Cloudy Days and Connected Nights

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Archive for the ‘iPod Touch’ Category

New England Nature: Audubon guide for iPhone/iPod Touch

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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!

Written by singraham

June 5, 2010 at 11:58 am

More SimplyTweet Updates! Faster and faster…

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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 to photo search, removing TwitGoo, TwitrPix and (Twitter can’t handle multi-term queries well)
  • Show picture indicator in timeline for TweetPhoto and
  • Show thumbnail in tweet view for TweetPhoto and
  • 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

Written by singraham

May 25, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Posted in app, iPhone, iPod Touch, Twitter

SimplyTweet 3.1: Back at the Top of the Twitter heap!

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Note: as of 5/8 this version is pending review in the App Store. It should be available next week.

Of course, with Tweetie now the property of Twitter, and its first release as the one and only official twitter app for the iPhone impending (simply Twitter for iPhone), there is somewhat of a scramble among twitter client developers to get their apps well positioned to survive the advent. And that is not going to be easy. Tweetie already has one of the richest feature sets of any client, one of the most elegant interfaces, and one of the strongest followings. One wonders what Twitter is going to do to it…but unless they somehow make it worse instead of better, Tweetie as a free Twitter for iPhone is going to be tough competition for any other app.

Still there are two features that Tweetie lacks that have always kept it off my home screen. 1) native push notifications and 2) unread counts and unread marks. I know you can use Boxcar for push, but as I have said before, there is no comparison between well implemented native push and a side-car push experience. They are two different things altogether. Native push is clearly the way to go. (We will have to see what wrinkles multitasking brings to this mix with OS 4.0.) And, personally, I value unread counts and marks. They help to make sense out of my stream, and any help there is appreciated! 🙂

I have used just about all of the feature rich twitter clients, and the one that keeps working its way back on to my home screen is SimplyTweet. It has a simple, elegant UI, all the standard features, and a few still fairly unique features that I use every day. For a while before 3.0 came out, SimplyTweet fell behind the curve in implementing twitter-native retweet and twitter lists. The native retweet thing was critical, since they did not appear in the ST timelines at all. That was awkward. And, while ST had its own list function, it was not integrated in any way with Twitter’s own new lists.

That lead me to an app called Osfoora (see reviews here and here). Osfoora has most of ST’s features (except for push) and is blazingly fast. Excellent app and another app which is rapidly developing. Still I was really waiting for the new release of ST.

SimplyTweet 3.0 was a long time coming because it was a complete rewrite…all but a complete recreation…in essence a whole new app. The UI changes went well beyond 2.5, which was itself a significant upgrade (see review). 3.0 added all the new twitter native stuff, and the engine under the hood was completely reworked.

Unfortunately, because of that, 3.0 was essentially a 1.0 version with a few really awkward UI corners and obvious patches still showing. Though I bought it the day it appeared in the app store, it never did make it to my home screen. (Since it was completely new app from the inside out it was not a free upgrade…though, under protest, the author did lower the price for a time to appease his faithful following. My attitude on this is somewhat different…as it was with Tweetie 2.0. iPhone apps are inexpensive. iPhone app developers, if we expect them to continue developing, have to make some $$ for their efforts. Having to repurchase ST, considering all the work that has gone into it, over past upgrades and in this new version, is only fair. 🙂 Or that’s what I think.)

I have mentioned before that ST’s author, Hwee-Boon Yar, is among the most accessible and responsive of developers. If you check his twitter profile you will see that he has over 10,000 updates…most dealing with his user’s suggestions and concerns. That is impressive.

And SimplyTweet 3.1 shows that he is still listening. He took the suggestions of his users after 3.0 and added the final layer of polish to the UI, finished a few features that were hanging, and managed to speed up the app significantly in 3.1. SimplyTweet is back on my home screen!

Features it retains that I value:

  1. multiple accounts with easy account switching (even while composing a tweet).
  2. native push, with all notification options
  3. load all since last unread (it will load over 1000 tweets first thing in the morning), with tweet counts on the control bar at the bottom, and unread marks in the list
  4. unread marks which disappear as you scroll up the list (tweet count decrements as well)
  5. full TextExpander integration.
  6. repost this tweet function
  7. ability to post multiple images with a single tweet
  8. swipe control for instant access to common functions (and, in the Settings app, you can set which function icons appear when you swipe)
  9. reply to multiple tweets by selecting them a list view (elegant solution for #ff)
  10. reply to author and all mentions function in tweet view
  11. # symbol on the compose screen for quick access, plus your saved hashtag list
  12. easy access to the chain of tweets for @replys, both forward and backward
  13. image search (Twitpics, yFrog, TwitGoo and
  14. excellent Profile view which auto loads user’s recent tweets and still has access to the user’s lists, favorites, @replies, tweets between you and the user, followers, followed, etc. etc….and all while still managing not to look too complex.
  15. general look and logic of the UI (it just works the way I need it too)
  16. full screen rotation, in any view
  17. ability to edit the control bar at the bottom and the More screen

New features of 3.0/3.1

  1. native retweets with dual avatar display in timelines
  2. native lists (now in 3.1 with easy access in the control bar if you want to put it there)
  3. hidden control panel in the compose screen for additional functions (url shortner, #s, location, pic upload, etc.)
  4. pull down Compose box to view tweet being replied to (surprisingly handy)
  5. image indicator in list view for tweets with images attached (as a fotog this one is particularly important to me)
  6. thumbnail image preview in tweet view (ditto)
  7. redesigned, single screen, Search interface (takes getting used to but actually works very well)
  8. both search for user and go to user in Search. (may have been in previous versions but I never appreciated it until the redesigned UI)
  9. Tweet translation
  10. Tweet now playing on iPod
  11. cached tweets, so you can read tweets while off-line
  12. general speed enhancements, especially on opening app

What does Simplytweet still lack? (both of these continue to surprise me! but neither is a deal-breaker since they are features I don’t use much)

  1. conversation view of DMs!!! 😦
  2. nearby tweet mapping (it does a list, but there is no indication in the list of the location of the tweeter and no map view 😦 )

I have said it before, and now, with 3.1, I can say it again. SimplyTweet is, in my studied opinion, the best of the currently available Twitter clients for iPhone. Twitter is going to have do something spectacular with Tweetie to even equal it…let alone to better it.

Of course, the real test of twitter apps is yet to come. OS 4.0 is going to be a whole new game, with new potentials and opportunities. Which twitter app will best realize all that 4.0 goodness…that is the real question now!

Lots more screen shots of features mentioned in the text below.

Search screen features: also note the elegant Profile view layout.

Stuff you can do with a tweet:


Written by singraham

May 8, 2010 at 6:14 am

Osfoora Updates: now this is getting really good!

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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.

1) 2)


5) 6)



Written by singraham

March 13, 2010 at 11:17 am

Osfoora: Twitter spelled differently

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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



Written by singraham

February 15, 2010 at 8:13 am