Category Archives: Apps

And now a better document scanner, too

I have become a big fan of Adobe Acrobat Reader (available for iOS and Android) on my iPhone and iPad. I was in Denver during Bancroft‘s last acquisition, and had to sign a slew of documents while away from printers and fax machines. Using my iPhone, I was able to pull the PDFs from email to Acrobat Reader, then sign them with my finger and email them back. Why do we print anymore?

And now, in case the document that you need to send is in paper form, Adobe has added scanning to Acrobat Reader. It’s incredibly easy to scan, crop, reorder, sign and email a document.  Watch the video to see just how easy it is. Let’s all hug a tree.

A better photo scanner in your hand

Google’s new PhotoScan app (available for iOS or Android) is so cool that it actually got me to post my first entry since moving my site to WordPress.

With the app, you can grab an old picture off the wall and quickly create a high quality scan with your phone, free of glare and the frame. It’s a great way to safeguard prints by sending them to the cloud, and makes them easy to share.

This amusing video shows how:

Here are my first few quick efforts from framed photos sitting nearby:






Is it Time for Mailbox?

About a year ago, I tried a slick new iPhone App called Mailbox as a replacement for the default Mail app. I was drawn in by rave reviews, a slick, clean interface, and the promise of an app that played nice with Gmail, which handles the e-mail for The main feature of Mailbox is numerous swipe gestures that help you quickly get to “Inbox Zero”, a state of nirvana for which you are rewarded with a zen image of the day.

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 7.06.39 AM

You can short swipe right to archive a message, long swipe right to delete it, or long swipe left add it to a list (To Buy, To Read, and To Watch are the defaults, and you can easily add others). But the killer feature is the short swipe left, which allows you to “snooze” a message. This gets the message out of you inbox for now, but brings it back in the future. So you get to Inbox Zero by pushing off the emails that you need to deal with, just not right now.


Though there were many aspects of the app that I enjoyed, especially the snooze feature, I had been using the Apple Mail app for so long that it was difficult to get used to the new interface. Further, at the time there was no app for my Mac, so I was using two different interfaces. I eventually gave up.

But then, three things happened. First, Mailbox was acquire by Dropbox, which means they now are well-funded. Second, Mailbox released a public beta of their Mac app in October. And third, I got an e-mail stating that I’d get another Gigabyte added to my Dropbox account if I downloaded the new Mailbox iOS app and signed in with my Dropbox login info.

I have been using Mailbox for about a week. While the interface is still different from my trusty Mail app, it is a bit closer with the new release. Having the Mac app working in conjunction with iPhone and iPad apps has helped immensely. But it’s the “playing nice” with Gmail that has sold me this time. It searches through archived e-mail as quickly as if it were on the device. And when I delete something, but want it back, undo actually works (it doesn’t for me on Mac Mail-believe me I’ve tried to fix it!).

So I finally hit the Help Me Get to Zero button yesterday. I was afraid, because the default badge for Mailbox  shows you the number of messages in your Inbox, not the number of unread messages. My number said 10,000. I think it’s stops counting at that point, because I actually had 16,000 messages in my Inbox. By clicking the button, Mailbox took every read message in my inbox and archived it. I never would have done this with the Apple Mail interface, because searching through archived messages was always spotty.


So I reached my first Inbox Zero image of the day (that’s actually it above). When you click on it in the apps, you get to see the full image. Then sit there and reflect on more important things.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Mailbox. It’s definitely worth a try, if for no other reason than to grab 1 GB for your Dropbox account. There is even an Android app for you now, Peter.

The best way to manage tasks

Other than sharing our calendars with each other, the best way that my wife and I stay in sync is with Wunderlist. The beautiful task manager offers well-designed iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac and Windows apps, as well as an amazingly powerful website. All stay in sync automatically, and sharing a list with a friend is a snap. We primarily use it for grocery lists, so we share a list for Costco, Target, Trader Joe’s, etc. I’ve got a HoneyDo list ready every weekend. And when we are planning a special event like a birthday party, it’s easy to share responsibilities. You can even add sub-tasks, so the Party City item can break down to balloons, hats, helium, etc. The price? Free. Download it and invite me to a list to try it out. My name is Joe, and this is my website, in case you don’t know my e-mail address.

My favorite iPhone apps

A dear old friend suggested that I share my favorite iPhone apps.  I tend to stay on top of the latest well reviewed apps, but an iPhone is a personal device, and my favorite apps obviously reflect my interests. These might not appeal to you, but don’t be like my wife and use your iPhone primarily as a phone. If you have a need, there’s an app for that.

These are all my favorites in no particular order. Click the link on the name to go to the iTunes store page for each app. Leave a comment to let me know your favorite that I missed.

iMovie ($4.99): Easily create great videos with titles and transitions, right on your iPhone!

Adobe Photoshop Express (Free): Quickly edit and share photos on your phone.

Remote (Free): I use this app to control my Apple TV, but it will also control iTunes on any Mac, as well. It is the fastest way to browse to the album I want to hear.

NetNewsWire (Free): I use this app constantly to check up on the RSS feeds I follow, such as all that news on the Pac-10 Champion California Golden Bears.

Indigo Touch (Free, but requires Indigo software on a Mac): This is the remote application for a Mac home automation app called Indigo, by Perceptive Automation. With it, I can control lights, sprinklers, and even my espresso maker (so I don’t have to wait for it to warm up).

Google Mobile (Free): Lift your iPhone to your ear with this app and you’ll hear a tone that tells you to speak your search entry. Google uploads your voice query to its servers, translates it, and gives you surprisingly accurate results based on your current location.

Sportacular (Free): Purchased recently by Yahoo!, this app is the fastest way to check scores for your favorite teams. A recent update to version 2.0 adds more functionality, like checking in so that your friends know where you are watching the game.

USA Today (Free): A quick and attractive way to get the latest headlines.

Dropbox (Free): Dropbox gives you 2GB of online storage and allows you to access it from any PC, Mac, Linux PC, or most mobile devices. Drag and drop that PDF or JPG on your computer, and it will be available on your iPhone or iPad in seconds.

Evernote (Free): A great way to remember things. Like a bottle of wine? Snap a picture in Evernote. Can’t remember that light bulb size? Jot a quick note. Evernote uses optical character recognition, too, so if you only remember that it was a Chateauneuf you’ll still be able to find the wine by searching.

Dragon Dictation (Free): Need to jot a quick e-mail while you’re driving? Want to write a long e-mail but can’t type fast enough? Dragon Dictation sends spoken words to their servers and returns text that you can easily paste in any app. And if you speak clearly, the accuracy is amazing.

OpenTable (Free): I like to eat. And more and more, restaurants are using OpenTable to handle their reservations. This app lets you quickly reserve a table without having to speak to that snarky hostess.

Southwest Airlines (Free): A great, simple app for booking air travel and more. The best use is being able to check in to get in the “A” boarding group no matter where you happen to be 24 hours before your flight.

Shazam (Free): This app still amazes me more than any other. Launch it, then hold you iPhone up to a song playing on the radio. Shazam will record a small piece of the song, upload it to its server, then tell you the name of the song and the artist. It even provides a link to let you easily go buy the song in the iTunes store.

RedLaser (Free): This app is a great use of you camera and the web. Take a picture of almost any barcode, and RedLaser will scour the web to find the best price and additional product info. Then you can see how much that immediate gratification is costing you.

Chase Mobile (Free): Truly the brave new world. Along with the usual functionality of a banking iPhone app, Chase blows you away buy allowing you to take a picture of the front and back of a check with your iPhone, and deposit it remotely. No more trips to the bank because your dumb friend doesn’t use PayPal. I hate checks. It’s like a note from my mom saying its OK to take my money.

Angry Birds (a very worth it $0.99): First it was DoodleJump, then Strategery, but now my best time killer is the most popular mobile game ever. Even my wife, who abhors games on her iPhone, picked it up during a long car ride and played for three hours straight.

DIRECTV (Free): If you subscribe to DIRECTV, you have to get this. It requires a newer model receiver hooked up to the interwebs, but it provides the fastest way to find and record shows. And it works from anywhere. Even China. Crazy.

That’s all for now. Let me know about favorites I’ve missed in the comments below.