We are on the cusp of a financial revolution fueled by crypto-currencies and Balance makes it easy for everyone to get involved. You’ve probably heard of Bitcoin, one of the earliest crypto-currencies, but there are others including Ethereum. Balance connects to the most popular crypto-currency exchanges like Coinbase along with traditional financial institutions bridging the gap between the old financial world and the new one.
Balance connects with crypto-currency exchanges as well as traditional bank accounts, investment accounts, credit cards, and online services like PayPal using Plaid, a super-secure platform that works with financial institutions around the world.
When you set up accounts in Balance, the app automatically updates them periodically with new transactions, so you’re always up to date. You can view balances, transactions, notifications and gain insights about your spending. Soon, Balance will release an iOS version of their app too.
Balance is ready for the future. The current financial system is based on outdated, legacy software. Blockchains are the bedrock of a more secure and open system based on cryptocurrencies, but not many people are using them yet. Balance is poised to change that by becoming a single destination for traditional financial accounts and crypto-currency exchanges.
Balance has a great offer for MacStories readers who want to see what crypto-currencies are all about. Just go to bal.money/macstories this week and submit your email address to join the Balance iOS beta when it's released along with $2 worth of Ether in a Coinbase account that you can track with Balance. It’s a great way to see for yourself what the financial world’s future looks like.
Our thanks to Balance for sponsoring MacStories this week.
Google introduced Motion Stills on iOS in 2016. The app enables users to convert Live Photos into movies or GIFs applying stabilization to the video in the process. Live Photos can also be combined into moving collages.
Google has released version 2.0, which dispenses with the need to access your photo library to add Live Photos to a Motion Still. Instead, the app can now capture Live Photos and Motions Stills from within the app itself. The option to import from your photo library is still there, but having the option to shoot from within the Motion Stills app is a convenient addition. The new version also lets you delete Live Photos from your photo library with a swipe gesture and export collages you create as GIFs.
Motion Stills is available on the App Store.
In updates to Readdle’s Spark app for iOS and macOS released today, the email client gained two key power user features: send later and follow-up reminders.
Send later works exactly as you would expect. When composing an email, hitting the send later button in the compose bar will present several default options for when you’d like the message sent: Later Today, This Evening, and Tomorrow. Perhaps the most common use case will be responding to emails late at night and wanting them to send as soon as the next work day kicks off, which the Tomorrow option is perfect for. Thankfully, you can also set a custom date and time. Once you schedule the delivery time, Spark will take care of the rest.
With follow-up reminders, there are five default options joining the custom date picker: Later Today, This Evening, Tomorrow, Weekend, and Next Week. This feature serves to stifle a key pain point I’ve regularly encountered in email management: reminding me to follow up on an email when I don’t receive a response.
In the past I’ve tackled this problem by pairing my email client with a task manager, such that after sending an important, time-sensitive message, I would assign myself a task to follow up with a second email on a certain date in the future. The problem with this approach is that it requires two apps, and that my task manager has no way of communicating with my email inbox – it doesn’t know if I received a response to the message or not, meaning I may end up with an unnecessary task on my list. Integrating this function within an email client is exactly the right move, and Spark does it well. When your set follow-up point arrives, if you haven’t received a response yet, the sent message reappears at the top of your inbox with an icon denoting it’s a reminder. It’s easy from there to open the original email and send a quick follow-up.
The team at Readdle continues adding functionality into Spark that sets it apart as a true productivity-focused email client. With third-party integrations, snoozing, deep customization options, and now the ability to send later and receive follow-up cues, Spark is growing into an email powerhouse that every power user should give a serious look.
On this week's episode of AppStories, with Federico’s trip to the United States for the Release Notes conference just around the corner, we talk about the travel apps we use, from planning a trip, to getting around an unfamiliar city.
- Bear - A beautiful app for crafting notes and prose.
- 1Blocker – Make Safari browsing fast, safe, and productive.
Following just a few days behind Pixelmator for Mac, which recently received support for HEIF and editing files stored in Apple Photos, Pixelmator for iOS was updated today with the aforementioned HEIF support – Apple’s new file format for images in iOS 11 – as well as drag and drop support on iPad.
Drag and drop enables, as you might expect, moving images and graphics out of or into Pixelmator. Dropping images into a work in progress will import them all as new layers. Depending on the size and number of images you’re dropping, there may be a brief delay before they appear in your working document, but overall this action works well. When it comes to dragging content out of Pixelmator, you’ll need to do it with a single layer at a time – once you’ve lifted a layer, you can’t use drag and drop to pick up any additional layers. In a document containing many different layers, this can be fairly limiting, but there is a type of workaround: you can merge layers together in the sidebar to then drag the newly merged layer out of the app as a single image. Unfortunately, this only solves the problem if you want both layers permanently combined into one when dropping them elsewhere.
This layer merge technique is the only way I’ve discovered to drag a final image, containing multiple layers, out of Pixelmator and into another app – if you don’t want to first merge all layers together, you’ll have to use a more traditional data transfer technique like the share sheet. I would have liked to see drag and drop enabled within Pixelmator’s main image browser for moving a completed image out of the app, or for importing photos into the app to edit later. Currently, long-pressing an item from the image browser simply engages rearrange mode.
One nice side effect of drag and drop support is that when dealing with layers that don’t fit inside your canvas – such as an image you’ve dragged in that’s larger than the canvas itself – previously it was difficult to easily determine how large the full layer was. But now, grabbing the layer and watching it lift from the screen will provide a view of the full image, regardless of canvas size. Once you start dragging the layer away, it will shrink into a smaller drag preview, but until that move is engaged, the lifted image will be shown in full.
Despite its limitations, drag and drop support in Pixelmator is definitely great to have; before today I have tried several times to drag images into the app only to remember I couldn’t do that yet. Perhaps when the upcoming Pixelmator Pro arrives on the iPad, it will include a richer implementation of drag and drop. Until then, I’m grateful to have one less app limiting my iPad drag and drop experience.
Bear is a beautiful, award-winning app for crafting notes and prose. It’s simple yet powerful, and flexible enough to be a personal journal, scratchpad, and webpage clippper. You can write a book with Bear, or just keep all those little snippets and files that don’t fit elsewhere. Bear works on iPad, iPhone, Mac and, soon, Apple Watch.
There are a lot of great perks and smart polish in Bear. It fully supports Markdown, uses #tags and nested tags for organization, stores all notes in plain text, has incredibly powerful search operators, and it can handle anything—text, photos, links, tasks, and even files. Bear syntax highlights over 20 coding languages, and exports notes to a variety of formats including PDF, HTML, RTF, and even JPG for sharing on social media.
Bear is free to use. To enable sync across all devices, pick from a wide variety of themes, use all export options, and support future awesomeness coming to Bear, subscribe to Bear Pro. It’s just $1.49 a month, or $14.99 a year (about 15 percent off), and all existing and future Bear Pro features will be unlocked.
Check out the Bear Blog and FAQs with tips and guides on how to get the most out of Bear.
Our thanks to Bear for sponsoring MacStories this week.
Pixelmator, which announced Pixelmator Pro is coming later this year, has released an interim update to the current version of its image editor that adds full compatibility with macOS High Sierra.
In addition to bug fixes, Pixelmator 3.7 supports importing HEIF image files. Pixelmator can be opened directly from Apple Photos now too. The feature, which was added to Apple Photos as part of High Sierra, allows users to choose an image in Apple Photos, but edit it in Pixelmator. All edits made in Pixelmator will be saved back to the original file in Apple Photos. Pixelmator posted a video that explains how the feature works:
Pixelmator is available on the Mac App Store.
Protanopia is a reimagination of what a comic book can be on an iOS device. The short comic is a stand-alone Universal app, that tells the story of soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy during World War II.
The free comic is the work of artist Andre Bergs who describes the book as follows:
Created as an experiment into the possibilities of digital comics. Using elements from 3D and 2D animation in a realtime game engine, it creates an unique visual style, whilst still having a familiar feeling.
As the landing craft bobs on the waves, the soldiers inside it move too. By layering the 2D art and animating each layer independently, a 3D effect is created. By itself, it’s a cool effect that brings the comic to life, but there’s more to it than that. The comic also responds to tilting your iOS device. You can tilt your iPhone or iPad to get a different perspective on the scene and peek at details that can’t be viewed from certain angles.
Protanopia is unlike any other comic I’ve read. While tilt control may not suit the storyline of every comic, it adds a dynamism to this story that makes it come alive in a way that static art doesn’t. It’s fascinating to see game engine technology deployed in a different medium and something with which I’d love to see more artist experiment.
Protanopia is available on the App Store.
Sonos made several major announcements today, launching the company’s products further into their roles as platform-agnostic options in a market increasingly segmented by ecosystem. The last few years have seen an avalanche of new interest in the home speaker space from major players like Amazon, Google, and Apple, and without the accompanying ecosystems those players possess, Sonos stood at a crucial juncture: it could seek to further establish its own platform and compete directly with the tech titans, or it could aim to stand outside that main battleground and make products that tie together the benefits of all ecosystems. They clearly have chosen the latter, and today’s announcements demonstrate the fruits of that decision.