Posts Tagged ‘digital’

Society 6 Phone Cases

With the purchase of my new phone this week, I am on the hunt to accessorize it with great cases. I love all the options from Society 6 which lets independent artists sell their artwork on not just phone cases and skins but also prints, shirts and more. These are the cases on my short, each is $35 and is a hard shell case. The cases are also available in sizes to fit other comnon phone types.

Do you prefer plain cases, arty cases or no case at all on your phone? Do you match your phone wallpaper to your case?

The Overcast Podcast App

Overcast app screenshot

To help me get through my days, staring at pixels on a computer screen, I listen to a lot of podcasts. For the last few weeks, I have been bouncing back and forth between three different podcast apps for my iPhone: Overcast (Free, unlocked all features $4.99), Pocket Casts ($4.99, for iPhone/iPad or Android) and Instacast ($1.99). Why would I have three podcast apps installed at once? I was trying to figure which one I actually prefer.

Each app offers a similar experiences and all are an improvement from Apple’s default Podcast app. After futzing around with all three, I found myself deleting Instacast first as it was the least intuitive feeling to me. It was the first podcast app I purchased after I became annoyed with the Apple Podcast app and the first to fall short for me. I love the looks of Pocket Casts but in the end, despite aesthetic superiority, there were a few things that forced it out of the running.

I’ll cut to the chase and tell you which one I prefer and why.

Overcast is my favorite podcast app at the moment, though I still find myself stumbling around the app a little. Here’s a few reasons why I’ve chosen it over the others.

  • Overcast has feature to speed up the podcast. It helps to shorten pauses in speech and make a podcast a bit more brisk. Very handy. Audio can also be sped up a lot which sounds like everyone had WAY too much coffee, but not like Mickey Mouse. Overcast also has an EQ voice booster which helps podcasts that may not have the best sound quality.
  • There is a web-based interface which lets me listen to podcasts at my computer rather than on my phone at work. It spares my data plan, phone battery and I only have to subscribe to the podcast once (not have to maintain an additional subscription in iTunes for desktop listening). Playlists don’t carry over to the site but being able to listen to podcasts in my wi-fi-free office without getting throttled by AT&T is excellent.
  • I like that I can adjust the quick forward and quick back buttons. They are clear to understand and easy to use. Some of the other apps have the double arrows  associated with fast forward and rewind which are less clear to me that I’m jumping 15 or 30 seconds in a podcast. I don’t often need to rewind a podcast all the way back to the beginning.
  • Under “Playback” there is a sleep timer and/or play episodes continuously or one-by-one.
  • Overcast is free. I appreciate that Overcast is willing to offer this app for free to entice people to try it and listen to more podcasts. When they find the app useful and easy to use, users can unlock all features for $4.99. I upgraded the app immediately.
  • Overcast uses Twitter to recommend podcasts based on what people you follow are subscribing to. The more people who use Overcast, the more recommendations. It seems a lot of my followers/folks I follow listen to the Pen Addict and Erasable. I’m shocked!
  • In the download queue, there is a switch to toggle between using cellular data for downloads and not. Which is handy that’s it’s not buried in a preferences or settings menu somewhere.
  • My one big gripe is I wish that sliding to the left would provide a “mark all as played” option. I keep deleting podcasts thinking I am deleting an episode.

Overcast recommendation screenshot

The more I use Overcast, the more I like it. If you haven’t tried any podcast app other than the Apple Podcast app, I recommend trying Overcast. If you have your own favorite podcast app, please leave a note in the comments.

Get Organized: Todoist Next

Todoist Next screenshots

Today, Todoist upgraded its platform with web-, mobile-, browser- and desktop-based versions of the app and an all-new, streamlined look. They are definitely setting themselves to compete with Wunderlist. The new version offers free collaboration and what appears to be extensive functionality, especially with the collaboration tools and could give Basecamp a run for its money for small teams.

The regular apps and web interface are free. The premium account ($29/yr) offers additional features including adding notes and file attachments, task search, color-coded labels, email or text task reminders, automatic backup and synchronization with iCal. I think the premium version will be the way to go since being able to add text, images and URLs to a task would make things so much simpler. The price per year is less than Wunderlist which is $49/yr for collaboration but Wunderlist allows notes and images in the free version but there’s no indication in a list or sub-list that a photo or note is associated with the item. So it works… sort of. I certainly don’t think I’ll miss the wood grain if I switch.

I waffle between loving the cross-platform convenience of digital to-do lists and missing its paper counterparts and physically crossing things off, adding details and saving the completed lists. Being able to add a task on my phone, then review it or deal with it when I’m parked in front of my computer has a lot of appeal though paper could do the same thing.

This app seems like its is the best of all possible to-do list apps, sleek, streamlined and upgradeable for a small fee. Would you or have you tried any of these digital to-do lists?

10 Ways to Declutter your Desk

Kinfolk editor Nathan Williams' desktop computer at home along the Oregon coast via Hear Black.

Kinfolk editor Nathan Williams’ desktop computer at home along the Oregon coast via Hear Black.

There are ten great (if sometimes obvious) tips for keeping a clear desk and a clear head over on Remodelista. Clean, sort, organize and manage your time are things we all need to be reminded about occasionally. I’m particularly fond of the advice to use Unroll.me to remove your name from slews of subscription emails and SelfControl to forcibly block sites from yourself for certain windows of time (hello, Pinterest!) for we of little self-control.

(via Remodelista)

Link Love: Miscellany Loves Company

HarryPotter-Forever-PaneInterior-BGv1

There were lots of hard-to-categorize bits of wonderfulness on the pen-blogospere this week including the epic link list from the Pen Addict Podcast Gift Guide Episode (#81) which is a link list onto itself.

Fabulous Miscellany:

Letter Writing and Post:

Paper:

Ink:

Pens:

Pencil stylus by FiftyThree

Digital:

Pardon my repeated turns to digital recently. As computers, cell phones and tablet devices are as much a part of our working life as pens, paper and staplers, I feel its worthwhile to include references occasionally.

Link Love: Pinning away for it

desks

From my Well-Appointed Desk board (clockwise from top left): A homey workspace, a very elegant workspace, a desk transformed from Martha Stewart, and a workspace from Design Sponge

This week, I thought I’d cull through all my desk, pen and office supply boards on Pinterest and give you some visual Link Love. Check the sidebar to find me on Pinterest and follow the boards that interest you.

penpencil

From my Pens and Pencils Board (clockwise from top left): Pantone marker set, beautiful Edison Encore pen dipped into water for a rinse from Goulet Pens and Pelikan Edelstein ink swabs from JetPens.

digitaloffice

From my Digital Office Board (clockwise from top left): iPhone cases from Ampersand Shop, stackable USB cords and Kate Spade desktop wallpaper

deskacc

From my Desk Accessories board (clockwise from top left): Doane 3-ring notebook paper, pencil cup dispenser, office supplies from Restoration Hardware and a desktop screensaver clock

Other folks to follow on Pinterest:

Une Bobine iPhone Cable

If you have to have a cable, make it a cable with a mind of its own. The Une Bobine cable is flexible but strong enough to support your phone like a stand. Une Bobine started as a Kickstarter project and now is available from Photojojo for $30, for iPhone 4, 4s, 5 and Android.

Damn You, Art School and Procreate (it’ll make sense when you read the whole article)

Damn You Art School

Damn You, Art School is a web site organized by art school disciplines like architecture, fashion, illustration and others that will give you a list of recommended digital tools for a given discipline. The recommendations range from note-taking and sketching apps to business management tools like faxing and time accounting (in the Illustration tab). There are lots of good recommendations for people in all sorts of professional fields or to help you plan out your next creative project. Snoop around, you may find a tool or app you didn’t know you’d need. I do notice a notable absence of the best tools for all creatives: paper and pencil.

Procreate screenshot

Oh, and on the topic of digital tools you didn’t know you needed, I wholeheartedly endorse a drawing app for the iPad called Procreate ($4.99 from the iTunes app store). Even if you do not consider yourself artistically inclined, this app may change your mind. The brush tools are the most realistic I’ve used since the Mac app Painter and there are additional brush sets available for purchase ($0.99 per set and most are totally worth the upgrade). This app is incredibly powerful and includes layers which can have different blending modes and transparency, easy to use undo options, you can rotate the canvas and so much more. There is a whole community of users that share new brushes and techniques. File can be exported to a PSD file and the layers remain intact. I’ve been using the app to create original wallpaper for my iPad. I’ve been watching a lot of Dr. Who lately so I painted a personal nebula. Not as awe-inspiring as the sample images included with the app but I made them with my finger and a few spare minutes. I’m so proud of my wallpaper, you can download it and use it too on your favorite mobile device.

Procreate download file

Click image to access attachment. Then save it to you computer.

On the topic of pencils…

I went down the pencil rabbit-hole yesterday and found a few interesting tidbits:

A sneak peek of the new Blackwing Pearl expected to be available on May 2 (via Woodclinched)

A sneak peek of the new Blackwing Pearl expected to be available on May 2 (via Woodclinched)

There is more information about the new Blackwing Pearl available on the Pencils.com site and on Timberlines. The Pearl is designed to fill a spot between the original Palomino Blackwing which was described as “soft and smooth” and the Palomino Blackwing 602 which was described as “firm and smooth”. The original Palomino Blackwing is favored for sketching while notetakers have preferred the 602 so the Pearl should be the good all-arounder pencil. And the white pearlescent paint sounds like it will be fabulous. Just one more week before its available. And, be assured, I will be reviewing it.

I also found an article on Medium entitled “Don’t be afraid of a pencil” about sketching for everyone to help get your point across.

Griffin Technologies has made a pencil stylus -- all the good looks of a classic #2 but it will work with you latest touchscreen device $20

Griffin Technologies has made a pencil stylus — all the good looks of a classic #2 but it will work with you latest touchscreen device $20

An article in USAToday suggests that kids prefer taking the SATs with paper and pencil. So don’t dump those #2 pencils quite yet.

If you want even more pencil love, check out Leadholder which specializes in leadholders, Leadhead specializes in mechanical pencils especially vintage ones, and my friends over at Pencil Revolution and Pencil Talk.

Link Love: Inkscellany

(Vetted X Calepino Notebooks Set via Vetted)

(Vetted X Calepino Notebooks Set via Vetted)

This week is another hodge-podge of pens, paper and digital tools but mostly a lot of ink reviews… mmmm… ink!

Paper:

(Geometric Desktop Patterns available in four colors from How About Orange)

(Geometric Desktop Patterns available in four colors from How About Orange)

Pens and Ink:

USB multi-tool

(USB charging multi-tool from Fred Flare)

cal23-550x411

(Mid-Century Perpetual Calendar Round-Up from Present + Correct)

 

 

Link Love: Eraser Day and His Bradness Goes to a Pen Show

Happy (belated) Eraser Day from Present + Correct.

Happy (belated) Eraser Day from Present + Correct.

For me, the big news this week was The Pen Addict’s trip to the Atlanta Pen Show so if you read nothing else, check out both of his recaps from the show.

Pens and Pencils

Notebooks

Misc. goodies

Finding a Google Reader Substitute

Google Reader screenshot

After whining and moaning and crying a little, I went ahead and tried just about every Google Reader substitute I could find. While there is no perfect solution yet that bridges across mobile and web options that all syncs together, I have found my temporary workaround. I do most of my RSS reading on my computer these days so I needed to solve for that first and I’ve found The Old Reader to be the most Google-Reader-esque experience. It did take about a week for my content to be uploaded to their site as they were flooded with new users after the Google announcement but it was kind of worth the wait.

the Old Reader Screenshot

Its currently only available in a web browser version but I can access the content on any machine with a web browser so its a decent solution at the present. I did like that so many other apps were integrating Google’s Reader feeds into their interface like Flipboard, Reeder and others so what will really determine the best replacement is which service becomes the de facto in other apps and services.

Its interface is simple and totally utilitarian and most like Google Reader. As a result, it had the least learning curve and shortest path to just getting back to reading. Have you found a good substitute for Google Reader yet?

Read more:

 

Link Love: Vintage Pens and Pen Addict Love

The big news this week is that Moleskine launched their IPO. Several of the links below are as a result of all the attention Moleskine is getting this week.

There is an assortment of goodies from Brad Dowdy over at Pen Addict including his Tools and Toys Guide to Fountain Pens which I’m willing to debate with him. There’s also a mix of new and vintage fountain pen reviews. Finishing up the Link Love this week are a couple ink reviews, some digital goodies and tips on writing a good thank you note. Enjoy!

Pens and Ink

Paper

Digital

(image from Casa Brutus, via Present + Correct)

(image from Casa Brutus, via Present + Correct)

Link Love: Unicorn Ink and More About Google Reader

A collection of clips from Present & Correct. (via Twitter @PresentCorrect)

A collection of clips from Present & Correct. (via Twitter @PresentCorrect)

Pens and Pencils:

Paper:

Misc:

DeAtramentis Unicorn Brown ink with scent. Wonder what it smells like? (via Gourmet Pens on Instagram)

DeAtramentis Unicorn Brown ink with Unicorn scent. Wonder what unicorns smells like? (via Gourmet Pens on Instagram)

Digitial:

Macally iPad Mini Cover/Case in Avocado (of course!)

Macally iPad Mini cover

Do you know how challenging it can be to find just the right iPad Mini cover/case? Let’s just say I’ve been looking for awhile. Fnally, I found one that met all my criteria which really… was I asking for so much?

What I wanted:

  • slim line case that could be used to prop iPad Mini up in a position comfortable to type or to view video
  • not to be black or bubblegum pink (not too stodgy, not too tweeny)
  • it would be nice if it had the magnetic on/off but that wouldn’t be a make or break

Macally iPad Mini cover

Well, hello Macally Case in avocado green!

It took some pretty extensive searching to find this case which is a bit of a story onto itself. I decided that I would rather shop locally than making a purchase from an online retailer just because I wanted to be able to touch the cases, feel the materials and the build quality and see the actual colors. So I went to a local computer supply shop with an Apple section that I knew to carry a large selection of accessories. I found this lovely green case for $49 as well as an identical model in a soft orchid lavender for $39. No difference in the specs at all except the price. So I asked the clerk to check on the price and see if there was some reason one case (the one I wanted) was $10 more. The hugely unhelpful and color-prejudice clerk said, “Its probably because the green is a better color”. Really? That’s your idea of customer service? He would neither offer a price match or get a manager who might be able to adjust the price. I was so furious at the lack of care that I walked away, scanned the bar code on the package with the Amazon app, found it for the $30-ish price listed and hit 1-Click purchase. I would have gladly paid the slightly higher $39 price point in the store if someone had been willing to price match their own flipping products!

Macally iPad Mini cover

Now, back to the review.

The cover is a textured PU on the exterior, with a black interior. The cover has a magnetic lock auto on/off and places on the cover where it easily folds. Inside is a matching avocado green plastic case that the iPad Mini snaps into for extra protection. The case does not block any of the screen and is quite discreet.

Macally iPad Mini cover

Macally iPad Mini cover

To get the iPad Mini to stand tall, the cover needs to be folded inwards and tucked into the tab on the back cover. This makes the whole cover very stable and unlikely to slide or tip over.

Macally iPad Mini cover

The big surprise is that there is a hinge built into the plastic case and the back cover that allows the iPad Mini to rotate into portrait mode while still being able to utilize the cover. It can be used in the low profile propping-up like this as well, perfect for blog reading.

There is a hole cut out in the back cover to allow the camera lens to peek out but if the case is not aligned perfectly with the cover, it can block the camera lens. Being able to rotate the iPad case allows the camera an unhampered angle if you do use the camera on your iPad often.

All-in-all I am quite pleased with this case. It did not increase the weight or bulk of the iPad Mini too much, the color is fabulous and its very functional. Do I wish it was made of more luxurious materials? Sure, but since I was fussing about a $10 price difference, I don’t think I would have been willing to pay for much more luxury.

Link Love: Google Reader Laments and more

pretty-modern-desktop-wallpapers

More desktop wallpaper options from How About Orange

Pens and Pencils:

Paper:

Follow-up about Google Reader:

Vintage office supplies for sale at Saturday Morning Vintage

Vintage office supplies for sale at Saturday Morning Vintage

Poolga Loves Pencils

poolga

Poolga offers beautiful iPhone and iPad wallpapers created by illustrators from around the world. They are free and a chance to look at something lovely every time you turn your device on. I, of course, gravitated to all the illustrations that featured pencils and various office supplies but visit the site and peruse because there is all sorts of fabulousness to be had.

From left to right, top to bottom:

Stuff on White by Andrea Manzati, Pen by Denis Carrier, Pencil Gold by Thom Lambert, Letter by Louis Reith, Toolbox by Christopher Monro DeLorenzo, Workaday by Luke Séguin-Magee, Draw by themeekshall, Enforcer by Dale Edwin Murray, ¡Uops! by Júlia Solans, 009 by Kitchen, Brainstorm by Dan Gneiding, American Typewriter by Tom Davie, Moleskine by Luis Mendo, Having it All by Matthew Walkerdine, Mobile Office by Rainer Berg

I almost forgot one of my favorites:

iphone_591

Paper by Frank Chimero

(via Poolga)

The Death of Google Reader

google reader

The big news yesterday in the tech world was Google’s announcement to close the Reader service. The service will shut down on July 1. I keep wondering if the decision to close Reader is an effort to move more people over to Google+ to act as a newsfeeder?

I’m following Gizmodo’s “Google Reader” tag thread in hopes of finding a suitable replacement. Does anyone have a recommendation for a newsreader service or an opinion on why Google would abandon Reader?

More links:

UPDATE:

I decided to try a couple of the RSS news reader alternatives and here’s what I’ve discovered.

Newsblur

Newsblur has so many people signing up for accounts this week that they’ve shut down their free accounts and if you want to try the service, you must upgrade to their premium account.

The Old Reader

It looks like I’ll be waiting a couple days before The Old Reader will get my account online.

Feedly

So far, the winner, just from the standpoint of accessibility, is Feedly. It accessed my Google Reader feed and I was up and running within a few minutes. Feedly is promising to have a backend installed to take over all the feeds by July 1.

 

Specialty Printable Papers

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Are you working on a digital project that you might need to sketch out on paper? Geekchix collected an assortment of iPhone templates, wireframing templates, “paper browsers” and grid templates that can be downloaded and printed out as needed. There are also links to pre-printed sketchbooks specifically useful for planning your next digital project. See? Even when its digital, you need paper!

iPhone_stencil-2_1024x1024

Update: One of the links lead to a stencil kit for iPhone UX elements which I just love! This stainless steel laser template sells for $26.95. Lots of other tech models are available in sketchpad and stencil form. Think on paper with these super cool tools!

iPad Mini Keyboard Options

If its been a touch quieter around here this week than usual, please bear with me. I started a new job (within the same company) so I’ve been a bit busier and more distracted than usual. This new gig has also opened me up to meeting new people and being inspired by new office supply goodies.

I was in a meeting when someone whipped out an iPad Mini wrapped up in a traditional black leatherette case. When she opened it up though, it revealed a  keyboard! All I could do was stare at it rapturously…”Meeting? What meeting? Must find out more about her iPad Mini case.”

Kensignton Keyfolio Pro 2

I did get to ask her about the case and it turned out that the keyboard was a removable Bluetooth keyboard held in the case by magnets. The back of the case had a flip out leg to prop up the iPad Mini in the traditional laptop configuration. The fact that the keyboard came out would let the user reconfigure the arrangement for a vertical format when necessary. Quite clever. I did not get manufacturer information from Anna but I was able to commit the design details to memory and establish that she was using the Kensington KeyFolio Pro 2 Case and Stand (about $55 on Amazon). reading through the reviews on Amazon, the biggest issue discussed regarding this case is that the hole on the back for the camera is a bit too small and can potentially block the lens.

Sharkk iPad Mini Case

I went ahead and did a little research and found a few other options as well.The SHARKK Keyboard/Case/Cover/Stand (about $32 on Amazon) is more streamlined being only one piece. When opened, the iPad Mini sits in the slot provided in the keyboard. To close, the keyboard snaps to the face of the iPad Mini. This case is definitely the least bulky option I found. The reviews for the Sharkk focus on the reduced keyboard size and the quality of the materials and construction. As the cheapest option I found, some compromises can be expected.

Belkin Wireless iPad Mini keyboard and case

The other strong contender is the Belkin Wireless Keyboard and Case (about $75 on Amazon). From the description details, I cannot determine if the keyboard can be removed from the case but this is a very elegant, streamlined package. The iPad Mini is held into the case along the spine-edge with plastic clips on the corners but this leaves the other edges, speaker and buttons accesbible. There are some reviews that suggest that some compromises were made in the design including the material feeling more rubbery than leather-like.

Logictech has an Ultrathin Keyboard Case on the horizon but it is only available for pre-order at the moment (at approx. $80) but it sounds like it will also be a good option if you are looking for a better way to type on an iPad Mini.

All-in-all, a keyboard small enough to match the diminutive dimensions of an iPad Mini will require compromises. A full-sized Qwerty keyboard is larger than the device and will not make for a convenient, aesthetic object if your goal is to have the smallest typing machine. Going to a reduced-sized keyboard to match the dimensions of an iPad Mini will make for a small keyboard. If you have large hands, this may be awkward but it begs the question, is it less awkward than trying to type on the virtual keyboard that covers most of your screen real estate? Optimally, I’d rather write with paper and pen but when it comes to email and work documents, sometimes the most efficient option is to work digitally so data can be shared quickly.

Poetic KeyBook

Update: It seems that the model case that my friend was using is the Poetic KeyBook Bluetooth Keyboard Case which is also a pleather case like the Kensington but at a lower price (about $30). It is listed to have a magnetic closure that is supposed to automatically turn the iPad Mini on and off but its a little finicky according to reviews. The materials are given praise but the closure is not as secure as other options.

If you have any experience with the devices listed above or one of the many other options available on the market, please leave your recommendations in the comments.

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