Posts in reviews

Roadblock for OS X Review

Content blockers arrived with a splash on iOS last Fall when iOS 9 was released, but have only recently begun showing up on the Mac App Store. Last month I reviewed 1Blocker, a Safari content blocker that replicated its successful iOS app on the Mac. Today, Obied Corner released Roadblock for Mac, which takes its iOS content blocker and adds some compelling new features. What makes Roadblock unique, is its focus on profiles, allow you to set up different sets of content blocking rules for different use cases, and its simplified approach to creating complex custom rules. Despite a few limitations that I discuss below, these two features make Roadblock extremely powerful and an excellent choice if you are looking for a content blocker for your Mac.

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Take Your Writing Further with Hemingboard

Hemingboard is the kind of app that will inevitably invoke a "Back in my day..." response. Created by the adorably-named Puppy Ventures, Hemingboard is an in-line digital thesaurus in the form of an add-on to the iOS stock keyboard or a keyboard shortcut on the Mac.

But the app is more than that – it's actually a resource for improving your writing. In addition to providing synonyms to spice up your copy, it also gives suggestions for rhymes and puns. By providing an experience that doesn't require you to stop what your writing, Hemingboard is able to make its impact directly – and do a phenomenal job at it.

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Game Day: Perchang

Perchang is a physics-based puzzle game from a new indie development shop that goes by the same name. Perchang describes its game as Lemmings mixed with Marble Madness, which is apt if you're old enough to remember those games, but that description doesn't do Perchang justice.

The challenge of Perchang lies in its puzzles, not its controls, which makes it easy to get started, but hard to master. Each of the 60 levels require you to guide tiny balls into a goal using fans, magnets, flippers, portals, and other contraptions. To further complicate things, you're racing against the clock to get enough of the relentless stream of balls into the goal before time runs out.

The gizmos you use to guide the balls in Perchang are controlled by two on-screen touch points – one red, the other blue. The colors correspond to the items you are controlling on the screen. Touching the colored contraptions on the screen toggles their color, which changes the touch point that controls them. It's an interesting touch that adds extra depth and strategy to each level by giving you an additional way to approach the puzzles.

The visuals in Perchang are stunning. Each level features beautifully-rendered 3D contraptions. Only the interactive items are colored to correspond to the colors of the controls. The spare use of color is striking and adds atmosphere and personality to Perchang, while also helping players focus on each level's goal. There are so many variables that affect each puzzle, it's easy to get lost in the harder ones for long periods of time testing different strategies, which is precisely why Perchang is so much fun.

Perchang is Universal and available on the App Store for $1.99.


Qwiki and Wonder: No-Nonsense Wikipedia Research

There was a time, before Twitter implemented restrictive API limitations, when Twitter clients were a playground where app developers tried new ideas. It felt like there was a new Twitter client released every week. Today, that role seems to have been taken over by Wikipedia apps.

There are a lot of good Wikipedia apps. Some, like Wikipedia’s own client that I reviewed earlier this year, are designed to optimize the reading and browsing experience, while others, like Curiosity, focus on location-based discovery. Those are great approaches to Wikipedia, but often I use Wikipedia for quick research and just want to get in and out of Wikipedia quickly without being distracted from writing. For those times, I’ve found two apps I like – Qwiki, a menu bar app for the Mac, and Wonder, an iOS app. Both apps are fast, no-frills utilities that help you find and browse what you need, copy a link, and share it quickly.

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Pennies Review: Spend Wisely

A few months ago, I took a look at Monthly, a budget tracker that kept track of your expenses on a broad level. While I lauded Monthly for being a stripped-down planner, its simplicity left room for other apps to aid in expense tracking.

For a more detailed experience regarding multiple budgets, there's Pennies. Instead of inputting every bit of money you earn and spend, Pennies is meant to keep tabs on specific spending habits, like video game purchases. Through the user setting an allowance and logging your purchases, Pennies can set you on a course toward responsible spending.

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Homescreen.me: Upload and Share Your iPhone Home Screen


How different people arrange their iPhone Home screen is a natural curiosity for most of us with an interest in technology. We've featured Home screens in the vast majority of MacStories Weekly email newsletters, and it has easily been one of the most popular sections.

The iPhone has become an integral part of our lives, and seeing the apps that different people elevate to their Home screen provides insights into how they work and live their lives. But it also gives us the opportunity to discover new apps, find a new wallpaper, or re-think the layout and structure of how we organize the apps on our own Home screens.

If you find yourself curious about the iPhone Home screens of others, the relaunch of the Homescreen.me website might interest you. The basic pitch is that it allows anyone to upload and share their iPhone Home screen and Apple Watch watch face. The team behind Homescreen.me is also featuring the Home screens of different users, giving you the opportunity to get inspired and discover new apps.

A particularly nice touch with Homescreen.me is that in your profile settings you can choose which iPhone (model and color) and Watch (model) you own. This selection has an impact because the screenshots you upload will be superimposed onto the correct device. When you upload your screenshot you're also given the option to provide a description, and a wallpaper source.

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Game Day: SEQ

SEQ is a number sequencing puzzle game from 1Button with 280 levels. The premise is simple – each level is a series of squares laid out in a pattern. There are colored squares with numbers in them and grey squares with zeros in them. Your job is to trace a path from the colored squares to the grey squares. Each square along your path is given a number that is one less than the square before it. For example, if you start with a colored square with a '5' in it, you need to fill squares with 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 before landing on a grey zero square. If you have multiple number sequences to complete in a single puzzle, things get trickier. One sequence cannot cross the path of another unless the number in the earlier sequence where the two cross matches what you need to advance the current sequence. It's easiest to understand by watching 1Button's video:

SEQ starts with very simple puzzles that gradually get more complex. You cannot skip around, except among the puzzles you have completed or ahead if you have purchased keys to bypass puzzles you cannot solve. SEQ works well on iOS with its simple path tracing and the ability to play for short periods of time. SEQ is also the sort of game that I like to play while I'm listening to a podcast or music, and fortunately the sound effects, which can be disruptive when you are simultaneously listening to something else, can be turned off by swiping to the view to the left of the puzzles.

SEQ is $1.99 on the App Store with a $0.99 in-app purchase to buy five keys that allow you to bypass puzzles you cannot complete.


Twitter Releases Tweet Analytics App Engage

It’s easy to make fun of Engage, the analytics app launched by Twitter today. Using terminology like engagement, influencers, and verified users, Twitter isn’t doing itself any favors. But here’s the thing, Twitter is different things to different people. For some it’s a public forum for chatting with friends. For others, Twitter is a broadcast medium. For still others, Twitter is all about marketing. Engage is designed to help you maximize the reach of your tweets through analytics. If that’s not your thing, you may view the app as useless, but that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed out of hand.

What Engage does, it does well. This is not a replacement for your Twitter client, including because it pops up an alert offering to track your tweet stats in real-time after every post. Engage is more akin to a tool like Google Analytics.

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Game Day: Human Resource Machine

With WWDC just finished, I figured what better game to try than Human Resource Machine, a puzzle game with a development angle that has been available on the Mac and Windows since last Fall, but just debuted on iOS earlier this month. Human Resource starts out simply. You play Human Resource as a nameless worker tasked with moving boxes from an inbox conveyor belt to an outbox conveyor belt. The 41 levels become challenging quickly, but are a lot of fun and cleverly introduce programming concepts in a way that requires no prior knowledge of programming.

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