go to Mail,contacts,calendar > your google sync/exchange account > Delete account or you can simply select to switch off contacts in the sync list.
  7. A warning will pop up asking you whether you want to delete or keep all the contacts. Tap "Delete contacts".
  8. Now in your contacts app, all you will be left with is one group - which is "All contacts".
  9. Next, go to settings> icloud and sign into your iCloud account. Choose to sync whatever data you want including contacts. 
  10. Now all your contacts have been moved from Google to iCloud. A small refresh button can be found in the top left corner of the contacts app when iCloud sync is enabled.
  11. When you decide to enable google sync later on, it will be best to turn off contacts sync and just get mail and calendar events pushed. 

Thanks for reading :-)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Windows and iOS can both trump Android. Yes, its possible.

After looking at the title, you must be thinking. Android is doing well, so whats this post all about? This post is all about one thing which both Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 and Apple's iOS5 have. And that could worry Google and prove to be a threat for Android. In the recent months, all we have been hearing about is is the CLOUD. yes. That's the magical word. Cloud is what is going to revolutionize the way we handle our data, settings, preferences,everything. As I have already written before, Android lacks a good ecosystem. Fragmentation is the biggest issue there. So how can windows and iOS beat Android to death? Lets look at the scenario. Lets start with Microsoft first. At the build conference last week, MS showed us how one can buy a Windows 8 tablet, PC and a  Windows phone and never worry about syncing all the devices. Microsoft' s approach is fresh and simple. You have a windows phone, hook it up with your live account and there you are- all your photos, contacts, mail, and much more is synced easily without any thought. You snap a photo on your phone and its available for view immediately on your home PC. Even more, Microsoft has some very good cloud services like office 365 which can always work well with just one account. And that's your Windows live account. Surely they will also figure out a way to keep track of purchases, other accounts, settings, browser preferences etc synchronized across all Windows machines. On Apple's side its the same story again. You sign in once with your Apple ID and iCloud takes care of everything. Even iWork and some other native apps backup data to the cloud every few seconds. All your deleted apps are in the cloud for immediate download. And Apple has even gone to the extent of syncing your iMessages so that you can switch iDevices in the middle of a conversation. Everything is smooth and simple. The biggest worry for Android is not the ability to backup data to the cloud (google sync has been around for years), but the inability to sync your data across all your devices. That's what is required in the near future. Your phone and PC will no longer be independent stand-alone devices. The Personal computer is going to become even more personal. A whole lot of manufacturers produce Smartphones and tablets based on Android, and all of them use different custom layer for the OS. It will be a difficult task to keep your Android phone and Tablet in sync with each other because there will be many dissimilar aspects between both the devices. And moreover, people who own an Android phone/tablet use a PC or MAC as their desktop computer. How is the PC/MAC going to fit into the equation? Windows 8 and Mac will both be more sync-friendly towards windows and iOS devices respectively. And the answer to all this doesn't lie in the Chrome OS. Because that's a big FAIL. Both MAC and Windows PC are well established. And with their strong foothold in the smartphone market, it is only going to help them more. Windows 8 tablets are already looking promising. If Android goes kaput in the long run, it could all be because of just one reason-- 'the inability to sync across all your devices'.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

One little known iOS gesture

I don't know how many people know about this little gesture in iOS, but I found this accidentally while trying to mimic the iOS5 style pull down gesture for notifications .  

When in a particular app, swipe down from the time on the status bar to the center title on the blue(title) bar in an app.

For example when in the settings app, if you are in Settings > General, swipe down slowly starting from the time on status bar till the point where the word General is written.  The thing with this gesture is that it activates the function of the left side button. So in messages app's main screen, you would end up activating the edit function for the messages. Works across any app in iOS.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Desktops will never disappear. Here's why..

Many people think that tablets are going to completely replace desktops. Before I tell why they are wrong, lets answer this question-
So Who needs a tablet?

When I ask this question, I mean who really needs it- as a primary computer. Lot of us never get tired of the number of gadgets we have. Getting to the question now, Tablets are for those who don't do extremely serious stuff on their desktop. The average internet user (6 out of 10 of us) uses the computer to check email, read some news and occasionally watch a few videos here and there. This guy is no Developer or Designer. Nor does he have his computer running 24x7, 365 days. This guy wants to do his simple activities quickly and easily. No waiting for computer to switch on, no modems and no wires. This is where tablets step in. Google and Apple saw this an opportunity and are already churning out faster tablets every year.
Tablet is also for those who want to do some desktop specific stuff on desktops and then move to their tablets for casual browsing, reading,etc. Tablets can handle many task in an intuitive way. Thats the reason why they are such a huge success. Now coming to the main point-

Why will desktops be around for the years to come?

No wonder how 'magical' those tablets are, there are a few things they cannot do. And not only that, Desktops are the grass root level of technology. This is where things start developing. Even those amazing apps for your iPhone or iPad are created on a desktop. Can you have the same experience on Photoshop on a tablet as on the desktop? Can we manage various kinds of files without any fuss on a tablet? What about all those graphics you see in movies? The answer for all these: NO. What I mean here is that extremely serious applications will always be best on a desktop. A desktop machine can be upgraded easily. You can even build your own custom windows PC. It is the platform for every other kind of technology to flourish.

Did E-mail ever go away because of the rise of social media? No. Yes, we resort to Twitter or Facebook most of the time these days for communication, but e-mail is still the go-to method of communication for all when it comes to professional communication. Desktops are like that. like email.


I don't mean that Tablets aren't great. They are super cool and will eat into desktops' market share but desktops will still continue to find a place in homes and offices. Tablets will become our companions wherever we go. Notebooks, and not desktops will feel threatened by these touch screen wonders.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Firefox Dashboard concept

While menus in browsers are now available under a single button, menu items are still displayed in a dropdown list. This concept of mine presents a solution where users click one button and are taken to the dashboard where all settings , history, bookmarks,addons etc are available. It also enables users to search across them. Now menus are easier to use and in one place.

The UI outside dashboard. (click to enlarge image)

Dashboard UI