The challenge of choice
Following on from my thoughts about Setapp, and now having all this extra software choice in my life, is that I now have to confront the challenge of choice.
For many, many, years I have been using OmniFocus to manage my life - keeping all my work and personal projects and tasks safe and sound. I was using OmniFocus before it was even an app - back when it was a series of OmniOutliner scripts put together by Ethan Schoonover to replicate this magical GTD (Getting Things Done) philosophy that had entered the world not all that long before. So I’ve got a long-term relationship with OmniFocus. I love it. But as with any relationships, there are hurdles and things that you really wish were different. I wish OmniFocus had graphical elements, like visual timelines and kanban boards. I wish it had better abilities as an information/document manager. I wish it would move away from the arcane view of ‘contexts’ which in this modern, connected, mobile world are not nearly as useful as they were in David Allen’s 2001 world where he could walk to the park and suddenly not be able to answer email.
So, Setapp has some alternative apps. One in particular, Pagico, looks nice. It has some interesting file management concepts. It has a visual timeline. Maybe I could get to like this? But, hang on, I have a decade of history with OmniFocus. The switching cost - not in dollars - but in time and effort is huge. OmniFocus has inertia, muscle memory and comfort in its favour. How can Pagico compete with that? So I’ve tried using Pagico, and it looks pretty on the surface. But underneath it feels a bit… brittle. The sync engine is weird and the mobile apps feel pretty terrible anyway. The interface seems slow. I am struggling to trust the app.
Maybe I should just stick with OmniFocus…
Okay, so let’s go with another choice. I’ve used Scrivener for many years and more recently have been using it heavily as the starting point for the report writing I have to do for my work, before it is transferred into a CMS or Word file. I like Scrivener, but it is big and heavy for what I need. So now, with Setapp, I have Ulysses. This is an app that I’ve followed but not ever felt compelled to buy since I had Scrivener already. Now, though, I can give it a chance.
So I have to learn a new app, remember to always write in Markdown, and then hope that I can easily get the text out of Ulysses in a format that I can use it in for its final form. Yes, Markdown is great but bureaucratic government systems don’t grok it, okay?
So I’ve got to deal with another app choice, and now potentially have my stuff spread across two different word processors. But, of course, I’ve built an ecosystem around Scrivener across macOS and iOS - but Setapp only gives me the macOS version of Ulysses.
The list goes on, and I guess this is capitalism at its finest. There is never the tool to use. Wherever a successful product is built, others quickly join the party. This is not something that is limited to software - this happens throughout the economy. Some of these apps are really good, and some come with their own idiosyncrasies. My challenge is to decide which of all the flawed products, speaks most to me. Which of these apps has been designed most in the way that my brain works, and which have flaws that least often affect me? This is the challenge of choice. I think I might just need to look on the bright side, and realise that this is all just grist for the mill of a software tinkerer, indulging his hobby.