Amar Sagoo

10 December 2008


I never used to be particularly interested in designing mobile applications. I just thought it was a hopeless platform, plagued by tiny screens and keys that were designed for inputting numbers (how often do you actually type numbers into your phone?) I also had never thought of my phone as something that I want to use for various applications. This scepticism had become so ingrained that I initially didn't even see much point in Apple opening up the iPhone for third-party developers. I thought it might destroy the purity of this well-designed platform if developers were suddenly given reign over users' mobile screens.

However, two months ago or so, a certain curiosity, a thirst for a new challenge and a feeling that I was missing a boat (to where I did not know) combined to make me go out and buy an iPod touch (I don't want to buy an iPhone because my current phone deal is too good to give up). I almost immediately appreciated both what a well-designed platform it is and what a compelling playground the third-party application market represents, for users and developers alike.

9 September 2008

Tofu 2.0.1

Tofu 2.0 was released yesterday, which allows reading simple PDF documents, has a less obtrusive full-screen mode, supports scrolling on MacBook trackpads and is a Universal Binary (that is, it includes a native build for Intel Macs). An alpha version with most of these features had been available for quite some time, but it had some bugs, and it only recently dawned on me how to solve the trackpad problem.

I have since released revision 2.0.1, which fixes some bugs in yesterday's release.

In case you don't know what Tofu is: it tries to make reading text on the screen more pleasant by wrapping it into columns, which you navigate from left to right without ever scrolling vertically.

Go and get it here.

7 May 2008

The science of keyboard design

The Handbook of Human–Computer Interaction, edited by Martin Helander, Thomas Landauer and Prasad Prabhu, is a book published in 1997 that attempts to summarise research relevant to the design of interactive software and hardware. Its 62 chapters fill 1500 pages and provide advice on a multitude of topics, covering analysis, design and evaluation of interactive systems, as well as the psychological and ergonomic underpinnings of human–computer interaction. One of those chapters is titled Keys and Keyboards and was written by James Lewis, Kathleen Potosnak and Regis Magyar. It considers virtually every imaginable factor involved in designing keyboards, and, by drawing from experimental studies, provides recommendations for each of them. Ever since I read this chapter a couple of years ago, I've been meaning to summarise some of their conclusions and to consider them in the context of modern keyboard design. The recent string of keyboard-related links on Daring Fireball (e.g. here, here, here, here, here and here) moved me to finally sit down and do it, so here it is.

5 May 2008

Hyphens, dashes, et cetera

I have a thing about correct punctuation, and although I'm aware that most people would find me over-zealous in this regard, I would bring to my defence that it's not just a pointless obsession or a purely aesthetic matter. A bit of poor punctuation will in the best case distract those from the text who notice it and affect their impression of the author, and in the worst case actually give the reader trouble understanding a sentence. Having said that, what I'm going to write about today is more on the aesthetic side, but could nevertheless help you make a good impression on a reader who notices these things.