I wasn’t disappointed. CARROT is her usual psychopathic self, keeping you informed about both the weather and your own insignificance. Checking current conditions is quick – which is important – and entertaining, which is delightful.
I’ve seen all the best Mac weather apps, and there’s nothing quite like this out there. None of the other apps regularly contemplate humanity’s destruction, sure, but they also aren’t as versatile or quick to use.
Carrot Weather has been around on iOS for quite a while already, and is highly rated.
The Mac App store can feel like a wasteland compared to iOS – most developers move on to Android after finding success on mobile, not the Mac. So why make a desktop weather app? In Mueller’s telling, it’s because he couldn’t find one he likes:
“I wanted to hit a hotkey and have the weather pop up no matter what app I’m in – or even better, have the app tell me if bad weather’s coming my way without having to open it.”
– Brian Mueller, CARROT’S Idiot Maker
Some of the best apps out there are made by programmers trying to solve their own problems, but Mueller went beyond his use case to make CARROT into an app that could work for anyone. You can access the app however you like: a full window, a menubar icon, a mini window, and even a notification center widget.
Launch the app and CARROT will comment on the weather, out loud (turn this off later if you’re boring). She’ll also give you an overview of current conditions, along with an animation:
At the bottom you’ll see a summary of the day’s weather. Click any point on this timeline to see more information about a specific hour:
You can also toggle this view to show you the week’s forecast, if you prefer:
There are keyboard shortcuts for switching between modes – H for hourly, D for Daily, S for Short-Term – and you can use the number keys to quickly cycle through the full week’s forecast. All of this combined means you can browse everything you care about, quickly, while also getting a quick laugh (and, if you leave the sounds on, some weird looks from your co-workers).
If you prefer, you can use the menubar icon – or a universal keyboard shortcut – to launch CARROT’s Mini Window.
All the weather information you need is right here, complete with a shorter bit of snark. Even when the app’s not open it can inform you: notifications pop up whenever it’s about to rain, for example.
There are also morning and evening updates, so with CARROT installed there’s really no reason you should ever feel uninformed about the weather. The only thing missing is a radar map, which Mueller says is coming in the next update of the Mac app (there’s already one in the iOS app).
On one level this app is just a quick way to get forecasts from Forecast.io, which might be the best weather site on the web. But the whole package – the interface, the keyboard shortcuts, the notifications – makes this so much more than that. But what really puts this app over the top is its personality.
Personality Makes Everything Better
Climate is a complex system, well beyond the control or comprehension of humanity. Why not get weather updates from an equally powerful and unknowable AI?
As gimmicks go, it’s a pretty great one. I’ve no idea how many one-liners were written for this app, but it’s enough that I’ve yet to see the same thing twice.
Mueller, for his part, says his inspiration comes from the women in his life: “CARROT’s mostly based on my mom, my sister, and my wife. They all have sarcastic personalities and like to make fun of me a lot.”
Wherever this personality comes from, it’s hilarious. And, even though I know this is just a simple app, it really does feel as though a malevolent AI is reading me the weather. I’m not alone: CARROT has prompted more than a few users to share their favorite forecasts on Twitter – something I’m not sure many other weather apps can claim.
More and more developers are learning how adding personality can improve the user’s experience. People who love Siri or Cortana spend hours talking to them, trying to find out what might prompt a response. This is silly, sure, but it also builds a sort of kinship between device and user.
Slack, which makes group communication easier, also realizes this: the apps features all sorts of inside jokes in the interface, and a “bot” that helps you set up your profile. Even Firefox, with its “well this is embarrassing” error message, has touches of this approach.
Adding a sense of humor to otherwise straight-forward apps doesn’t just help those apps stand out – it makes the experience better for users. Of course, CARROT takes all of this a little further than most apps, which can lead to some confusion:
Speaking of personality: there are 30 hidden locations to be found, including everything from the moon to Mordor. Some can be unlocked simply by using the app regularly, but others require some effort. Being a lazy human meatbag, this seemed hard to me – so I asked Mueller for help.
“There’s a bunch of ways to unlock the secret location Easter eggs. Some unlock just by using CARROT over time, while others unlock by visiting specific cities. You can also unlock two of them with the time travel feature.”
Brian Mueller, CARROT’s Idiot Maker
Speaking of: there’s a time travel feature! This lets you explore the weather any time during the past 70 years, and also check “future” weather with varying degrees of accuracy. It’s not essential, sure, but it is fun.
Why Does This Cost So Much?
As previously mentioned: the Mac version of CARROT costs $10. Why so much, even when compared to the $4 iPhone version? Mueller says the difference is in running costs. Forecast.io API calls cost $0.0001, and the Mac app makes way more of these than the iOS version.
“With the Mac app, the weather is constantly being updated in the background, at least 24 times per day every single day of the year. So the costs associated with the Mac app add up a lot faster than the iOS app,” Brian revealed.
The app might not be worth the price for you, but that’s not necessarily down to the developer. There are plenty of apps make the weather more entertaining, but none I’ve liked so much as this.
Oh, and Windows users: there are weather apps for Windows, if you know where to look, but none that involve a mortally neutral AI. Sorry.
Have you tried CARROT weather? Does being abused by malevolent AI make your daily mundane tasks more fun?