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Posts tagged with "app"

Transit Is Still the Best-Designed Transit App on the iPhone in 2024

I like trains. I like them so much that, despite being 27 years old now, I still don’t have a driving license. I travel by train and use public transit exclusively to get around in my daily life. The island where I grew up had none of that, and it has made the car a fundamental necessity for most inhabitants there. But I’m fortunate enough to live in continental France now, in a city where I can get anywhere pretty quickly by hopping on a bus, tram, train, or even a high-speed train.

The result is that I spend a lot of time on my phone on a daily basis looking up transit itineraries and glancing at waiting times. Like in most places in the world where public transit is a thing, you can use the transit authority’s first-party application or website to do this. There is a universal truth about those apps and sites, though: they are almost always really bad. They’re slow, confusing, and often bloated with useless information. This is why, for so many years now – since I first arrived in France in 2014 – I’ve been a huge fan of Transit.

Transit is an amazing app that lets you look up transit itineraries and will even guide you along as you travel to your destination. The app has been around for a long time, but my mission today is simple: I want to tell you why I believe Transit is still the best-designed transit app available on the iPhone right now.

Let’s get into it.

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Vision Pro App Spotlight: Status Bar Builder’s Key Is Customization Combined with Simplicity

There’s an elegance in simplicity that I value. I use plenty of complex apps, but there’s a certain satisfaction in finding one that fits your needs perfectly. One such app that seems destined to claim a long-term spot on my Vision Pro is Status Bar Builder, a customizable utility that displays useful information without taking up much space.

Status Bar Builder's UI for organizing and creating status bars.

Status Bar Builder’s UI for organizing and creating status bars.

The app allows you to build status bars, which are narrow, horizontal windows reminiscent of the Mac’s menu bar that you can place around your environment. Status bars come in three text sizes and can have no background, be translucent, or use a colored background.

Regardless of the styling you pick, status bars can include:

  • Shortcuts
  • Links
  • Today’s date
  • Weekday
  • Numerical date
  • Month
  • Time
  • Your calendar events
  • A battery charge indicator
  • A spacer
Adding items to a status bar.

Adding items to a status bar.

Designing status bars is easy. They’re created and stored in the app’s main window, which includes a preview of each along with buttons to open any existing status bars, make revisions, or delete them. At the bottom of the main window, there’s also a ‘New’ button to add to your collection.

You can make as many status bars as you’d like, sprinkling them around your room. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to how many items you can include in a status bar, either, but as a practical matter, if a status bar gets too long, it doesn’t look great, and some text will be truncated.

Adding shortcuts to a status bar.

Adding shortcuts to a status bar.

What’s more, you can add as many of each type of item as you’d like to a status bar. For Shortcuts, that means you can create a long list of shortcuts if you want. However, you better be able to identify them by their icons because the buttons in the status bar don’t include shortcut names or the colors you assigned to them.

Links work like a mini bookmark bar, allowing you to save frequently visited websites with a custom icon as a button in your status bar. However, like shortcuts, you’ll need a memorable icon because there are no link labels or other text to go by. Links support URL schemes too, offering additional automation options.

Links and shortcuts can be represented by an icon.

Links and shortcuts can be represented by an icon.

There are also a few other other item-specific settings available. For example, there are three sizes of spacers that can be added to a status bar, and calendar events can include the color of their associated calendars if you’d like. Plus, dates and times have formatting, color, size, and other style options. It’s worth noting that your next calendar event doesn’t include the scheduled time and events cannot be opened, both of which are things I’d love to see added to the app in the future.

Although you can overstuff your status bars with links, shortcuts, and other information, I’ve found that the best approach is to be picky, limiting yourself to a handful of items that make your status bars more glanceable. Then, if you find yourself adding more and more to a status bar, consider breaking it up into multiple status bars organized thematically. I find that works well and gives me more flexibility about where I put each.

I have to imagine that Apple will eventually release something like Status Bar Builder. It’s too easy to lose track of time in the Vision Pro. It needs a clock, battery indicator, date, and other basic data we’ve had on our iPhones since day one. Status Bar Builder fills that gap but goes one step further by adding links, calendar items, and shortcuts. I wouldn’t add a lot more to the app, but a weather item with the current conditions and temperature would be great. However, even though parts of Status Bar Builder may eventually wind up as parts of visionOS, I expect the app has a long and useful life ahead of it, thanks to the other components that go a step further than I expect Apple ever will.

Status Bar Builder is available on the App Store for $4.99.

Simple Scan: A Scanning Solution for People Who Don’t Scan Often

One of my favorite kinds of apps is simple utilities that solve a common problem and are straightforward to use. That’s exactly what Greg Pierce has created with Simple Scan, a scanning app for the iPhone and iPad that simplifies the process of one-off document scans.

Simple Scan is entering a crowded scanning market. Many scanning utilities also help you organize your scans, store them in the cloud, submit expense reports, and more. There are people who need that sort of extended feature set, but somewhere along the way, people with simpler needs have been forgotten.

That’s exactly my situation. I occasionally scan a receipt for one reason or another, but it’s not something I do often. As a result, it doesn’t make sense for me to pay a lot for a scanning app with features I’ll rarely use. Nor do I want to use a free version with ads, which is why I like Simple Scan so much.

Simple Scan has two options and a big ‘Scan Document’ button. Pick whether you want to create a PDF or an image, select a destination, then point your device’s camera at a document and start scanning. That’s all there is to it. Destinations include email, Messages, the Files app, and the system share sheet, covering all the obvious places you’d want to send most scans.

There are four scanning modes including color and black and white.

There are four scanning modes including color and black and white.

The destination options in Simple Scan are key. You can already scan documents into Apple Notes, but it adds to the overhead of scanning and clutters Notes with one-off scans. With Simple Scan, you’re up and running faster and with more options for where to store or send your documents.

The scanning process uses Apple’s built-in scanning feature, allowing you to drag points to the corners of your document for cropping. The app also supports:

  • Manual or automatic shutter
  • Color, Greyscale, black and white, and photo scans
  • Automatic, on, and off settings for your camera’s flash

Plus, there’s a toggle in settings to turn OCR of PDF files on or off.

As you scan pages, they stack up as thumbnails in the corner of the screen, where you can tap on them to make basic edits or discard them. When you’re finished, there’s a Save button on the opposite side of the shutter button that sends the images to whatever destinations you’ve chosen. That’s all there is to Simple Scan, but for a lot of people, myself included, it’s also enough.

Simple Scan is free to download from the App Store and use for your first five scans. Paying $4.99 per year or $19.99 one time unlocks unlimited scans and custom destinations that allow you to pre-fill email and iMessage recipients.

Looks Like Rain: Visualizing the Weather on a Color-Coded Timeline

I’m always excited when a new weather app is released, especially when it’s a weather app that looks different from most of its counterparts. Looks Like Rain by Thinkbits is beautifully designed, and it certainly looks different, to say the least. The layout of the app is clean, the elements are well-spaced, and the color palette has clearly been composed with care. Most importantly, though, I’m absolutely loving its unique approach to visualizing the weather forecast on a color-coded timeline.

I’ve been using this brand-new weather app for the past few weeks on the iPhone, the iPad, and the Mac, and it has already earned a permanent place in the rotation of my favorite weather apps.

Let’s check it out.

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Apple Launches Free Sports App in the US, UK, and Canada

Today, Apple introduced a new iPhone-only app called Apple Sports. The free app is available to download from the App Store in the US, UK, and Canada, and, as Apple describes it in its press release:

gives sports fans access to real-time scores, stats, and more. Designed for speed and simplicity, the app’s personalized experience puts users’ favorite leagues and teams front and center, featuring an easy-to-use interface designed by Apple.

Apple’s senior vice president of Services, Eddy Cue said:

We created Apple Sports to give sports fans what they want — an app that delivers incredibly fast access to scores and stats. Apple Sports is available for free in the App Store, and makes it easy for users to stay up to date with their favorite teams and leagues.

Go Devils!

Go Devils!

The app includes a long list of leagues that can be tracked by sports fans:

  • MLS
  • NBA
  • NCAA basketball (men’s and women’s)
  • NHL
  • Bundesliga
  • LaLiga
  • Liga MX
  • Ligue 1
  • Premier League
  • Serie A

Apple says others will be added over time as their seasons begin, including MLB, NFL, NCAAF, NWSL, and WNBA.

I’ve taken a quick look at Apple Sports, and the design is great. There’s a lot of information but it’s all easily accessible and laid out in an easy-to-understand way. The app also syncs with the My Teams feature of Apple News and Apple TV, pulling my Duke Blue Devils directly from those apps into the Sports app without me having to do anything, which is nice.

Vision Pro App Spotlight: Parchi Brings Voice-Created Sticky Notes into Your Environment

Parchi is a new visionOS sticky note app by Vidit Bhargava, the maker of the dictionary app LookUp. The app is a straightforward, but handy utility for jotting down a quick note using your voice.

When you start recording, Parchi's record button turns into a big stop button.

When you start recording, Parchi’s record button turns into a big stop button.

When you launch the app, you’re greeted by a bright yellow gradient window with a big record button in the middle. Tap it and start speaking to record a note. Tap again to stop, and your audio recording will transform into a yellow sticky note with your recording transcribed into text. Once created, you can drag notes around your environment, leaving them in places where they will serve as valuable reminders. In the bottom corners of the note are buttons to play back your audio and delete the note.

The All Parchi view.

The All Parchi view.

You can also access all of your notes from the app’s main UI by switching from the ‘Parchi Recorder’ view to ‘All Parchis,’ which displays each of your notes as a horizontally scrolling collection. The ‘All Parchis’ view also includes a search field for finding particular notes in a large collection.

Leave notes where they make the most sense within your environment.

Leave notes where they make the most sense within your environment.

I love Parchi’s simplicity and ease of use, but I’d like to see it expanded a little too. The smallest size note is still somewhat large. It would be great if I could shrink them even further with the text transforming into a play button when there isn’t enough room to display it. I’d also like to see Siri and Shortcuts support added to make it possible to create a note without first opening the app. Finally, a copy button would make Parchi a better complement to task managers and other apps by allowing text to be moved to other apps as needed.

Overall, though, I’ve really enjoyed using Parchi. It’s the kind of quick interaction I appreciate when I’ve got something on my mind that I want to jot down without interrupting the flow of whatever else I’m doing.

Parchi is available on the App Store for $2.99.