We don’t want our iOS app to stand out as looking like a Google app.
Google’s own use of Material Design is customized to give the experience of a “Google app.” Your use of Material Design should provide an experience unique to your brand and identity.
I’m not sure what the play is here for Google but while I like Material Design, I am not sure that look really belongs on iOS.
We’ll see what developers do with it.
I’m sure that you’ve seen that I haven’t posted here for a couple of months.
In between my internship ending and the abrupt ending of my lease, I have had a pretty stressful couple of months.
It’s been hell actually.
Long story short, I had to leave Pittsburgh for a bit and move back close to my hometown which really puts me at a disadvantage job wise: this area is technically barren and lags behind current trends, and I am also locked into a year lease.
Luckily for me there are plenty of remote opportunities and a company that asked me to apply to them again once I got more experience in web development.
The internship allowed me to save enough money to move into my dream place. It is super nice and super cheap. This place could go for so much more but I am glad it is what it is.
New Office Space
The internship also allowed me to upgrade my desk/office space:
Rocking dual monitors is key for developer productivity and all the rest is gravy. The monitor isn’t pretty but the matte 4k screen is pretty nice.
I bought a set of LIFX lights and a LIFX LED strip, another Echo but this time an Echo Dot. I am still cleaning things up and putting things together but I am having fun with the smart home stuff as evidenced here:
That’s All For Now
It’s pretty damn late and I am about to crash. Just wanted to get something up on the blog.
I finally bought an Apple Watch after watching the space for 4 years.
The internship I had allowed me to buy a Series 1 Apple Watch1 in my newly found color of love, Space Gray. This is my Pick of the Month for February.
[caption id=”attachment_2609” align=”aligncenter” width=”509”] 38 mm Apple Watch Series 1 Aluminum[/caption]
I have worn it practically everyday since I bought it. If I get up late, like I have lately, then I don’t wear it. I try to close my Move and Stand rings regularly and if I have a day where I am not wearing it most of the day, I won’t put it on. Not sure why but I have a twinge of guilt over not closing my Move ring2.
[caption id=”attachment_2602” align=”aligncenter” width=”202”] I don’t get out to the gym very often anymore so getting my move and stand rings filled are the best thing I can do until I can find a closer gym.[/caption]
The best overall app that I use is Overcast.
This is my Watch Favorite. I use this so much because I listen to a lot of podcasts.
[caption id=”attachment_2606” align=”aligncenter” width=”860”] I have listened to a total of 31 days since 2017. It’s kinda ridiculous…or awesome depending on who you ask.[/caption]
You cannot save the podcasts to listen to on the watch. As Marco explained:
> “I shelved the feature until other Apple Watch podcast apps revealed a workaround that made background audio much more usable on watchOS, so I decided to use the same technique and ship the feature anyway, despite its other shortcomings. That was a mistake.”
He goes on to explain why he removed it: > That workaround doesn’t work anymore in watchOS 4. Rewriting “Send to Watch” playback to use the only supported alternative would likely take at least another month of development and testing that I currently can’t spare, and due to its limitations, the resulting usability and experience wouldn’t be good enough for me to confidently ship.
This seems to be a problem with Watch apps in general as Slack removed its Watch app the other day.
Another favorite is CARROT Weather.
I have the AI on homicidal but it is more respectable on the Watch, it seems. I just bought it recently so the snark hasn’t bothered me.
My most used app, though, is OmniFocus.
Being able to quickly check what is on my task list and the ability to check off what I’ve done or what needs reviewed is valuable when you have a lot of tasks.
It is dedicated Watch app and it works as such.
I Enjoy the Watch
It’s not for everyone and I wasn’t sure I wanted one. I waited several years before I had the disposable income to buy one3.
I could probably live without it, though, and that’s a tough sell to people who hold out on non-essential tech like me. Apple has done a good job creating mind share in this space4 so it will be interesting to see if there are any worthy competitors in the future.
I decided to go with the Series 1 because of the price and the fact that I didn’t want to pay for LTE on the Watch which I would probably never use. ↩
Which is weird because I don’t always close that ring anyway. ↩
I’ve bought a bit while saving money. I have to move very, very soon as they are renovating my apartment and aren’t renewing my lease. The money I made went a long way to allowing me to soup up my desk and buy other things like a desk and bed and put down a security deposit. I am thankful for that. ↩
As well as market share. Hello, Android Wear? ↩
I am writing this article as the year comes to a close. While it has been a trying year for the world and US in particular, it has been a great year professionally for me as I got an internship in the hopes of landing a junior developer job with the company or some other company.
It is a paid internship and as such, it allows me to be able to buy and test things I wouldn’t have been able to a few months ago.
Reading Marco Arment’s headphone reviews, and me being the music fiend I am, I decided to dedicate some time to reviewing mid to high-end headphones that I purchase throughout the next couple years. This article, one of four for the next couple months, chronicles my time with the Audio Technica MSR7 entry-level audiophile headphones.
I am going to give a rating to the following properties:
Comfort: How long can I wear them before they start to hurt? Style/Attractiveness: How good looking are they? This is purely subjective. Portability: Can or should you use these during your commute? Value for Price: Is this a good buy for the money? Sound: How do they sound? Do they sound okay with a sound enhancement system or DAC? Do they sound good without one? Build: Are they made of quality materials? Do they break easily?
Let’s take a look at MSR7s.
Depending on the way you place them on your ears, the MSR7s have comfortable ear cups that don’t hurt after a few hours of use. However, this depends on the size of your ears. In my testing, the bottom of the cups press against my ear lobes after long usage and start to hurt. I have been wearing them for the past 7 hours and they are beginning to become uncomfortable.
The cups are made of faux leather and are pretty soft. I have had the headphones for a little over a week now. Will report back in a few months time as to how they have held up.
They are light on your head and fit tightly, which is something I need as headphones tend to slip around on my head. If you don’t like tight-fitting headphones, I would give these a hard pass.
These are gorgeous headphones. They aren’t overly bulky like the M50s, also by Audio Technica.
[caption id=”attachment_2567” align=”aligncenter” width=”770”] Audio Technica M50s[/caption]
They also have a removable cord that hooks into the left ear cup, which makes the life of the cord longer as if you pull on it or get it caught on something by accident, it will disconnect.
The cups have a blue accent on them that give them personality. I really wanted the Gun Metal Grey version of these as they look so much better; the brown color and red cup accent are quite beautiful.
[caption id=”attachment_2568” align=”aligncenter” width=”500”] The Audio-Technia MSR7GM, Gun Metal Gray[/caption]
Okay You can certainly wear these out on your commute; they are light enough and small enough to do so. But for long commutes, it could be a struggle as the longer you wear them, the more they begin to fatigue your ears and hurt.
Also, the cord is quite long. It comes with three cords, most of which I haven’t looked at. But they all seem relatively long and because of that, can get caught on bus/train seats or stepped on by other passengers. This is why I only gave these an Okay.
Great Out of the box, these things sound great. They are neutral on first pass, depending on the music and what you expect when listening.
Once I listened to some System of a Down, as I am wont to do every so often, you could hear a lot of the riffs more clearly. On softer songs, the strings were crisp, the cymbals crashing without sounding like fuzzy noise.
This was all well and good. But I wanted to enhance the sound for other types of music, like hip hop and EDM, as the sound profile of these headphones is neutral without overpowering bass.
I bought Boom 3D a while ago and it made my cheap desktop speakers sound louder and better. The speakers cost less than $30 so I was pretty certain these mid-range headphones would sound even better, be enhanced further by Boom.
I was not wrong.
I listened to the Set It Off Soundtrack, a bad chick chick flick from when I was young. There is a mixture of hip hop, R&B, and some rock infused hip hop with Blindside, a song at the end of the record.
It sounded…amazing. The bass was enhanced but not muddy, what instruments were used were clear, highs crisp; I could easily discern the mid-tones. There wasn’t a lot of treble in a lot of these songs but what there was, it was slightly drowned out by the bass. Not a problem for me.
Out of the box they are great headphones. With Boom 3D, they are phenomenal.
These headphones are much clearer and have better detail than their predecessors, the M50s and while I love the M50s, I prefer these a lot more.
Great They are standard aluminum, some plastic, good quality build. No breakage so far.
Great So far, these are one of the best headphones I’ve tested in this price range, if not the best. I have a pair of Plantronics BeatBack PRO wireless headphones in this price range and they don’t sound nearly as good, even though they have relatively decent sound.
These are better, fuller sounding cans than the M50s which is why I prefer these over the M50s. For $150, you can’t get much better.
I have finally gotten a software developer position after three years of self and university study.
I began looking seriously earlier this year and with the help of friends and Twitter, I have gotten an apprenticeship and hope to be hired on at the end of it.
It is a remote position which means I have to keep an eye on my hours, my productivity, my sleep, and distractions.
It has only been a week but I am finding I am starting to get into a rhythm.
Here are some of the apps I am using to stay productive while working from home.
HoursTracker: The Time Card App We Deserve
There are a few time tracking apps in the App Store. There are apps such as Hours and Toggl but none of these apps are really time card apps. These apps are geared towards freelancers tracking just hours.
I was looking for something that not only tracked hours but kept track of taxes I’d owe, my hourly rate, being able to clock in and out and manage breaks, and calculating my net and gross income at the end of the pay period.
I downloaded HoursTracker a while ago when I thought I’d freelance. Never got that chance and so I deleted off my iPhone.
I remembered I had a few time trackers and found HoursTracker. I knew it was what I was searching for.
Basic Functions of HoursTracker
You can use the three + in the top of the app to set up a job, and from there you can add your information, such as your hourly rate, taxes, and the like. From the main jobs screen, you can edit your job by tapping the three button menu at the top.
From the job details screen, you can clock in and out.
These are some of my favorite things about this app over others.
Freedom is a little Mac, iOS, and Windows utility that blocks distracting websites and apps.
I downloaded it for iOS a while ago and while it worked well, sometimes the VPN profile would still block access to apps like Facebook. It’s really a pseudo-block. It stops apps from refreshing but it will not stop you from seeing past updates. I uninstalled it as I am pretty good about phone access during work hours. It is mainly on my Mac, where I do my work, that is the issue.
The reason I downloaded it on my Mac was for the ability to block apps. I needed a way to stop opening my text editor and working on issues and features all night long, which isn’t healthy. I’ve blocked the apps I would use to do development, essentially quitting the app right as its launched so I never get to do anything when I am off the clock. I do this on the weekdays, as weekends I can work on side projects if I’d like.
OmniFocus’s first incarnation was a hack on OmniOutliner called Kinkless. It was essentially a bunch of AppleScripts hacked together to give OO a GTD system within the app in 2006.
In 2007, The OmniGroup asked Ethan Schoonover. the creator of the AppleScripts and Merlin Mann to help them come up with a full-fledged GTD app for Mac.
The first beta of OmniFocus was released in the summer of 2007, with version 1.0 being released in 2008. Here are a couple screenshots of the app’s first UI:
The beta was sent out to over 5,000 people in 2007. Now The OmniGroup have amassed over 30,000 OmniFocus users from 2007-2014, and the number of new users keeps increasing.
My Choice for Task Management
I’ve tried pretty much all the big task managers: Todoist, 2Do, ToodleDo, and OmniFocus. Each time I try one of these, I return to OmniFocus for its flexibility, features, perspectives, and AppleScript support .
When I first used OmniFocus, I wasn’t sure how to set up my contexts. I read all the GTD articles I could find for the best possible solution. The wisdom was to set up your contexts within the context of how you are going to perform the action. For instance, if you have a meeting at 2pm on Google Hangouts, you have to be at your Mac. You would want to use Mac or iMac or whatever as a context because that is what you’re going to use to perform the action. You could have contexts for where and action needs to performed as well.
This worked well but I was still not using it the best way I knew I could.
I discovered using energy levels as contexts and decided to give it a shot.
It’s working well for me, however I decided to add other contexts as well, such as iPhone, iPad Pro, Work, and iMac.
In my opinion, Perspectives and Defer dates are what sets OmniFocus apart from the competition. No other task managers have these two things, and if they do, they don’t implement them as powerfully as OmniFocus has.
Perspectives allow you to adjust just what you want to see at any given time. If I want to see what work tasks I have for today in a certain project, then I can create a perspective that shows me that.
Here is my Contexts by Project perspective.
Filtering what you want to see and when is probably the most powerful way to use a task manager and OmniFocus is best in class at this.
I open OmniFocus every morning I wake up and start my day from there.
I was a long-time BusyCal user. The calendar is powerful and plenty capable, but, it’s ugly and the iOS counterpart isn’t nearly as fleshed out as Fantastical 2.
Fantastical on the Mac started as a menubar app that you could invoke with a keyboard shortcut. It found a lot of fans immediately. I was one of them. With the love it received on the Mac, it wasn’t too long before Apple fans wanted it on their iPhones and eventually, iPads.
Fantastical 2 for Mac launched in 2015. I was pretty happy with BusyCal. But as features were added and the looks became even more streamlined, I couldn’t resist. It helped that I won a license in a giveaway on YouTube. But I was going to buy it anyway.
Calendar sets allow you to show or hide sets of calendars you have set up. You can separate your work calendars from your home calendars or shared calendars. I have a set for work, home, and editorial. My shared calendar is in every set I’ve made. This is a powerful feature in Fantastical that BusyCal didn’t have.
Natural Language Processing
You can use natural language processing to input your appointments and meetings. In fact, Fantastical was the first of app to do this sort of thing when it launched. You enter a name and date like you would say to someone at work and Fantastical parses your text just as if it was a conversation.
Exchange and Calendar Invites
No calendar worth its salt doesn’t have calendar invites. If you are a power user, and most 3rd Party calendar users are just that, than you need this feature and Fantastical does an excellent job with this.
Along the main calendar window on the Mac, you can have another timezone available in case you are working with a team in another timezone. My team is in New York and I am in Pittsburgh so I don’t have to rely on this. If I did, I know it is rock solid.
This is one of the ways I use the pomodoro technique. I have it on my iPhone and Mac but mainly use it on my Mac as that is where I am working most of the day.
[caption id=”attachment_2474” align=”aligncenter” width=”747”] BeFocused Pro on iPhone[/caption]
There’s not much to say about it. The Pro version gives you detailed reports and sync which is what I needed. It’s $4.99 on all platforms.
You’ve heard of it. Nerds have communities in it. But it started as an app for small teams.
We use Slack almost exclusively for communication. Even our sprints and meetings are in Slack.
I love Slack. I love the team behind Slack and their mission to make communications between small teams efficient and enjoyable.
The Tools Are Less Important than the Mindset
I am getting used to working from home but the transition from being unemployed and programming for hours on end to being employed and working on hard programming problems most of the day is a pretty seamless one.
I need to get out and get more exercise, find a co-working space, just to get out and be around people. This is important to keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy.
But yeah. The tools are nice, too.
This is also my Pick of the Month
I have finally gotten my hands on an iPhone 8 Plus.
Ever since I have had an iPhone 1, I’ve always had relatively small phones and silver. When I got my 5s, I wanted it in Gold but T-Mobile didn’t have the Gold 64gb in stock. At the time, they only sold the 16gb models in the store. The rep convinced me I didn’t need 64gb, though I wouldn’t get the 64gb, I wouldn’t relent on storage and ended up ordering a 32gb in-store 2.
I went from the 4” 5s to the 4.7” 6. I decided against the Plus models because I remembered how hard it was to maneuver around my Galaxy Note 2 - I always felt like I was going to drop it. When the 6s came around, I got the same size and color.
Change of Heart
When watching Francesco D’Alessio’s morning routine videos, I noticed he had a Space Gray iPhone 6, with a slim black case. When the screen was off, it looked absolutely stunning.
White, clean, silver, these are all things I liked in design for a long time. I heard complaints of how jarring the screen is when it is sleeping against the white bezels. I never noticed it and continued with my ignorance. Until Francesco’s video.
I got the 8 Plus Space Gray 256gb model.
Also the Plus models had the better camera since the 6s. It really didn’t matter to me that the phone was so big, I needed the better camera as I start to get back into iPhone Photography.
After I realized how beautiful Space Gray was, I started making plans to get an iPhone in Space Gray. I was starting to use dark mode in most of the app UIs I was using, so it only fit that I would want to get a dark phone as well.
You just have to look at the above photos to see how beautiful that is.
Since I bought the original Overcast, I have unlocked the dark UI and Spotify has almost always had a dark UI. I’m in love.
It may not be the X, but this phone is damn fast. Much faster than my 6s 3. The True Tone display is fantastic. I have the first gen iPad Pro so I missed out on the True Tone. It makes a difference.
Retina HD is amazing as well: everything is clear, crisp, and better than the 6s to my eyes.
I haven’t put it through its paces yet. Plan to during the holidays. I will have a review on that when Xmas comes around.
I’ve only had this phone for a little over a week and I am in love with it. It is not the X but the phone is gorgeous and feels much more premium than my 6s with the glass front and back. I didn’t want to put a case on it but repairs are crazy expensive on the X and 8 so I decided to find a slim case with a “military grade” bumper.
I will have more insights to come.
Since 2014. My first Apple device was the iPad 4 in 2013 and then the iPhone 5s, 6, ,MacBook Pro Late 2013 13” in 2014, the 6s, iPad Air 2, Airpot Extreme, Apple TV 3rd Gen…and so forth. You get the idea. The best thing about going to school to be honest. ↩
Within a year I was almost out of space. Mistake. ↩
That’s going to my mom. ↩
I am a heavy G Suite user. It is perhaps my favorite email account, with great Spam filtering, and custom domain name.
I pay roughly $5/mo as it came with my Squarespace account 1.
One of the things I like about it 2 is while you can use it in your favorite Mac app like Spark or Newton, where it shines is in the browser.
You can add extensions in Chrome to make it exceptional. This is what I have done, and where Streak CRM for Gmail comes in.
Take a look at this high-level overview of the functions below.
There are few things on the App Store that get me to download them almost immediately like email clients.
I’ve tried all the heavy hitters: Mail.app, Airmail, Spark, and Outlook. I’ve bounced back between Airmail and Spark quite a bit, never settling on one or the other.
Outlook never stuck with me and Mail has promise now that I can drag emails out and put them in something like OmniFocus on iPad.
But recently I have tried out a couple new email apps. There are a few new ones worth mentioning and some have new, improved features that are going to push them into business class apps.
When Airmail came to iOS, I was thrilled. I used it on the Mac for a while but since it didn’t have an iOS counterpart, I went back to Mail.app on the Mac and some other third-party app on iOS.
Right away, I was happy with the iOS version.
Design-wise, it is very clean.
Snooze, Send Later, Saved Searches, and Custom Actions, which were added later, were a selling feature of using Airmail over other email clients.
While Airmail is definitely an app for email power users, bugs plague the app. Sometimes archiving an email or emails doesn’t work as expected 1. Other times I’ve had crashed when composing an email or not all of my email is being shown. Sometimes I’d have to use another app like Gmail to see all my emails.
It is a very powerful app but the bugs outweigh its usefulness.
This seems like an obvious name for an app. I don’t know how I came upon this 2 but I had to try it.
It, too, is a powerful app. You don’t get custom actions because AFAIK only Airmail has this.
But it is powerful in its feature set.
Email: Sidebar Features
The Email sidebar has a lot of nifty features: Subscriptions, Bills & Receipts, Packages, Travel, Entertainment, and Security.
This is useful for tracking your packages, seeing what you’ve spent money on, and getting your itineraries, etc.
The nicer things, however, are being able to bulk unsubscribe from newsletters 3 and adding newsletters as favorites. Also, being able to see if your email account has been breached is a big plus for me and for many others.
I don’t use this client often. I appreciate that they are security conscious and are thinking of encryption and user privacy. But it is free and I am not sure how long it will be around and, as in lots of situations like these, if they will sell to someone who is not so privacy focused.
I only downloaded this after realizing that the excellent Astrobot skill I got for Alexa would need something like this.
The selling point of the app is its AI bot. I don’t use it. But I do use the Alexa Skill.
Whenever I change email clients away from Spark, I always come back.
The design is top-notch. The speed is almost unmatched. The intelligent sorting of emails is a feature that always hooks me. And now, with their latest release, they are aiming squarely at business users.
Having web service integration is really nice, but some people don’t use Todoist or other web based task managers.
With Spark on the Mac 4 you can send an email to OmniFocus, lessening the need for OmniFocus Clip-O-Tron in Mail.app
The implementation of this is my favorite so far. I also like the design of the modal.
Send Later and Follow-up
These are some of my favorite features of Spark, which is becoming a direct competitor to Newton. Readdle has stated they are moving towards “The future of work” as a business model. Seems they are taking the right steps.
I won’t get into too much about Newton as I am saving the review for later. But I will say I really like what I am seeing. Fast, fluid, beautiful, and useful for people who need to connect with clients, employers, and other business related tasks.
It is $50/yr which is a lot for an email client. And it is subscription based and you can only subscribe yearly. But I have to be honest, I love this app.
The Mac app is okay but I still use Gmail/G Suite in the browser because of the extensions. But on iOS this is one of the best clients for professionals I have seen yet.
Email Clients are My Sickness
At least so far. I don’t get as much email as some but I do get enough and I need to manage it.
There was a time where I got at least five requests in one day and I almost lost my mind. I can imagine how people with 3,000 emails in their inbox feel.
Email clients are important. Still, there feels like most are missing critical features.
Cometdocs was gracious enough to provide me with a full review copy of PDF to Word Converter. Note: this does not affect my review.
For businesses and power users who work with a lot of PDFs, converting to and from PDF on iOS can be cumbersome. Going all in on the iPad as a platform means that many people need a powerful app to convert between different formats.
It is free to try but there are three IAP. One is for lifetime unlimited access to the fast conversion for $9.99. The second is for linking of services, which is not clear what that means, for $1.99. For using for a business, you have to pay another $49.99.
Using the App
Upon opening the app, you are greeted with the following screens:
You are presented with a lot of cloud and local options, as well as the ability to add from the web.
This view, unfortunately, does not rotate to landscape, which is how I use my iPad.
The design is clean but unwieldy.
Connecting a cloud provider is simple yet searching for your documents isn’t.
There is no search option so if you have a lot of folders and documents stored in Dropbox, it is hard to actually find them. The folders and documents aren’t sorted in alphabetical order, and there are no sort options available.
Conversion with the fast conversion is fairly quick, but if you have graphics of any kind, the Word conversion is extremely poor.
Converting PDFs with no graphics works fine though there are some formatting issues.
Currently it is not worth the amount of money you must pay to do such rudimentary things. The formatting with graphics is awful, and I will give the devs credit: that’s a hard thing to get right. But when you are charging $52 for an app that is supposed to suit the needs of professionals, this app is sorely lacking.
I have reached out to the developers to let them know that it needs work. A lot of work. Here’s hoping they can improve and iterate quickly. The market may become more crowded with iOS 11, and $52 for what they are offering won’t cut it.
After watching this video on using Trello for an editorial calendar , I was pretty excited to start doing so for my two main blogs.
Creating and editing Trello cards and lists is a tedious process on iOS and if an idea popped into my head, I wanted to be able to get it down quickly and into Trello.
Configuration is a bit of a step. You’ll have to find your board and list’s ids by exporting the board in question to JSON. You can do this by setting something like this:
And searching through the long list of dictionary items to find the exact ones you need. This is cumbersome but there isn’t a better way to do so currently, unless you plan on developing an app that interfaces with Trello.
If you have boards set up like this one for instance:
You can then start adding cards to lists in your preferred board.
Easiest Way to Use Trello?
That’s debatable. But now with the Trello Mac app things are looking mighty good for Trello users.