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Posts tagged with "productivity"

Elk Adds Lock Screen Currency Conversion

Elk, the currency converter app that we reviewed earlier this year has been updated with a smart feature that allows you to access a currency conversion table from the Lock screen of your iPhone. The feature is a hack in the best sense of the word. By leveraging your iPhone’s Lock screen wallpaper, Elk allows you to quickly get a ballpark sense of what something costs in another currency without unlocking your phone and navigating to the app.

The simple feature grew out of the developers’ practice of manually creating a currency conversion table and setting it as their Lock screen wallpapers. Like many tedious tasks though, there was a better solution through software that eliminated typing a conversion table before every trip.

To create a currency conversion wallpaper, open the currency table you want to show on your Lock screen in Elk and tap the share icon. By default, the app will show you the system wallpapers available on your iPhone along with previews of three different currency tables overlaid on the selected wallpaper. You can also navigate to the photos on your iPhone and pick one of those for your wallpaper. After you select an image, you can save it to your photo library with the currency conversion overlay as a still or Live Photo wallpaper. Finally, open up the Settings app and set your newly created image as the lock screen wallpaper.

That’s all there is to the feature, but it’s extraordinarily handy when you want to get a rough idea of a conversion on the go. I particularly like the Live Photo version of the wallpaper because I can enjoy the image on my Lock screen, but still get to the currency table with a short press on the screen.

Of course, the data overlaid on the wallpaper cannot be updated, but it’s close enough for short trips, and you can always regenerate the wallpaper periodically with the latest rates.

Elk is available on the App Store.


Soulver Updated with Split View Support and File Management Features

The iOS version of the calculator-replacement app, Soulver, received a big update today. The app, which combines elements of a text editor with a calculator, lets you work out problems the way you would describe them in writing. The latest version of Soulver, released earlier today, adds some key features for iPad users, greater cloud storage flexibility, and a host of other improvements.

For iPad users, Soulver has added support for Split View and Slide Over. Soulver is the perfect app to put in Split View as you reference other apps to collect numbers. I expect to get a lot of use out of this feature alone.

You no longer need to pick between storing your Soulver documents in iCloud or Dropbox. The app can now access documents in both cloud services and move items between them. If you enable support for both services, you can set one as the default in the app’s settings. You can also migrate documents from one service to the other from settings.

Soulver now supports importing from any file provider on your iOS device by long-pressing the plus button in the navigation bar and can recover deleted files from the trash by tapping the folder icon. Shake to undo, which is a nice trick, but not very discoverable, has also been abandoned in favor of a dedicated button in the navigation bar.

Flexibility is necessary for utilities like Soulver to remain relevant. With Split View support and more file management options, Soulver has laid a foundation for iOS 11 and beyond.

Soulver is available on the App Store.


ETA Update Automatically Calculates Calendar Event Travel Times

In the past, I rarely added locations to my calendar events unless I was going someplace I’d never been, but that’s changed since I started testing the update to ETA that was released today. The reason for the switch is a powerful new feature available as an In-App Purchase in ETA, which uses locations associated with events in your calendar to tell you when to leave for an appointment and how long it will take to get there.

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Luna Display Turns an iPad into a Second Screen for Your Mac

In June, I sat in the crowded lobby of the San Jose Marriott hotel just across from the convention center where WWDC was being held. The lobby was crammed full of developers and other people tapping away on Macs and iOS devices connected to the hotel’s WiFi. I sat down with the Astro HQ team for a demonstration of an upcoming hardware product called the Luna Display, a tiny dongle that turns an iPad into a wireless second display for a Mac.

Hotel WiFi is notoriously bad and the Marriott’s, which was ambushed by thousands of WWDC attendees, was holding up, but spotty. The Astro HQ team pulled out a tiny nubbin and connected it to a MacBook Pro’s USB-C port. After starting the Luna Display software on the Mac and an iPad, they were up and running with the iPad acting as a second display. Despite the shaky connection, the iPad performed admirably. It felt like magic.

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Transmit 5 Review

If you’ve used a Mac for a while, you’ve likely come across Panic’s file transfer app Transmit. Not long ago, I would have probably still described it as an FTP app even though it’s handled things like Amazon S3 file transfers for a while. However, with the recent release of version 5, Transmit for macOS has become much more than an FTP client adding support for ten cloud services. Moreover, Panic has taken the opportunity to rewrite its file transfer engine so that it’s faster, tweak virtually every feature, and update and streamline the app’s design. The result is an all-new Transmit that is both familiar and more capable than ever before.

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Streaks 3 Review

Streaks helps you set personal goals and stick to them using a combination of reminders and tracking. One of the hallmarks of the app, and what undoubtedly won it an Apple Design Award in 2016, is its obsessive attention to ease-of-use. By the very nature of its mission, Streaks is an app in which you shouldn’t spend a lot of time. Whether it’s in the main app, widget, or Apple Watch app, Streaks is designed to remove the friction of turning goals into habits by tracking tasks in a way that doesn’t become tedious, which makes it important to be able to mark items as completed quickly and easily.

It’s been interesting to watch Streaks evolve. As Streaks has added functionality and customization options with each version, the simplicity of its design has remained the app’s core design principle. One of the app’s most opinionated design decisions from the start was to limit users to tracking just six goals. Limiting the number of goals was meant to constrain users to an achievable number of goals and helped reduce complexity.

When I heard that Streaks was doubling the number of goals that can be tracked and adding in-depth statistics and other customizations, I immediately wondered whether that could be pulled off while maintaining Streaks’ signature design. The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ Version 3.0 of Streaks not only remains true to its roots, but it’s also the best version of the app yet.

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Yoink is the macOS Shelf Utility I Want on iOS Too

At WWDC, I was disappointed that the iOS 11 announcements didn’t include a shelf where content can be temporarily parked. When Federico and Sam Beckett made an iOS 11 concept video earlier this year they included a shelf, which felt like a natural way to make touch-based drag and drop simpler. I found the omission in the iOS 11 beta somewhat surprising. On the Mac, people use the Desktop as a temporary place to stash items all the time, and without a Desktop on iOS, a shelf that slides in from the edge of the screen seemed like a natural solution. In fact, it’s a solution that has an even more direct analog than the Desktop on macOS that makes a solid case for implementing something similar on iOS: Yoink, from Eternal Storms Software.

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NotePlan Calendar + Markdown + Notes Comes to iOS

When I first heard about NotePlan, I was intrigued. It was a Mac app that used a text format (Markdown) as a calendar-based system, a note for each day, allowing you to easily create tasks and take notes, then see it all in an organized calendar. NotePlan for iOS was released today, and it’s enough to sell me on the idea.

I have a lot of side projects (I suppose my whole life is side projects these days), and organizing todo lists is vital. I love using the TaskPaper format, with TaskPaper on Mac and Taskmator on iOS, to track action items for individual projects. I also have a calendar, and a bucket of notes. Combining all of this in one place is appealing to me, and being able to use it on both Mac and iOS makes it truly useful.

In NotePlan, tasks are created as Markdown lists. You can have it recognize any list item as a task, or tell it that only lines with a checkbox (- [ ] Thing to do) are action items. There’s an extra keyboard row available when editing that makes it easy to create items, complete or cancel them, or even schedule them for a future date.

Tasks can sync to Reminders lists as well, so it can incorporate into other workflows (and even shared lists). In the calendar view you can tap a day to see the note and associated task lists for that date.

Each day on the calendar gets a note, and you can add freeform notes in the All Notes area. A note can be bits of information, its own action list, or both. You can use #tags anywhere in the notes to organize, and wiki style links ([[title]] or [[YYYY-MM-DD]]) to reference other notes. Tasks added to freeform notes can be scheduled to the calendar with a tap, so you can use notes as a central project repository and schedule out the day’s (or week’s) tasks as you’re ready to tackle them.

NotePlan on iPhone

NotePlan on iPhone

On the new iOS version, you can drag and drop tasks around by pressing a text block until it turns blue and sliding it into place. You can also press and hold until it turns blue, then release and press another one to expand the selection between them, at which point NotePlan will offer you a toolbar to allow batch completion, rescheduling, etc.

I’d label NotePlan as a day planner, not a task manager like OmniFocus or Things. It’s ideal for planning out your day, Bullet Journal style. You won’t find extensive project management features or perspective overviews, but the combination of scheduling, tagging, and (plain text, portable) notes in one place makes it a true productivity tool.

If words like productivity, GTD, Markdown, TaskPaper and Bullet Journal cause a stirring within you, you’re probably the right audience for this one. Check out NotePlan for iOS, and then try out the Mac version for fully-synced productivity. Today and tomorrow, NotePlan for iOS is $11.99. After that, the price will be $14.99. NotePlan for Mac is $16.99.


Timing 2 Makes Time Tracking on Your Mac a Pleasure

Timing 2 for Mac is out today. I’ve been a long-time user of Timing, and have had the pleasure of beta testing the new version for a while now. It’s an excellent update to a great tool.

Timing is an app that runs on your Mac and tracks everything you do. Sounds creepy at first, but the data is completely safe, and the tracking is only for your own productivity purposes (never uploaded anywhere). By helping you see how you’re spending your time, you can start to change behaviors. Plus – because it can intelligently associate activities with actual projects – it serves as a detailed work timer for your paid projects.

Timing 2 comes in three versions: Productivity ($29), Professional ($49), and Expert ($79). No recurring payments needed, you own the app and you own your data. Some of the features I’ll be talking about are from the Expert version, so be sure to check the feature list before you purchase one of the other versions.

Timing tracks more than just what app you’re using. It will record what websites you visit, what documents you open, what folders you work in, and every way you spend time on your Mac. You can even add in notes about what you did while you were away from your Mac.

Timing 2 does a brilliant job of grouping tasks together and automatically assigning “keywords” to add new tasks to groups. You can also assign tracked tasks to projects, and do fine-grained editing on the criteria Timing uses to determine the purpose of the time it tracked.

Keywords and manual assignment of activities can be grouped into categories such as “Research” or “Podcasting.” As a result, you can easily see what activities you spent the most time on – and possibly realize that you’re not focusing on what you thought you were.

Timing also provides automatic suggestions for blocks of time that might belong together. It makes it easy to group activities and reap the benefits of manual time tracking with the ease of automation.

Timing 2 reports

Timing 2 reports

Then you get the reports. Timing 2 has truly upped its game in the data visualization section. Beautiful and useful graphs showing your most active times, most productive times, the type of work you spent your time on, and a pie chart of your most-used apps. Keep in mind that all of this is gathered automatically – you don’t have to configure anything to start getting detailed overviews.

When you edit a task, you can even assign a productivity rating to it. For me, an app like VLC gets a 25% productivity rating. A quarter of the time it’s active I’m watching something educational, but 75% of the time is probably less than productive. Now when I get reports, time tracked in VLC can automatically contribute to my overall productivity rating without unduly distorting it, and without me having to go in and manually mark each video as “productive” or “not.”

Timing 2 is the result of a solid year of development by Daniel Alm, who left his job at Google to work full time on it. In the process he’s turned a useful tool into an indispensable one for freelancers and productivity nerds. If that sounds interesting, go check it out!