TurboNav’s Story

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TurboNav’s Story

April 12, 2022

Frantic deadlines, working under pressure, squashing bugs before a demo, and yet I was at peace. As a software engineer, this was my life, a constant cycle of building, iterating, and shipping. What kept me sane was my workspace. A clean distraction-free digital workspace to get work done.

After many years of working in the tech industry, I tweaked my workspace to feel natural. I knew where everything was; it was a keyboard shortcut away. When I didn’t know, I searched for it. My IDE became my superpower and gave me this sense of control and pure blissfulness. Regardless of the situation, I felt right at home when developing products.

My configuration consisted of a handful of tweaks:

  • working with zero file tabs
  • removing line numbers
  • working strictly in distraction-free mode
  • navigating through files with the recent files modal.

Also, keyboard shortcuts to:

  • navigate across file changes using cmd + [ or ]
  • go to the definition using cmd + b
  • toggle Project Files with cmd + 1
  • open an active file in the Project Files pane with cmd + shift + 1
  • toggle Terminal pane with cmd + 2.

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Again, pure blissfulness.

Like any other day, I was doing some research for a client and gathering business requirements for a new technical project. I read up on the EDI 837 specification for a headless service solution in the health industry. I captured the information, synthesized it, and shared it with the client.

One day, I was on a call, sharing my findings of the research I’ve gathered. The client had a question about the terms of use for a service I suggested. I recalled reading about the specific topic, so I searched for it during the call but couldn’t find it. I gradually became overwhelmed, working against the many navigation structures created by browsers. I couldn’t find the one piece of information I knew existed; it seemed to have vanished from existence. To avoid wasting time, I had to follow up. After the call, I took quite a bit of time to find the information and share it with the client.

The process felt rigid, and I felt disappointed being in that situation. I know it happens, but there had to be a better way. A better way to navigate the many tabs accumulated and information gathered.

It was a problem that was waiting for a solution. A flash of insight struck me while working with Linear, an issue tracker that’s a delight to use. It’s fast and, most important of all, has a keyboard-centric design. Linear’s user experience resonated with me. It was an experience that felt natural from day one. The command prompt gave me a sense of control. You could search for any action and execute it without leaving your keyboard; it was lightweight but powerful. Coming from Jira, this new experience felt incredible. This was when insight struck me, “this needs to be how we navigate and work on our browser.”

At this moment, I made a connection with my own experience building a development environment configuration that felt natural to me and the possibilities of creating a tool that maps that same experience from the IDE to the browser.

Imagine an experience through a command prompt that supports functionality to navigate, search, and stay focused without losing your train of thought. An experience where you can quickly save links, create a distraction-free environment, structure your work just like projects in an IDE, and much more. The possibilities felt endless.

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I would brainstorm many possibilities since the idea’s inception. The brainstorming sessions were messy, but every inkling of a thought, idea, or goal made building this product more exciting. Throughout this journey, I came to one conclusion. I aim to make this tool the best experience to give you the control to do your best work. This is what keeps me moving forward with TurboNav. This is why I’ve built an MVP browser extension to start building on this vision.

The product in its current state is simple. Save links, schedule for later, and view browser tabs and windows through a tree-like view. As well as /slash-commands. Slash commands to do all of the above and more. For example, /focus, a command to create a distraction-free environment. Select a window, a block rule, and a goal, and you’re all set to start doing focused work. This command minimizes unused windows and blocks distracting websites. Oh, and I forgot to mention keyboard shortcuts. Many of these actions support keyboard shortcuts to avoid breaking your train of thought. Try it out!

I’m excited about what’s to come. This is an ongoing story, and I believe this is only the beginning. My plan is to continue iterating from user feedback as I’m sure things will look different in the future, which makes this exciting for me. Being on a voyage of uncertainty and working towards building the best tool that can help others in their own voyage. My goal is to bootstrap this product into a tool that gives you the control to do your best work. Follow along the journey, try out TurboNav for yourself and let me know what you think.

✌️

https://twitter.com/howdy_miguel
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https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB7gFwJuU3hyroGr24KrBmg