Nice one, Gridwriter!
I use a lot of the same tools for the same reasons. Fantastic post – well-written and comprehensive. Give it a read and you’re guaranteed to learn something new.
This week saw the release of some long-awaited, must-buy apps and fantastic content. Here are the highlights and recommendations (some of which I talked about last night in a bit more depth) so that I can spread the wealth to the deserving folks who played a part in bringing them into existence.
Transmetropolitan - $61.38USD
Warren Ellis’ fantastic and jarring future-shock graphic novel Transmetropolitan was put on sale on Comixology for $.99 an issue. I’ve been looking to buy all of the collections from Amazon for a while now but they’ve always tallied a pretty penny. Now, you can buy all 62 issues for a reasonable price. I am really glad I have them on the iPad too so I don’t have to worry about storing them when I’m done.
FoldingText - $14.99USD
As I mentioned last night, FoldingText is a no-brainer buy and a fantastic piece of work. Go buy it now.
Tweetbot for Mac - $19.99USD
See the post mentioned in the first paragraph for details if you really need them, but you don’t really need to think too much about buying Tweetbot for Mac. Get it now before Twitter’s asinine OAuth token limit rules precludes your ability to know, use, and love this little gem.
Check the Weather - $1.99USD
Pinbook - $4.99USD
Great little Pinboard client for iPhone. I find myself using Pinboard more and more and I wish it was it was integrated into everything. For now, suffice to say, you just need to go buy this. It’s well-designed and fast. A+.
Recall for iOS - $.99
Recall is best described as a way to remember recommendations from friends. It will store them in a nice queue and remind you when they launch with links right into their respective stores for easy purchase. JUST WHAT I NEED – MORE PURCHASES, AMIRITE (see list above)???
A new phone. A new home screen. A new social network. There have been extensive changes to my home screen with the release of the iPhone 5 and App.net’s rise as my favorite (soon to be “only”?) social network. Given the iPhone 5’s added screen real estate, I have an extra row of apps to cover so this might take a while to write as well as read so let’s not delay things any further.
1Password has long been a standard on all of my devices. Lately, with all of the hackings and whatnot, it has become one of the most essential. Rotating highly unique passwords is possible because of 1Password’s ability to generate them as needed and cut/paste them where needed.
If you don’t have 1Password, buy it. If you own it but you’re not using it, you’re just asking for it. I’ll just leave this here… you know who you are.
Calvetica remained on the Home screen for a while but I’m impatient for an expanded view for iPhone 5. Calendaring apps present situations that benefit greatly from increased screen real estate. Since Week Cal was one of the first to jump on the expanded screen, and I had it hidden on the back page, I just swapped the two and I’m pretty happy with it. I forgot how good this app was. Calvetica is on the back page for now and I’ll just swap them randomly, I guess…
In my Utilities folder, I keep a rotating cast of characters that need more-than-occasional access and aren’t accessible through Launch Center Pro (see below). Calendar, Clock, Calculator, Bing, Glassboard, GV Mobile+, Adian, Rivr all live in here. I keep moving ADN clients in and out of this folder but I’ll get to App.Net (ADN) in a second.
Instacast is back in the mix. I love the other clients I’ve tried but Instacast is the best fit for how I listen to podcasts. Instacast developers moved quickly to fix the complaints that heavy users like me had after a major release that changed many really good features. After those features made their way back to the app, I returned as well. It’s a really good app nowadays.
Fitbit still gets my food and water consumption entered into it every day. It’s become habit and the changes in the recent version of the app made it marginally better. At least it didn’t make it worse, which is usually my fear after big changes.
Soulver, as Ben Brooks mentioned recently, is a really amazing product. I use it all the time for monthly expenses, working out financial planning for hiring and project management and helping my 12 year old with his algebra homework.
Settings is back on the Home screen, mainly because I use the new iOS 6 “Do Not Disturb” mode fairly often and I wanted it more accessible. If it could be toggled in Launch Center Pro or via the Notifications pull down, it’d be ideal but I’m not holding out hope.
Felix is one of the ADN clients on my iPhone. I’m using quite a few right now, testing them out and putting them all through their paces. Felix is fantastic. The “feel” is just right, the look is aesthetically pleasing and usable and, as a 1.0, it was rock solid and stable. I was happily using Felix for about a week but then Netbot hit (yesterday) which turned things upsidedown for me. I continue to get push notifications through Felix and use it about half the time. If a few key changes get made (bookmark sync & gap expansion are the two I have in mind), it may be the client that stays on the front page.
Dark Sky remains the most magical app on my phone. Last Friday, I was working from home and Dark Sky sent me a push notification that rain was going to start in my area soon. I have a fairly long driveway (we moved to a really cool rented farmhouse last year) so I got up and went out to fetch the mail before I ran the risk of getting soaked. On the walk back to the house, sure enough, rain started to fall. Magic.
Harvest for my hours tracking. A necessary evil, I’m afraid.
Nebulous Notes has taken a huge leap in the last version. I use it across iPhone and iPad and it is the best Dropbox-integrated text editor out there. At least for me. It suits all of my needs pretty perfectly including, after some monkeying around, outlining meeting notes. It is an essential app if there ever was one.
Netbot is a newcomer but it is a fantastic addition. Helping move ADN from a small, fringe upstart to something a bit more visible, Tapbots released a version of their streaming social network client for ADN and, while it is very similar in form and function to its flagship app, Tweetbot, what it means to people who have been on ADN for a while is significant. I have been buying, downloading and using all of the ADN clients I can get my hands on, not only to support the work of the developers but to see what new things can be done with the fledgling APIs and concepts.
Netbot uses ADN to replicate Twitter and that’s not such a bad thing. Twitter’s treatment of its longstanding users and developer community has been appalling. I can see, as the network expands, the apps changing to embrace some of its newer functions (annotations, privacy APIs) and grow with the features as they’re added. It’s a great start. As I’ve been singing the praises of Tweetbot for some time, I’m happy to see Tapbots on ADN too.
Google+ is still on the front page. I check it once a day but it’s a weird mix of Android fans, science news and beer links.
Safari gets a lot more use now that Cloudtabs exist.
Drafts has had some fantastic updates since my last post about it (more to come too!). It is my go-to for short text files to keep information handy like parking spots, phone numbers entered on the fly, etc. It’s my digital scrap paper with the added ability to shoot these little snippets of text to all sorts of handy places.
OmniFocus is something I write fairly often about. It’s about as important as my iPhone at this point.
Sparrow is back! For me anyway. I was using Mail.app for all of my accounts but I have quite a few and it got confusing. Breaking them out and serving my gmail accounts from a sad, deprecated, likely-no-longer-supported app seemed like the marginally right thing to do. Sad. Very sad.
Mail - Yuck. Although, VIPs are a nice feature, I’ll admit.
Phone - Yes Dialvetica is gone, and has made room for the stock Phone app. I’m sad that Dialvetica no longer seems like it will be getting any support or new versions (last update in December 2011) but Phone gets the job done.
Messages seems to have been fixed from the perspective of iMessage sending things to all of the right devices. Messages on the Macbook Air now seems to work with the advent of Mountain Lion and having a cohesive messaging solution that does what it supposed to do is as surprising as it is handy.
Trillian has only gotten better and better. I use it constantly as I swap from the laptop to the phone, back to the laptop, and so on with each having the same messages completely in sync. It’s a staple for me and extremely stable and capable. Highly recommended.
Launch Center Pro keeps adding new Actions for apps and getting more and more useful. I haven’t updated my Actions screen for a while but here’s what it looks like for now. I’ll be changing this soon to integrate some of Nebulous Notes new features and make better use of the screen real estate.
So there it is. A whirlwind tour of the Home screen. I hope it helps and if you have any questions or comments, drop me line to @jeffhunsberger on app.net or Twitter.
I have been increasingly worried about Twitter’s halting attempts at monetization and threats to remove third-party app API access. As much as I love what the service has become, it’s hard to deny that it was something special a few years ago, which I still consider its heyday. I understand what they’re going through – trying to turn a project into a business – but Dalton Caldwell seems to be starting things up with app.net the right way.
He’s asking for the upfront capital to fund a new social “service” that will be similar to Twitter but without all of the stuff that I hate about Twitter. And the funding acts as a bozo filter in a lot of very handy ways (banning, casual account creation, accountable commentary, etc.)
Read Write Web posted a nice article about app.net today and I’m hoping that it gains steam and hits the goal. Of course, once the goal is hit, getting the traction in the market is another thing altogether. Luckily, it already has the buy-in of some of the best known technorati and I’m hoping that their support helps it take off.
Dalton’s twitter account has been posting interesting tidbits and he has been allowing a few people in for alpha access here and there.
Check it out. I’m a backer for the same reasons as Rob – I think it’s a great idea and I don’t want a great idea to fail when I can play a small part in making it a reality.
One of the big focus areas for iOS developers lately is the creation of task and reminder apps. Being a heavy OmniFocus user, the thought of splitting my focus isn’t one that I look forward to. Sure, I like checking out new apps now and then, but putting tasks in the iOS Reminders app, OmniFocus and yet another app seems like I’ll end up missing something.
After buying the app, and testing it out briefly, it is clear the app is slick and has merit but it is causing me, yet again, to rethink my tool selection to find the best combination of tools for the jobs at hand.
I have the following apps on my phone being used for some very specific functions:
Having this many tools makes it critical for me to be targeted with how each app should be used. Like lots of people who post about this stuff, I feel like each tool is not quite up to the task. I keep downloading each new thing, expecting it to be the final piece of the puzzle only to find it is ever-so-slightly imperfect.
The current task-tracking tool breakdown, for today anyway, is to use OmniFocus for capturing tasks that are related to projects. If it is something related to a project or a person I have a context for, OmniFocus is also a natural choice.
For single tasks or tasks that are tied to a specific place, I’ve started using the fairly-amazing Checkmark. So far the app has been performing really well in all of my tests and the interface is slick as hell. As I’ve never really used the location-based reminders in OmniFocus, this is scratching the itch for ephemeral needs. I will continue to put it to work and expect I’ll follow up with some sort of tech note on this site at some point.
Checkmark also does time-based tasks, which I have started using as well. Previous to that, I was using a mix of OmniFocus or my calendar, both of which aren’t really the best tool for the job. Due was in the mix for a while, and it was well-suited to the task, but having things spread out over so many tools is disorienting and just doesn’t sit well with my somewhat-well-ordered-and-organized mind. I generally want the best tool for the job, but I want to use the least amount of tools possible. Adding more tools just adds more friction.
For recurring events, since Checkmark doesn’t have support for them, I continue to use Due. As mentioned above, Fantastical works for this but it always felt like pushing a boulder up a hill. I’ll still use Fantastical to set up things like birthdays and actual events, but recurring reminders are now much better served using Due.
The Apple Reminders app only really comes into play via OmniFocus, making use of the makeshift Siri integration. Using Siri, I can integrate iCloud and Siri’s insertion of tasks into OmniFocus, which has saved me a ton of time over the last few months.
When I need to write something down that isn’t task-related and anywhere between a few words to a sentence or two, the two apps I turn to are Drafts and Scratch. Given how easy it is to make nice Markdown changes in Scratch, I’ve been using that more. I’d say Scratch is still in a beta state for me. It’s an impressive app so far, however. If I could get Scratch’s “append to Dropbox file” to work in the iOS6 beta I’m sure I could find some interesting uses as well…
Writing Kit is an amazing iPad editor (in fact I’ve written this post using it). I feel dumb not having used it sooner and I can’t recommend it enough. I have the notes for an upcoming review/recommendation post to explain exactly what makes it so great but, in the meantime, just go buy it.
Nebulous Notes is still a staple for editing Markdown notes for work. It works well for a lot of things and does a decent job of avoiding Dropbox conflicts, although they still happen occasionally if I’m swapping back and forth between my Mac and iPad.
For me, keeping things as simple as possible in a very hectic work (and home) environment is paramount. Cluttering up my devices with a bunch of apps that are half-solutions doesn’t really help me much because adding any level of friction just means that I won’t record something or remember something or be reminded of something important. Friction can be anything from not being able to find an app you need when you need it to having to think for a half-second about what the best way to record something is.
Do I use Due or Checkmark to set a reminder? Do I use OmniFocus? Wait, is there a project for that? Does it make sense to put it in a particular context? Will I need to transfer this task to my main OmniFocus database at some point? Let’s look at how I make some of these calls…
I will generally follow the decision tree outlined below to determine which reminder app to use:
How should I set a timer?
Due has timers, but Siri is so dead simple I prefer using it. I guess if I have to be sneaky and silent when I need to time something one day, I’ll use Due but how often does something like that come up? I’d guess nearly never. At least I have alternatives..?
I need to write something. How do I choose which tool to use?
So there you have it. My streamlined decision trees for which tool I use and when. I try to keep it as simple as possible but still use the best tool for the job. I consider myself lucky that there are so many great tools out there to make me more effective wherever I happen to be.
I immediately set some of these up and they are really great for speeding up OmniFocus workflow on my iPhone.
The last Home Screen post was back in February and there have been some pretty major changes to how I use my iPhone since then. With starting to use my Fitbit and Aria scale daily, as well as changing how I listen to podcasts, I’ve had to make some hard changes as to what is staying in easy reach and what gets moved to a nested folder or Launch Center or what gets buried in the back pages.
1Password remains on the Home screen and continues to get more and more important with each passing day. I’ve had a few friends see the light on this app recently and all of them sing its praises. If you don’t have this application yet, you’re putting yourself at risk. I also save a ton of time when having to enter address or credit card information.
The standard iPhone Camera app is now gone from the Home screen and I have replaced it with the Utilities folder. As before, I have some critical apps in there that need to be quickly accessed but aren’t needed in just one click.
I started using Harvest to track my time and the app is pretty capable for that task. The app that runs on my Macbook Air runs at 5-8% of my CPU (according to “top -oCPU”) which is inexplicable. When I’m not in my office at work or home with my Macbook Air, plugged into a power source, I tend to shut down the Harvest OS X app and use the iPhone version to save laptop battery.
Instagram is in that folder too but since it was purchased by Facebook I’ve deleted my account. Instead, I created an alias which I basically use to lurk tattoo artist’s Instagram accounts since all of the best tattoo artists in the country show their latest work on there.
Google+ recently revamped their iPhone app. The functionality still isn’t quite there but it looks fantastic and hasn’t crashed nearly as much as the old version. It has a Flipbook vibe too it and I really like what they’ve done with the interface.
Soulver lives in this folder too and still gets a fair amount of use.
GV Mobile+ sits in this folder too, just so I have it around for easy access or so I can easily see a red badge if I have a message waiting.
The Fitbit app lives on this row as well, which I use all day long to track what I eat and drink. I outlined that whole deal in this post.
Nebulous Notes is still the reigning mid- to long-form text editing champ for me (on iPad too). I still wish it had a full search capability so I could search entire directory contents but, for now, I can rely on crafty naming tricks and using a few other apps to do deep searches. It hasn’t been a big enough problem to start exploring other options just yet.
Like before, the standard Phone app is on the front page despite my heavy use of Dialvetica. It’s there for the same reasons noted last time – I need access to recent calls or to re-dial a disconnected conference call number and Dialvetica doesn’t provide that functionality. Having this app handy also helps me see if I have a missed call.
Tweetbot has gotten a slew of new features since the last one of these posts. If this isn’t your favorite Twitter client, your brain is severely broken. Some might be turned off initally by the overhauled and completely custom look of the app, compared to other, more standard apps, but it is the attention to detail that makes this app sing after you use it for a while. I can’t see needing or using another Twitter client on iOS. I wish they’d create a Mac client so I can just go “all Tweetbot” and be done with it.
Rdio continues to be a great service. I use it to listen to music in the car or when I’m working. It’s a solid app and very stable. I still think this is well worth the $10 a month. Their music selection tends to be pretty great, especially for non-standard fare. They had the new Hot Water Music album Exister and OFF! EPs; they let me stream the new Torche album Harmonicraft and they had all of the Iron Chic albums when I went looking.
Drafts has entered the Home screen scene for me and quickly became an essential app. Lots of folks have been raving about this little piece of software on the internet so I won’t bore you with the same thing that’s been rattling around the echosphere. Suffice to say the first release was great and the developer just keeps improving it with each new version. I love this app.
Safari is still awesome and I use it a lot.
Mail is a sad necessity.
Sparrow is fantastic. Love the interface. Love the app in general. My current workflow is to keep all of my work email in the standard Mail app since that tends to be high priority. The push capabilities of Exchange and Mail.app make it pretty essential. I don’t know that Sparrow will ever be a great choice for corporate email. I do hook up all of my personal accounts on it now, however, and I love the experience of using Sparrow. Still, I qualify it as “good for handling personal email”. Early on, I kept thinking, “I can’t wait until Sparrow gets push notification” but I’m finding I don’t miss the fact that I have every email notifying me of its presence the second it arrives.
OmniFocus remains fantastic and essential on every platform.
The Quick Entry for Omnifocus icon has made a return to the Home screen. If you want to implement it, search around on the OmniFocus forums. It’s pretty easy to track down (or click the link). It is FAST. One tap launches OmniFocus and takes me directly to the Quick Entry screen. I toyed with using OmniFocus from Launch Center on the Home row, but it was still an extra click and, believe it or not, there are times when it matters.
Dialvetica is a fast dialer app for iPhone. I can usually dial contacts in 3-4 taps and that includes turning on the phone, opening Dialvetica and hitting dial. An acquired taste, probably, but I use it daily. It’s a cool app.
Messages became a lot less stable with the release of the beta Messages.app for OS X. I still have issues with its stability and features. I turned off all of the Messages accounts on my computers and deleted all evidence of the beta. After that, things quieted down and it has become usable but Apple’s entire messaging stack has become quite messy. I’m hoping Mountain Lion can straighten it out, but I don’t have high hopes.
Trillian was still an experiment when I wrote the last Home screen review in February. And now, months later, Trillian endures. It’s a stable, reliable chat application and the desktop sync now has me spoiled for any other chat client. Highly recommended. I wish they had a native iPad version.
Launch Center remains an experiment. I like the interface but I wish it worked with more apps. I use the Flashlight every night when I take the dog out. Having some of my travel and navigation apps in there keeps them handy but not too handy. I guess after four months, it’s probably a staple, right?
Frederico Viticci writes good stuff. His latest article about iOS features he wants to see is a long piece detailing dozens of interesting ideas. Some of them are feasible, even useful, but others seem like they are missing the point of what most users want from their iOS device and would only increase the feature bloat that is making iOS more difficult to maintain (given the number of bugs that have crept into the OS in recent releases) and harder for new users to come to grips with.
Some of his ideas are “expert” level and could be implemented through settings screens. I think most of this higher level functionality would be useless to most users however or, even worse, degrade the experience of people who just want to use their phone to get stuff done.
Other ideas Viticci presented fall in the “why would I ever want to do that, even if I could?” category.
I wanted to go through his list and add comments where I took issue (or agreed fully) with his thoughts. This isn’t a full run-down on his ideas, however, and I’d encourage everyone to head to macstories to read the full treatise.
Sync browser tabs through iCloud: I have no idea why I’d ever want to do that. So many websites aren’t really that useful on the iPhone and with all of the link sharing/link saving applications and websites (Pinboard, Instapaper, etc), I use my computer to view websites I specifically don’t want to see on my phone or iPad.
Facebook integration: Don’t even get me started on Facebook. It needs to stay as far away from me as possible and integrating it into the phone will just make its annoyance more ubiquitous. I’d rather they find ways to diminish its presence and given that Facebook is, in some important ways, a competitor to Apple I can’t see them ever doing this for their own sake.
Search in All Mailboxes: Interesting but impossible idea. Searching offline mail folders from a phone would require a server archiving and indexing component that would be too difficult to even envision let alone implement. How would you feel about Apple having an indexed version of all of your email, no matter which service handled the email originally? That’s the only way it could be done though.
Copy link and text in App Store, Sharing options in App Store and iTunes wish list: Good ideas but not too important in the scheme of things. It’s one of those things that I can’t see a lot of users making use of.
Per-contact read iMessage status: I’d like this but it would be a pain to implement and actually use. It’s one of those expert level things I mentioned above. I would hope “fixing iMessage” would rank higher than this…
Mail-style rich text system-wide: I guess. I personally don’t use rich text if I can avoid it and I can see where a writer would want something like this but all I can envision is getting emails from my mother with blue backgrounds and comic sans fonts and shudder at the thought. I’d blame Frederico for each one of those emails…
AirDrop: I love this idea but it does belie the whole notion of using iOS as a simple device devoid of a file system (on the surface anyway). Viticci makes it sound some neat and interesting but where do those files go? How do you open them? How do you send them to the apps that need to handle them? I’d prefer Apple concentrate on fixing iCloud.
Move multiple icons at once: Terrible idea.
Rethink the iOS Home screen concept and Rethinking iOS Multitasking: I like the idea of live icons with the ability to have the current weather on an icon or a cloud when it’s cloudy and maybe a temperature display. There’s a lot you can do with that idea. But the Home screen metaphor is going nowhere and the current handling of multitasking is going nowhere either. I am not averse to a “running apps” page at the end of my screens list, but the point of the Home button interaction to bring up the running apps is not to keep them sequestered where they are out of the way but to make it fast to access the last few apps you used. The double-tapped Home button is annoying at times but I’d rather move that control to something more obvious and less “clicky” than completely blow up the paradigm for a mis-guided sort of convenience. Regardless, the way the the OS itself multitasks is pretty much perfect for a good blend of preservation of battery life and usability.
Deeper Gmail integration: Isn’t that why Sparrow exists? Most people don’t use Gmail, instead using their work’s Exchange, MSN, Yahoo! and others, so enabling these very Google-specific features wouldn’t be the typical sort of wide-brush approach that is common to Apple’s development. Would I like it? Sure. Will it happen? Nope.
Automatic app updates option: OK. I can somewhat agree to this, as a developer, but there are things like data caps, bad WiFi connections and other things that are very connection-specific that make this type of updating problematic. As someone who has to deal with users and connectivity issues a lot, I can assure you, not everyone enjoys the same level of connectivity as the most tech savvy of us.
Open up Siri: Yes, sure. That’d be nice but first concentrate on “Fix Siri”.
Better inter-app communication: I think this will definitely be a big feature consideration of future OS versions but it has a large number of problems for implementation, not the least of which is security.
Improve Notification Center: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes
Make iOS devices aware of each other’s presence: I am not sure I’d like this but I am sure they’d allow those of us who like privacy and dislike most people to turn it off.
Bring AIM to iMessage for iOS, and let us selectively mute threads: They need to fix iMessage first. That shit is severely broken, especially when integrating it with my Mac. (iMessage beta actually broke iMessage so badly on my phone I had to delete it from my machine and remove all traces of it to get my phone’s iMessage to work again. Crazy!)
Calculations in Spotlight: That’d be nice but if you really want to be that type of power user, you should be using Launchbar already. And the rest of the user population wouldn’t use it if it was there.
Let users change default apps: That would be great. It would likely be problematic for them to implement (or for us to use) but still a great addition to the OS.
Make Notification Center for iPad Mountain Lion-like: Sure. Sounds great.
Improve Notes with Mountain Lion features: Who uses Notes? I only know one person who uses the Notes in iOS but it’s only because she is somewhat stubborn. For someone who wants an “improved” notes, they should rush out and buy Drafts or Nebulous Notes immediately.
Documents UI for iCloud: This should probably be Apple’s first priority. iCloud is so essential to the company’s future and the current implementation needs a lot of work. No iWork integration yet? Really, Apple?
VIP contacts for Mail and Messages: I love the idea of VIP contacts.
Easy access to WiFi, Bluetooth switches: At the very least allow developers to build apps to do this…
I disagreed with a lot of what Viticci says in his wish list but it was an enjoyable read. It gave me a lot to think about. Thanks, Frederico!
Before you upload your next novel or tax data to your Google Drive account, please review this statement. It’s from the current Google Terms of Service. I assume these will be modified at some point soon, at least as far as Google Drive is concerned:
When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.