Whatever happened to the Think Different mantra? Mac OS X Snow Leopard didn’t bring much in the way of insanely great new technology. In fact, not much has changed, at least, on the visible surface.
In my never ending quest to find the next great thing, I ran across a Mac application that defies definition. Conjure is more than the sum of its parts, yet the individual parts make it surprisingly unique. I hesitate to call it a virtual desktop, since the Mac has a desktop already, and via Spaces, even more desktops, and yet the two are not remotely similar.
Divide & Conjure
The world seems to be a divided place. Rich man, poor man. Mac vs. Windows. Left brain and right brain.
Conjure is a decidedly right brain utility that does the unexpected in traditional ways, yet is wholly different than traditional Mac tools. Does that make sense? A single definition just doesn’t do the job.
Forget your Mac’s desktop metaphor, or the multiple desktop in Spaces, even the Dock metaphor doesn’t fit. Indeed, Conjure thinks different.
I’ve often prided myself on being somewhat ambidextrous. Evenly left brain and right brain, able to move between the two worlds with little effort.
That said, Conjure leans heavily into the visual, the graphic, the creative, and, via the sum of the parts, becomes more. It’s the kind of Mac utility that you need to see before you can decide it’s something you need or want.
Hence, the ConjureBunny web site is loaded with videos which describe the various Conjure functions.
Summing the Parts
Here’s a summary of what Conjure does. First, think of it as a different desktop on your Mac. A desktop that has tools. Use it to make diagrams and drawings—right on the desktop.
Second, Conjure is also a notebook of sorts, so you can save items that might be saved by a separate Mac utility. Conjure launches applications, so it’s like the Dock. It’s a file organizer, so it’s like the Mac’s Finder.
To write a note, just start typing in Conjure. It knows what to do. To draw, click the spacebar. Various keystrokes move between tools for creating objects, lines, circles, etc. In other words, the desktop metaphor becomes a repository of action tools, rather than simply displaying the structure of your files and apps.
Before I dig into the details of what Conjure’s desktop does and how, it’s important to understand that not everyone thinks the same way.
Most of us, Mac or Windows PC users, understand the basic desktop, point and click, and hierarchical file structure. We know when to type, when to click, and how to navigate around the known areas of our Macs; the Desktop, Documents folder, the Dock, Music, Pictures, and Movies folders.
After those basics we tend to separate in widely differing capabilities as users; some of us are power users, others tread lightly and get lost trying to find files that have gone who knows where.
In other words, we don’t all think the same way, yet we use a complicated device with a somewhat rigid structure to get things done. What about those very creative people, highly intelligent, who view how to do what they do differently?
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What’s in a Name?
Before diving into the details, I admit to being thrown off a little by the name Conjure. It’s sounds magical, mystical, mysterious. Does it fit?
1 |ˈkänjər; ˈkən-| [ trans. ] make (something) appear unexpectedly or seemingly from nowhere as if by magic : Anne conjured up a most delicious homemade stew.
• call (an image) to mind : she had forgotten how to conjure up the image of her mother’s face.
• (of a word, sound, smell, etc.) cause someone to feel or think of (something) : one scent can conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake.
• call upon (a spirit or ghost) to appear, by means of a magic ritual : they hoped to conjure up the spirit of their dead friend.
2 |kənˈjoŏr| [ trans. ] archaic implore (someone) to do something.
Again, the target user for Conjure will probably just understand.
Organizers & Knife
Conjure lets you organize items by selecting them and using the Organizer tool. It’s a non-structured object; a simple menu option which holds whatever you’ve selected in the object, and you can have many of them (and probably will).
The Knife function lets you slice up items to be saved by the Organizer tool. Slice images, web pages, movies, whatever. Then select what you slice, and hold them in another Organizer object.
Clutter & Clusters
One issue all Mac users face at one time or another is clutter. We save more than we organize. Discipline is a requirement for organization, but left brain people do it differently than right brain people.
Conjure’s Clusters is a little like a 3-D shoe box. Grab whatever is on the desktop at the moment, drag them into a Cluster for safekeeping. Click the Cluster and everything inside expands so you can see what’s there.
See? I told you Conjure thinks different. Write. Draw. Organize. Save.
Sink, Surface, Focus
I believe that multitasking is a myth, that focus is more important for getting things done. Yet our Macs have a lot going on all the time. Browsing, email, chat, Twitter, word processing, music, all on screen at the same time is not focus.
Conjure has a Focus mode which lets you work on only one thing, while everything else goes away, including Conjure. It Sinks, and gets out of the way. Want it back? Tell Conjure to Surface.
And I always thought creative people were unfocused.
Links & Spaces
We know what a web page link looks like and what happens when we click it. In Conjure, a link can be created between one object and another.
This way you can create visual hierarchies, mind maps, information trees, organizational charts, even flow charts. It’s all done right on your whole screen. But that’s not all.
Conjure works a bit like a digital canvas and you use it to manipulate tools to get things done. But it also lets you create multiple desktops, uh, canvases, in a way similar to OS X’s Spaces. But you can switch canvasses without using or switching Spaces. Complicated, no?
A Fertile Future
If Conjure is all so complicated, then why bother? Because seeing is believing, and, because things change. You need to see how Conjure works, because it may be pointing to how we use our Macs in the not so distant future.
Once you see a Conjure video and then imagine an oversized iPod touch in your hand, the fabled Mac 10-inch multitouch screen iTablet cum iPad, you’ll understand. Instead of using a keyboard and mouse, the future of Macs may be somewhat more like digital finger painting on a multitouch screen.
Conjure is ready made for the future that hasn’t arrived. Yet.