Checkmark 2

Checkmark 2 by Snowman is a huge update to a simple location-based reminders app, which now features lists, location groups, scheduled reminders, and more. Checkmark 2 could now even replace your to-do list or project management apps – depending on what you need.

I can't say that I haven't found a good setup/workflow for my project management and to-do lists, but I'm always open to integrating something new, changing my workflow, to even trying something completely different. At the moment I'm deep into OmniFocus for basically everything that I do. For short lists of things that don't need to get into OmniFocus, I still like to use Apple's Reminders app via Fantastical (on both the Mac and iPhone) and Readdle's Calendars 5. I've also been playing with Clear again for some time now as the iCloud seems to work flawlessly now.

If I ever needed location-based reminders, I've been pretty much out of luck though. Apple's Reminders never really did it for me. Either it was a pain to add locations or the notifications didn't fire off. It's much easier with third party apps, but the syncing between apps can be a little strange and has me riddled if it even updates in the background.

In my workflow I do not really need location-based reminders anymore. At some point I started doing things differently and started planning my tasks otherwise. There's no denying though that Checkmark 2 is the best app for this kind of job. When I was trying out Checkmark "1" in 2012 it already did a great job, but without a real need for its feature and the hassle to having a particular app that does only one thing well, I didn't keep it on my iPhone.

The new Checkmark is not only the best at its previous job, it has now stepped up to the big leagues and with its new features tries to earn its way on your Home screen.

To make the location-based reminders even better, Checkmark now includes location groups. Say you're shopping for groceries at different places because the cereals you love are only available at a specific store and the milk you buy is from a special place that gets their fresh milk delivered from a farm every morning. To finish that off, you purchase your veggies from a farmer's market every tuesday and friday, and the beans are from a local coffee shop that roasts a special batch every two weeks.
Every single place can be put into a group simply called "Grocery". If you need groceries, you put it in there and don't have to think about where to find what.

Groups can be created in two ways, either by adding the locations one by one and then dragging and dropping the location on each other like you would do to create a folder on iOS, or you select an already created location and by clicking on the gear icon and "Edit Locations", you can add several locations by choosing a location and tapping the plus sign.
Setting up your locations and groups isn't the simplest task and could be improved. The drag-and-drop can also be a little tricky due to the "jiggle" animation, and I had some issues during this whole process including removing locations by renaming them, getting the pin on the map where I wanted them to be (due to the location not being available on Google Maps I suppose), and even crashes. This is something that can be changed in an update and won't bother you after you've successfully set everything up.

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There are three ways to organize your to-dos in Checkmark: When, Where, and Lists. As Checkmark initially was an app that only did location-based reminders, you would assume that the app opens "Where" when opening it. Well not "at the moment". I hope that this is something that will change in an update (maybe something you could choose in Settings) as it requires two more taps to get to the "Where" section. If you're using Checkmark as your to-do app, I see no problem with this minor complaint.

When creating a new task, you have a customized pop-up for each category.

  • "When" lets you enter a task with an optional note and requires a date and time. You can also choose to make this task a recurring one. This gives you several options like daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and custom which lets you select multiple days.
  • "Where" is quite similar to what it used to be in Checkmark's first version. For those who are new to Checkmark, it gives you the same new task and optional note, and it lets you select "Arrival" or "Departure". This option decides whether you get the notification when you're either arriving or leaving a location. With the timer you can delay the notification, and a new feature - the ability to choose a date - lets you postpone the reminder to a later date. This can come in really handy for several things. I'd love to have the ability to create this dated reminder as a recurring one as well, for example "Take out trash every Tuesday 5 mins after I come home".
  • "Lists" is Checkmark's attempt to be your Project Manager. With one tap you create a list. Opening the list lets you create tasks and add subcategories. As with every task in Checkmark, you can add a note, but unfortunately that's all you can do with list-tasks. There's no adding a location or timer, and you can't move these tasks between categories or lists.

There is a lot of potential and room to improve Checkmark and make it even more powerful, but there is this question of "do you need more"? Creating a list of actionable notes can be fine, but not everyone needs them.

Checkmark is great at what it wants to do and maybe this shouldn't be changed. In my opinion it is the best at managing location-based reminders and with location groups it made organization a lot simpler.

One More Thing

If there's one thing I really like about apps (or things in general) it's the details that make things better.
In this case I found two things to be really enjoyable in Checkmark.

  • There are some nice animations when interacting with the menu and "New Task" pop-ups. When tapping the "hamburger" button to open or close the menu, the window shows a little bounce animation (as you have with for example Notification Center). There's also a nice floating animation when the "New Task" pop-up appears. The only issue I found with these animation was that in the "Where" section it caused some delay before being able to tap on another location/group. The animation has to fully finish before you can tap something else (it's similar to the delay we experienced in iOS 7 when opening/closing apps and folders).
  • What I also really enjoy is custom sounds, especially notification sounds. Without looking at the iPhone I want to know what's happening. It's an automatic trigger when driving by the grocery store. It wouldn't have the same effect if the sound wouldn't be distinguishable from any other notification. The best part about it, the sounds are really nice. Some kind of video-game like.

In the About section you'll find some gestures and shortcuts and tips that'll help you use the app even faster.

In the video below you can see Checkmark in action and you'll see why Checkmark 2 is "even more fantastic".

Checkmark has always been the best at location-based reminders and has gotten even better with improved features and new additions. It's definitely worth checking out again. If you haven't found the right way to get things done, this might be the app your workflow was missing. Get Checkmark 2 in the App Store for only $2.99 (limited time 50% off launch sale).

Is Your Creative Idea "Worth" A Tweet?

Today Patrick Rhone and his wife Bethany announced their project Tweet Small Change.

To quote from "Tweet Small Change":

"What art would you create with $140?
Can you tell us in a tweet?"

I really like the idea of trusting someone you've never met or heard of and invest in their potential idea. $140 may not sound like a lot, but it may just be enough to get something started you've been thinking about for quite some time.
Besides having your first investor, Tweet Small Change can also open up the doors to the social network you've always been striving to be part of.

Check out Tweet Small Change's site for more info, follow the project/idea on Twitter, and don't forget to submit your ideas with the hashtag #tweetsmallchange.

"We really do believe small changes can have big results."
Patrick Rhone

Apple Announces First iTunes Festival in the US at SXSW

 

 

Today Apple announced the first iTunes Festival in the US. At this year's SXSW (from March 7 – 16, 2014) the iTunes Festival will be held March 11 – 15, 2014 and feature artists like Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Pitbull, Keith Urban, ZEDD and more to come. In their Press Release Apple announces "Five Amazing Nights, Five Amazing Shows":

"Apple® today announced the first iTunes® Festival to be held in the US, featuring an amazing lineup of global superstars, running from March 11-15. Taking place at ACL Live at the Moody Theater, home of Austin City Limits, the iTunes Festival at SXSW will feature iTunes chart toppers including Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Pitbull, Keith Urban, ZEDD and more to come. All five nights of the iTunes Festival will be available to enjoy for free as a live and on-demand stream via the iTunes Store® on your iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch®, Mac® or PC. Performances can also be seen in the iTunes Festival app on your iOS device or with Apple TV® in stunning HD."

Image source via SXSW

A Google Glass Augmented Reality Is Getting Creepier With NameTag

This is where the future of a creepy augmented reality "starts".

Some days ago Jim Dalrymple linked to an article on The Loop, about a service called NameTag which allows you to find information about another person via facial recognition. As you can read on all three sites, NameTag gets the information from various social networks and adds them to a profile you opted-in for by creating a profile. What they also mention is that Google bans such software and that it won't officially be available. Kennemer point out though that "it could still be possible for the developer to distribute the app themselves and have users sideload it".

When I was sharing my thoughts "about our future with augmented reality", I thought that the availability of such technology was still far away from being used publicly. In a demo video by NameTag, it is mentioned that a face will be matched against 2.5 million photos on their database. 2.5 million photos; on their database; already!

After visiting NameTag's site to read more about what they're doing, you can't help but feel a little weird. To quote some key phrases from the site (emphasis added):

  • "With NameTag, Your Photo Shares You."
  • "Nametag links your face to a single, unified online presence that includes your contact information, social media profiles, interests, hobbies and passions and anything else you want to share with the world." (Yes, the Nametag typo is on their site.)
  • "[…]simply snap a pic of someone you want to connect with and see their entire public online presence in one place."
  • "Don't be a Stranger" (After this they added a smiley which I didn't want to include. Also that's creepy.)

And last but not least, to introduce the team behind NameTag, they link to their LinkedIn accounts. But that's not even the best part. Half of them don't have a picture on their LinkedIn profile (or at least you can't see them without an account). If you're working at a company that works on facial recognition and advertises with "your photo sharing you", why not show your face?

The iPhone 5s Takes A Shot On The Runway

A new thirty-second video was added to Apple's iPhone page today, containing footage of Burberry's fashion shoot from September 2013. The video was also shot using the iPhone 5s (that was not officially released at this time) and shows the different rigs used at this event.

If Apple and Burberry may ring a bell, it's because Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry will join Apple in the spring as Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores.

Apple Airs New Ad, Entirely Shot Using iPhones

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Today Apple added a new category to their "Thirty Years of Mac" mini page (that is not so "mini" anymore) called ""1.24.14" Film".

This page welcomes you again with a beautiful video with the same name as the page, "1.24.14" Film. What makes this video so fascinating is that "this film was shot around the world in one day, entirely on iPhone". As you can read on the accompanying page, Apple sent out 15 camera crews all over the world who shot over 70 hours of footage, all using the iPhone 5s, and all in one day. The footage from 15 locations, using 100 iPhones, capturing 45 stories, was beamed to one director in real time so he could be at all locations simultaneously via FaceTime. The footage was then edited by 21 editors – all from and on Apple's devices.

When looking at the finished, 90 second product, you can again see what has been made possible by Apple and their devices. The "film" features the technology that Macintosh promised to put in people's hands thirty years ago.
This time Apple puts more emphasis back on Apple in Education, but you can also see examples of using iPads and Macs in the field for research, an iPhone for a photo shoot, the Mac for design work, recording and delivering audio, and you can even see the beginning of a cinematographer career of a child using the technology that has been given into its hands.
The video ends in an iPod-ad-like(ish) silhouette shot with a white Apple logo on a Mac.

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You can see the video below, and don't forget to read more about how they produced it on Apple's site.

Thoughts On Facebook Paper

Facebook recently announced a new dedicated iPhone called Paper that lets you "explore and share stories" in a more beautiful way. The app will be available in the US February 3 and I'm curious to see how long it'll take for a release outside the US.

As you can see on the teaser page for Paper and the promo video above, Paper is a gesture based app with a full-screen, edge-to-edge layout that may remind you of Flipboard for iPhone. But not only the design may show some similarities, but also the content: a mixture of "personal stories", shared links and articles, and curated content. Even the usual posts from your News Feed like status updates, photos and links will be shown in a more beautiful way. The curated area can be arranged to contain whatever news you want and includes "photos, videos, articles, essays and other insights."

Aside from being something you can already have with similar apps, I see a big concern behind this idea – your News Feed. The things people think they have to share with you are not often something really relevant to what you would want to have intermixed with "great content". It is totally up to you whom you're friends with on Facebook, but there's also family, relatives, and closer friends who appear on your News Feed on a daily basis, and be honest (for those who are on Facebook) what does your News Feed look like, something you've seen in the video?

I would be interested in how the curated content differs from other apps. If they share the same sources, why/how would the content be different? I see a benefit in having "Trending" topics as sharing on Facebook is huge. But again, what makes trending topics on Facebook more interesting to me than trending topics in apps that focus on "good content"?
Trending topics started to appear more on Facebook lately and they are of course quite accurate to what's really trending at the moment. Below you can see the trending topics for "Sunday, February 2 at ~7 PM CST", including the preview on Facebook and link to the article (when you click on the image).

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And once again back to the probably horrible truth you'll be seeing in Paper. If Paper will be considered as some form of "Newspaper" with trending articles and stories from your friends, you could also start reading The Onion to get "real news". There is always this huge difference between what is important to you, and what seems important to others.

My second concern is again, what people actually share on social networks like Facebook. The main concept of Paper is to "explore and share" your stories. Share your world/life with everybody around you – not just your loved ones, because how many people do you really consider "close friends" on Facebook? The last "scene" in the video is the perfect example: Sharing a picture of an ultrasound image with only your "Friends" (a selected list in your privacy settings) for this particular post, while the person you see looking at it sees the image as a "Public" post. I can't say if this is normal or a "continuity" goof, but anyway, is this person a family member, a friend, or the father of the baby? You can't tell in the video. This whole share everything gives me a mixed feeling.

It'll be interesting to see how Paper and Facebook will develop in the future and especially if Paper will be a "new thing" or if it will be gone again before it's really relevant, like Facebook Camera did before.

Launch Center Pro for iPad (P)review

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Yesterday, Contrast "finally" released Launch Center Pro for iPad which brings Automation and easy execution for often used tasks to your iPad, or like Contrast puts it: "It’s like speed dial for everyday tasks". If you're already familiar with Launch Center Pro for iPhone (which is sold separately and currently on sale), you can get right into it. The two versions aren't that different and offer similar interactions with other apps and services. The biggest difference: It's now on the iPad, and who hasn't been waiting for that?

As previously mentioned, Launch Center Pro for iPad is basically a bigger version of Launch Center Pro, and that's the same for the design. It's the same familiar look with the same tapping for actions and swiping for groups feature. The app supports both portrait and landscape orientation, but due to its grid the tiles stay where they usually are, which may seem a little strange at first, but you'll get used to the way it behaves.

First steps

First thing to do is go trough the Settings. Besides changing the theme to what style you prefer, I think it's important to "Sign In" to your Dropbox to enable Dropbox Actions and Backups. And here's the second important step, enabling "Automatic Back Up". This way, if you happen to delete a workflow, your work isn't lost. The moment you tap on the pencil again (where you create your actions), a backup will be created. This also allows you to import your Backup from the iPhone version. And finally, if you're using TextExpander, update the TextExpander Snippets so they can work with Launch Center Pro.

If you're not that familiar with Launch Center Pro and what it does, there's a "Help" section in Settings where you can read a lot about basic usage, but also find documentations for "Power Usage". And if you really want to dig into Launch Center Pro and its really powerful features, you can follow this link which will direct you to a search for "Launch Center Pro" on MacStories. Once you'll get into it, you won't be able to stop that easily.

For Starters: Using Actions and Groups

The (visual) difference between an action (= a task or workflow that executes something the moment you lift your finger) and a group (= can be seen as a folder for actions), is that actions have rounder square icons, and groups have circle icons. As previously mentioned, an actions gets executed the moment you lift your finger, when tapping on a group, swipe to the action you want to use execute and lift your finger.

Actions and Groups as explained in the Introduction:

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To start with some basic things, you can go through the examples and edit them the way you like, or create new actions and groups. To edit something or create something new, tap the pencil icon in the upper right corner. For example when editing, select the "Search" group and tap on Google. Launch Center Pro uses Safari to launch a Google search with a basic URL and adds a prompt to enter "Search Terms" in Launch Center Pro, which will then open in Safari. To create a new action, tap on an empty tile which has a big "+" sign in "edit mode" and select Action. Tap on "Action Composer", select "System Actions", "In-App Messaging", and "Message Photo". Name the Action "Daily Selfie" and as a recipient ("To"), you either select a friend, your mother (from the Contact icon above the keyboard), or leave this area blank to choose when sending. You can even schedule this action to every day in the morning, so you'll get a notification about this important task. After having created this action, tap on it and you get to choose the photo source which can be your last taken photo, the camera, your Library, and you can even search your Dropbox or add a photo from your Clipboard. Add some text or let your picture do the talking and hit send. And there you go. The first action has been created to make a daily task simpler.

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Changes And New Features

As this "version" of Launch Center Pro is also an update for the iPhone counterpart there are some nice updates since version 2.1 of which I talked here.
A big improvement for "Power Users" may be the possibility to move actions (which can be found in edit mode in the action/group itself), and there is now also a way to interact with text files in your Dropbox. For more information about creating new text files, appending and prepending text, you can find a documentation on "Dropbox Actions" on Contrast's Help page.
Two really nice new features are the "speak action" which lets you enter or copy any text (or you could create an action that inserts your clipboard) to have it read out loud to you, and the "define action" which - well - defines your text.
Another little improvement is that you can now use two fingers to launch group actions. It seems like a no brainer for the iPad version, but wasn't available for the iPhone until now. To make your workflow even faster, it's really nice to have this new feature now as well.

Launch Center Pro (for iPad) is in my opinion an app that lets you do so many things, where the possibilities are only limited by your imagination (and the device of course), but you know where I'm going. If there's an itch you want to scratch, Launch Center Pro for iPad may be able to help you with it. Once you get started trying out some workflows, you'll find yourself wanting more. I suggest you put it on your home screen, if not in your dock, and start with simple tasks. You'll thank me later.

Launch Center Pro for iPad is available on the App Store for $4.99 (launch price), and to celebrate this release, the iPhone version is also available for only $2.99 right now.

30 Years of Mac

Today Apple celebrates thirty years of Mac and "thirty years of innovation".
To celebrate this event, Apple has (again – they seem to do this quite often lately) created a splash page that links to a mini page with a new video (see above), a section where you can add "Your First Mac", and a beautiful looking "Mac Timeline" with stories from people who revolutionized their work with the Macintosh.
If you happen to have some time over the weekend, take your (Apple) device of choice and read through the Macintosh history.

"Happy Birthday, Mac"

Apple Releases Shortened "Verses"

Today Apple released two new, shorter versions of their "Your Verse" ad called "Light Verse" and "Sound Verse".

"Light" and "Sound" contain scenes from the original video, but also feature some new, more focused scenes to put more emphasis on the ad's new names.
As their names imply, "Light Verse" focuses on scenes with sunlight or usage of light, and "Sound Verse" contains scenes focused on sound, where you can hear the actual sound featured in the scene.

Both ads are still accompanied by Robin Williams' monologue from Dead Poets Society, ending with the words: "What will your verse be?"

Light Verse

Sound Verse