Archive for the ‘iPod Touch’ Category
You may know that Green Mountain Digital is in the process of recreating many of the excellent photographic field guides published under the auspices of the National Audubon Society over the years. They already have Birds, Wildflowers, Trees, Fishes, Mammals, Reptiles, and Insects, plus a combination guide to Birds, Trees, Mammals, and Wildflowers, and numerous regional variations on Birds and Wildflowers in particular. For the full range of guides, search for audubon in iTunes or the App Store on your device. Prices range from $5.00 for state level wildflower guides, and $10 for national guides to say, wildflowers or reptiles, to $20 for Birds, and $40 for the 4 in 1 guide.
All are built on the same app engine and work pretty well, especially on faster iPhones. The guides on the 3G or previous, require some patience to use. I am eagerly awaiting the 4G this month!. Switching from browse to search, in particular seems to take forever on a 3G. The other inexplicable idiosyncrasy of the series, that can take some getting used to, is the lack of visual or audio feedback for some selections. Most iPhone apps highlight, or shadow, or dim, or click when you touch a selection. Sometimes there is nothing in the Audubon apps. The spinner spins, and eventually you get to where you were going, but there is no indication your touch has taken.
The iPhone versions have been updated with additional photographs, rewritten text, updated range maps, etc. and all include a multi-term search engine that will at least narrow your choices for an ID. I have tested the Bird app, which is a good supplement to iBird, but not a replacement for it, and have used the Wildflower app as my reference of choice on the iPhone.
One of my favorite Audubon series has always been the regional Nature Guides. I have owned one for every region where I have lived or spent significant time. In a single volume you find a surprisingly comprehensive guide to the birds, wildflowers (which includes many grasses and sedges as well), butterflies, insects and spiders, reptiles and amphibians, fishes, seashells, seashore creatures, and trees (which includes many shrubs). The guides also provide a good basic introduction regional habitats, geology, weather, and places to see nature. To me they are the ideal companion on any nature hike, and I rarely go out exploring without one in my back or fanny pack, appropriate to the region.
I was excited, then, to see the regional Nature series begin to appear in the App Store this month. I immediately bought New England Nature, and have been using it for a for several days now.
Except for the speed issues, which I am confident are less troublesome on a 3GS and expect to be no bother at all on the new iPhone, the app is everything I had hoped it would be. It builds on the excellent foundation of the paper version, and adds features and content that extend its usefulness in interesting ways.
If you take a look at the screen shots below you will get an idea of the range of resources which the app literally puts at your fingertips.
Not all sections have the same resources. Butterflies lack range maps, but have a direct link to the Reference section (kind of a super-glossary with background information on the species in the section). Mammals have range maps but no direct Reference link. Of special note is the fact that the Birds section carries over the excellent sound library from Audubon Birds. This set goes well beyond simple song and chipnote recordings. Baltimore Oriole, for instance, has 11 recordings ranging from Songs and Calls (5 different) to the begging sounds of newly fledged birds. Impressive audio indeed.
The screen shots that follow will give you an idea of the search feature. Only three criteria, from the butterfly section, are pictured. Each section has its own set of criteria. Birds, for instance, have shape, color, habitat,locomotion, size, song call pattern, song call type, and wing shape. Wildflowers have shape, color, habitat, and month. Each section has a unique set of criteria designed to help you best home in on an ID.
The Natural History sections are pulled directly from the printed guides: Birding Hotspots and Natural Sites, Natural Highlights, Habitats, Topography, Conservation and Ecology, and Weather and Seasons.
The final set of features has huge potential but is, so far, very inconsistently implemented. If you look at the first set of screen shots you will see icons in the icon set at the bottom of the species views for Life List and Sightings. The Sightings function is fairly well implemented. Touching the icon opens a screen for that species where you can enter basic info on your sighting. (I was not able to get the “use Phone Location” feature to work, but it is there.) Sightings are then saved to an illustrated list, linked back to the species pages, within the app. Unfortunately Life List does not work the same way. Touching that icon on any species page only opens a text entry box where you have to manually enter the species name. ???? I don’t get it. Finally, in the Dashboard at the bottom of the main screens there is a Photo icon. This allows you to take a picture and save it in an album within the app, but again, there is no way to link your picture to any given species or sighting. ???. Again, I don’t get it. Also there does not seem to be any way to export your sightings or lists or pictures to…maybe a website, twitter, facebook, your laptop??? What is GMD thinking here?
Still, taking the app for what it is, and not for what it isn’t, this is an amazingly useful (at least to me) addition to my iPhone field guide suite. It puts the full range of New England nature at my fingertips, in one tidy and highly functional package. At $15.00 I consider it a bargain. I paid more for my paper copy, and the iPhone version, even beyond portability considerations, has a lot more to offer. Regional Nature Guides for Florida, California, and Texas so far, besides the New England guide reviewed here are available in the App Store. I am sure more are in the works.
The iPhone is an amazing machine, but it is apps like the New England Nature Guide that make carrying it worth while!
SimplyTweet has always been speedy, but never the fastest of the twitter clients. Version 3.1 was the fastest ST so far, but because there was nothing to choose between downloading only 20 tweets (twitter default) and downloading All Since Last Unread, its speed was not obvious. With version 3.1.1, now under review, ST has added settings for 20, 50, 100, 200, or All Unread in the Settings App. With the app set to 200 to match my usual setting in twitter clients, SimplyTweet is as fast, or faster, than any client I have ever tried: certainly as fast as Tweetie (ah…I mean Twitter for iPhone) or Osfoora (the two previous fastest among the clients I have tried). And, of course, ST has just about all the features of either Twitter for iPhone or Osfoora, and it has reliable native push.
To my way of thinking, that makes ST the hands down winner among Twitter clients. It was already my favorite. This upgrade is just icing on the cake. (But if the developer is true to his record so far, I am sure he has more goodness up his sleeve and is working hard to bring it to his users even as I write this.)
The other refinement you will immediately notice in ST 3.1.1 is the addition of little reply symbols in the timelines when a posted tweet is, in fact, a reply. Nothing big, but nice.
For a complete list of changes, I have copied the change log from SimplyTweets’ Posterous blog. Really, after you have tried SimplyTweet, is hard to recommend any other twitter client for the iPhone!
- Add support for Instapaper Mobilizer (enable in Settings app)
- Add translation of user description in account view
- Adjust text size of contacts picker when in bigger text mode
- Direct Messages is now less likely to break up words in long DMs
- Lists timelines now load 200 when loading older tweets
- Search timeline now loads 200 when loading older tweets
- Add bookmarking service (Instapaper or Read It Later, depending on settings) to swipe menu options
- Add new swipe menu option for Reply All Mentioned
- Allow filtering of search results by language (enable and choose language in Settings app)
- App store links are no longer automatically opened in App store app (since Apple now displays a webpage, it isn’t necessary). To open the app in App store (for purchase, for e.g.), Press button in toolbar
- Add TweetPhoto and Pic.gd to photo search, removing TwitGoo, TwitrPix and img.ly. (Twitter can’t handle multi-term queries well)
- Show picture indicator in timeline for TweetPhoto and Pic.gd
- Show thumbnail in tweet view for TweetPhoto and Pic.gd
- Number of tweets to be loaded for Friends timeline on startup is now configurable as 20, 50, 100, 200, Load All Unreads
- Add indicator for tweets which are replies in timelines (not available in search timelines due to Twitter limitations)
- Fix: Hashtags with umlauts aren’t turned into links in tweet view
- Fix: When loading older tweets in search timeline, the previous results disappear (ie. only 1 page of results was shown at a time)
- Fix: Show a proper error message when sending a tweet which you have sent recently (Twitter doesn’t allow that)
- Fix: Show a proper error message when retweeting a tweet which you have already retweeted
- Fix: Some lists and @usernames aren’t turned into links properly in tweet view and DM view
- Fix: When creating a draft from list of drafts, title of compose view is misaligned
- Fix: For some users, tweets sent by them aren’t highlighed with a different background
- Fix: unread count disappears in Friends/Mentions timeline after opening account from timeline and going back to timeline
- Fix: crash when hashtag button is pressed in compose view while tools panel is revealed
- Fix: Some gaps in Friends timeline if app was running for a long time and manually refreshed
- Fix: duplicates in mentions/DM timeline if push while app is not running and push is not for the current account
- Fix: adjust picture indicator in timelines so it’s less likely to overlap with text
- Fix: if user switches account while a timeline is loading tweets/DMs, the newly loaded tweets/DMs will appear in the switched-to account
- Fix: toolbar color of list detail doesn’t obey theme
- Fix: bug when deleting accounts
Osfoora has had 2 updates in the short time it has been in the App Store, and since my first review. Considering that it was a strong entry in the iPhone Twitter client sweepstakes, right out of the gate, what could the author have added/changed this quickly?
A few of the changes are evident right here on the Home view. Apparently I was not the only user who found it difficult to navigate into and out of Timeline view with multiple accounts. As you see the Home view has been rearranged, in the very first update, and a large, unmistakable Timeline icon added. The subtlety of this is that you no longer have to get to the Timeline through the accounts manager, and there is now a Home button on just about every timeline view to take you directly back to this master view. Nice. Manage Accounts gets its own button at the bottom of the screen and only needs to be accessed when you actually want to switch accounts or add accounts. Very nice.
In addition to highlighting new features and changes in UI, I want to take the opportunity here to point out some features that I have come to appreciate more as I have used the program since its original release.
First, I may already have mentioned that Osfoora is, hands down, the fastest Twitter client I have ever used on the iPhone. From start up to timeline loads to internal navigation, to the inline web browser…the program is fast and responsive: noticeably faster and quicker when compared to any other Twitter client on my 3G. Actually I know that I already mentioned it…at least twice in the first review, but it is noticeable enough, and important enough to me as a user, to be said again.
Then there are a whole bunch of nice little touches: The reply icon in the timeline views that tells you the tweet you are looking at is a reply to some other tweet (and the In Reply button at the bottom of the tweet view that opens the chain of replies as a conversation), the little image icon that tells you the tweet contains an image (much easier to see the icon when scrolling than it is to look for twitpic or yfrog urls), the elegant retweet presentation with avatars of both tweeter and retweeter and the retweeter’s name at the bottom of the tweet, the double tap to mark all read action on the icon unread counts (see screen shot immediately below for these features), the way DMs are grouped by sender and displayed in conversation style (image 1 below), the comprehensive popup action menu that appears when you touch a tweet longer than it takes to open it (2), the filer tweets text box at the top of timeline views that allows you to search for tweets by username or subject (3), the way your common lists appear at the bottom of the more screen without opening your profile (this actually may be new feature…not sure…but I know I like it! image 4 below), the three icon action bar hidden under the top of every timeline view (5), the quick search engine that pulls up user’s profiles under Find User and when you press the @ icon in the compose view (for addressing tweets, image 6), the way the app remembers your hastags and gives you quick access to them in the compose view, being able to save tweets as drafts, being able to attach multiple images to a single tweet (7), the way the app auto senses when the tweet contains more than one @user and adds Reply All to the reply menu (8)…even the neat way the refresh icon zooms up before it begins to spin when you load a list! All very nice and useful, and simply elegant as well. I appreciate that.
As far as new features goes: TextExpander integration was added in the first update, which I also really appreciate as I use it all the time. If you do not know TextExpander, it is separate app that allows you to create and save snippets…short letter sequences that stand for longer words or phrases. With the proper integration, typing a snippet in any app with integration, like Osfoora, will trigger the autoexpand TextExpander engine and replace your snippet with the full word or phrase. Just like magic!
This update added Posterous integration, also a feature I really appreciate. The integration even preserves the body of your tweet as text in the Posterous post, using the first 40 characters as title, which is better that sticking the whole tweet in as title as some other apps do…though we will have to wait for a future update to get automatic Posterous galleries when you attach more than one image to a tweet. We also now have inline previews of images from supported image services in the tweet view…very nice…and it would have been even nicer if the previews were actual thumnails and not a crop of the full sized image…the crop often leaves you without enough significant detail to be useful in deciding if you want to open the image viewer (9).
This update also brings TwitLonger inline previews to the tweet view, though, among my tweeple, very few actually use TwitLonger.
There are more features to this excellent Twitter client…in fact I can now say, that with the exception of push notification, Osfoora does everything I expect of the best Twitter clients, and easily ranks right up there with Tweetie, Twittelator, Echofon, and Simplytweet. When you factor in the speed and quickness of Osfoora, it has earned pride of place in the application bar at the base of my iPhone’s home screen! Osfoora has become, in a strong initial offering, and two excellent updates, the one Twitter client I use every day on my iPhone.
Osfoora is Said M. Moroof’s second Twitter client. His first, Landscape Tweets, is still in the app store, and when introduced was unique in being the only Twitter client which offered landscape view in all views, not just in compose. Unfortunately, within a month of his publishing the app, many of the better known and better established clients also went full landscape. Landscape Tweet got lost in the crowd.
Osfoora is completely new app, written from the ground up to take advantage of Twitter’s newest features. Osfoora, by the way, means “Little Bird” in Arabic. Hence half the pun in the title of this review…but only half the pun. Osfoora does an excellent job of implementing Twitter standard features, most of what we have come to expect of an iPhone Twitter client, and a few that are still fairly rare…but it does it just differently enough to stand out a bit. (Not, certainly, as differently as Twittelator Pro 3.x…the UI will be familiar to anyone who has used any of the other major Twitter offerings…but different enough to notice).
Before getting into the feature set and UI, though, let me say that Osfoora is among the fastest Twitter clients I have used on my iPhone 3G. It loads fast, and is particularly responsive within.
The feature and UI difference begins with the big bold Home view, with a set of icons for every major function. This is a nice touch, and would be even nicer if it were easier to access from the other views. Sometimes the only way to get there is to use the back button at the top of views to back through the other views you have had open. Personally I would replace the Profile icon in the hidden top toolbar with Home and solve the problem.
Ah yes, the hidden toolbar!
Pulling down the view from the top on most views exposes three icons: Profile, Refresh, and To Bottom. Pull down until it says "release for toolbar” and it will stay long enough for you to choose one. This only works if you have already scrolled the view to the top, but is is both clever and handy. In the best of all worlds you would be able to choose the icons presented there.
Another somewhat unique feature is the full menu of options that pops up from the bottom when you hold your finger on a tweet for more than a second. I might note that Retweet on this menu is Twitter native retweet, and you are not given the option of commenting. If you choose Retweet on the Tweet View, on the other hand, you are given a choice between Twitter native and the old RT style with possible comments.
While we are on the subject of Retweets, Osfoora offers full integration of Twitter native system, with My Retweets, My Tweets, Retweeted, and Retweets by others options in the user profile. (See screen shot below.)
Note the Translate in the pop-up menu. Osfoora joins a still fairly small group of Twitter apps that provides instant translation of tweets (I can think of 2 others off hand.) Translation is also available on the Tweet View, in the action menu.
Profile opens the sender’s profile…you are not given a choice if there are @user mentions within the tweet. (To view @users’ profiles you can open the Tweet View, where all @users are displayed as links.) You can also view the sender’s profile outside the menu on the Time Line (or other list views) by tapping the user pic.
Osfoora also offers full Twitter List implementation. My only quibble on the lists is that it often takes a lot of taps to get to the list you want to view. Either you have to get back to the Home view, which, as above, sometimes requires lots of taps, or you have to get there through your own profile, in which case any list is at least 4 taps deep. A simple two tap route would be nice…three at most. But that is just a quibble…I could easily live with Osfoora’s list implementation.
Another Osfoora feature, shared by only one other client that I know of, is the ability to attach more than one image (or other media) to a tweet. For some strange reason, you can not do this if you select an image directly from the camera. That wipes out your other attachments. Note in this compose view that you can also directly access a searchable list of your friends, put in the location, call up your frequently used hastags, and shorten either text (Twitlonger) or urls. You have a choice of two short url servers and can use your custom account if you want.
One final feature, now pretty common, but worthy of note: the ability to view @replies in conversation view. Note the little “in reply” icon at the bottom of the Tweet View above. Tap it and it opens the whole chain of referenced tweets in a new list view.
So, all in all, Osfoora has enough going for it to be worth serious consideration as a full time Twitter client…unless you want or need push. In this first version at least, there is no native push integration, and Osfoora is, of course, too new to have made it into Boxcar’s list of supported apps. If push is a deal-breaker, Osfoora is broken.
Still, Osfoora has a lot to recommend it, and very little left out that you might miss. Especially if you are looking for a speedy client, you should take look.
A somewhat random set of screen shots follows, just for flavor.
For more info visit the iTunes preview: Osfoora
It is always a pleasure when an app I have come to rely on continues to get better. I use iGmail (See iGmail, GMail finally done right on the iPhone) almost more than any single other app on my iPhone, maybe more than Twittelator and SimplyTweet, certainly more than Facebook.
So I immediately downloaded the update. After a false start (I had to delete and do a fresh install to get the app to work*), the new version is, as advertised, considerably faster on my 3G. That is what I notice first and most.
You can now set the shake motion to a variety of actions, instead of check all. There are a few other minor tweaks, and a new in app purchase premium package that adds pinch and zoom and a favorite icon. The premium package is only $.99, and since the base app, without push, is free, it is one more way to support the development of the app. The log out/log in process has been improved for those who have both a Google Apps account and a regular GMail account.
If you are a new user, of course, you will not notice the speed improvement…but for those of us who have used iGmail for a while, it is an impressive effort, and makes the app just that much more usable! Your inbox loads faster. Individual emails display faster. Controls work faster. I especially notice the difference on the Delete button. Very nice!
*(A note on the app store now says that the old preference file from the Settings App is causing the problem, and recommends a delete and reinstall instead of an upgrade.)
It seems to be a day for downloading upgrades and seeing how Twitter clients are progressing. Twittelator Pro 3.0 was the first Twitter client to take advantage of the features of OS 3.0 and the iPhone 3GS when they were introduced last year. It was ready on launch to upload audio and video. I bought it at that point, and it was an eye-opening experience. I thought Tweetie was everything a Twitter client could be…Twittelator soon showed me a whole new range of possibilities…bookmarks, lists, saved tweets and sets of tweets, in-line image thumbs in list view, intelligent tweet counts in all views, etc, etc.: Twittelator Pro was so feature rich that it made using any lesser client seem like a huge step backward. Goodbye Tweetie. (see my first Twittelator Pro review.)
Only the advent of SimplyTweet, which had a similar feature set, a simpler UI (at least in my eyes), and PUSH! took me away from Twittelator.
Still I download every Twittelator Pro upgrade just to see how it is developing. Today version 3.6 appeared in the App Store, with one feature that I just had to try right away: TextExpander support. I have become addicted to TE in SimplyTweet, and I am of the opinion that every text based iPhone app should feature integration. It is hard to imagine how useful it is until the the 6th time you begin a tweet with “Just in case you missed it:”. Setting a TE snippet to “jicumi” allows you to type just that: “jicumi” and have it magically expanded into the whole phrase, including the “:”. I use it all the time.
With the exception of Push, Twittelator Pro has done an excellent job of keeping up with new features of the OS and Twitter. This version does both traditional Retweets (with the possibility of comments) and the new Twitter native Retweet. And Twitter native lists have replaced the custom lists in previous versions of Twittelator. The advantage of using the Twitter native lists is, of course, portability. Any app that uses Twitter native lists, including the Twitter web interface itself, can use the same lists you create on Twitter, or in another client that integrates the list features. When you switch clients, for whatever reason, you do not lose your lists. Of course there is a price. Twitter lists only collect direct tweets from users. They do not collect replies. Most custom lists in the clients that implemented them collected both. You can’t have everything.
Twittelator Pro does continue to provide an interesting an unique feature called Bookmarks. This allows you to add a user to a list you can later access from the More menu to call up all that user’s tweets with a single touch.
Another of the can haves of Twittelator is geotagging. It supports native Twitter geo tags and does an excellent job with a built-in map view for Nearby search, which is fully integrated with an intelligent list view as well. It is one of the best Nearby search implementations I have yet seen.
Version 3.6 also includes what the creator is calling an in-line browser. Of course every Twitter client that I know of uses the OS browser calls and interface to provide a way to view links within the app. Twittelator just provides a view where you can enter your own url or go to the Google page.
When you add all these new features, and more that I have not mentioned, introduced since version 3.0, Twittelator remains one of the richest Twitter experiences on any platform.
But no push. Twittelator relies on Boxcar. I downloaded Boxcar again today and set it up for Twittelator. Nah! Not the same as the native Push integration offered by Twitbit, Echofon, TwitBird, and SimplyTweet. Not at all! Sorry. No.
Then too, Twittelator has a UI that, honestly, takes some getting used to. Considering the popularity of the app, lots of people must get used to it…but it is very different from the majority of Twitter clients…and very different, in fact, from the emerging standard interface conventions among all iPhone apps. You won’t see any swipes or tap for pop-up action menus here.
For instance, here is a screen shot of the list view, with little arrows and explanations of the controls.
Nothing wrong with that. Everything you might want to do is there…even if it is not obvious to the new user.
But it is different. In every other Twitter client I have tested on the iPhone, tapping the tweet in the list view opens the tweet in tweet view. Tapping the tweet does nothing in Twittelator. You have to tap the user name to open tweet view. In other apps tapping the avatar initiates a reply. In Twittelator it opens the profile of the user, and gives you your only access to @users within the tweet. It also allows you to do a Reply All. To initiate a normal reply (without opening the tweet view), you have to tap the time stamp…unless the tweet is itself a reply, in which case the time stamp will be in a speech bubble, and tapping it will open conversation view for the reply (leaving you without any way to directly initiate a reply of your own until you get to the conversation view).
If there are links, or #hastags in the tweet you have to tap the attachment icon to access them. That produces a menu of the possible links for you to choose from. That is the only way to open links or #hashtags, since once you figure out how to open the tweet view, unlike every other Twitter client on the iPhone, the links are just text…most Twitter clients require you to open tweet view before the links go live. In Twittelator you can not open a link from tweet view. Links are never live. Different. Of course, the image thumbnail right in the list view is a nice touch. Contrary to all expectation, it is live: Tapping the thumbnail opens the image viewer directly.
Here, in the screen shots, you see the pop-up menu that tapping the attachment icon opens for choosing which of the possible links you you want to activate, and the tweet view with no active links at all. As you can see, a wide range of options for action on the tweet are provided. Retweet can be set to auto choose conventional (RT or Via with comment) or Twitter native retweet, to do one or the other, or to always give you a choice. The one that is missing here is quote or repost tweet, and, unlike some other clients that have a one tap copy the whole tweet, you have to use the OS selection handles and pop-up to copy the tweet for inclusion in a new tweet.
I am not making a better/worse argument here: just pointing out that Twittelator’s UI is different, and non-standard in many ways. Cryptic. It does everything you need it to do, but it takes some time to find out how to do any given thing…and some effort to remember. (There is a fairly trough instruction manual on-line and accessible from within the app). It is easy for those already in the know. Not so much for new users. You may love it and think that all Twitter clients should work this way.
I could get used to it. And the rich feature set of Twittelator makes it worthwhile. As you would expect, the longer I live with the app, the more normal it seems. But honestly, there are a growing number of clients which have all the power features of Twittelator Pro, plus a less cryptic UI , and even fully integrated push.
Still for all that, Twittelator Pro may be just your cup of Twitter Tea. It still offers features no other client offers, and has just about every feature anyone else provides. If only it did native push. I am using it as my default client, at least until SimplyTweet implements the latest Twitter native features (lists and retweet).