I've been trying to stay as busy as possible for most of 2020 for personal and professional reasons. But when November finally rolled around, I decided enough was enough and needed a break.
That didn't mean a vacation. It was more of an acknowledgment that November was already our busiest month of the year at work. And then there was the US election, and the holidays, and going back into fucking quarantine more than we already were. Not to mention getting app updates out the door for Big Sur and Apple Silicon.
Luckily, I managed to get most of my commitments done in the first half of the month. Which meant I was able to relax for the next two weeks and just let my mind wander and play around with old and new ideas I've never given time to before.
Two ideas emerged.
The first is a much larger collaboration with a friend that, if the stars align, I can't wait to share early next year.
And the other is a tiny little Mac app that I made last week because I needed it in my day job. I'm not sure what to do with it or what will ultimately become of it, but, as usual, I figured I should make the app available in case anyone else finds it useful.
For lack of a better name, I call it Standup.app. It helps facilitate the super-short standup call I run with my team every morning.
It also serves double-duty as a weird, helpful presentation utility for the seemingly never-ending stream of video meetings I have throughout the day.
I know there are other solutions out there, but this one is mine and built to my odd specifications.
Here's a demo that likely won't make sense until you read what's happening below.
Standup.app is meant for when you're sharing your screen during a video meeting - especially if that meeting is of the standup variety.
It starts by displaying your Mac's webcam. You can resize and position the window wherever is most convenient.
Start a new timer with
⌘N. Enter how long you want the meeting to last (in minutes) and each participant's name - one per line. (You could also list the names of tasks or projects if the meeting will use those instead of going person by person.)
Click "Start Standup," and the meeting begins.
On the right, a timer tics down until the meeting is over.
On the left, it divides the total time by the number of participants and runs a timer for each person's section - one after another.
The timers go from green to blue to red as they approach zero. When time is up, the app advances to the next person on the list.
(For this demo, I've allotted two minutes for six people. That's stupid. But, this is a demo 🤷♂️)
Standup meetings shouldn't be written in stone or ruled with an iron fist. In my view, they're just a guideline to get everyone on the same page and the meeting over and done with. So, if one person finishes early, type
⌘P to skip to the next person.
On the other hand, if something comes up that does warrant more discussion, you can toggle (pause) the timer with
⌘T. (You'll see the two timers dim in the video when I pause).
Ok, now for the strange parts.
The webcam factors into all of this because I use the app for video meetings. Ideally, when you're on Zoom, or Teams, or whatever, instead of sharing your webcam directly, share your screen or the Standup.app window. This will let everyone see your face and timer at once.
More importantly, though, I mentioned above that I use this app also as a presentation aid. The camera window floats above everything else on your screen so that if your entire screen is shared, you can move and position it above or alongside other windows you're presenting to the group. This lets you visually narrate right next to the content. In my case, that often means our Jira board or even just Xcode.
As you're sharing, you can press
⌘↓ to adjust the transparency of the camera window. (The time boxes remain visible.)
You can also
⌘/ to toggle the camera off/on entirely.
As I said, the camera window floats above everything else you're presenting. But that would make using other apps impossible if the Standup window is on top and in the way.
To solve this, when you switch to another app and Standup.app loses focus, the camera window will visually remain on top, but all of your mouse clicks and keyboard input will go to the other app like normal.
In the demo video, I edit and select text in TextMate behind the camera window and do a little light web browsing.
If you need to adjust the standup settings or move the camera window, switch back to the app and do what you need. The redirection of your mouse/keyboard to Standup.app or your other apps all happens automatically.
You can make the Standup window full screen or as small as you want. Make it completely solid or barely visible. I present using different methods depending on the audience and what I'm sharing.
As I said initially, this app is really, really niche - even more so than the other strange things I build for myself. But, hopefully, it might help someone else now that so many of us are collaborating with remote coworkers.
You can download Standup.app from here. It will automatically offer to download new updates if/when I push out any bug fixes or improvements. Your feedback is very much welcome, of course. I'd love to know what you think.
Stay safe out there.