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Traveling with Pizza Compass for iPhone

pizzacompassappThere are seventy-four pizza chains in the US. That’s not individual stores, just franchises. And, I suspect, that number is nothing compared to all of the mom-and-pop shops across the country. So it should be easy to find a slice when you’re out of town, right?

Well, not always. Not a good one at least. That’s a problem that Pizza Compass for iPhone ($0.99) exists to solve. Just launch the app and it finds the nearest pizza place and points you to it.

Hold on. Pizza Compass won’t subject you the dump that the locals avoid. You can check each suggestion for Forsquare reviews. Or, if you’re feeling lucky, give the compass a spin at let it pick a stop for you.

I was recently out of town and hungry, so I decided to give Pizza Compass a try. Here’s how it went.

After a few hours of driving around, I had that hunger that only artery-clogging, life-shortening cheese and grease would satisfy. I pulled the car over and launched Pizza Compass, which pointed me towards Upper Crust Pizza. The reviews seemed largely positive, except for Cozzie D.’s stern warning:

“If you don’t like black olives, I recommend not getting the Greek salad.”

Done and done, Cozzie D.

Armed with the details of 44 Foursquare reviews and app-supplied driving directions, I drove to Upper Crust Pizza, despite the hoity-toity name.

It looked nice enough and the staff was friendly. I placed an order.

ucp

As you know, any disgusting pizza can be masked with toppings. In fact, if you ever see a cheese-stuffed crust…that’s an apology. That’s the cook saying, “Our pizza sucks. We know it. As an apology, we’ve crammed the crust with cheese.” Avoid those places.

I ordered a small cheese and sat down. As I waited, I shot this compelling Vine video.

At last it arrived! I lifted the glistening, greasy cardboard lid to reveal the cheesy goodness within!

cheese

Partial foul for that glob of migratory cheese on the left, but that was my only complaint! I’m happy to say that Pizza Compass did steer me in the right direction. Well done, little app. You’ve earned a spot in my travel folder.

Ink for iPhone, iPad review

photo 1Minimal Tools has released Ink, a sketch app for iPhone and iPad (free, universal). It’s Minimal Tools’ second app, and is as bare-bones as its sibling, Pop. Ink lets users create a black-and-white sketch immediately upon opening the app, which can be saved, shared or deleted with only a tap or two. It’s fast and to the point. Here’s my look at Ink for iPhone and iPad.

UI and Use

Launch Ink and you’re presented with a white screen. That’s the point, really. There’s no login to fiddle with or tags or categories to create. As soon as Ink launches, it’s ready for you to start drawing 1. To begin, put your finger or stylus on the screen and get started.

Ink is definitely a “minimal” tool. Black is the only ink color available. There’s also just one thickness, no speed sensitivity and no erase or undo. As such it’s much like sketching on a piece of paper. Honestly, I would like an eraser, as an error means starting over.

When you’re done, you can either save the result to your device’s Camera Roll, share via email, Twitter or Facebook or clear the page and start again. There are a couple of ways to do this. First, you’ll find a small handle in the lower right-hand corner of the active page. Flick it up to save the current sketch to your Camera Roll and open a new page. It’s pretty nice to do that in one swipe.

Double-tap on that handle to bring up the iOS share sheet (or shake the iPhone). It offers access to email, Twitter and Facebook as well as the Camera Roll, a print option, a copy option and finally a button to clear the current sketch without saving.

Conclusion

Ink’s developers aimed to create the digital equivalent of a “back-of-a-napkin” experience, and I can say they succeeded. Ink gets right to the point and stays out of the way. Those looking for a no-hassle way to capture digital sketches ought to check it out. Here are a few more screenshots.

Main screen, ready for your sketch.

Main screen, ready for your sketch.

Quick driving directions.

Quick driving directions.

Flip up to save and create a new sketch.

Flip up to save and create a new sketch.

Sharing options.

Sharing options.

  1. I am NOT good at drawing.

Wake N Shake for iPhone an effective, evil alarm

smilingevilWake N Shake Alarm Clock for iPhone ($0.99) is the alarm app for people who succumb to the snooze button morning after morning. I am one of you, dedicated snoozers. Those nine extra minutes sound so good in the wee hours 1.

Kiss them goodbye.

Not only does Wake N Shake lack a snooze button, it offers an incredibly insistent alarm that isn’t easily extinguished. You must shake your iPhone to turn it off. I don’t mean a polite church handshake, either. Imagine a solid 30 seconds of shaking…and that’s the medium setting!

There’s more to Wake N Shake than flailing about. Gesture support is really nice and a few thoughtful touches make this app fun to use, including the deep social integration. Here’s my look at Wake N Shake.

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5 things to like about Twitterrific 5

Ollie, Twitter’s elder statesman 1 and official unofficial Twitter logo, is flapping his wings (literally) in Twitterrific 5 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch (universal, $2.99 launch price). This update is a clean slate for The Iconfactory and Twitterrific customers. There’s much to enjoy in this version, and I’ve picked my top five. Here they are, in no particular order:

A Customizable Theme 2

You expect Iconfactory products to look good, and Twitterrific 5 does. What’s fun is that you can affect that to a degree. Once your account credentials are set up, tap your avatar and then the “AA” button to produce the theme customization screen. From here, you can:

  • Select one of five fonts
  • Make user avatars larger or smaller
  • Increase or decrease font size
  • Choose a light or dark theme
  • Adjust the spacing between lines
  • Adjust brightness

My aging eyes prefer the light theme, large icons and huge lettering with lots of space in between. You youngsters may differ.

Swipe to Reply

Previous version of Twitterrific let you determine what a double- or triple-tap did. For instance, you could have a double-tap create a reply and a triple-tap a retweet. I liked that. Now I wonder how I lived with it. Twitterrific 5 employes gestures in a clever way. To reply to a tweet, simply swipe right. A composition window appears with your target user’s handle in place. Super.

Swipe to View a Conversation

You know where this is going. Swipe left to view the conversation surrounding a tweet.

It’s Crazy Fast

Perform a gesture to compose a reply or view a conversation and boom, it’s there. Pull to refresh (that’s right, pull to refresh in Twitterrific!) and the timeline refreshes. It’s crazy fast.

Timeline Refresh Animation

When you pull to refresh your timeline, you’re treated to a delightful animation. Ollie bursts from his egg, flaps his wings and then disappears into a flash as the update is completed.

You’re going to say, “That’s just a bit of fun,” to which I’ll say, you’re right! Software can be fun! A feature can have no purpose other than to make the user smile. The first person who says “gamification” gets punched in the junk. Lighten up and have some fun.

There’s more, of course, like my beloved color coding. Each type of tweet you’ll compose (public, mention and DM) has its own color. Those colors are more subtle in v.5 but not gone. No more horror-stricken moments of, “Dear God, I hope that was a DM.”

Twitterrific 5 is a swell app that will remain on my iPhone’s home screen for the foreseeable future.

  1. Note that post from 2007 still says “post” instead of “tweet.”
  2. Watch as my iPhone’s battery drops closer and closer to zero across these screenshots.

Watermarker for Mac is a handy utility

It’s often necessary to watermark the photos or images you post online. For example, professional photographers and asset sales sites mark demo images so they can’t be used by visitors. Watermarker for Mac ($7.99) makes the process very easy and offers several options. Here’s my look at Watermarker for Mac.

Clean Looks

Watermarker presents a simple window that’s immediately easy to understand. A large content area dominates the center while a toolbar runs along the right-hand side. The top toolbar features two buttons – Open and Save – and is not customizable. It looks nice running full-screen in OS X Lion, though those who dislike the linen may grumble a bit.

Use

Adding an image and marking it up is wonderfully easy. You can either drag-and-drop an image into the well or use the Open command. Your image is nice and large and easy to work with. So, let’s check out the tools.

Text

You can add a bit of watermark text with control over its location, font, position and color. There’s even a button to pop in the “©”, which is great because I always forget where it is on the keyboard.

Image

I dragged my logo into the custom image well and it appeared on my photo instantly. Again, you can change its location and opacity.

Strikethrough

Here’s something I would never be able to pull off with an image editor. Click the Strikethrough box to add a strikethrough to your entire image. Its color is customizable.

Finally, you can determine the size of the resulting image upon export and even create presets if you want to do the same thing over and over.

Many of you can probably do this with a tool like Photoshop or Pixelmator. The rest of us are happy to have a simple, low-cost utility that does the dirty work on its own. Watermarker is definitely one of the good ones. Pick it up now and get watermarking.

Killogy by Alan Robert is creepy, bloody fun

Life of Agony bassist Alan Robert is also a talented comic book author and artist. I became aware of his work last year when the mini series Crawl To Me was released. Its unique art and compelling, disturbing story drew me right in (I did not see the ending coming).

Now, Robert and IDW Publishing are set to release Killogy, just in time for Halloween. After reading a preview copy, I can tell you that Killogy features a story just as engaging, characters just as entertaining and art that’s even more blood-splattered, unapologetic and bold than his previous work. Plus, it’s just plain fun.

Here’s my review of Killogy issue one.

Characters

The three main characters – accused killers in a Brooklyn police holding cell – immediately look familiar, and that was by design. Sal “Sally Sno-Cones” was inspired by Frank Vincent of Goodfellas, Raging Bull and the Sopranos. Legendary drummer Marky Ramone is Cole Edwards, a streetwise thug, and Brea Grant of Heroes and Dexter is Summer Rhoads, a disgruntled housewife, fresh from stabbing her husband to death. It does add a bit of fun to see these celebrities “playing” characters in a comic. As Robert puts it, “You rarely see an original, creator-owned comic series that features celebrities depicting its characters. I thought it would be interesting, in the same way The Twilight Zone had guest stars at the center of its stories.”

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Timer is a useful utility for iPhone

Timer from App Cubby ($0.99) is a handy utility for the iPhone. It lets you create several color-coded timers that can be launched, paused and customized with a tap. It’s faster than using Apple’s Clock app and has earned a permanent home on my iPhone. Here’s my look at Timer.

Looks

Timer presents a 3 x 4 grid of buttons. Each represents a given duration. An active timer “lights up” as the numbers count down for easy reference. It’s clear and legible and the color coding keeps things organized. Timers with a preset duration display their value while those without show a clock icon.

Use

I use timers a lot. Specifically, when I’m cooking, steeping tea and taking a nap. I’ve always used Apple’s Clock app for this and it’s fine. To create a timer with Clock, simply launch the app, dial in your preferred duration, select an alert sound and tap Start. There’s nothing wrong with it, but Timer does so much more.

First and foremost, you can run several timers at once. This is huge in the kitchen. Let’s say the potatoes au gratin need 45 minutes, the broccoli 10 and the turkey 3 hours. Each can have its own timer and they can all run at the same time.

To keep yourself organized, you can assign a color to each of those items and even a unique alarm. That way, you can tell what’s done just by listening. To edit a timer, tap and hold on its icon to produce the editor, where you’ll find several options:

1. Preset – Assign a default duration to this timer
2. Time – Duration
3. Alert – Choose the alert sound
4. Color – Assign a color to that timer button

It’s useful to create timers for frequently-used durations. For instance, I steep my tea for 3 minutes and take 20 minute naps. Now each is a single tap away. When a timer is complete, your alert sounds, a message appears on the screen and the corresponding button flashes. Also, the timer continues to count, but this time, forward. That way  you can see how much time has elapsed since your timer expired.

Why not just use Siri?

That’s a good question. Telling Siri, “Set a timer for three minutes” is faster than launching Timer and tapping the appropriate button (depending on how fast you speak, that is). But Timer has several advantages over Siri. First, it can run several timers simultaneously, as I mentioned. It’s also easier to view a timer’s progress with Timer. Siri will show you a timer’s progress if you ask, “Let me see my timer,” though you still have to look at the screen. It won’t read the time remaining to you. Also, Siri can’t set a timer that’s less than a minute long. ”I can’t set a timer with seconds. Sorry about that” is the response you’ll get.

Conclusion

Timer solved a few problems for me, like speed and simultaneous timers. It looks good and is only $0.99. I recommend it.

Drafts for iPhone is a quick, useful notepad

A couple of weeks ago I got a copy of Drafts for iPhone ($0.99) to play with from Agile Tortoise. Today it has earned a spot on my iPhone’s home screen and replaced once-favorite Birdhouse, which has been flaky lately. Drafts lets you quickly record text and then share it in several useful ways. Here’s why I’m loving Drafts.

I’ll preface this post by saying I don’t like typing lots of text on my iPhone. It’s time consuming and I make typing errors. When I first saw Drafts I thought, “Nice, but it’s a note-taking app. I don’t really use those.” However, when I realized it could replace Birdhouse, I became intrigued.

I like storing potential tweets as drafts. Yes, several Twitter apps offer drafts as a feature, but it’s often buried. Drafts lets me launch the app, type and close it again. The next time I open the app, I’m presented with a new note. The older one has been moved to the queue.

Of course, Drafts does more than store tweets. For one, it supports Markdown and converts Markdown notes to HTML, so good news if that’s your thing (plain text is supported too, of course). Notes can be as lengthy as you want, so type away.

To active a note in the queue, simply tap it. To create a note, hit the “+” button. The action button on the right offers several sharing options (above):

  • Tweet (using iOS 5′s built-in tweet function)
  • Send to Tweetbot (I have several Twitter apps installed, but Tweetbot is the only option that shows up here. I don’t know why.)
  • Email as text
  • Email as HTML (converted from Markdown)
  • Copy to clipboard as HTML (converted from Markdown)

That’s a darn useful list. Drafts also displays each note’s word count and character count, has a search function and several UI settings, including four themes and three font sizes (small, medium and large) across 13 fonts. Finally, any note can be edited, even after it’s been shared.

It won’t convert me into an iPhone typist (dictating notes to Siri is still quicker), but the fact that I can get notes out as easily as I put them in is huge. There’s no sync support, so abandon your Dropbox and iCloud dreams. But I don’t really care about that. Drafts is a win.

You’ll find more screenshots and a demo video after the break.

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Phraseology is a compelling text editor for iPad (Update)

There are many text editors available for the iPad, and I feel compelled to try a lot of them. This week I’ve been using Phraseology  ($3.99) by Agile Tortoise, which I like a lot. Two features make it stand out: the Inspector and the Arrange Menu.

Phraseology also features several export options and a unique set of accessory keys on the keyboard. The more I dove into what this app could do, the more I liked it. Simple typing is only the beginning; this is one informative text editor. Here’s my look at Phraseology for iPad.

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Review: Glider Classic available for iPad, iPhone and Mac

Glider PRO is back as Glider Classic for the Mac, iPhone and iPad, and I’m very happy about it.

When I graduated from college in 1994, I took a job here in Massachusetts. It came with a drawer full of candy, the young woman who would become my wife and a SE/30 running Glider. The snacks and dates were fine, but boy did I love that game.

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