Monthly Archive for December, 2009

This is Going to Be a Little Nerdy.

Warning: the following post is some seriously specific and nerdy stuff. If you couldn’t care less about iPhones or clipboard managers then you can stop reading right now.

Still there?

So, Pastebot. From Tapbots, the makers of Weightbot and Convertbot.

I should mention that I’ve used Weightbot pretty consistently since August, and I love it. It’s chock full of little visual touches that add up to make a very polished product. They have perfect sound design – most actions are accompanied by some audio clip that sounds robotic or hi tech. I think the way I’m describing it makes it sound more annoying than anything, but the effect is that the app conveys a feeling of responsiveness, hi-techness, and fun.

I’ve also used Convertbot. A similarly high level of attention to detail went into this app as well. Though I much prefer Convert for my unit converting needs, Convertbot has an intuitive and creative interface, excellent auditory and visual feedback and it’s obvious that a lot of time and thought went into its design.

With these apps in mind, I would often wax poetic about any forthcoming ‘bots from Tapbots. To my utter astonishment last week, John Gruber at Daring Fireball dropped a link to the newly released Pastebot.

What is Pastebot? It’s a clipboard manager. When iPhone OS 3.0 was released, Apple finally provided a system-wide mechanism allowing users to copy and paste text and images. Pastebot extends this functionality in extremely useful ways.

Text. To use Pastebot, you must first copy something. In this case, say you’ve copied some text from an email or a webpage. When you first launch Pastebot, it will import whatever is currently on the system clipboard into the Pastebot clipboard. In it, you can store a maximum of 99 items. As you add more than this limit, the oldest items will drop off to make room for the new. So that text you copied? Well, now that it’s in Pastebot, you can do interesting things to, and with, it.

Pastebot offers something called ‘Filters’; as of this writing, they’re available in two flavors: text filters and image filters. For text, you can do things like wrap the text in HTML tags that you specify, encode or decode entities for URLs, and my personal favorite, Find and Replace text (the effect of replacing the text ‘live’ as you manipulate the ‘find’ and ‘replace with’ boxes is very cool).

The image filters allow you to rotate the image, adjust brightness, convert to black and white, adjust saturation, invert colors (negative) or turn the image sepia. Pastebot also offers an intuitive image cropping function.

Tapbots has indicated that more filters are on the way. A Contrast filter for images would be a great one to include, ahem.

Once you have doctored your clippings, simply tapping on them in the clipping list will copy it back to your system clipboard for pasting into any other app. The currently selected item will have a bright blue “LED” light to indicate its status as the item currently occupying the system clipboard. Aside from this, you can do other things with your clippings. Like send them via email, save them into your photo library (in the case of an image clipping), perform a google search (in the case of a text clipping), and finally, move the item to a folder.

What? Oh yeah. The app offers folders. If the 99 clipping limit for the built in clipboard seems a little anemic to you, you can create your own arbitrary number of folders into which you can store whatever clippings you want, permanently. The app allows you to customize the folder icons from a pre-defined set of six types, like “Documents”, “Settings”, “Email” etc.

And this feature, the folders, is where Pastebot veers into interesting territory. In this regard, the app seems to mirror features found in other note-taking or mind-mapping apps such as Simplenote or Evernote. After all, you can create new text clippings from directly within Pastebot, and it offers the full text editing interface found in other apps like Notes or Simplenote (or really, ANY apps where you can edit text) – much like Evernote, you can create a hierarchy of clippings for use as mind-mapping. As a on/off user of both Simplenote and Evernote, I find myself coming up short on reasons to not consolidate down to just one app.

But wait, there’s more. Seriously. Tapbots has released a free companion Mac app, Pastebot Sync, which allows Pastebot from the iPhone to paste items directly to your Mac and vice versa, via wifi. After the process of pairing the phone to your Mac, you simply tap and hold on any item in Pastebot, and it will be pasted to the position of the cursor in whatever the currently open application is on your Mac. It’s really cool.

So far, I’ve been focusing on the good things. To be fair, there are an overwhelming number of good things to say about this app. However, I have one gripe, which is something that is probably outside of Tapbots control. The need to open the app in order for an item to be imported into the Pastebot clipboard feels stunted. If this were automatic for EVERYTHING copied to the system clipboard, this app would be unstoppable. It would be such icing on the cake, such a smooth flow to go with such a well designed app. Perhaps some enterprising jailbreak enthusiast could hobble together an automatic bridge between the system clipboard and Pastebot?