Sitting buried in your Applications folder is an application called Sherlock. For the most part, Sherlock has been replaced by Spotlight and any web browser. Why should you use Sherlock over your web browser? Sherlock is kind of like a stripped down Internet service that removes clutter for ease of reading. For those of you who haven’t used Sherlock, there are a bunch of channels loaded by default.
Here’s what is good about Sherlock:
The Movies Channel is incredibly useful and has a clean interface. The formatting is very different than a standard website. The first two panes list the movies and theaters showing that movie (the first two panes can be switched by clicking a button). The show times are in a thrid pane. Below the three panes is movie information, a spot for a movie poster, and a spot for a movie trailer. I haven’t gotten the movie trailer feature to work yet. There’s also no guesswork trying to figure out if a movie will be bumped by a new release thanks to a drop down menu which shows you show times for different days. There is also movie theater mapping through moviefone.com. You can also add the address information for a theater to your address book (it doesn’t actually pop up Address Book, but it does add the info).
Finding flight information is very easy with Sherlock. No need to open up a browser and look for flight information. Just open up Sherlock, put in the airline, the flight number, the departure city or airport code or arrival city or airport code and the results show up neatly in the same window.
The stock tracker channel is pretty nice and includes a bunch of recent headlines about the company you’re tracking. It reminds me of quicken.com’s interface but without having to log in. There is also a translation channel with content provided by Systran. Lots of languages to translate to and from — it’s just two text boxes. You type in your original text, choose which language you want to translate to, hit the translate button and the bottom pane has your translation. Yep, lots of sites do this for you, but sometimes its nice to have a simple ad-free interface.
Not as good:
The eBay Channel does not offer anything unique when compared to the actual eBay website. The dictionary channel (content provided by Dictionary.com) is surprisingly useless. It does give you synonyms in its thesaurus, but it doesn’t actually give you definitions for words. The “Internet” channel is a little iffy. It is actually a combined search engine with content provided by About.com, Best Site 1st, Looksmart, Lycos and overture. No Google there, but if you want to get results that are outside of Google, this may be a good place for you. The AppleCare Channel is a search box, results, and a preview pane of your results. Nothing spectacular here.
Third Party Channels:
Accuweather.com provides two-day forecasts and maps. For the most part, you can get better results with Dashboard’s weather widget. The Project Guenberg channel does not seem functional. I could not get the search to work and there does not seem to be any content in the “Popular” section. Heise Online has technology news in German — I don’t speak German, so this is of little use to me. To German-speakers, this may be very useful. Sherlock also has an RSS Reader — don’t get too excited — you input ONE RSS feed url, and then you get the feed. It doesn’t aggregate a bunch of feeds. The Global Consciousness Channel seems interesting (I’d never heard of it before I wrote this article) with maps of the earth and people telling you what they think. You can’t add your own thoughts into the consciousness stream in Sherlock — you still have to do that in your browser. This particular channel is of limited utility.
I really think that Apple had something with Sherlock. To some degree, the iTunes store is just a specialized web browser. Sherlock is similar to a specialized web browser. I’ve never dealt with an easier interface for finding flight information than Sherlock. The movies channel is very useful, and I find it easier to work with than flash-laden web sites. Sherlock is not an amazing application, but does a few tasks very well. If you’ve never tried using this application, I suggest trying it out. You might like it.