Posts tagged with "utility"

GameTrack Review: An Elegant Way to Discover, Track, and Share Videogames

There is far more media I’d like to try than I have time for. Between TV shows, movies, music, books and other reading, podcasts, and videogames, the supply of content far outstrips the time I have by an order of magnitude. As a result, I’m both picky and often slow to getting around to some media, especially games, which often require a substantial time commitment. The trouble is that it’s easy to lose track of games I’ve read about, that someone has recommended, and even those that I’m in the middle of playing if I can’t play regularly.

I’ve approached the problem in a lot of different ways. Text notes are a quick and portable solution but lack detail. Apps designed to track lots of different kinds of media have the benefit of consolidating everything in one place, but often don’t accommodate features specific to one kind of media. As a result, I’ve recently gravitated to apps that focus on just a single type of media. For videogames, that solution has been GameTrack, an app that we’ve covered in our Club MacStories newsletters in the past.

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Fontcase Simplifies Custom Font Installation on iOS and iPadOS

On Friday, The Iconfactory announced that it has collaborated with Manolo Sañudo, the developer of open-source font installation utility xFonts, on a new version of the app, which has been renamed Fontcase. The app greatly simplifies the process of installing custom fonts on iOS and iPadOS. Fontcase isn’t the first utility to do this. However, Fontcase has the advantage of being free and open-source, which should provide users confidence that it’s secure.

Security is an issue with font installers because they require a configuration profile to be installed in the Settings → General section of your iPhone or iPad. Configuration profiles can control important aspects of iOS and iPadOS that could be misused. Because Fontcase is open source, its code is publicly available for anyone to review to make sure it isn’t doing anything unexpected. However, even if you don’t review the code yourself, the mere fact that it is publicly available provides some comfort that someone else has done so.

Using Fontcase’s document browser integration to locate fonts to install.

Using Fontcase’s document browser integration to locate fonts to install.

You’ll spend most of your time in Fontcase’s Fonts tab, which is controlled by two buttons marked Import and Install. Import takes advantage of the document browser feature of iOS and iPadOS, opening the familiar Files UI for navigating to a folder in iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or another file provider where you have fonts saved that you want to install. Select the fonts you want and tap Open, and they will appear in Fontcase’s UI using the font itself to provide users with a mini-preview.

Tap any font you’ve imported to see metadata and a preview.

Tap any font you’ve imported to see metadata and a preview.

Tap on a font imported into Fontcase, and the app displays metadata about it along with a full preview of the font. On the iPhone, this makes sense, but it’s too bad that on the iPad, Fontcase doesn’t make use of a list and detailed view layout for the preview of fonts. Instead, there’s a vast empty space on the right-hand side of the iPad UI.

Fontcase’s installation workflow.

Fontcase’s installation workflow.

Once you’re ready to install your collection of fonts, tap Install, which bundles all of the fonts you’ve imported into a single configuration profile. Tap Download Fonts, and the profile is saved and ready for installation in Settings → General → Profiles. Tap on the Fontcase Installation profile in the Downloaded Profile section and follow the prompts to finalize the installation. Once installed, the fonts will be available alongside the system-provided fonts in apps like The Iconfactory’s Tot, as well as many other apps that support custom fonts, including Apple’s own Pages.

It’s nice to see The Iconfactory contributing to an open-source project to provide a safe and simple way to add fonts to iOS and iPadOS. If you’re looking for good writing fonts to try with the app, I like iA Writer’s Duo font and Courier Prime, both of which are available to download for free.

Fontcase is available as a free download on the App Store and is compatible with the iPhone and iPad.


Directive: A Terrific Way to Manage Recurring Maintenance Tasks

When I look back at the apps I’ve used over the last several years, there is an unmistakable ebb and flow between generalized apps that try to do and be everything and those that don’t. The former type has the benefit of reducing the overhead of having to track data in multiple apps by centralizing it. However, the focus of the latter often allows them to fulfill a particular need better than a general-purpose app ever could. Directive, a new app released today by LittleFin on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, is a perfect example of a thoughtfully-designed, focused utility for managing recurring maintenance tasks.

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Due Adds Modern Shortcuts Support with New Reminder Creation Parameters

At some point, I think everyone who manages their work and personal lives in a task manager runs into a clutter problem. With everything from reminders to move my laundry from the washer to the dryer to another to publish our latest MacStories project, it often feels like my list of tasks never gets shorter.

If you’ve ever experienced that feeling yourself, or just want a lightweight way to quickly manage your life, Due is a fantastic option that Federico and I have both covered since it first debuted in the earliest days of the App Store. What I like so much about Due is that by moving short-term, smaller tasks out of my main task manager to it, my primary task manager becomes more focused and easier to use. It’s also so simple to add reminders and timers to Due that I’m far more likely to use the app for ephemeral to-dos, reducing day-to-day mental overhead.

The core functionality of Due has remained the same since Federico’s review of version 2.0 and my review of version 3.0, which are great places to start if you’re unfamiliar with the app. What I said in my review of 3.0 is as true today as ever:

Due is a pro-user implementation of reminders and timers. The app has one of the best quick-entry UIs I’ve used in an app. Picking dates and times is a clunky, laborious process in most apps, but Due gets it right making it simple to add a date and time to a reminder with a combination of natural language recognition and a unique date and time grid.

With today’s release of version 20.5 of Due, the app adds updated Shortcuts support complete with actions with parameters, which I expect will make Due an integral component of many users’ shortcuts. The app’s numbering scheme changed earlier this year, too, jumping from version 3 to 20 to indicate the release year.

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TV Forecast Review: An Elegant Way to Track Your Favorite Shows

I’ve tried a lot of TV tracking apps and none ever stuck for long, until I tried TV Forecast. Some of the apps I’ve used had busy UIs, were hard to navigate, or just weren’t organized in a way that fits with how I watch TV. In contrast, I’ve been using TV Forecast for the last 11 months and absolutely love it. TV Forecast elegantly combines a simple, modern design aesthetic with smooth, fluid UI that carefully balances the shows you already watch with effortless browsing of new shows.

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Service Station Review: A Handy Utility to Customize Your Finder’s Contextual Menu

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of Finder Sync Extensions. I haven’t run across many apps other than Dropbox and HoudahSpot that support the feature. Finder extensions allow third-party developers to customize the Finder on the Mac with buttons in the Finder’s toolbar or changes to the contextual menu that’s displayed when you right-click on a file.

Service Station adds apps and scripts to the top level of your Mac's contextual menu based on rules you define.

Service Station adds apps and scripts to the top level of your Mac’s contextual menu based on rules you define.

Service Station is a new Mac utility that takes advantage of Finder extensions by letting users create rules to control when and which apps are displayed in the right-click contextual menu. The app can also be used to kick off AppleScript and shell scripts and Automator workflows. These are all tasks that macOS already supports in one way or another, but Service Station surfaces them as top-level contextual menu options and can be customized to suit your individual needs, which makes this a very handy tool.

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Highlights for iPhone and iPad: An Excellent Companion for Researchers

I wish I had Highlights for iOS and iPadOS when I was a lawyer. Back then, it wasn’t unusual for me to review PDFs of legal documents that were hundreds of pages long. Unfortunately, the digital tools I had for annotating those documents were primitive. So instead, I typically fell back on marking up hard copies with highlighters and adding notes in the margins.

Highlights is a PDF annotation app that’s been available on the Mac for a long time but is brand new on iOS and iPadOS. The app translates the analog process of marking up a PDF to the digital world very well by providing tools that demonstrate an understanding of the needs of students, researchers, and anyone who spends a lot of time with PDFs.

I don’t have the same PDF needs I once did, but as I’ve used Highlights the past couple of weeks, I’ve appreciated its flexibility and power, and I expect that anyone who works with lots of PDFs will too.

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Sensei: A Beautifully-Designed Dashboard and Set of Utilities for Your Mac

Sensei is a brand new Mac app that monitors the status of various components of your Mac’s hardware and provides a set of utilities to optimize its performance. The app is certainly not the first to offer these features – there are tools built into macOS and third-party apps that can accomplish many of the same functions, and in some cases more. However, what sets Sensei apart, and what has quickly won me over, is its ability to translate the data it collects and implement its utilities in a beautifully-designed, standalone app.

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iOS Photo Metadata Utility Metapho Adds Deep Fusion and Night Mode Photo Detection

Metapho has been one of my favorite photo utilities on iOS for years. The marquee feature has always been its ability to strip metadata from images, which is handy when sharing photos online, for instance. Over time though, Metapho has grown to incorporate other functionality for inspecting and editing photo metadata that has made the app a must-have iOS utility. With its latest update, Metapho has added Deep Fusion and Night Mode photo detection, an intriguing addition that I haven’t seen any other app offer.

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