Brett Terpstra

15 posts on MacStories since May 2015

Brett is an independent Mac developer, author, podcaster, and blogger. He develops Marked 2, a Markdown preview app, and nvALT along with David Halter. You can find his podcasts (Systematic and Overtired) at ESN, and tales of mad code science at brettterpstra.com.

|

This week's sponsor

Daylite

Business Productivity App for Mac & iOS


SketchParty TV 4.0 with New Look, Improved Gameplay

When my family gets together, we like to play games. One game has been a mainstay of our gatherings for the last four years: SketchParty TV.

SketchParty TV is a multiplayer game similar to Pictionary which uses an iOS device as the marker and your Apple TV-connected television as the drawing board. If you have a 2nd or 3rd-gen Apple TV, you can use the iOS version with AirPlay Mirroring. For 4th-gen Apple TV owners, there's a native Apple TV app that connects to the iOS version.

The 4.0 update to SketchParty TV is a big one, with a visual overhaul for iOS 9+, a redesigned canvas, updated scoring system with speed-based rewards, and full support for the Apple Pencil on iPad Pro devices.

The Team Setup interface was always usable, but it got a lot of special attention in this update. In addition to improved word list settings, entry of team members is easier and now you can drag to reorder and even switch between teams.

If you own a compatible iOS device and a 2nd-gen or higher Apple TV, SketchParty is an excellent game for friends and family gatherings. Right now it's on sale, too, for $5.99 (normally $9.99). Check it out in the iTunes App Store.


Make Money Outside the Mac App Store

Developer Christian Tietze has published an excellent book titled Make Money Outside the Mac App Store. It focuses on the FastSpring payment and storefront service. If you're a developer looking at using FastSpring to avoid the hassles and 30% cut of selling through the MAS (or are already using FastSpring and want to implement more advanced features), this is a great guide covering implementation, piracy protection, and more.

Permalink

Daylite 6 for Mac and iOS

Daylite 6 was released today for both Mac and iOS, and it's a major upgrade for the business productivity app. Already boasting a complete set of tools for managing projects, clients, and tasks for an individual or workgroup, the new version adds a slew of new features that take the app even further.

One of the major highlights of this release is the announcement of "Daylite Cloud." Previously, centralizing a group's Daylite data required running a copy of Daylite Server. With Daylite Cloud, it's all handled seamlessly, allows offline access, is cheaper, and has no barrier to incorporating it into your company workflow.

The task management features of Daylite have also expanded. The constraints of the previous Pipeline/Activity Set features have been augmented by a "Task Lists" feature, allowing free-form creation of task lists that might not be assigned to a linear timeline, with complete control over ordering, a new entry interface, and additional fields for time, location, estimated time, and other details. There's also a new "Smart Filtering Bar" for viewing tasks by details such as assigned team member, category, or keyword.

The iOS version has new goodies as well, with features including Today Widgets, full filtering capabilities, and improved editing of Daylite entries. It also adds file linking tools which allow you to snap a photo and link it to one or more items in Daylite.

If you're a Mail.app user, also check out the Daylite Mail Assistant. It's not a new feature, but it's impressive. It allows you to link emails to Daylite items, schedule meetings, and share data without a chain of cc's and forwards, all from within Mail.

For a complete rundown of all the new features, check out the announcement post on the Daylite blog. You can learn more about Daylite on the Marketcircle website.




Zen Timer: Elegant Pomodoro on Mac

Zen Timer has improved my daily work life. I have ADHD, and I recently went through a snafu where my disorder was untreated for a couple of months. In order to get any work done, I needed more structured work time, so I gave the Pomodoro technique another go. It turned out to be a huge help for me, and if it can help someone with a level of concentration as hopeless as mine, I have to believe it's a great tool for more "normal" people, too.

At its core, Pomodoro is a simple method of working and resting in timed intervals. There are a variety of timers available on Mac and iOS for this, and just as I was making the effort to start implementing the technique again, I found Zen Timer. It's a beautiful and creative app for interval timing that immediately became part of my daily workflow.

Zen Timer generates an animated tree which grows during a work interval, and when the timer is up, the leaves of the tree fall to the ground and rest there while it counts down to your next work period. When the next work interval starts, the tree begins growing anew. Zen Timer generates a unique tree each time, and you can customize the colors, line thicknesses, transparency and more things that people with ADHD (or OCD...) probably shouldn't be allowed to spend too much time tweaking.

It's visually customizable, but I've found there's a specific way I like to run it: I set the size of the window as large as it will go, make the window background transparent, and set it at the bottom of the viewport at Desktop level on one of my auxiliary displays. You can hide the timer and controls during work periods, so I'm left with an elegant tree growing on my desktop while I work. I customized my wallpaper and the tree colors, of course. Because I could.

While Zen Timer comes with intervals set to the Pomodoro defaults, its timer settings are easily modified to work with any lengths of time in each interval.

If you're looking for a new Pomodoro timer on your Mac, or are like me and just need a better way to work, check out Zen Timer ($4.99 US) on the Mac App Store. If you're curious, check out the developer's website for an excellent video of Zen Timer in action.


Elegant Image Watermarking and Resizing with Watermarker 2

I'm a bit behind in mentioning it, but Watermarker 2 is out. This Mac app from developer (and former MacStories writer) Don Southard lets you quickly resize and add professional watermarks to batches of photos. It's a great-looking app that elegantly accomplishes its goal.

You can use custom text, import your own logo or image, and apply a customizable strike-through "X" over an image (all with adjustable transparency). You can also add pixelation to an image to obscure parts of it, and annotate images with additional shapes.

Watermarker 2 offers powerful batch photo manipulation features such as renaming groups of files based on patterns and resizing using pixel or percentage constraints.

You can save your watermark settings as presets, and apply them to batches in the future with a couple of clicks. There's even an Action Extension for sending images from other apps to Watermarker, and a Share Sheet for sending watermarked images to others.

Watermarker 2 Action Extension

Watermarker 2 Action Extension

Watermarker 2 is available for $14.99, both on the Mac App Store and through direct purchase (with a free trial available).


Instant Hosted Web Pages From Markdown With Loose Leaves

Loose Leaves is a handy (free) utility for OS X that takes selected Markdown text from almost any app and instantly creates a web page on the secure Loose Leaves server that you can link to and share.

Loose Leaves is available anywhere, and just a hotkey away in any app. If you've ever needed to share more than 140 characters, link long text in Trello or Slack, or just effortlessly share an idea from your notes, this is a handy tool to have.

Permalink

Acorn 5: Shape Generators, PDF Import, and More

I've been an Acorn user for years now. I first started using it as my primary photo editing tool because I could open, edit, and export a perfectly-optimized web image before Photoshop had finished bouncing in the Dock. Photoshop has improved its launch time in recent versions, but Acorn has stepped up its game, too.

Acorn 5 came out this week, and it adds some powerful new features. Notably, it adds tools for vector manipulation and generation, as well as additional bezier and vector tools, PDF Import, snapping to grids, guides, other shapes, and more.

If you're a Photoshop user looking for an alternative, Acorn has the tools you're used to: dodge and burn, hue and curve adjustments, custom selection editing, and everything you need to do advanced photo editing. Acorn 5 can even import Photoshop brushes. Given the wide diversity of custom brushes available on the net, this opens up a lot of possibilities.

Version 5 also adds additional non-destructive filters and adjustments for both raster and vector layers, and the new Shape generators and processors are stackable and non-destructive as well. The layer adjustments are stored in the native Acorn file format, so you can always access and update them.

Acorn still has all of the great tools from version 4, including professional photo editing tools, Smart Layer Export for automatic 1x and 2x images, and the best compression on exported PNGs you're likely to find.

Acorn 5 is $24.99 US on the Mac App Store (also available for direct purchase, with a few small differences). Check out the website for more info, and read the release notes for a mind-boggling list of all of the new features.