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.
  • 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?

Link Love: Overdue Again

Japanese pencils
Pencil acquisitions from Kinokuniya (via Paper Pastries)



Pens and Pencils:

Paper & Notebooks:



Tiny Post Offices Print (via Power and Light Press , shoutout to Paper Pastries)

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!

Still Searching for a Google Reader Replacement

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 7.28.56 AM

There’s only a couple of weeks left before Google turns off Reader for good and I’ve yet to make a decision about what service I will use as a replacement. There is a site listing the most popular alternatives as mentioned by hashtag on Twitter called ReplaceReader.

Feedly is topping the list at present but I am still on the fence about it. I set it up but I found the interface a little too “jazzy”. I don’t want my RSS to recommend other content, allow my “friends” to see what I’m reading or any other social integration. Am I the only one who is a total curmudgeon about this?

Feedbin seems popular but because its a paid service entirely, I don’t think very many people have experimented with it yet. I love Reeder for Mac and iPad so I’m leaning towards Feedbin as they are promising integration but, at present, they have only updated the iPhone app which is the one place I don’t usually attempt to read RSS.

I’ve also tried The Old Reader and Blog Lovin’ but did not favor either. While The Old Reader is free, I suspect there will not be a lot of mobile app support for it. And Blog Lovin’… let’s just say I feel a little old to be hanging out in that crowd.

Have you found a replacement for Reader or have you moved away from RSS altogether and found another system for keeping up with your favorite sites?

Oh, Wunderful Wunderlist!


I was slow to launch with the digital to-do list. As fellow pen and paper lovers, I’m sure you can understand my hesitation.However, I am working on a large project at work and my team decided to try out Basecamp for group organization and I fell in love. Basecamp is a great place for task and project management for a group or team. It can store text documents, files, to-do lists and even a calendar. We are all madly in love with its capabilities. It made me realize how much a task manager might help me in my personal life, for blog planning, shopping lists, and all those little life to-dos that get jotted on this sheet of paper or in that notebook and then I can never find the right list at the right time. I didn’t want to invest in Basecamp for my personal management ($20/month to start) so I set off in search of a more budget-minded alternative for the miscellany floating around in my head and on various scraps of paper.

My requirements:

  • mobile app
  • desktop app
  • web interface
  • multiple to-do lists: work, home, blog, etc.
  • notifications via text message or notifications
  • nice to look at

And then in walks Wunderlist and went, “Check, check, check… CHECK!” Seriously. Its available for iOS or Android, works on my iPhone or iPad, there’s a desktop app (Mac and Windows) for my home computer and a web interface for accessing while at work, making it easy to input text on a full-sized keyboard as well as making updates or checking things off on the fly. Its nice to look at with a choice of pleasing backgrounds and a clean, clear user interface. Lists can be organized into projects and individual to-dos can include sub-tasks, notes, reminders and due dates. Each to-do can be viewed in the original project list or in the day, week or all views. I feel almost organized!

If you discover that Wunderlist is your new lifesaver too, you can upgrade to the pro version and get a lot of the features that make Basecamp so nifty like team to-dos, delegating tasks, file uploads and more starting at $4.99/mo. Check and check!

App Love: PicFrame

PicFrame for iOS

I thought I would share a favorite app today. I discovered PicFrame for iOS awhile back which is a great way to do a grid of photos to post on Instagram, Flickr or Facebook. The app costs $0.99 and works on iPhone or iPad. Its quite flexible with an assortment of grids to choose from and then you can pull the frames to reshape them as needed. You can round corners, add filters and change the width and color or pattern of the borders too. The iOS app also includes the ability to add labels — there are default looks or you can get in there and choose font, font color and label color. Its a pretty powerful app for under a $1.

PicFrame for Mac

What I like even better is the Mac version of the app that let’s you drag a photo from iPhoto, right into a frame and then export at various sizes for blogs, Flickr, Facebook, etc. The Mac app is also $0.99. There are no image editing options or labels in the desktop version of the app. Since you can import photos from iPhoto or other image editing software, you won’t need the image editing features but I do wish they’d add the labels to the Mac version.

tompkins haul

This is a PicFrame collage I made with the desktop version of the app. I used the default borders and the photos were straight from my iPhone via iPhoto. The images are some of the goodies my friends bought while traveling in Japan. I must go office supply foraging there SOON!

Damn You, Art School and Procreate (it’ll make sense when you read the whole article)

Damn You Art School

Damn You, Art School is a web site organized by art school disciplines like architecture, fashion, illustration and others that will give you a list of recommended digital tools for a given discipline. The recommendations range from note-taking and sketching apps to business management tools like faxing and time accounting (in the Illustration tab). There are lots of good recommendations for people in all sorts of professional fields or to help you plan out your next creative project. Snoop around, you may find a tool or app you didn’t know you’d need. I do notice a notable absence of the best tools for all creatives: paper and pencil.

Procreate screenshot

Oh, and on the topic of digital tools you didn’t know you needed, I wholeheartedly endorse a drawing app for the iPad called Procreate ($4.99 from the iTunes app store). Even if you do not consider yourself artistically inclined, this app may change your mind. The brush tools are the most realistic I’ve used since the Mac app Painter and there are additional brush sets available for purchase ($0.99 per set and most are totally worth the upgrade). This app is incredibly powerful and includes layers which can have different blending modes and transparency, easy to use undo options, you can rotate the canvas and so much more. There is a whole community of users that share new brushes and techniques. File can be exported to a PSD file and the layers remain intact. I’ve been using the app to create original wallpaper for my iPad. I’ve been watching a lot of Dr. Who lately so I painted a personal nebula. Not as awe-inspiring as the sample images included with the app but I made them with my finger and a few spare minutes. I’m so proud of my wallpaper, you can download it and use it too on your favorite mobile device.

Procreate download file

Click image to access attachment. Then save it to you computer.

Link Love: Vintage Pens and Pen Addict Love

The big news this week is that Moleskine launched their IPO. Several of the links below are as a result of all the attention Moleskine is getting this week.

There is an assortment of goodies from Brad Dowdy over at Pen Addict including his Tools and Toys Guide to Fountain Pens which I’m willing to debate with him. There’s also a mix of new and vintage fountain pen reviews. Finishing up the Link Love this week are a couple ink reviews, some digital goodies and tips on writing a good thank you note. Enjoy!

Pens and Ink



(image from Casa Brutus, via Present + Correct)

(image from Casa Brutus, via Present + Correct)

Link Love: Unicorn Ink and More About Google Reader

A collection of clips from Present & Correct. (via Twitter @PresentCorrect)

A collection of clips from Present & Correct. (via Twitter @PresentCorrect)

Pens and Pencils:



DeAtramentis Unicorn Brown ink with scent. Wonder what it smells like? (via Gourmet Pens on Instagram)

DeAtramentis Unicorn Brown ink with Unicorn scent. Wonder what unicorns smells like? (via Gourmet Pens on Instagram)


Link Love: Lifehacking


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.


Mobile apps:



Link Love: Pens, Paper and a Beaver Pencil Sharpener

Pens and Pencils:

Book of Notes Kit

Paper and writing:

Beaver Pencil Sharpener

Beaver Pencil Sharpener (via @DerwentPencils on Twitter)


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?

Flickr fights back


If you have used Flickr in the past but — in the age of Facebook and Instagram– sort of forgotten about it, I think it’s time to reconsider.

Flickr has always had some features that made it the go-to for photo storage and sharing. Yes, its a paid service but, as a result, they’ve given users more content and less filler than most other services. In the plus column for Flickr:

  • full-sized image uploads
  • no advertising
  • adult-content filter
  • lots of content-specific groups

Lately, Yahoo let the service languish. They released one iPhone app a couple years ago and then did little to update it while Hipstamatic and then Instagram trounced all over them. Even my loyal Flickr friends were abandoning ship for Facebook and Instagram’s easy digital upload and streaming always-on content.

Dear Marissa Mayer

But the tide is changing and I have to say I am happy to see it. Last summer, Yahoo hired Marissa Mayer as their new CEO and the internet responded with their plea. There were some updates to the website interface in the months following but no news about any improved integration on phones. About two weeks ago, Flickr released a new version of their iOS app which included some queues from Instagram with a built-in camera app and goofy filters so that images can be shot and uploaded to Flickr quickly. They made sharing to Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter pretty seamless but there’s a noticeable absence of “share to Instagram”.

8282752309_221a9f2044_n 8283810960_b2f8dae94c_n

The new Flickr iPhone app is easy-to-use but is a pretty big departure from the older version so if you were familiar with it, there may be a bit of a learning curve. Flickr has posted a helpful walk-through of all the new features. From the app, you can access your photos, photostream and groups. You can moderate your groups and search for images or people. That’s a lot of action in one little app.

My one complaint is that their is still no support for checking FlickrMail from within the app. Clearly, the folks at Flickr have yet to figure out what a goldmine FlickrMail is. With the exception of “join this group requests”, it is a spam-free email account that only friends and family with Flickr accounts can access.

If you’re a current Flickr subscriber, you should have received a little gift from Flickr in your email recently. Clearly, they are trying to entice people back to the service so go and give them another shot. And tell them what you think. As paying subscribers, our voices and needs should be heard.

Happy snapping!

(For more about the new Flickr app, check out the Forbes write-up)


Clear-ly, A Digital To-Do List

RealMac has created a desktop and iOS to-do list app called Clear that is simple and easy to use. I have tried just about every to-do app I can find and this one seems simple and not too annoying. I have had a couple to-do apps I had to delete because I couldn’t get them to stop yelling at me.This app never seems to yell or alert so you’ll have to open the app to see your list.

I downloaded the iOS version and it works really well. The quick tutorial makes most of the gestures intuitive before you know it. The only difficulty I had was squeezing a list closed to reveal the group list view if a list only had two items in it. If you intend to just use one big laundry list, then there should be no issues. Its very quick and easy to add, move, delete or check-off items. If you need timed alerts or repeating alerts you’ll need to use a different app.

The NORAD color view is nice: things at the top of the list are marked in red and then they fade to orange and yellow but it doesn’t seem to ever fade to green or blue. I guess its always at a  state of alert.

It appears that by using iCloud you can sync lists between the desktop Clear app and your iOS device. At $9.99 for the desktop app though, I am a bit hesitant.

Currently, I use SimpleNote on my iOS devices with Notational Velocity on my laptop which is a free list/text solution but slightly limited. A full “premium” version of SimpleNote is $19.99/year. SimpleNote and Notational Velocity act as more of a text receptacle than a list-maker and I would say the same thing about Evernote as well. Clear is definitely a DO THIS task list-maker rather than a great big catch-all.

The iOS version of Clear is $1.99 and the desktop app is $9.99.

Finding the best Read Later Option

After a post several weeks ago asking all you fine readers about the best options for reading news and saving articles, I narrowed down the list for the “read later” options to three of the most popular options:

Each offers bookmarklets or plug-ins for popular browsers, each offers apps for iPhone, iPad and Android, and all ofthem will integrate with a number of popular apps. Its gotten so complicated, I’m going to have to make a spreadsheet….

  iPhone/iPad Android Other Mobile Devices Other Apps Bookmarklet or Web Plug-in Email to: Twitter integration?
Instapaper yes yes Kindle, Nook over 140 bookmarklet yes yes and lots of app support
Readability yes yes Kindle Reeder, Longform, Flipboard and more Firefox plug-in, bookmarklet yes Tweetbot, Twitterific, Echofon, more
Pocket yes yes Windows Phone, Blackberry  a lot incl. Flipboard, Reeder, Longform Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera plug-in, bookmarklet yes yes and lots of app support

Okay, that wasn’t too helpful unless you are using a Blackberry, own a Nook or you absolutely love having a web extension.

So, do you want my opinion about the options?

Instapaper is the original option and has lots of connections with tons of social networking apps and lots of other places but it is bland as the web interface looks. If you want a simple reader and the option that will most likely to link to all your favorite sites, stick with Instapaper. The web account is free but apps for your mobile device are paid apps.

Pocket is a great option if your “read later” needs lean towards visuals because the interface features a photo from the page if one is available. Pocket is a much more graphic interface, more colorful and pretty easy to read. I thought this was going to be my favorite and I have been using it for several weeks for reminders for the Link Love weekly posts. Pocket is free.

And then I finally started digging into Readability and I fell in love with it. The web interface is clean with beautiful typography but it was the mobile apps with typography from Hoefler & Frere-Jones. The interface on iPhone and iPad are so lovely that I wish Readability would redesign all the ebook apps because the typography and color options for reading in bright light, at night or somewhere in the middle are just fabulous.

See what I mean? Lovely. So, for me, Readability has won out as my favorite “read later” app. Now, if only they add support for PDF and ebook/epub formats I would live in Readability. Readability is free.

Need Advice on News and Digital Detritus

I’ve had a couple questions floating around in my organizationally-obsessed head and I was hoping you fine readers might have some input.

  1. What is your favorite way to get your news? I’m talking weather, politics, big news — not just RSS feeds from Gizmodo and the Pen Addict.
  2. How do you collect and track online tidbits — articles to read, review or remember for later? Do you use Readability, Delicious, Pocket or something else entirely? Do you use different services for personal content and business? Do you use the same app to track to-dos, projects and other digital detritus?

I’d prefer a service that can be accessed via web-based/cloud AND iPhone for both news and article/tidbit collecting.

Please leave your recommendations in the comments here. I’d really appreciate any input as I’ve floated from one option to another without finding one I’ve been really happy using.

Do It

Do It Tomorrow is a simple app available through the web for free or as an app for iPhone (free), Android (free) or iPad ($4.99). The look of the app is distinctively notebook-y which is what first attracted my attention. You can add a to-do item and then shoot over to tomorrow if you can’t get it done today. And that’s about it.

The iPad app will sync with iPhone and web allowing your simple 2-day-at-a-time planning to go with you wherever. While its limited functionality does not allow for long term planning, it can help keep track of just those things you need to do today. Of course, a pocket notebook will do the same thing.

Notational Velocity

I’ve used and abused, ignored and overlooked dozens of note-taking and sticky note-saving apps over the years. I was a loyal user of StickyBrain (which later became SohoNotes which retails for $39.99 and is compatible with an iPhone and iPad app, $4.99 and $9.99 respectively ) and have even tried a few of the online organizational tools like Evernote and Remember The Milk but in the end, simpler always seems better. There are some notes I want with me, and for those I resort to paper and pen but for things like serial numbers, web links, bits of code for a blog or other random bit of digital detritus, I keep going back to Notational Velocity (free).

Foremost, Notational Velocity is the epitome of simple. You type a title or keyword in the search bar. If you’ve already created a note with the text, it will show in the box below. If not, it will just create a new note with that text as the title. Then in the bottom field, you add the content. Easy-peasy. As the epitome of simple, Notational Velocity does not store photos, include tags or folders. Its just a searchable list of bits of text, thoughts, notes, code, etc.

Notational Velocity syncs with Simple Note, an iPhone and iPad app which is also free so you combine both online and offline note-saving as well as have a smooth, free back-up system for your notes.

Do you have any apps that help keep your desktop clear of clutter and your notes and thoughts organized? Leave a note in the comments!

I read about Ghostwriter Notes on Patrick Ng’s Scription blog. It’s an iPad app that allows users to create handwritten notes on an iPad screen using a finger or stylus. “Pages” may be exported to photo album, Dropbox or Evernote. It allows for PDFs to be imported and annotated. It appears to get decent reviews and sells for $3.99. Any iPad users out there using this app? Opinions??

(via Ghostwriter Notes on the iTunes App Store)

At the start of every year, I try to determine if I am working most efficiently and what, if any tools, exist to make my job easier. Cloud is such an app. When installed on your Mac, it automatically uploads screenshots to your web storage. This is great if you are working on client work or collaborating and want a way to share images with people quickly, without cluttering up your email. But there’s more to Cloud than that. Its got the kind of functionality that makes it fast and easy to upload music tracks, videos and links (with shortened URLs) quickly with the Raindrop plug-ins in the preferences. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

(via CloudApp)

Alfred App


Four months ago, I mentioned a new app discovery called Alfred. I thought I would follow-up to let you know, I cannot live without it now. The simple act of clicking Option+Spacebar and keying in the first few letters of anything has shaved so many seconds of clicking around on my computer that I think I’ve added at least a day of productivity to my life. Really.

Add to the free app with the PowerPack (£15 or $24) and you can do even more than just locate files, calculate, spell and shutdown (favorite feature!). With the PowerPack, once you’ve located an image or file, you can immediately email it or open it with a specific application. There is an iTunes mini player controller, ability to find a contact in your Address Book quickly and access clipboard hisories. There are opportunities for even more functionality with scripts and more but that’s outside my realm of expertise.

So, try out the app and see if you find it useful. If you do find it useful, try out the PowerPack and really blow your mind! My fingers hardly ever leave the keyboard now.

Spend your holidays “scanning” family photos with the iPhone app ShoeBox by 1000memories. This free app lets you crop, straighten and rotate your photo, then add comments and share with friends on Facebook and Twitter. It will make it a lot easier to save those cherished family photos at Grandma’s than dragging your scanner home for the holidays.

(via 1000memories)