Pancake Technology, LLC has released a new productivity application called Attune and we caught up with Robert Butler, the company’s president (“The president of Pancake” — now there’s a job title I’m envious of!) to learn more about Attune and the semantic platform under its hood. In part one of this two-part interview, we learn about what users of Attune can experience now and what they can look forward to as the product matures.
Q: What is Attune?
A: Attune is a flexible and powerful personal productivity application, built to overcome limitations in current productivity tools. Attune allows you to create lists, notes, tasks and projects and relate them to each other.
Q: With a lot of productivity applications out there, what’s different here? Why did you create Attune?
A: I have long been frustrated by the inflexibility of existing productivity tools. They almost always seem overly rigid and unable to capture the complexity of my thoughts and projects. My brain doesn’t always operate in terms of tasks and projects, which is why I often resort to note taking to capture my thoughts and why I like products like Evernote. If you are going to build a tool that can capture and remember the vast majority of information in the world, you need text and images. On the other hand, the goal of all the free-form text and images out there is to actually use it to get something done, which brings you back to the structure of tasks and projects. To our knowledge, there isn’t a tool out there that handles this duality well.
On the other hand, we didn’t want to build a tool that tried to be everything to everybody. That’s a recipe for disaster and an unfocused product. Evernote is a fantastic tool that does some things very well. There are hundreds of task focused products that do a very good job managing lists of tasks and projects. Then there are the old basics that have been around for a long time like email and word processing apps. A full solution to productivity has to be able to bring some unity to all of these products.
That’s why we built Attune, to live at the center of this structured/unstructured dichotomy and to integrate the vast armies of productivity apps available into a single coherent solution. For the times that you are doing your research and brainstorming, you might be working in a note taking tool like Evernote. For the times that you are marching down a list of tasks, getting that wonderful feeling checking things off your list, you might be working in your favorite task application. Attune is at the center of that, pushing note snippets or links from Evernote to your task application so you have the context and reference items at your finger tips or creating a calendar entry for a meeting and linking in the agenda sent to your email address.
Q: What functionality is currently available to users of Attune?
A: Users of Attune can use the core functionality of the interface. We have generally grouped Attune’s capability into 5 major features:
- Multi-column browsing: Attune supports browsing through item relationships with an intuitive multi-column browser view. You can drag and drop items onto each other to create relationships between them.
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- Lists and Notes: You can create lists of things by relating several items to a parent item. Simple text notes are supported on each item, allowing you to create interesting combinations of notes and lists.
- Focuses: Items are organized into focuses. Focuses allow users to organize their items into discrete areas of life, removing unrelated items from view.
- Filtering and Archiving: Users can use filtering and archiving to further refine which items are visible in the interface. Items that are no longer necessary for day-to-day use can be archived for later retrieval. Searching allows you to quickly find items with certain words or phrases.
Q: What functionality do you expect to implement in the future?
A: For Attune 2.0 we are working on a number of UI enhancements, but most of the work is going into integrations. Integration with Evernote is currently in development and should be available soon. Version 2.0 will also include email and calendar integration. For email integration, we will most likely have general IMAP support, but may have specific support for OAuth enabled emails services such as GMail. For calendar, a natural integration is iCal on the Mac. We also hope to support a few other services like Google Calendar.
There are hundreds of services we want to integrate with. I don’t really want to list them all here because it would take too long and we have yet to prioritize the list past the 2.0 release. Customer feedback will strongly influence which services we work on. The goal for Attune is to keep you in tune with everything you need, and we believe this means integrating with as much as possible. Of course, we are limited by which services have APIs, any TOS limitations, and so on that services have in place. We are also going to work very hard to keep the user interface simple and powerful so you don’t “feel” the complexity of all those integrations.
We are also planning to expand the platforms that Attune is available on. iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) will be implemented as soon as possible. Other platforms such as Android, Web Browser, Windows, Windows Phone and others will follow as time allows.
Q: How would you describe your targeted user-base?
A: In general, our targeted user-base is anybody who wants to use technology to get organized and stay organized, and specifically those that already use a number of organizational tools or services. Right now, we are also limited to Mac users, but that shouldn’t be the case for long.
Attune is for the person that manages a lot of complexity or find themselves constrained by organization structure of existing tools. Or perhaps the person that is constantly switching between applications that all seem disconnected. Attune will be for the person checking multiple email accounts every day or that has tasks, notes and documents scattered across various services or that needs a place to store random lists of things that don’t necessarily fit anywhere else.
Q: What stage is the company in? Are you currently seeking funding? What are your plans for growth?
A: We are currently trying to bootstrap Pancake Technology from the ground up using a small amount of seed funding out of our own pockets as well as a little from friends and family. We aren’t currently seeking funding, and hope to be able to use app sales to continue to bootstrap the company.
Q: Where did the name Pancake Technology come from?
A: It’s really just a fun name that came from a sort of tradition that a friend and I had. We were up one Saturday morning playing games and my wife decided to make pancakes. It kind of became this thing that we did when he was in town.
Q: Do you have any other plans for Pancake Technology?
A: At some point, we will expand beyond a single product. In fact, we used the word “technology” in the name instead of “software” because we didn’t want to limit ourselves in what we could pursue. We want to build a company that is creative and innovative in building new products that benefit humanity.
In fact, we don’t think of Pancake Technology as a company fundamentally about creating technology. If all we do, in the end, is create some cool software then we will have failed. Our drive is much, much deeper than that. We want to use the fullness of whatever degree of creative passion, intellectual understanding and energetic drive we have been given for the benefit of humanity. It’s why we want to have excellent customer support. It’s why we want to build products that are solid and as bug free as possible. It’s why we are hoping to use a significant portion of our revenues to benefit our local community, our country and the world.
Tomorrow, Part II – The Semantics of Attune.
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