Curious iApp Discoveries

my iPhone home page

I started this post because I found some unusual iPhone apps recently but then I got to thinking about it and decided maybe folks would like to see some of the apps I use regularly as well. So, here are the highlights of the apps I use almost daily as well as some funky little tidbits I’ve found recently. (The screenshot is my home page as of this morning, truth.)

  • Dots: Dots is a beautiful time-waster game in chunks of 30 seconds. Its free and its addictive. You’ve been warned.
  • Device 6: This looks like a game made for me. Its a thriller/puzzle/mystery game wrapped in beautiful design and a mysterious man in a hat. I just got an iTunes gift card so I’ll be downloading this ASAP. $3.99
  • Connor: Connor NYC is a high-end bespoke stationery company that produced an iPad app to create e-stationery
  • Squarespace apps: I’m familiar with Squarespace as a blog/commerce/website venue but did not know that they offer several apps to create on-the-go notes, portfolio viewer from content on their Squarespace site and a sleek site controller. Squarespace Note app does not require an account and its free.
  • Dictionary.com: I love the Word of The Day feature and being able to look up words on the go. Free.
  • Gmail: I have tried lots of email apps for the iPhone including Sparrow and the default Apple Mail app and I am stuck on Gmail. The new divided tabs that separate updates from social from pormotions and your actual email is genius. It saves me tons of time and lets me see my mail from all the spam, newsletters and miscellany. Genius.
  • Cardstar: This app has the ugliest icon ever and it makes me cringe when I look at it but it is the wallet-lightening joy of an app. It will scan the bar codes off all those frequent shopper cards, hotel/airline points accounts, etc and store them in your iPhone complete with the scanner-readable bar code. Other apps have better icons but THIS one works. And its FREE.
  • Fantastical: Why do I need another calendar app? Because Fantastical lets me type “Meet with Stephanie at 3pm today” and voila! It places a meeting in the right time without having to remember that today is the 15th. I thought it would be more cumbersome to type out a whole sentence to schedule a meeting but its not. I like it so much, I just paid $2.99 to upgrade to the new iOS 7 version.

Other apps I use all the time are Tweetbot, WordPress, IFTTT, USPS Mobile, Delivery Status, Wake, Riposte and Evernote. I’ve tried lots of photo editing apps and use AfterLight most often. What are your favorites?

Plugging the Firm: Soundpic

I’ve been implying to folks that I’ve been working on a “secret project” at work. Well, its not so secret anymore. Its a little app called Soundpic that turns your video into a still image and a sound clip in one neat package.

Not only was I actively involved in the design of the user interface, I designed the logo, art directed the promo video and even let them use my largely-unused Facebook page for the video! I am amazed what we could do with just a handful of people and some wishful thinking.

We’ve been running around looking for cool sounds to capture with our images: from rustling leaves to steaks on the grill. I’m still on the hunt for one of those old school sprinklers to add to my “summer sounds” collection.

Soundpic is available on the Apple iTunes store for iPhone. And its free. If you like the app, please let me know or leave feedback on the app store. Thanks!

Macally iPad Mini Cover/Case in Avocado (of course!)

Macally iPad Mini cover

Do you know how challenging it can be to find just the right iPad Mini cover/case? Let’s just say I’ve been looking for awhile. Fnally, I found one that met all my criteria which really… was I asking for so much?

What I wanted:

  • slim line case that could be used to prop iPad Mini up in a position comfortable to type or to view video
  • not to be black or bubblegum pink (not too stodgy, not too tweeny)
  • it would be nice if it had the magnetic on/off but that wouldn’t be a make or break

Macally iPad Mini cover

Well, hello Macally Case in avocado green!

It took some pretty extensive searching to find this case which is a bit of a story onto itself. I decided that I would rather shop locally than making a purchase from an online retailer just because I wanted to be able to touch the cases, feel the materials and the build quality and see the actual colors. So I went to a local computer supply shop with an Apple section that I knew to carry a large selection of accessories. I found this lovely green case for $49 as well as an identical model in a soft orchid lavender for $39. No difference in the specs at all except the price. So I asked the clerk to check on the price and see if there was some reason one case (the one I wanted) was $10 more. The hugely unhelpful and color-prejudice clerk said, “Its probably because the green is a better color”. Really? That’s your idea of customer service? He would neither offer a price match or get a manager who might be able to adjust the price. I was so furious at the lack of care that I walked away, scanned the bar code on the package with the Amazon app, found it for the $30-ish price listed and hit 1-Click purchase. I would have gladly paid the slightly higher $39 price point in the store if someone had been willing to price match their own flipping products!

Macally iPad Mini cover

Now, back to the review.

The cover is a textured PU on the exterior, with a black interior. The cover has a magnetic lock auto on/off and places on the cover where it easily folds. Inside is a matching avocado green plastic case that the iPad Mini snaps into for extra protection. The case does not block any of the screen and is quite discreet.

Macally iPad Mini cover

Macally iPad Mini cover

To get the iPad Mini to stand tall, the cover needs to be folded inwards and tucked into the tab on the back cover. This makes the whole cover very stable and unlikely to slide or tip over.

Macally iPad Mini cover

The big surprise is that there is a hinge built into the plastic case and the back cover that allows the iPad Mini to rotate into portrait mode while still being able to utilize the cover. It can be used in the low profile propping-up like this as well, perfect for blog reading.

There is a hole cut out in the back cover to allow the camera lens to peek out but if the case is not aligned perfectly with the cover, it can block the camera lens. Being able to rotate the iPad case allows the camera an unhampered angle if you do use the camera on your iPad often.

All-in-all I am quite pleased with this case. It did not increase the weight or bulk of the iPad Mini too much, the color is fabulous and its very functional. Do I wish it was made of more luxurious materials? Sure, but since I was fussing about a $10 price difference, I don’t think I would have been willing to pay for much more luxury.

Redress Your Desktop

Whether you spend all day staring at a computer or a mobile device, eventually the urge to “redecorate” hits. I’ve found some lovely wallpaper patterns for both.

floating

For your desktop, check out the array of wallpapers from Design Love Fest.

From Fellow Fellow are some lovely iPhone (and various mobile devices) wallpapers like these:

FF_IPhone031 FF_IPhone013 Ikat5

(click on each pattern above to find more from Fellow Fellow)

andrea-kalfas-blog

For other GUI goodies, check out:

Got a good source for great wallpapers or do you make your own? Leave a note in the comments. Thanks!

Link Love: Lifehacking

original

There are two excellent websites for lifehacks: Lifehack and Lifehacker. In amongst general information on how to get fit, eat better and be more productive are recommendations for work-related topics, zero-ing out your email inbox and app recommendations.

This week I decided to cherry pick a few of my favorite recent articles from these sites and share them here.

Workspaces:

Mobile apps:

Productivity:

Misc:

iPad Mini Keyboard Options

If its been a touch quieter around here this week than usual, please bear with me. I started a new job (within the same company) so I’ve been a bit busier and more distracted than usual. This new gig has also opened me up to meeting new people and being inspired by new office supply goodies.

I was in a meeting when someone whipped out an iPad Mini wrapped up in a traditional black leatherette case. When she opened it up though, it revealed a  keyboard! All I could do was stare at it rapturously…”Meeting? What meeting? Must find out more about her iPad Mini case.”

Kensignton Keyfolio Pro 2

I did get to ask her about the case and it turned out that the keyboard was a removable Bluetooth keyboard held in the case by magnets. The back of the case had a flip out leg to prop up the iPad Mini in the traditional laptop configuration. The fact that the keyboard came out would let the user reconfigure the arrangement for a vertical format when necessary. Quite clever. I did not get manufacturer information from Anna but I was able to commit the design details to memory and establish that she was using the Kensington KeyFolio Pro 2 Case and Stand (about $55 on Amazon). reading through the reviews on Amazon, the biggest issue discussed regarding this case is that the hole on the back for the camera is a bit too small and can potentially block the lens.

Sharkk iPad Mini Case

I went ahead and did a little research and found a few other options as well.The SHARKK Keyboard/Case/Cover/Stand (about $32 on Amazon) is more streamlined being only one piece. When opened, the iPad Mini sits in the slot provided in the keyboard. To close, the keyboard snaps to the face of the iPad Mini. This case is definitely the least bulky option I found. The reviews for the Sharkk focus on the reduced keyboard size and the quality of the materials and construction. As the cheapest option I found, some compromises can be expected.

Belkin Wireless iPad Mini keyboard and case

The other strong contender is the Belkin Wireless Keyboard and Case (about $75 on Amazon). From the description details, I cannot determine if the keyboard can be removed from the case but this is a very elegant, streamlined package. The iPad Mini is held into the case along the spine-edge with plastic clips on the corners but this leaves the other edges, speaker and buttons accesbible. There are some reviews that suggest that some compromises were made in the design including the material feeling more rubbery than leather-like.

Logictech has an Ultrathin Keyboard Case on the horizon but it is only available for pre-order at the moment (at approx. $80) but it sounds like it will also be a good option if you are looking for a better way to type on an iPad Mini.

All-in-all, a keyboard small enough to match the diminutive dimensions of an iPad Mini will require compromises. A full-sized Qwerty keyboard is larger than the device and will not make for a convenient, aesthetic object if your goal is to have the smallest typing machine. Going to a reduced-sized keyboard to match the dimensions of an iPad Mini will make for a small keyboard. If you have large hands, this may be awkward but it begs the question, is it less awkward than trying to type on the virtual keyboard that covers most of your screen real estate? Optimally, I’d rather write with paper and pen but when it comes to email and work documents, sometimes the most efficient option is to work digitally so data can be shared quickly.

Poetic KeyBook

Update: It seems that the model case that my friend was using is the Poetic KeyBook Bluetooth Keyboard Case which is also a pleather case like the Kensington but at a lower price (about $30). It is listed to have a magnetic closure that is supposed to automatically turn the iPad Mini on and off but its a little finicky according to reviews. The materials are given praise but the closure is not as secure as other options.

If you have any experience with the devices listed above or one of the many other options available on the market, please leave your recommendations in the comments.

Link Love: Write it down now

This is what happens when I don’t do a Link Love for over two weeks: it becomes epic! Sorry its so long but I didn’t want anything to get overlooked or skipped.

Artwork by Donovan Beeson

Artwork by Donovan Beeson

Handwriting Month:

Pilot Petball (AKA B2P or BeGreen) pensin various colors coming out soon. Photo by Patrick Ng.

Pilot Petball (AKA B2P or BeGreen) pensin various colors coming out soon. Photo by Patrick Ng.

Pens:

photo by Lamy 2000

photo by Lamy 2000

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Paper:

Field-StampsForever-Stamps

Digital:

Miscellaneous:

iPhone Gadgets

I do a lot of rethinking at the new year of how to organize my desk, both home and office, and things I have that I don’t use and things that I wish I had. One of the things I use more than I want to admit is my iPhone. I use the camera a lot more often than I ever thought I would and it acts as an iPod for listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks throughout the day as well. So, I would like a few things to “plus up” my iPhone. Here’s a couple cool things I’ve found:

Milo iPhone stand

First, is the Milo iPhone stand. It uses a micro suction pad to hold the phone either vertically or horizontally and since its suction-mounted rather than a clip, it will work with a new iPhone, 4G, iPod Touch or even a non-Apple product. For $14.95, its a reasonably priced and aesthetically appealing to having a nice place to park your phone/pod on your desk.

Gizmon Clip-On Lenses

photojojo-lenses

I’d also like to get a set of lens attachments for my iPhone. Shown above are the Gizmon Clip-On lenses and the PhotoJojo lens sets. Gizmon offers individual lenses for $25 each in fisheye, center focus, cross screen, 3-image mirage and a polarizing lens. The PhotoJojo lenses are available in fisheye, wide angle/macro, and telephoto and can be purchased in a set of three for $49 or each for $20 (wide/macro and telephoto) and $25 (fisheye).

Is there any other gadgets I might need for my iPhone or are there any stand or lenses you are using?

Favorite Tools of 2012

Top 10 Favorites Part 1Top 10 Favorites Part 2

I’ve reviewed, purchased and drooled over hundreds of products in 2012 so I thought I’d share with you my favorites of the year, in no specific order:

  1. Tie for Favorite Fountain Pen: Kaweco Guilloch 1930 EF Fountain Pen
  2. Tie for Favorite Fountain Pen: TWSBI Diamond 540 EF Demonstrator
  3. Favorite Highlighter: Pilot Preppy Highlighter
  4. Favorite Lefty-centric Tool:  Lefty Sharpener
  5. Favorite Notebook: Quo Vadis Habana Notebook
  6. Most Useful Tools: Gel Multi-Pens (UniBall Style Fit, Zebra Sarasa Pre-Fill, Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto Me)
  7. Biggest Surprise: UniBall Jetstream Ballpoint Pens (Jetstream F*Series Multi-Pen and the 0.5 Ash Green
  8. Best Mac Utility: Alfred App
  9. Favorite Ink: Scribal Workshop Cryptid series, especially Nessie and Leviathan
  10. Favorite Vintage Find: Arrow Plier-Style Hand Stapler

There are a few items I love but never got a review posted and a few things I’ve wanted to try but haven’t gotten yet so there will be more to love in 2013, I’m sure!

What are the best tools you found this year?

Link Love: Snow Day Edition

Pencil Lead Sculpture by Peter Trevelyan (via Present & Correct)

Pencil Lead Sculpture by Peter Trevelyan (via Present & Correct)

Pens and Pencils

Paper and Notebooks

Cartolina MailRoom

Screenshot from the Mailroom App from Cartolina

Digital: Apps for iOS

Other News: