Le blog d'Archiloque

Longing for the single app

I’m longing for the single app.

More exactly, I’m longing for the ideal of a single app.

The single app is the kind of meta app where you can do all or at least most of your computer tasks, the ideal type being GNU Emacs that you can use for text and code editing, as a calendar, email client, terminal emulator…

Almost always using the same applications means using a single shared UI paradigm, a single set of shortcuts and a shared set of muscle memories, which means a much lower mental effort to switch from one activity to another.

I long for one of these, having to deal with so many text editing widgets sucks so much.

Browsers are applications where you can spend most of your time, but as different websites don’t have the same level of sharing than a single app, the mental effort is not so different that if each site were a different application, and I don’t think it will change.

I’m not a GNU Emacs user since I don’t want to spend the effort required to learn how to use it properly and because of the project itself.

In the 00’s, I hoped jEdit could become such a tool but it never reached the required critical mass.

VSCode could become a possible alternative if the extension capabilities grow enough, but I would only try to use it this way if the vendor lock-in is very low, because my trust of Microsoft on this topic is not high enough to put all my eggs in their basket, so currently I use VSCode for writing text.

Thinking about this makes me realize that it could be one of the reasons why I prefer the macOS ecosystem: even though it’s bad in its own way like all operating systems, it feels like the coheviseness between the native applications, provided by Apple and other organizations, is higher compared to other platforms. So the cost of using several apps is a bit lower.

I know I could spend more time tuning outlandish apps like VSCode to be more native-ish, but it’s a hard tradeoff because it often means lowering the internal coherency of each app.

So I look out the window and long for the single app.