Monday, March 03, 2008, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)
Exclusive preview: Delicious Monster's Delicious Library 2.0Back in 2004, shortly before the release of Mac OS X Tiger, Delicious Library 1.0 arrived as a slick looking inventory cataloging application designed to manage listings of books, videos, albums and other media. This year, Delicious Library 2.0, currently in beta and scheduled for a March release, will deliver a major update by taking full advantage of features in the new Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Here's an exclusive preview.
First Rate Third Party Software
When Apple first released Mac OS X at the beginning of the decade, the biggest challenge it faced was finding support from third party developers. Major software developers such as Adobe and Microsoft were slow to take full advantage of Mac OS X's features, initially only layering on native-looking widgets and using Apple's Carbon environment to reuse as much of their existing cross-platform legacy code as possible. This prevented the majors from really squeezing the most from Apple's new operating system.
The reluctance of the big developers to really use the new technology that Apple was building into Mac OS X left a big opportunity for small developers. Among those 'small batch' master crafting developers is Wil Shipley, who had earlier founded the Omni Group to develop software for NeXT systems. That background gave Shipley a head start in developing native applications for the new Mac OS X, which was largely based upon NeXT's forward looking frameworks and coding style.
After a decade at Omni, Shipley left to start Delicious Monster, with the goal of planting new projects to bloom into beautifully rare and delicately ornate products just like the company's namesake tropical plant. Delicious Monster's goal of delivering a native Mac software title with an innovative, intuitive, and attractive interface resulted in Delicious Library, which won several distinguished ratings including Apple Design Awards as the Best Mac OS X User Experience for 2005 and placement in the Best Product New to Mac OS X category that same year. At the most recent Apple Design Awards from WWDC 2007, it won as the Best Mac OS X Leopard Application, despite its not even being released as a product yet. What's all the fuss?
Delicious Library 2.0 revamps the application's interface to follow the design cues of iTunes 7, Apple's flagship app that acts as harbinger of the company's user interface directions. Like iTunes, DL2 drops its heavy Brushed Metal look to adopt Leopard's lithe new Unified appearance, which makes it feel more modern, lighter, and cleaner overall. DL2 looks like it could be part of iLife.
At the same time, the new version advances and introduces some innovative design ideas of its own. For example, the pull down sheet for configuring publishing options uses a compact but intuitive selection interface that needs no textual explanation fields (below left). Click on the green info inspector tag and the "publish to" item slides over to reveal specific configuration settings for that target (below right), which can be dismissed either by clicking on the close box or by clicking the inspector icon again.
Another original, but very Mac-like behavior of Delicious Library appears at its first installation. After downloading, the application is ready to run without an installation process. If launched directly from the Leopard downloads folder, the application is smart enough to suggest copying itself into the Applications folder and handles the task for the user (below). That's a smart trick that every application should copy.
The Importance of Being Earnestly Organized
As its name suggests, DL2 exists to organize your stuff into libraries. It automatically discovers songs, videos, and audiobooks from your iTunes library (and keeps this information in sync with any changes made within iTunes), but you can also add physical media such as CDs in standard jewel cases or paper cartons, DVDs, Blu-Ray, HD DVD, UMD, 7" and 10" vinyl, XBox, XBox 360, Wii, and Playstation 3 video games and other software titles, or even your gadget hardware, tools, toys, and apparel. Items from Library collections can be organized into Shelves. Shelves and Libraries can be presented graphically (below top), or as a flat item listing along with the desired attributes (below bottom).
Smart Shelves act just like other smart collections in Leopard-style apps, allowing you to view live search results for any rule set of library items, such as movies from the 80s from a particular genre with a given rating.
Items can be entered manually, by dragging in URLs from Amazon, or by importing data from other applications. The slickest way to populate your collection, however, is to use the application's bar code scanner integration with a webcam such as the iSight built into all modern Mac notebooks. Once a DVD or any other item is scanned, the program looks up the UPC code from Amazon and adds the item to your library along with all the metadata it can find, including cover art.
Library items presented on a graphical shelf smartly composite the plain album art from iTunes or Amazon onto a dimensional CD jewel case, DVD box, or book outline in a way that makes for an attractive rendering. Media titles are presented against a woodgrain bookcase shelf (below top), while gadgets (such as computers, smartphones, iPods, or other peripherals) are drawn against a metal rack (below middle), and tools are hung up against a perforated workshop board (below bottom).
A third pane presents more information on the selected item, including a synopsis from Amazon, user reviews from the web, and recommendation links for buying related items (as presented in the above graphics).
Right-clicking on a item (or clicking its gear action menu) brings up options to play the item (if it's media from iTunes), or to buy or sell it on Amazon as a used item, in the case of a physical object. Recommending the item to a friend will create a simple HTML email with a link to Amazon to buy it, with an affiliate link for Delicious Monster.
Actions can also be initiated with the standard Apple Remote on Macs that support one. The remote can be used to browse the library and play items. Some items that lack a manually associated action URL will automatically play; iTunes songs or movies play from iTunes, while books will open a browser to Amazon's Look Inside site for the title.
You can also add Friends from your Address Book and check items out to them, using a return due date. Checked out items are tagged with an out flag and appear as ghostly outlines on your own library shelf (below), as well as being listed on your Friend's shelf. This makes it easy to track who has what, and send out the needed reminders to get your toys back.
On page 2 of 2: New in Two; Publish and Subscribe; Scan Lines; and Leopard-palooza.
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