The Odd and the Eclectic: Favorites of 2007

As 2007 comes to a close, here is my eclectic, contrarian, and surely incomplete list of favorite things that appeared or I discovered in 2007.

Software

nisus_pro.jpgNisus Writer Pro: My bar-none favorite word processor. The Pro version was introduced this year as a step up from the Express version that’s been around for a few years. It’s deceptively simple looking, yet smoothly incorporates a robust feature set with an elegant interface and beautiful display of type. As a processor of words (as opposed to wannabe page layout app) it is unparalleled. If you are in the wordsmithing business, try this app.

Journler: This app has been out for a while but I just started using it this year. It is one of the few apps other than Camino that I keep open 24/7. See my earlier review (note that Journler is switching from a donation to paid model)

Numbers and Keynote: These two apps are part of iWork 07, Apple’s “productivity” suite that somewhat competes with Microsoft Office. At $79 for three apps it’s a screaming deal. Since I don’t use Pages (see Nisus Pro above…) Numbers and Keynote have been the two standouts for me. At last someone has taken a fresh look at the spreadsheet, and Numbers succeeds brilliantly. Yes it is missing some power functions, but it is aiming at a pro-sumer audience and for that it is perfect. Finally, someone has done cut/paste correctly - Excel’s method of doing this standard operation has always grated on me where the cut doesn’t take effect until the paste has been done.

While not perfect and with some frustrating oddities, the new version of Keynote brings some excellent features like easy to use path-based animation, new evocative canned animations and transitions, and instant alpha masking. But it also has important small features that improve productivity, like per-paragraph formatting (as opposed to Powerpoint’s per-text-block), groupings of slides in the flimstrip, and object-locking. (This version of Kenote addresses some of my complaints about Powerpoint.)

Squarespace 4.0+: This blog runs on the Squarespace platform, and the new versions released this year have brought excellent new capabilities in site search, statistics reporting, as well as overall refinements. I’ve used several other hosted and non-hosted blogging platforms and Squarespace trumps them all in its ease of use, UI elegance, and personal customer service.

Hardware

pentaxk10d21mm.jpgPentax K10D: Everybody else will have the iPhone on their lists (and rightly so), so I’m going orthogonally here to recognize a prosumer digital SLR from a second-tier camera maker. The K10D brought high end features like weather sealing, anti-shake in the body, lots of AF points, large viewfinder, built-in DNG support, and a novel approach to ISO adjustment to a new low price level (under $600 now). Plus I think it is the most handsome of today’s 10 megapixel SLRs, and has excellent ergonomics. It’s shown here with one of Pentax’s unique “pancake” lenses that are great for street photography.

Media and Events

The Decemberists, The Crane Wife. Strictly speaking this came out toward the end of 2006, but I didn’t hear it til early 07. It’s been on my “turntable” steadily all year and has remained fresh and interesting.
Children of Men: It’s been a good year for apocalypse movies, kicked off with the stunning Children of Men. Layered with meaning and symbols, and a tension-filled story to propel it along, and great performances all around. Peter Merholz wrote up a good review.
Charlie Wilson’s War: Who would have thought that insider deal making and arms deals could be so uproariously funny? This movie had the audience in stitches, while driving home some hard lessons about not “fucking up the endgame” as Wilson puts it in the closing titles. Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman are at the top of their game.
Made to Stick: At once common sense and profound, this book is a must-read for anyone that has to communicate complex ideas and motivate others to action. Read my earlier review.
Nobel Peace Prize: 2007 was a tipping point in environmental awareness, and the joint awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change was a key contributor. It will be looked back upon as a turning point in mass consciousness.

cars2007.jpg 

Cars

Fiat Cinquecento: Finally a car to truly challenge the small-car crown of the MINI. To see one is to want one. Will they bring it to the US? Let’s hope so. (Review)
Alfa Romeo Competizione 8c
: Just beautiful. How much is it? Who cares? (Official site)
Audi TT
: Pictures of this had left me cold, but seeing it in person is another story. Not as iconic as the original, but it evolves the form in a sophisticated way. (Official site)