With Contact Center, Contrast tried to adapt some parts of Launch Center Pro to a subset of its functionality – getting in touch with other people – for a simplified, friendlier utility. It's with Group Text+ and Email+, however, that I feel like David Barnard and his team have hit a sweet spot of successfully abstracting features from their flagship app and reimagining them for a fresh, cohesive experience.
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In the years I've spent covering iOS automation, I've often asked for a mobile version of Automator. Workflow, released today, tries to bring the deep system integration of Apple's OS X utility to the iPhone and iPad, taking advantage of extensions in iOS 8 to make its automation features ubiquitous and compatible with any app.
I live in Italy, but MacStories' audience is primarily US-based, which has posed a few interesting problems over the years. One of them1 has been the constant conversion between currencies: I get paid in US Dollars, but I need to convert to Euros for my bank account; or, I often need to purchase products sold in USD, and I have to find the equivalent in my currency. I've now learned how to calculate currency conversions quickly by myself, and, obviously, I've tried a number of currency converters on the App Store. Lately, I switched to PCalc as my go-to calculator and currency/unit converter thanks to its custom keys.
Stacks 2.0, developed by WapleStuff (the same creators of Calzy), takes advantage of iOS 8's new Extensibility features to provide one of the most unique and convenient ways to convert currencies I've ever tried. Stacks 2.0 integrates with Safari, using an action extension to convert currencies directly in a webpage you're looking at.
For over two years, I've been trying to turn my iPad into a work machine capable of handling every MacStories-related task – from writing and assembling blog posts to research, email, and expense management. One particular requirement, however, has always been problematic for my use case: native image uploads to Cloud Files on iOS. Dropshare, developed by Timo Josten, brings integration with the iOS Photos app and any other image file through a share extension that can upload directly to Amazon S3, SCP over SSH, and Cloud Files, solving a major issue in my iPad workflow for screenshot generation and uploads.
I take a lot of screenshots on my iPhone and iPad on a daily basis. Before I upgraded to a 64 GB iPhone 6, that was a problem: screenshots would accumulate over time alongside my photos, which would easily consume the 16 GB of storage I had on my iPhone 5s. Unlike photos, I never want to keep screenshots around for future consumption, which made the process of going through all of them a lot more tedious and time-consuming (unlike photos, screenshots are harder to recognize through thumbnails in the Photos app).
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.
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.
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.
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.