Nov 19, 2013

Be More Productive in Handling Email in iOS 7

Email is a very useful tool but when you have a lot of emails to deal with, dealing with it can be daunting. With iOS 7, however, some of the new features of the Mail app can help you be more productive in dealing with your inbox.

I recently found myself scrolling through my inbox hunting for that one unread email that the Mail app said that I had, scanning the list for that little blue dot. It was then that I sought a way to quickly find unread emails and found this article from Macworld. I had never noticed the edit Edit link above my list of Mailboxes but that link opens a world of email productivity.

When you click the Edit button, several new views appear that you can add below your Mailboxes, one of which shows all unread emails (Unread). Others that are useful are:

  • Flagged - This will show flagged emails. You flag an email with the flag icon on that email if you want to follow up on it later. For example, if you receive bill reminders vial email, this will help remind you to pay them and help you find the emails later.
  • Attachments - This is useful if you don't have a lot of space available with your email provider and need to delete some emails. Deleting emails with attachments will get you free space fastest.
  • All Sent - If you have multiple email addresses in your Mail app, this makes it faster and easier to see emails you sent no matter what address you sent them from. All Trash and All Drafts provide similar advantage.


Oct 15, 2013

Thoughts on iOS 7

It's been almost a month, at this writing, since iOS 7 became available. You may have upgraded but are still yet discovering all the new features. Some of you are late adopters and haven't upgraded yet. (You know who you are.)

I upgraded on the day iOS 7 was released to the general public. I debated waiting and letting the first round of bugs get fixed but the curiousity won out. I knew of the big features but wanted to try them out. I also wanted to discover all the little improvements that I knew would be there though I didn't know what they would be.

If you haven't upgraded or have upgraded and still haven't discovered everything new, here is my list of the most beneficial features:

  • Control Center - Pictured here, this is by far the best feature. The convenient access to wifi and bluetooth settings, the do-not-disturb feature, the brightness setting, the LED flashlight, the calculator app, and the camera are more beneficial than you can imagine. You'll find yourself opening the Control Center a lot.
  • "Unlimited" Folders - Folders can now hold a seemingly unlimited number of applications, whereas before iOS 7, you were limited to what could fit on a single screen (16 on an iPhone 5). The downside of this feature is that you can only see 9 apps on a screen, even on the iPad.
  • Training for Siri - Siri can now be trained to pronounce the names of your contact. I discovered this by accident when I asked Siri to text someone whose name wasn't pronounced phonetically like it was spelled. Siri asked me how she should pronounce it and gave me several options.
  • Siri-read Emails - Yes, Siri can read your emails now.
  • Automatic App Updates - In the iTunes & App Store settings, you can turn on automatic updating of apps, meaning that your apps stay up-to-date without you having to do anything. You can still go into the App Store to see what was updated and read the release notes.
  • One Address & Search Bar in Safari - The same field is used for typing the web address (URL) in Safari that is used to do a search via Google (or Yahoo or Bing).

There are many more features than what I mentioned: iTunes Radio, dynamic wallpaper, AirDrop, camera filters, etc. These are just some that I've found the most helpful. What are your favorite features in iOS 7?

Sep 12, 2013

Watch More College Football on iOS

If your your favorite college team is playing and isn't shown on TV in your area, or if your team is on TV but you are away from home, you might think your only option is checking the score on your iPhone. However, if your carrier is one of the TV providers that supports WatchESPN, chances are good that you may be able to watch your game in the WatchESPN app for the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. WatchESPN streams a multitude of full games you can't see on regular TV. (It also streams soccer matches, NASCAR races, baseball, basketball, etc., even sports like field hockey and cricket.)

If you're at home and want to watch your team on the big screen, the Apple TV now has the WatchESPN app. For a $100 one-time cost, if you went to a small school like I did, and want a chance to watch your team play more often, this is the way to go.



Sep 10, 2013

iPhone 5C or iPhone 5S?

A Choice to Make

Today Apple announced the new iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S at their special event. Whether you are looking to buy your first iPhone or are considering upgrading from an older iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, you now have to make a choice. Do you go with the less expensive (by $100) iPhone 5C or the more powerful iPhone 5S. I'm going to try to give you some guidance based on my understanding of the benefits of each.

iPhone 5C

The iPhone 5C is pretty much the iPhone 5 in a plastic case. As an owner of an iPhone 5, that's a pretty good phone. It has some key advantages over the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S:

  • Larger screen - This is more advantageous than you think. The extra real estate gives you more apps on your primary home screen and, in general, makes a big difference in apps.
  • LTE - This is one of the biggest advantages. Web browsing, downloads, etc. are much faster.
  • Speed - The 5C has a faster processor than the 4S. If your have an iPhone 4, you will probably notice a significant difference in speed.

If you are planning on using your phone primarily for talking, texting, browsing the web, checking Facebook or Twitter, managing your calendar and to-do list, and playing occasional casual games, this is probably the right choice.

iPhone 5S

The iPhone 5S has some advantages over the iPhone 5C if you need them.

  • Speed - This is not the speed I talked about above. This is serious speed, the kind that you would use for processing video or playing graphically-intense games.
  • Camera - Even with just 8 megapixels like the iPhone 5, the camera has some major improvements over the iPhone 5 that the iPhone 5C doesn't have, mostly to give you better quality photos in low light. The f/2.2 aperture, the larger pixels, and the True Tone flash. These amount to less noise and better color in low light.
  • Fingerprint sensor - The fingerprint sensor should make securing your iPhone much simpler and unlocking it much quicker (and possibly safer if you have to make an emergency call when driving). Also, when you decide to purchase a song, app, etc. on iTunes, you won't have to enter your iTunes password.

The iPhone 5S is the phone to get if you are a power user, a serious mobile game player, or want the advantages of the improved camera.

Are you looking to buy one of the new iPhones? If so, which one?


Sep 5, 2013

Draft and Manage Your Yahoo Fantasy Football Team on the Go

If you are in a Yahoo fantasy football league, drafting and managing your line-up is possible on the go. This is true with other fantasy league apps as well, but both of my teams are with Yahoo.

The biggest feature of the updated app is the ability to participate in live drafts and mock drafts on your iPhone or iPad, provided that you use a standard draft (i.e., a snake draft). Auction drafts aren't currently supported in the iOS app. If you are away at your kids' ball game or sitting in a sports bar eating wings with your league, this is a good option. I used my iPad to draft in one of my leagues and it worked very well. The only problem I had was not being able to scroll to the latest chat messages when the chat window filled up. The drafting part gave me no problems and was simple to do.

The new UI makes managing your team easy too. In the past, you had to drag and drop players into the right places in your lineup. This was hard on a small iPhone screen. In the updated app, you click a pencil on a player you want to swap out and it pops up a window that allows you to select who to swap him with.

Many other things are similar to the past version. You can see your schedule, send messages, research players, add and drop players, and even trade players. If you are in a Yahoo fantasy league, you can fit in the management of your team when your standing in line at lunch or, otherwise occupied. There are no excuses for abandoning your team so manage well, my friends. Manage well.


Aug 21, 2013

Take Photos of Lightning with Your iPhone

Taking a photo of lightning is difficult because of the whole timing thing: You don't know when it's coming or exactly where. Photographers typically use a DSLR camera on a tripod with a slow shutter speed. However, if you have your iPhone, and no tripod, how do you get a picture of lightning?

Enter iLightningCam, an app that will take a picture of lighning when it strikes. You simply open the app and point your iPhone's camera to the sky. When the app "sees" lightning, it takes a picture. It will work with either bolts of lightning or sheet lightning. I used it to capture the sheet lighning in the above photo, which happened to be behind a tree and create a nice silhouette. I hope to capture a lightning bolt at some point.

Here are a couple of tips if you decide to use it:

  • Be careful. Don't go out if lighning is all around you.
  • Even though you don't need a tripod, try to brace your arms on something as you point your camera. This will help prevent a blurry photo. I brace my elbows against my abdomin.


Aug 6, 2013

Managing a Busy Life

I haven't blogged in a while because things have been crazy-busy. This doesn't mean I haven't been using my iPhone and iPad, however. In fact, they've been critical tools in managing all that I have to do. One of the most critical apps that helps me manage it all is Appigo Todo.

To keep up with the crazy schedule, I use the built-in calendar on my iPhone and iPad. My iOS calendar is synced with Google Calendar so that I can enter calendar entries anywhere that I have access to a browser, such as at work. It's good have your calendar always with you on your iPhone, but sometimes it's nice to use a full keyboard for quick entry.

For quick, temporary notes, things I need to remember for a short time I use Write on both my iPhone and iPad. It's simple and focuses on entry, not organization and the notes sync between my two devices. If I want to keep a note long-term and organize it, I export it to Evernote by tapping Save in Evernote within Write, which is far more convenient than copying the text and pasting it in a new Evernote note.

All of these are essential to me because I know I can't trust my memory. If I don't write it down, I forget what to do, where to be, or some other important fact. What do you use to manage your busy life?


Jul 9, 2013

An Artistic HDR Look for Your Photos

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography combines multiple photos at different exposures to create a single photo with enough contrast that lighter areas and darker areas of the photo both look good. The iPhone has the ability to do with the included Camera app. There are also other apps, such as Pro HDR and True HDR that do a much better job of this.

Many photographers will use an HDR post-processing technique called tone mapping to achieve very artistic, even surreal looks for their photos. Often these photos can have painting-like qualities to them. However, to achieve a tone-mapped or even realistic HDR look has typically required the following:

  1. A PC or Mac, sometimes using an expensive app.
  2. Two or three photos of the same subject, taken one after another, preferably with a tri-pod. Some cameras, especially DSLRs, have the ability to do this automatically using a feature called autobracketing.

Jun 27, 2013

Integrate Your Fitness Apps for Less Data Entry

The iPhone, because of its fits-in-your-pocket size and because of its GPS, is great for tracking your fitness, whether it's what you eat or what you burn. I use RunKeeper, and sometimes Zombies, Run! to track my walking (or my rare and brief running). However, I use Lose It! To track my food intake and my exercise, to try to stay in a calorie budget and lose weight.

That's a number of apps with redundant information in them. Much of my exercise gets recorded in either RunKeeper or Zombies, Run! And also gets recorded in Lose It! I hate entering the same thing twice. you probably do too. If you have an account with each of the services behind these apps, however, you start RunKeeper or Zombies, Run! and have your caloric expenditure automatically show up in Lose It!

Here's how I have it set up:

And here's how to do it:

Happy syncing!


Jun 22, 2013

iPhone vs. iPad vs. iPad Mini: Strengths of Each

I've owned three different iPhones over the last five or six year but I recently bought my first iPad, a fourth-generation iPad. Shortly after buying mine, my daughter bought an iPad Mini. After having some time with each of these, there are definitely things that an iPhone does better, things that an iPad does better, and things that an iPad Mini does better.

If you own an iPhone and are wondering if you should get an iPad, or if you own an iPad and are wondering if you should get an iPhone, it helps to know what the strengths of each are. Here are some general comments about each:

Jun 13, 2013

Multi-touch Gestures on the iPad

Before this week, the only iOS device I've owned was an iPhone. Perhaps that's why I discovered two of the three multi-touch gestures for my new iPad by accident:
  1. If you're in an app and swipe left or right with four fingers, you switch to one of the other apps that are running.
  2. If you're in an app and "grab" with all four fingers, pinching toward the center, you'll go back to the home screen.
  3. If you swipe up with four fingers, you'll see the multi-tasking bar at the bottom.
These are all extremely useful gestures and can save wear and tear on your home button.  Item #1 will help you switch apps much more quickly so that you only need to do #3 when you want to close apps completely.

Jun 11, 2013

More iPad Content Coming

I ordered an iPad from the Apple web site yesterday after confirming that there were no new iPads announced. It came today. That's pretty impressive delivery time for free shipping. I'm actually typing this post on it.

This is my first iPad so expect to have a number of iPad-specific posts sprinkled in with the iPhone and universal app posts. For now, back to exploring my new tool. I'd say new "toy" but, after all, this is Practical iStuff.

May 18, 2013

Buy or Sell Your Own Instagram Art

I use Instagram as a repository for artistic shots, many which I take with my iPhone 5 and post-process using apps on my iPhone 5.  On rare occasion, I may post something that I like well enough to want to get a physical print of it to hang in my house. Recently I used a service called to get a canvas version of my own photo. (The one to the right is a 16 inch by 16 inch canvas.)

When you understand that images on Instagram are only 612 pixels by 612 pixels, it doesn't seem to make sense to create prints from photos on Instagram, even though makes it very convenient to do.  However, has an answer to that. They claim to use a resizing and optimization algorithm that makes for "crystal clear, crisp images". That sounds like a lot of marketing but my experience was that they did a really good job. My photo was on canvas and was somewhat "painting-like" after my post-processing so there was some room for error, but I could find no pixelation and the printed image looks like the piece of art that I wanted it to be.

Another benefit of is that you can sell prints of your own. You pick what photos to add to your gallery and you can add hashtags to your photos on that are different than what you use on Instagram, though the Instagram hashtags are added by default.  You can also enter a caption and assign a category for each photo to make the photos more discoverable. If you sell an item, which can be a canvas, a framed print, a prism (a 6x6 acrylic paperweight), greeting cards, or an iPhone case, you get 20% of the sales price, which really isn't bad since they handle the display, production, shipping, and collection the money.  As of the time I write this, I haven't yet sold any of my photos yet, and I don't know if I will, but it's nice having that possibility for very little effort (aside from the effort it took to create the image in the first place).

May 7, 2013

Shortcuts on the iPhone and iPad

Shortcuts on the iPhone is one of those features that you may not know about but are extremely handy  when typing on small iPhone keyboard. Shortcuts, however, aren't very visible because they are tucked away in the Settings app. This little feature can change a quick "omw" to "On my way." or "ctn" to "Can't talk now, in a meeting."

From Settings, choose General, then choose Keyboard. Scroll to the bottom and you'll see Shortcuts and an option called Add New Shortcut...  If you click Add New Shortcut..., you can enter a phrase and a shortcut for it.

The shortcut field is optional, which sounds odd at first. However, it allows you to enter a phrase that you don't want autocorrect to change to something else. One time I texted my wife "Woohoo" and autocorrect changed it to "Elohim", a Hebrew word for God. In the context, it didn't quite make sense. If I had "woohoo" as a phrase, even without a shortcut, my "Woohoo" would have come across the same way I entered it.

Apr 18, 2013

iPhoneography: Get That Distressed Look Easily with Distressed FX

There are a multitude of iPhone apps in the App Store that allow you to apply filters to your photo, seeming to promise to turn your photo into a work of art. Many of them produce a washed out, dull look that falls short of this promise. Distressed FX, with some experimentation, will turn a good photo into a work of art.

One of the first things that you will notice about Distressed FX that is different than most "photo filter" apps is that it you have two sets of "filters", one called "gels", which seems to be more about colors (or birds, as I'll explain later), and one called "textures", which contains textured overlays. You can pick any combination of the two and choose the strength for each. You can also choose to control brightness, contrast, and saturation to further fine-tune your artistic creation.

Apr 4, 2013

Road Trip with the iPhone with iExit

When taking a road trip, often you know where you are going. In fact, often you get on the interstate and stay on it for hours, maybe transitioning to another interstate somewhere along the way. You don't need directions to your destination but you may need to know what exit has the next restroom or lunch options. You don't need a regular, turn-by-turn GPS for this and you don't want to be searching your map application for restaurants or rest areas while you're driving.

The interstate road trip is the niche that iExit fills. By default, iExit doesn't show a map (though a swipe to the left will show you a map). It simply shows a list of upcoming exits, how many miles to each, and what types of amenities are at each exit. Tap on an exit, and you'll see exactly what gas stations, restaurants, lodging, etc. is at that exit. It's the kind of app that you turn on and leave on during your trip so that you can, at glance, know exactly where to stop and how far you have to go before you stop.

Mar 18, 2013

Get Auto Service Estimates on Your iPhone with RepairPal, Before Visiting the Mechanic

Whenever you need vehicle maintenance, such as replacing your timing belt, or repairs, such as replacing a starter, you often have to take your vehicle in to the mechanic before you have any idea how costly it will be. Even then, when you get an estimate from that mechanic, you may not be sure how it stacks up with the cost that would be charged by other mechanics in the area. If you don't know what to expect, you can easily overpay.

What if there were an app that would give you an idea what you might pay for auto service? That's what RepairPal excels at. If you know what you need done, it will provide a low-end to high-end range based on what mechanics in your area charge. For that service, it even explains what the estimate includes, best practices for taking care of the part, common symptoms leading up to the service, and in some cases, common misdiagnoses. With this information, you can go into your neighborhood garage armed with knowledge, not surprised by an unreasonable estimate.

Mar 7, 2013

A Staging Area for Quick Notes on Your iPhone

Although I love keeping notes in Evernote, I didn't often use it for taking notes that had to be recorded quickly, like when taking notes in a meeting. There were a few reasons for this:
  1. Launching Evernote and adding a new note in the right notebook takes a few seconds. Usually by the time I think of opening my Evernote app, I'll have to have either written my note down on paper or I will have lost it.
  2. Evernote offers a lot of features (notebooks, tags, formatting, etc.) that make keeping organized notes very nice. When under pressure to record something quickly, these are a distraction. I find myself wanting to spend time to give my note a title, add tags, pick the right notebook, and make my note look nicely formatted, things I didn't have time to do.
  3. Some notes were of a very temporary nature. I only needed the note for such a short time, keeping it in Evernote didn't make sense.

Feb 7, 2013

Adding Text to Photos on Your iPhone and iPad

A picture is worth 1,000 words but sometimes a picture needs a word...or two, or three. With your iPhone or iPad and Phonto, that's pretty easy. In fact, it's pretty easy to make your words themselves a work of art.

Like most photo-editing apps, Phonto allows you to take a photo with the camera or import a photo from your albums. From there, you can type in text and easily position it where you want it. You can move the text around by dragging it, or if you need more precise positioning, there are positional arrows for moving the text slowly into place.

Fonts and styles are where Phonto excels. Text, stroke, and background can be any color or a gradient of up to four colors. There are numerous fonts included in the app but, if you don't see one you like, you can add any TrueType font to the app.

To add a font using only your iPhone or iPad, simply search for TrueType fonts in Safari and download one. When you click a link or button to download the font, you'll have the option to Open in "Phonto". This will give you the option to install the font into Phonto and use it on any future photos. No other app that I know of allows you to find, install, and use any font that you want.

Jan 22, 2013

Post-apocalyptic Fitness: Running from Zombies

Removing the Monotony from Exercise

Exercising can be monotonous but, working behind a desk all day, it's something I need to do. If I have something that engages my mind, it makes exercise an enjoyable experience for me.  This is why I typically listen to something that I find interesting, usually talk radio, podcasts, or an audio book. I bought a new app for my iPhone over the holidays that makes going for a walk or run a more immersive experience. That app is Zombies, Run!

A Game and an Unfolding Story

Zombie's, Run! is an app that brings gamification to running or walking, and makes it truly a fun experience. It's as much a story as it is a game. In fact, it's a very compelling story that you take part in. Here is the gist of it.
  1. You live in world where a disease of some sort has broken out and turned people to zombies. Those who get bit by zombies are doomed to become zombie's yourself.
  2. You are Runner 5. Your helicopter was shot down near Able Township, a small fortified town where the citizens are protected by walls that keep zombies out.
  3. Because the township needs supplies, runners are sent out to retrieve those supplies, occasionally encountering the zombies that roam the surrounding wilderness. Running is a way of survival.
  4. Runners also have other missions, such as drawing zombie's away or saving someone stranded in the wilderness.

Jan 9, 2013

Premium Weight Loss Using Your iPhone

I've written before on several occasions about Lose It! for the iPhone, a great tool for weight loss and one of the best free apps in the App Store. You can get a lot of help in meeting your fitness goals by using this app's free features but it has some premium features that are quite compelling if you need a little extra motivation in getting fit.


These are a great motivational tool. Here is where Lost It! gets both social and competitive. You can compete with yourself, with others (the public or just certain friends), and even as groups toward some goal. For example, a challenge might be between teams of four on which team can lose the largest percentage weight. You can join existing challenges that others have created or create your own. The challenges can be public or private and you can invite your friends to join with you for added accountability and competition.

You can do all of this from within the app but I found it easier to find challenges on the Lose It! web site.

Jan 4, 2013

Apps to Start the New Year Right

It's that time of the year when people have decided to keep a set of resolutions or goals. If you are one of those who set goals for 2013, there are apps for your iPhone and iPad that can help. Here are some that I've written about before that I think are among the best: