A Love Note To My Favorite Productivity App. Ever.

I just downloaded the Direct Access program from Nagarasoft today. It lets you type words to act as shortcuts to essentially anything you want on your computer. In default mode, its “type your keyword, then hit F1” and you get your action. I call that the BANG key because in the Linux world typing a BANG (exclamation point) after the first few letters of a command gets you completion for it if you’ve done it recently. For example, out of the box fireBANG gets you a browser opened… from any place you can type text on your system.

15 minutes of setting up keys which are more useful to me and I had a configuration which I was happy with. I also remapped the BANG key to Alt-Enter, which I can quickly hit without having to move a hand and which I’m used to from Java IDEs. My productivity has not increased so much since I learned to Alt-Tab.

Let me paint a picture for you: here’s what my screen generally looks like when I’m in development mode.

A cluttered desktop

Looking at this ugly monstrosity, I suddenly realize “Uh oh, I really need to copy/paste a file from C:\cygwin\home\nameofdayjob\nameofdayjobcurrentproject\server\perl to C:\cygwin\home\nameofdayjob\nameofdayjobcurrentproject\client . And then I need to zip it. Aww “#$”. Zipping isn’t bad, thats as simple as right-clicking the file and using Winzip’s shell integration.

But opening monsterfolder is tricky. If I had the desktop available it would be as simple as picking the right shortcut out of the fourty that are there. But I don’t — I’ve got 15 other applications vying for my attention. And, likely as not, one of them is modal at the moment. Which means even if I try Windows-M (“Automagically minimize all programs and dump you on your desktop” — and if you don’t use this, START) I’ll get trapped at some file chooser dialog somewhere. So instead I have to navigate to it by picking one of those open explorer windows and typing the whole evil path in the address bar, in the process losing the contents of the explorer window.

But no longer!

Now its svrBANG and I get taken straight to that directory.

Now imagine I’m staring at that ugly, cluttered screen and one of the office secretaries comes up to me. “Sorry, Patrick, this needs your signature urgently.” “This” is invariably a memo which has Japanese I can’t read on it. The most recent culprit was “international exchange activities aimed at promoting economic improvement”, which naturally the Japanese have a two-letter word for. I have a dictionary site which I am totally dependent on for situations like that bookmarked in Firefox (it would practically be my homepage if my company didn’t lock me to http://www.nameofdayjob.com to increase our access count — I offered to write them a robot to hit the page 100 times a day to allow me to set mine to Google or something but noooooo they said that would be cheating). So I’ve got to click one of the firefox windows from the task bar (2 clicks), open up a new tab, and load the bookmark.

No longer! dicBANG and my functional illiteracy is successfully hidden for another 5 minutes!

Do you have a Start Menu which is overflowing with programs which you use once in a blue moon but can’t get rid of because you would then have to fish them out of Program Files or God knows where else? Just assign them shortcuts. PadGenerator is an excellent candidate for this — I only need it once for every Bingo Card Creator update — padBANG, done, one program group saved. I’m addicted to the old Windows-R, calc/notepad/cmd/mspaint trick. Now I don’t have to Windows-R anymore, and can extend that to programs which aren’t in the system path. paintBANG now brings up Paint.NET (oh, love that program). ftpBANG brings up Filezilla.

Do you have 432 web services you have to check on a regular basis? I’m sort of obsessive-compulsive about having access to data, and yet I underuse bookmarks hideously (never liked them because they were never portable between computers). Which means to get to Google Sitemaps, for example, I generally go to Google (via typing it out in my address bar, no less — a habit which I will never break) and then Get Lucky with “Google Sitemaps”. Now its sitemapsBANG, from anywhere. adwordsBANG. wsjBANG. instaBANG (instapundit, my “got 5 minutes to kill” blog of choice). josBANG. blogBANG (I’ll give you one guess). ffBANG (I shortened “fireBANG” to “ffBANG” for my favorite web browser, since I use this one so often).

Then I got started thinking of ways I could abuse this with my IDEs. I don’t know about you but on a scale of 1-10 I probably use all my IDEs at about a 3, because I never put in enough time to learn the guts of them. As a result, what should be simple like “Use autocomplete to throw out a try/catch block” is just beyond my capabilities for most of them. And I often end up editing programs in non-IDEs just for convinience (my favorite being nano, a pico clone — laugh all you want). Now I’ve got nice portable macros like #intconvBANG. Java mavens might recognize this one:

try {

bar = Integer.parseInt(foo);

} catch(NumberFormatException e) { };

Then I just replace bar and foo as appropriate and I’m done.

Here’s another which might be a little quirky: kBANG. k is, in my personal coding convention, always my variable-of-first-choice for iterating through anything other than an array. If I’m doing GAWK, its always (for k in hash). If I’m doing Java, k is my temporary variable that holds the iterator’s next(). Thus, kBANG is:

java.util.Iterator iterator = foo.iterator();

Object k;

while (iterator.hasNext()) {

k = iterator.next();

}

The program is $40 (save 15% with a discount available to most people who know what the acronym JoS/BoS stands for — search for the words “the 13th August”). The first time I saw that, before actually using it, I thought “God, thats a lot of money for a single-use toy”. Now I think it would be cheap at twice the price.

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12 Comments on “A Love Note To My Favorite Productivity App. Ever.”

  1. Ali Says:

    Howdy Patrick. I found you through my thread in the BoS forums today and I got hooked on your blog, read it from all the way to the first post to the end :D.

    Just wanted to mention 4 things:

    1- You might want to spend the excess money from bingo creator to get a better design for your website. Sure, its good right now, but imo. you can really increase your conversion rate with a better design.

    2- I downloaded bingo creater and gave it a shot. Its great, but you might want to get rid of the standard java coffee icon in the top-left corner of each window. Also, I don’t have a printer installed and when I tried to print .. i think about 5 cards, i got bombarded with screens which flicked up for a second then disappeared, before getting the ‘No printer installed’ error message from windows.

    3- Add a feedback form to your website for letting customers contact you easily, instead of just supplying an email address. Many people use Hotmail/Gmail for their email, and just putting your email address as a mailto: link will make them open outlook express for no reason at all.

    4- Keep up with the good work with this blog! I’m looking forward to seeing your stats this month.

  2. Patrick Says:

    With regards to #1: I’ll consider it. Professional web design is expensive, and as you might have noticed my profits aren’t that considerable at the moment.

    With regards to #2: You’ll be happy to know that both of these issues were fixed in version 1.03. Try updating.

    With regards to #3: This is in the works. I need to switch over from my current Windows server, which I am inexperienced in developing for, to GoDaddy’s Unix server plan. With Unix I know how to quickly accomplish that and a few other things.

    Thanks for your feedback!

  3. Black Betty Says:

    Have you tried Launchy? It’s free and indexes the shortcuts in your Start Menu (and also the files you specify) so you don’t have to define words yourself.

    I like it a lot, in fact it has became indispensable to me.

    A suggestion for your web site: Can you make a page in which you explain what Bingo is, and why Bingo Cards are needed? I’m not from the US, and I have absolutely no clue.

    Except for the quote: “Keep grandma off the streets. Legalize Bingo”

  4. Ali Says:

    Hey patrick,
    I also noticed that when I installed the program I got a message to check for updated and when I checked, it told me that there is an update available. This is right after I had finished the setup program.
    Which leads me to wonder, did you forget to update your setup program again? I mean, shouldn’t the setup program install the latest version of the program in the first place?

  5. Patrick Says:

    Well, I checked, the version on the website at the moment is most definately 1.03. My guess is that you managed to download 1.02 in the middle of my deployment process (which, as I recounted the other day, takes about 15-30 minutes all told). I can’t remember exactly how the order went, but I’m fairly certain I copied over the new 1.0?.htm files first and then later copied over the actual executable. You probably got in there in the window between the two pieces of information being in sync.

  6. Ali Says:

    Probably yea. Anyway good job with the site and product 😀


  7. […] Nagarsoft just released the Direct Access shortcut utility. This tool allows you to configure keyboard commands for launching applications, entering text snippets into the active application, send an email or open a website. Direct Access already got some fans that love the product. Congratulations for releasing the 1.0! […]


  8. You’ve interested me, I’ll try it 🙂


  9. […] I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I like Direct Access, and use it on a daily basis (and by “daily” I mean “I type in a Direct Access shortcut about every 30 seconds to five minutes while working, but I do this every day, so thats daily”).  You can see my full review of the program earlier on my blog.  Actually, perhaps review is the wrong word to use: that implies objectivity, and I’ve got none here: I love the program like I love chocolate.  Anyhow, the reason I’m mentioning it out of the blue is that another site I rather like, Bits Du Jour, is running a one day 50% off sale on it.  So, if for some reason you’re still fence-sitting, you can get it for $20. […]


  10. […] Productivity Up By 10%… Yowza I have tried expressing my love for Direct Access before.  Really, its hard to describe until you’ve tried it.  However, […]

  11. Frank Says:

    Yea, utotext utils are nice but Direct Access looks like a me-too of the Freeware PhraseExpress.

    So why waste $40 for a program where there are excellent free alternatives?

    I dont get it 😉

    Frank

  12. Patrick Says:

    PhraseExpress does not appear to be free for me.

    >>
    Any activity is considered as commercial use [edit by me: and thus requires I purchase a license] where the user is having a financial benefit from that task (salary, wages, commission, revenue, etc.).
    >>

    Given that I certainly make money from programming, the decision is reduced to “Do I purchase Direct Access, or do I purchase PhraseExpress?” I suppose I might have purchased PhraseExpress had I heard about it first, but I didn’t. And, well, here we are. Best of luck to you, it looks like it would be a nice application for some users.


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