Day One is easily the best app for keeping a journal or life log–if you’re going to do it in a 1s and 0s environment, rather than on paper.
In this post I briefly review Day One. I’ll leave for another time the question of whether journaling by hand or by phone/tablet/computer is preferable. Okay, actually… I’ll answer that now: better to do it by hand, because… reasons. But Day One has photo capability, so it has served as a nice digital repository for me to chronicle my kids’ growing up, without having to post it on Facebook, etc.
Day One offers sync via iCloud, Dropbox, or their own sync service, so you can keep everything together on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
I really like the layout, which allows you (much like in this blog, for example), to combine headings, text, and photos. Check out this sample entry on Day One for Mac:
You can even add an entry right from the menu bar, so that you can write down that brilliant insight before you forget it.
Your entries could be text, a (single) photo with text, location-based entries (that also pull in the weather automatically), meeting notes, day debriefs, etc. Each entry is automatically time-stamped. The possibilities are pretty robust, and folks use Day One in lots of different ways. The tags feature especially enables this, as you could use the built-in tagging system to sort by “journal,” “family,” “song lyrics,” “insights,” “questions,” and more.
My first question is–to the extent I use Day One as a sort of photo-journal (especially of the family), will having my info in a proprietary format some day cause issues? That’s always a possibility with software (score one for physical journals and photo albums), but Day One allows for PDF export, so you don’t really have to worry here.
You can also set a reminder so that Day One reminds you each day to write:
It looks and works really well on iPhone and iPad too.
If you want to try the app and really put it to use, Shawn Blanc has written a pretty thorough ebook: Day One in Depth.
You can find Day One for iOS here; the OS X app is here.
Also… if you want to wait a few days… Day One 2 releases this Thursday. I haven’t used the new app, but beta users seem to love it. You can check out what’s new in the FAQs here.
Thanks to the makers of Day One for the review copy of the app on Mac, given to me for this review but with no expectation as to its content.
I have mixed feelings about Logos marketing–some criticisms expressed here–but I still do, at least for now, participate in an affiliate program of theirs. This helps, among other things, to pay for some of this blog’s minimal expenses and has even in the past funded seminary coursework.
I have no intention to shill, but I do want to share for interested readers that the rate of 15% off any base package in Logos is changing as of tomorrow (12:00 a.m. PST) to 10% off. So if you’re thinking of upgrading, you can do it for cheaper today than tomorrow. If you don’t have money to do it, don’t sweat, pour yourself a cup of tea, and read this post instead. If you do purchase, Logos feeds a percentage of the purchase back to me. If you’re interested, you just order a base package (new or upgrade) through this Logos landing page.
Or use the promo code ABRAMKJ6 when you check out with a base package in your Logos cart. My review of Logos 6 is here.
I don’t know what your New Year’s Resolutions are, but if one of them is to play more video games (uh…), you should start with Alto’s Adventure.
Four traits especially stand out that make the game enjoyable:
1. The graphics are gorgeous.
2. The music is excellent–it evokes the old Final Fantasy scores, but sounds more like 2015.
3. Playing it is really relaxing.
4. Being a flipping snowboarder (especially if you can’t do it in real life) is fun.
It’s what reviewers call an “endless runner” game, which means you could go a gazillion meters on your run with Alto, which of course you never will, since you’ll hit a rock or get knocked down by an elder or fall into a ravine or ____ first.
But that won’t keep you from tapping “Play Again” multiple times.
The main stat to go for is “distance travelled.” But you can boost your trick store through a series of bunting grinds, flips, and the like. There are coins to collect (with magnets to help!), llamas to chase, and chasms to jump.
Here’s the score screen (for all images in this post, click to enlarge):
And a couple looks at the game:
The background changes from sunny and clear to dark and rainy, which adds a level of challenge (and fun) to the gameplay:
If you accomplish three goals (smash three rocks, land two triple flips in one run, and so on), you move up a level. Move up enough levels and you unlock new characters:
You can use your coins to buy workshop items:
The gameplay is smooth and responsive. (Though flying with the wingsuit is tricky.) You only have to tap to jump, so the controls are easy enough to learn, but staying up for a long run is no easy feat.
Alto’s Adventure is currently $0.99 (on sale) at the App Store. It’s easily one of the best games for iOS.
Thanks to the makers of Alto’s Adventure for the review copy of the app, given to me for this review but with no expectation as to its content.
1Writer has been living in both my iPhone and iPad docks for a number of months now. It’s high time I wrote a proper review! It’s easily my favorite text editing app for iOS.
Here’s a paragraph description of the app from the 1Writer site:
1Writer provides a distraction free writing environment. You can create and edit plain text or Markdown files. It does have many features including inline Markdown preview, word count, dark theme, TextExpander support, insert photo, an extra keyboard row, and many more. The extra keyboard row is a convenient row of buttons for navigation, formatting, special characters and actions. See the formatted results with inline Markdown preview while you write and a full, rich-text preview when you’re done.
My favorite feature is its ability to insert images right from an iOS device, making it the first iOS app I’ve found that is actually suitable for blogging.
1Writer: The Pros
Whether you want to use Dropbox or iCloud, 1Writer has excellent syncing capabilities. I have a couple Dropbox folders I sync to 1Writer, which is now where I keep blog post drafts. I can update a document from iPhone or iPad–or even use a Mac to update a draft with an OS X Markdown app.
You can blog from 1Writer. It has been surprisingly difficult to find an iOS app that can do this well, including WordPress’s native blogging app. One downside is that you can’t resize the images once you insert them into the post, so it’s still not as flexible as blogging with images through the WordPress Web interface on OS X. The fastidious among us may want to double-check layout in WordPress itself before posting anyway, so this is not a deal-breaker, if not ideal.
Works Great with an External Keyboard
You can type CMD-B for bold and CMD-I for italics, and it both inserts the markdown markup and shows you the inline preview. Not even Editorial can do this. You can also insert links with a keyboard shortcut.
Built-in Web Browser
Because 1Writer has a built in Web browser, you can search for images without even leaving the app, and then insert them into your document. There is also a really nice hyperlinking functionality, and you don’t have to leave 1Writer to find a link you want to include in a document or Web post. One especially nice touch is once you’ve got a link copied, the hyperlink button gives you the pop-up option of just pasting the clipboard contents (your link), so you can save a tap there.
The interface is easy to look at for a long time when writing:
1Writer has a built-in tagging system, so you can even more easily organize your documents.
Like Drafts 4, 1Writer has a number of actions you can perform on your text. Whether you want to use a pre-installed action to export your document as plain text or PDF, or install something from the 1Writer action directory, there’s not much missing here.
My personal favorite action is “Jump to Section,” which allows you to navigate by headings. This is especially useful for long documents where you quickly want to go between sections. The interface of this feature is not quite as smooth as Editorial’s similar function, but it still gets the job done.
Speaking of Editorial… that’s a fine app, but it’s still not iOS9-ready. 1Writer is, so you can utilize Slide Over and Split View functions.
Customizable Keyboard Row
There’s an extra, customizable keyboard row–including the ability to assign a character or even action to a button.
The developer is amazingly responsive. He totally knows what he’s doing, and has built an excellent app already. Insofar as there are small, desired improvements, he takes feedback seriously.
1Writer: Just a Few Minor Drawbacks
The built-in Web browser does not allow for multi-tabbed browsing. I found this to be a limitation, though since iOS9, when I want to search the Web, I tend to do it via Safari in Split View with 1Writer open separately anyway.
Another drawback: you can’t sync actions between devices. You have to manually set this up in any iOS device you use. Documents themselves sync perfectly, of course, just not these custom actions.
There are people who swear by Drafts (I am one!) and Editorial (there’s a lot to like about that app). But 1Writer is exceedingly underrated. (Though that may change now that Viticci reviewed it!) If you’re a blogger, especially, this is the app that will finally allow you to blog from your iOS device.
It’s (no question) the best thing on iOS for bloggers. And maybe even the best note-taking app, too.
You can find it in the App Store here. And, yes, I did write much of this post in 1Writer, exported the Markdown to HTML (from 1Writer), and then published.
Thanks to 1Writer for the review copy of the app, given to me for this review but with no expectation as to its content.
I just finished two systematic theology courses this semester. Phew! One resource that was really helpful to be able to reach for was Intervarsity Press’s 5-Volume Ancient Christian Doctrine.
It’s similar to the 29-volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture set–like ACCS, Ancient Christian Doctrine compiles primary sources from early church theologians as a running commentary. ACD, however, is a full-blown compendium of commentary on the Nicene Creed.
It was an excellent resource, too, for helping me think through this last week’s sermon in my church’s Advent preaching series: “Who is This Jesus We Are Waiting For?”
I skipped ahead in my research to the Creed’s final phrase, “…the life of the world to come.” Here’s what you see at the beginning of the section in the Accordance edition I’ve been using:
You get the Creed in Greek, Latin, and English. Then, as you can see in the sidebar Table of Contents at the left, there is the commentary on that phrase–categorized helpfully in the volumes into sections like, “Two Advents” and, “The Intermediate State of Souls.”
Here was a powerful piece from Tertullian from that section:
We affirm that, as there are two conditions demonstrated by the prophets to belong to Christ, so these two conditions presignified the same number of advents. One of the advents, and that being the first, was to be in lowliness when he had to be led as a sheep to be slain as a victim and to be as a lamb dumb before the shearer, not opening his mouth, and not fair to look on. For, says the prophet, we have announced concerning him, “He is like a tender plant, like a root out of a thirsty ground; he has no form nor comeliness; and we beheld him, and he was without beauty: his form was disfigured,” “marred more than the sons of men; a man stricken with sorrows, and knowing how to bear our infirmity,” “placed by the Father as a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,” “made by him a little lower than the angels,” declaring himself to be “a worm and not a man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Now these signs of degradation suit his first coming quite well, just as the tokens of his majesty do his second advent when he will no longer remain “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” but after his rejection become “the chief cornerstone,” accepted and elevated to the top place of the temple, even his church, being that very stone in Daniel, cut out of the mountain that was to strike and crush the image of the secular kingdom. Of this advent the same prophet says, “Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days; and they brought him before him, and dominion and glory were given to him as well as a kingdom so that all people, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and his kingdom is that which will not be destroyed.”
I’ve gotten this resource in Accordance so I can preview it at some of my upcoming Accordance Webinars, the schedule for which is soon to be posted. And I’ve also found it quite helpful in writing pieces of theology and sermon preparation.
Let me leave you with this inspiration from Hilary of Poitiers:
He is born as man, while remaining God: this is in contradiction of our natural understanding. That he should remain God, though born as man, does not contradict our natural hope. For the birth of a higher nature into a lower state gives us confidence that a lower nature can be born into a higher condition.
See my other Accordance posts (there are many) gathered here.
Viticci put it well: “There’s only one thing I like more than switching todo apps: writing about it.” My 2Do review is much shorter than his, but I resonate with his sentiment.
That might explain why today I give you a review of another worthy task management app: The Hit List.
What I Like About The Hit List
The Hit List is much more robust than Apple’s native Reminders app. Its proprietary Sync Service is fast, and keeps your tasks and lists updated across Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Watch (depending on what you have).
Perhaps the most noteworthy feature is the extensive system of one-stroke keyboard shortcuts on the Mac app. You can do just about anything without having to move your hand to the mouse. And The Hit List (hereafter THL) comes with a nice built-in tutorial to get you going:
The Mac layout doesn’t totally match the rest of El Capitan, but I don’t mind that at all. I especially like that you can have multiple lists open at once–in one window–as various tabs. This mirrors how we browse the Web, yet out of all the task management apps I’ve tried, THL is the only one to incorporate it.
It’s a really nice touch, especially if you are actually working on a few projects at once and want to be able to close tabs as you go. Or if you want to toggle between your time-sensitive “Today” tasks and other projects.
The tagging system on all platforms is neat. By typing “task /tag” you automatically can tag a task. It then shows up in a different color on the task entry line and puts itself into the right tag.
You can give sub-tasks to tasks, which is often what happens in real life! Our tasks turn into a series of sub-tasks, too. Of course you could just separate a multi-task task into its own project, but the ability to rapidly enter sub-tasks is great.
Probably my favorite part about THL is its task timing integration. Yes, you read that right. You can both assign estimated time to tasks, as well as track it! It’s not as robust as a dedicated time tracking software–you can’t get to-the-minute readouts of your day. But it’s a pretty sweet feature on the Mac app.
The iPad app just came out, and it’s got Slide Over and Split Screen support right out of the box. It’s very cool to finally see THL on a bigger screen. (The iPad app is lacking in any external keyboard shortcuts however; future updates should add these in.)
What I Found Lacking in THL
1. No Save+.
Rapid-fire brain dumping is tricky in THL. Well, it’s not impossible, but on iOS there’s no Save+ button so you can just add a bunch of tasks at once without multiple taps. Keyboard shortcuts make it quick on the Mac app, though.
2. You can’t email a task to the app.
It continues to perplex me that this is not standard issue in a task management app. I don’t know… maybe it’s just hard to implement. In THL there is no way to convert or forward emails to tasks from wherever you are. Evernote and OmniFocus allow this, as will 2Do soon. This functionality is essential to me in a task management app.
3. The iOS app isn’t as configurable as one might like.
The criticism that you have to understand the app on its own terms often gets leveled toward OmniFocus, but I experienced some confusion in THL with the “Today” list. Support was outstanding in helping me to understand it (which I do now), but the Today list shows all your tasks that start today. You can’t adjust it to show just your tasks that are due today, which feels to me a more natural way to use it. You can’t even really trick Today into doing what you want, since a task with no start date that is due tomorrow still pops up in Today.
On the iOS app, there are few settings you can configure:
THL also sort of forces you (if you’re going to use the app) into its Inbox–Today–Upcoming logic. (These three “hit lists” give the app its name.) This could be a limitation for some. That way of setting up things, to which you can add your own lists, appeals to me, so it’s fine. On Mac you could create a “Due Today” smart list, so there is flexibility in that regard.
4. You can’t attach anything to tasks in iOS.
There is no way (whether in iOS or OS X) to attach photos or files to an item. It’s hard to envision a week where there isn’t at least one time when I want to take a picture of something as a reminder or attach a .pdf I need to complete a task. You can link to actual files on a desktop with the THL Mac app, but that’s not the same as attaching the file to the task, so the file doesn’t show up on iOS (just an error message). There’s a notes field, so you can leave additional text, but attachments aren’t really a working feature in THL.
Concluding Thoughts and How to Get THL
There’s more to say, of course. The Today widget and Share extension features in iOS work nicely. The layout and interface of the apps is executed well on all platforms. It runs really smoothly, and looks great in its new iPad incarnation. Smart lists can help you customize your experience. Recurring tasks are easy to set up. You can quickly swipe a task on iOS to change the due date or move it to a different list and folder.
This is a little thing, but I think my favorite thing about the app is the sound effect that goes off when you complete a task. I wish every app had that option! It’s like a little “congratulations!” every time you get something done. Very satisfying to hear that tone.
Their support is excellent, too. THL even made a feature addition that I had requested–the ability to drag handles to reorder task lists on iOS.
Okay, okay, one more nice little touch: the icon for note detail attached to a task is excellent. Just by looking at a task, you can tell if there’s an associated note. Similarly, a number icon shows you how many sub-tasks are connected to a task. Thoughtful design, for sure.
To sum up: the sound effects on iOS, tabbed list views on OS X, and integrated time tracking set THL apart from other apps, so if those appeal to you, this might be your app of choice. Lack of email integration makes it hard for me to think about switching to THL as my go-to task management app, but perhaps future updates will add that feature. Overall, THL is at least on par with Things and certainly an option one could consider alongside 2Do and OmniFocus.
I haven’t posted about this in a while, but you can get 15% off any base package in Logos 6 through Words on the Word. If you order a base package through this Logos landing page, Logos feeds a percentage back to me, which I use to support the work of Words on the Word. So if you’re going to buy a base package anyway…
…check it out here, or just use the promo code ABRAMKJ6 when you check out with a base package in your Logos cart. My review of Logos 6 is here.
Alternote is an Evernote client–yes! an Evernote client does exist–for Mac. If you use Evernote and have any level of dissatisfaction, especially with its layout, you should consider Alternote. It may not be a fully suitable replacement for Evernote, though. I explain why in my review below.
As with Evernote, Alternote gives you three panes: the sidebar, the Notes pane, and the editor window with Note content. You can hide the sidebar to have two panes, or go into distraction-free mode, where you simply view the note you’re writing in.
There are some nice font options, as well as the option to get into a visually pleasing Night Mode:
This makes Alternote a much more appealing app for writing on a Mac. If you use Evernote to organize substantial amounts of text (i.e., more than just Web links), you’ll appreciate the look and feel of Alternote.
You can successfully drag a file or image into a Note in Alternote. What does not work in Alternote is dragging a PDF, for example, into the app to make it its own Note. I hope a future update adds this feature, as I consider it to be somewhat basic Evernote functionality.
You cannot create Notebook Shortcuts in the left sidebar–which is another big part of how I use Evernote. You can star certain Notes for easy access—and can just drag the Notes into the sidebar to do it–but not Notebooks.
This means Notebooks—especially the few you use most—are a little trickier to navigate in Alternote. You can scroll down the sidebar list, of course, or—what may be quicker—access them via a drop-down menu.
Alternote feels lighter than Evernote, for which I appreciate it, but it’s not necessarily faster or higher-performing. I had expected it would be. On the other hand, if you’re using the Basic Evernote level, you won’t get bombarded in Alternote with a steady stream of upgrade ads!
One nice touch in Alternote is that you can selectively sync your Evernote content.
That said, automatic sync maxes out at every 15 minutes in Alternote, which will not be automatic *enough* for some. I was worried when I was writing this review (in Alternote!) and it crashed without having finished a sync. (Alternote is pretty good but still a little buggy on El Cap.) Fortunately my text was still there in Alternote, but I was eager to force a manual sync after that. I’d had some initial sync misses with my initial setup, which a revision had fixed, so hopefully Alternote will sort all this out soon. I haven’t lost any data, however, so you’re safe in using it, for the most part.
The greatest asset in Alternote is its more uncluttered interface, which makes it better than Evernote for just plain writing. If Alternote would improve its sync issues, overall speed, and add other bits of core Evernote functionality, it could easily become your go-to app for managing Evernote.
An Alternote iOS app is in the works and slated for Spring 2016. Get it in the Mac App Store here, and check out the Alternote site here. If you don’t have an Evernote account, I recommend it; learn more here.
Thanks to the people at Alternote for the app download for the purposes of review.
Words on the Word is barely monetized. I’ve said before that I write the blog for love of the game, i.e., because:
it’s a creative outlet for me
I enjoy writing
I want to help resource others with the best books, biblical commentaries, apps, workflows, music, toys, and so on… whether it be for their parenting, pastoring, or personal enjoyment of life
other reasons, probably
In the monetization department, I participate in a couple of affiliate programs, most recently the one through iTunes, where I receive a tiny commision from Apple on any apps or tunes you readers purchase through affiliate links. I think I’m up to $0.70 now!
It’s not impossible to just go and fetch an affiliate link through a Web browser, but John and Owen Voorhees of Squibner LLC have a first-rate app, Blink, that allows you to effortlessly make affiliate links. It works for the App Store (iOS), the Mac App Store (OS X), the iTunes Store (music, videos, etc.), and the iBooks store.
Here’s what it looks like:
I find that I mostly use the plain text links, and then copy them over to a writing app (I’m writing this blog post in 1Writer, and yes, that hyperlink was generated via Blink in about two seconds). But Markdown formats are also available.
You can use Blink’s extension to a create a link with your affiliate ID from the App Store itself. In other words, you don’t have to go into Blink and look up the app you’re already viewing in the App Store:
They’ve just updated the app, too, to 2.0. Here are the highlights of what’s new:
• Blink now requires iOS 9
• iPad split screen multitasking on supported devices
• External keyboard shortcuts
• Multiple affiliate token support with nicknaming for easy management
• Ability to change geo linking and music settings from Blink’s extension
• Edit links within Blink’s extension
• For apps, view app type and price information within Blink and its extension
• Also view pricing information for music and books in Blink and its extension
• Podcast app support
I don’t use campaign tokens, but those who do will find it easy to manage specific campaign tokens via Blink. Also cool is the App Store view, which you can access from within Blink:
The attention to detail is evident in the app, as shown here, for example, when a music search differentiates between Song and Album before you have to click through:
You can use multiple affiliate IDs, if you need to.
My sole negative/constructive critique of this app is that I wish there were a way in-app to save searches and/or links you create. This is not insurmountalbe, though, since link generation is so fast.
Pay for Blink once, and you get it for both iPad and iPhone. You’ll probably earn back the $4.99 cost of the app in affiliate links anyway, which will now be quite hassle-free.
Five stars and two emoji thumbs up for this simple, focused, and perfectly executed app. Which, by the way, you can find here.
Thanks to the good folks at Squibner for the app download for the purposes of review.