click.to: One Click to Your Favorite App

The secret to becoming a power computer user is by using the keyboard. Although the mouse is a great tool for novice users, ultimately it’s faster to find your way around by knowing keyboard shortcuts. For instance when you’re filling out a form it’s quicker to press tab to switch from field to field. Or if you’d like to save a document you can press control-S, rather than search for the buttons through the navigation menu.

One of the most common workflows is for people to press control-C to copy and then control-V to paste. Many of us do this multiple times a day. For instance you’re reading an article online and come across a term or name you aren’t familiar with. You cut and paste the name into a Google search box. Or perhaps you come across something you’d like to buy. Again, you press control-C and then navigate out to Amazon to explore it further. It seems many of these repetitive key and click workflows all start with control-C.

One of the hallmarks of good User Design is reducing the number of buttons people have to press to do what they’d like. So it stands to reason that a better design would start with when users press control-C, and then fast forward to what they would like to do. Such a fast forward option now exists, with click.to. click.to, found at clicktoapp.com, is a small desktop app that will revolutionize the way you use the computer.

Once installed click.to tracks the times users add items to their clipboard. That is, every time they press control-C or right click and copy. Once the item is added to the clipboard an opaque set of buttons appears from which the user can click. They can press one of these buttons, and in one fell swoop they can complete the action they were planning. So if I copy a name to the clipboard intending to enter it in Google search, as soon as I press control-C I’ll be presented with a series of buttons. From there I can select Google, and with that my default browser will be opened to Google’s search page with the term’s search results displayed. The total effort exerted by me consists of pressing control-C and then a single click.

click.to uploading a photo to Facebook

This simple workflow is certainly convenient when it comes to searching terms on Google. This is just scratching the surface though. click.to really starts to shine as you add more and more apps to your list. There’s anything from making Twitter posts, Facebook updates, uploading pics to Flickr, and any number of actions you might do online. It makes navigation of the web quicker, faster, and easier.

The other workflow that click.to automates are for local apps. So if you highlight and copy text that you’d like to include in a Word document, you can do so. Or if you come across data that you’d like to add to Excel it can just as easily be added there as well. All these user workflows are common tasks people do in their day to day work. click.to makes them a few steps shorter.

click.to Button Panel

The list of web and desktop apps that are supported by click.to includes many of the most popular apps. It’s by no means a comprehensive list of apps though. If there’s an app that someone uses frequently they can add it as a custom app. That way people can customize their workflows both locally and online so common tasks are just one click away.

Visionaries and entrepreneurs attempt to come up with new and innovative ways for people to utilize computers. These include touch screens, optical readers, and any number of ways to send and receive information from the computer. click.to makes logical and good use of the tools at hand and makes them easier to use. Rather than clicking multiple times to upload a photo, or search on a term, you only need to click once. It’s the new way to open applications and helps us get to where we’re going faster.


uTales: Read and Create Children’s Books

A friend of mine once pointed out a difference between people who lived on the poorer side of town, and the richer. She noted that on the wealthier side of town were people who read. They would read journals, novels, biographies, or any number of types of literature. This of course isn’t a hard and fast rule, but those who enjoy constantly filling their mind and imaginations with information, tend to be more successful.

The joy of reading starts at a very early age. The classic adage is that kids go to school to learn their ABCs. This can be taken as a figurative way of saying that they’re laying the foundation of learning upon which they’ll build their lives. And it all starts with reading.

As such, there are entire categories of books geared for each step of the way. First kids start with picture books, which may include a few words or two. Gradually those words come to form sentences, and eventually they become full fledged stories. As children become more adept at understanding the text, the pictures all but disappear. These part text, part picture books are an essential step in learning to read.

Bringing this entire process online, is uTales. uTales is a twofold website. First and foremost, it’s a site where children can download imaginative and creative books suitable for their reading level. Second, it’s a place where people can create such books and make them available for all. That is to say, it’s an online publishing network for authors and designers of children’s books. The entire suite of books is available on the iPad, iPhone, home computer, with Android access coming soon.

The core of uTales is the books themselves. These can be sorted by language, age group, and category. Most are available in the $3 to $4 dollar range, or you can sign up for $10/month for full access. These brightly illustrated books bring to life the stories within, helping to open up the world of reading to children. There’s a free trial for those who’d like to test it out first.

In the same way that authors tend to disappear behind the text of their creations, so they are in the background with uTales as well. Most people will come to the site to download and read books on their mobile devices. But the authors’ section is a rather impressive application, built with professional book design in mind. It comes with a drag and drop book creator where you can add text and images to create the story. A likely workflow is that an author will partner with a designer who will collectively create the story online. Once finished they can press the publish button and begin selling their creation. A set of How-To tutorials for authors can be found here. All books are reviewed prior to publication to ensure they’re suitable for the intended audience.

I Can't Hear You, I Can't See You

If you’re going to build a web application, you might as well do a complete job at it. uTales does just that with its all in one publishing network and book store front for children’s stories. It gives seasoned professionals a venue to distribute their creations, and allows amateurs to try their hand at creating children’s stories. The net result is that there will be more, quality children’s books available.

The gift of reading is one that stays with you for life. The best time to teach it is when children are young. uTales opens up this gift in a new way, so children can access books digitally, rather than the Crayola scribbled books that litter their play areas. It helps kids learn the love of reading, and facilitates the creation and distribution of books.