Archive for the ‘software’ 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!
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.
If you have followed my reviews of birding apps for the iPhone, you know that in my opinion iBird Explorer is, hands down, the best of the lot.
And that is saying a lot.
To quote myself, “iBird provides quick easy access to a what amounts to a whole library of birding resouces, right in the palm of your hand, as well as a complete set of audio recordings, and more images, including both detailed paintings and photographs, than you could look at in several years.” And the user experience is excellent as well. iBird is a true iPhone app and makes excellent use of the UI to provide that quick easy access.
Version 1.8.3, now appearing in the App Store, adds a number of useful enhancements and refinements, and bunch of new content.
I am quoting from the iBird release on the subject, with my own comments added.
1. Shaking the device picks a random bird and plays its song. Shake twice to do it again. Word is, many users are finding this feature a good way of learning bird songs…which just might be an unforeseen benefit.
2. Family sort on Browse page now has switch: Taxonomic / Alphabetic. An excellent compromise between the needs of the beginner and the birding purist!
3. Multiple vocalizations for certain bird species. We currently only have these birds set up: American Robin, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, but more are coming. More will be added soon. More are needed, especially as the competition, notably Audubon Birds, features a much stronger sound library.
4. Registration. Register iBird and we’ll send you a coupon for a free 6-month subscription to the WhatBird.com Make-a-Guide, a cool web based system, which lets you design and build custom field guides. You can see more about it here:
Fairly unobtrusive and useful to some.
5. 14 new search attributes plus all attributes are grouped in related areas. Welcome additions to the search criteria, but the best new feature is the rearrangement and grouping of the criteria in what now seems to be to be a much more logical scheme. Makes specifying a search much easier and the whole search function more useful.
6. Includes new search by patterns.
7. Includes new search by weight, length and wingspan. Sliders make setting the limits easy (and even a little fun!)
8. Number of birds in each state has been increased significantly. (See table below). Do see the table. Impressive work on an already extensive database of state records!
9. The switch for Color (ANY and ALL) has been simplified to an ON OFF switch.
10. The Taxonomic sort switch has been simplified to an ON OFF switch. Simplicity is always good when it does not sacrifice functionality. These changes are for the good.
11. There is a new Compare iBird Apps menu item in the More screen.
Besides the added bird sounds, over 200 additional images have been added.
In addition there are several bug fixes.
All of which clearly keeps iBird Explorer on the top of the short list of birding apps on the iPhone. It is a great app, but more than that, it reflects a great attitude on the part of its developers. They seem genuinely motivated to produce the best birding app possible, and they put a lot of effort into keeping iBird the best. Many of the refinements offered since the app appeared are totally unneeded…if your only criteria is financial success. The app would sell just as well without them. If, no the other hand, your motivation is excellence and the most excellent user experience possible, then you develop, and continue to refine, an app of iBird’s obvious quality!
|New Features of iBird 1.8.3|
|1. Shake opens a random species page and plays its song.||2. Switch changes Family sort from alphabetic to taxonomic.||3. Multiple vocalizations for species. Explains what each song means.|
|4. Register iBird and receive a free subscription to the Make-a-Guide. Build custom PDF books with just the birds you want – great for classes, vacations, etc. Three formats for books.|
|5. Search attributes are now grouped by similar characteristics.||
6. New search by breast, belly and back pattern.
|7. Search by length, weight and wingspan. Provides an amazing wealth of information about how birds compare by these attributes.|
|8. The default mode is ANY color matches (OR), the switch turns on ALL colors need to be true to match (AND||9. The default mode for sorting is alphabetic, the switch turns on the Taxonomic mode.||10. The item Compare Bird Apps opens a table on the web server where you can see how the iPhone bird apps stand up.|
I have watched this little App develop over the past few updates into something quite fine and supremely useful! Deliveries is, in my opinion, a perfect example of the real potential and attraction of the iPhone.
The premise is simple: track shipments and packages quickly and easily. Automate the process for over 30 major internet vendors and commonly used shippers, so that you can track either by order number or by tracking number. As the app has developed, the authors have added the ability to see expanded order detail (automatically retrived from the vendor or shipper’s web site), a map of where your shipment is in relation to where you are, and the actual info page on the internet from the vendor or shipper…all without leaving the app. Very fine indeed. And useful! I find that Deliveries has become my preferred way of tracking packages. I will turn on my iPhone to check a package, even when I am sitting at my computer. And if that is not a testiment to the potential and attraction of the iPhone, I don’t know what would be.
The process is as simple as the premise. You add a shipment to track by entering a nickname, picking a vendor or shipper from a long list of possibles, entering the order or tracking number (which you can copy and paste from the confirmation email on the iPhone), and your account credentials if appropriate. Once a shipment is added, opening the app will automatically update the status. There is even a big count down number of days remaining to cheer you when you check.
I have tested Deliveries so far with Amazon and UPS, and it works amazingly well. There may be services in the vendor/shipper list that do not work as well…but I am assuming that they all function…and if they all work as well as Amazon and UPS, I would not be surprised.
So…if you order over the internet, or, as I do, regularly ship UPS or FedX, get this app! You will love it for its functionality and elegance. You will come, as I quickly have, to depend on it, and on your iPhone, for all your order and shipment tracking needs.
I bought 1, Perfect Web Browser 2.7 for the iPhone for one reason and one reason only. My GMail account crashes Safari…every time, whether I invoke my inbox from the Google App, or from within Safari itself…crash! Complete lock up. I have to restart the iPhone to back out of it. Not good.
Besides, even before it crashes Safari, there is just no elegant way to select and delete blocks of text in the Safari compose view…at least not the lengthy text you need to select to trim a group posting when you reply. To do that, you need the more flexible compose view in Mail.
However, I really miss GMail’s threaded messages in the native iPhone App. Once you get used to threads in GMail, it is really hard to go back to a liner client like Mail.
Okay, to be honest, there was more reason I bought 1PWB. 1, Perfect Web Browser is currently on sale. I thought, “why not…I will give it a try, even just for GMail.”
And it works. It is fast, stable, has real tabs, and full screen view. You can select text beyond what is visable in the compose box, and the whole mobile GMail interface just looks great in it. It works so well I have not opened the native iPhone Mail client in two weeks. Mission certainly, clearly, cleanly, accomplished.
So, of course, I wondered how it would work with other Google web apps (which typically, in my experience, cooperate only marginally with Safari).
Reader? Works so well in 1PWB that I have all but stopped using MobileRSS. Fast? Incredible.
Calendar? Works great! View by day or by Month…add events…whatever you need to do. And, again, fast!
While it is not Google, even the mobile FaceBook web interface works so well that it gives the native FaceBook client on the iPhone a run for its money.
1Perfect Web Browser opens SmugMug gallery pages that choke Safari. And opening a WordPress blog even invokes the mobile theme just as Safari does.
In fact, I have only found one flaw in 1Perfect Web Browser (well, maybe two). 1) There is no way to make it the default browser on the iPhone (not 1PWB’s fault…a limitation of the iPhone OS) so all links from other apps still open in Safari, and 2) copy and paste is not implemented for web page text. Minor stuff.
Other than that it is really pretty close to perfect. One Perfect Web Browser for the iPhone!