If you’re the type who wants to be organized but don’t know where to start, I have an app from Real Simple to help. I’ve also got an app to help remind you when to take breaks when working on your computer. We’ll also take a look at a web app making its debut on the Mac.
Real Simple Checklist – iPhone
I am most certainly not in Real Simple’s demographic. At least that’s the impression I get from their Checklist app. (The wardrobe essentials checklist said that I should grab a little black dress.) Though it may be a little narrow in its focus, Checklists does have some pretty helpful checklists for cleaning up around the house, travel, and other everyday stuff. Each of the tasks has tips to help you complete them, as well as the ability to set a reminder for yourself.
You get a sampling of the checklists available for free, but you need to pay to unlock the entire offering. There are around a dozen in each category, available for $2.99 through an IAP. The interface is easy enough to pick up, the lists are all organized by category and then you drill down to get your set of tasks. From there you can complete your list, and reset it for next time you need to do a quick cleaning.
What’s Good: Lots of prebuilt to-do lists for a variety of situations.
What Sucks: Some are pretty limited in their demographics.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a to-do list that’s already planned out check out Checklists. It’s free on the App Store.
UltraText – iPhone
After Emoji, what’s next for Texting? If Ultratext is to be believed, it’s animated texts. Ultratext lets you create animated GIFs out of text, photos, and emoji. You can then share those new GIFs within WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messages. You can dig deeper to share it through Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Email, The Camera Roll, or even a sharable link. If you’re just using text, you can change the color of the background and the text.
This app is a lot of fun to play with. Finding weird coded messages to make with emoji or making a mash up of weird snapshots to mess with your significant other is worth the download. The app is pretty easy to pick up and play, and my hope is that the developers are already working on extensions to use this right in Messages for iOS 8.
What’s Good: Good mixture of sharing options, easy to use.
What Sucks: A little on the frivolous side. (I, for one, welcome our new cat GIF overlords.)
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a fun way to make animated messages, check out Ultratext for free on the App Store.
NPR One – iPhone
NPR was essentially the FM podcast. Back before nerds could find MP3’s on any subject they wanted to obsess over, NPR would provide slightly hushed news programs that went into more detail than any other outlet. NPR One seeks to recreate NPR’s format, while embracing the on-demand and customization that streaming can offer.
To begin, you choose your local station and start listening. The app still plays the traditional top of the hour newscast. Then you’ll get selections of stories from NPR programs, choosing those that interest you. The app then seeks to tailor it playlist to what you like. You can search out NPR programs to stream as well, which helps the app generate a better playlist for you. (Though everything on your local station may not be available due to the different distribution companies that make up Public Radio.)
The problem is that other than the newscast, you’re not getting much that you can’t get via podcasts. If you’re looking for a replacement to streaming on your desktop, or playing your radio, this might be a good replacement. It’s also a nice way to sample some of NPR’s podcasts without subscribing. The search could use some polish as well, and like many of the tailoring algorithms this one gets a bit too narrow if you don’t search for new things frequently.
What’s Good: Lots of content, combines national and local programming based on your station.
What Sucks: Search could use polish, discovery more manual than it seems.
Buy it?: NPR fans that aren’t into podcasts looking for a good selection of programs should pick up NPR One. Grab it on the App Store for Free.
Rest – Mac
Rest is meant to set up your Pomodoro timings without the to-do list, though you can customize it to remind you to take a break on whatever schedule you’d like up front. You can even add a full screen reminder of your break, along with either random photos or stretching exercises for office dwellers. These seem like the best settings, but aren’t what’s there out of the box. Instead, all you get are some default breaks with a sound that plays. You have to configure the other features.
Even if you aren’t into productivity tricks, you will get some use from Rest. Especially if you take the time to configure the app to use the built-in stretching exercises. Even if you aren’t worried about your to-do list, this will help stretch out your hands.
What’s Good: Lots of customization, variety of exercises/stretches.
What Sucks: Best features not included in default configuration
Buy it?: If you lose large chunks of time at your Mac and would like a reminder to take a break once and awhile, check out Rest. Grab it on the Mac App Store for $4.99.
Hemingway is a web app that points out complicated writing. You can now buy the app for your Mac. The app supports Markdown, and includes HTML export. It is a simple port of the web app, keeping a minimal interface with two options: write and edit. It uses in–line spell check, but lacks the more advanced built-in spelling and grammar checks available in some apps.
This app is useful if you find yourself writing long and meandering prose that needs editing. This is going to be useful for web writers, and people who write tech documentation, as well as for the public. The app checks for passive voice, wordy sentences, complex sentences, and adverbs. Its goal is to eliminate the wordiness and unnecessary complexities present in prose these days.
There are some flaky interface issues: I have had problems with the highlights not lining up correctly, causing a weird phased effect to the text. I also had issues with the text not scrolling correctly at the bottom of the screen. This only seemed to be an issue when the text got longer than the first screen. So if you’re writing on an iMac, you won’t likely run into the issue. If you’re on a Macbook Air, it may be a more common issue.
What’s Good: Good writing suggestions.
What Sucks: Some interface problems with longer documents.
Buy it?: If you want an editor in a box, but don’t mind some UI issues, check out Hemingway. It is $6.99 on their website. Try the web version for free.