27Feb

A new little software toy: Right Now!

Posted by Elf Sternberg as javascript, programming

Quick, what web page do you look at most often in your day-to-day life? Not the one you spend the most time on– that’s probably Facebook or Twitter or something like that. It’s the page you see on a regular basis but pay very little attention to.

For me, that page is the “New Tab” page on Chrome. It’s the page that comes up when you first start the browser, and every time you open a new tab with the Ctrl-T keystroke, or by clicking on the [HOME] button with the middle mouse button. I see that page every day, often many times in the day.

I decided I didn’t want the basic utility offered by Chrome, and replaced it with a static home page, a kind of memento mori. It’s based on an idea by Merlinn Mann, I think– it was a long time ago– and the idea is that every time you pull up that page it shows you a list of the things you ought to be concentrating on. It is emphatically not a to-do list; it’s more like a project list, and it has categories to let you describe different “realms” in which you have your projects. Mine looks like this:

Wouldn’t you rather be:

  • Programming:
    • A better Facebook
    • The next Pinterest
  • Writing:
    • The great American novel
    • The great Martian novel
  • Playing:
    • With your kids
    • In your garden

The problem with this set-up is that it was static. Sure, I’m a fine HTML monkey myself, but I wanted something that I could change without having to pull up an editor and look at a ton of HTML every day. So I hacked together this:

Right Now!

Okay, it’s a blank page. But if you click on the “Wouldn’t you rather be” header on the right, you’ll get an opportunity to create a new category, and then under that add a list of projects.

Here’s the (somewhat) nifty part: Your data is entirely stored on your computer. I taught myself to use Zepto and Lawnchair, a micro-DOM framework and a toolkit that uses the new “local storage” engines. There’s no server. There’s no off-line storage. Nobody else can see your data. 

And it’s fast. You don’t even notice the post-download draw. There are still some tics, but on the whole, this is what I wanted to achieve: when I change or abandon a project, the next time I see it, I can make it go away. And when I start a new project, I can put it on the list.

Even better, since I used Zepto and Lawnchair, I was able to write it without using Backbone. As much as I love Backbone, this didn’t need it, and figuring that out necessitated a re-write. So although the tag is “v0.2”, it’s more like “v0.4”, but that’s git for ya.

Anyway, go ahead and enjoy it. The code isn’t gorgeous, but for 140K, it’s a nice, sweet hack. And it means that my project list is now updatable. I’m no longer looking at an outdated list.

3 Responses to A new little software toy: Right Now!

Chris

February 29th, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Very nice and fast! I have not used Lawnchair or Zepto, but, I do like your code. My Chrome and FF new tab is the Google search page. You make a good point, I must see the Google search page hundreds of times a day. I like the idea of having “reminders” shown. I wonder if there is a way to integrate a Google search into RightNow. I guess, since most modern browsers have the search provider built into the address bar, it probably is redundant. But, I was just curious what you thought of the idea.

Best regards,
Chris

Elf Sternberg

March 3rd, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I think it’s a fine idea to integrate a Google search tab into the page, but I don’t see the point. The idea is to prevent you from immediately haring off with whatever it is that flitted through your mind. This page is meant to make you pause before going on. There have been some changes (sadly, I had to abandon Zepto– see next post) but they’re in service of usability of the do-one-thing idea of it.

Chris

March 5th, 2012 at 10:31 am

Hi Elf,
Thanks for your response. I do think that “right now” is a novel idea. I too find myself searching for things hundreds of times a day and I imagine that being reminded of my “to do’s” and “goals” would pay dividends.
Chris

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