Jake Underwood

87 posts on MacStories since December 2015

Jake is a contributor at MacStories, a public relations major at Ball State University, and an iOS app fanatic. His life is full of listening to podcasts and playing Nintendo games, as well as watching sporting events and spending too much money on Apple products.


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Funnel Brings News Updates to Your Ears

I don't need to tell you how crazy the news cycle is. Between world and tech news, I’m often drowning in a sea of headlines and big stories, confused about what’s really important. The result is a time consuming attempt at finding the best information that ends up being more of a hassle than its worth.

Funnel aims to cut through the chaos and bring you the most recent news through audio segments that are only a couple of minutes long. The app includes seven news outlets that refresh at the top of the hour so they're always up-to-date.

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Mitch Brings Better Twitch Viewing to the Mac

Twitch, the platform for video game live streamers and personalities, has become an integral part of my online entertainment, joining sites like Netflix, YouTube, and HBO. Just last weekend, I joined in with 70,000+ other viewers to watch Grand Finals of Super Smash Bros. Melee at Royal Flush as I streamed the tournament from my browser.

For future Twitch viewing, though, I’ll be watching in Mitch, a lightweight client for macOS that offers small but appreciated benefits over the website.

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FocusList Review: A Minimalist, Pomodoro To-Do App

Through testing productivity apps like Doo and Time, my to-do preferences have changed; while I was once a fan of feature-rich task managers, I’ve learned to appreciate the simplicity of apps that just focus on helping me get stuff done.

FocusList is a great example of that sort of minimalism in action, an unadorned display of your tasks, their estimated completion time, and, on occasion, a timer. Its content is driven by your list of tasks, but no more – its one goal is to focus you on your work.

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Oilist Review: A Painter in Your Phone

If you’ve ever been to a fair or amusement park, you’ve likely stood and watched as a caricature artist drew a goofy picture while the subject sat completely still. As the artist’s hand glides across the page, you begin to see the bigger picture, and watch the artist’s style come to life in the form of a cartoonized version of a stranger. When the drawing is finished, the final product is not only a representation of the subject itself, but also one of the creator’s personality.

Oilist is an artist in your phone, one that you watch sketch, paint, and craft a unique version of a photo you’ve shot. The app uses AI – and your creativity – to turn pictures into works of art. Through creating with its own personality, you’ll get a new take on your old images in a fun and original way.

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Doo Adds Task Collaboration, Checklists in Version 2.0

When I wrote about Doo over a year ago, I called its methodology “daring and bold,” a sentiment expressed primarily due to its sparse interface and few features. Although I found its straightforwardness endearing, those looking for a more robust task manager were likely sent packing.

In version 2.0, though, Doo maintains its simplicity while growing into a more powerful productivity tool. The inclusion of task collaboration and checklists specifically makes the update a win, and the additions continue to be hits down the line: location reminders, morning and evening hours, and interface customization with font sizes.

The changes in Doo are well-integrated, too – while some apps might tack them on and make them seem out of place, Doo integrates them directly into the existing UI elements. Basically, you won’t have any problems finding or ignoring the new features, depending on what you’re looking to do.

Practically, using Doo's new tools can make a big difference in your workflow. For example, a task in Doo can now be broader, with more intricate steps listed in the checklists. With Task collaboration, store trips or packing for vacation can now be a shared breeze.

Both Doo for iPhone and Mac received the update, so owners of each should make sure to update to see the latest the Ciarlo Software team has to offer. And if you haven’t picked up Doo yet, check out my review posted above and download the app for iPhone here ($3.99) and Mac here ($9.99).

Vignettes Review: I Need a Moment

Vignettes is, without a doubt, the most bizarre game (and app) I’ve ever purchased in the App Store.

The goal of the game – I think? – is to turn one object into another by twisting, rotating, tapping, and shifting your perspective of the object. If done correctly, you’ll transform a phone into a bowl, a light bulb into a lamp, and your brain from a completely functioning organ to a steaming pile of gray mush.

That’s about all there is to Vignette. The more you discover new objects, the more objects you'll want to find. As you proceed through the game, you’ll begin to unlock keys that will start you at different points in the game, reveal secrets, and let you interact with more objects.

That probably sounds incredibly generic, but that’s because it's incredibly difficult to put the concept behind Vignettes into words. It’s an experience, one that feels halfway between a game and an art project where the end object is to trick you to spinning your real-world chapstick around, hoping it transforms into something else (and yes, I did this!). There are almost no in-game instructions, either, so you’re left to your own devices from the outset.

However, there’s something really intriguing about the whole experience; although Vignettes is one of the most frustrating games I’ve played this year, the reward of discovery keeps me coming back the app even when I don’t think I want to. I get lost in its worlds, unable to comprehend exactly what puzzles I’m solving, but solving them nevertheless. Each puzzle is its own super weird and fun journey. I haven’t been so entranced by a iOS game in a long time.

Vignettes is available on the App Store for $2.99.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go lie down.

Fill in the Gaps with Polycolor

Some games don’t require a manual. They won’t bring out your inner rage, send you searching for answers online, or require you to ask your friend for help. Instead, they challenge you quietly, providing a gaming experience that’s equal parts difficult and soothing.

Polycolor is the epitome of the relaxed puzzle genre, a game so basic that it requires almost no explanation. Here’s why: all you have to do is fill in a pattern so that none of your three colors touch one another, yet the picture is fully colored. You select either red, blue, and yellow, assign it to a shape, and work your way toward a piece of art that signifies your accomplishment. As you continue in the game, you’ll be restricted to only a couple of moves to complete the task.

For an example, take a look below.

Although the premise is simple and early levels don’t pose much of a challenge, polycolor has grown on me as I continue to work through its 70+ levels. It’s a game that requires little physical effort, but increased mental exertion while progressing. Still, I've found that it's perfect for tapping away during moments of boredom or peace.

If you’d like to give polycolor a try, you can download it in the App Store for $0.99 (universal).

Outflow Review: Simple Subscription Tracking

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’m a huge fan of Bear, the minimalist note-taking app developed by Shiny Frog. To show my appreciation and grab an extra feature or two, I pay a monthly subscription fee of $1.49, a price so low that I forgot that I paid it at all.

It’s a similar story for other services, too – $5 each for Pocket Premium and Apple Music slip out of my bank account monthly without much thought. But that’s where the cheap stuff ends, and the expensive subscriptions begin: $15 for HBO Now, $15 for a Spotify family subscription, and $20 for the Adobe Creative Suite. After all of this, I’m at $71.49 a month for software, some of which I’m rarely putting hours into.

Because my subscriptions span different platforms and renew at different times, I’ve been looking for ways to track where all my money is going. With Outflow, I’ve found a new way to do that.

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