Apps Of The Week: Dispatch, Retrospecs, Bisect, Thimble, NetNewsWire

Okay, so I’m only a day late this time. I’ll take it. I’ve got a pretty robust set of apps for you. The first is a serious e-mail client that recently expanded to the iPad. I’ve also got an app that will let you try out split screen multitasking even on your iPad mini. I’ll close out the week with the relaunch of the granddaddy of RSS readers on the Mac.

Dispatch – iOS(Universal)


Dispatch is an e-mail app that’s focused on letting you get through your e-mail faster. It does this through text snippets and better navigation. The app also allows for some powerful sharing options, including adding your e-mail to Reminders.

You end up with a reminder that has the whole e-mail as a text, along with a callback URL that will take you back to Dispatch. The app also has a built in sharing menu that you can customize. There is a ton of different to do apps you can use, and if you want you can use the system share sheet.

Text Expander users will find support for their snippets here. If you aren’t a Text Expander user, you can create your own snippets right in the app. It comes with some good examples, including snippets for some basic tech support. It’s pretty easy to use the snippets, you just hit a button at the bottom of the compose window and a search pops up. (You can also choose to browse all of your snippets as well.)

If you’re using e-mail casually, then you likely aren’t going to get much out of this app. However, it’s a better fit if you are looking for a better way to manage your e-mail as your to do list.

What’s Good: Snippets and sharing options are powerful.

What Sucks: Have to dig around for a lot of the options.

Buy it?: If you’re looking for a better way to manage email with support from other apps, check out Dispatch. Get it on the App Store for $6.99.

Retrospecs – iPhone


Pixel art is becoming mainstream— digital nostalgia drives some of us to wish for a time when our computers weren’t so perfect. Retrospects allows you to filter your photos as if they were rendered on classic computers.

My favorite of the filters is the old Game Boy filter, giving your photos the green and black pixels that probably ruined my eyes. There’s a huge variety of old school computers here: Macintosh, Apple II, Sega Master System, and more. There is one modern system represented: The Pebble Smart Watch.

You can take pictures right in the app, it includes a lock in landscape feature that Apple should steal for the proper camera app. However, you’re more likely going to use this app to alter existing photos. They think so too, as an original version of the in-app camera photo is saved to the camera roll. The in-app camera has a landscape lock option, which needs to be a system wide option in iOS 9. The app also wasn’t available as an external editor in Photos, which is a bit of a miss.

What’s Good: Huge variety of filters and options, landscape lock option for the camera.

What Sucks: No external editor for Photos.

Buy it?: If you are a fan of pixel art, check out Retrospecs. Get it on the App Store for $1.99.

Bisect – iPad


Bisect is an app that will help older iPads get the side by side multitasking, well at least if you only wanted a web browser and text editor as your main windows. You can also get a live Markdown preview as you type in the other split window.

Even if that was all it did, that would be a pretty novel app. However, you can also work with multiple documents in tabs. So you can have a bunch of documents open on one side, and then have a couple of web pages open on the other. The browser will play video, but you’re giving up extensions and other features.

There are some odd limitations. You can’t have two documents open on each side, just either a web browser or a preview of the document. I also had some weird behavior with using external data providers. I tried adding Quip, which was an available option, but it never showed up in the actual contextual menu. It took me awhile to figure out all of the interface, it could use a better tutorial. You can try the limited version of the app for free, unlocking multiple tabs for $9.99.

What’s Good: Split screen multitasking— now, and for all iPads.

What Sucks: Browser limitations, no side by side document editing. Needs better tutorial.

Buy it?: If you’ve got an older iPad and want in on the multitasking, check out Bisect. Try it free on the App Store.

Thimble – Web


Mozilla is transforming itself into a company that pushes the web for the web’s sake. It’s no surprise that they would develop a web IDE on a website. Thimble gives you two panes, one with your code, and another with the rendered page.

You’ll need Chrome or Firefox to use Thimble, I had some issues with the app’s file handling time out with Safari. There are three projects that are included, allowing you to play around with pre-existing code. These include teaching guides for classes as well.

What’s surprising is that the IDE itself is pretty robust. You can create pages and CSS, seeing the changes take effect in real time. If you create a Mozilla account you get to save files and work on them as well. If you’re just learning to create web pages, this might be a really easy way to get the hang of playing with code.

What’s Good: Easy way to play around with code.

What Sucks: Teaching guides should have more interactivity. No Safari support.

Buy it?: If you want to edit HTML and CSS right from the browser, check out Thimble.

NetNewsWire – Mac/iPhone


NetNewsWire was probably the introduction for many Mac users to RSS. Its mythic status notwithstanding, it’s current reputation hasn’t fared well. The new version goes a long way to modernizing the app, but it’s still a bit behind when it comes to features.

The iOS version of the app probably shows off the biggest set of feature gaps. You can’t sort articles by oldest to newest, which is by far the most irritating. There’s also no access to iOS’ built in share sheet, which limits the available sharing options. There is not an iPad version yet, but I did confirm with Black Pixel that it is forthcoming.

On the Mac, NetNewsWire is a much better option. The sorting options are all there. There’s still limited sharing options, again without the system share sheet. It’s just that on the Mac, this is still pretty common.

Both apps use NetNewsWire’s custom cloud sync. So if you haven’t found a cloud sync service of choice, this might be a good choice. On the other hand, you aren’t going to be able to use that account with any of the other apps out there. You can import and export via OPML, but you may want more portability between apps.

What’s Good: Regardless of my complaints it’s great to see the app return as a suite across devices, sync service is quite robust.

What Sucks: iOS version doesn’t allow you to sort articles. Missing some big sharing options. (Pocket and Pinboard, et. al.)

Buy it?: If you missed NetNewsWire, or are just an RSS junkie like me, get the iOS version for $3.99. Get the Mac version for $9.99.

Mac geek? Gamer? Why not both? Mike is a writer from Wisconsin who enjoys wasting immense amounts of time on the Internet. You can follow him on Twitter.