App Reviews

Anyone who has created an app knows that one of the time-consuming and trivial tasks that you must do is resizing app icons.  I often spend around 20 minutes just doing this, and than realize some imperfection in the original design.  The process repeats.

Currently on Cult Of Mac Deals, they are offering a package of Mac apps for developers, “The Free Mac Developer Toolkit”.  While the code editor is mediocre, one application, DevBox, is a gem.

DevBox describes itself as an “All-in-one mobile development toolbox”.  It certainly simplifies many parts of app development.

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DevBox’s main functions are graphic-centered.  It can generate placeholders, resize images, work with colors, and generate icon sizes (my favorite); but it can also validate .ipa files, display device capabilities, and create QR codes.

DevBox feels like it was created by someone who understood what an app developer has to do.  Its functions are intuitive and useful, and its interface is well laid-out.

So thanks to Untamed Interactive for your great product.  My one complaint is that the icon sizes are not updated for iOS 8, but that’s a minor detail.

Now, back to hotPotato development…

No one can deny that using an iOS device comes with restrictions.  A user can only download programs from the App Store, and App Store apps have very limited control over the device.  This is where profiles come in.

What are Profiles?

Simply put, a configuration profile is an XML profile that can change device settings.  Their goal is to allow developers to provide custom settings for a large amount of devices.  They can be installed through Mobile Safari, email, or with Apple Configurator.  Some common uses for profiles are requiring a password, disabling certain features, and creating web apps.

The GBA4iOS method

GBA4iOS is an emulator for iOS.  It allows iOS users to install a full Game Boy Advanced emulator on their device, without jailbreaking.  The website accomplishes this by installing a profile, specifically the MacBuildServer(MBS) Hello App Provision.  This profile allows other applications to be installed on the device.  Other applications can be found at iEmulators.  This provides a screen recorder, other game emulators, and even a full DOS emulator.  With iDOS and the help of iExplorer, you can even install Windows on your device.

Testflight and Hockey

Testflight and Hockey are both systems for developers to let testers download their apps.  They also use provision profiles to download apps that don't reside on the App Store.  Both make testing easy by simply providing a profile to download.  As soon as apps are available, testers can download the apps straight to their device.  This allows developers to test in a wider range of users, not just personal connections.

GBA4iOS, Testflight  and Hockey provide iOS users a way to download apps that don't come from the App Store, without jailbreaking.  More options are being worked on, as developers push the limits, finding other ways.

Do you use these?  Or any other methods?

 

Only hours ago, SquaredTiki released Dringend, a fully-fledged development app for the iPad.  It is now on the App Store for 10 dollars.

What is Dringend?

Previously, we reviewed Codea, which represented a huge leap forward in mobile development.  Now once again, Dringend has pushed that farther.  

Dringend is a complete app for developing apps on an iPad.  It lets you build applications on your iPad, and even immediately test them, if you have a developer account.  Otherwise, they can be sent to XCode for testing.  

Dringend already supports many features for coding including syntax highlighting, find and replace, automatic highlighting, code structuring, and additional keys.  With Dropbox, you can sync projects from the app to XCode.  It even provides the same templates as XCode.

One thing Dringend does not yet support, though, is visually building interfaces with the storyboard.  This requires the user to know how to programmatically design the interface, or design the interface with XCode.  Obviously, XCode is required for compilation and publishing.  "The Constructor" is a Mac app that allows you to connect to the Mac from far away and compile, and then have the test sent to the device immediately.

So Dringend obviously has some downsides.  It's only hours old, though, and is improving rapidly.  Some features, especially storyboards, will come with time.  Others, such as publishing, may require a change on Apple's part, one that could take many years and software updates.  Yet right now, it is the most powerful tool for developers working on an iPad.  And with syncing and The Constructor, it is a practical and useful app.  And at only 10 dollars, it makes mobile development a real possibility.

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Many newsreaders, web surfers, or random internet users, if they’re anything like me, may face a dilemma. They found a great website, article, or anything on the web, but aren’t sure the best way to save it. They try bookmarks, text lists, self-addressed emails, and it all results in more disorganization then before.

instapaperInstapaper and Pocket are both apps, bookmarklets, and extensions. With a simple click of the bookmark, extension, or app, you can save an article to your library. Your library syncs across device, phone, and computer automatically, and provides options for each.

Instapaper and Pocket both provide very similar options.  The main difference is interface—Instapaper has a minimalistic approach, while Pocket’s interface is more colorful.  Both are extremely easy to use.

Instapaper shows only the most fundamental options. It gives a “Read Later”, “Liked”, “Archive”, “Videos”,”Browse”, and “Folders” tab. Other controls are as simple as they come, with only a Filter, Sort, Search, and Edit button. The Edit button reveals several more options, like Archiving, Deleting, or moving to a folder. Sliding on an article provides the same options.

pocketPocket has very similar options, and a virtually identical experience.

Both are completely free, and though you can purchase a subscription, all the main features are available without purchase. Both have no advertisements, and no pop ups constantly asking for subscription.

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 A Memory

mathway screenshotI came across this while looking for a good CAS calculator app.  I had tried several options, such as PocketCAS, but nothing had really worked well.  I remembered the old site, MyAlgebra, which could solve CAS style equations.  So, partially for good times’ sake, I went back.  I found that it was now called Mathway, and was much improved.  This is what the new solver looks like:

A Connection

The icon, though, looked suspiciously like one for an app.  So, on a whim, I went to the app store and typed in “Mathway”.  I then found the Mathway app.

 

The Mathway App

The start screen provides a quick way to access all the solvers:

The app will solve a variety of types of problems.  The categories are Basic Math, Pre-Algebra, Trigonometry,  Precalculus, Calculus, and Statistics, each with their own specialized keyboard.  The categories reveal a student-based way of solving, by subject.

When you type something in, you will get choices on what to do.  For instance, an algebra equation may allow solving, simplifying, factoring, or something else.  Under the answer, there is a “view steps” button that will show work if you have View Steps purchased.

The app will solve virtually any type of problem.  It will even graph if given an equation that can be graphed.  Other tools include Examples, Glossary, and a Help choice to explain the app’s functions.

The app is free, and though it includes adds, you can quickly remove them by signing up for a free Mathway account, requiring only an email and password.  The one way to potentially spend money is if you purchase a premium account to show steps.

All in all, it is the best CAS calculator I have seen yet.  It provides an immense number of accepted problem types, and solves relatively quickly, even without internet connection.  At times the responding is a smidgen slow, but not significantly.  The extra tools really increase the appeal, especially for students.  Best of all, it’s completely free.

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Virtually every mobile device needs a web browser. Apple provides Safari but sometimes you want to expand. This takes a look at 8 of the best.


Safari

Safari:

Safari has a somewhat unfair advantage: It’s prepackaged. Safari can open links easily from other apps, and from Search or Siri. It can save bookmarks to the home screen. It can work easily with any app. So, if you need inter-app connectivity, the default browser works well.

Google Chrome:Chrome
Google Chrome is one of the few web browsers that can open links from other apps. It works with other Google apps such as Gmail, even sometimes providing a link back to the app on the back button. It has expected features, and hides the bar when you scroll down for a while.

Atomic Web Browser Lite:Atomic
Staying with the free theme, the Lite version of Atomic is by no means a letdown. It has a load of features, including AdBlock, basic sharing options, full-screen, multi-touch, and color customization. The one thing is, the host of features and layout can be intimidating to users, and controls aren’t entirely intuitive. The new tab screen provides information, however, which helps. Another nice feature is downloads.

Puffin Free:Puffin
Another Free version with a host of features, Puffin provides one unique feature: add-ons. Users can choose to install or remove add-ons from a list, however, only add-ons provided by Puffin may be used, although that may change.
Apart from features such as gestures, Puffin has a loading screen that looks a lot like Windows 8. It can also download files that can then be activated. One potential problem is that on sites with many images, like METSploration, the image animation is slow and blocky. Other than that, this is a suitable choice.

Terra:Terra
Terra provides, when you first open it, very little instruction. That’s because little is necessary. The browser provides a highly simplistic layout and interface, and less flashy features. It does support downloads, including downloading a page’s html, a nice addition. It also supports different desktop clients. The real reason to get it, though, is if you want a clean, simple browser.

Opera Mini:Opera Mini
Opera Mini has some nice parts–a nice clean new tab, with speed dial. But its speed is nowhere near other browsers, for instance on the METSploration homepage, it reloads every time the picture changes. The controls also seem clunky, unrefined. But if you want a nostalgic browser, and don’t mind loading times, Opera Mini works.

Coast:Coast
Also by Opera, Coast feels much more present. In fact, it is one of the cleanest, fastest browsers I’ve seen. It’s home screen sports only icons and a search bar. When on a site, the only button visible is the ellipses. That opens the page manager, from where users can swipe pages out, share them, or get information. To save a page as a bookmark, a user goes to the home screen, where the icon appears underneath the bookmarks. To make it a bookmark, just drag the icon to the bookmarks. With a simple yet powerful interface, Coast is one of the best.

Dolphin:Dolphin
Immediately after opening Dolphin, it seems friendlier. With green accents and simple rounded icons, Dolphin also has excellent social features. Another interesting feature it supports is gesture bookmarks, where bookmarks can be referenced by a gesture. The problem with that is that a user has to open up a separate panel for the gesture. If you need social features or want a friendly interface, Dolphin is for you.

After testing 8 excellent web browsers, the three top are:
Coast, for interface;
Atomic, for features;
and Chrome, for all-around reliability.

Is there a web browser you love? Comment below.

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20130626-182522.jpgiPocket Draw is a vector drawing app with excellent feature, if not entirely intuitive.

iPocket Draw by adX is one of my personal favorites. In fact, the image for this post was created with it and Photoshop Express. It offers a $12 version and a free lite one.

When you first open it, you have a blank screen filled with a frightening number of options. Exploring a little, you can find a wealth of features.

The app can draw many simple shapes and lines, but also has a freehand tool. In the lite, version, you have a limit of 12 objects, while the paid has an infinite number. The screen will move or resize infinitely.

You have File options such as save, open, insert a picture, and export as. There is also a library of commonly used shapes.

One slightly annoying thing is that when images are exported to the photo library, they have a white border around them. This can easily be fixed with an app such as Adobe Photoshop Express.

In terms of features, this is definitely the best drawing app I’ve seen

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20130527-192942.jpgZite is a smart magazine that has an amazing artificial intelligence.

It tracks what you read, as well as what you like and how much time you spend. It then figures out what you would like to read. The more you use it, the better it gets.

You can choose to like or dislike articles, or entire topics. You can add topics to your quick list, also.

Zite has an amazing number of topics, ranging from everything like Memorial Day to Mixology. In the search area, it can even suggest topics that relate to your query.

When you have read an article, Zite shows it dimmer. When you like or dislike one, Zite shows a green or red thumbs up or down, respectively.

Zite constantly delivers interesting, personalized news, and gets smarter as you use it.

There aren’t many true programming apps for iDevices, and even less of them are actually useful. Codea from Two Lives Left.

Using the Lua programming language, Codea automatically runs a function called Setup at the beginning and then loops a function called Draw. These functions lets users easily create animations. Other functions are also automatically defined such as Touch.

Codea applications are usually GUI and drawing centered, but there are some command line tools. Programmers have functions such as Ellipse and Rect, and a full range of variables types can be used.

The programming editor has many features such as symbols, automatic parenthesis closing, and a color picker. Codea also comes with many example projects to demonstrate concepts.

Codea has an easily accessible reference guide, but the Lua language documentation, which is commonly needed, is also available.
Recently, Codea added a way to export projects to Xcode, which is Apple‘s main programming suite. A complete game, Cargo Bot, is available on the App Store.

So, if you’re looking to program on a mobile device, Codea is an excellent purchase.

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