When I saw the news that Apple had acquired the DeskConnect team and their very popular app Workflow last week, I was excited. This seemed like a perfect move, especially as the early battle for supremacy in Home Automation (which for someone like myself who works in Industrial Automation is still kind of a joke, but that’s a topic for another day), begins to really heat up. Workflow is just the kind of app that can string together the functionality of many different iOS apps and connected services in a way that still obeys Apple’s App Store rules. This seems like the perfect engine to both run Apple’s future Home endeavors and help iOS power users achieve greater flexibility. Apple lead off their leadership by making the app free, which prompted plenty of new downloads.
It’s that time of year again. Spring is closing in, and one of the best sporting events every created by man is about to tip off. The brackets have been announced. Potential Cinderellas are searching for the right slippers and the hopes of many bubble teams have been burst. People are furiously researching teams like UNC-Wilmington and South Dakota State as they look for the perfect upset pick that none of their friends will see coming. Office work will come to a screeching halt on Thursday and Friday in the name of basketball. It’s time for MARCH MADNESS!!!!
The idea of productivity can best be described as a tug of war for me. What I mean by that is that I strive to be a productive person, but often get caught up in finding the most productive way to be productive–which in turn, isn’t very productive at all. I’m an early adopter by nature, and love to try new apps, among other things. So when I read about Zenkit, and the similarities it had with Trello, I immediately became curious.
Self described as a product management tool that grows with you, Zenkit is beautifully designed and easy to use. So this begs the question–why switch from Trello if it has been working perfectly fine for you? Just like with any other platform that experiences great success, and is then purchased and made part of a larger collective–there is real concern that Trello will have one of two eventual outcomes. Either the application will fall off the radar by its new owners and be left to gather dust–or it will evolve or morph into something very different than what it was originally designed to be.
Who doesn’t like great iPad apps? At iPad Insight we definitely do. With that in mind, we offer up a quick review of an excellent iPad app, or a few great iPad apps, here each week.
Our picks for Best iPad App of the Week are published here every week. Check out all out picks below and you’ll soon have a collection of stellar apps for your favorite tablet.
This week’s pick is Amazon Prime Video by AMZN Mobile LLC. I have been an off and on Amazon Prime user for years. Typically, I start my subscription again when there is a one month free deal incentive and then cancel before the month is over. However, this year I left it in place for a couple of months through the holiday season to save on gifts for the family. Last weekend my subscription was set to auto-renew again, and I was prepared to end it for now.
Evernote has had a rockier time in the public eye in the past year. Last June they increased their pricing and put some harder limits on the free accounts. This opened the service up to a lot of criticism from free users, who were actually getting a very good deal from the service. Previous to that price change, you could use Evernote across as many devices as you wanted, as long as you stayed within the monthly upload limit. That was pretty generous for a company whose income comes from a subset of paying users.
However, I do also understand the backlash to Evernote’s pricing change: it wasn’t announced alongside any significant new features, so it just looked like a price increase on both paid plans, and a sudden limitation of the free plan that so many people were enjoying. I think this move challenged Evernote’s user base, many of whom were suddenly looking at other note apps that they could use for free. Apple Notes had made some big changes to its feature set with iOS 9, and OneNote introduced an Evernote to OneNote importerto make it easier to move large note libraries to Microsoft’s free note-taking service. Late in 2016 also saw the launch of Bear, which featured its own Evernote import (in the Mac app) and its own set of tagging, attachment, and in-line picture support.
I don’t tend to spend very much time on YouTube unless I’m doing some in-depth research on a product. When I’m researching, I’ll voraciously consume all the hands-on and review videos I can get to, in order to see my next <insert lust-worthy object here> from all available angles. One of the things that I find most frustrating about this are the long, unskippable pre-roll ads that will sometimes air before a video. Most of these ads are repeats of something I’ve seen just minutes ago, and they feel like a waste of my time. I don’t mind a five second skippable pre-roll ad that tries to attract my attention, but it’s obnoxious to force someone to watch through 30 seconds of sub-par content.
It’s for this reason that I bought ProTube many moons ago. I’m not sure how the developer does it, but the app features a completely ad-free viewing experience. That’s something that’s difficult to accomplish even on the desktop. With ProTube, what you tap on is what you’re going to be watching, and that’s already a very big reason to pony up $4 for the purchase.
But wait, there’s more!
Cloud storage services have been an incredibly useful way of working around 128 and 266 GB storage limits on modern iPads, but I’m still feeling torn about which solution is best for me. I know of Google Drive, but I’ve spent most of my testing period jumping between iCloud, Dropbox, and OneDrive. I haven’t come to a solid conclusion about which solution is perfect for me, but I now have enough to talk about the pros and cons of each service.
The excellent iPad app, Duet Display has always been one of my favorite apps for adding an extra display to my MacBook at home and PC while at the office. Screen real estate comes at a premium these days, and to be able to add another interactive display to my workflow is always welcome. Originally developed by a couple of ex-Apple engineers, so you know the attention to detail is going to be there, never mind their the instant credibility by association. Luckily for them, Duet Display stands firmly on its own as a multi-tasking go-to for professionals in a variety of fields and careers.
If you haven’t already given Duet Display a try, now is the perfect opportunity to add an extra screen to improve your performance and efficiency. The app was updated last week and is now on sale at 1/2 off the regular price of $19.99. That alone is a great opportunity to buy Duet. However, they have also added an unanticipated caveat–Touch Bar support!
I’ve been a 1Password user for a few years now, but it was only recently that I decided to look into their subscription service. 1Password for Families is a $60/year subscription service that provides access for five users on a single Family account. The perks of this plan include:
- 1 GB of storage for each family member
- Access to iPhone, iPad, Android, and Mac apps (Windows doesn’t seem to be Family compatible yet)
- Access to a 1Password web app
- Shared vaults with the ability to restrict editing rights for specific members (“look, don’t touch!”)
Previous to signing up for the Family subscription, I had kept all of my personal information in the Primary vault (the default vault that comes with any 1Password installation). It took me a while to realize that there was no way to sync this vault with my 1Password for Families account; I had to actually copy or move my data from the Primary vault (which was synced via Dropbox) to the Personal vault in 1Password for Families (which syncs via Agilebits’ custom sync engine).
I really like the default Mail app on the iPad. I think it’s a great example of what a good iPad Pro app should be. It supports a lot of different keyboard shortcuts, has a cool three-pane panel for extra context in landscape mode, but also still respects the concepts of margins for easy reading on a large screen. One thing it really sucks at, however, is searching for email. Unless I’ve flagged something, searching for email in the Mail app is just a crappy experience.
Luckily, Gmail (which I use for my primary personal email account) has seen a number of solid updates in the past year. It’s not something I’d recommend for everyday use necessarily, but it’s a great app to load up in those moments where you need to find that one email from your boss from two years ago.
The screenshot above should also make it obvious, but if you were wondering if iOS has just received another really good-looking notes app that also sync with the Mac, then the answer is yes. Bear uses simple plain text for all of its formatting, so the notes you type out are easily transferrable — at any time — to any other platform or service. However, just because you’re using plain text, it doesn’t mean your notes have to look plain: Bear also handles rich text formatting with Markdown, and it displays pictures right alongside body text.
The Simple Bear Necessities
Whereas other plain text tools like iA Writer 4 focus more on being plain text writing machines, Bear feels like it focuses specifically on taking great notes in a flexible format. There are extra writing elements like word counts and read times in the right sidebar, but I’ve definitely become a bit of a snob when it comes to writing apps: without some sort of focus mode to keep text centered, I don’t consider Bear a full-fledged writing app for my purposes. That’s fine though, because in my brief testing period, it feels like a fantastic app for notes.