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Posts in reviews

CARROT Weather Adds Powerful, Redesigned Apple Watch App

Version 4.3 of CARROT Weather for iOS launched today, bringing a ground-up redesign of its Apple Watch app that offers power and flexibility in a beautifully designed package.

CARROT Weather's story isn't that it had an old, out-dated Apple Watch app that's now finally become modern. Instead, today's update takes what was already a very good Watch app and replaces it with a great one.

Before this big redesign, CARROT's Watch app was already fast and flexible, with an assortment of customization options for things like complications. It even worked well when your Watch was running solo; by contrast, most third-party Watch apps depend entirely on a paired iPhone and can't function at all when untethered from the device. CARROT's new Watch app keeps all these positives, improves upon them, and adds a lot more to the package.

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Pixelmator Pro First Impressions: A Beautiful Modern Interface with Advanced Image Editing Tools

Five years in the making, Pixelmator Pro debuted today with an all-new look and host of new features. The new interface eliminates visual clutter and anchors tools in side panels, so you always know where they are. Much of the app’s chrome has been eliminated too, putting your project in the spotlight where you can focus on it and not the app. It’s a modern, clean style that makes the app feel spacious and professional.

Pixelmator Pro adds a raft of features as well. Layer styles, color adjustments, and effects are all highly customizable, can be saved as presets, and shared. I’ve only had a little over 24 hours to put Pixelmator Pro through its paces, but based on my first impressions, it’s an impressive debut that I expect will replace the original version of the app as my go-to image editor.

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MindNode 5: Digital Mind Mapping Finally Clicked for Me

I have a confession: I’m not a big mind map guy. I know Federico uses a mind map for his iOS review each year, and lots of other people love visualizing their thoughts that way too, but mind maps have never really clicked for me – at least not on computers.

Up until recently, whenever I needed to do a brain dump and get my thoughts better organized, I would often turn to pen, paper, and a hand-drawn mind map. It's an odd habit, since I shun paper for digital tools in every other case I can think of. Yet this one holdout remained.

My main problem with digital mind maps is that they have always felt unnatural. When using a traditional computer, moving and clicking via trackpad was cumbersome for me; with a format as creatively freeing as a mind map, it seems especially important to have freeform input methods. Even on devices like the iPad though, while touch input certainly helped remove a barrier, there was still always something missing in my view. Digital mind mapping still wasn't quite right.

MindNode 5 on iOS fixes that.

MindNode has long been one of the premier mind mapping apps for Mac and iOS, and its version 5 is a huge update that, for me at least, centers around two main changes: a streamlined, intuitive user interface, and the adoption of drag and drop support. There's a lot more to this update than those two things, with plenty of goodies that die-hard MindNode fans will appreciate, but for users like me – those dissatisfied with digital mind mapping, or even inexperienced at it altogether – the most important changes are those that make the app more approachable, and the new UI and drag and drop certainly do that.

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Scrivener 3 for macOS Is More Flexible and Powerful Than Ever for Long-Form Writing

Many text editors are just that – text editors. They take a document-focused approach to writing that centers on creating text. It’s an approach that works for most kinds of writing. However, long-form writing is a different animal altogether that benefits from a project-based approach that also includes tools for planning, organizing, researching, and tracking. Today, Literature and Latte released version 3.0 of Scrivener for macOS with a long list of new features that cements its spot as one of the premier project-focused apps available on the Mac for long-form writing.

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Lookmark Now Tracks App Updates

Lookmark is a bookmarking and monitoring service for iTunes content. It’s an excellent way to save apps, movies, books, and other media for later. Users who purchase a subscription can also use Lookmark to track price changes for apps, which is useful for bargain hunters. Today, Lookmark released an update that pushes the app further into the realm of app monitoring that started with price tracking. Now, users can also track when iOS and macOS apps are updated on the App Store and Mac App Store.

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Focos: Powerful Depth Image Controls in a Fun Package

The iPhone's camera has long been one of its most important features. Every year when new models are introduced, it's a sure bet that camera improvements are part of the package. Last year that remained true, but it also proved an even more special year for the iPhone's camera setup. The introduction of dual rear-facing cameras with Portrait mode was something different – pictures no longer just looked a little better than on older iPhone models, they looked almost professional-quality.

This year, whether you picked up a new iPhone or not, Portrait mode is a better feature than before. Part of this is due to software improvements in iOS 11, but another key benefit is that third-party developers now have access to the depth information in Portrait photos. For the first time, Portrait images taken with the iPhone can be edited and enhanced in unique ways, and Focos is a new app that takes full advantage of that opportunity.

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RAW Power for iOS Review

Earlier this year, I reviewed RAW Power for macOS and was impressed by its power and flexibility. Yesterday, Gentlemen Coders released a no-compromises version of RAW Power for iOS that matches the macOS version’s features and adds the ability to manage your photo library and make Depth Effect edits to Portrait mode photographs. There are a few rough edges here and there, but by and large, the app delivers on its promise of desktop-class, non-destructive photo editing on iOS devices.

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Playground AR: A Physics Sandbox for Freeform Play

One of childhood's simple joys for many of us was getting our creative juices flowing by playing with building blocks. It's one of those tactile, imaginative outlets that adulthood features far less of. Blocks also brought the added benefit of getting to destroy the work you'd built – a task similarly delightful to the actual building.

Recently my wife and I were babysitting twin 1-year-old boys, owners of a big bucket full of colorful, cardboard bricks. All throughout the night I enjoyed building small towers with the bricks, and the boys would have a blast knocking those towers down. Even when they were on the other side of the room distracted by something else, if they saw me stack three or more bricks together, they'd quickly come running to play demolition crew.

Playground AR is a new app from developer Marc Sureda that uses ARKit to bring the joys of childhood play to all ages – and with no mess to clean up either. The app provides a variety of toys that let you both build and destroy, with a physics system backing it all up to make the experience a delight.

There are three main modes in Playground AR: one is for placing objects in your playground, another lets you better survey and capture photos of what you've built, and the last is for picking up and moving existing objects. Objects you can place of course include blocks of varying shapes and sizes, but there are also lots of other fun, interesting toys to experiment with – trucks, helicopters, dice, spinning widgets, and more.

The physics engine is what makes Playground truly shine. Stacking blocks too high, for example, will cause your creation to topple over if the stack isn't well-balanced. Dominos can be strung together in an elaborate setup then knocked down by a rolling ball. Magnetized blocks will stick together even if gravity or another object forces them to fall. Balloons can be attached to objects, and depending on an object's weight and the number of balloons, the object will eventually be sent flying into the stratosphere. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite physics demonstration: placing bombs and TNT containers in your playground to blow everything up. It's brilliant.

If you want to spend some time goofing around in an AR sandbox, building and destroying in all kinds of creative ways, you can pickup Playground AR on the App Store for $1.99.