Small mac app idea wanted
January 24, 2008 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Are there any small Mac applications that you wish existed but doesn't?

I need to make a Cocoa application for a class in a few weeks, and I get to choose the application. I'd really like it to be unique and useful. It has to be small enough to be doable in 3 weeks, but it's okay if it's a large project as long as something fairly impressive can be accomplished towards the goal in 3 weeks (in other words, something with a small core functionality and possibly many features on top). I wouldn't mind continuing to work on it after the class is over.

Also, if you have an idea but it's kind of a large project, go ahead and post it anyway.

I'm not looking for anything that'll make money, but it would be nice if the project is useful to more than a handful of people.

Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by jasminerain to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I use the Notes app on my iPhone. That content all gets backed up to my desktop Mac when i sync the iPhone. I would dearly love an app on my Mac that let me look at those backed up notes. I understand that write access might not work (does the existing iPhone sync write notes back to the iPhone, or is it a one-way backup?), but even read only access to those notes would be very welcome.
posted by browse at 9:04 PM on January 24, 2008

I wouldn't turn down something similar to Mailplane which handled other services... Paypal, Facebook, etc. Maybe even pretending to be an iPhone and serving up the scrolly simplified interfaces it uses.

How about user icons in Mail list view? Even better, how about the ability to thread Mail by something other than "subject"? All the mail exists in OS-readable files in the Finder ... why not help people read their mail using an IM paradigm? Just off the top of my brain.
posted by clango at 9:37 PM on January 24, 2008

A nice Mac-like program that can create, edit and preview these files.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:52 PM on January 24, 2008

I would love some sort of rational way to sync iCal with the millions of web-based to-do-list services out there. The long-url copy-paste-publish thing you have to do is onerous and it doesn't even work all that well.
posted by streetdreams at 9:55 PM on January 24, 2008

How about lesson planning software for teachers? The programs I've seen have a long-term unit focus (what's happening Thursday?) while sometimes you want to have a detailed lesson plan to save or share.Easy
  • Organized template with Grade Level, Materials, Duration, Procedure (Numbered Steps, each with Time), Assessments. Cocoa text formatting/spellcheck
  • Email/Print options
  • Add tags to lessons or save them in a database searchable by content covered, grade level, class mode, etc.
  • Attach handouts to lesson
  • Create web site for people to upload their lesson plans, directly downloadable into the program.
  • Upload alternative templates (not all teachers write lesson plans the same way)
I'd shell out for that!
posted by themadjuggler at 9:57 PM on January 24, 2008

How about an app that lets you see whose iChat buddy lists you belong to? (i.e. who added me as a buddy to their list?)

How about an app that lets me 'project' my screen to someone else's computer, so that I can demonstrate something to them? (Like a VNC connection, but in reverse)

How about a Mac Port of this Palm app?
posted by Wild_Eep at 9:58 PM on January 24, 2008

This recent post might be relevant here.
posted by streetdreams at 10:02 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I haven't checked to see if it's out there but one part of Vista I like is the multiple clocks I get in the task bar. If you click/mouse over (can't remember) the clock in the tray it will pop up with a few different time zones you can set. I would love to have something like this in my regular menu bar instead of a Dashboard widget.
posted by m3thod4 at 10:03 PM on January 24, 2008

I know I'd love something like Time Tracker, just I'd want it to be pretty (default Leopard look + buttons is good). I know Timeous stores data in an XML file (plist), but perhaps sqlite3 would be good. What I'd want out of it are the following features:
  • Outer-organization: Projects
  • Easy-to-enter tasks
  • Data export to XML and CSV
  • A menu bar button that you can start/stop time and add tasks too, or maybe a keyboard shortcut like iGTD's F7
Here's an XML representation of the data I'd want to store:
			ISO format
			ISO format

This isn't something I need, but you could write a little app that has a source code input (any type) and can do:
  • Output colored source code in a window(or HUD)
  • Convert HTML to entities
  • Or: connect to a site, download the html and do the above
It's not a very challenging app (pretty easy to write in PHP, Python, *), but if you want something you could probably do in a day or weekend, this would be it.
posted by fleeba at 10:15 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oops so much for my nifty XML. If you view the page source you'll see it ;).
posted by fleeba at 10:17 PM on January 24, 2008

What about a program that lets you turn off the monitor on your macbook, while keeping your computer running (in case you want to download files on your macbook pro while you sleep)
posted by unexpected at 10:35 PM on January 24, 2008

unexpected: just turn it down to nil with f1.

OP: I'd like something like MIDI yoke, but with an arpeggiator. Something to sit between the MIDI interface and the app I'm using, but arpeggiating the input.
posted by pompomtom at 10:56 PM on January 24, 2008

Unexpected, I think your F1 key does that. :)
posted by rokusan at 10:56 PM on January 24, 2008

posted by rokusan at 10:57 PM on January 24, 2008

Best answer: Howzabout something that takes Project Gutenberg formatted eBook texts (which are fairly standardized, particularly if they've come through the Distributed Proofreaders project) and makes them more pleasing to read? Myself, I like using Tofu to read eBooks, but first I have to batch remove hard linebreaks and double spacing, replace their ASCII formatted _italics_ and *bold* (or whatever the conventions are) with RTF italics, bold, underlining, etc. along with cleaning up chapter heads and some other weirdness to make it a palatable reading experience. Yeah, it's not that hard, but it does require a certain facility with regular expressions, and a general lack of fear, which I think the target Mac user lacks. (I also delete the Project Gutenberg intro and outro fineprint, since I'm not going to redistribute the files, but you may not legally be able to do that.)

Options to format the font face, size, and style, linebreaks, chapter structure, TOC, etc and output a PDF would probably be attractive for those who prefer using Definitely slap a custom icon on the generated document, and provide the opportunity to define a parent app to serve as the reader. I'm sure I'm only hinting at what's possible/desirable here... I don't read enough eBooks, or pay attention to recently released software, to adequately frame the feature set off the top of my head, but unless someone's written an awesome helper app recently it's a need that I'd love to see addressed.
posted by mumkin at 11:55 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ooh! I have no idea how feasible or big this project would be but I posted a recent AskMe about software that'd let me use my mouse's scroll bar to adjust system volume whenever I hovered over a title bar, near any side of the screen, or over the top menu bar. The Windows version being Volumouse.
posted by estherbester at 12:10 AM on January 25, 2008

Seconding mumkin's request. So much good stuff on Gutenberg. I'm surprised there aren't better reader clients that can just suck up the text format and make it actually readable.
posted by vacapinta at 12:14 AM on January 25, 2008

would love a .pdb reader for mac... seems that isilo isn't going to produce one.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 5:41 AM on January 25, 2008

I want a calendar that is my desktop background but can be updated on the fly, so I can see what tasks I have waiting for me.

Maybe this exists, I don't know.
posted by sugarfish at 6:22 AM on January 25, 2008

themadjuggler : I've been working on a Mac OS X Lesson Plan builder application for my wife. If you're interested contact me.
posted by schwa at 6:49 AM on January 25, 2008

I would love some sort of rational way to sync iCal with the millions of web-based to-do-list services out there.

I was actually going to say this too. How about a program that syncs Remember the Milk to iCal? This would be amazingly useful for anyone who has an iPhone or uses any program like Bento that syncs with iCal.
posted by bradbane at 7:53 AM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

i love this question

*time tracking idea is great. nothing out there is 'just right' (and free...)
*a game! (scrabble, anyone?)
*my dream app: a small utility that lets you easily tag ALL files on your system (apps, music, documents, pictures) without going to the 'get info' dialogue box, and retains the metadeta somewhere that is mac-upgrade-proof (the spotlight comments?), and is also smart enough to know what kind of file you're dealing with so it can make suggestions, add icons, etc. Sort of like for your system. And then a Finder replacement to browse by tags rather than directories. So, I could peruse my 'graphics' 'apps' for the right tool, find all the 'logos' i've created that i wanted to put online, match to it a great 'blue' 'template' i once created but can't find, while listening to 'upbeat' 'mp3s' that are from 'soundtracks'.

Seriously though, that last one, i'd pay for. Of course if you make it, I'll expect a free copy. :)
posted by prophetsearcher at 8:42 AM on January 25, 2008

I would like to see a lightweight, fast, entirely keyboard navigable media file (images, videos, music, plus optional support for other file formats) browser that does not require a "library" or "playlist" to be constructed prior to browsing folders, and which allows keyboard-controlled switching between list, thumbnail, preview, and full-screen viewing.

See ACDSee on Windows for inspiration.
posted by Caviar at 9:01 AM on January 25, 2008

Caviar: Graphic Convertor on OS X does much of this. I use it instead of IPhoto for the reasons you've stated.
posted by vacapinta at 9:37 AM on January 25, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the great ideas!

I think the Project Gutenberg idea is the best fit for the class project - a fair amount of UI involved, and some not-too-difficult text processing in the background. It also sounds like something that would be easy start with, and add features onto as I go.

I also like the Remember the Milk syncing suggestion. It probably won't be a good fit for this project, but I'll keep it in mind for the future.

vacapinta - Interesting, I'll have to try out Graphic Converter. I've wanted something like that for a while too. Thanks =)
posted by jasminerain at 11:50 AM on January 25, 2008

sugarfish: check out Anxiety
posted by Freen at 1:01 PM on January 25, 2008

I tried out Graphic Converter, and found it pretty buggy, slow (on an 8-core Mac Pro!), and somewhat unpleasant to use.

Aside from taking up to 15 seconds to start playing a video file and redrawing the display frame every few seconds during that time, there does not seem to be a way to easily get fullscreen video preview other than as part of a slideshow, and it's totally unclear what controls or preferences manipulate the preview zoom, if any.

Buried in all of the other functionality, ACDSee has a very simple paradigm as a media viewer - use the arrow keys to navigate files (and backspace to go back up one level), press enter to view fullscreen. Press + and - to zoom in and out. Press enter again to return to the thumbnails. I'm shocked that there's nothing for the Mac that's this easy. Actually, with Quick Look, it's almost there in just the Finder, except that there's no keyboard shortcut for full screen, no way I can find to remap the Option-Cmd-Y keystroke to preview in full screen (which is a particularly awkward combination), and no way to zoom with the keyboard.
posted by Caviar at 6:49 AM on January 28, 2008

Open Source has apps that answer some ideas:
* Scrabble can be played with Quixotic
* Project Gutenberg can be pretty-printed with GutenMark
posted by Monochrome at 9:54 PM on February 22, 2008

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