There is far more media I’d like to try than I have time for. Between TV shows, movies, music, books and other reading, podcasts, and videogames, the supply of content far outstrips the time I have by an order of magnitude. As a result, I’m both picky and often slow to getting around to some media, especially games, which often require a substantial time commitment. The trouble is that it’s easy to lose track of games I’ve read about, that someone has recommended, and even those that I’m in the middle of playing if I can’t play regularly.
I’ve approached the problem in a lot of different ways. Text notes are a quick and portable solution but lack detail. Apps designed to track lots of different kinds of media have the benefit of consolidating everything in one place, but often don’t accommodate features specific to one kind of media. As a result, I’ve recently gravitated to apps that focus on just a single type of media. For videogames, that solution has been GameTrack, an app that we’ve covered in our Club MacStories newsletters in the past.
I’m very picky about wallpapers on my devices, and when I finally find one I like, I stick with it for a very long time. At some point during that very long time, I start getting tired of my wallpaper and look for a replacement, only to quickly give up and conclude that none of the other options are good. The number of wallpapers available on the web is practically infinite, yet these days I scarcely bother to look for anything new.
So in some respects I’m both the best and worst person to review The Wallpaper App, a new Lumen Digital utility for iPhone, iPad, and Mac that does nothing but supply new wallpaper options. Best because I could use a new wallpaper solution, and worst because my passionate condemnation of most wallpaper options makes me inclined to find little of value in a new wallpaper app.
I see four primary strengths to The Wallpaper App, all of which give it an advantage over other wallpaper apps or services I’ve tried in the past.
- It’s extremely simple to navigate
- All wallpapers are designed to work well behind app icons, widgets, etc.
- You can customize wallpaper colors manually
- Wallpaper size options are tailored for Apple device sizes
One trend that emerged from stay-home orders this year is that many people have spent more time cooking than ever before. Many restaurants have been unable to offer indoor dining, and the lack of a commute as much of society adjusted to work-from-home life provided the opportunity to spend more time in the kitchen. Bread baking became a popular habit, but so did home cooking in general. All of this has brought an influx of new entrants to cooking.
I’m not new to cooking, but I’ve nonetheless found myself in the market for a better solution for recipe management, meal planning, and cooking walkthroughs. The app I’ve found best suited for my needs is Crouton, from developer Devin Davies.
Crouton offers a handful of valuable aids for cooking, but the feature at the center of it all is the app’s recipe management system. Once you have recipes stored in the app, you can view those recipes in a well-designed, intuitive format, but you’ll also be able to easily assign recipes to your weekly meal plan, add ingredients to your grocery list, or be guided through step-by-step instructions while cooking.
When I imagine the quintessential RSS user, I think of someone who wants full control of their web reading experience. They don’t want to leave news curation up to an algorithmic service like Apple News, or a social media platform like Twitter or Facebook. They also care about tools like filtering controls, and tweaking the reading experience to their preferences. For such a user, Fiery Feeds may be a natural choice due to its abundance of supported RSS services and settings to tweak, along with some key pro features. Today, Fiery Feeds is better prepared to meet the needs of that kind of user thanks to a pair of important additions: full-text search and saved searches. Throw in optimized iPad pointer support, plus a new native article rendering option, and the latest Fiery Feeds update is a compelling one.
A full-fledged task manager is terrific for many projects, but if you dump your entire life into one, it can quickly become a cluttered mess. At the same time, if you’re focused on a big project, it’s easy to let everything that’s not in your task manager slip through the cracks. One strategy for attacking the problem that has worked well for me is using a separate, lightweight app for tasks like remembering to take out the garbage, pick up medicine at the pharmacy, or publish an article when an embargo lifts.
In the past, I’ve used Due on the iPhone and iPad for these sorts of tasks. There has been a Mac version of Due for years too, but it hadn’t been updated in about two years and was showing its age. However, with today’s update, Due for Mac joins the iOS version with a fully-modern design and slate of new features, putting it on par with the outstanding iOS version, which I’ve covered in the past.
Zach Gage has a knack for giving classic games an interesting twist. Sometimes that means turning the rules upside down and inside out like Flipflop Solitaire or Really Bad Chess. Other times, it means removing the tedious and boring parts of games to breathe new life into them, which is precisely what he and Jack Schlesinger have accomplished with Good Sudoku.
I started with Good Sudoku as a novice. I’ve played sudoku before and knew the rules, but it’s not a game that has ever grabbed me and stuck. As a result, as much as I’ve enjoyed Gage’s other games, I approached Good Sudoku with a healthy dose of skepticism. However, after several days of playing the game, I’ve found that stripped of its tedious aspects, sudoku is engaging to the point of being addicting and a whole lot of fun.
Following the debut of Apple’s MusicKit API, which enables third parties to build apps and web experiences that directly integrate with Apple Music, 2019 was a big year for third-party Apple Music clients on the App Store. We’ve written about several of these apps, but the earliest and highest profile debut of the year was Soor, a meticulously designed client that distinguishes itself with a fully customizable Home view for displaying only the content sections you care about – choosing from things like Recently Added, Playlists, Recently Played, New Releases, For You, and more. Federico reviewed the launch version of Soor and found a lot to like about its unique approach, but he ultimately was disappointed by the absence of certain functionality that’s readily available in Apple’s first-party Music app.
In the nearly 18 months since launch, Soor has improved in significant ways. I adore the throwback Cover Flow-inspired playback screen, where you can smoothly swipe through a horizontal row of artwork, and time-synced lyrics are now available via a tight Musixmatch integration. There are still certain functions you’ll need to pop into Apple’s Music app for, sometimes due to Apple Music API limitations that Soor’s developer can do nothing about, and other times because the app simply doesn’t offer certain features yet – AirPlay 2, for example, is still unsupported. Overall though, for my uses at least, Soor covers enough core Apple Music functionality that there’s very little I need the first-party client for. The biggest absent feature on my wishlist is an iPad app, which I’m glad to see is on the roadmap, especially since iPadOS 14 will soon offer a much-improved first-party Music app.
Soor’s improvements have made it a truly compelling alternative to the first-party Music app, and today’s 2.0 update continues that trend by offering two big new features: magic mixes and release alerts. The latter is a nice addition, but the real pillar of this update is magic mixes.
Last summer developer Charlie Chapman launched Dark Noise, an ambient noise app for iPhone and iPad that’s packed with delightful design details and key system integrations. My initial review praised how Chapman was able to take an otherwise standard utility app and build a standout experience which, from day one, raised itself above a crowded market of competitors.
The main reasons I loved Dark Noise from the start had little to do with the app’s basic utility: playing ambient noise. The app has always had a good selection of noise options, but nothing in the sound department made it truly special to me. It was the other areas of the app experience, everything surrounding that basic utility of ambient noise playing, that was so great. Icon animations, buttery smooth panel transitions, haptic feedback, strong iPad support, alternate app icons, Shortcuts support, a customizable widget, and more all made for a compelling product.
One of my only disappointments with Dark Noise was the inability to mix different noises together. Each noise could only be played in isolation, never more than one at a time, which proved a disadvantage compared to other ambient noise apps I’d used that enabled mixing different noises to create a custom soundscape. I’m happy to say that Dark Noise 2, released today, adds this functionality at last.
In Dark Noise 2 not only can you mix different sounds to create custom noises, but there are also eight new sound options to choose from, iCloud sync has been added for syncing your favorite sounds and custom mixes, and there’s optimized support for the iPadOS cursor. It’s a big release that retains the design elegance Dark Noise has had from day one, but expands the app’s usefulness in key ways.
Last week I added a new camera to my HomeKit Secure Video setup: the Eve Cam. Announced at CES this year, what drew me to the camera was its slim profile and HomeKit Secure Video support. I’ve used other Eve home automation products in the past and had high hopes that the Eve Cam would be just as easy to install, and as reliable as the electrical outlets and door sensors I’ve tried. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.