Alto is back

One of my all time favourite games finally gets a second instalment. Alto’s Odyssey takes the game out of the snow and onto the sand.

The game is available for pre sale now before releasing on Feb 22nd. For more info head to the App Store. If you haven’t already go grab Alto’s Adventure it’s a great game that you can play in short burst – if you can put it down.

2018 iPad Setup

It’s so amazing to look at my 2016 posts and see how much has changed in iOS and my own setup and workflow.

The start of every year I prepare my device for the work year ahead. I spend time archiving old documents, notes while preparing all my most used apps for the year ahead. In doing this I think through my workflows and ensure I am maximising the apps and setup I have.

By admission I’m an app junkie anything and everything that’s looks remotely interesting I’ll download and buy. This affects my setup as I can sometimes use an app for the sake of it without thinking through the entire workflow.

2018 iPad resolution

  1. Create a workflow and stick with it for the year
  2. Use the least number of apps
  3. Keep it simple stupid

Home screen(s)

Since iOS 11 I have adopted a blank main home screen. This I call my workspace. All my work related apps1 reside in the dock with the most common easily accessible on the dock and those least used in folder on the dock.

The second Home screen is all my more personal use apps and naturally games. This is where I can relax, read and get my mind off work. Currently I have Spark back on my iPad again testing to see if it can replace mail.app as my default email client. As per previous 2 I’m never quite satisfied with my email setup and continue to look for the Holy Grail of email applications. If you are looking for some good games you should check out Civ VI and Antihero both are really great time wasters.

Getting stuff done

Lucky for me I spend a bit of time out of the office at different locations and thats where the iPad comes to the fore however I am still bound to an PC centric organisation.

I have been reasonably successful in having other colleagues provide meeting papers and other documents to me in PDF format. Allowing me to take them on the road and mark them up without having to rely on being at my desk. Sadly the PC iCloud app is useless and I’m left using Dropbox for storing documents. If a better alternative for iCloud existed I would store all my docs there.

PDF’s are where the first rationalisation need to occur. Three apps are currently in use and not one meets all my needs; PDF Expert, Notability, and DEVONThink.

PDF Expert has fantastic annotation tools and has the ‘Open in’ ability unfortunately the inking engine is lacking and adds to more poor handwriting.

Notability is a lovely looking app with a great inking engine that makes my handwriting look pretty decent. Sadly you need to import PDFs from Dropbox them export them back when finished, this is better now with drag and drop but Dropbox in the files.app is damn awful. In addition the annotation tools are poor by comparison.

Lastly there’s the PDF tools in DEVONThink which are solid enough and offer all the tools one could need however it’s just not as polished as PDF Expert and the inking engine is even poorer.

Winner: PDF Expert – works in all the right places, convenient to use with files.app or DEVONThink I’ll live with the poor handwriting

This next workflow is a little harder to work through and I’m still undecided where to turn. I meet regularly with my team and takes notes of actions and discussion points. I like to keep a record of these discussions and last year used notes.app to accomplish this. Sadly as good as notes.app is I would rather keep all my work documentation together in a app with great search features, that app is DEVONThink. So the question is how do I get it there?

Some might think this is easy just share and send the note to DEVONThink – sure that seems easy enough however its just plain text and I like to do a little formatting. I especially like writing in markdown. I have two thoughts and both I really like and find hard to split.

First is Drafts 4.0, I can write in Markdown and using my custom action can send it to DEVONThink with all the formatting intact this works quickly and efficiently with the added bonus of any to do items can also be highlighted and sent to Things 3 using an action created in Drafts 4.0.

The alternate option is Bear which is a stunning looking note taking app which you can use Markdown to write in and the export as markdown to any app like DEVONThink.

Winner: Drafts 4.0 wins hands down however Bear is so pretty!

Things 3 is my to do app of choice it is a well thought out app that is nice to look at and flexible to suit most needs. The UI gets out of the way to allow you to get stuff done. There is no system for you to follow freeing you to use it how you see fit. Worth every dollar – just get it!

1Password is the must have tool for managing all you passwords both for work and personal. Security is so important these days and any tool that helps create and store secure passwords is a must.

Slack is my team communication tool whilst the apps are on the average side the tool itself has helped to reduce the number of emails I receive on a daily basis.

Finally Ulysses is my tool of choice for blogging and writing long form papers for work. The subscription is expensive here is Australia but you can’t deny the quality of the software and the app is fantastic.

This is my setup if you have thoughts or questions leave a comment or touch base with me via Twitter @YouSaidWhatBlog

  1. Yes I know Tweetbot is there and is not work related – It’s my most used social media app!
  2. https://yousaidwhat2.com/2016/11/05/email-client-wars-pt-2-returning-to-an-old-friend/
    https://yousaidwhat2.com/2016/04/16/untitled/

Apples Best of 2016 Apps

Today the App Store released its annual best of for 2016. The store highlights the top ten app and games giving them prime position on the store front. Interestingly this appears to be a local selection as I have seen various articles showing different winners.

Without further adieu please find this years Australian selection…

iPhone App of the Year

Prisma – Free Photo Editor, Art Filters Pic Effects

Runner Up

Quartz: News in a whole new way

iPhone Game of the Year

Clash Royale

Runner Up

Reigns

iPad App of the Year

Heuristic Shakespeare – The Tempest

Runner Up

Sketchbook Motion

iPad Game of the Year

Severed

Runner Up

Chameleon Run

App Review – Timepage for iPad by Moleskine

Fantastical has been my go to calendar app for macOS and iOS for sometime now and I have loved what they have done for calendaring. Nothing came close to the ever useful Fantastical across all my devices. Just recently things have changed.

In January Moleskin released Timepage their iPhone only calendar app which was a beautiful clutter free timeline of events. At the time I took a look and really enjoyed the UI however the lack of iPad support really was a let down and I stuck with my old favourite Fantastical. This week on the App Store the Editors Choice for iPad1 is Timepage and for the first time in years Fantastical has been removed from my iPad.

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Downloading Timepage was a no brainer and quickly replaced Fantastical. As with the iPhone app the UI was uncluttered and distraction free. The app comes with a day, week and month view all accessible through swiping .

The day and week views appear on the screen side by side. The day views sits on the right of the screen and as you would expect lists all the events for the day along with the weather based on your location. Week view on the left provides all appointments in a list for the week. Where more appointments than space exists the screen will cycle through the list on a regular basis. This view can also be adjusted to show only a select few days up to 10 days (going beyond a week view).

The month view starts with a heat map showing the the different calendars by colour that you can with your finger move through to see where your appointments sit through the month for each calendar. This is a handy feature when you have a shared home calendar, subscription sports calendars and a work calendar. After swiping right for a second time you come across a typical monthly appointment view and if as full as mine can be quite crowded.

As mentioned weather details can be seen on the day view however if you press on the currents days weather details you will be presented with the weather on a scrolling timescale and where the week view is shown you will now see the weather for the week.

A swipe to the left from the day/week view presents you with a extensive set of preferences for the calendars to the customisation of colour and font size. One impressive feature is the assistant which can provide you a daily summary of events and weather, rain alerts, even a contextually aware alert of when to leave for an appointment.

One very nice feature I found while writing this article was the little clock at the bottom of the preferences home screen. An analog face that was hard to decipher however if you press it it replaces the preferences menu with a great looking analog clock alongside your day view.

Timepage does have a couple of little bugs still however none are showstoppers and don’t spoil the user experience. If you are looking for a better calendar app than the one iOS provides and something a little less cluttered than Fantastical take a look at Timepage2 it’s beautiful, functional and really shines on the iPad.

  1. Supports slide over and split view
  2. Good price too not too expensive but worth every $

iOS 10 – Notifications & Widgets

This month I took the plunge and jumped on board the public beta program for both my iPhone and iPad. Having seen nothing but strong reviews and nil major issues it was time to give iOS a test drive. Needless to say I have been seriously impressed and have really enjoyed the changes.

One of my favourite features of iOS 9 was the redesigned notifications/widgets screen. It had become a part of my iPad daily workflow for the last year and I would suggest it was a massive improvement that wasn’t given a lot of airtime during the iOS 9 review season.

iOS 10 brings a redesigned notifications/widgets screen one which I’m undecided on. The interface now looks very different and Im not entirely sure i like it.

My first gripe came after installing the beta on my iPad; rather than restore the widget settings the process set up a default setup. This set up looked simply awful and did not endear itself to me. The date had been moved from the right to the left and all the widgets were in one long continuous column

Each widget is now encased in its own grey box looking almost skeumorphic. For accessibility purposes this appears to be a great choice and gives the user a clear defined space for their widgets. The date oddly takes up a great deal of real estate. This is evident when you look at the notifications/widgets screen in landscape which highlights how much space is unused. Like a number of other iOS 10 features big and bold appears to be the new ‘thing’.

The notifications screen is one long column of notifications taking up only one third of the screen through the middle. unlike the previous version notifications has its own screen rather than a tab selection. Again this choice of limiting the amount of space appears a waste of good real estate; this is probably worse on my iPad Pro. Like widgets this looks less problematic in portrait mode however there is still some real estate wasted.

One oddity I noted; most screenshots you will see that the left hand side of the date is blank. This morning however the weather appeared in this space something I hadn’t seen in all the weeks of testing the beta.

Overall I’m personally not a fan of this new look it feels a little rough and clumsy and for me not as user friendly. Naturally being a beta its is a little rough around the edges however we probably only a weeks from launch I can’t see too many changes being made that will tip my view in the opposite direction.

Instapaper – Instapaper is joining Pinterest

This week Betaworks announced that it had sold Instapaper to Pinterest. This came as a huge surprise to most in the industry leaving most somewhat baffled by the acquisition.

I have had a copy of Instapaper since the early days when Marco Arment was the developer. Instapaper has been my go to app for all my read later needs converting all web pages to readable text in a simple but friendly UI.

All acquisitions like this make you wonder what is next and whether the app will be around in another 12 mths time. In the meantime we can only go by the developers statement1

For you, the Instapaper end user and customer, nothing changes.

  1. Keep your fingers crossed too…it certainly can’t help!

Updated Ulysses 2.6

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Overnight The Soulmen released a massive update to Ulysses.

Ulysses 2.6 brings a raft of features to make the app even more user friendly and a tool for writers of all shapes and sizes. One of the biggest changes and the best in my opinion is the ability to publish direct to WordPress. The Ulysses blog outlines in detail all the changes in 2.6. The following blogging features are what you can expect;

  • Post to self-hosted blogs or blogs via WordPress.com
  • Add as many blogs to Ulysses as you have
  • Publish as draft or published, immediately or scheduled
  • Set (or auto-set) categories and tags, excerpts and featured images
  • Set post format Set slug and title link Publish as HTML or Markdown
  • Preview in Ulysses
  • Set post-publishing actions, i.e. open the WordPress editor or WordPress preview, after the post has made its way from your device to your blog

These for me are the biggest features of the update that should bring more users to Ulysses 2.6 and further cement those already taking advantage of the well conceived writing tool. If that didn’t convince you however these additional features should push you over the line.

  • Dropbox on iOS
  • Quick Open (Global Search on iOS)
  • Typewriter Mode
  • VoiceOver

Still not convinced? These great reviews of the app in its entirety should bring you around.

Full City Press – Ulysses 2.5 review

Macstories – Ulysses 2.5 for iPad and now iPhone

Now you are convinced !! Go now and buy Ulysses 2.6 it’s a premium quality app with a price to suit. Don’t be put off its worth every $$.

Subscription Pricing: The new bane of the App Store?

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In App purchases have changed the App Store pricing in a big way. Effectively reducing apps to mobile slot machines that customers pour money into on a daily basis.

Addictive games like Candy Crush Saga started the trend of monetising components of the game to help advance progress. Following suit came Clash of Clans, FIFA 16 Ultimate Team™ and even SimCity. This trend was a boon for mostly gaming developers and saw some games become multi million dollar cash cows.

Prior to WWDC in June Phil Schiller 1 the Apple would be bringing subscription pricing to the App Store for select product categories. Developers largely supported this however there is an undercurrent of concern in the community what this may lead to.

In recent times two big name mobile developers announced changes to their business models. Firstly Smile Software 2 that its much loved TextExpander software would be updated and moving to a subscription model. This decision was met with howls of discontent about its pricing structure and value that it offered with many looking to jump ship and move away from the product entirely. Then in the last few days Evernote which has had subscription pricing for some time 3 an increase its costs and limitations to the free version. This too was not entirely a popular decision.

Subscription pricing whilst offering a cash stream for developers brings concerns for customers; namely value for money. Will a customer see a constant stream of updates and benefits for the dollars they pay? How many apps will go this way and what will people end up paying per year for the privilege?

Let’s look at one company who is doing this and doing it well. As an Apple geek it pains me to say that Microsoft offer a great package for a good price. Office 365 is not a stand alone app but a series of excellent productivity apps that will help any user remain productive at their Mac, iPad or their work PC. The pricing is quite high but what you get is excellent value with the mobile products alone worth every dollar. Microsoft are also keeping the apps up to date and Apple even rolled them out with the launch of the iPad Pro to demonstrate the mark up features with the Apple pen. This is subscription pricing at its best and shows the possibilities to come.

In my opinion Evernote is not an example of a good subscription. Poor quality bloated apps that have failed to innovate and improve on what was once a great idea. Evernote is considered a big developer and it is concerning when they cannot manage to provide a decent offering to subscribers.

Smaller less known developers could potentially struggle to meet expectations and I wonder who is going to monitor this? Would refunds be available? What are Apples expectations of developers offering subscriptions? Lots of questions and few answers yet but time will tell whether this will improve things in the App Store system for developers. The hope is developers and consumers both benefit from this and quality apps become the well supported norm.

  1. Daring Fireball 8th June 2016 ↩︎
  2. Smile Software Annoucement ↩︎
  3. Evernote Annoucement ↩︎

 

Review: Notebooks 8 by Alfons Schmid

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Over the last couple of months I have been reviewing my workflow to accomodate writing for my new blog, my business writing and documentation storage. Finding a single solution to create, annotate and store this documentation has become increasingly laborious.

Finding a solution among the many suitors is also difficult not to mention expensive. The list of options is at times overwhelming; 1Writer, Drafts 4, Ulysses and Editorial all fit the bill while having many pros and cons.

One app Notebooks 8 I am currently trialling has some interesting features that may hit the mark. Notebooks 8 provides a solution that meets some of my needs, from markdown writing through to PDF annotation. As described on the developers website;

With its unique combination of functions, Notebooks can replace multiple dedicated apps on your iPhone and iPad:
* Note Taker
* 1st Text Processor
* Markdown Composer
* HTML to Markdown Converter
* Task Manager and Reminder
* File Storage and Organizer
* Clipboard Manager
* PDF Converter
* PDF Reader
* eBook Creator

My needs are simple I need a place to write in markdown, a location to store and annotate PDF’s all synced and backed up through Dropbox. Interestingly Notebooks 8 works well in this regard.

The UI is a straight forward folder structure appropriately named books. It allows you the ability to organise your work into meaningful books that syncs to your Dropbox account

No matter whether you want to quickly put down a note or carefully craft a formatted document with styles and images, in Notebooks you can do both

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The layout and interface of Notebooks is clean and offers a number options to display your files. The left hand side of the screen shows the books. Also on this side you can have standalone documents and a power user feature of @contexts which shows you searches based on tags.
You can add and create multiple document types with the better options being markdown and plain text. Document types that can be stored and viewed are;

  • .doc (not displayed like they do in Word)
  • .md
  • .txt
  • .pdf
  • .png
  • voice memos
  • photos

PDF’s added to Notebooks can also be annotated with a toolbox of stock standard annotation tools. My only complaint with this app is its handwriting engine its pretty poor and hard to write anything legible. This makes it hard for me to move from my current PDF annotation app PDF expert.

Two of my favourite features are found in the way documents are viewed. Firstly PDF’s in landscape can be viewed as a book with two pages at a time with a really smooth page turning experience. The best feature of the two is the ability to view two documents from the app side by side. While only one app can be edited it is a really handy feature on the bigger iPad Pro. Something I havent tested as yet is the publish to ePub feature which sounds handy and could be another favourite feature down the track.

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Writing in notebooks is similar to most basic writing apps supporting markdown. Its isn’t as powerful as Drafts, Byword or Uylsses and requires an app like Workflows to publish or create further actions with the text. One little gripe when writing in Markdown I would really like to see some coloured syntax to help the eyes focus on my writing.

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Overall Notebooks 8 is a solid app from a repsonsive independant developer. There is much to like about this app and the sync to Dropbox make its a safe option. Given time and further development I can see it becoming an important part of my workflow. The app price alone makes it worth a try and the small in app purchase for PDF annotation worhtwhile if you want to help support the developer.

For now its staying on my home screen.

Frustrated And Wanting To Someone To Blame

Overnight a wonderful writing app Ulysses was updated finally supporting iPhones and most importantly my beloved iPad Pro. I had been reading all the tweets and press coverage and was excited to get a copy.

The first reviews were published MacStories[1], Macsparky[2] and The Brooks Review[3]. All glowing and adding to the anticipation of what is a fine app.

Let’s get this straight I have no issue with paying a premium for high quality apps. I purchase Omni Group apps which are some of the more expensive apps in the store. In fact I have suggested that apps like Drafts 4 charge more just to support the developers.

Now my frustration… Ulysses was promoted at a special price. I went straight to the App Store searched and there it was and the price was disappointing. As usual we Australians have to live with the fact that US developers sometimes advertise their special price in the app notes. This also means we get to see the difference.

App Pricing

Doing a quick calculation using the mornings exchange rate USD>AUD suggested the app was priced $4 higher than a direct US to Australian conversion. This has been an issue in this country for many years with many big companies charging more here for some reason. Out of frustration I tweeted the developer and the App Store.

The developers response:

@wonk71 @AppStore we have no control over the local prices. But is it possible oz has higher taxes or so? We have the same in Germany here…

Naturally no response from the App Store but it’s a very disappointing practice that looks bad on the developers. If it’s Apple or the Australian Federal Government someone is to blame. It would be nice to know who exactly!

In the end I bought the app and its a bloody gem!