Diet Coda is the code-editing app to get if you have to maintain websites from your iPad, and it just updated with some great new features. Files can now be stored locally and synced with Dropbox, and the app now supports a slew of new syntaxes, including Markdown. It's a $20 app, so only serious coders need apply.
Shawn Blanc invited me to write about iOS Pinboard apps for The Sweet Setup. It's a pretty crowded market these days, but after thoroughly testing the various Pinboard apps out there, we selected Pushpin as our top pick in the end. A very close second went to Pinswift.
Well, now they want to clear the air (see what I did there?) once and for all, by going back to a single, universal version of the app and making it temporarily free so that everyone can easily migrate over:
“As Apple doesn’t offer a way to migrate users between copies of an app, we’re going to make Clear free for 24 hours so owners of Clear+ can move to the correct version free of charge.
To make sure as many people as possible can move to Clear, we’re going to do this twice in the next few weeks. We know this is risky - we rely on the income from Clear to run our small, independent company - and so whilst this was by no means an easy decision for us to make, we simply want to do the right thing for you, our customers.”
The tagline for the app is "A Calculator Without Equal", which is not only clever from a marketing perspective, but also true because the app does not have an 'equals' button. It simply calculates answers on-the-fly, and lets you use swipe gestures to undo, redo, or archive an answer for later reference.
The app also has a certain charm to it, with helpful animations and pleasant sound effects throughout (you can see it in action here). It will even give useful error messages, like if you try to divide by zero.
“Chicago Avenue Moon is a responsive, generative music app that gathers a set of variables including date, time, phase of the moon, and GPS location, and uses that data to determine how its music unfolds, in real-time. The piece is intended for a listener in motion, whose route and speed affect the composition. Composer Joshua Dumas wrote 1000 brief musical phrases which the app manipulates, sequences, and layers to create trillions and trillions of variations, a unique experience with every listen.
He imagines the piece as a personalized soundtrack for strangers’ mundanities—an effort to help re-enchant a person’s daily commute, trip to the laundromat, or evening jog.”
Chicago Avenue Moon is only $1 right now, and will go up to $2 after Feb 11th. I highly recommend checking it out. If nothing else, it will totally change the way you experience a nighttime walk.
MacStories invited Alex Guyot to write a gigantic guide to understanding iOS automation:
“This article will attempt to centralize all of the necessary information for a complete beginner to quickly and easily go from little to no prior knowledge of the subject to being able to understand and build their own complex workflows with Drafts and URL actions. I will only be focusing on Drafts here, but the skills learned throughout this guide should be easily transferable to other apps.”
It doesn't get much more nerdy (or awesome) than this, folks. Keep it bookmarked and study up.
Federico Viticci has assembled a series of lists for his favorite apps for iPhone, iPad, and Mac that came out in 2013. Lots of good stuff in there, and he's also put together some interesting stats concerning the series.
Shawn Blanc tasked Chris Herbert and I with putting together a list of our all-time favorite iOS games for The Sweet Setup. The list has a little something for everyone and I had a lot of fun putting it together, so go check it out!
Apple just unveiled their 2013 Best-Of charts, encompassing all the types of media found on the iTunes Store (music, movies, tv shows, apps, books, and podcasts). Each category is interesting enough to check out, but being the nerd I am, I was mainly interested in the App Store results.
Some highlights that particularly caught my attention:
VSCO Cam was runner-up for iPhone App of the Year, and deservedly so. It's the only photo editor I need, and so it's the only one I've been using for the last several months.
Ridiculous Fishing received iPhone Game of the Year. This was also very well-deserved, because it's easily one of the most entertaining games I've ever played on iOS. Maybe on any console. The music alone is so good, I even bought the soundtrack.
Editorial was mentioned as one of the top 'Smart Productivity' apps. Can't hit the nail much harder on the head than that. I know that my own productivity and overall writing workflow have gotten a huge boost from this app.
Many congratulations to all the developers – of which there are way more than I could comfortably list here – who got into top lists in their respective categories. It's been another exciting year for iOS apps, and I'm looking forward to what's in store for 2014.
It looks like iOS App Store review prompts (i.e. the popups that say something to the effect of, "Like our app? Go rate it five stars!") are back in the public eye. Several people have been debating the pros and cons of this approach to garner reviews, and I'd like to give my two cents.
The whole discussion kicked off when Gruber linked to a moderately amusing Tumblr called Eff Your Review, which features screenshots of iOS apps badgering users to leave (ostensibly positive) app reviews. He added:
I’ve long considered a public campaign against this particular practice, wherein I’d encourage Daring Fireball readers, whenever they encounter these “Please rate this app” prompts, to go ahead and take the time to do it — but to rate the app with just one star and to leave a review along the lines of, “One star for annoying me with a prompt to review the app.”
Cabel Sasser thought this tactic might be a bit too far:
That said, ‘give apps that do this 1 star’ suggestion bummed me out — stoops to the level of ’1 star until you add X feature!’
And last night, Daniel Jalkut weighed in on the matter:
It’s smart to take it as given that something should be done to encourage users to leave positive ratings and reviews. That’s good business sense. But also take it as given that the farther you tread in the direction of badgering and disrespecting users, the more you chip away at the meaningful non-monetary benefits listed above.
Daniel is absolutely right. Developers have every incentive for using these prompts, and little immediate reason not to, unless swaths of users take Gruber's advice and leave one-star reviews about it.
Like any nuanced discussion, there is no single answer to the problem. Neither side – developer or customer – is necessarily in the right or wrong here. However, I think it could be helpful to lay down some guidelines for the people on either side of the equation. I can't speak for everyone, but I think the following principles would be a good starting point.
Rules for App Developers
Let us opt out. If you simply must have an App Store review prompt in your app, be sure to give users the chance to say "no thanks". Don't pull the kind of bullshit where the only options are "yes" and "remind me later". That's scummy and you know it.
Respect the users' wishes. If a customer chooses to opt out of leaving a review, your app had better not continue prompting them about it afterward. I can live with a one-time popup, but there are some apps that ignore opt-out requests and that is definitely not okay with me. It might even be a good idea to respect opt-outs across app updates, if possible. If I didn't want to review your app two updates ago, I'm no more likely to do so today.
Remember that your app isn't the only one prompting for reviews. Users have to deal with this prompt in a wide variety of apps all the time, even multiple times a day depending on which apps they're using and which ones have updated recently. What you might see as a minor hiccup in the user's workflow is something they may see as a constant annoyance from all the apps they've bought.
Rules for Users
Try to be a little more understanding. At the end of the day, most developers are simply trying to make a living from their work. In all likelihood, all but a few of them would rather leave you alone to enjoy their app, but let's face it: App Store ratings can make or break entire businesses. It's hard to blame them for encouraging people to help out a little.
Go ahead and leave a review, even without being prompted. If a higher percentage of users would leave reviews of their own volition, developers wouldn't feel the need to badger them about it. If you have an app that you love and use all the time, do them a favor and give them a little boost on the App Store so they can continue providing you an awesome experience.
Don't hand out 1-star reviews lightly. This is where I disagree with Gruber's suggestion. As annoying as these popups might be, I don't think it's fair to give an otherwise great app the lowest possible rating. For example, I absolutely love Day One but even it uses the review prompt. I wouldn't dream of giving it a one-star rating just for that, it's too cruel.
I think people are often far too quick to hand out awful ratings just because of a single "missing" feature or other small annoyance. The one exception I would make in this case would be for apps that ignore opt-outs, or fail to provide them altogether.
* * *
While there is room for improvement on both sides of the aisle, my main wish is for each side to be courteous to the other. I don't think that's too much to ask for.
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Dan Counsell of Realmac Software explains why it's so important for iOS app developers to use good screenshots:
“The simple fact is that a customer’s decision on whether they will download an app is mainly based on the icon, rating and screenshots. The name of the app and description [are] secondary, and most of the time not even taken into account. Potential customers look at these elements to try and work out if the app is worth their time and money, and this all happens in a matter of seconds.”
He goes on to give some excellent tips that may help them get a leg up on the competition. The bit about using all five screenshot slots is probably the easiest one to adhere to, and sadly there are developers out there too lazy to do even that much.
In some iOS app reviews – including my own – you may notice that the screenshots used throughout have clearly been taken at different times, with varying battery charges displayed between them. Not ideal.
A few days ago, Dr. Drang decided to take a crack at fixing these status bars so that they all match one another, not with a standalone app but with a clever Python script. Naturally, Federico Viticci started adapting the script to be used with the iOS app Pythonista so it would be possible to use it directly from within iOS rather than depending on a Mac app like Status Magic.
Now, Drang has posted the improved versions of both scripts for everyone to use. Disclaimer: before the iOS-only one can work, it requires that four status bar images be added to the OS via the hidden file system. Once it's set up though, it should theoretically work beautifully.
I'll be giving it a try myself soon, maybe next week since I'll be out of town again this weekend — not for a vacation this time though, but to assist my wife as she takes some of her Irish dance students to a competition in Illinois.
Federico Viticci of Macstories is compiling a list of new external keyboard shortcuts that work with iOS 7. As someone who primarily works with an iPad and a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, I can attest that some of these shortcuts are daily lifesavers for me.
Some others that have already been supported for a while and that I use all the time are these basic text-selection shortcuts:
- CMD+A: Select all
- CMD+C: Copy
- CMD+V: Paste
For as long as I could remember, Instacast was the podcast app that I felt provided the best overall experience on the App Store, and the one I recommended to everyone else who asked. But as it turns out, Instacast's recent 4.0 update sadly resulted in a step backwards in usability. I talked about this a bit in my recent article about the state of podcast apps on iOS 7:
“The playback controls cover up some of the podcast artwork, the advanced toolbar […] can no longer be hidden, and the cloud sync service no longer seems to work properly.”
Replacing an app on my dock is a pretty rare occurrence since I'm picky about what gets put there in the first place, but Instacast just hasn't been cutting it for me anymore. And so, I found myself doing something I never expected: I decided to give Pocket Casts another shot.
This won't be a comprehensive list, because there are other people who have already done that sort of thing. As someone who wasn't in on the beta and therefore wasn't early enough to the game to write such a post, I just wanted to give a little rundown of some of the little details in iOS 7 that I've been enjoying since updating:
There was a period of time – between early 2011 and about two weeks ago – when I would tell anyone within hearing distance that Instacast was easily the best podcast app for iOS. No doubt about it.
Oh, I'd tried all the big names at some time or another, of course — Pocket Casts,Downcast, Stitcher Radio, and even Apple's own Podcasts. Though each was great in its own way, something kept me coming back to Instacast time and time again.
It was super easy to use, my subscriptions were synced between my iPhone and iPad with almost no issues1, and of course, it was easy on the eyes. In my mind, the other competitors had lost this battle a long time ago. I was an Instacast guy through-and-through.
And then iOS 7 happened.
Ever since sometime in 2008, I've been a user and ardent fan of Evernote. Over the years, it's been the place where I've dumped just about everything I possibly can — interesting articles from the web, recipes, tutorials, project ideas, blog drafts, purchase receipts, shopping lists, inventories, gift ideas, bits of inspiration…the list goes on and on.
It was my Everything Bucket — my external brain. And for a while, it was a pretty good one.
Shawn, Stephen, and I are putting together a running list of what we think are the best iOS 7-compatible apps and updates. The list will be updated continually over the next few days, so keep checking back for more awesome stuff.
The wait is ~*finally*~ over. You can now pick up Reeder 2 from the iOS App Store for only $5, and it works on both iPhone and iPad. The previous iPhone version of Reeder already supported Feed Wrangler – my RSS service of choice – but this update also brings Feed Wrangler support to the iPad.
I've sorely missed being able to use Reeder on my iPad, and it feels good to have it back. My initial impression (after only 10 minutes of playing with it) is very positive, other than that it took a long time to sync my Feed Wrangler Smart Streams.
And as always, Federico Viticci published his review of Reeder 2 immediately after the app was available for purchase. Go check it out.
I've been anxiously awaiting the release of Editorial after Federico Viticci mentioned it a while back, and now it's finally here. Speaking of Viticci, you should go read his epic review of the thing.
If you'd like a more summarized description of Editorial, go check out my post about the app on Tools & Toys.