It’s been a little less than a year since I last wrote about Screens. The purpose of the app hasn’t changed: it’s still a VNC app for remotely connecting to a Mac or PC from an iOS device. But there are a few specific features released in Screens 4, which is a free update to all existing users, that are so tasty that I just have to talk about them.
Curtains for you (well, for anyone really)
One of the coolest new features is Curtain mode. I really like this idea for providing a little bit of extra privacy when I’m remotely connecting to my own machine. I haven’t had the need for this feature very often, but I’m really impressed with the implementation. Sometimes you want to connect remotely to a machine, but have that session remain private. If you want to grab some files from your machine quickly without providing access to anyone who might be near the actual computer, Curtain mode is a great way to go about this. When activated, this pulls a curtain over the screen of the machine you’re connecting to, disabling all of the local controls and also blocking view of the monitor with a gigantic padlock. You can set specific remote sessions to always launch right into Curtain mode, so if you frequently need to VNC into a computer that’s in a very public location, this is a great way to go about it.
Ulysses 2.5 really is a very, very impressive writing environment. This latest version does enough new stuff, and fixed one of the most irritating bugs I was experiencing, that I think it warrants a fresh look since my last review of Ulysses in June 2015.
Ulysses isn’t a notes app, it’s a writing app. As such, it’s meant for longer form writing and has special features to help you structure larger bodies of text, as well as keep your eyes on the prize as you write.
Each of my documents is called a Sheet, and all of these Sheets sync up over iCloud. The Sheets are in plain text but do support in-line Markdown formatting, which is great if you write for the web like I do. Ulysses also supports the addition of extra metadata, like pictures, notes, and goals in the sidebar.
What’s fun about Ulysses is that it embraces choice. There are choices of themes, fonts, layouts, and multiple export options (including some solid DOCX support). There are a lot of different ways you can use Ulysses, and it’s not one of those apps that tries to shoehorn you into a specific way of thinking.
I’m not a huge PDF reader, but I am always into trying out great new iPad apps; so I’m surprised that LiquidText has flown under my radar for this long.
It really feels like one of those apps that was waiting for the age of tablets to be born. Like Paper by FiftyThree, LiquidText is an app that really comes alive on a large tablet screen. It takes the rote routine of PDF reading and makes the process feel a lot more dynamic. I would have absolutely loved this app while I was in university, and I’ve been sending it to all of my PhD candidate friends, since they spend hours every week trying to tie ideas together across pages.
The idea behind LiquidText is to make longer text documents feel more fluid, so that it ultimately becomes easier to tie major themes together, or build your perspective on a piece. The age-old way of doing things is to dog-ear a page to bookmark it, or write into the margins beside a particular section. It adds a sense of history to the reading, and also provides a great sense of placement. You may not remember what page you read a passage on, but knowing that you had a bookmark or note there can ease the process of recall.
The proclaimed demise of email has seemed to been imminent for years. Love it or hate it, most people refer to their interaction with email as not voluntary, but more of a necessary evil. I prefer to take the high road. Although there have been countless attempts to replace the typical email client interaction, I really don’t mind the basic format that we have all come to know. That’s not to say I don’t think email can be improved–because it definitely needs some help. There have been many attempts to do just that with dedicated apps that support the iPad’s larger screen. However, few have stuck around and from the ones that have, even fewer continue to refine and update their app to improve the user experience. That was until Spark email was introduced for the iPhone, and subsequently updated last week to a universal app.
I can’t believe I haven’t written about Money Pro before now. Next used to be my monthly spending tracker of choice. I loved it because of its clean design, excellent shortcuts, and support for both iOS and OS X. However, one thing that always the tugged at me was the lack of any features related to income tracking. Next was purely about tracking what you spent, and not the money you had made in a given month.
Money Pro does a lot of what Next could do, and more. It’s not quite as clean and fast as Next, but it does feature:
- budgets for specific accounts
- quick categories for expenses
- a great Apple Watch app
- great iCloud sync across devices
- iOS and OS X support
I bought Money Pro on a lark last Fall and was surprised by its power. I’ve really only used personal expense trackers, but Money Pro is more of a money manager.
Evernote has had a firm foothold on the productivity app market-especially when you consider their deep integration across multiple mobile platforms, in addition to the web. I myself have tried several times to find new, more appealing alternatives to fit my basic needs without all the clutter. However, in the end, I always seem to come back to what I know best, and where I have the biggest investment. That’s not to say there aren’t new productivity apps, and improvements to existing apps that continue to challenge Evernote for the crown. Even a simple option like the Notes app in iOS, is enough for many users.
Centrallo has been around since August of 2014, providing users with a clean and easy way to prioritize, organize and create lists to make their lives more productive. I liked their app well enough to give it a look when it first came out. It was a cross platform app that was also available in a web version–a must for me. It was good, but not great for my needs, and so I haven’e been back in a while.
Day One 2.0 hit the App Store this past Thursday for $10, but if you’re fast, you can currently grab it for $5 during its initial launch week sale.
For those not familiar with it, Day One it’s is a great journaling app on iOS and OS X. I’ve used the app for years now to help record how I’ve felt during major milestones in my life, as well as simply recording my day to day. I’m the kind of person who usually issues a blank stare when someone asked how my weekend was, and Day One has helped me drastically increase my recall of recent activities.
Day One 2.0 has expanded on a lot of what was great in the first version. You can now have multiple journals within the app, add up to 10 photos to a single entry, and multi-select entries for batch processing right on the iPad.
As a big fan of Google Maps, it took me a while to warm to Apple’s own maps app. The service took a few years before I could really trust its directions or see a good representation of nearby points of interest in Toronto. Thankfully, Maps got a whole lot better in iOS 9 because Apple is listening. I’ve pointed a few Toronto locations out that weren’t showing up properly (unless you searched for them by name), and two weeks later, they were fixed. You don’t get the same email replies that you would if you report something on Google, but as long as the issues are fixed, I’m happy.
The iPad Pro has also had an influence on which maps app I want to use. I defaulted to Google Maps on the iPad Air 2, but iPad Pro support is still lacking. Apple Maps has the advantage here because it’s a system level app. It already looks great on the iPad Pro, and I can keep it open in Split View while I research parks and museums in Safari.
I’d ideally be able to use Apple Maps full time, but there are a few factors to consider.
LINE is one of the largest, if not the largest, messaging services out of Japan. It isn’t huge in North America, but it’s pretty big in east Asian countries. I use it to chat with my family on a daily basis. We could technically use other services like Google Hangouts or iMessage, but my mother and sister vastly prefer LINE for the personality it brings to the table.
Before the most recent update, I was ready to leave LINE because of its lackluster support for the iPad. The iPhone app is passable, but the official LINE for iPad app hasn’t seen an update since Oct 2014. It didn’t display at proper resolution on the iPad Pro, and you couldn’t reply to notifications.
It seems as though LINE has chosen to simply ignore the dedicated iPad app and have updated the main app to become universal. LINE is now a decent iOS 9 citizen across all iOS devices: it supports notification replies, and it scales properly for the iPad Pro’s hi-res display. It’s still not a great app, though. It lacks Split View or Slide Over support, and it won’t let you load up directly to the Chats view. It insists on pushing a Facebook/Twitter-esque timeline upon its users, and relegates actual chatting to a secondary “Chats” tab.
However, I stick with LINE because that’s where my family is, and they love LINE for the stickers.
One of the apps that the iPad Pro has really unlocked for me has been Autodesk Graphic (previously iDraw), an incredibly powerful vector illustrating app on iOS. I picked Graphic up late last year while it was on sale, and I’ve been playing around with the app over the past few weeks.
I’m pretty new to vectors, but I’ve used Pixelmator for a few years now, so the toolset isn’t completely foreign to me. The left toolbar features move tools, brushes, pens, pencils, basic shape tools, and even shape libraries to insert specific pre-made objects onto the canvas. There’s also a great RGB colour picker, complete with hex values. I love Pixelmator on the iPad, but having used Graphic for a few weeks now, I think the Pixelmator team could have afforded to be a little more traditional (read: desktop-like) with its UI, especially on the iPad Pro.
I used Outlook full-time in early 2015 and liked the Exchange integration, but the Mail app got so much better in iOS 9 that I just went right back to it. However, with the recent Outlook 2.0 overhaul, I decided to give the app another shot. I’ve been really impressed with how quickly Microsoft iterates on their iOS offerings, and although the app doesn’t quite have feature parity with Mail app, I do believe it’s only a matter of time until it mirrors and supersedes Mail’s feature set.
I’ve mainly used Outlook as a mail app, but I’ve dabbled with it as a calendar as well. I’ve written about it as a Gmail user, but you could also add any other Yahoo!, iCloud, IMAP, or Exchange account to the app. Here are a few rapid-fire thoughts on the past few weeks of use: