Desktop Disadvantage

November 24, 2010

Mobile applications flourish, and it makes a desktop UI developer jealous. Desktop applications are supposed to have more system resources: big screen size, full-sized keyboard, a mouse, and a fast CPU.  So what?  Two decades after a mouse became widely available it’s still considered an optional device on a desktop. The same applies to every other aspect: screen resolutions vary from 1024×768 to 1920×1200, and screen sizes vary from 10” to 30”. This directly affects user feedback. When recently I made an app that used 48×48 icons, I had complaints that the icons are too big. Come on, iPhone 3 icons are 57×57, and iPhone 4 icons are 114×114! On a desktop, we are still mastering the techniques of making readable 16×16 icons. Another thing I am jealous of is touch gestures. Zooming and scrolling is just natural in touch-screen UI. On a desktop, we have ugly scrollbars and primitive non-standardized zoom controls. Desktop apps must be 5 times cooler than mobile apps because they have 5 times more resources! It’s time to reevaluate the window-based concept of desktop UI. It’s not user’s job to move windows around.

App integration also deserves mentioning. There is no simple cross-platform app integration mechanism on a desktop. Software installation, upgrades, and removal is a pain that users shouldn’t deal with. It’s one of the reasons, I think, why web applications ate the market share of desktop apps. Java and Flex try to address this problem but they have a long way to go. Clearly, it’s the OS to blame here. Linux, Windows, Mac OS all suffer from these issues. I hope the wisdom of iPhone and Android will rub on a desktop someday.

A couple of years ago I used Windows+DemoCharge product for demo creation. I was quite happy with that product, it could do exactly what I needed.

But ever since I  switched to Macs I have had trouble finding a similar application. The best I found was iShowU HD. And the app is very nicely designed but has a fundamental drawback, in my opinion – it does not have post-recorded editing capabilities at all. So you have to use iMovie.

The whole combination of iShowU (for recording) + iMovie (for editing and publishing) could make one’s life quite miserable. Like mine yesterday, when I needed to capture whole desktop and produce a YouTube screencast of a decent quality. With iShowU+iMovie I think you’ll pretty much be lost when it will come to selecting the right output settings (one to import into iMovie, another for publishing into YouTube). So I had spent 15hr and still did not find a good combination that would work well for me 😦

Late last night I was searching Internet for useful tips when I ran into this short tutorial/comparison of iShowU vs ScreenFlow:

Wow! I discovered that ScreenFlow is what I really needed, it is the DemoCharge for Mac basically. It has all necessary capabilities of post-recorded editing that I was looking for. I can say “good bye” to iMovie now.

I managed to create and publish my demo in just an hour or so, in a decent quality. It can even publish in HD and there are almost no configuration knobs to be lost among. Here is my demo: