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Wolfville, Nova Scotia


Filtering by Tag: apps

Paprika Recipe Manager

Chris Campbell

I love to cook and while it's fun to improvise in many aspects of life, I need recipes to cook most food. There are a bunch of great cookbooks around the house, but now there are so many great recipes online to draw from, it can be a challenge to keep track of them. The best way for me to keep a growing collection of delicious recipes is to use the Paprika recipe manager. It's cross-platform, mobile-friendly, and powerful.

A well-designed app on all platforms, it's become an essential part of the cooking process. It makes it easy to figure out what ingredients to get with shopping lists (organized by grocery aisle), and with the iOS version it can add of the ingredients to a reminders list to make it even easier. Through cloud sync it keeps all my recipes up to date whether I'm using the Mac version, my iPad in the kitchen, or my iPhone when I'm out and about. Being able to find a recipe on my phone while in a grocery store is great to come up with a meal when I see some fresh ingredients.

The most powerful feature for me is the ability to capture recipes from a web page using the built-in web browser. It works in all versions and is kind of magical. When you find a recipe you like you click on the "Save Recipe" button and with most recipe sites it's able to capture the recipe seamlessly. If it can't read it, you can select and copy and paste the elements to bring the recipe in fairly easily. It's synced to the cloud, so when I switch to my iPad the recipe is there. The other important part of the capture is that it gives credit and a link back to the original recipe. It's good to be able to go back to the site where the recipe is from and to be able to share that link with others. Giving credit matters.

It's not just a collection of recipes though. There are timers (generated from the recipes whenever times appear) that you click on to time the steps of the process. When you click on ingredients they get crossed off the list, which is important if you sometimes forget whether you added things or not. You can adjust the size of the recipes to make them bigger or smaller with all of the ingredients automatically changed so it all still works.

There are more advanced features that I haven't used much yet such as the ability to assemble recipes into menus or even plan out a week or a month of meals. Using the calendar would be great as you can plan out when you are going to have things and the grocery list that is generated is for the week or month and not for just one recipe. There are other nice elements like the ability to easily share recipes via email or a converter that will let you make sense of different measurement systems or tablespoons to ml to cups.

I open Paprika every day when I think about food and what to make. It's well-designed, powerful, and easy to use and brings the power of flexibility and sharing to everyday cooking. For me the kitchen just wouldn't have as many possibilities without it.

Retina MacBook Pro

Chris Campbell

Getting a new laptop is pretty exciting as it allows you to take stock of the hardware and software that you use. When you work in a larger organization you don't usually have a lot of choice in what you get. Luckily in my situation we are Mac-based in the Screen Arts program I teach in, so I knew that I'd be getting MacBook Pro. The standard machine for this year seems to be be a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a 256 GB SSD and 16 GB of RAM.

Typing on the new laptop it makes me notice a few differences. The biggest change is that it is a lot lighter. Apparently something like 20% lighter or so. That makes it feel a bit strange on my lap, kind of like something is missing. It's one of the best laptops that I have ever had. The keyboard is a bit softer than the previous one, and it's become my favourite thing to type on. Not too big and not too small – just right. The other thing I absolutely love is the trackpad. At my desk at work I have a mouse which I don't really like that much. Swiping makes so much more sense to me now.

So much of what we do now depends on connecting to services and sites outside of our personal computers, so the first thing to get installed before starting the reconnection process was AgileBits essential 1Password. It syncs through iCloud, so it took less than a minute to get it up and running and it has all the info I need for getting back into all my accounts. That saves a lot of time and provides peace of mind too.

There are some applications that become such a big part of your workflow that you forget you use them and that's exactly what happens with Alfred, which lets me quickly launch, look up, and find things. On other computers or a new one I will instinctively try to activate it and then wonder what is wrong when it doesn't instantly appear. For mail my accounts are split up between personal and work, so Apple's Mail is what is used for work and the other accounts are all in PostBox. That makes it a bit easier to keep work and my personal life separated a bit and the checking of work email usually will stop when I go home. The other essential thing on the laptop is being able to check my calendars, so for that the best option is Fantastical (also on my iPhone) which is great for adding things and quickly checking my schedule too.

For notes on the laptop everything is synced through Simplenote with nvALT providing a quick and easy way to search and edit notes. Quick and subtle and clear, it is a frictionless way to quickly take notes and get things down. To enhance all entering of text, the next essential piece would be TextExpander which provides a way to have all sorts of frequently-used snippets ready to expand into whatever you are typing. The ones I use the most are the date, class names, and contact information and I really should add some more. The next thing in my workflow after writing something is to work with it more in Byword where I do writing and editing on the MacBook Pro when there is more typing and proofreading and editing on my iPad.

The new MacBook Pro is fast and it's the first computer that I've used that has an SSD, which is good and bad. The speed is amazing, but it has half the storage capacity of my previous MacBook Pro, so that means I've needed to rethink the use of space on the drive. Already my iTunes library and iPhoto library are on an external drive, but the larger documents that I use will now need to be stored externally. It's a good practice to follow and while it is a bit of a pain to be forced into its, having independence of data from the laptop helps keeps things organized a bit better too.

For backup Time Machine backs up to an external drive at the office which provides security in addition to more conscious backups to another external drive (so many drives). Recently I've also signed up with Backblaze to provide another, off-site backup. In addition to that there is the cloud storage from Dropbox and Sync where files are kept. To save and retrieve files my favourite for years has been Panic's Transmit. It's the way that I use FTP. It's powerful and simple and is how I get larger student assignments and share larger files as well.

To keep my Omni apps in sync between devices I use the OmniGroup's OmniPresence which is where my documents from OmniOutliner and Acorn are kept. OmniOutliner is where planning happens for me and it has also worked well as a place for me to keep track of my marking. With summaries I can actually add up marks and keep comments and other information about learners all in one place. Sometimes it will be a spreadsheet in Numbers, but other times I will all be set up in OmniOutliner. OmniFocus is at the centre of my productivity world and that also uses OmniPresence to keep all of the things that I need to do safe.

After the basics are set up and everything is working, the bigger and more specialized applications start to get tried out. The biggest one is Final Cut Pro X, which is Apple's video editing program. The latest version is quite divisive with many dismissing it as a glorified version of iMovie, but it's really a lot more than that. It's frustrating to shift to it from Final Cut Pro 7, but it works in a whole different way with many things hidden. I've grown to like it a lot and on the new laptop it's stunningly fast and with the Retina screen it is gorgeous. The SSD seems to make a big difference in the speed as well, but upgrading from a 4 year-old computer and doubling the RAM is probably a factor in the speed as well.

While Adobe Creative Suite 6 is installed, I rarely use the Adobe stuff as I find that it is a bit jarring with the idiosyncratic interface and the never-ending updates. Uninstalling Flash is one of the first things that I did (the battery-hogging activity is something I want to avoid). For image processing I have both Acorn and Pixelmator, but I find that I love and use Acorn for all my image manipulation needs. It's fast and simple and clear and powerful. Kind of like an idealized Photoshop.

As time goes by the need for a laptop seems to lessen. My iPhone and iPad are used a lot and when I don't have the laptop it isn't that big of an issue. For video editing it's still important to have the laptop, and for writing you need a nice keyboard. But for editing the iPad is great and while I used to watch DVDs on my previous MacBook Pro, the lack of an optical drive means that there will be fewer films watched on this one. My iPad is the way that I watch films on my own now, and for DVDs now it seems that the TV and DVD player will be the way that gets consumed. But now most of the films that I am watching are all digital and that's going to accellerate now.

The devices that we use and the lines between them are all blurring. It's amazing how quickly the shift has happened. I just do things with the screen that is closest to me. Whether it is taking a note, a picture, listening to music, or making something, it doesn't matter which particular device I have. That being said, it's pretty great to have a fast and quiet laptop to create and share stuff with, so I'm very grateful for that.

Twitterrific 5

Chris Campbell

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My iPhone is a slab of glass and metal that can be a bit magical. A new app can change your perception of the whole device. The same thing can happen with services and websites too. It's a challenge for me to separate Twitter from Iconfactory's Twitterrific app. I started using Twitter early (back in 2006) and initially I used it with my pre-iPhone and on the web. But it was in January of 2007 that Iconfactory launched Twitterrific and that changed the way that I used and saw Twitter. The colour scheme and look are burned into my brain, so that's how I think about the different types of tweets. My tweets are green, replies are brown and direct messages are blue. I got into the iPhone game late (the iPhone 4 is my first iPhone), so I was able to dive right in with Twitterrific there and I loved it too.

With the right app it changes the whole experience. Above having a smoothly-functioning app, the Iconfactory create things that look great. With Twitter the actual content is relatively simple as it is text, so if you can display the text well, it's good. Combine that with additional functionality in terms of posting and viewing other content and it makes it all quite seamless and wonderful. Within Twitterrific they’ve innovated with features that have become standard and many associate Ollie, the icon for Twitterrific, with Twitter itself.

While others moved to more complex apps with multiple columns and accounts and looks, I stuck with Twitterrific on the desktop and my phone. This is software with an opinion about how it should look and work. I agreed with that opinion and I'm so glad that I've stayed with them. They have a point of view, but they listen and evolve and it's fascinating to see how it has changed over the years. Every major update had a few changes. It was all recognizable, but there was a bit of an adjustment period in getting used to some of the refinements.

The app keeps up-to-date with innovations in the operating systems without being too bleeding edge. The vast majority of my tweets have been created through it and I expect that it will continue. The sad spectre lurking over app developers for Twitter is that there is a finite limit to the number of people who can use their apps. It's complicated and most people who use Twitter won't know or really care about it. But it's sad for me as it means that things are moving towards a single web-based interface. I'm hoping that the space and tools enjoyed by more advanced users will remain for a long time.

My other fear was that with the changes that there wouldn't be another update to Twitterrific, but today there is a quite wonderful update for the iPhone and iPad. With version 5 there are no longer two separate versions, but just one. The interface is cleaner with new gestures. Swipe right to reply to a tweet, swipe left to see the conversation. That's nice and fast. It fills the screen more and overall is easier to use. I'm still trying to figure out the best combination of theme and font size, but right out of the box (app store?) it's solid and easy to use. There are three buttons at the top of the screen for the unified timeline, replies and direct messages. This makes it clearer what is going on and there are subtle and beautiful light indicators at the bottom of the buttons to let you know when there are new replies or DMs. You can pull to refresh and there is a delightful animation where you have to pull down and break an egg so a bird emerges and starts to fly.

One neat addition is adding locations to tweets (which had come and gone in various iterations) and continued easy ways to add photos to tweets. I haven't really used location that much with Twitter, but I think I will now. It's funny how having things added in a certain way can change your perception of them. I'm sure that there are other features that I haven't seen or explored yet that will be useful. Search has been improved which will make it easier to add other people and the usual solid sharing functionality is still there. It's a neat improvement to an old friend. Ollie, the Twitterrific mascot also looks a bit different too. He keeps getting bigger in the icon. He's the thing I associate most with Twitter and I'm so glad that he's still around and helping me connect with the world in short bursts.