Habit List

We all have bad habits and need help with breaking them…and starting out new healthy habit’s in their place. One app that I’ve found to be quite useful is Habit List for iOS. The app allows you to add a habit that you want to track and has some great options around scheduling. You have full control over when the habit appears on your daily list – weekdays, everyday or only certain days.

My Habits

To cross off that you’ve achieved one of your habits you just swipe across it in the app – very satisfying. You can also just tap them for speed but I really do like to swipe. You can also set reminders within Habit List and one of the slightly strange recommendations (but it works) is to set a habit of reviewing your habit list and set it to remind you at the end of the day. Really helps keep focus on your progress. I also ping one in for the start of the day so I can set in my head the habit’s I want to promote which are always harder to do.

Habit List tracks your progress

Habit List does two things to try and keep you motivated. Against each habit you will see your streak – how many times in a row have you kept to your goal. It’s a great incentive to keep the streak going but there will be days where you just can’t find the time or you’ve fell into your bad habit. The second way that Habit List helps is by tracking your history. The app will show you a calendar view of which days you’ve maintained the habit. Is it always the same day that you break the habit?

The app is well designed, iOs only and at only £1.49 it’s found a place on my home screen.

SCOtutor for Mac

SCOtutor for Mac is a great training video from Don McAllister, the man behind ScreenCasts Online. It’s a tutorial specifically written for users who are new to the Mac. With so many people picking up iPad’s there is a growing number of users who are also moving to Macs that have spent years using pc’s with Windows installed. This app is great for those users as it takes you through many basics and will get them up to speed in no time.

SCOtutor for Mac

There are over 150 minutes in the tutorial covering the following main topics:

• Introduction to the Mac
• Exploring the OS X Desktop
• Applications and your Mac
• Introduction to the Finder
• Auto Save & Versions
• Introduction to Apple Mail
• Managing Application Windows
• Printing and Scanning
• Sharing with the Mac
• Using the Safari Web Browser
• Users, Accounts & Parental Controls
• Time Machine

The application itself is easy to use and the video playback deserves a mention as you can easily jump between chapters, playback at different speeds and subtitle support in a number of languages. The app will also resume from where you left off previously so there is no need to worry about pausing mid tutorial.

The best bit isn’t the app though. Don really knows how to pass on information in a clear and concise manner without confusing the listener. I also think his voice is easy to listen too and takes away the pain of learning – it’s also great to hear a British voice in a sea of American tutorials. As an experiment Don has made this app free for a limited time as well as the SCOtutor for Mac iOS application which is actually a better option in my opinion as you can run the tutorials on the iPad allowing you to follow along on the Mac. However once the free offer is finished I’d still have no hesitation in recommending SCOtutor for Mac as it is a great application for newcomers to the Mac.

Pebble

Pebble is an e-paper watch that supports iPhone and Android. It launched on Kickstarter this week looking for $100,000 by May 19th to enable them to produce the wacth. As I write this they currently have $2.8 million pledged with 33 days to go. Two days ago they had raised $1 million in 28 hours. To say this is poplar is an understatement. But what does it do?

The specs are fairly limited – a 1.26-inch 144×168-pixel black and white e-paper display with backlight, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, four buttons, a vibrating motor and a three-axis accelerometer. However the clever part of this watch is the iPhone and Android support. Get notifications from your phone on your wrist, control music via the watch and see at a glance your running or cycling pace without reaching for your phone.

The low spec’s also give the Pebble a planned battery life of seven days. There will be app’s that work alongside Pebble and a Pebble app for iOS or Android that allows you to pick from a huge range of watch faces. This is picking up from the iPod Nano watch craze and taking it to another level. There will be an SDK available prior to launch so developers can look to take full advantage of the Pebble prior to launch and there was (it’s sold out!) a hackers special option on Kickstarter that gave you a Pebble in August ahead of users so you can start to develop for it early. There has also been an announcement that the Pebble will now be waterproof rather than splashproof which is great.

Prices start at $115 plus $15 for international sipping. I think thats a bargain for the Pebble but as Chris pointed out in the podcast it is a luxury – how hard is it to look at your phone? The geek in me loves it though so I’m looking forward to my Pebble shipping later this year.

Hero Academy

My pick this week is Hero Academy from Robot Entertainment, a light weight alternative to chess with great graphics and some strategic depth that isn’t obvious on your first few games. It is a universal app for iOS only and is free with in-app purchases to allow you to play with other teams within the game.

Hero Academy - I'm in trouble!

The aim of the game is to destroy your opponents crystals or knock out all of your opponents team. The game is entirely multiplayer against friends or randoms. Each player has a round, with a round made up of five turns. In that turn you can deploy units, move units, upgrade or heal units or attack your opponents. The game will randomly give you units and upgrades which you can place on the board, upgrade, use to heal your troops or hurt the enemy or alternatively swap out for another random unit.

There are a number of board layouts and there are some strategic tiles on the board which can really turn the game if used correctly. Stand on the crystal to weaken your opponents crystal, stand on the sword or shield to increase your defence or attack power. One critiscism with Hero Academy is at first it can feel like much of the game is hidden from you – what does this character do, how best to use them etc but play the game more and you will unlock it’s secrets. It’s a shame there isn’t a single player game as I found my first few games were mostly me being the whipping boy – think Call of Duty if you start playing a couple of weeks after everybody has started and your weapons suck and you don’t know the maps – Hero Academy can feel like that at first but stick with it.

To Help this, Robot Entertainment have put together a Hero Academy game guide thats well worth reading. Alternatively the staff at Tap magazine uploaded a good strategy guide video thats worth watching (embedded below).

As I’ve said, Hero Academy is free to play but only comes with the Council team playable. There are another three teams that you have to pay to unlock (£1.49 per team) and I was worried at first that the teams had purely cosmetic differences but each teams has different units and strengths/weaknesses so it extends the gameplay massively.

Hero Academy - In App Purchases

I’d suggest though sticking with the free Council team initially and once you understand how best to play with Council then move on and purchase a new team. One negative with Hero Academy though is that it is fairly aggressive serving out advert’s. These disappear with one in-app purchase so it might be worth your while buying a new team just to kill the ad’s – that’s what I did. It’s also worth noting that the in-app purchases don’t make it easier to win or play – a good move by the developers as I hate games that give you pay options to make it easier especially

Great audio and graphics coupled with hidden depth makes for a really fun game. The latest update also made Hero Academy a universal app so full support for the iPad is now included. Well worth playing but don’t blame me when Hero Academy starts eating up all your spare time.

Paper

Paper is a new sketch and note taking iPad app from FiftyThree. Considering the iPad is two years old it’s a later addition to an already saturated market so whats marks out Paper when compared to the other sketch tools? Simplicity.

Paper is free and is well worth downloading. You can have a number of sketch books, the only customisation option being the name and cover photo of the book. Touch on a book to open the book in a coverflow view of the pages. Swipe through the pages and when you reach a page you want to edit touch on it. You will be presented with a blank page. No lines, no toolbars. Just one default tool that allows you to draw on the page. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the tool tray which allows you to select from one of 5 tools and only 9 colours.

Although the app is free it only comes with one tool – Draw. To use the other tools which are Sketch, Outline, Write and Colour you need to buy them individually or buy them all for a slightly reduced price (around £5 from memory). Initially I thought that was slightly rude but it’s a great model that I’m surprised more tools don’t adopt. One really nice feature is a 20 step undo/redo. Place two fingers on the screen and rotate anti-clockwise to step through recent changes and undo them, rotate clockwise to reinstate them. Simple and effective. You also have access to an erase tool but thats it – a very clean environment that leaves you free to concentrate on your notes rather than how to use the tool. The video below from FiftyThree highlights the key features.

It’s easy to add a new page within a book and to move back to the home screen, select a new book and cary on sketching. Paper has limited but very clever sharing features. You can share a sketch on Tumblr, Facebook and Twittter or send via e-mail. I was surprised by how limited the options seemed to be – no way to save to image folder for example but you can just take a screenshot and share that way.

The reason it’s clever is how the images are shared, take Twitter for example.

By adding the hashtag #MadeWithPaper it’s easy to click and view the thousands of sketches that are being shared on Twitter and hence generating a lot of buzz about the app. Paper is easier to use with a stylus (sorry Steve!) but it helps if you have a bit of talent.

These are two sketches from Shak, one of the founders of DigitalOutbox, who also has some skills…unlike me.

It’s all positive so far but there are some negatives to be aware of. Firstly there are no brush sizes at all so it can feel a bit clumsy and imprecise especially with the colour tool. There’s also no zoom or layer support so when you look at something like SketchBook Pro which costs £2.99 it can seem expensive. Yes – I’ve just criticised a free app for being expensive.

So why is Paper a pick? The simplicity helps you focus on content rather than the application, and the tools that come with Paper feel right. I’ve created a few screen mock ups in Paper and they look so much better than what I’ve managed so far in the other sketch tools. If you’ve got an iPad Paper is well worth trying, especially if you’ve one of those lovely new retina iPad’s. Happy sketching.

Moom

OS X is perfect. Honest.

I’m joking of course but until Windows 7 came along there was a perceived wisdom that OS X windows management was pretty untouchable and need little or no improvement. In fact I might have mentioned once or twice my love of Expose and how it made using a Mac wonderful compared to Windows. While true, Microsoft really stepped up with Windows 7 and introduced some brand new ways of managing windows particularly around their size and position.

Mission Control on the Mac - nice but can be improved

Windows 7 release spawned a number of window management utilities for the Mac. It was hard to keep up with what each tool did and which one actually offered the best features but after a few months of trying various options I’ve settled on Moom from Many Tricks. Moom, so named for those that move and zoom a lot is a $5 app that add’s a lot of functionality. Once installed Moom offers a variety of window management options and one new feature in particular which is very handy.

You access Moom via the keyboard or more commonly by hovering over the green zoom button at the top left of any windows on OS X. Out of the box you can select one of the icons at the top of the Moom window to easily fill the current window to full screen or the top/bottom half of the screen or the left/right half. Most of the time though you want slightly more control. In the grid below the four screen icons you can draw a window size and when you let the mouse go the current window will not only size to what you have just drawn but also pop to that position on the screen. This makes it really easy to deal with lot’s of windows that you want to size quickly.

Drawing the window size in Moom

Dragging the half width/height icons a few pixels—instead of clicking allows you to size windows to quarter size instead of half. While I don’t have a second monitor, Moom also supports easy movement to a second or third monitor while also moving and sizing the window. However you can customise Moom so that your own sizing options are displayed.

Moom's custom controls

You can setup common window sizes and these can be called up via the custom control dropdown as in the above screenshot or via a custom keyboard shortcut. This really gives you easy window management but one new feature added recently is Window Layouts. You organise your window size and positions and save that layout in Moom. Then when you have the applications opened you can easily select the layout and Moom will organise and resize the windows as per your saved layout. I find this really handy for image editing and also for recording the podcast – so easy to get the same repeated window layout quickly without faffing around sizing individual windows. Take a look at this video for a quick demonstration.

So thats Moom. For $5 it’s a bargain. One thing to note is that it’s available on both the Mac App store and from Many Tricks direct. I chose to purchase directly rather than App Store as I’m unsure on the sandboxing proposals from Apple as I can see it restricting app’s like Moom in the future. I might be wrong, but thought it worth mentioning. If you use a lot of app’s day to day on your Mac I really do recommend Moom – it makes managing windows a lot easier.