The right tool

Episode 095 of mac power users was with Dr.Drang. Dr.Drang is a engineer. It was interesting to hear his workflows as it deals primarily with data and numbers as opposed to words and pictures.

In this interview he said that he uses textmate for pretty much everything. He said (paraphrasing heavily) that it was better to know one tool well and use it in many different situations. Because Dr.Drang is a programmer. He can have this luxury as he can write programs to manipulate numbers and text.

But, what he said did make a lot of sense. I have a few tools which I write with – Scrivener, Circus Ponies Notebook, Byword, TeXShop, Textmate,Opal,Nisus Writer. It gets a little crazy trying to remember shortucts for all of these programs. Also I feel I am not using these programs to the depth that I can. I feel I am only scratching the surface of program functionality. But, does this really matter ?

Merlin Mann said on an earlier episode of Mac Power Users that you should learn enough about a tool to get the job done. Learning more is just wasting time and counterproductive if your goal is to get stuff done. I can see this point as well. There certainly is a different feeling to when I am just playing around with a program versus when I am trying to learn a program to reach a goal. But, without a little bit of playing, how do you know if a program is going to suit your needs ?

I think I need to ask myself a few questions:

  1. What problems I am trying to solve ?
  2. Can this tool easily help me solve my problem ?
  3. How much fiddling do I have to do to get it to solve my promlem ?
  4. Am I better using a different tool ?

Another disguised form of procrastination is the search for the perfect tool. The search of the one tool that will me the unknow need – our whole commercial society is based on meeting that unknown need. I think that the time would be better spent on defining what I really need and finding out what the tools I have are capable of.

In the end the goal is to get work done. The quickest route to solve the promblem with minimal fiddling is probably the better solution. But, you need to have enough of a grasp of your tools to know if they are up to the job.

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