Posts in reviews

Verbs 3.0 is Updated for iOS 7, Integrates with Dropbox

Previous owners of Verbs, an instant messaging app for iOS, will find a free update on the App Store that readies the app for iOS 7, while introducing a slew of new notification options, support for Jabber, and integration with Dropbox for sharing files and photos in chat. Verbs has also added a couple of read later options for sending links to Pocket and Safari’s Reading List.

As conversations take place outside of the conversation view, the status bar will flicker when new texts appear, much like status updates in Tweetbot or Mailbox. Inside the conversation view, Verbs has added some small contextual changes to message bubbles, changing their color when they’re delivered, and adding the option to use shapes to indicate your buddy’s availability status.

Dropbox integration with the app works out of the gate without a lot of setup. If you have Dropbox installed on your iOS device and are already logged in, you can pick a file and share the link with a friend. If you setup your Dropbox account, you can add files as well.

While I still don’t like how you switch between conversations views throw a Safari-like carousel, the remainder of Verbs feels fresh, and the app has always maintained a decided simplicity for simply sending and receiving messages from common services. If you don’t have Verbs yet, you can give it a try for $2.99 from the App Store.

Tuner for iPhone Turns YouTube Into A Music Player



Every time I go out with friends and we start talking about music, there's always that one guy who wants to play a song and he does so…using YouTube. In spite of the relatively low barrier to entry for services like Spotify and Rdio (both available in Italy with free plans), the convenience of using YouTube as an audio source is indisputable (on top of that, add the fact that most people have a high tolerance for YouTube ads – or ads in general). Personally, I prefer a dedicated music streaming service or my iTunes Match library, but I do rely on YouTube for the occasional live performance or unreleased demo tape that I can't obtain legally anywhere else.

Tuner is a music player for YouTube videos: with a simple search feature, it uses YouTube as an audio source, turning videos into songs you can listen to on your iPhone.

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Cathode Brings the Vintage Terminal to iOS

Your favorite customizable terminal app for the Mac is now available for iPhones and iPads, letting you wirelessly connect to any computer offering SSH access. The app gives you lots of control over its vintage look and feel, letting you change color, lighting, “shape,” and your choice of retro bitmap fonts. For iPad owners, the app supports Bluetooth keyboards, and works in both portrait and landscape orientation. Cathode supports multiple sessions and can automatically connect to nearby computers using Bonjour. For the geeks out there, Cathode costs a cool $5.99 from the App Store.


Comparing Time Zones with Globo

In my ongoing quest to find the best time zone reference utility for iOS (previously: Living Earth and TimeZlider), I stumbled across Globo for iPhone last week thanks to Apple's feature on the front page of the App Store. Developed by Marco Torretta (the same developer behind Amount, one of my favorite unit converters for iOS), Globo is a simple world clock for iPhone that wants to reimagine Apple's existing feature of the Clock app with colors, alarms, and detailed information for each location.

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Disco Zoo is Part Battleship, Part Get Your Groove On

I don’t know who opens a Zoo before putting animals in it, but nonetheless, you’re given a pile of money, a hot air balloon, and a mini-map where you have ten attempts to find a given animal in an old-school game of battleship. You read that right.

I mean, this is what the whole game inside the game really is. To find an animal you have to uncover a number of squares revealing it, and you have ten attempts to do it on a 5 x 5 grid. Each rescue, or ten attempts, costs a certain amount of gold, and you’ll initially be given enough gold to fail a few times and get a general gist for common patterns and shapes that animals can be found in. Each time you uncover an animal, it’s added to your zoo, and it’ll begin generating gold in its exhibit.

Back at the zoo, the animals you’ve rescued are throwing a party. They hop around. They say cute things. They pass out and you have to wake them back up. The more animals you have in your exhibits, the more money you make as a result. Pleased visitors will sometimes throw money at you. Sometimes you’ll earn cash for random contests that you didn’t even know where going on.

It’s a continuous cycle. Rescue animals. Get coins. Rinse and repeat. Oh sure, you’ll be required to wake your animals back up from time to time — animals that are asleep don’t generate any revenue at their exhibits — similar to how stocking and deliveries worked in NimbleBits’ Tiny Tower.

To keep your animals partying, you can throw a disco party. Throwing disco parties requires “bux,” a super currency common in NimbleBit titles that gives you some immediate benefit. In the case of Disco Zoo, you can use bux to throw a disco party, where animals will dance and groove for an extended period of time without falling asleep, whilst generating twice the revenue. Things get crazy in the best way possible.

Bux can also be used to add attempts to any given rescue, especially helpful if you’re trying to find rare or mythical creatures… like unicorns. If you’re out of bux, they can be purchased with real money. (A ha! There’s the revenue model!)

Soon enough you’ll have enough coins to get something better than a hot air balloon, which will allow you to expand your zoo and rescue more animals from different regions. The more animals you have, the longer they’ll stay awake, the better the ratings you’ll get, the more money you’ll make, etc. etc.

Remember how addicting Tiny Tower was when it landed on the iPhone? If you want to relive that addiction, but with zoo animals instead, get ready to lose hours of your life in Disco Zoo.

That said it’s ridiculous and fun and is clearly a trademark NimbleBit game through and through. Download it from the App Store for free.

Google Music for Mac Brings the Web Player to the Desktop

One of the least talked about music services is Google’s Play Music service, a combination music store and digital locker that can match up to 20,000 songs from your local library and stream them to your devices over the web for free. With All Access, you can stream Google’s entire catalog of music for $9.99 a month.

I’ve dabbled with the service before, using it with my previous storage limited MacBook and giving it an honest shot when away from home. The service has some nice touches, such as a miniature spectrum visualizer that designates the currently playing track and album in a variety of views, thumbs-up and thumbs-down ratings in contrast to stars, and instant mixes that create Genius-like playlists from your music library on the fly. I’ve always thought the player itself was good, and it’s certainly a usable alternative to iTunes for those listening on their work machine or Chromebook. The separate manager for matching songs is a little clumsy, but it’s not a deal breaker.

While the service offers a proper mobile experience on iOS and Android, the desktop experience is limited to the browser. At least that was until Google Music for Mac, an open source application that wraps the experience in a native player and binds the app to your Mac’s media keys.

The app lets you play your music Library through its native experience or, like Fluid, simply present the web app in a window. The experience largely reminds of Pocket for Mac, with the Google Play logo, search, and popover menus comprising the native wrapper.

I like the player. While I don’t see the purpose of including a button for other Google apps, the player rightfully does Google’s service justice on the desktop. You’ll have to log into the app using your username and password, and for those who are security conscious, the app does display your email address in the top right. Regardless, the app itself does a swell job of presenting your music (and Free from Google tunes) in a presentable interface. Small touches reformat the sidebar into something more appealing for OS X. All the little details from the web service have been carried over as-is, such as how album artwork fades into view, how soft shadows bring artists and albums forward, and Google’s distinct orange highlights. Shortcuts are peppered throughout the app, letting you create playlists or jump to an artist view without having to go through library links or categories. Highlighting the scrubber brings up the play timer, and takes to you whatever point in the song you click.

The app’s free to download from Google Music for Mac’s project page, letting you skip Github if you’re not interested in the repository.

Download it here.

[Hat tip @smileykeith]

Multiple Counters with Touch Counters

In episode 34 of The Prompt, I mentioned Touch Counters as my app pick. Touch Counters is a simple counter for iPhone that lets you display up to four counters simultaneously on screen, touching each corner to count up or down.

Touch Counters is the only iPhone app with support for multiple counters I could find on the App Store, and it could be improved in several ways. Some of the UI assets aren't Retina-ready (seriously), there are typos in the interface, and sometimes the app plays the sound associated with taps when you just want to swipe the sidebar away. From a design perspective, it's not great.

However, in spite of these flaws and general lack of polish, Touch Counters works as advertised: when I need to count different sets of items at the same time, I can create counters and tap on separate areas of the screen, which are visualized with different colors. Each counter can have a text label, and you can customize the background and font color in a counter's settings; counters can be saved with totals and notes, but they can't be exported from the app. You can even change the default increment or decrement of individual counters in the Settings.

There are probably other apps that do what Touch Counters does with a more refined UI, but Touch Counters works and I wish I used it when I had to compile posts like this. Touch Counters is $0.99 on the App Store, and I hope the developer will soon release an update.