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Burst: A Reddit Client to Pop Your Filter Bubble

Burst is a new Reddit client for iPhone with a unique goal: bursting the filter bubbles we can all find ourselves in.

Recent political events around the globe highlight how harmful it can be to society when people are only exposed to news from one perspective. The same piece of news can be spun into two polar opposite stories by differing political parties, leading each opposing side to remain, at best, misunderstood, and at worst, demonized. To lesser degrees these divisions extend to other areas of life too, such as technology debates between iOS and Android users, or even, to get a little more relevant to our audience, iPad and Mac users. In all these cases, Burst makes it easier to see the thoughts of people outside your normal online circles in an effort to broaden the array of perspectives you're exposed to.

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Medical ID Record Provides an Extended, More Flexible Solution to Storing Medical Data

Many of the stock system apps installed with iOS are designed to meet the needs of most people, but they rarely satisfy everyone. Apple leaves it to third-party developers to fill in the gaps. That comes with the risk of being ‘Sherlocked’ in the future, but it’s also an opportunity for developers to attract users who want more than Apple provides.

Medical ID Record is a perfect example of such an app. It takes a feature of the Health app and extends it. The depth of functionality in Medical ID Record may not be needed by everyone, but it’s an excellent option for anyone who has felt constrained by the Health app’s Medical ID feature.

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Scanbot 7 Adds Customizable Filters, Document Merging, Improved Search, and New Themes

Scanbot 7 was released today, the latest update to the popular document scanning app for iOS. This is the first major version bump for Scanbot since Apple introduced its own scanning feature into the built-in Notes app, making it especially of interest. Every time Apple introduces a free app or feature that competes with existing third-party options, the impetus falls on those developers to prove their app's continued value. Scanbot already offered a variety of features that Notes' scanning doesn't, but it adds to those in today's update with a handful of thoughtful enhancements that make a great app even better.

In Scanbot 7, each of the app's five color filters for scans can be tweaked to your exact preferences. There are sliders included to make three types of adjustments for each filter. On most filters, those options are Brightness, Color, and Contrast, and with the Gray filter they're Brighter, Darker, and Color. Not every scan is the same; a good scan depends on the type of document being captured and your lighting conditions, so it's great having more control over filters to make every scan look as good as possible.

A second new feature is the ability to merge multiple existing scans into a single PDF. This is done by hitting the checkmark in the top-right corner when browsing previous scans, then selecting multiple scans and hitting Merge. You'll then be able to rearrange the page order of the soon-to-be-merged documents, and choose whether to replace the original documents altogether, or keep them intact post-merge. This kind of task can be accomplished in other apps, such as PDF Expert, but it's nice to bring it in-app, especially in situations when you need to consolidate scans to send to someone else.

Search has been upgraded in Scanbot 7, with auto-complete suggestions that appear even before you've typed a single character. These make Scanbot's search screen one of the best I've used in any app. Also added in today's update are five new theme options, my favorite of which is High Contrast: it uses true black and white to provide beautiful contrast in the interface, especially on the iPhone X's OLED display.

If you're in the market for a scanning solution, and want more power and customizability that Apple Notes provides, Scanbot 7 makes the app a better option than ever. All its power features are easy to use, and the app is full of thoughtful design touches that make for a delightful experience.

Scanbot 7 is available on the App Store.



Linea Sketch 2.0: Elegant, Approachable Sketching for the iPad

Today, The Iconfactory released a major update to its iPad sketching app, Linea. Version 2.0, which has been renamed Linea Sketch, takes what was already one of my favorite Apple Pencil-enabled drawing apps and has extended it with new features that make it more powerful than ever before. Most importantly though, the new features don’t come at the expense of the app’s usability.

When I reviewed Linea 1.0 last year, I was struck by how approachable yet capable the app was. That’s still the case, but The Iconfactory has added several new features that should make it appeal to an even broader audience.

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Overcast Adds Smart Resume, New Auto-Deletion Option, and Support for Password-Protected Podcasts

Overcast 4.1 is out with a handful of new, notable features and bug fixes.

My favorite addition is what Marco Arment calls Smart Resume, which does two things. First, when resuming playback, Overcast skips back a few seconds to remind you of where you left off in a paused episode. Second, Overcast resumes playback in the dead space between words where possible.

The effect is understated but perceptible. During the beta of 4.1, I had a sense that something more than simple skipping back was going on with Smart Resume, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I dug into Arment’s release notes. Smart Resume reminds me of what happens when an in-person conversation is interrupted. If you’re sitting at a table in a restaurant with a friend and the waiter interrupts one of you mid-sentence, you don’t pick up where you left off mid-word. You back up and start over.

Smart Resume is similar. I hadn’t realized it, but when resuming a podcast, I’d gotten into the habit of skipping back 30 seconds when I lost track of where I was in an episode. That was more time than necessary to recall where I had left off, but it worked. With Smart Resume, I’ve found I rarely do that anymore. Instead of the extra fiddling with the app’s buttons, Overcast skips back just far enough to jog my memory but not so far that I feel like I’m re-listening to too much of an episode. Moreover, dropping the seek point in between words makes the feature feel natural. Smart Resume can be turned off in Settings, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so.

Overcast 4.1 also adds a new auto-deletion setting. Previously, you could choose between auto-deleting episodes immediately after finishing them or leave them on your iOS device for manual deletion. Overcast now has a third choice, which is automatic deletion after 24 hours. Premium members’ uploads to Overcast are no longer subject to auto-deletion either.

Password-protected podcasts are now officially supported in Overcast too. In the Add URL screen, there is an option to ‘Use Password,’ which reveals username and password fields when tapped. Podcasts that require a password do not show up in Overcast’s search results or show recommendations.

Smart Resume is an excellent example of what I like most about Overcast. The feature highlights the app’s overall attention to detail when it comes to the listening experience, which makes it a pleasure to use.

Overcast is available on the App Store.


Textor: The iOS Equivalent of TextEdit, Integrated with Files

Over the weekend, developer Louis D'hauwe released a new plain text editor to the iOS App Store. Textor is about as simple an app as you could get: while it does offer support for modern iOS technologies, like Split View on iPad, and modern iOS screen dimensions, like the iPhone X and iPad Pro sizes, it doesn't offer any kind of innovative features to pull you in. In fact, it doesn't really contain much in the way of features at all.

D'hauwe created Textor as a result of exploring what new iOS tools he would need before making the iPad his primary computer. His recently launched terminal app, OpenTerm, birthed from the same roots.

Textor is unique in how utterly stripped down it is, and it's that simplicity that makes it so appealing. Launch the app – which is free and open-source – and you'll see iOS 11's new Files document browser. This enables opening existing plain text files stored in any app that serves as an iOS file provider. You can open directly from iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Working Copy, and more. You can also create a new document in any of these places by hitting the + button in the top-right corner.

Outside of the Files document browser, the only interface is found in the editor itself: a plain canvas with a purple blinking cursor. It's just you and the text.

Textor's lack of noteworthy features makes it a fitting TextEdit-equivalent for iOS. It also makes it unlikely to be the best text editor for you, unless your needs are extremely minimal.

Despite its bare-bones nature, I was excited to hear about Textor's launch because it happens to fit exactly the tiny niche I was looking for. My everyday writing is done in Ulysses, an app I absolutely love. But when it comes to editing other people's work, Ulysses isn't a great solution because its custom formatting engine doesn't play nice with existing Markdown drafts.

Every week as part of preparing the latest Club MacStories newsletter, I edit about ten different Markdown files stored in a GitHub repo and accessed through Working Copy. I've tried several quality apps for this job, including iA Writer, 1Writer, and Textastic – all can open files directly from Working Copy, but a variety of issues big and small make none of them the ideal solution. Textor does exactly what I need: opens documents via Files, allows me to edit them free from cumbersome frills, then saves them in place when I'm done editing.

There are a couple changes that would make Textor a better tool for me: auto-saving drafts so I don't have to hit the app's 'Done' button to save changes, and support for Markdown styling so I get a preview of what my document will look like when published. Those features aren't necessities though, and I don't expect to see Textor add them. Everyone will have their own list of two or three features they'd like, but Textor doesn't need to be feature-complete. The app exists to offer a no-nonsense writing experience with Files support, and it succeeds at exactly that.

Textor is available as a free download on the App Store.



Game Day: Bring You Home

Earlier this month Alike Studio released Bring You Home, a charming puzzle game about a blue alien on a quest to save its pet from thieves. It’s a delightful game that showed up one day with little fanfare. The game, from the creators of Love You to Bits, was teased almost a year ago, but its sudden appearance on the App Store means it hasn’t gotten the coverage it deserves. That’s a shame because this is a low-key but captivating game that should appeal to a wide audience.

Exploration is at the core of Bring You Home. As soon as the alien’s pet is whisked away, it leaps out the window after the thieves landing face-first on the ground. Time rewinds, and you’re shown how to swipe panels up and down until there’s a cart of hay under the window to break the alien’s fall. It’s a simple mechanic similar to the hit game Framed but executed with a style and personality that fits Bring You Home.

The goal is just as simple. By manipulating the environment around the alien, you help steer it from scene to scene in pursuit of the thieves. As you move through Bring You Home, new layers are added to the gameplay. Instead of just cycling through panels vertically, you can swap their position horizontally too. Next, the game adds multi-step puzzles, which require you to rearrange the scene, pause, and make further adjustments. Along the way, there are also collectible photos featuring your alien and his pet, which is a nice touch suggesting that it’s ok to explore, fail, and explore some more.

There is an absurd logic to each of the nearly 50 levels of Bring You Home, which rewards thoughtful examination. There are no time limits or penalties for failure, which encourages a leisurely, calm approach. Sure, you can power through Bring You Home quickly, but that’s not the point. Trial and error is part of the fun. This is a game best-enjoyed at a pace at which you can absorb each scene’s brightly-colored, playful animations.

Bring You Home is a Universal app that’s also available on the Apple TV. The game looks great on a big screen TV, but the controls work better on an iOS device, so on balance, I prefer to play on my iPad. Also, achievements are tracked in Game Center, and your progress is synced between devices via iCloud, which I always appreciate.

Bring You Home is a relaxing game with a playful, sweet personality that will appeal to kids and adults alike. The puzzles range from easy to challenging without ever becoming frustrating, which makes it an excellent choice for relaxing on a quiet afternoon.

Bring You Home is available on the App Store.