MATTEO DALL'OMBRA

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Kickstart your writing career

October 21st, 2012

This is my prototype article for Marco Arment’s The Magazine


No, this article has nothing to do with the Kickstarter model. It was just a cool title.

If you are reading this article is because you are an avid and savvy reader and the world of blogs, digital publishing and similar is probably very familiar to you. You may even be a “writer” in your free time, and you now would like to bring your words out to the world.

Enter the realm of self-publishing tools. They are an ensemble of what I call the editorial world 2.0, having largely surpassed in flexibility, potentiality and personalization the traditional publishing houses. Even better, if you decide to self publish your work, you are only subject to the democracy that reigns on the internet: if the result is good you have chances to succeed, if it’s bad you are going to be forgotten quickly.

It’s a hard game but at least it’s fair and everyone with an internet connection can play. It’s far from the elitist system of the traditional publishing media.

Now, I want to tell you my adventure as a self published writer, not because it’s me but because I think I’ve learned several lessons and I want to share my new “knowledge” with you. It’s also a testament of the democracy factor I’ve outlined before: I’m a nobody (I’m not any kind of internet celebrity), but I’ve quite successfully done it.

The first lesson I’ve learned is about the tool you want to use. Nowadays there are literally hundreds and hundreds of online companies ready to sell you some sort of package to publish your work in different ways. Of course this choice is tough so you need some basic standards to weight you options: budget and target audience.

Budget is always the most limiting factor because if you’re not professional writer or you’re not financially backed in some ways, your budget will be your worst nightmare. In a way this is also a good thing because it will clear your way by immediately eliminating many of the potential platform. Now, what about some free alternatives? Free is good, right? Yes it really is, especially when free means Apple or Amazon.

It’s not a joke. Both Apple and Amazon are offering to everybody two of the most powerful self-publishing tools I’ve ever seen: iBook Author and CreateSpace. This dualism also brings us to the second parameter: your audience.

Knowing your potential audience is always a good thing because it will help you in make the right decision both when you are writing and when you are ready to publish. By using the Apple way your audience is represented by every country in which there’s an active iTunes Store and at least the iPad 2. This is a wide audience by it’s also limited by the fact that your book (developed with iBook Author) will only be available to iPad 2 or later owner. The Amazon way instead could be much broader because it allows you to publish both a paperback and Kindle edition of your book to every Amazon customer in the world.

So now you have identified your budget and you have your audience.

After three books published as a private individual I think I quite know my way around these places. So I want to give you a couple of tips.

Exploit all the functionalities of your selected platform. This is the best way to showcase your abilities and also a great way to keep the interest high. A week after Apple released the free iBook Author app for Mac, I published my first book. It’s called “Torino is magical” and as of today is my most successful book that is now stable around 6-7 download a day for the past 9 months.

I want to point out that this book received little to no promotion due mainly to the fact that I have a small social audience, so my self-promoting messaging reached just a small amount of people.

Despite that, I’ve identified three success factors: it’s free, it was built with the iPad 2 audience in mind and it’s direct to a specific niche.

The “free” factor is probably the most important: since you don’t have to commit financially to this book you can download it even if this is my first work. If you think it’s crap you can easily get rid of it. (I’ve noticed this when I’ve tried to publish my third book with a small fee – $0.99 – and it received 0 downloads).

To build the book I’ve used all the available tools. It’s full of pictures that you can zoom, turn, flip and enjoy at full screen. It was built knowing it would end up in the end of iPad owners who are used to this kind of interaction.

Finally it was target to a niche audience. Being all about Turin and my personal relationship with different spots in the city, it’s interesting mainly for people in Italy (which by no surprise is my main market) and by people around the world who love photography (thanks to reach visual elements) and finally by people who want to discover not-mainstream places of a big cities (many of the spots described are not the first destination for tourists).

I achieved a good result because I’ve carefully planned the distribution and because I’ve selected the right distribution channel. I know I would have failed outside of the iBook Store.

The same reasoning can now be applied to each piece of work you and I want to publish.

But what if you want to go with paper instead of just using a digital media? CreateSpace (an Amazon subsidiary) will help you transform your Word document into the real thing and it will do it for free. Or at least, free for you, not for your potential readers. As with anything that involves Amazon, you cannot publish your work for free but you are always bounded to a certain pricing strategy which is mainly imposed by the service.

In the example of CreateSpace, the service will set a baseline that will represent your minimum selling price. If you want to earn something from each book you have to increase over the baseline, making your product less compelling for potential buyers since you’re not a very famous writer.

Anyway, there are some tricks you can use to gain some momentum: any publisher is entitled with some days of promotional campaigns where you can set your book free and you can see your downloads count going up. Despite this, the moment you flip the switch back to the regular price you’ll lose some momentum unless some word of mouth has gone around the net.

The other problem with Amazon is that your book will be dropped among the thousands of titles available on the platform, making the discovery of your title very hard.

That’s why I always prefer to use the iBook Store: it’s still relatively small, making the discovery a little bit easier and it provides any writer with great tools to transform their pages in a very polished product.

I guess that the final lesson that I’ve learned from my self-publishing experience is that your only limit is your creativity. Entry barriers are completely down empowering everyone who believes in his or her potentiality. You don’t need to be a “start” to spread your ideas, you just need be confident in yourself. At the end of the day you have nothing to lose.

Let’s publish, shall we?

First Hours As An App.net User

October 4th, 2012

Despite having a terrible name, I have really a good feeling about App.net. From now on I’ll refer to it as ADN as it is a regular thing among the user of the service.

First of all let’s start with why I’ve decided to join ADN. I knew about its launch since August because it immediately became a trending topic among the tech-geek community. Why? Because deciding to go after Twitter with a paid service seemed crazy. as much as first users and tech press declared it dead before time.

ADN reached its initial goal of $500,000 to get started by offering two subscription level: $50 as a regular user, $100 to get full access to the API.

At that time I wasn’t so sure about joining if not just for being labeled as a super-early adopters, so I decided to wait until today. What has changed in the meanwhile? A lot.

First of all the community kept grooving over time, reaching today a very respectable 20,000+ users, secondly yesterday Tapbots released its own ADN client for iOS called Netbot. Third (but less important for me) the subscription cost dropped to $36 for a year (with a new $5/month plan and the usual $100 for developers).

So when I joined the community I knew I was entering quite a mature community (formed largely by geeks and tech-related people) and I had the opportunity to have a great client in order to use it.

For me the release of Netbot was even more important than the number of people on the community. I’m a firm believer that to enjoy any kind of web service you have to have a great client that is able to enrich your experience of use. I’m a great Twitter user because I love all the features and visual goodness I can find in Tweetbot and I’m enjoying ADN because I’ve found exactly the same experience with Netbot.

Of course the community is important and I was very surprised by the initial conversations I had earlier. Since it’s still a closed and limited community you can follow the general stream where you can see posts by everybody and you can easily jump into any kind of conversation and there are good chances that people will reply to you quite quickly.

I was also surprise in how quickly I got some answers to questions I’ve posted few minutes earlier.

I have the feeling that ADN could be a great source where you can meet really great people, especially people that have more or less my same interests. This is due mostly to the entry fee. If you are on board it means that you are really interested in that kind of community and it also means that you’re going to contribute actively to the general conversation.

As you may have understood, I’m deeply satisfied by this initial approach with ADN and I really want to get the best from it, so in the following days I’ll try to create a good circle of following and I will start to broadcast my words there.

See you on the dark side of the force!

The Endless Search For The Perfect Wallpaper

September 24th, 2012

If I’m really writing this, it probably means I’m finally declaring to be a crazy person! With a new device like the iPhone 5 I had to inevitably start to look for a new wallpaper. Partly is because I very much dislike Apple’s default offering and partly is because I’m never satisfied with my current wallpaper.

This “compulsion” started in the early days of being a PC user, especially when I finally decided to clean my desktop organizing my documents and all my stuff in a better way. The subsequent question was: how do I fill all this empty space? Certainly not by using a default wallpaper. I’ve also tried using simple plain colours, but they annoyed me quite quickly, leaving me once again with a hard choice to make.

The next step was to try using random pictures download from the internet that could possibly match the mood of the day. As you may guess it didn’t last for long.

In the past three years I’ve started a serious hobby as a “photographer” and this helped me a bit with my choice for the wallpaper because I could choose between personal and familiar images, something that has the opportunity to make me feel better. This wasn’t still an ideal solution for me because I’ve so many pictures I would like to use that one desktop is not enough! So I’ve tried using the auto rotate function built in OSX and for now it’s working fine.

The real problem is with my iOS devices. The iPad but also the iPhone 5 with its bigger display demand for some great wallpapers to enrich the overall experience of the daily usage. I’ve tried every possible combination but now iOS6 makes it even harder to find a good solution. I don’t know if you noticed it, but when you select a picture to use on the background, the system will apply a dark layer over it that start from the bottom of the screen and grows past the dock to then softly disappear. This is true both in the lockscreen and the springboard.

This means that everything that have a light tonality will be destroyed by iOS once it’s applied in the system. Also, I don’t think it’s wise to choose a background that it’s too light because you won’t be able to easily read the icons’ label below since they are written using a white font with a slight drop shadow (that looks really bad on a white background).

So you should choose a darker wallpaper. Then there’s the complexity problem. The background should have a fairly easy pattern because otherwise it will look ultra-messy and it will be impossible to read anything on the springboard.

All those dilemma are making me change backgrounds almost every two day and I’ve yet to settle with something really good.

To sum-up everything, my ideal wallpaper should be something very minimal, with an easy pattern and dark tonality (for necessity because I would like a lighter picture). Thankfully the web is full of resources to keep me quiet for a while and I think that the best place you should look at is by far deviantART.

The easiest way to find something is to put the resolution of the screen you want to décor in the search field and the first result will match exactly your device. For the more famous devices you can also simple insert the name even if this query could also result in mock-up or Photoshop reconstruction of the device itself.

Now I’m going back to my search, if you find something interesting please share it with us on Twitter. You can find me there as @matteodallombra.

Playing With Numbers

September 19th, 2012

Today during my lunch break I decided to play a bit with some numbers surronding the iPhone 5 launch. In particular I’ve focused my attention on the news the Apple sold 2 millions iPhone 5 during the first 24 hours of preorders. It’s double the amount they sold in the same period last year with the iPhone 4S. If this is not enough for you, keep reading because I put some interesting numbers together.

I decided to analize how the iPhone is priced around the world in the countries that will receive the device from the 21st of September, which are: USA, Canada, France, UK, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan (I couldn’t find any price for the unlocked iPhone 5 in Japan, that’s why is listed as zero).

Before showing the chart I have to make few comments:
– all the prices are coming from the Apple Store Online of each country.
– for Hong Kong the online store only listed the base model so I took the average gap 16-32 and 32-64 for all the others and I’ve applied to estimate the price in this country.
– the chart shows all the prices converted in USD using the today’s conversion rate given by Yahoo! Currency Exchanger.

That said, this is the picture than you get:

image

As you can see at the moment the cheapest place where you can get an iPhone 5 are the US, followed by Canada and Hong Kong. For the American price you still have to apply the VAT of the state where you’ll buy the device so it will go up a little.

Europe instead is already listed with VAT inside the price and you can see that as always we are among the countries where the iPhone is more expensive. The other European countries not listed here have storically followed the French and German priceing so you can see what are you going to pay.

This year I pre-ordered by iPhone 5 in the UK, so I’ll save around $50-60 (which is not bad).

Now, moving away from actual facts, I’ve decided to dive more into those sales figures making all sort of estimates. I want to make clear that the following table is purely made upon speculative reasoning and in no way it could represent the reality of the sales.

Basically what I’ve done was dividing the 2 million devices pre-ordered for each country based on the latest registered population (as given by Wikipedia). I’ve then calculated the average price for the iPhone 5 in each country and finally I’ve multiplied this average for the number of devices I’ve allocated earlier (units for Japan have been re-allocated equally upon the other countries).

To say that in another way, I just wanted to quickly see how much Apple has grossed in this first weekend. If you don’t want to look at the chart, just look at this number: $ 1,732,294,604.59

image

What can we conclude from this quick analysis? I love numbers!

Aside that and despite my calculations being based on pure speculation, we can say that the iPhone 5 will be another incredible “cash cow” for Apple and will be anything but a disappointment.

Netflix vs Lovefilm (UK Edition)

September 15th, 2012

Streaming is the future. To be honest streaming is already the present. Of course I can’t speak for everybody, but for me streaming is the best way to consume every kind of content.

If you are outside the US, you could find it difficult to get the best from your streaming experience. This is true for Italy for example, where we lack the majority of the streaming services. Of course there are workaround, but it’s never like a “native” solution.

Since I moved to the UK I had the opportunity to move more of my entertainment over to the cloud, especially music and movies/TV shows.

My number 1 and only destination for music is Spotify: on my Mac, on my iPhone and iPad it has replaced the need to store music locally, saving me a lot of space on my hard drives (even if sometimes it could be tricky to use it).

For movies and TV shows it’s a bit different, because even here in the UK it could be difficult to get what you want. Since I hate to watch crappy-quality illegal movies, I tried to look at the two major players in this market: Netflix and Lovefilm. The first one is a branch of the american red giant, probably the most famous video streaming service in the world. The second one instead is a UK based society, now part of the big Amazon family.

In the past months I tested both, and here’s my opinion about them.

Netflix

When you first sign for this service you get a 30-days-free-trial that can help you decide if this is the right choice for you. You’ll be asked for your credit card info so that after 30 days they can start billing you automatically, so remember to cancel you account if you don’t want to proceed with the service. If you keep going, the monthly plan is £5.99.

Differently from the US version, in UK you can only stream content, there’s no option for a DVD or game rental. Not a big deal for me, because I hate DVDs (especially the commercials before the movie).

Now, what about the offers? Well, Netflix has for sure a very big library both for movies and TV shows, the real problem is the “freshness”. The majority of the contents are dated between 1970 and 2009, with very few new releases. You can enjoy a lot of classic and you can catch up on what you’ve missed in the past, but you can’t stay up-to-date on your favorite TV show.

There are few exceptions to this rule. From time to time there are real new releases, but they are clearly done with a marketing purpose, rather than a shift in the catalogue.

For many this could be a deal breaker, but you have to realize that outside the US (where the majority of the content came from) it’s really difficult to get good deals on fresh content.

Despite this cruel reality, I still find some very strange things going on in the Netflix catalogue. Take for example “The Office”. If you don’t know what it is, you should really check some clips on YouTube. In few word, The Office is a sitcom style TV shows that follows the life into a paper company. There are two versions of The Office: the British one and the American one. The original is the British version, created by the genius of Ricky Gervais who later exported the format in the US making Steve Carell the star there. Why I’m saying all of this? Try to search on Netflix UK for The Office. What do you get? Yes exactly, you get the american version. This still amaze me everyday.

Lovefilm

Before the advent of Netflix, Lovefilm was (and probably still is) the number 1 in the streaming market in the UK. Now that the company has been acquired by Amazon it has gained quite a lot of power that is reflected into its catalogue.

You can get instant streaming, DVD rental and games rental (for every possible platform) and you can combine these into different plans. I’m testing the streaming-only plan since I hate DVDs and I don’t have a console.

With instant streaming only, the monthly fee is £4.99 and you get a lot of movies with many more new release compared to Netflix. You also get a list of what’s coming into the future and this element gives you an idea that the platform is alive and well maintained.

TV shows are still a bit behind the american schedule but the selection is much broader.

One thing I’ve noticed is that despite the catalogue is big, the majority of the movies (and especially the new ones) are DVD rental-only and rarely you get them also as streaming. I don’t know why this is happening but it does bother me quite a lot.

Who wins?

The advantage of Lovefilm is the more up to date catalogue, but discovery it’s very hard. The Lovefilm website is quite challenging to navigate because even if I’m streaming-only I get also titles that are rental-only in my search results. Of course now that Amazon is the owner, they are applying the mentality of selling you everything-anytime.

On the other side, Netflix is much better organized and the content is the real protagonist of the website.

Concerning video and audio quality, they are pretty much the same. Netflix has a new interface that is very clean and simple to use. HD videos playback nicely even on my not stellar connection. Lovefilm is stuck with a default Microsoft Silverlight. HD plays well but you can’t really let the video buffer for a while and you can’t manually change the quality of the video (Netflix lets you go from SD to HD at any time), so if it plays in HD you may experience some lag.

So, who’s the winner? Neither of them. Or to reply better, you should get them both and then you can have a really good catalogue.

All these words may have given you a certain opinion on which one to pick (I’m keeping them both), but the best solution is to try them. You can get 30 days for free when you sign up so you can taste both world and see which one is the best for you.

Happy streaming!

Moving The Cord

September 10th, 2012

For once I don’t want to cut the cord, I just want to change the devices attached to each end. Specifically I’m referring to my photographic workflow. Since I’ve started taking photography more seriously, I’ve noticed few flaws here and there.

One of the biggest for me is related to one of the small element of a DSLR: the built-in LCD display.

I own a Canon 500D and the built-in display is something like 3.5” wide which is to say that it’s quite small. On that kind of display every picture seems great except that once you see them on a bigger display, many of them looks like crap. Sometimes is the light, sometimes the exposure or the specific view and angle chosen for the shot.

The easy way to solve this problem is to tether the camera to my MacBook and use its entire screen as an external liveview device. Unfortunately I’m rarely in a “studio-like” environment so it’s not a very good solution to carry around my laptop. I wish there could be a lightweight device, with a big and gorgeous screen that I could easily always carry with me to be tethered to my camera when needed.

Oh wait…a device like this already exist and is called iPad. So why don’t I use it with my Canon? Because I can’t.

To this date there’s no way to directly tether an iPad to a camera directly, to use it as an external display. If you want to use the iPad, you need to tether the camera to a pc that is on the same Wi-Fi network as the iPad (an ad-hoc network works fine as well). You can easily see that this way doesn’t solve any problem but instead add one more device to the mix, making the entire setup rather ridiculous.

So, why can’t you use the iPad directly?

Because camera makers like Canon and Nikon decided to don’t support these devices making their SDK only available for desktop/laptop development. If you ask me, this is a rather stupid move and I hope they will soon change their minds in light of the wide adoption of tablets.

Unfortunately at least for Canon a change in their decision seems unlikely due to a very strong announcement of not having plans of changing their SDK package.

In an ideal world you should be able to use the Camera Connection Kit or a custom Dock-to-MiniUSB cable to tether your camera directly to your iPad (or any other tablet) and use this device as a bigger monitor, allowing you to really see your shot and helping you in making better decisions before pressing the shutter.

To be fair it’s not only camera-makers fault. As of today the iPad only supports video-out and not video-in preventing any possibility of direct-integration. I’m confident that this could be the easiest side of the equation to be changed, because along with technological improvement on the hardware side, this software limitation can be easily lifted. If you do the 3-pieces setup you are already able to control your camera from the iPad, so we can argue that the tablet has all the horse power that is needed to perform these tasks.

I wish it will come the day when I’ll be able to reduce the volume and weight of my backpack, but for now the only option would be to get a MacBook Air: not the most cost-effective solution for sure.

Naming The New iPhone

September 5th, 2012

As you’re all aware, yesterday Apple dropped its bomb on the press by announcing a special event on the 12th of September. For those of you who follow the news, this shouldn’t came as a surprise, considering that this date was rumored since mid July almost.

The big news (as always) is the picture embedded in the invitation.

“It’s almost here.” – A great tease to point at the introduction of a new product. Then there’s the number 12 that stands as the reference date for the event and finally there’s hell. In reality there’s a shadow representing a number 5, but this shadow opened a new circle in hell.

All the press went crazy and started to speculate on the hidden meaning of the shadow and probably someone said there is some sort of alien plot in place.

I think, as others already pointed out, that the reason for this 5 is that the new iPhone is going to be called the “iPhone 5”.

I now that apparently it doesn’t make any sense.1

Nevertheless there’s a very simple explanation for the number 5: everybody is already calling it the iPhone 5. Since last year when we received the 4S, everybody was expecting the “iPhone 5”. So much that the identification 4S for many was the result of a rushed R&D and an underpowered device.

If you follow this logic it suddenly makes sense. Apple does not want to confuse customers, so following past trends (3G->3GS,4->4S) now it’s the perfect time to launch the iPhone 5.

I think we totally need to forget the other rumored possibility of “The New iPhone”. It’s not working fine with the iPad, where less tech-savvy customers always ask for the iPad “3” (even if it doesn’t exist in theory), it would be a PR disaster for a product as big as the iPhone. And even if Apple want to go down the “The New iPhone” route, I’m sure people will always refer to it as the “iPhone 5”.

Apple is always very focused on providing users with less but more accurate information, so in this light it makes perfectly sense to call it the “iPhone 5”. You can call it however you want, but don’t expect Apple to do the same this time.


  1. This will the sixth iPhone model released by Apple. 

The Power Of The Cloud

August 31st, 2012

I know that probably I’m not saying anyting new, but I would like to spend few words about the power of the cloud and how it affects my workflow.

In the recent months, I’ve started moving as much content as possible away from a physical disk and into the cloud. Of course there are some tasks that still require the full power of a desktop/laptop machine
(video/audio/photo editing), but those are not in my workflow everyday. So it makes sense for me to try to move on the cloud.

The first thing I need to tell you now is what my day looks like (when I’m
not in the office): I write. A lot. Even if I don’t publish everything, you can rest assured that I spend the majority of my free time writing. It can be a draft for a new blog post (either here or on NewsTouch), a new idea for a possible long story, a short poem (yes I write also short poems) or anything else that comes to my mind.

So, because writing words is my “second job”, I mostly need a blank canvas that I can fill. Since I don’t want to rely too much on paper and ink because they can betray you at any time, I need some sort of digital solutions. The other big requisite is that I need to have this canvas always available no matter where I am or which device I am using.

In the past year, I’ve explored a huge variety of combinations and I think I’ve now come to end of this incredibly hard quest.

No matter which programs I’ll be listing here, there are two elements which are always present in my equations: Dropbox and IFTTT.com.

If you’re reading this blog you should be savvy enough to know what those two services are but if you don’t I’ll briefly explain both. Dropbox is the super famous personal cloud systems that gives you 2GB of free space (that you can expand in many different ways, click here to discover how) where you can store everything you want. Its magic is that the moment you make some changes to a file, the new version is immediately available across all your linked device. I currently use Dropbox on my Mac (where you have a folder in which you can drop everything you want to “cloudify”), on my iPhone, on my iPad and through the web client.

This is central for me because all of my writing is stored there to be easy accessible. In addition, the blogging platform I use now (the wonderful
Scriptogr.am) rely entirely on Dropbxo to create an easy-to-maintain blog.

IFTTT.com is maybe an “outsider” for a common user but if you try it I don’t think you could live without. Their tagline is: put the internet to work for you. This is the best possible description I could ever give you of this service. What IFTTT does is to connect between each other different web-connected services using “actions”. IF THIS happens (the trigger that you set) THEN THAT happens (the chain reaction you create using the web interface). You can see the incredible potential of this platform.

I’ll give you some example of actions that I use daily.

  • Google Reader + Instapaper: everytime a new feed item appears on my Google reader account, it is saved on my Instapaper account. In this way I can always pick up my iOS devices and read the latest news in a super nice and clean environment.
  • Instagram + Dropbox: every time I take a new picture with Instagram it is saved on a specific folder in my Dropbox account.
  • Email + Dropbox: if I have a new idea for a piece to write, I can simply send an email to a special IFTTT account and the email will be saved as a text file in a specific “drafts” folder on my Dropbox.

The last one is especially useful for me. If I can’t use one of my “writing apps” of choice I can simply look for an online editor, write the piece and email it to receive a .txt version seconds later, ready to be used later.

I think you can start to see why those two services are so central for me. They are for sure the best example of the power of the cloud.

Attached to the cloud there are then a number of apps which rely on the cloud as a storage. I have different writing apps based on what I need to create:

  • Mou is my favourite Markdown editor on my Mac. Simple, clean and easy to use and deeply integrated with Scriptogr.am allowing you to publish a new post without using the admin panel on the website.
  • The mobile companion for Mou is Elements. Available both for iPhone and iPad is my favorite app to write Markdown on mobile, allowing me to write on this blog even while I’m on the go.
  • iA Writer is my go to app when I want to write something longer. I’m the kind of person that can be easily distracted, thanks also to the overload of notifications coming from all my devices. iA Writer has a nice full-screen “focus mode” UI that allows you to concentrate on one sentence at a time. I use it both to write my books or even to write longer blog post for NewsTouch.
  • If I need to edit a long document on the go (more often on the iPad than on the iPhone), I use the mobile version of iA Writer that offers the same great features of his big brother on the Mac.

And on the web? There are all clients that requires a specific platform (Mac or iOS) but what if I don’t have neither? Well, there are a lot of alternatives. You can start with Google Docs but if you try the apps above you will see that I like a clean interface. Google Docs (it’s a great tool that I use more for collaborative documents) it’s too similar to Microsoft Word and you know that this is not good! If you go on the Chrome web store you’ll be able to find many web apps that will do the job. I won’t give you a specific name because they are all valid.

Moving out from the Google environment I will strongly suggest you try Writer from BigHugeLabs (I’ve used it to write this very post). The first time to log in you’ll find a scary Matrix-style UI: don’t worry, you can customize the colors to fit best with your writing habits. And then you’ll just have a blank canvas where ideas can flow in all freedom. It gives you also a word count and the ability to send the document directly to some blogging platforms like WordPress, Tumblr or Blogger, or to download it as a .txt or .pdf. Lots of options for a simple web editor.

As you can see, if you want to write in freedom there are plenty of alternatives out there, you just need to figure out your needs to find the best set of tools for you. It won’t be a simple or easy process, but once you’re done with your quest you’ll be a happy man.

And if you pay close attention you see that I’ve given you the recipe to solve my initial requirement: you can have a canvas (a text file) which is always available (no matter which instance you’re using, it always live inside your Dropbox folder).

What next? My next move now will be to try to install Chrome OS on my machine to see if I can really go cloud only. I bet it will be hard in the beginning but I think it’s a result I’ll be able to achieve thanks to the cloud.