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Coppice: Visual Note-Taking and Research for the Mac

Apps that help you organize and connect ideas aren’t new, but it’s a hot category right now. There are note-taking apps, many of which offer wiki-style back-linking, outliners, diagramming apps, mind mapping apps, and more. The approaches vary as widely as the ways people process and organize their thoughts, which is what makes these apps so interesting. The category has become a playground of creativity, allowing developers to experiment with new ways to help users explore ideas free from the more constrained, structured environment of a text editor.

It’s into this app frontier that M Cubed Software launched Coppice, a Mac-only app that combines elements of mind mapping and note-taking to deliver a unique, note card-like experience. There are ways that I think Coppice could enhance its approach to extend the app’s power. However, despite some limitations, Coppice is an excellent addition to the genre that succeeds in offering a novel perspective on note-taking and research in a crowded field.

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Overcast Revamps Apple Watch App and Shortcuts Actions

In the latest update to his popular podcast app, developer Marco Arment has shipped a completely overhauled version of Overcast for Apple Watch. The update not only resolves some longstanding issues with the old Watch client but also debuts playback speed controls, chapter skipping, and show notes for the first time on the Apple Watch.

When you first open the new Apple Watch app, Overcast will spend some time fully syncing with its iPhone counterpart. Once this initial sync completes, you’ll gain access to the new interface. Instead of the previous three-page, horizontal-scrolling layout, Overcast for Apple Watch now features a much simpler design. At the top, you’ll find large buttons to manually request a sync with your iPhone and to access the app’s settings.

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DarkModeBuddy: Automatic Light and Dark Mode Switching Based on Ambient Light

Gui Rambo, the maker or AirBuddy, the Bluetooth headphone and peripheral menu bar utility that I’ve covered before, has released a new app called DarkModeBuddy that can automatically switch between light and dark mode on Mac laptops based on ambient light levels. DarkModeBuddy runs in the background monitoring the ambient light readings from the same sensor that automatically adjusts your screen’s brightness. When the ambient light drops below a threshold you pick for an amount of time that you also choose, DarkModeBuddy automatically switches Big Sur from light to dark mode.

The app is a terrific example of the sort of single-purpose, useful utility available on the Mac. The app’s settings helpfully display the current light reading, which will assist you in deciding what light threshold to pick. The easiest way to dial in a comfortable setting is to choose something you think might work and then adjust it as you work in different lighting environments based on the readings reported by DarkModeBuddy.

If you watch the ambient light readings in DarkModeBuddy, you’ll see they jump around a bit as the lighting of your surroundings changes. That’s why the app has a Delay Time setting, which only switches between light and dark modes if the lighting conditions cross the threshold you set for a certain amount of time. The timer prevents flickering back and forth between light and dark modes based on small, temporary changes in lighting.

I generally run my Macs in dark mode full time, so I’m not planning to run DarkModeBuddy all the time. However, I like Gui’s approach to light and dark mode switching better than Apple’s. If I’m in a dark environment, light mode, especially with Big Sur’s emphasis on bright white UI elements, can feel like having someone point a spotlight at your face. You may find yourself in those conditions because it’s nighttime, but the time of day doesn’t account for when you’re working in a poorly lit room, which is where DarkModeBuddy really shines.1

DarkModeBuddy, which is an open-source project, is available with a ‘name your price’ model via Gumroad.


  1. Sorry (not sorry) for the bad pun. ↩︎

Nudget Review: Budgeting Made Simple

Nudget1 is a budgeting app designed to streamline the daily input of expenses. Developer Sawyer Blatz created a gorgeous and extremely efficient interface to make budgeting feel light and fun. With my beloved bank Simple closing this year, I’ve been looking for new solutions for keeping track of my finances. Over the last couple weeks I’ve worked with Nudget full-time, and the experience has been rewarding.

Getting Started

As is the case with any budgeting app, you’ll need to put in a bit of work up front to get started with Nudget. When you first open the app it will prompt you to input your after-tax income and recurring expenses. Nudget uses this data to craft a simplified budget for you. Budget-wise, the app isn’t doing anything too fancy. Each budget consists of three categories: recurring expenses, spending money, and savings. These categories are shown as large cards in Nudget’s ‘Budget’ tab, and you can tap each one to edit it.

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Genius Scan 6.0: A Sophisticated iPhone and iPad Scanning App for All Kinds of Users

My scanning needs are modest. I occasionally need to scan a receipt or document for personal or work reasons, but the frequency with which I do that has steadily declined over the years. I have a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner, which is excellent, but if it broke, I wouldn’t replace it. That’s because iPhone and iPad scanning apps have improved just as steadily as my scanning needs have declined.

These days, the ScanSnap sits in a drawer, demoted from taking up valuable desktop space that I need for the tools I use every day. I still set it up from time to time when I’m working at my desk, but more and more often, I’ve found it to be more trouble than it’s worth to set up.

Instead, I’ve been experimenting with a variety of iPhone and iPad scanning apps, including Genius Scan 6, which was released today. The app has a long list of features, but at its core, what I like most about Genius Scan is its fast, flexible scanning workflow and business model that fits with a wide range of user needs from someone like me who doesn’t scan documents very often to people for whom scanning is essential to their daily tasks.

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Logitech Circle View Doorbell Offers Superior Camera Hardware with the Benefits of HomeKit Secure Video

For nearly a year, I had a Logitech Circle View camera perched above the front door of my house, which allowed me to keep an eye out for visitors and deliveries. The wide-angle lens was able to capture my front stoop as well as my yard, providing an excellent perspective on what was happening outside.

That setup worked extremely well. In fact, my two Circle View cameras are so reliable that I had begun thinking about replacing a second outdoor camera from Canary that I was using in the back yard. That’s why when Logitech got in touch to see if I wanted to try its new Circle View Doorbell, I jumped at the chance. I figured that if it worked out, I could migrate the Circle View to the back yard. I was also intrigued by some unique features of Logitech’s doorbell and eager to see how well they worked in practice. I haven’t been disappointed.

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Kitty Letter: A Silly, Challenging, and Addictive Word Game from Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal

It’s always a good sign when the hardest part of writing a game review is putting the game down. That has absolutely been the case with Kitty Letter, the new word game from Matthew Inman, the artist behind The Oatmeal webcomic. The core mechanic is familiar: make as many words as possible from a handful of jumbled letters. But as with many of my favorite iOS games, Kitty Letter takes a classic genre and adds a twist.

Inman’s twist reminds me of another classic iOS genre: tower defense games. As you create words by swiping across the letters that appear in a mysterious language vortex, armies of exploding cats are launched, countering other cats bent on destroying your home and attacking the crazy cat man who lives in a trailer across the street. Add collectible power-ups, a funny storyline, The Oatmeal’s signature humor and art, and multiple game modes, and Kitty Letter is completely absorbing. The game is perfect for one-handed mobile play and theoretically short sessions because no single level takes that long to play, but that’s only the case if you actually manage to peel yourself away from it.

Kitty Letter can be played in single or multiplayer modes, each of which has two ways to play. In single-player story mode, battles are interspersed with a storyline that I won’t spoil, but which includes elements like a fish you have to slap repeatedly to defrost and groaning deer. I’ve played through the first set of levels, and the story adds depth to single-player mode, which lacks the competitive dimension of multiplayer mode. The other single-player mode is an arcade mode, where the goal is to survive as long as you can, racking up points as you are relentlessly attacked by waves of exploding cats that come at you faster and faster as you play.

In multiplayer mode, you can play head-to-head against a friend or against a stranger. I played several matches against strangers and only won a couple of times. Kitty Letter has only been out a few days, but there are already some terrific players. What makes multiplayer mode difficult, absorbing, and incredibly fun is that, like Arcade mode, it’s critical to maintain a quick (but not too quick) pace and be good at coming up with lots of words. You can try to slow down a little to see what your opponent throws at you, but if you slow down too much, your letters reset. If you play fast, you may overwhelm your foe, but you also might run out of words too quickly and have to wait for new letters, helpless against an onslaught of cats.

In both modes, the game mechanics are roughly the same. Build words from the letters launching cats that counter incoming armies and hit back at your enemy to inflict damage (or win points in arcade mode) when your cats make it through your enemy’s defenses. The longer the words you put together, the bigger the cat armies you generate are. Timing counts, too, because incoming groups of cats can only be countered by making a word that starts with the letter that appears above the group of enemy felines. As you and your opponent are hit by incoming cats, your health meter tracks the damage you each take. Whoever’s health runs out first loses.

Kitty Letter is available on the iPhone, iPad, and M1 Macs, but it’s best on the iPhone, where you can quickly swipe across letters to make words one-handed with your thumb. The game includes a stats page that keeps track of your highest scoring word, wins and losses in multiplayer mode, and your highest arcade mode score. Kitty Litter is free and has no ads, other limitations, or gimmicks to entice you to spend money. Instead, there are a variety of avatars, cats, and houses that you can buy as In-App Purchases, but they are purely cosmetic and don’t affect the game.

It’s been a while since I found a casual iOS game that is this fun and distracting. Kitty Letter silly, challenging, and addicting, which is the perfect formula for fun.


Power-User HomeKit App Home+ 5 Adds Automation Folders, Backups, and a Fresh Design

With the release of Home+ 5 by Matthias Hochgatterer, there are more reasons for HomeKit power-users to try the app than ever before. One of the app’s strengths has always been creating automations based on device attributes that aren’t available in Apple’s Home app. That’s why I was already using Home+. However, now, the app has added a new design, folders to organize automations, Smart Groups for accessories, a Favorites view, and backups, which make the app more compelling than ever.

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Hands-On with the Apple Store’s Insta360 ONE X2 Camera Bundle

Source: Insta360.

Source: Insta360.

Starting today, Insta360 is offering an exclusive bundle of the Insta360 ONE X2 camera and an assortment of accessories through Apple’s online store for $479.99.

I’ve been intrigued by Insta360’s action cameras since coming across them during CES in 2020. I bought a DJI Osmo Pocket when it launched at the end of 2018, which sold me on the notion of a tiny, versatile camera that integrates with the iPhone. So, when Insta360 offered to send me the Apple Store bundle to try, I was curious to see what it can do and what a 360-degree perspective would add to the mix. I’ve only had the ONE X2 for a few days during a brutal Chicago cold snap, so my use of the camera has been limited. Still, the excellent app integration has made getting started a breeze, so I wanted to share my first impressions.

The Insta360 ONE X2 bundle being sold by Apple is a great starter package that includes the ONE X2 camera, an Invisible Selfie Stick, an extra battery and case to carry it, a 32 GB MicroSD card and SD card adapter, two charging cables (USB-A to USB-C and USB-C to Lightning), a carrying case, and a soft pouch. Separately, the camera retails for $429.99, and with the accessories, the entire package would cost around $511 based on the prices listed on Insta360’s website. However, through Apple’s online store, you can purchase the kit for $479.99, saving some money and getting everything you’ll need to get started.

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