iPad

A Desk of iPad

Ben Brooks shares his thoughts after spending a day working from an iPad:

“When I have my Mac in front of me I am doing a lot of things, but not focusing on a lot of things. With the iPad only I felt that was reversed—I did a bit less, a bit slower, but what I did do was more focused and therefore carefully done. [...] That’s not to say that I won’t benefit from a laptop, or that an iPad is the best tool, but that the iPad did everything exceedingly well. I loved it. Not enough for everyday just yet, but when I know I have a busy day in meetings, I’m now going to leave the laptop behind.”

I enjoy seeing other people try these sorts of experiments. As many of you may know, I don't own a Mac and thus my primary device is an iPad (4th-gen). For me it's not an experiment or something I do for giggles, but a way of life. With that said, my verdict is the same as Ben's.

Just about anything I need to accomplish on a daily basis—writing and publishing articles, editing and uploading images, etc—I can do from an iPad. I never feel hindered, creatively or otherwise, by the iPad's size or OS limitations. In fact the opposite might be true. As the saying goes, constraint breeds creativity. Because it's so light and thin, I take my iPad out of the house far more often than I ever did my clunky old Gateway laptop. And as Ben points out, having only one app on the screen at any given time helps my productivity immensely.

Are there things about my iPad-only workflow that I wish were better? Absolutely, and maybe I'll write about them sometime. But at the end of the day, I feel very satisfied having the iPad as my primary device.

If you don't think it can be done, try it out for a day or two. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Broken Age for iPad [App Store Link]

Broken Age for iPad

For anyone unfamiliar, Broken Age is the delightful point-and-click adventure game I wrote about on Tools & Toys not long ago. I'm super excited to see it make the transition to iPad, much like I was when Machinarium did the same. These kinds of games just feel more natural to play on a touch screen rather than with a mouse or keyboard.

Even if you've already played Broken Age before, you should consider the iPad version. This isn't some cheap port—the wonderful soundtrack and quality voice acting are all still there, as well as the gorgeous, hand-painted design aesthetic. If you haven't had the chance to play it yet, you're in for a treat.

Note: this is still just Act 1 of the game, with Act 2 releasing later this year as an in-app purchase.

Get Broken Age for $10 on the iOS App Store.

Stache for Mac and iOS

Stache is new Mac app that allows you to bookmark and archive entire webpages, á la Pinboard. Rather than displaying as a simple list of links, Stache takes a more visual approach by attaching a screenshot to each bookmark.

It syncs over iCloud with its iOS companion app, which has no archiving abilites but does share the Mac app's "visual bookmark" design, bookmarklet/URL scheme support, and full-content search. Although I have no need to switch away from Pinboard, Stache certainly makes for an interesting alternative.

Stache is available on the Mac App Store for an introductory price of $7 (normally $10) and as a Universal app on the iOS App Store for $2.

Reeder 2.2 for iOS

~Finally~, Reeder for iOS has updated to v2.2, now with background app refresh and a load of other awesome features and fixes. Go get it.

Minor tangent: As much as I enjoy using Jared Sinclair's unique RSS app Unread, I always come back to Reeder. It has a slow development cycle to be sure, but after all these years I still love its sheer speed and simple design. Unless Silvio Rizzi goes out of business, I can't see myself ever needing another RSS app.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

My latest iOS gaming obsession is Monument Valley, a new platformer inspired by the art of M.C. Escher. You play as Ida, a silent princess who must navigate a series of seemingly impossible architecture by solving puzzles and avoiding the Crow People and other strange inhabitants.

Each level presents a structure that looks impossible to traverse at first, but by moving or rotating sections of the environment, you can alter these optical illusions to create a path where none existed before. Watch the official trailer and you'll see what I mean.

Monument Valley - 2

As noted in a behind-the-scenes video, every stage is like a different work of art, beautiful enough to be printed out and hung on a wall. As you interact with Ida's world, you are greeted with pleasant sound effects and music, so I recommend playing with headphones for the best experience. (I wonder if the developers plan to release the soundtrack, because I would buy it.)

Monument Valley is one of the most gorgeous and thoughtfully considered games I've seen on iOS, one that answers the question, "Are video games art?" with a resounding yes! And it's only $4, so there's not much reason to stay away.

* * *

As a writer, my goal is to inspire others to be more creative and do their best work. If my writing has helped or inspired you in any way, please consider supporting this site with a modest donation or by signing up for the $3/month membership subscription.

Shawn Blanc's Preferred iPad Keyboard Setup

In my experience, the two most popular iPad keyboard setups have always been:

  1. Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, which is a keyboard, hard shell cover, and docking stand rolled into one.
  2. The combination of an Incase Origami Workstation and an Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

I use the former, while Shawn prefers the latter. His reasoning is perfectly solid:

“However, I have three quibbles with the keyboard case class of iPad keyboards (which includes cases, covers, folios, etc.)

  1. Most keyboard cases are designed to a specific iPad form factor. If you upgrade your iPad every so often, then you must also upgrade your keyboard case.
  2. Because I don’t mostly use an external keyboard when using my iPad, I don’t want a keyboard cover that attaches to my iPad. Though I do enjoy using the iPad for writing, that is not my chief task.
  3. For the iPad mini, it’s universally acknowledged that no good keyboard case exists. Of the ones that do fit onto an iPad mini, they have to be so small that they’re awkward and uncomfortable to type on.”

Point #2 is where I differ from Shawn. I actually do use my Logitech Ultrathin keyboard nearly constantly because all my writing is done from my iPad. Even when I'm not typing, I still keep my iPad docked on the Logitech just because it works so well as a stand and as a protective cover when closed. I almost consider it a part of my iPad at this point.

Like anything, each setup has its pros and cons. It all depends on your needs.

Fantastical 2 for iPad Released

Fantastical 2 has been my calendar app of choice for the past few months. My one quibble so far has been that it was only designed for iPhone. I have used it on my iPad in 2x mode, but it has never been a great experience.

That all changed with today's release of Fantastical 2 for iPad. All of Fantastical's key features—including the DayTicker and its ability to understand natural language input—have been carried over from the iPhone version. The main difference is that the iPad app takes full advantage of the larger screen to display more information at once. It's more than a basic calendar; it's a detailed dashboard for my schedule.

As it stands now, the iPhone version is where I will quickly create new events, and the iPad version is what I'll use to manage and review existing events. I recommend picking up both if you haven't already done so, especially since the iPad app is on sale for $10, a discount of 33%.

Designing Unread for iPad

Last night, Jared Sinclair announced that he will be releasing a version of Unread for iPad, and that he will be documenting the design process in a series of videos. He has provided an RSS feed for anyone who wants to follow along.

The first and second videos are up, and I already like where things are headed.

Diet Coda 1.5

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.

The Best Pinboard App for iOS

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.

Anyway, go check out the article and hit me up on Twitter to let me know what you think!

RealMac Wants to Make Things Right

Remember when RealMac came out with a new, separate version of Clear a while back, and it caused a bunch of confusion and frustration with their customers?

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.”

Chicago Avenue Moon

Chicago Avenue Moon

Thanks to my buddy Nate Boateng, I discovered an awesome new app called Chicago Avenue Moon. As the developer describes it:

“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.”

As I just wrote about on Tools & Toys, the music this app generates is very akin to the Journey game soundtrack, which I love it for.

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.

iOS App Store's Best of 2013

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.

  • Basil, a recipe manager for iPad developed by Kyle Baxter, made it into the 'Beautiful Cookbooks' section. Nice going, Kyle!

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.

'The iPad Setup of Chris Gonzales'

Shawn Blanc interviewed me for The Sweet Setup about the ways I use my iPad for work and play. I tried to convey just how versatile this device is, and how I have almost no need for an actual laptop to get my stuff done. I absolutely love my iPad.

If you're interested in the wallpaper seen in the screenshot at the top of the interview, feel free to grab it from this link.

Apple's October 2013 Keynote

Apple just wrapped up an event that was loaded with new product announcements. I won't bother going into insane detail since the big-name blogs will have it covered, but here's a quick rundown on what was talked about.

Software

The biggest news here is that OS X Mavericks, the iWork suite, and the iLife suite have all been made free (the caveat being that iWork and iLife are only free for newly-purchased devices from this point on) and they're all available for download today. Mavericks will also work on devices dating all the way back to 2007, which I think is pretty cool.

The iWork and iLife apps have been totally redesigned across the board, with new features throughout.

iWork:

  • Full file compatibility across all Mac and iOS devices.
  • Pages has way better text-formatting tools than before.
  • Numbers has interactive charts. For example, you can see your expenses animated over some amount of time.
  • Keynote seems to be the biggest update, with new effects, animations, and transitions, with old transitions being updated with better physics. There's also real-time iCloud collaboration for your presentations now.

iLife:

  • iPhoto now lets you create and order photobooks on the iPad, a feature that previously was only available for the Mac.
  • iMovie now includes a feature called "iMovie Theater", which is a nice-looking collection of all your videos and clips in one place. Reminds me of a media center-type interface.
  • GarageBand on iOS now supports up to 16 tracks (up from 8) and lets you add customizable "drummer tracks" that are recordings of actual session drummers that can automatically play over the song you've created. Projects now sync over iCloud as well.

Hardware

Hardware was really the juiciest part of today's keynote. Along with the iPhone 5s/5c, Apple has now refreshed nearly their entire hardware lineup ahead of the Christmas season (excluding iMacs and cinema displays, basically).

The Retina MacBook Pros have been updated to be more powerful, and yet cheaper to purchase. The 13" model is now $1299 (down from $1499) and the 15" model is $1999 (down from $2199).

The new Mac Pro that will be available in December and starts at $2999, making it the most expensive ashtray I've ever seen. All kidding aside though, it does have some neat features:

  • Fastest processor and memory of any Mac ever
  • Dual-workstation GPUs (a first for Macs)
  • All storage is flash-based — no more spinning HDDs
  • Thunderbolt 2 ports
  • 4K video support, and for multiple displays
  • 70% less energy consumption than the previous Mac Pro
  • It's somehow as quiet as a Mac mini

Now, the new iPads were the most exciting announcement for me personally. Rather than calling the new full-size model 'iPad 5', they went with 'iPad Air', and they're releasing an iPad mini with Retina display!

A quick rundown:

iPad Air:

  • Thinner, lighter, and more powerful.
  • Bezel is 43% smaller.
  • 7.5mm thick, which is 20% thinner than the iPad 4.
  • Only weights 1lb, down from 1.4lb.
  • Reduced battery size, yet same battery life as before (10 hours).
  • A7 chip and M7 coprocessor (same as iPhone 5s).
  • Support for even more LTE bands, meaning better connectivity.
  • Available in two colors: silver/white and space gray/black.
  • Available at $499 (non-LTE) and $629 (LTE), and starts shipping Nov 1.
  • iPad 2 still available as a lower-cost full-size model at $399.

iPad mini:

  • Retina display!
  • A7 chip, but no mention of M7 that I can recall. (UPDATE: I've been informed by my buddy Nate that it does indeed have an M7 chip.)
  • 10-hour battery life.
  • Thinner than a pencil (as shown in a great video that I imagine will be available online soon)
  • Priced at $399 (no LTE) and $529 (with LTE).
  • New Smart Covers ($39) and new leather cases ($79). Both are available in Product (RED) in addition to the standard colors.
  • The non-Retina iPad mini is still available, and has been lowered from $329 to $299.

Overall, this was a huge announcement by Apple. This holiday season is sure to be exciting for a lot of people.

Review: Pocket Casts 4 for iOS 7

Review: Pocket Casts 4 for iOS 7

If someone had told me a month ago that Pocket Casts was about to usurp Instacast's spot on my iOS dock, I would have looked at them like they were crazy.

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.

Review: Simplenote for iOS 7

Review: Simplenote for iOS 7

 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.