Posts in reviews

How I Track My Expenses: Next for iPhone and iPad

I was never good at managing my expenses.

It's not that I didn't believe in the usefulness of logging how my money was spent – I just used to be lazy and disorganized. But I only blame myself partially: in Italy, cash is still widely used, and, occasionally, smaller stores don't even give you a receipt, which makes it harder to remember an expense later. To make things worse, I was never able to find great expense tracking software that could work with my Italian bank and credit card – all the cool apps are limited to the US, Canada, Australia, or other European countries that aren't Italy.

Still, I should have found a way to track my expenses earlier, because growing up it became harder to tell my accountant that “I couldn't remember” how I spent my money. This is obvious, right? I reached the tipping point last year, when my girlfriend and I moved in together and, like tasks, I completely lost track of a side of my business and financials that was too important to ignore.

Earlier this year, I set out to find a good expense tracker that would work on all my devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook) but that wouldn't be a “companion app” on iOS. Too many finance apps are developed for Mac first and ported to iOS as an afterthought with limited functionality, and I'm not okay with that.1

In March, I started using Next, developed by indie studio noidentity and available on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. I've refrained from writing about Next not only because I like to take my time with reviews (which is usually the case), but because I believe that an expense tracker needs to fit in your daily habits and prove itself in scenarios that can't be tested in traditional ways. How can you tell if your expense tracker works while you're on vacation? You need to go on vacation. Does it work at IKEA while you're in a hurry at the checkout line and you want to save your expenses quickly? Well, you need to buy some furniture first (which I did).

So I began using Next and I didn't write about it. I've been using the app religiously for the past eight months: this summer, my friends made fun of my obsession with saving expenses while we were on vacation in Sardinia, but I didn't budge. If I wanted to truly test Next, I needed to stick to it and test its flexibility over time.

Next is on my Home screen on my iPhone and iPad. I use the app every day, and I log every expense (whether it's cash or an expense from my bank account) as soon as I can. My perspective of my spending habits has considerably changed since I started using Next, and I'm making more informed decisions thanks to the overview that this app offers and its elegant design combined with astounding ease of use.

Read more


Space Age Review

Space Age is an adventure game from Big Bucket, the indie dev studio by Matt Comi and Neven Mrgan, who previously brought us the exquisite (and addictive) The Incident in 2010.

Space Age – first teased over two years ago – joins Monument Valley in my list of best iOS games of 2014, and it is the kind of game that I believe anyone with an iOS device should play. Space Age looks great, sounds fantastic, and is filled with witty dialog that powers an intriguing story of space exploration and distant memories.

Read more


Nuzzel for iPad

I fell in love with Nuzzel earlier this year: I wanted an app to quickly understand what people I followed were talking about on Twitter, and I came across this simple utility to see popular links in my timeline. As I wrote in my original review:

Nuzzel aggregates links shared by people you follow on Twitter over a specific period of time. Tweets containing the same link shared by multiple people are coalesced into a single article recommendation in the app, which displays the title, a brief excerpt, the source, and a count with the number of “friends” who shared the story alongside their profile pictures. The useful aspect of this is the way Nuzzel lets you adjust time filters: you can find the most shared links for the past 1–8 hours, the past day, a specific day in past week, or links from last week. By hitting the date button in the upper right corner, you can change the date filter at any time and “travel back” into, say, Twitter from two days ago and see what your timeline was talking about without scrolling long lists of tweets.

Read more


24 Hours with Pixelmator for iPad

Announced and demoed last week on stage at Apple’s media event, Pixelmator for iPad is a powerful portable rendition of the popular (and award-winning) image editor for Mac. I’m no photographer, and I’m definitely no artist, but I wanted to get my hands (quite literally) on Pixelmator for iPad since I watched the demo video. As someone who works primarily from his iPad mini and is about to upgrade to a full-sized iPad Air 2 with faster hardware, I was eager to try this new portable version of Pixelmator for basic image editing and photo retouching needs. I’ve always wanted a lightweight but powerful image editor on my iPad: I could never get used to the interface oddities of Adobe’s Photoshop, and drawing-oriented apps such as Procreate didn’t fit my needs.

I’ve only spent 24 hours with Pixelmator for iPad, so don’t consider this a review. And even if I had more time with the app, my limited perspective and use case wouldn’t allow me to offer a comprehensive look at the app. For that, take a look at Pixelmator’s new website and tech specs webpage.

Below, you’ll find a brief collection of notes and thoughts on Pixelmator for iPad after 24 hours of testing.

Read more


Fantastical 2.2: Interactive Notifications, Share Extension, and Today Widget

Fantastical, developed by Flexibits, has long been one of my favorite calendar apps for iOS. Since the app's first release over three years ago, I've come to expect my calendar to support natural language input; after the launch of version 2.0 for iPhone, Fantastical showed me why I wanted my todo list to be integrated with the calendar with excellent and seamless support for iCloud calendars and reminders in a unified experience. Reminders, however, turned out to be a problem for me as I switched to Todoist earlier this year: I've started using Sunrise – which is a great app – to see my events and todos in a single list, but I'm constantly missing Fantastical's natural language support, advanced features, and polished design.

Fantastical 2.2, available today on the App Store, brings iOS 8 features that allow the app to be more easily integrated with iOS workflows thanks to a share extension and that extend the app beyond its silo with actionable notifications and a widget.

Read more



Taking a Tour of OS X Yosemite’s Revamped Spotlight

Spotlight in OS X Yosemite is improved not only in its appearance, but also utility. The biggest and most obvious change is that Spotlight no longer resides in the right corner of your menu bar. Triggered by the usual CMD+Space keyboard shortcut, it now appears as a floating bar in the center of your screen. As you start typing, the bar will expand downward to display your results on the left and a Quick Look-esque panel on the right.

Read more


Drafts 4 Review

Drafts is one of my all-time favorite apps on iOS, not only for its amazing utility, but also because it was the app that got me started writing about technology, so it has a special place in my heart. However, surveying what the app has looked like since its last big update over a year ago, it’s been clear to me that an unchanged Drafts would stagnate in the post-iOS 8 world. In the face of new methods of inter-app communication such as extensions, documents pickers, and widgets, surviving on URL scheme-based utilities alone would likely not be enough to keep Drafts relevant.

This is Drafts though, an app that has been at the forefront of iOS automation since the field began. I should not have been worried. Released today on the App Store as a new, iOS 8-only, and Universal app, Drafts 4 is an evolution which boasts a huge number of improvements and represents a much needed shift in direction. With a UI refresh, a smarter and more accessible interface for building actions, a fantastic Share extension, a customizable extended keyboard, an enhanced URL scheme, and the intriguing introduction of JavaScript scripts for text manipulation, Drafts 4 is Agile Tortoise’s statement that they are ready for the challenges of a modern iOS.

Read more


Clips Review: Actionable Clipboard Management for iOS 8

When I’m researching an article for MacStories or taking notes for an episode of our shows on my MacBook Air, I have full access to the system clipboard. I can copy a URL, a few bits of text, and perhaps even some images, and, when I’m done, navigate through past clipboard entries and put everything back together in Byword, Evernote, or Google Drive. For over six years, I’ve been using a nifty utility called ClipMenu, but I’ve been playing with Alfred’s clipboard history tool lately and I think I’m going to stick with it.

I’ve never had a clipboard manager on my iPhone or iPad. Clipboard apps existed before, but they were severely limited by the way iOS handled background processes: because an iOS app couldn’t monitor the clipboard in the background all the time, clipboard management utilities such as Pastebot or EverClip had to rely on manual activation and they could run in the background for approximately 10 minutes. After that, they’d stop monitoring the clipboard and you’d have to launch them again.

Clips, developed by Muh Hon Cheng and Lin Junjie (the same folks behind Dispatch), seeks to reinvent clipboard management on iOS by embracing the fact that it can’t replicate the experience of Alfred, LaunchBar, or ClipMenu. Instead, Clips takes advantage of new technologies available in iOS 8 to make it as effortless as possible to save bits of text from anywhere, archive your clipboard, and retrieve it in any app.

Clips is one of the most useful iOS 8 apps I’ve tried in the past couple of months, and it’s become a key piece of my iOS workflow. Rather than mimicking a desktop experience that still can’t happen on iPhones and iPads (even with iOS 8), Clips tries to go back to the underlying problem: how can you shift multiple pieces of information from Point A to Point B with fewer taps and less app-switching?

Read more


Keymoji Custom Keyboard Lets You Add Emoji by Typing Their Name

Emoji keyboards have become one of the most popular consequences to Apple offering third-party keyboard replacements in iOS 8. Apple's default emoji keyboard leaves much to be desired, and developers are finding a new opportunity in being able to give users better input methods for the emoji millions of people use every day. Last week, I covered David Smith's excellent Emoji++, but I've also been enjoying Keymoji, available for free on the App Store.

Read more