Review: Desktop Poet 1.0
Developer: Mariner Software
Price: $25 (boxed); $15 (download)
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2
Trial: Fully-featured (7 days)
as young child excellent gift
words fun make arrange most cool
enormous silly through morning manipulate
whisper luscious diamond beat poems
smell gorgeous waste time
thanks mariner software
Mariner Software recently released a piece of software, Desktop Poet, which does exactly that, but on your computer screen. I thought it was pretty slick, and occasionally, it kept me from accomplishing any school work (or, say, my column and this review). If you take nothing else away from my review, think of this: Desktop Poet is a truly awe-inspiring way to procrastinate.
What was most impressive was that you could swap word sets, just like using a real magnetic poetry kit. Mariner has a variety of them available for download on its Web site, with 100, 200 and 300 ordinary words, or “celebrities,” “politics,” “Potter,” “science,” and “Trekkies” sets. Best of all, there’s no more hunting for a plural-article tile, since with a simple Control-click you can select a bunch of variations on whatever the tile is showing: “whisper’s,” “whispers’,” “whisperings,” etc., contained on “whisper.” It was fantastic!
As far as normal use goes, Desktop Poet is pretty basic. Depending on your preference, it can be either a normal window, or floating on top of all your windows—I don’t recommend this—or just above the desktop level. The latter is what I preferred, since it seemed to interfere least with my workflow. Although, it was tricky from time to time clicking on the desktop to select things.
Desktop Poet, on my computer, just above the desktop itself.
Should you prefer having the tiles on window level, I highly recommend the Virtual Fridge mode, which has the potential to be one of the application’s major selling points, if a few of its flaws can be resolved. The Virtual Fridge is a “magnetic” window, kind of like a fridge, or the large black board, for you to put your marvelous poetry on. You’ll want to set the opacity down when focus is on other applications, so you can use your computer, unless you want the magnetic poetry as an interactive desktop wallpaper. (I found this annoying, but mainly because it switched focus. I wished I could do something like that at desktop level.)
Desktop Poet’s useful Virtual Fridge mode.
Desktop Poet’s preferences for window level. I highly recommend using it just above the desktop.
And that’s precisely the problem with Desktop Poet. It feels like it would have been better to implement Virtual Fridge mode as a below-desktop-level interactive solution, and make it into a de facto desktop application. If you can use the screen saver engine as your desktop background, I see no reason I shouldn’t be able to use a magnetic-poetry application as my desktop background.
But, since Tiger is coming, I’d like to tell Mariner Software: re-release your application as a Dashboard widget, when the time comes! Wouldn’t that be the best of all worlds? No more distractions or relaunching, and so much more satisfying than procrastinating on a paper or by checking everyone’s AIM profiles. You never know, you could find that you’re wasting your time on dual journalism and history degrees and should become a poet. (Or not. See above.)
Oh, and charge less. Please. I’m hesitant to spend $15 on anything fun, since it’s $15 less from a future purchase of Adobe software for any work that pays the bills.
If Mariner can work out a new interface, though, it might just be worth it. It takes the last tiny bits of effort out of writing poetry. You could be the next e.e. cummings and just not know it!
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