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iPad Diaries: Numbers, Accounting, and Currency Conversions

iPad Diaries is a regular series about using the iPad as a primary computer. You can find more installments here and subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.

For years, I struggled to settle on an accounting workflow I truly liked.

In the past 8 years of MacStories, I've tried organizing financial records and statements with plain text files and PDF documents; I've used and then abandoned dedicated finance management apps; for a couple of years, I even tested a combination of Dropbox, Excel, and Editorial to visualize transactions and generate invoices with a Markdown template. My Italian bank doesn't support direct integrations with third-party accounting services, and my particular requirements often include converting expenses from USD to EUR on a per-receipt basis.

Eventually, I always managed to keep my records up to date and neatly sorted with the help of an accountant, but I never loved any of the workflows I had established. In the end, several factors contributed to begrudgingly assembling reports and statements with systems I didn't find flexible enough.

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Ångström Is a Fast and Innovative Currency and Unit Converter

I've tried hundreds of unit and currency converters over the years, and I didn't think I could still be impressed by the input mechanism and design of an iPhone app built to convert numbers. Ångström, developed by Ilya Birman and Alex Babaev, surprised me with a clean design and a unique way of entering numbers and selecting units that I haven't seen in other apps and that I now find superior to most solutions I've had on my iOS devices.

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Banca: A Simple Currency Converter Reimagined for iOS 7

 

You need no introduction to Banca, a beautiful converter that lets you quickly get the exchange rate between any currency currently in use. Redesigned from the ground up, Banca repurposes the best parts from apps like Convert and marries them with the functionality of a basic calculator for quick conversions. Fluid animations, a stowaway units pad, and thoughtful touches such as the option to flip conversions with a tap of the arrow reveals an app made with care. The app refreshes the world's exchange rates automatically, providing up to date information in a simple, customizable interface. A free update on the App Store for previous customers, Banca can currently be downloaded for $1.99.


Denominations: A Simple Currency Converter

Developed by Abraham Vegh, Denominations is a simple currency converter that focuses on the concept of converting money to another currency, rather than the functionality alone.

Most currency converters on the App Store feature a number pad for entering values -- like a calculator -- and a menu to choose currencies to compare. Denominations is different: instead of letting you enter your own numbers, it comes with a predefined set of amounts to compare. You can set two currencies, and quickly switch between them with the tap of a button. Denominations' focus is on the idea of understanding conversions in another currency without having to think too much.

I don't think Denominations can replace currency converters like Currencies -- after all, I still need to convert the amounts I want -- but I believe it has some neat possible usage scenarios worth considering. For instance, as a tourist I might just want to know "how many pounds are 10 Euros", instead of doing my own manual conversion at the coffee shop. Or I might need to know that, approximately, my dinner will cost around 50 Euros, which Denominations says are worth 62 dollars today (rates are updated server-side every 15 minutes). Quick, at-a-glance information that doesn't require me to think and manually enter numbers.

Denominations' design is concise, with a flat color scheme that's reminiscent of the simplicity of Clear, again signifying a trend in recent App Store releases to focus on information rather than ornamental menus. Developer Vegh is already working on adding more currencies, bug fixes, and tweaks for an upcoming version.

Denominations is available at $1.99 on the App Store.


Measures for iPad Is A Powerful Unit & Currency Converter

Back in 2009, I installed a simple currency and unit conversion utility on my iPhone called Measures. Developed by Michael Neuwert, I remember Measures as one of the first "popular" converter apps for the iPhone, one that actually managed to move thousands of sales back when the App Store was still relatively small. Two years and hundreds of thousands of app later (let alone the iPad and two new App Stores), Measures is coming back with an HD version built specifically to take advantage of the iPad's screen. Retaining the same icon and UI color scheme of its iPhone counterpart, Measures HD packs 170 currency exchange rates (constantly updated over the air) and 1000 different units, organized in 40 categories.

I like Measures HD not because of its design, but because it's functional. Measures may lack the amount of polish seen in any Tapbots or Iconfactory app, but as far as the actual unit and currency conversion goes, Measures works better than anything else I've tried on the iPad to date. There are two aspects of the app that truly stand out to me: the Favorites sidebar, and the fact that Measures doesn't stop at normal units like those pertaining to length, area, speed, or temperature. Measures adds dozens of categories ranging from Male Shoe Sizes and Data Storage to Radioactivity, Male Sizes for suits/coats/shirts, and Typography. With all these types of "units" available at your fingertips, Measures lets you convert, say, a European shoe size to a UK or US one, or your milligram/deciliter blood sugar level to millimol/liter. And again: you can easily convert megabytes to yottabytes, short tons to pounds, and obviously US Dollars to Euros and other currencies as well.

Measures' unit database is huge, and if it's not the biggest one on the App Store yet, then it definitely get very close to it. Whilst most converter apps focus on providing a fresh interface for the usual units and currencies, Measures sacrifices some attention to the overall design (I don't like the slider to adjust decimals and the looks of the keypad -- but this is just personal taste) to focus on "real life usage" with options like the aforementioned shirt sizes, or fuel consumption and data storage. This is the kind of stuff I always need to check (especially when buying some cool t-shirt from a website that doesn't list EU sizes), but that very few apps provide. In fact, most of the times I'm forced to look it up on Wikipedia. Speaking of which, Measures HD comes with a Wikipedia search function to look up the selected unit on the website's database. Multiple Wikipedia articles (when found, otherwise it's just a single one) are listed inside a popover, and you can decide to open the webpage within Measures, in Safari, or in Sophiestication's Articles. Next to the Wikipedia button in the top toolbar, there's also a "list" icon to see all converted results without being restricted to a single conversion.

Another nice feature is the Favorites sidebar, which enables you to save any conversion for quick access at a later time. If you find yourself converting Euros to Dollars pretty often, you might want to consider saving that conversion as a shortcut in the Favorites so you won't have to use the (gimmicky) unit picker at the botton; Apple itself suggests in its Interface guidelines to use a "date and time picker" for iPad  inside a popover rather the main screen -- I agree, as the result is not really pleasant in Measures and it feels unresponsive if your finger runs down to the iPad's bezel.

Overall, I enjoy having Measures on my iPad because it's useful. The app could use some UI refinements and re-thinking, but as it stands now it is the converter app for iPad with the largest array of options I've seen so far. You can download Measures HD at $1.99 on the App Store. Check out more screenshots of the app after the break. Read more


iCurrency Pad: Not Another Simple Currency Convertor

The fact that I'm based in Italy doesn't really help out with the management of MacStories advertisement. Being part of the BuySellAds network means that I have to deal with USD payments, which I have to convert everytime in Euros to see how much my income actually is. Which better tool than the iPhone to get a quick overview of currency conversion? There are hundreds of currency apps out there, including the popular Convertbot from Tapbots and Convert.

Today I'll take a look at a new application that showed up this morning in my inbox, iCurrency Pad.

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Apple Design Awards 2017 Winners Announced

Apple has traditionally held its annual awards for app developers – the Apple Design Awards – in a public ceremony on the first night of WWDC, where all developers are typically encouraged to attend. But this year there was no public award show, and instead Apple recognized standout developers in a smaller, private forum according to Rene Ritchie of iMore. Ritchie also notes that Apple won't say whether future ADAs will follow this year's new approach, revert to the patterns of past tradition, or do something else entirely.

The Apple Design Awards are Apple's way of showcasing the very best apps across all of its software platforms – iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. And with this year's batch of winners, that certainly stands true.

Below is the full list of award winners, each of which you can learn more about at the dedicated Apple Design Awards page on Apple's website.

App Winners

Game Winners

All game winners are available on iOS.


You can also follow all of our WWDC coverage through our WWDC 2017 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated WWDC 2017 RSS feed.