Tag: software (page 1 of 5)

Day One 2

One of my favourite app’s across Mac and iOS got a really nice update this week. Day One is a journaling app that I’ve used for the last few years and version 2 brings quite the upgrade.

On first launch on either platform you’ll notice that you can no longer sync using iCloud or Dropbox. Instead Day One uses it’s own sync platform. Import your entries from Day One, setup an account and then sync. I found the process to be fast considering I’ve over 800 entries within my current journal.

The previous version had support for only one journal and relied on tags to separate out entries. I had tags for work, movies and runs. Version 2 still supports tags but now supports up to ten journals which can be individually coloured so I’ve setup individual journals and it makes for a much better experience.

Journal entries haven’t seen much change but each entry can now have up to 10 photo’s which is Day One’s 2 ‘finally’ feature.

These are paid updates and both versions are available for 50% off for one week only. iOS is fairly priced but Mac feels a bit steep for relatively little change – £14.99 rising to £29.99 in a weeks time. Future upgrades are promised though.

Day One 2 is an admittedly pricey app but one I can’t do without. It’s polished and if you value journalling of any kind it’s well worth a look.

Todoist

I lasted 4 months. Omnifocus was too rich for my needs and Wunderlist not enough. I switched to Reminders as it synced between iOS and Mac and app’s like Fantastical displayed the todo’s alongside my calendar. It was working well apart from one thing – iCloud. Last weekend saw my Reminders yet again get out of sync. iPhone different to iPad and different to the Mac. So frustrating and coupled with some annoying usability issues it was time to look elsewhere again. After looking at the usual options I plumped for Todoist and one week later it’s working out well.

Todoist - Karma

Todoist – Karma

The most attractive feature of Todoist is that they have clients on every platform. Every doesn’t just mean iOS, Android and Mac. Web, Windows, Outlook – in total there are 13 different platforms and devices from where you can manage your to-do’s. Thankfully the sync works quickly and I’ve had no issues with entering, updating and closing off to-do’s across all platforms.

Unlike so many applications at work, Todoist works well on Windows so I can keep on top of things no matter where I am and what device I’m using. On all platforms Todoist provides a clean interface and a quick way of entering to-do’s. Date support is great and also understands plain english so entering a recurring task is as easy as writing ‘every 7 days starting next wed’. You can also write ‘due date after 6 months starting 15 March’ which means the to-do will recur not every 6 months from the March 15th but 6 months from when you completed the task that was scheduled on the 15th. A small detail but one I really like.

Karma is Todoist’s way of showing how productive you are being. A bit gimmicky but coupled with colours against projects it provides a nice overview of what you complete and when. Labels and filters across all platforms also allows you to implement a fairly comprehensive GTD workflow if you are that way inclined. Projects can be nested as well as tasks so you can break down a to-do into as fine a detail as you want.

Todoist on iOS

Todoist on iOS

I particularly like the iOS interface. Easy to add/edit a to-do with quick access to labels, priorities and reminders. Making a change to the date brings up some common options too – switch to tomorrow, next week or pick another date. Very nice and Android is much the same, just not as pretty.

While Todoist is free and allows you to sync across all clients there is a paid element which add’s Reminders, Notes and Labels & Filters for $29 a year. After a couple of days use I paid for the year to get the three features and it does take the flexibility of Todoist to another level. Reminders can be received via e-mail, SMS or push notifications and have worked flawlessly over the last few days. As mentioned, Labels and Filters allows you to build a sophisticated GTD workflow if you want to…or just add more relevant filtering. Again the filters are available across all platforms making it easy to stay on top of tasks. Multiple Notes can be stored against a to-do which is nice for tracking progress on a task and you can also attach files to the to-do.

One aspect I won’t use is collaboration with others on projects and to-do’s but overall I couldn’t be happier with Todoist. I’ve finally found a to-do manager that has flexibility coupled with speed without being overly complex.

Apple in 2014

I use Apple products every day. iMac, Macbook Air, iPad and iPhone with a little bit of Apple TV thrown in for good measure. I love the hardware, it’s design and performance and the surrounding application ecosystem. As a combination they still can’t be beaten in my opinion. There is a growing problem though – Apple’s own software and services. The software isn’t as good as it used to be, the cloud services are buggy and unreliable and Apple seems to be doing very little to address the slide in quality over the past 2-3 years. This has to change.

A quick list of issues that have affected me over the past few months include:

iMessage
– Inconsistent as to which device will receive a message.
– Read once, mark everywhere – worked at the start of Mavericks but now only works sometimes.
– Sometimes slow delivery, sometimes none on a certain device. No pattern and easiest way to fix is sign out and in again on the affected device. That isn’t a solution.
iCloud
– Reminders – sometimes syncs properly and other times it feels like I have two separate todo lists and have to mark off completion of tasks in two places. Then a few days later they are back in sync.
– No faith that contacts and calendars are actually being synchronised correctly.
– Third party dev’s moving away from iCloud as a sync platform.
Mavericks
– Mail is awful. So many Gmail issues compared to Snow Leopard. The new fixes issued by Apple have addressed some but not all of the issues. Every few days I need to stop and start Mail just so I can receive new Mails that are flowing in fine on the iOS devices. Part of that may be down to Google not using standard IMAP?
– I want to use Safari as it’s fast and thanks to App Nap it will save battery life on the Macbook Air but it’s so fucking crashy. I can’t believe how unstable it is.
– Reminders, iCal, Contacts – still a poor usability experience from these core app’s.
– iBooks was new to the Mac and moved books from iTunes to iBooks but only those that you’ve purchased. Anything added manually has disappeared. Nice update.
iWork
– Updated across iOS and Mac by removing key functionality so that all platforms are in sync. I don’t have a problem with that approach, more the lack of any updates for 3-4 years and then someone hit’s a reset button this year. But don’t worry, some of the old features will return. Some? Any?
iLife
– Lot’s of love on iOS but hardly any on the Mac. The new Garageband also removed Podcast functionality.
iTunes
– Crashes often, library easily corrupted and I’ve no faith that it won’t happen again.
– Moved podcasts to Instacast which syncs properly across all devices and has had the side effect of improving iTunes.
iTunes Match
– A paid for service from Apple that when it works is brilliant but I’ve had a handful of issues since starting the service that requires me to stop the service on all devices and restart.
– Album art on iOS corrupted. Different covers for different albums. Small beer when I write it down but it frustrated the hell out of me. The only known solution – switch off iTunes Match, wipe any music from your iOS device and start again.
– Duplicated playlists – fine on the iPhone but duplicated 10 times over on the iPad. Solution – switch off iTunes Match, remove any downloaded music and start again.
– iTunes Match will randomly switch off on the iMac. No notice, it just does.
iOS
– Springboard in iOS 7 is really unstable. I see frequent Springboard restarts when I use the iPhone and the iPad has a couple of no icon app’s that work fine but don’t display the icon. It feels like an iOS beta on the iPhone at the moment rather than an OS that has been out for months.
– Apple really need to address some fundamentals like inter app operability as URL schemes aren’t a scalable solution. Let me choose my defaults app’s too. Mailbox and Chrome would be better iOS app’s if they could be treated as the default app’s for Mail and Web Browsing. Android is becoming a far more appealing option.
– iCloud backup doesn’t scale. The most you can buy is 50GB for £70 per year, yet I can buy a 128Gb iPad. Cloud backup should come free with each device and not be tied to an iCloud account. Buy an iOS device, get complementary cloud backup for free. Keep it simple.
– Newsstand – some magazine issues will auto download, some won’t. I see the badge indicating a new issue but opening Newsstand I see nothing against any of the news applications. Apple should kill Newsstand and publishers should just have their own stand alone app’s. Newsstand is broken.
– App Store – doesn’t scale, reviews are an issue and Apple seem to be doing very little about that.

Quite a list. Everybody wants Apple to launch a new product category in 2014 – a true TV solution, a smart watch, a larger iPad. I’d rather see them address the software quality issues that can be seen throughout their portfolio before they jump onto something new and I’m not alone. Unfortunately it will never happen – the market demands new hardware and software rarely gets attention, but it’s critical. It’s the lifeblood of the platform and it’s disappointing that Apple’s are often the poor option on a given platform. I look at the Verge investigation into webOS and what could have been with envy. Not just a striking similarity to the visual leap that iOS 7 made but real forward steps with usability on a mobile platform. Maybe in iOS 8 but I doubt it.

What stung the most in all this was a blog post about Evernote. Jason Kincaid posted a couple of days ago on Evernote, the bug-ridden elephant. As an Evernote user myself I’d noticed a dip in quality too particularly with the browser snapshot extensions. The next day saw Evernote’s CEO, Phil Rubin, reply on the Evernote Blog – On Software Quality and Building a Better Evernote in 2014. Time will tell if Evernote’s quality will improve but it was a great response in public acknowledging and committing to resolving software quality. If only Apple were as open and honest.

I used to tell people ‘it just works’ when discussing Apple products. Not any more.

Mac Apps

So a new Mac and a couple of questions about what Mac apps I use has lead to this post. Scarily I looked back to when I last did a Mac app list and it was 2007. Thought it was only a couple of years ago – time flies when your having fun. So, on with the list in no particular order.

Alfred
http://www.alfredapp.com/
Free, PowerPack for £15

For a longtime I used Quicksilver and then Launchbar as a keyboard launcher but I recently moved to Alfred for a number of reasons. Quicksilver died from a development perspective and I moved to Launchbar as it covered much the same features as Quicksilver but a lot more too. However I found it bogged down from time to time and didn’t index as I would like. Alfred launched last year and I loved the features, the extensions but also the openness of the developer. Alfred allows you to drive your Mac fully from the keyboard – launch app’s, search the web etc. Buy the PowerPack and you can extend via scripts from the Alfred community or ones you write yourself, control iTunes and access a full clipboard history and also snippet library. A lovely app that will become your most used app if you let it.

Dropbox
http://www.dropbox.com
Free with paid options

I think everyone has a Dropbox account so there’s not too much to say with this one. I store all my documents in Dropbox so I can get them anywhere – Mac, iOS or on the web. Its great for sharing podcasts and files with the folk I work remotely with. Although there is only 2GB free, you can earn up to 18GB free and with so many app’s plugged into Dropbox via it’s API’s it’s a great way of sharing between desktop and mobile.

SuperDuper!
http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper
$27.95

Still my goto app for backups. What do you mean you don’t backup? Criminal. SuperDuper! creates a fully bootable backup on a drive of your choosing that should your drive or computer fail allows you to fully restore from that point in time. As it’s a bootable backup you can also boot from it should you find yourself in trouble. I’ve certainly needed it a couple of times and it’s never let me down. Backups can be scheduled and once the first backup is complete daily/weekly incrementals take no time at all.

Evernote
http://evernote.com/
Free, Premium account £35 per year

I finally moved to Evernote last year as my digital filing cabinet. Notes, images, pdf’s, web pages, receipts, bills, contacts, recipes, lists etc etc etc all go into Evernote. The client finally allows for rich enough text editing, images are OCR’d to allow for some great searching and there are good options for notebooks and folders. The web clipper works really well and they’ve also bought a number of smaller companies like Penultimate to grow their portfolio and I can only assume improve their note and sketching functionality on iOS. I upgraded to Premium which allows for 1GB of uploads per month, secure notes, collaborative notes and also a history of changes. One niggle – exporting from Evernote still not great so I’m tied into the service more than I’d like.
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2009 – Products I Can’t Live Without

Read this post on Techcrunch describing the app’s that Mike Arrington uses day to day and would be less productive without them. Thought it would be fun to do my own and revisit every year to see what changes. So without further ado and in no particular order:

  • Google Reader – all my regular website/blog reading is done in Google Reader. Quick, feature packed and a great iPhone interface make this a winner.
  • iPhone – it’s become the essential gadget for me. A web browser that works well on a mobile, a touch interface that makes the phone and it’s app’s easy to use and a suite of app’s that extend the usefulness of the phone beyond any other I’ve used before. The positives far out way the negatives and it’s by far the best phone, maybe even the best gadget I’ve yet owned.
  • Firefox – use it at work and at home. Great browser on PC’s and Mac’s and combined with Foxmarks it’s currently unbeatable. Chrome once released on the Mac supporting plugins could change that in the future.
  • Remember The Milk – use it all the time to manage my to-do lists. Great web interface now supplemented by a wonderful app on the iPhone.
  • WordPress – used on this blog, newly updated and still hard to beat due to the large plugin library and community that surrounds it.
  • Toad – used every day at work for SQL Development. Essential, too many features to mention although UI isn’t the best with powerful features often lost or hidden within a multitude of menu’s and forms.
  • Notepad++ – I finally found this great Windows text editor this year. Great features and free.
  • Evernote – Note management on steroids. Windows client at work, Mac client at home on desktop and laptop, web based interface and iPhone client all in sync with ability to add and edit notes on any of these platforms. Smartest feature is OCR of any image uploaded to server. Can also store PDF’s and files attached to notes. I use the free option and can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • Twitter – can be seen as frivolous but more and more it’s becoming a great platform for communicating and also watching/responding to real world events far quicker than blogs/websites/traditional media can.
  • Tweetie – makes the most of Twitter on the iPhone. Could be my most used iPhone app and is certainly the best iPhone client by quite a margin.
  • iTunes – it has it critics but it works well for me, and it gives me great access to my local content, podcasts and also app’s and music via the store.
  • Mac OS X – while I can happily live without Windows I would be far less productive at home with Mac OS X. Windows 7 looks to be an interesting future release that offers a viable alternative to Mac OS X, something that can’t be said for XP or Vista.
  • Flickr – where I post all my images and where most of my friends post to as well. Still like the look and feel of the site, the features it offers and the community aspects that are hard to find elsewhere.
  • Textmate – used almost daily on the Mac. Similar feature set to Notepad ++ although slightly better laid out and for me quicker in operation.
  • Google Search – used every day. Can’t see anything breaking Google’s hold on the search market.

I use lot’s of other app’s and websites but they could easily be replaced whereas with this list I would be far less productive or have struggled to find a product as good as these. Anything missing – I do use Gmail but to backup my websites. It’s blocked at work so limits it’s use. I could access it on the iPhone but it’s own e-mail client is good enough. I do feel I may be missing some good tricks with Gmail though. I’ve also dabbled with Google Docs and Zoho but yet to settle on one. I’d like to move a few more docs onto these platforms in the coming year.

I’d love to see what others use day to day to see if I’m missing out on anything. Feel free to comment or link to your blog posting.

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