Friday, April 8, 2011

Week Calendar update

I posted a comment on Utilitap's blog (makers of Week Calendar, a calendar app that comes highly recommended from the iPhone) asking how long is likely until the iPad release. They replied - 2-3 weeks! Not bad at all!

I knew there were screen shots up on their twitter (like this one), but it can be hard to tell how those translate to time remaining. A couple of weeks is much better than I was expecting, honestly. I can't wait for this one!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Need a good calendar app

So, I really don't like the calendar that comes standard with the iPad. It just never behaves the way I expect it to - I think swiping will change the month.... Nope! I try to enter a new event by tapping the start time... Nope! I'm sure I could get used to it eventually, but I'd rather find something I like better.

Unfortunately, what appears to be the best contender doesn't actually exist yet. Someone on the MacRumors forums (where I get most of my iPad advice) pointed me to an iPhone app called Week Calendar. The devs, Utilitap, are working on an iPad version right now. They've been posting updates and screenshots on their twitter feed, and it looks like exactly what I want - basically iCal for the iPad, which for some reason the built-in calendar isn't at all.

But I can't have that yet, and they don't even seem to have an estimated date for it. In fact, there is no mention of iPad anywhere on their site or blog - you'd never know it was being developed if you didn't check their twitter. Which to me suggests it might still be a while and they don't want to get people's hopes up. :(

Another one suggested to me is Cozi, a family calendar with an online version that links to the mobile versions. There is also an ad-supported free version that I downloaded to check out. So far, I am not impressed. It doesn't really have either a monthly or a good daily view - it seems you're always stuck in a week-or-so-ish view that just shows as many appointments for as many days as it can fit vertically on the screen. Eh. Not impressed.

One that I have not yet tried is CalenGoo, which is made (AFAICT) to look like, act like, and sync with Google Calendars. Which probably means it's good, but I don't use google calendars so I'm not really prepared to drop $7 on it to try it out. Maybe I'll try google calendars first and give it a shot if Week Calendar takes too long.

Further calendar suggestions are more than welcome! Of course, I have a To Do app (Manage) that I am quite happy with, so integrated to do functionality is not really needed, but I know that some to do apps do have a good calendar so I'd be willing to consider them - as long as they're worth the purchase price for just the calendar even if I don't use the to dos!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pocket Frogs

It would be downright irresponsible of me to talk about the iPad without talking about the one app that uses half its battery life right now:

Pocket Frogs.

To my surprise, my husband, who rolls his eyes at the mere fact that I own an iPad, is possibly more addicted to the game than I am. Above is an actual screenshot of our nursery, where I am letting some serpentis babies grow up to sell for a tidy profit.

It's just a simple collecting-and-breeding game. I've never played a pokemon game, but I assume it's kinda like that but without battles (especially given that the name is clearly a reference to pokemon's pocket monsters). You could just breed what you like, or there is a list of over 200 awards to serve as your goals to guide your play. Being the anal sorts that we are, my husband and I are going for these goals.

(Psst- by the way, this game is FREE!)

My frogs:

One annoyance, which you might have noticed in these screenshots, is that the game only runs in portrait mode. It does not rotate when you rotate your iPad. WTF?

The main minigame involves jumping around a pond to catch flies, find new frogs to breed into your collection, and find presents. This game seems a lot easier until you a) try to grow a baby frog, whose tiny size makes it harder to catch anything, into a adult via fly-eating and b) realize that only the largest (and fastest) flies are worth XP. At first it's nice that you can speed up a frog's maturation by catching flies, but now I'm at the point where one fly per minute (approx, other than large flies) + a frog that takes 10+ hours to mature + the difficulty of fly-catching with a tiny baby frog leads to an annoyingly long time tapping lily pads in that pond. So more and more I'm just letting the babies sit there and grow on their own - which, with limited habitat space, slows things down a lot. But that's probably a good thing, because it also means I can't sit there and play with the frogs for hours on end!

Now, endless fly-catching isn't the only way to speed things up. There are potions to grow your frogs and stamps to make items in the mail arrive faster. Potions are much more useful than stamps, IMO, and accordingly are harder to come by. Of course, if you're the type to spend real money in-game, you can buy packs of potions or stamps (as well as other useful goodies) in the in-app store. Clearly NimbleBit is taking the Zynga route to game profitability - get people addicted to the free games, sell them bits and baubles to make the drug stronger. :)

There are also racing and puzzle minigames, but I haven't been too interested in these so far. The main attraction really is setting and meeting those breeding goals, along with finding the occasional particularly pretty frog to keep in your collection just for fun rather than for strategic purposes.

If you like collecting sorts of games, and like FREE apps, this is a must-have.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, April 4, 2011

A quick bit of advice for fellow iPad newbies

If you just got your iPad and are scouring blogs to see what apps you absolutely need, here are the first two you should start with:

1) AppStart - It is FREE right now to celebrate the release of iPad 2, but who knows how long the FREE will last. So snap it up! It's a terrific intro to what's out there, and it's how I found many of the apps I currently use the most. And honestly, the terrific layout will be an instant intro to how things are different on an iPad vs a laptop.

2) AppShopper - This terrific (and also FREE) app lets you create an app wishlist and then lets you know every time those apps get an update or a price change - so if there's an app you'd like to try but feel like the price is just a bit too steep right now, you can wait for a sale and pounce! You can also browse all the apps that have recently gone on sale, a great way to find apps you'd never think of on your own, while they're having a free day! If there's an app you've gotta have, go ahead and pay full price by all means - you never know if the next price change will be up or down, after all. But for the ones you're just curious about, AppShopper will help you explore without breaking the bank.

You can find the sites that gave us these two great apps, AppAdvice and AppShopper, in my blogroll to the right. Lots of useful info on those pages, as well!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Manage (To Do app)

One of the thing I miss the most about my old-school Palm iiix (and I really miss that old thing) was my to do/list app. (Can we call Palm OS apps apps? We didn't call them that back in the day, but same diff, right?) The combo of Graffiti (miss it so much!) and nested lists was everything I've ever wanted.

So when I got my iPad, finding the perfect to do app was a high priority. I wouldn't say I've found perfection, but Manage (by Kerofrog) manages a few important features without being loaded up with things I won't use.


- Stylus input!!! This is the biggie that, as far as I have seen, is unique to Manage. By hitting the "scribble" button rather than the usual "add task" button, you can write in a task with your stylus. Similar to many of the note taking apps, you get a large space to write in that then gets shrunken down to a normal writing size. You can also edit a written task later. You can also write on typed tasks and type on written tasks.
- Nested subtasks. A lot of to do apps offer this now, but not all.
- Easy to reorder tasks in a list, either according to priority or due date, or manually (unless there are subtasks). You can also move tasks between lists easily.
- Simple and nice-looking interface, no integrated calendar or extra features that are centered around GTD or any other specific organizational system. This may not be a pro to you, but I just want my to do list to be a to do list. I'm not looking for a whole organizational system.
- I haven't used these features yet, but there are tags as well as the ability to set repeating tasks. I'm guessing I will appreciate these as I use the app more.


- Only one layer of subtasks. I like to break things down, I want sub-sub and sub-sub-subtasks!
- There is some kind of bug when it comes to manually rearranging lists that have subtasks. You can't manually move tasks that do have subtasks, and while you can rearrange subtasks under a task, whether or not you can move the subtask to another task depends on what order things are currently in. This is clearly broken.
- While you can move tasks between lists, you can't copy them. This would be nice for using a bigger list to populate a smaller list.
- You can only type in subtasks, not write in. If you're writing a list, it's a bit annoying to have to switch between typing and writing constantly.
- One other feature I'd like to see is a way of organizing lists themselves, whether into folders, with tags, etc etc. (Currently tags only apply to tasks, not entire lists.)

Hopefully these issues (especially the second, which is clearly buggy and not just a missing feature) will be addressed in a future update- but honestly, the app in its current form was well worth the $2 (just went up to $3 but I still recommend it at that price) for me and I'd gladly pay another $2 for an update that addresses all of this.

According to the developer's blog, an update should be out soon that allows syncing/backup to ToodleDo - which I have never used but might give a try as a backup source. Also themes, for those who don't like the current brown leather look. It's odd, I hate that look on the built-in iPad calendar but like it just fine here. The dev looks eager for input, so hopefully that means that remaining issues will be addressed in future updates.

Overall, this is an A- app that could be A+ with just a few tweaks. If you know of a to do app that you think beats it - particularly that takes stylus input and not just typing - please let me know!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My case/stylus dilemma

I realized within a couple of days of getting my lovely new iPad 2 into my hands that I needed a case, and I needed one now. For one thing, I was scared to take it out of the house as long as it was bare for fear of dropping it. Plus, I clearly needed a stand of some sort or else typing on the thing would never be less than a major annoyance.

Normally I'm a rather obsessive comparison shopper when it comes to this sort of thing (or any sort of thing), so those first couple of days I had done just that. And realized quickly that there just aren't that many 2 cases out yet, and if I waited for the perfect one to hit stores I'd miss out on a lot of use of my $500 investment in the meantime. So I finally decided to just go with one of the two cases being carried at my local Best Buy.

Note to self: BlogPress clearly does NOT auto-save as so many other apps do. I just lost half an entry due to not saving and then having to reboot the iPad. Anyhow, time to redo a couple paragraphs.

I bought a Targus VuScape for $40, and have generally been quite happy with it so far. It serves well as both a case and a stand; it fits well, looks nice, has good angles as a stand, and seems like it would actually protect the iPad if I dropped it.

But then, a few days later, I bought another Targus product - their stylus. Again, it's a great item, I love it for jotting down to do lists and things like that. However, I have realized one major problem with the VuScape... Apparently, Targus did not consider the fact that some users might actually buy both of these items. There is nowhere in the case to stash the stylus!!

This is a problem. These styli aren't as cheap as the pens that I constantly lose. I really don't want to have to buy a new one every week or two. Plus, if I have no easy way to carry the stylus with the iPad, I have no easy way to actually use the stylus regularly, making it a rather pointless investment.

Now, there are a couple potential solutions out there. For one thing, there are various styli out there that include a tether that plugs into the iPad's headphone plug. This would keep the stylus nearby, for sure - but it would just be dangling there all the time. Less than ideal.

I have also been pointed to a couple of different cases that do have a spot for the stylus - but they don't also function as a stand, which is more vital to me, really.

So for now I am stuck. If you've seen a good solution to this dilemma, please, leave a comment!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad