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March 10, 2007

Enso brings back the keyboard

I've been following Humanized Weblog for a while, and I didn't realize that the authors work for a software company. (Probably because I've been using the Google reader to read them, so I didn't see the dead giveaway at the top of their weblog that talks about "our products".)

In fact, they do: Humanized is the name of the company, and they've just come out with their first products: Enso Launcher and Enso Words. I'll talk about Launcher; it's a little more mature than Word.

Enso Launcher is easier to use than it is to describe. It is what it says: Launcher helps you open applications, documents, and web sites more quickly. I have a start menu that must have hundreds of items in it. Right.

With Enso Launcher, if you want to start a program that is running hold down the caps lock key and start typing the name of the program. As you type, the names of possible programs flash up at the top of the screen in nice, pretty, transparent type. When you've typed enough to select the program that you want, you let go of the caps lock, and the program you've chosen starts up. Viola!

When I’m looking at a new software product, I don’t look at what it does now, but what it may become. Where's it going? What's its potential? And most critical of all, what does the software say about the people who wrote it?

Enso Launcher says a lot. Humanized has only four people. As I’ve tried out the software, I’ve found bugs, and noted things I thought might work better. I’ve passed those things on in email, and I've received back replies from three of Enso’s four employees.

These guys get it. The details of how a program works are critical. Doing things simply is hard. It's like a piece of craftsmen furniture: everything is on display, everything counts.

Still, it’s a work in progress. I've been using a much less elegant launcher called Find and Run robot. Find and run robot works in a superficially similar way: you hit escape, and start typing, hit another character to start your program, and away you go. The Humanized guys would note that hitting escape takes your fingers away from the home row, and they'd be right. But then you put your fingers back on the home row, start typing, and the program seems to be a little smarter about figuring out which program I'm after.

Right now Launcher is a little clumsy. I find myself having to backspace too often to get what I want, and it hasn't yet become a habit for me to reach for the caps lock. Still, I will almost certainly buy the program, because I think it's heading in the right direction and I want to encourage Humanized in their efforts.