Posts in reviews

Tracking TV Shows with iShows 2: Welding Great Design with Extensive Customization

I watch a lot of TV – almost certainly too much TV. Years ago I used to keep track of the TV shows I watched mentally and through a TV guide from the Saturday newspaper. But as I started to watch more TV it became harder to keep track of when shows air. Fortunately, I started to use iPhone TV tracker apps, which make it effortless to keep track of your favorite TV shows. I’ve probably used 4 or 5 different apps for a solid period of time, and this February I switched to what I think is the latest and greatest TV tracker app: iShows 2, which officially launches today in the App Store.

I had briefly used the original iShows app, but I never permanently switched to it. Whilst the design was quite good, it had this very odd layout that left a gap on the side of the screen which (as petty as it sounds) I couldn’t get over. Somewhat embarrassingly the other issue I encountered was that I never discovered some of the gestures, without which the app was a lot harder to use. Some of those gestures persist in iShows 2, and I’ll discuss them shortly.

Prior to switching to iShows 2 whilst it was in beta, I had been using iTV Shows for around a year. It never looked quite as good as iShows or TeeVee 3 (another popular and very pretty app), but I preferred the way iTV Shows worked. I’m still a fan of iTV Shows, but I’ve been convinced (after months of use) that iShows 2 is the better option for me.

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Gestimer: Effortlessly Set Timers on a Mac

When I think about what makes a great app, I don't think it needs to be packed full of every imaginable feature. It doesn't need to be as precisely and extensively engineered as Editorial or Tweetbot. A great app can just as easily be an app like Pedometer++ or Blink, apps which enable users to accomplish a specific task in a way that is delightful and useful. Which brings me to Gestimer, a Mac App that launched in late June.

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Dash 3: A Coder’s Best Friend

Dash 3

Dash 3

As a Mac and iOS developer, web designer, Unix lover and all around coder, Kapeli's Dash has become an indispensable part of my workflow. Version 3 of the reference tool was released recently, and it continues to be a tool I'd be lost without.

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Linky 5.0 Brings Better Sharing for Twitter on iOS with Images, Textshots, and More

I covered Linky for iOS back in September, when the app's iOS 8 update added a share extension that turned Linky into a supercharged share sheet for Twitter and Facebook thanks to excellent integration with any iOS app. I wrote:

Linky the share extension is a great way to tweet links from Safari on iOS 8. Once enabled, Linky will appear as an extension of Safari and other apps that can share URLs such as Instapaper or a Pinboard client. The design of the app’s composer is minimal and easy to understand. You can switch between accounts by tapping the profile picture, tap buttons to insert the title or link of a webpage (if they’ve not been automatically inserted), and there’s a character counter in the bottom right.

For the past nine months, I've been using Linky every day to tweet links and quotes from Safari and other apps. Unlike the built-in Twitter share extension, Linky comes with thoughtful touches such as highlighting for links and text that exceeds the 140-character count – if you share dozens of links on a daily basis, the convenience of details adds up, and Pragmatic Code found a good niche for Linky to thrive.

The problem with Linky was that it worked well for text, but it didn't have support for images. Tweeting screenshots from my camera roll or so-called textshots accompanying links to articles has become a common practice for me, but Linky couldn't be part of my social sharing workflow whenever I needed to post something that wasn't just text. Linky 5.0, released today on the App Store, wants to fill this gap with built-in support for images – but like prior releases, there are several hidden details that make the experience of sharing with Linky superior to alternatives on iOS.

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Editorial 1.2 Brings Powerful New Text Editing Features, More iOS Automation

If I had to pick one iOS app I couldn't live without, that would be Editorial.

Developed by Berlin-based Ole Zorn, Editorial was the app that reinvented text automation in 2013 and that pushed me to start working exclusively from my iPad. Editorial is a powerful Markdown text editor that combines visual Automator-like actions with a web browser, text snippets, Python scripts, and URL schemes to supercharge text editing on iOS with the power of automation. I spend most of my days writing and researching in Editorial, and my workflow depends on this app.

Editorial also has a slow release cycle. Zorn likes to take his time with updates that contain hundreds of changes: Editorial 1.1, released in May 2014, brought an iPhone version and custom interfaces, making Editorial feel like an entirely new app. The same is happening today with Editorial 1.2, which adds support for the latest iPhones, iOS 8 integration, custom templates, browser tabs, folding, and much more.

Editorial 1.2 with iOS 8 support is launching right after Apple's announcement of iOS 9, but the wait has been worth it. The new version builds upon the excellent foundation of Editorial 1.1, and the enhancements it brings vastly improve the app for users who rely on its automation features and Python interpreter.

Rather than covering every single change, I'll focus on the 10 new features that have most impacted the way I get work done with Editorial on a daily basis.

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Spark Review: Smart Email

I've had a complicated relationship with email over the years. Part of the problem has been the Sisyphean effort of third-party apps that tried to modernize email: the more developers attempted to reinvent it, the more antiquated standards, platform limitations, and economic realities kept dragging them down. I've seen email clients for iOS rise and fall (and be abandoned); I've tried many apps that promised to bring email in the modern age of mobile and cloud services but that ultimately just replaced existing problems with new ones. Sparrow. Dispatch. Mailbox. CloudMagic. Outlook. Each one revolutionary and shortsighted in its own way, always far from the utopia of email reinvention on mobile.

Spark by Readdle, a new email app for iPhone released today, wants to enhance email with intelligence and flexibility. To achieve this, Readdle has built Spark over the past eighteen months on top of three principles: heuristics, integrations, and personalization. By combining smart features with thoughtful design, Readdle is hoping that Spark won't make you dread your email inbox, knowing that an automated system and customizable integrations will help you process email faster and more enjoyably.

I've been using Spark for the past three weeks, and it's the most versatile email client for iPhone I've ever tried. It's also fundamentally limited and incomplete, with a vision that isn't fully realized yet but promising potential for the future.

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Rewind: Location-Based Time Tracker for iPhone

I've always been interested in tracking my location and how I use my time. I'm a highly visual person, and the ability to see where my time is being spent helps me optimize my schedule and tweak my habits accordingly. Unfortunately, polished and full-featured time tracking apps like Hours haven't scaled in the long run for me – the time I want to track isn't spent working for clients or freelance jobs, and I always forget to launch an app and start tracking time. The time I want to track is my personal, every day routine; the Google app for iOS can track locations and times continuously in the background, but its visualization is lackluster and not optimized for mobile.

Rewind is an automatic time tracker by noidentity (makers of the excellent Next for iOS) that I've been using on my iPhone since early March. Through location tracking and an elegant breakdown of statistics, Rewind does exactly what I want from a mobile time tracker: it tracks where I spend my time automatically in the background, every single day.

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