Reddit is one of those spaces on the Internet that I’ve historically stayed mostly away from. Due to my role at MacStories, however, and a thriving Apple subreddit, I’ve been there more in the past year than all prior years combined. During that time I’ve tried all the best iOS Reddit clients in an attempt to find one that’s right for me. For one reason or another, none have stuck; today, however, that changes, with the release of Apollo.
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This summer Ulysses announced a major business model shift, with its iOS and macOS apps moving from up front purchases to subscription supported. As tends to happen, the move stirred up some controversy. In my mind at least, the company’s reasoning was sound – as the app’s co-founder stated, “Writers want to rely on a professional tool that is constantly evolving, and we want to keep delivering just that.”
Today brings the first major update to Ulysses following its switch to subscriptions. Bolstered by Apple’s recent focus on evolving the iPad platform, Ulysses 12 is primarily an iOS release; while the Mac version gains some improvements, it clearly isn’t the centerpiece here. Ulysses on iOS gains drag and drop support, multi-pane editing, streamlined library navigation, and image previews – all of which make an already powerful writing tool even better.
Flexibits took much of the frustration out of calendars when it introduced Fantastical for macOS in 2011 by leveraging natural language input of events. It followed up with iPhone and iPad versions. Now, Flexibits wants to do the same for contacts with a brand new app called Cardhop by integrating contact creation, management, and interaction into a single text field of a macOS menu bar app. The app is beautifully-designed and powerful but solves a problem that I’m not sure many people have today.
Many contacts apps are notoriously clunky, hard to get information into, and prone to creating duplicates, which limits their utility. However, contacts apps are less necessary today than ever before. Email clients and messaging apps automatically fill in contact information based on past messages you’ve sent. Other apps and services make it easy to bypass contacts apps altogether with favorites and recent contacts lists. In a communications app-centric world, I expect Cardhop will be a tough sell.
Last month after iOS 11’s launch I pulled together a roundup of iPad apps belonging to a whole new category of apps. Dropped, Workshelf, The Shelf, and Scrawl Pouch all launched as manifestations of Federico’s dream for a drag and drop-powered temporary holding place for content on the iPad. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, here’s how I described it in my last shelf roundup:
The need for a shelf springs from the addition of drag and drop to iOS 11. It’s not always practical to drag content directly from one app to another; sometimes you know you’ll need that content soon, but you’re not ready to drop it elsewhere yet. Additionally, in some situations you may wish to drop the same data into multiple places over a short period of time, and it can be cumbersome to re-open the data’s source app to pull it out multiple times. A shelf can solve these problems: it serves as a temporary resting place for anything you know you’ll need quick access to soon. In this way it can serve a role similar to the macOS desktop, which is commonly used as a temporary holding zone.
While all the apps I originally highlighted continue to fill this role well, several additional quality apps have launched that bring new things to the table in this young category of apps.
Within a matter of a few months, CARROT Weather has launched a major new version, then followed up with a fun AR mode, and now with version 4.2, it’s adding several key refinements to improve the overall experience.
CARROT’s snarky personality is the defining characteristic of the app, yet recent updates have seen that personality gain customization options – both for users wanting more snark, and those begging for less. With today’s update, CARROT goes through perhaps an even more drastic transformation. From the Personality screen in Settings, there are now a variety of new voices that can be set for CARROT, including both female and male options. Among these is FRED, the voice used for the original Mac. My personal favorite is JEEVES, whose smug butler tone makes me feel inferior in a way I thought only the original CARROT could.
Users of CARROT Weather’s alternative data source, Weather Underground, get a couple nice updates in this release. Now, available weather stations can be seen and selected from a map view, making it much easier to get the absolute most accurate data for your current location. Also, severe weather alerts are now available for all of Europe so you’ll be kept in the know regarding official hazards.
If you prefer your weather app to provide a little more business, a little less party, CARROT’s Professional mode has been enhanced in a couple ways. Not only will the maniacal A.I. be de-snarked when set to Professional, but now the little characters and animals in illustrations will be hidden by default as well, AR mode will present a more civilized CARROT, and secret locations can now be turned on.
Premium subscribers have a new vertical view option for daily weather info, which can be accessed from Settings ⇾ iPhone/iPad ⇾ Daily ⇾ Details. I’ve found that I prefer the vertical view over the default horizontal, and I enjoy how it still fits right in with the setting of a landscape – when details slide up from the bottom, it feels like you’re simply delving deeper below the surface.
CARROT Weather keeps getting better. The additions in version 4.2 aren’t blockbuster features, but they make for an overall more complete package. Now users with all kinds of weather and personality preferences can benefit from this top-notch app and customize it to their liking. Without losing its distinct sense of flare, CARROT Weather is quickly becoming a weather app for everyone.
CARROT Weather is available on the App Store.
For years, Twitterrific for iOS and macOS were developed side-by-side, each matching the other feature for feature. But around 2013, development of the macOS version of Twitterrific slowed, while the iOS version continued to push forward with innovative features like Center Stage, the app’s media browser. Sticking with Twitterrific for macOS meant forgoing features supported by competing Twitter clients and Twitterrific’s iOS version.
With the relaunch of Twitterrific for macOS today, The Iconfactory has begun to change that. Funded by Kickstarter and codenamed Project Phoenix, the relaunched app is a solid 1.0 release that brings Twitterrific as close to parity with its iOS sibling as the two apps have been in years. There are still features that the iOS version of Twitterrific has that the macOS version doesn’t and that I’d like to see added, but for many people who move between Mac and iOS devices each day, today’s release makes Twitterrific a viable option for the first time in a while.
We live in a world where media and apps are increasingly available only through recurring subscriptions. Besides the common Netflix or Spotify subscriptions, we may have subscriptions for our favorite apps, for iCloud Drive storage, for news publications, and more.
Last year Bobby launched on the App Store as an easy way to keep track of this growing mess of subscriptions, but in version 1.0 the lack of a few key features – such as iCloud sync – hindered the app’s overall value. The recently released Bobby 2 remedies those few initial drawbacks, and presents one of the best App Store options for keeping on top of where your money goes each month.
Drag and drop is a natural fit for a note taking app like GoodNotes. The app excels as a way to capture handwritten or typed notes, but one of its greatest strengths is the ability to combine notes with other media, which drag and drop makes easier than ever.
GoodNotes has one of the best ink engines of any note taking app I’ve used. You can choose from a preset selection of ink colors and line widths or customize them to suit your taste. There’s a highlighter tool for marking up your notes or other documents too. The lasso tool lets you select notes and other on-screen elements to move them on the page or, in the case of handwritten notes, convert them to text.
Sometimes the best distraction from a frantic and chaotic day is an even more frantic and chaotic game. Fowlst, which developer CatCup Games, describes as ‘an action game about an owl that is trapped in Hell for some reason’ is perfect for just such an occasion.
Fowlst is an arcade-style action, dodging game. You play as the owl, pursued by demons that shoot lasers at you while you try to avoid buzzsaws, fire, and other obstacles. The game gets crazy fast.
The mechanics remind me of Don’t Grind, one of my favorite arcade-style games released last year. You control your owl by tapping on the left and right-hand sides of the screen, which makes your owl fly in a bouncy kind of way in the direction of your taps. The controls purposefully require a careful coordination of left and right taps to navigate your owl. Power-ups are activated by swiping up on the screen. It’s a simple control scheme that makes Fowlst easy to pick up and start playing, but difficult to master.
Demons are defeated by colliding with them before you run out of hearts from being hit by lasers or other obstacles. Unlike Don’t Grind, you don’t have to keep your owl aloft constantly. You can rest on the bottom of any stage or a perch, but constantly moving helps make it harder for the demons to get you. There are also periodic bosses theoughout the game to mix up the pace of the action.
When you defeat a demon, it’s replaced with a floating sack of money and occasionally a heart or power-up that disappears after a few seconds. To collect items, you need to steer your owl into them while simultaneously dealing with other demons and obstacles. The cash you collect can be spent to upgrade your owl with health and weapons.
The game ends when you run out of hearts. Fowlst then tallies the money you collected, the number of levels cleared and shows how you did compared to your high score, which has the effect of making the game wonderfully-compulsive to play. Fowlst keeps things interesting by randomizing the levels you are presented each time you play through. It’s a carefully struck balance that keeps the gameplay familiar enough to avoid frustration but also avoids becoming monotonous.
Fowlst combines its arcade action with pixelated art, a complementary chiptune soundtrack, and lots of ‘pew-pew’ laser sound effects. The result is an addictive arcade game that has almost no learning curve and is easy to pick up and play for short periods of time but is difficult to master and hard to put down. It’s a perfect combination for a mobile game, making Fowlst a title I’m going to be returning to often.
Fowlst is available on the App Store.