Swiss Army Knife


The nature of a Swiss Army knife is that it can do lots of operations reasonably well. The variety of jobs that you can use it for is the attraction. But for most of the tasks that it can do you're going to want to use something more suitable, something that's been designed for one specific task just because it will handle it more easily and more efficiently.

Yes, you can try to open a bottle of Malbec with the small corkscrew on a Swiss Army knife but it's going to be much more of a struggle than if you use something like a Waiter's Friend to do the same job.

It's not that the "Swiss Army knife" type of application is a particularly bad choice. It will handle most tasks you could want to do in a particular area reasonably well. 80% of the time though you'll only need 20% of the features. 20% of the time you'll need 80% of the functionality plus a bit more.

But most of the time the extra "stuff" will just get in the way and make things more complicated than they need to be. It's a lot easier to focus on simply writing text if you're not surrounded by a plethora of formatting tools, page layout choices and several configurable toolbars.

Choosing the right tool for the task can be a major contributor to reducing friction in your workflow. Don't just go with the ubiquitous word processing or spreadsheet application just because that's what the "default" is. Take the time to figure out what's going to positively contribute to your experience of using the tool and consequently make the overall task easier. What are the extras that are just going to distract you from what you want to do?

You may find that instead of one application it makes more sense to have two. One for the 80% of tasks that you want to handle in a very straightforward way, let's say writing text for a blog post. A text editor that lets you focus on your message.

For the 20% of tasks where you want to format and present text into something much more elegant for a brochure or digital magazine you might find yourself needing an application that's focused on design and layout.

You can choose to use one all-purpose tool that can easily be a series of frustrating compromises that distract you from the task that you actually want to complete. Or you can use one or two more specialist applications that are much more focused on core areas and ultimately mean that you have a more productive, satisfying experience.



Chris Beaumont