iOS’s Best App, Now at 30% Off



Drafts is the only app that lives in my dock on both iPad and iPhone. I was skeptical before I reviewed it. Now I use it more the Phone “app” on my phone.

Best of all is the customizable keyboard, from which you can trigger a bunch of actions to perform on the text in your draft: send as Message, Email, make into OmniFocus list, send to Evernote journal, make into a mind map, etc., etc., amen.

Here’s how part of mine looks:



If you use your iOS device (iPhone or iPad) to boost your organization and productivity, this is an essential app. You can, for example, do this amazing thing and this even more amazing thing.

Best of all, it’s now 30% off for a Back to School sale. I’ve never seen it cheaper.

Check out Drafts here.

PCalc: A Stylish and Full-Featured Scientific Calculator App

PCalc Icon

Looking for a good scientific calculator that your kids (or roommate) won’t make off with, because it’s downloaded as an app to your iOS device? (Which your kids or roommate might also abscond with, but still….)

PCalc is a beautifully-designed, dynamic calculator for iPhone and iPad, available in the App Store. Below I review the definitely-worth-its-$9.99 app. There is a free, “lite” version available here.

PCalc functions with zero lag, and has a really nice layout, which you can change to suit your preferences:


This image via TLA Systems Ltd.
This image via TLA Systems Ltd.


I liked that view so much I didn’t even think to look for different display options till weeks later. But then I found this:


Orientation View w Ticker


And this:


Another nother View


And also this:


Another View


The developer describes the app thus:

PCalc is ideal for scientists, engineers, students, programmers, or indeed anybody looking for a feature-rich calculator for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.

It includes an extensive set of unit conversions, a paper tape, an optional RPN mode, engineering and scientific notation, as well as support for hexadecimal, octal and binary calculations.

My favorite feature–that I’ve not seen in any of the other five or six calculator apps I had downloaded and promptly deleted from my phone–is that PCalc can run conversions for you: currency, in the kitchen (good for those of us who still can’t go fluid ounces to cups, which is ALL of us), energy units and more.




Listening to the new Kendrick Lamar, I might want to know how many square miles 40 acres is. With PCalc, I have my answer within a few taps:




It has a bunch of Constants stored, to which you can add your own:






There are also a ton of functions this app can perform that I probably would have loved in my high school Calculus class, but would have trouble with now. You can do more when you rotate to landscape mode:


Landscape View


Note the Ticker Tape underneath the number up top… that’s your computation history! You can even swipe back from the results screen to have PCalc re-perform your last operations.

This is a highly advanced calculator. I can’t say whether science and math students can put away their TI-80-whatevers, but they should at least download PCalc first.

Need to quickly figure a tip, or something else? Without even unlocking your device, swipe down to the Today view and find the best-looking, most functional widget you’ll probably see on iOS 8:



Even Apple’s own Calculator app does not have access from the swipe-down Today view.

PCalc is a fantastic app, and the last non-graphing, scientific calculator app you’ll ever put on your phone. See the full feature list here, and look at many more screenshots here.



Thanks to TLA Systems, the makers of PCalc for iOS, for giving me a download of the app for this review. See my other AppTastic Tuesday reviews here.

File Under: I Can’t Believe a Phone Can Do This

I can hardly believe the technology on a little iPhone exists to do this, but this is now how I am going to take and process meeting notes from here on out.

I have an app (Drafts 4) that has a downloadable action I found at their Web Action Directory.

Let me show you what it can do:


Drafts to EN and OF 1


Drafts to EN and OF 2


This means I simply open the Drafts app (which is quite aesthetically pleasing, and fast, too) and take meeting notes there…including marking action steps with the checkbox keyboard shortcut key (!).

Then I tap the action above, and all my meeting notes are saved as an Evernote note, with all the checkboxes I made automatically converting to OmniFocus tasks.

Many, many thanks to Agile Tortoise for the awesome app and to @rosscatrow for the action above to install into Drafts 4. A good step forward in my ongoing quest to stay organized.

Group Text+ (App Store’s best iPhone Texting App) is Now Free

Group Text


The best texting app in the iOS App Store is (for the moment) free.

I’m a big fan (and daily user) of Launch Center Pro, which is created by the same developers who make Group Text+.

Group Text+ makes sending texts to a pre-saved group (or individuals) really easy and fast… and it even comes with a bunch of hilarious gifs you can send! (I’ve gotten way more into this last feature than a man my age probably should….)

Check out the app here–free, for the time being.

AppTastic Tuesday: Drafts 4 for iOS



The purpose of Drafts 4 is twofold:

  1. Provide the easiest and quickest way to get to a blank text entry screen on iPhone and iPad.
  2. Allow you then to send or export that text to as many other apps as possible.

This may sound like one of those apps that developers made just because they could, but I’ve been surprised to find myself increasingly reliant on Drafts 4.

drafts4-icon-512x512-roundedJust the last two days I used it to (a) jot down some stand-up meeting notes (which I then exported to an OmniFocus task) and (b) send an email to someone when I didn’t want to have to be distracted by unread emails in my inbox.

Open the app, and you get a blank screen, into which you can quickly type (or dictate, via Siri) text. I recently was fortunate enough to have inspiration for a sermon outline strike me when I was doing some chores around the house. Not sure what to do with this newly found locus for creativity, I quickly reached for Drafts and jotted my thoughts down:


1_Text Entry


From here I could access a wealth of sharing options:


2_Basic Sharing Options


3_Basic Share Options 2


This particular draft went into Evernote, where I could easily get it later. I could have exported it some other ways:


4_Export to iCloud


Also amazingly cool is that when I exported it to Reminders, Drafts made each separate line into its own task:


5_Export to Reminders


This is sweet enough–an app that lets you quickly jot down text and export/share to just about anywhere. But Drafts is built with an eye to detail. You can make your text look nice, too:


6_Text Appearance
Note the option to have a night mode. And all those fonts!


You can even re-arrange your text from within Drafts, just by virtue of having started a new line when you were entering text:




You can edit the keyboard keys that are available to you:


8_Edit Keys
Note, too, the Markdown capabilities


There are quite a few settings you can adjust:




And Drafts can keep everything you enter, regardless of whether you’ve shared or exported it. (Drafts also keeps a record of where you’ve shared/exported your draft.)


10_Sort Inbox


Yes, you guessed it, there’s a Today widget, too:


11_Today Widget


Drafts 4 is just as awesome on iPad (not pictured here) as it is on iPhone. The only possible downside to this app is that $9.99 is more than most iOS users are used to paying for an app. But it’s easily one of the most carefully developed and detailed apps I’ve used, and robust in its features and capabilities.

It’s well worth checking out, and has found a home in my daily workflow.



Thanks to the fine folks at Agile Tortoise, the makers of Drafts 4, for giving me a download of the app for this review. See my other AppTastic Tuesday reviews here.

Readdle’s PDF Expert 5 is 50% Off

PDF Expert 5 by Readdle is on sale for $4.99 (50% off) right now. Here’s my video review from last fall of PDF Expert 5 on an iPhone (make sure you use the settings gear in the embedded video to watch in HD; you can also view full screen). The app is universal, which means you buy it once and then can use it on iPad and iPhone. Go here to find the discounted app.




A Bundle of Septuagint Resources in Olive Tree, Under $50

Rahlfs LXXWant to read the Old Testament in Greek on all your devices? This is the cheapest way I’ve seen to get started: until midnight PST tomorrow (1/6/15) night, you can get this Septuagint bundle for less than $50. It includes

  • The Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuagint text
  • Its critical apparatus
  • The Kraft-Wheeler-Taylor parsings of each word in the text
  • The LEH Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Lust, Eynikel, and Hauspie)

This is really an incredible deal, given that the Rahlfs-Hanhart text in print is about $50 (and doesn’t include running parsings). The LEH Lexicon in print runs anywhere from $40 to $80.

What can Olive Tree do, you ask? See my gathered posts here, including my recent review of a five-volume dictionary set that is still on sale.

The advantage to having the above combo in Olive Tree is that you can tap any word in the Rahlfs-Hanhart Greek text and get instant parsing information.




You can instantly access that word’s lexical entry in the LEH lexicon. I especially appreciate LEH’s inclusion of word frequency counts, according to sections of the LXX:


LEH Entry


Using the split window setup, here’s what the Rahlfs text with apparatus looks like:


Rahlfs with Apparatus


Though Rahlfs never intended his apparatus in this volume to be fully critical, it does help you at least compare LXX readings as found in Vaticanus (B), Alexandrinus (A), and Sinaiticus (S).

And because Olive Tree is fully cross-platform, you can sync any notes you take or highlights you make and they appear on any device on which you have Olive Tree.

Find the whole bundle here, on sale for just a little while longer.

New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, $99 in Olive Tree

NIDB Olive TreeAn underrated but really good Bible dictionary is the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (NIDB). Published by Abingdon, the five-volume set is edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld and includes contributions of nearly 1,000 scholars.

For a short time the dictionary set is $99.99 in Olive Tree Bible software. Below I offer–from my perspective as a preaching pastor and Bible reader–my take on the set, with a focus on Olive Tree’s iOS Bible Study App.


What The NIDB Is and How It Has Helped Me


There are more than 7,000 articles in NIDB. The contributing scholars are diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, and denominational background–a refreshing mix of voices. The dictionary balances reverence for the biblical text with rigorous scholarship–though the dictionary is rarely arcane.

The NIDB has been eminently useful to me in my weekly sermon preparation. Last fall, for example, when preaching through Genesis, I knew I’d have to make sense somehow of the “subdue” command that God gives the first humans regarding their relationship to the earth. The dictionary’s “Image of God” entry helpfully clarifies:

While the verb may involve coercive activities in interhuman relationships (see Num. 32:22, 29), no enemies are in view here–and this is the only context in which the verb applies to nonhuman creatures.

The same article puts nicely the implications of humanity’s creation in God’s image: the “image of God entails a democratization of human beings–all human hierarchies are set aside.”

This sort of blend between technical detail and pastoral application is present throughout the dictionary.

I’ve also found useful background for my Greek reading. This year, for example, I’m reading through the Psalms in Greek with a group of folks (see here). In the “Septuagint” entry in NIDB I find this:

The 4th-cent. CE “Codex Vaticanus” contains all of the books of the Hebrew Scripture or Protestant OT, and the following material that is today classified as deuterocanonical: 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Ps 151, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sirach, the additions to Esther (several of which were originally composed in a Semitic language; others of which are original Greek compositions), Judith, Tobit, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, and the additions to Daniel (Azariah and the Three Jews, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon).

The entry goes on to describe other Septuagint manuscripts, with hyperlinks in Olive Tree to related entries.


iOS Features in Olive Tree


Olive Tree logo


Olive Tree is as cross-platform as a Bible study app gets: it runs on iOS (iPhone and iPad), Mac, Windows, and Android. The app itself is free, and you can get some good texts free, too, so you can preview the app before you buy any resources in it.

I’ve got the Olive Tree app on Mac, iPhone, and iPad Mini. It’s one of the best-executed iOS Bible study apps I’ve seen. It is visually appealing, highly customizable (especially with gestures and swipes), and easy to learn.

When reading the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (or anything else), here are a few features that have impressed me:

You can navigate with “flick scrolling” (how iBooks is set up) or “page scrolling” (like Kindle). This will make just about any user feel at home in the app. Flick scrolling (how you’d navigate a Web page) feels more natural to me, so I use that.

Dictionary entries are easy to get to. You can simply tap on “Go To” and type in the entry you’re looking for. The auto-complete feature saves having to type very much on the iPhone’s small keyboard:




You can search the entire contents of NIDB by word. If I wanted to see not just the entry for “Septuagint,” but every time the NIDB mentions the Septuagint, I would simply type that word in to the search entry bar:


NIDB Search


Then I can select a result and read the given entry.

The full-color photos are zoomable. The NIDB contains full-color photographs that help visualize various entries. You can select the photograph and pinch-zoom for more detail.




I’ve noted this before–there is a great deal of customizable “Gestures/Shortcuts” preferences in the “Advanced Settings” menu. Olive Tree is the most versatile Bible study app in this sense. For example:

  • Two-finger swipe left and right takes you through your history within the app. I can swipe between NIDB, and the last NIV Old Testament passage I was reading, and a commentary, and…. No need to go through menus.
  • Two-finger tap gets you from any screen to your library; right away you can get at your other resources.


Concluding Assessment and How to Buy


One of my favorite features of Olive Tree’s apps is that you can view two resources at once that aren’t tied together by Bible verse. It’s like having split windows on an iPad. So you can have the NIDB open in the top half of your screen, and a Bible text or other resource open in the bottom half–even to unrelated topics if you want.

The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible is about as good a Bible dictionary as you’ll find. If you can use it to complement the Anchor Bible Dictionary (also available in OT), you’d be very well set with Bible dictionaries.

Olive Tree has done a great job, especially with its iOS apps. As much as I loved my print copy of NIDB, I unloaded it not long ago since I can essentially carry it around with me now. And getting at its contents is even easier with the enhancements Olive Tree provides.


Thanks to Olive Tree for the NIDB for the purposes of this review, offered without any expectations as to the content of the review. You can find the product here, where it is currently on sale for $99.99.

Calendars 5: A Better Calendar App for iPhone and iPad

Calendars 5At first I scoffed a bit at the idea of another calendar app for iOS. What’s wrong with Apple’s native “Calendar” app?

Well, it’s a fine app, and it gets the job done. You can sync your schedule across multiple devices–it’s how my family keeps our days and weeks organized. I add an event and it populates in any other place that my wife or I would check it.

Its interface feels a little less streamlined or smooth than one would like, but a calendar app is a calendar app, right?

Well, yes, for the most part. But Readdle’s Calendars 5 app is even better than the Calendar app that comes pre-installed on every iPhone and iPad. Look at this:


Calendars 5 in iPhone


(Independence? We celebrate it twice around here.)

If I had a lot more events on June 28, I would simply swipe right gently to reveal them, while the whole rest of the screen/week would stay in place. This is the Week view, the one I use most often. There are also Tasks, List, Day, and Month views. You can easily tap (or just drag and drop) your way into creating new items or making schedule changes.

What is the Tasks view, you ask? It’s anything in your Reminders app! So from your calendar app (without switching to another app), you can see your tasks. (Integrated work flow is the only way to really get stuff done effectively, I think.)

You can even see on June 28 above: Calendars 5 combines appointments and tasks into each day, so you can easily keep track of everywhere you have to be and everything you have to do.

Once you set up sync (also very easy), anything that you change in Calendars 5 also updates in your iCal/Calendar app (and vice versa), and any task you add here updates in your Reminders app (and vice versa). This means you can say, “Siri, remind me tomorrow to…,” and if you it synced, the reminder shows up in your calendar view right in Calendars 5.

It never occurred to me that I’d have less mental clutter by using a single mechanism (app) to track appointments and tasks. Maybe I sound overly ebullient, but… this is a really sweet app. You should get it if you can.

Thanks to the folks at Readdle for the gratis download codes for the review, given with no expectation as to what I’d write. Though now that I’ve used Calendars 5, I’d pay for it if I had to. It’s been that helpful to me–and it looks really good, too.

You can get Calendars 5 here. $6.99 may feel like a lot for an app, but you get it on both iPad and iPhone (and they sync), so if you rock both devices, it’s like two-for-the-price-of-one.

Calendars 5 is also part of Readdle’s Ultimate Productivity Bundle, which includes PDF Expert 5 (I like that app, too–see my video review here). The Bundle comes with the elegant Scanner Pro and Printer Pro, that lets you print wirelessly from your iOS devices. See the discounted Bundle in action here, and check out purchase information here.

Video Review of PDF Expert 5 on iOS8

PDF Expert 5 icon Having a good way to keep track of and annotate PDFs across multiple devices is important to me. PDF Expert 5 makes it easy, with a quick, high-powered, and intuitive app. It works great in iOS 8 already. The book I use in the video review below is a good one in its own right. It’s called Learning from Life: Turning Life’s Lessons into Leadership Experience, by Marian N. Ruderman and Patricia J. Ohlott. You can find it at the Center for Creative Leadership here or here, as part of CCL’s Ideas into Action Guidebook series. Here’s PDF Expert 5 on an iPhone (make sure you use the settings gear in the embedded video to watch in HD; you can also view full screen):  



Here are a couple of shots of what it looks like on an iPad.  


Documents Screen  


Especially useful on iPad is the ability to have multiple documents open at once as tabs:  


Reading Screen  


Thanks to the folks at Readdle for the chance to review! Learn more about PDF Expert here. (P.S. I made the video above using the handy Reflector app. Reflector mirrors your iOS device to a computer, from which you can record your screen.)