Week in review for January 11

This week’s posts:

Fun Stuff






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. I am NOT good at drawing.]. 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.


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.

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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Week in Review April 2 – 6

iPad Mini

John Gruber mentioned that Apple has a “7.85 inch iPad that runs at 1024×768” in its testing labs, and Apple sites went nuts. My first response echos what Jim Dalrymple said on Amplified on Friday: of course Apple is testing a smaller iPad. It’s safe to assume that Apple didn’t ship a 10″ iPad without first testing a slew of other sizes. Further, I don’t doubt that Apple is fiddling with larger and smaller models to this day.

This is how big companies work. Do you think something as beautiful as the Pontiac Aztec just happens?

The question is about Apple’s intention. Will it see a need, a reason, to produce and ship a smaller model? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that Apple won’t ship one without a compelling reason, and “to compete with the Fire” is not a compelling reason.

A.T. Faust III wrote a nice piece in favor of the 7.85-inch screen. Meanwhile, Federico Viticci at MacStories describes the “technological issues, software questions, and market debates” that leave him skeptical.

I’m with Federico. I don’t see why Apple would ship a smaller, less expensive iPad when the current model is selling so well. But Apple has a habit of seeing things I miss.

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