Hopefully you made it through St. Patricks Day unscathed and you still know where your iPhone is. If you’re still nursing a hangover, though, I’ve got some apps to pass the time lying on the couch. First up is a cool new browser from the original developers of Opera. I’ll also take a look at the newest weather app for iOS. Finally, I’ll close out with the iPad version of one of the Mac’s most powerful text editors.
Vivaldi – Mac
Long before Opera became the browser that ended up on everything with a plug on it, it was the Web nerd’s browser of choice. Though never as popular as Firefox or Chrome, Opera was always where you saw features like tabs and speed dial before they ended up in the mainstream browsers. But Opera‘s founders have a new offering for you to look at: a new browser named Vivaldi.
Vivaldi, like Opera, comes packed with a ton of features. It has highly customizable tabs, which you can run along either along the side or at the top of the window. I really like that the active tab takes the color of the site it’s on, and the browser looks great on Yosemite. You can make tab stacks, so if you’re hoarding sites, you can keep them organized. An integrated notepad sweetens the deal even further.
This browser is still in early beta, so you’ll have to wait a bit for a feature-complete release—the beta’s lack of extension support is really the stickler. The final release will also include a built-in mail client—a bit of a throwback to the days of Netscape Communicator. The browser wars could always use another front, and Vivaldi has enough going for it to capture our attention.
What’s Good: Cool look and feel. Nice tab organization.
What Sucks: Still in beta.
Buy it? If you’re bored with the current state of browsers—and can bear some pre-release bugs—check out Vivaldi. Download the preview from the Vivaldi site.
Flickr Tab – Mac
I am not a full-time Chrome user; these days, I mostly use it for watching videos with Flash. I do use it at work a lot, though, and it’s still has the best ecosystem of plugins across all the browsers, hands down.
One thing that has always bugged me, however, is that the “new tab” page is basically the Google start page. Erstwhile photographer paradise Flickr has put its extensive catalog to work toward fixing Google’s aesthetic shortcomings by replacing your new tab page with a random picture from Flickr’s gallery. It’s similar to the way that the Apple TV Flickr slideshows work, but it’s more passive.
I really like the way this looks, though I wish that you could select categories of photos to use: This would make it a bit less random and tailored to what you’d like to see. If you click through, you can get to the photographer’s Flickr photostream and view other photos they’ve taken.
What’s Good: Excellent improvement over the plain “new tab” page.
What Sucks: Needs more customization options.
Buy it? If you’re bored with Chrome’s “new tab” page, check out Flickr Tab. Download it for free from the Chrome Store.
CARROT Weather – iOS (Universal)
Weather apps are a dime a dozen on the App Store these days, and the only reason CARROT Weather is worth mentioning is that it’s a new addition to the acerbic CARROT suite of apps. I was a big fan of the original CARROT abusive to-do list—which smartasses you into getting things done—as well as the exercise app: The weather app loses a bit of the edge, but still has the same sense of humor and design sense.
The app pulls data from Forecast.io, so it’s as accurate as Dark Sky. If the basic 5-day forecast doesn’t do it for you, you can swipe up to see a more detailed forecast. CARROT Weather only really snarks at you when you first open the app and get you forecast, so there isn’t as much personality this time around. You are able to get jokey locations the more you use the app: In the screenshot above, you can see the weather report for Tatooine. CARROT’s developers promise to add radar maps and Apple Watch support in future releases.
What’s Good: A fun take on the weather.
What Sucks: Lacks the personality of the other CARROT apps.
Buy it?: If you’re a fan of CARROT or just want a bit of humor with you weather forecast, check out CARROT Weather. Grab it from the App Store for $2.99.
Google Calendar – iPhone
Google Calendar has finally joined the rest of the Google suite on the iPhone (Sorry, iPad users; you’re the cold for the time being). Thanks to this new app, you can now manage your Google calendars in their natural environment. It pairs well with the Gmail app, especially if you Google’s services for your work email and calendar. This way, you can keep a wall between your personal info and your work info. (I suppose you could do it the other way if you’d like, and keep your work info in Calendar and your personal stuff in the Google apps.)
You can also manage your on-device calendars, including your iCloud accounts, through the Google Calendar app—great if you aren’t a fan of the bundled Calendar app. It also handles multiple calendars and accounts with ease. Other than that, it’s really just a standard calendar app: It lacks the versatility of Sunrise, the power of Fantastical, and it’s not that much of an improvement over iOS’s Calendar app. It looks great, though, and it fits right in the rest of Google’s apps.
What’s Good: Handles multiple accounts and calendars very well.
What Sucks: Not that much more powerful than the built-in iOS calendar. No iPad version.
Buy it? If you live in a Google’s ecosystems, this is the calendar for you. Download it for free from the App Store.
Ulysses – iPad
Ulysses on the iPad is going to make a lot of people very happy. The Mac version was best described as Scrivener for the plain text crowd. Had that simply come to the iPad with a few Markdown shortcut keys added to the keyboard, it would have been good to go.
Instead, the app brings a complete toolbar that makes writing with Markdown about as easy as you could imagine. In addition, quick punctuation buttons that allow you to easily insert colons, semicolons, quotation marks, and a variety of other symbols. The most interesting feature might be how you can drag your finger across the on-screen keyboard to move the cursor (this does require you to type a bit more carefully, though).
Ulysses handles files a bit differently from traditional text editors: Rather than forcing you to dig through Dropbox or iCloud to find documents, you can get at them via a sidebar that appears along the lefthand side of the screen. You can group files together, too, so you can organize files as you see fit. Ulysses treats individual documents as “sheets”—think pages in a notebook—and you can export groups of sheets as one big document, in ePub, PDF, HTML, and RTF. This is probably overkill for your blog posts, but if you wrangle a lot of plain text files, this could be a godsend.
Images and file attachments are all handled via the improved file handling in iOS 8. The app syncs with the Mac version via iCloud: It works spectacularly sometimes; other times, not so much. Hopefully, Apple improves the iCloud sync sometime soon to make this more reliable.
There’s been a lot of talk about the iPad’s usefulness as a productivity tool, and Ulysses shows that you can get all the power of the Mac app on the iPad. Ulysses joins Pixelmator as the model citizens for productivity in iOS.
What’s Good: Excellent UI design, file handling, export options.
What Sucks: Might be a bit overwhelming for novice users. iCloud sync can be temperamental.