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Posts tagged with "utility"

1Blocker for Mac Introduces New Features and a Subscription-Based Business Model

I wish I didn’t feel like I needed an ad blocker, but so much of the Internet is junked up with intrusive, distracting advertising, that it’s virtually impossible to use some websites. I don’t have an issue with most advertising, but there’s a line that is crossed too often and ruins the reading experience of many sites. Where that line is varies subjectively by person, but that’s precisely why having a flexible ad blocker like 1Blocker is crucial.

The other reason to use 1Blocker is that content blockers like it manage more than just ads. Comments, share buttons, and social media badges are only a few of the many annoyances found on sites these days. Add to those, things like trackers and bitcoin mining code, and even if you don’t block a single ad, there is still plenty to block.

1Blocker has been one of my favorite utilities since it was introduced with iOS 9 and content blockers were new to iOS. The iOS version was followed by a Mac version the next year. 2018 saw the release of 1Blocker X on iOS, which split blocking rules into multiple categories to get around rule limits imposed by the OS. With the latest update to 1Blocker’s Mac app, that same functionality has been brought to the Mac along with a redesign of the app’s UI and a new subscription-based business model.

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MakePass: Create Your Own Apple Wallet Passes on the Mac

I often find myself reaching for my iPhone or iPad to do something that can’t be done at all or as quickly on my Mac. If I’m already working at my desk in front of my Mac, though, that requires a context switch that slows me down and often leads to being distracted by something else. One of the areas where this happens most frequently is with specialized, single-purpose utilities that are plentiful on iOS and iPadOS, but often unavailable on the Mac.

A terrific example that just debuted on the Mac as a Mac Catalyst app is MakePass, an app for generating Apple Wallet passes. Whether it’s a health club membership card, bus pass, grocery store loyalty card, or concert ticket, MakePass can turn them all into digital passes stored inside Apple’s Wallet app where they are organized and out of the way.

Several apps offer functionality similar to MakePass’ on the iOS and iPadOS App Store. However, my searches turned up none on the Mac App Store. That may be because Apple’s Wallet app is an iPhone-only app, but it’s handy to be able to make passes on your Mac too because that’s one of the places where codes come into your life.

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Prizmo 5 for iOS Delivers Fast Scanning and Powerful OCR

I own a ScanSnap S1300i scanner, but I’m not sure why anymore. I used to scan paper documents and store them on my Mac. I’d OCR the scans, so they would be text searchable, and I used Hazel rules to organize them in folders automatically. However, I realized recently that not only do I rarely need to refer back to those scanned documents, but most are already available in electronic form online. If I need to look at an old credit card statement or bill, I can log into those accounts to find the information I need, so I tossed my scanner in a drawer.

Important bits of paper still come into my life now and then, but I’ve found that an iOS scanning app is more convenient for the volume of scanning I do now. There are lots of terrific apps on iOS to capture and organize scans, but Prizmo by Creaceed, which I’ve been testing for the past week, has quickly become one of my favorites, distinguishing itself with its ease of capture and terrific OCR functionality.

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Flighty: A Pro-Level iOS App for Frequent Travelers

Good flight tracking apps are few and far between. Simply by having a top-notch design, Flighty is superior to most of its competition. There’s more to the app than superior design though. Flighty combines smart design choices with traveler-centric features to generate a comprehensive picture of every flight you track. The result is a pro-level travel app that’s an excellent fit for frequent travelers.

That said, Flighty isn’t for everyone. The app is free to download and use to track basic flight details. However, much of Flighty’s value lies in its granular level of flight detail, extensive push notification options, and inbound flight tracking, which require an expensive subscription.

You can try Flighty’s pro features free for 14 days, after which the subscription costs $8.99/month or $69.99/year, which is currently $49.99/year for a limited time. That’s more than any other flight tracking app I’ve tried, but I expect many travelers who spend lots of time in the air will be willing to pay monthly or annually.

Fliers who don’t need push notifications or the level of detail Flighty’s subscription offers can still track basic flight data with the free version of the app. However, as I’ll explain in greater detail below, the prominence of banners advertising the app’s pro subscription doesn’t make that a good option.

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Soulver 3 for Mac: The MacStories Review

The strength of Soulver lies in its flexibility. Full-fledged spreadsheet apps like Numbers and Excel have their place. However, day-to-day life requires calculations that don’t demand that level of horsepower and benefit from contextualizing numbers with text. It’s the kind of math that happens in notebooks and on the back of envelopes. By combining elements of a text editor, spreadsheet, and plain English syntax, Soulver commits those easily-lost notebook scribblings to a format that allows for greater experimentation and easier sharing.

During WWDC last week, Acqualia Software released a major update to the app. Soulver 3 for Mac features an updated design and substantial new functionality that I love. The app has never been easier to use, and its implementation of a sidebar to corral sheets is fantastic.

However, unlike its predecessor, version 3‘s file format is incompatible with the iOS version of the app and earlier Mac versions. Soulver also saves its data as a single ‘sheetbook’ file now, which means it can no longer save or manage sheets as individual files saved to arbitrary locations on your Mac. Both changes will be problematic for some users who may want to wait for future updates that the app’s developer has said are in the works.

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Timery for Toggl: The MacStories Review

I have a long, rocky relationship with time tracking. For years I tracked my time because I had to; clients were billed by the hour. I hated the tedium of it. A big part of that was because I didn’t have access to time tracking apps. Instead, I kept track of my time in a notebook or a plain-text document. When I left that job, I celebrated, figuring that I’d left time tracking in my wake. I was very wrong.

No sooner had I started writing and podcasting full-time than I found myself tracking every minute that I work again. There was a difference this time though. I was doing it for myself to ensure I spent my time wisely; no longer was I just feeding the back-end to an invoicing system.

Time tracking helps me weigh the value of the time I spend on every project, identify inefficiencies in the way I work, and acts as an early warning system to avoid burnout. Tracking for my own benefit has made all the difference in the world, but it didn’t make keeping up with the habit any easier. For that, I needed a better set of tools than a notebook or text file.

The service I decided on was Toggl, which Federico and a few other friends were already using. It’s perfect for anyone tracking their time for their own purposes because the service has a generous free tier. If you want more extensive reporting, advanced features, or project and team management though, there are paid tiers too.

Toggl also offers a rich web API. That was important when I first started using Toggl because early versions of its iOS and Mac apps weren’t great. Those apps have improved, but early on, I switched to using Federico’s Toggl workflows which evolved into his current set of Toggl shortcuts alongside the Toggl web app running in a Fluid browser instance on my Mac.

Toggl running as a Fluid browser app.

Toggl running as a Fluid browser app.

I’m still using Toggl in a Fluid browser on my Mac, but since last summer, I’ve been using the beta of Joe Hribar’s Timery on iOS and loving it. In fact, Timery is so good that even when I’m at my Mac, I find myself turning to it to start and stop timers instead of the web app. There are additional features I’d like to see Timery implement, which I’ll cover below, but for flexible, frictionless time tracking, you can’t beat Timery. The app has been on my Home screen for months now and gets a workout seven days a week. Here’s why.

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