Planner programs are one of the many relics of 90s computing. Nowadays we can happily default to Google Docs, Outlook, iCal, or whatever we have on our phones, but before we synced up with the cloud, the competition was fierce. If computers could do nothing else right, they would still store contacts and remind you about that appointment with CompuServe. Each planner had to outdo the others with a richer feature set or a more exciting interface.
Enter Seize the Day. Forget the “daybook” part of this program. The biggest and best feature is its rotating gallery plug-in. Seriously, it’s beautiful.
Seize the Day is less a planner than a daily hotspot. Sure, it includes a calendar and an alarm scheduler among, but it buries those features more deeply than you’d expect. Instead, the program is upfront with more artistic content, such as inspirational quotes, short biographies, and a journal. Everything has a grey, minimalist aesthetic, which you typically don’t see in productivity-oriented planners. Rather than setting alarms by going through drop-down menus, for instance, you just type the plain text into a window, and the software formats it for you. And none of the alarm sounds are especially attention-grabbing: you can choose from a handful of instruments or drumbeats which sound pleasant but are easily missable. The program is prettier and more captivating than others, even if it doesn’t work as well as a day planner.
The bulk of the program’s appeal, by far, comes from the animated gallery of “Living Worlds.” By default, Seize the Day includes a series of rotating stock images that appear in a separate window. However, it also comes with an additional set of twelve hauntingly beautiful pixel art landscapes (one for each month). The scenes changes subtly with time. As night wears on, for instance, a castle up on a hill might light a few candles, then extinguish them as midnight approaches. Clouds creep across the sky. The sun sets and rises, realistically lighting each scene. Some days might bring heavier snowfall. Artist Mark Ferrari is a genius: his work is staggering and emotionally powerful. Few have ever done so much with 256 colors.
Damn if Seize the Day didn’t respark my imagination. I got such a kick out of staring into the distance and wondering, “Who’s the person who puts out the last light in that house?” “How big is this jungle anyway?” “What could be in those ruins?” This is an amazing, imaginative canvas. Something about the pixelated art is frighteningly evocative.
Want proof? Some dedicated fan has taken Ferrari’s art (from here and other games) and reassembled it online. (UPDATE: Now with time-of-day transitions! Thanks to Seize the Day programmer Ian Gilman for sharing). The images are still strikingly beautiful. You can drift off into their vistas, but you don’t get the destination. Seize the Day is a place you can go, where you can watch the rain and see your dreams reflected in the little pools of water that formed overnight.
As far as the planner part goes, it also has a to-do list. That’s pretty handy!