App


App

Rediscover Old Photos With Memories

23rd December 2020

Memories is a new app that lets you view photos from years gone by on your iOS devices, either inside of the app, or with its widgets.

Memories supports all three widget sizes, and they will each show a single photo from previous years. It won't just show the one photo for the whole day though, as it cycles through multiple photos throughout the day.

A lot of these types of apps exist, where you can go back in time and experience old memories. But personally, I know I'd never actually ever use them. That's why I like these widgets, since I can put a widget on one of my home screens, and my phone can remind me of various memories as I use it.

Download Memories for free on the App Store.

App

Put Your Pasteboard in Your Menu Bar With ClipBar

9th December 2020

ClipBar, an app made by my friend Cesare, is a recently released app that puts your pasteboard in your menu bar. It's such a simple idea, but it's already helped me a ton.

I haven't got a great memory, so I regularly forget what I've copied. Previously, I would hit CMD + SPACE, paste the contents into Spotlight and get a preview. But with ClipBar, I've always got a snippet in the menu bar that makes it much faster.

There's no need to worry about the size of the pasteboard either, since you can set a maximum character limit that will appear. You can also fine-tune the truncation, by having it clip the start, middle, or end of the content.

If you've simply copied text, then that's what will appear. However, if you've copied a file, then you'll see the path, and if you've copied an image, you will see an icon to show it is an image, and it's file size.

In a recent update, ClipBar gained a preview feature, so you can view the whole contents of your clipboard. For images, it switches from the file size to an actual preview of the image.

From the preview, you can share the contents using any built-in or third-party share extensions.

Having your pasteboard contents permanently in your menu bar can sound potentially dangerous, especially if you regularly copy sensitive information. Unfortunately, if you are worried about such problems, then this app may not be for you.

But ClipBar does work with an existing agreement between developers to help identify when passwords and other secure information has been copied, and it will then attempt to conceal the data. You can read more details on this in the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

While I may copy sensitive information on my machine, I'm happy with the fact that ClipBar is sandboxed, it doesn't store your data anywhere, and the precautions regarding sensitive information.

With all that said, I think ClipBar is a great app, and one that will undoubtedly make your life easier.

You can download ClipBar on the Mac App Store.

App

ConnectKit for Shortcuts

24th November 2020

Josh Holtz, has announced his new app ConnectKit for Shortcuts, which bridges the gap between Shortcuts and the App Store Connect API. Surprisingly, you can access quite a lot of the functionality from App Store Connect over the API, including managing users, TestFlight,  app metadata, reporting, and even more!

You can use the built-in token storage for free, along with the action to generate a JWT token that can be used to make authentication requests to the API. But for just a small tip, you can unlock four premium actions which is where the magic is.

There's an action to get your apps, and also your sales and finance reports, which both come with quite a lot of parameters. For the rest of the API functonality, you can use the Make Request action, which lets you interact with the API directly, but you get the added bonus of the JWT token being generated for you automatically.

When I saw this app on Twitter, I immediately thought about how you could combine it with something like Charty to view super custom charts for sales. Fortunately, Josh has gone one step further and provided a ton of examples in the app, and on his blog post. Some you may expect like viewing charts in Charty, and app data in WidgetPack. But also submitting an app for review via Siri.

It sounds great, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing how I can put it to use.

You can get ConnectKit on the App Store, and I'd highly recommend reading through Josh's blog post to see all the details.

Instead of Launching Social Media Apps, Why Not Take a Deep Breath First?
App

Instead of Launching Social Media Apps, Why Not Take a Deep Breath First?

13th October 2020

I came across a tweet regarding an interesting app idea yesterday. The app is called one sec, and it's developed by Frederik Riedel.

The idea behind the app is to enforce a few seconds to take a breath before opening a social media app. So for example, when you go to launch Instagram to mindlessly scroll for a few minutes, you will be asked to take a deep breath, and then you can decide whether you really want to open Instagram or not. A lot of times, I tend to open Instagram or TikTok simply out of boredom. And I think it's become a bit of a reflex. Sometimes I catch myself blindly opening Instagram, but I little kick every time I did would be helpful.

It works via the Shortcuts app, and specifically by using the automation feature of Shortcuts where you can assign actions to happen when a custom trigger is activated. In this case, you assign the "Take One Sec.." action to the a trigger for when a certain app is opened. This way the shortcut is launched every time you launch that app.

The app has a level of customisation where you can select how long you want the "breathing" to last whenever you launch the app, and also whether you want it to apply if you relaunch the app within a specific period. I have it set to a 3 second duration, and also allows relaunches to be allowed if within 1 minute. That way I think it will cause enough friction to stop me from mindlessly launching things, but also not enough that it annoys me if I quickly go back to it a few seconds later. Because this would also apply if you're switching between apps quickly.

While you use/don't use apps after you're told to take a deep breath, one sec is keeping track of all of this, and displays these stats when you launch an app that is behind the "deep-breathe-wall", and also in the one sec app itself.

Another interesting feature is that when you're told to take a breath, you can obviously choose to open or not open the app, but you can also choose to continue breathing. And this time spent breathing, can also be added to the Health app to count as part of your "Mindful Minutes".

I think I'm going to use this for Instagram and TikTok solely, simply because I think I spend too much time on those apps when I should be doing other things. And a little kick will certainly help. I thought about doing it for Twitter as well, but I don't think the mindless scrolling really happens for me there. But we'll see I guess.


one sec on the App Store

App

Instagram Turns 10

6th October 2020

Instagram is now 10 years old (Wow), and they are celebrating it by releasing a few new updates to the app and platform.

There's a few small change to the platform, like anti-bullying features that aim to hide abusive comments, adding warnings for people that regularly try to post "offensive" remarks, and a few other things like the constantly moving tab/icon arrangement. I'll leave that for Instagram to explain.

I'm interested in two things in the update. The ability to set a custom app icon, and the new Stories Map that you can find in the archive.

Custom App Icons

You now have the ability to change the app icon for Instagram! I know it's possible via Shortcuts, but these are actual custom app icons.

There are 13 to choose from, and they go back to 2010 before the app was even launched.

To get to the icons, you need to go to Settings, and swipe down from the top of the screen (a lot).

I've gone for the "Classic 2" icon. Because surely that's objectively the best option?

Stories Map

The Stories Map is a cool feature, and it's one for yourself. As in, it's part of your own archive, and not visible for other people.

To find it, tap on the menu while you're viewing your profile (What even is this menu called?), and tap Archive. Then you'll be able to see your past stories in a simple reverse-chronological list like before, in a calendar view, or on a map.

I think the calendar view will be the most useful when going back and looking at old videos. But the map view is also pretty cool. Although if you want your videos to appear on your map, you have to add a location sticker to a story when sharing it.


As much as I get annoyed with Instagram Reels and Shopping taking up more real estate on the app, it's not all doom and gloom.

Oh, and if you want to find me on Instagram, I'm @lordchrishannah. (Yes, technically I'm a Lord, I own a square foot of land in Scotland)

App

The New Share Extension in Tot

28th May 2020

Craig Hockenberry, writing at the Iconfactory blog:

We’re happy to announce a new version of Tot with some features frequently requested by the app’s legion of fans.

The main focus of today’s release are system extensions that allow Tot to co-exist with other apps. To this end, we’ve added a Sharing extension for both iOS and macOS. Additionally, there’s also a widget for iOS that lets you quickly access any of Tot’s dots. Like everything else in Tot, attention was paid to minimizing friction, allowing information to be collected as quickly as possible.

I personally use the macOS version of Tot, quite heavily actually. And I think this share extension will be perfect when I quickly want to send text to a note.

It also makes me want to download the iOS app, because that probably has to be the best looking share extension I’ve ever seen. It does seem pricy for a simple note app, and that is the main reason why I haven’t bought it. But now I’m using the macOS version more, both of them as a package are starting to look like a good deal to me.

App

Charty for Shortcuts

22nd May 2020

I came across Charty recently on Twitter, and it looks like it’s going to be a great addition to the growing collection of apps that are designed to slot directly into the Shortcuts app.

After playing around with it, I was going to write an in-depth article on what I thought about it, but instead I’ve found three articles that I think explain it really well. And they also include examples so you can see what type of charts you can create.

Greg Morris:

This is one of those apps that at first you dismiss, but when actually looking around the app you realise just how helpful it can be. That’s because developer Rodrigo Araújo has thought about almost every aspect of the app. Building on the success of his first app ChartStat he aims to make it easy for everyone to visualise any kind of data.

Jason Snell:

Making charts by hand is labor intensive. But it gets easier if you can make the chart one time and just update the data as new numbers flow in. If that sounds like a job for user automation, you’re singing my tune—and I’m happy to report that the new app Charty is built to add charting capabilities to the iOS Shortcuts app.

Matt VanOrmer:

There are lots of Shortcuts actions and routines that generate data and could easily benefit from a simple bar graph or pie chart to provide useful insights more quickly and effectively. One example that comes to mind is graphing time-tracking data from Toggl once every week, let’s say, to see what tasks or projects you’ve been the most busy with — all without having to open the unpleasant Toggl app or the clunky web client from your iOS device. Charty is the perfect companion for those who accumulate lots of meta-data about their lives and want to frequently revisit and reassess the areas they are seeking to improve — whether that be calories burned, books read, or tasks completed, Charty plugs right into your existing Shortcuts routines and allows you to quickly turn those datasets into easily-digestible graphics. The option to create default chart format settings and custom “Export Profiles” of chart size, font size, and background color both help to add consistency in how your charts are formatted before saving them for yourself or sharing with the world.

App

My iPhone Home Screen

19th May 2020

I enjoy seeing other people’s iPhone home screens, so I thought it was probably about time I shared my own.

Home screen

Mine is rather simple and it’s got to a point where it’s pretty stable, with only a few apps changing now and then. There’s a total of 20 apps, with four of them being in the dock.

In the past, I’ve crammed my home screen full of apps that I think I use a lot. But that feels too busy. So instead, I leave the bottom rows empty. Which also gives me space to put an app I need to use temporarily, or if I’m trying something new out.

All apps that aren’t stock apps will have links to their App Store pages.


Wallpaper

Don’t worry, I’ve already thought about the wallpaper. I know from myself, that if I see someone’s home screen, I’ll probably want to know where they got their wallpaper from.

In my case, I found it on Unsplash, and it’s by a photographer named Amber Wilburn.


CARROT Weather

It’s maybe ironic that the first app on my home screen is the one that probably gets used the least. But still, I think CARROT Weather is one of the best weather apps available, and the snakiness always makes the interaction a bit funnier. And even though it doesn’t get used that often, it’s there when I need it. Which will probably after the lockdown ends and we’re allowed to go back to work.

Fantastical

Here’s another application that doesn’t get used too much either. It’s my calendar app of choice, Fantastical. I switched to Fantastical quite some time ago, and it was mainly due to the natural language support when creating new events, and partially because it had a nice UI.

Right now, I’m not really using my calendar that much, as I don’t have work events on my personal devices, and I prefer to use notes and a task manager to schedule my personal life. But I still use it for important events, but certainly not enough to warrant paying for the subscription, so there’s really not much keeping me loyal to Fantastical. And I can imagine me switching back to the stock calendar app sometime in the future.

Shortcuts

I have Shortcuts on my home screen simply so I have a quick way to experiment with new actions, and to test out new ideas. I don’t run many shortcuts from the Shortcuts app on my phone, I probably do this the most on my iPad. But that’s because the main shortcuts that I use on my phone are usually ran from the share sheet, for things like saving an article for later, starting a link post, combining photos, etc.

Clock

I don’t think I need to explain my use of the clock. I’ve to wake up for work somehow.

Photos

Another that probably needs no explanation. I have all my photos in iCloud, and nowhere else. So this is where I view them.

Music

I’m an Apple Music subscriber (that’s somehow getting student discount three years after graduating from university), and it’s the only place I play music from. I use it to play music on my phone, and also to other devices like my HomePod, and Apple TV.

Overcast

In my mind, Overcast is the best podcast app available. I like the benefits of having the Smart Speed and Voice Boost effects, but they’re not the reasons why I use Overcast every day. I’ve just never seen another podcast app that feels as complete. For example, you have a lot of control about what happens with new episodes, when to delete old episode, and even advanced stuff like changing the seek back/forward times, whether to auto play next, etc.

I’ve seen other podcasts apps that I can live with, them being Castro and Cosmicast. But Overcast is the only one I think that could actually pass as a stock app. Which is something I like a lot.

TV

Apart from Netflix and YouTube, I use the TV app for all of my video entertainment. It has films that I’ve purchased from iTunes, Apple TV+ shows, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. So it’s actually packed full of content.

I also really like the TV app, because it ties into the other apps/services, so I don’t always have to start videos from the TV app for the data to be visible. For example, keeping track of what episode I’m on in a series is something I don’t really want to think about. And the TV app makes it effortless.

Mail

This certainly follows a trend of using stock apps. I’ve tried various other third-party email apps, but never something just simple and clean like Mail. It’s not an app I want myself to spend too much time inside, so I think by using the most basic option, it helps me to just do the tasks I need to do and leave.

Twitter

Twitter is my most-used social network. I use it to share links to things I find interesting, my blog posts, and just to ramble about a subject. But I also use Twitter to keep up with people I’m interested in, the general news, and of course, football news.

I found myself a while ago with Tweetbot that I had a hard time being able to not read every tweet. But now I’ve switched to the official app, I find that the algorithm actually works well for me. I get to quickly read tweets that I’m interested in, and I don’t feel like there’s a fixed end that I need to reach before leaving. I’m sure many people would have the opposite behaviour, in that you can always find more tweets on the official Twitter app, so you may spend more time on Twitter accidentally. But I don’t seem to suffer from that. Or at least on Twitter, that usually happens to me on Instagram.

Books

To be honest, I don’t read as many books as I would like to. That’s usually because I’m too lazy to start ready something worthwhile and end up just reading something like Harry Potter. So I have the Books app on my home screen just to reduce the friction of starting/resuming a book whenever I’m in the mood.

It’s a technique I’ve used a few times before, where if I want to start using an app more, then I’ll put it on my home screen, and hope it triggers me to use it. But after a while, fix it hasn’t worked, it usually gets relegated to a folder or deleted. A recent app that didn’t work out was News. Turns out I don’t actually care that much about it. Or at least the publications that seemed to be appearing in the News app.

iA Writer

My writing app of choice is iA Writer, and it has been for a while. I’ve previously used Ulysses but came back to iA Writer because I like to see the Markdown as I write it. But not only that, I like how iA Writer works off a folder in iCloud Drive, so I can access my writing in other applications.

It’s also got great apps on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, so it allows me to have the same experience, no matter where I’m writing.

There are loads of advanced features in iA Writer, but I’m not really making use of them. I just like a simple Markdown editor, with a good interface, that exposes the raw files, and has support for all the platforms. And iA Writer certainly fits that criteria.

Messages

This is my main way of communicating with friends and family, as most of them have an iPhone. For the people that don’t, I have WhatsApp installed, and hidden in a folder on the second page.

Camera

I’ve used quite a few third-party camera apps like Obscura and Halide, but for whatever reason, I come back to the stock camera app nearly straight away. Although I take a lot of photos on my phone, I’m not actually fussed about various filters, effects, or anything other than a basic camera. So that’s why I’m using the Camera app!

Instagram

I’ve tried getting rid of Instagram from my home screen and from my phone entirely a few times, but I can never stick with it. I enjoy keeping up with friends, family, football, and random people. I probably look at the Explore page way too much, and get carried away with football rumours, but oh well.

TikTok

What can I say, I find TikTok videos funny! And it’s certainly a good place to sink some time into if you’re bored and don’t plan on getting anything important done.

The Dock

Now for the apps that I have in my dock. I have four of them, like most people. And I try to put apps here that I want to access very regularly. Files may not fit that criteria perfectly, but I see Files similar to the Finder app on macOS. So I always want that available.

Files

I’ve been making proper use of my local storage on my devices ever since iPadOS 13 came out, as I started downloading more files on my iPad, and in general, using my iPad more. Which led to similar behaviour on my iPhone.

Now I use the Files app to quickly look at saved documents, check my downloads, and also keep track of projects that require more than just a single app. For example, I’m working on a long-form piece at the moment, and that requires mind maps, various notes, and the actual file that I’m writing in iA Writer. And I find it super helpful that there’s now a proper way to manage file on iOS. It’s hard to believe it didn’t have a “Files app” for that much time.

Reminders

I mentioned my recent switch to Reminders the other day, but essentially I have very minimal needs when it comes to a task manager. And Reminders gives me everything I want and need, without charging me more for it or even sacrificing any of the benefits that Reminders gets from by default from being tied into the system so much.

Agenda

Agenda is the newest app to be placed on my home screen, and I made a conscious decision to replace Mail in the dock since I think it’s an app that I’m going to want to access a lot.

I recently started using Agenda to help bring various notes and reminders together into a single place, where I can keep track of any ideas I have, or simply to provide more context to a task.

One big task I’m using Agenda for is to manage my blog, which can be split into four things:

  • Keeping track of articles that I want to link to.
  • Ideas for articles that I want to write (along with any necessary notes).
  • Keeping track of what I’m currently working on.
  • Making a schedule for when I want to finish/publish each post. (More on this in a future article)

I’ve seen Agenda mentioned before on Twitter, and blogs, mainly focussing on how it connects notes, reminders, and a calendar together. But I didn’t realise how much it made sense to me until I started using it.

Safari

I use Safari everywhere. And it’s not going to change anytime soon.


I’m not sure if my home screen is in any way spectacular or innovative. But in the same way, I appreciate looking at others for ideas, maybe it can do the same for others.

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NHSX Looking Into Apple/Google Solution for Contact Tracing App

6th May 2020

Tim Bradshaw, Sarah Neville, and Helen Warrell, writing at Financial Times:

Health chiefs in the UK have tasked a team of software developers to “investigate” switching its unique contact-tracing app to the global standard proposed by Apple and Google, signalling a potential about-turn just days after the NHS launched its new coronavirus app.

Maybe they’re finally getting the message, that their custom solution will not work? Just like I mentioned before?

That’s not the only bit of news from this article though, with more details emerging on the app. That is it being developed by a Swiss IT development company named “Zuhlke Engineering”, with a 6-month contract worth £3.8m.

They’re said to be doing this as a two-week time boxed technical spike. Which is basically a period of time allocated to evaluate a new technology/implementation. Then after the spike (evaluation) is complete, more work can be planned, estimated, and carried out.

I’m just glad they’re open to switching to the more practical Apple/Google implementation.

Project

Text Case 2020.3

6th May 2020

Another small update to Text Case is hitting the App Stores.

It comes with a few UI enhancements, notably to help show pointer location when hovering. And also a simple context menu that appears when you right click or long press on any formatted text, where you can choose to either copy or share the result.

Improvements were also made to the performance of the app, and a few miscellaneous bugs were also fixed.


Links:

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