Over time, I’ve found a fast and simple method for deciding if someone really might benefit from an app… Are you willing to sit through a really long training video? For just about every power app, there is a seminal walkthrough video. More often than not, these are not the videos created by the companies themselves, but usually something that was made by an actual user. While it is easy and cost effective to give things like nvALT and Evernote a whirl, the same isn’t always true for powerful, yet costly applications. Sure, programs like Omnifocus, Scrivener, Final Cut, and TextMate offer free trials, but more often than not, we download them and by the time we are ready to using them, the trial has already expired. And even if we do jump right in, the learning curve is often too steep to get started on our own, making these videos the logical starting point.
One of two things will drive you to watch: geeky interest or need born of pain. When it comes to these heavy-duty apps, you end up saving so much time by spending it upfront watching these videos. In the case of Scrivener, it wasn’t until I watched Yuvi’s over-the-shoulder training video that I understood how it could help and committed to buying and using it. It took a while until I was ready to make that 45-minute commitment, but once curiosity got the best of me, I was excited to see how Yuvi used it. With Omnifocus, it was David Sparks‘ excellent three–video series (that runs well over 2 hours in all) that finally got me to understand why people are so fanatical about the app. As for apps like TextMate and Final Cut, the interest has never been strong enough, which is a pretty good sign that I probably don’t need them.
While it may seem insane to commit this kind of effort before you even test drive an app, it will actually save you time and headaches. If you aren’t willing to take the time, you probably aren’t really all that ready for whatever app you are considering. And once you do jump in, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for and probably have a few power user tricks that you are anxious to try out.
What’s your process? How do you go about gauging if an app is worth your time and effort?