App


Glass: “I Appreciate You”

10th December 2021

The premium photo-sharing platform, Glass, has now introduced likes. However, they’re not quite like the likes that you’ll be familiar with.

Instead, as they have written on their blog, the feature is called an “appreciation”. And rather than powering algorithms and fueling the desire of that never high-enough like counter, it’s a quick way to show your appreciation for a photo that someone has shared.

There’s no visible counter on a photo, and you don’t even have an easy way to find the total for your own photos. But, you do receive a notification in the app that shows that someone has shown appreciation for one of your photos.

The way I see it, it’s a cleaner way to replace the “Nice shot” or “Great photo” comments. I think it both cleans up the comment section, and also allows more people to show their liking for a photo. As I know that I personally have felt that there are photos where I want to just show somehow that I’m a fan of a certain photo, but didn’t really want to add a typical short comment.

It might result in less comments on photos, which maybe goes against the idea of a community where photographers share their thoughts on each other’s work. But that’s not necessarily a sign of people not communicating with each other, it’s just a different method of showing appreciation.

Greg Morris has been able to use the update for a few weeks, and his thoughts seem to be similar to mine:

My takeaway from the update (I’ve been able to use it for a couple of weeks now) is almost all positive. Being able to leave a small token of appreciation will replace the hundreds of times I write “great shot” or “love this” and means the comments I do leave have more thought in them.

Lee Peterson also shared his thoughts on the new feature, and while he had some initial hesitation, in it’s current form, he also seems to feel the same:

I think as long as it’s treated like a quick comment and not a popularity contest we’ll be ok. Let’s see where Glass take it next but I’ll be keeping a close eye on it’s next step.

I don’t mean to point out the hesitation as any kind of put down, as I believe it’s well warranted. Most social media platforms nowadays love these little interactions, because they can add counters everywhere, and it can drive that feeling of wanting more, and never being fully satisfied. Like Lee, my opinions are based on it’s current form, and if it does change into the “like” button that you see on every other platform, I’ll soon change my tune.

Vinegar - A Safari Extension To Fix YouTube Videos

1st December 2021

You may have heard about Vinegar, since it’s been doing the rounds recently. However, if you haven’t, It’s essentially a Safari extension that makes YouTube videos look better, and act like standard HTML videos. Which means they use Safari’s native video player, which means that you have slightly more control over the video, but at the same time you do lose some functionality that YouTube has in their player.

As you can see, the video player still lets you change the video quality, use subtitles, stream to an AirPlay device, etc. So the basic functionality is there. And it makes Picture-in-Picture a lot easier to access, as the YouTube player requires three clicks, and the native player has a button in the top-left corner.

And as much as I would say that YouTube looks better with the native player, and that it’s easier to use, there are still downsides. For example, autoplay doesn’t work, you can’t access the YouTube Miniplayer, you can’t toggle Theatre Mode, and you can’t pause/play the video using the space bar.

The downsides will have different levels of importance to different people, and I’m personally a bit in the middle. I’m definitely keeping it installed, and going to be using it by default, but there are certainly ways it can be improved.

What I can say, is that it’s definitely worth it’s £1.79 price. Which seems to be an opinion shared by others, as it’s currently sitting in second place in the Utilities category of the Mac App Store in the UK.

MeetingBar

I have far too many Zoom calls at work, and I always hate the process of finding the calendar event, and then copying the Zoom code or link. Especially as it's never always in the correct place.

So I was seaching for an app that could make this experience better, and I found MeetingBar. It's a menu bar app that shows a list of the days meetings, and you can just click on one of them to join the associated video call.

It's massively customisable, and supports Zoom, Google Meet, Teams, and a few more. One thing I plan on looking at deeper is the custom regex for meeting links, as there are a few odd meetings in my calendar with rather oddly formatted meeting codes.

Textastic Code Editor 9

I wrote about wanting an offline capable Visual Studio Code app for iPad yesterday, and while I haven’t found an app that I feel to be equal, Textastic does seem to be the best code editor app I’ve found for iPad.

Trying Out a New Email App, Big Mail

8th July 2021

I’ve been experimenting with email again over the past week. This time it was trying out the new email app, Big Mail.

I won’t do a full product review, but I just wanted to write about my own experience with the app, where it excelled, and also where it also fell behind.

So, if you haven’t heard about Big Mail, the shortest description that I can give is that it tries to combine a great reading experience, with a screening tool similar to Hey, and the automatic sorting features of SaneBox, into a universal mail app.

It sounds like an incredible app in theory. But I’ll be upfront, in its current state, Big Mail is not the mail app for me. Let me explain.

First things first, I really like the design of Big Mail, on all platforms. And I totally get the idea of having a place for discovering new emails, separate places for newsletters, purchases, etc. and an email screener is handy to block unwanted email.

I currently pay for SaneBox (which I disabled during this experiment), so I definitely think I’m in the target audience for this app. But I’ve felt that the sorting in Big Mail isn’t that proactive and that I’ve had to assign categories to emails as they come into my inbox. This organisation is supposed to be “intelligent” and “automatic”, and maybe it is working as intended, or possibly it requires me to kick off some base data for the AI to kick in? Either way, it feels like I’m doing way too much manual sorting for it to be useful. SaneBox has possibly affected me in this regard because it’s worked so well for me, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s doing enough.

As for the reading experience, I’ve found that to be pretty good. I especially like the little touches such as the little accent colours and format when reading newsletters. There’s a decent amount of things you can do to an email, there are things like reply later, sort into a category, always ignore, starring an email, and the expected ones that all other clients support.

The major issues I have with Big Mail, except for the automatic sorting, is actually what I feel should be classified as basic functionality that you would expect in all email clients.

Here’s a list of some of those features that I expect in all email clients:

  • Ability to perform actions on multiple emails at once.
  • Keyboard shortcuts for basic email actions: delete, reply, forward, etc.
  • Access to your folders.
  • Swipe actions to quickly perform basic actions.
  • Drag and drop functionality to move emails into categories/folders.

The problem is, none of those features are available in Big Mail.

As much as some parts of the app I like and enjoy using, if the foundations aren’t there, then I simply can’t use it. So, I’m going back to Apple Mail on all of my devices for now.

I’ve still got hope that Big Mail can turn into a great product, and they seem to be listening to feedback already (It launched without an archive feature for one). So hopefully I can come back to it in the future and give it another go because there’s definitely potential.

Parcel App

19th May 2021

I've been trying out a new delivery tracking app recently called Parcel, and it's been absolutely fantastic to use. And while it's a lot simpler than the popular Deliveries app, it does a few things that for me, make it a much better choice.

One main annoyance I had with Deliveries, was that Royal Mail (the main postal service in the UK) deliveries weren't supported properly. You could add them, but it would just redirect you to the web if you wanted to actually view the details. Fortunately, Parcel supports Royal Mail deliveries like any other, which makes it instantly better.

That's not it though as Parcel can also automatically track Amazon orders, which is incredibly useful. And while it's not automatic, there's also support for Apple Store orders, just use the order number and Parcel can fetch all the details.

So while it may not be the most feature packed app, or have the most custom design, I think it's fantastic.

If you want to try it out, then Parcel is free on the App Store, and if you want to track more than three deliveries at once and also have push notifications, then the premium subscription is just £2.99 a year.

QuickZoom

A great utility app for Mac that makes it so much easier to join Zoom calls.

Instead of dealing with copy and pasting meeting IDs or passwords into Zoom, you just need to copy the details and QuickZoom will detect these details and show a prompt to join the meeting.

GlanceCam 3

GlanceCam is an app developed by my friend, Cesare Forelli, and it's once that I've admired for a long time. In short, it's an app that lets you view IP cameras from your Mac. But in reality it's so much more, especially with the recent major update.

It's a relatively minimal design, however it's still packed full of functionality. It support multi-windows, always on top, 4K streams, you can use it to sent HTTP GET commands to your devices, keyboard shortcuts, a URL scheme, AppleScript support, and so much more.

This app is probably the main reason why I'm thinking of investing in some cameras for my house.

Text Case 2021.3

8th March 2021

Text Case 2021.3 is a relatively small update, but it brings a few features that users have been desperate for, ever since the major 2021.1 release.

That update introduced the concept of building custom flows, but the flow creator was quite restricted. For example you couldn't easily reorder formats, and also for more complex formats that required custom parameters, there wasn't a way to edit these parameters afterwards.

Fortunately this update fixes both of those limitations. So you can both reorder and edit formats in the flow creator UI.

Additionally to those improvements, I also spent time rewriting the title case logic. That's not going to be something anyone directly cares about. But it allowed me to orient the title case formats around defined rules, and therefore made the process of adding new variants much easier.

Therefore, I've added four new title case variants:

  • AMA Title Case (American Medical Association)
  • Bluebook Title Case
  • New York Times Title Case
  • Wikipedia Title Case

This means that Text Case now supports 9 different title case variants. Which if you're interested in, you may want to read the post I wrote recently "The Various Types of Title Case" where I go into detail on all nine.

To top it all off, there is one more new format, Italics. Which means you can now do Bold, Italics, and Bold-Italics in the app.

Download

This update is available right now for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS!

My (Short) Experience With TAIO

6th March 2021

Continuing my quest to find the perfect writing app, I turned to TAIO (Text all in One). It's been touted as the next best writing app, with it's modern design, and extensive built-in automation support.

I must admit, that clearly I didn't do my research very well. Because as much as I love the level of appearance customisation, and the overall structure to the app, I did not realise that it is not available for Mac.

The developers are working on a macOS version, but don't plan on releasing it anytime soon. That's good news, and means I'll probably look at it again once it's out. Since by then I assume the overall product would have matured even more.

It's unfortunate, since I think TAIO has a lot of potential. But I really want to use one app across all of my devices. So for now I'll be going back to iA Writer.

That will be it for a while I think. I'll spend the next few days putting together some thoughts on what I took from the past few experiments. But I expect that I'll be sticking with iA Writer for a while.