Software Reviews

Twitter Apps for iOS, the Apple Watch and MacOS

Apple Watch users noticed in September 2017, that Twitter had disappeared from the Apple iTunes App Store, no longer referencing it as compatible with the Apple Watch. In fact, the Twitter Watch App was removed in iOS version 7.8. In my opinion, the Twitter app for the Apple Watch was by far the best Twitter app for the Apple watch. Although some apps may not be ideal for the Apple Watch, I feel that Twitter’s Apple Watch app was spot on, and for anyone using Twitter, would have been one of their core apps.

What are the alternatives?

Tweetbot for Twitter by Tapbots  and Twitterific for Twitter by The Iconfactory (for iOS) are very strong 3rd party apps for mobile and the Mac, but being a user of both, I feel their Apple watch apps were lacking by comparison. Twitter's iOS app would allow adjustments to the types of notifications you wished to receive and would only push notifications to either your watch or iPhone based on which one you were using at the time.

In August 2018, Twitter broke some of the features incorporated in some of the most popular 3rd party apps, including Tweetbot and Twitterific. Twitter limited or capped the number of users allowed for a 3rd party client; specifically limiting an Account Activity API (which replaces legacy APIs) to 35 Twitter accounts, making it unsuitable for 3rd party app developers who have thousands of users.  Two API changes afftected these 3rd party apps, basically affecting functionality including Timeline streaming, Activity and Stats, and push notifications for Likes, Retweets, Follows and Quotes.

Since Twitter does not support it's own app and has severely limited the usefulness of Tweetbot or Twitterific on the Apple watch.  Enter an app called Chirp for Twitter, which was designed specifically for the Apple watch. The iPhone version of Chirp for Twitter is simply used to set up your watch app and purchase a Pro version.  Chirp for Twitter operates on a "pay-what-you want" model; pricing of $1.99, $2.99 and $4.99 will get you the same pro product which allows you to:

  • Post tweets
  • Reply to tweets
  • View and send direct messages
  • Search for users and tweets
  • View more than 5 trends
Chirp for Twitter

Tweetbot for iOSTweetbot 5 for iOS

The latest version update (5.0.8) is small but offers some visually appealing features including a redesigned profile with a clearly visible background, a larger avatar to the left of your bio with left justified text and following and follower information is more prominent. The new dark mode is optimized for OLED displays and looks much darker than Tweetbot 4. One other feature of note is the GIF support in compose view. A media description can be added by tapping on the GIF while composing the tweet which is a great accessibility option for VoiceOver users. The same can be done for images.

Last but not least is the option to tip Tweetbot in a "snack size" @ $0.99, "coffee-size" @ $2.99 or "lunch-size" tip @ $4.99 to help in the future development of Tweetbot and a new icon which has a more modern and aggressive look. Tapbots gives you the option of two colors in your choice of modern or the older retro icon.

Tweetbot 5 for iOs is a free update for existing users and resembles the latest Mac version with many additional features :

  • GIF support in compose view (Powered by Giphy).
  • Redesigned profiles.
  • Redesigned tweet status details.
  • New iconography and app icon.
  • Optimized dark theme for OLED displays.
  • Support for haptic feedback.
  • Auto video playback in the timeline (which can be disabled in the settings).
  • Create and use Twitter Lists as multiple timelines.
  • Filter any timeline via keywords or predefined criteria (like tweets with media or links only) and save for future access.
  • Second column on iPad to view other content like a list, mentions, search results, and etc at the same time.
  • Sync your unread status and timeline position across all of your devices running Tweetbot (Mac, iPhone, iPad).
  • No inline ads.

Tweetbot for iPhone

Twetbot Profile
Tweetbot Tweet
Tweetbot for iOS Night Mode

Tweetbot for iPad

Tweetbot for iPad

Notable Features

  • Timeline Filters - Quickly filter a timeline to show only tweets with media, retweets, links, or create your own keyword or rules-based filter. Access these saved filters any time with two taps.
  • Mute Filters - Hide Tweets in your timelines by specific users, keywords, hashtags, or even the client that published the Tweet. Select the length of time to mute and use regular expressions for smarter muting.
  • Profile Notes - Ever forget why you followed someone or wanted to jot notes for future reference? Create private notes on a user’s profile that only you can see.
  • Custom Timelines - Create and manage public or private lists and then use them as curated timelines. Tweetbot allows you to quickly switch between lists and even use one as your main timeline.
  • iCloud Sync - Tweetbot syncs your read position and much more so your experience is seamless when switching from desktop to mobile and vice versa.
  • Tweet TopicsStart tweet topics to automatically chain together multiple Tweets (with the ability to append optional hashtags) and create tweet storms.

Tweetbot for MacTweetbot for Mac

Tweetbot Icon

Tapbots new Tweetbot 3 for Mac adds new features and refinements along with a new more aggressive looking icon.  There is an expanded sidebar for power users, a night mode and media features improvements.

The Tweetbots 3 sidebar for the Mac can be resized and offers an icon-only or an icon and text view which includes subsections for multiple accounts, lists, mentions, direct messages and search.

The new night mode replaces the previous gray theme with a truly dark mode that is in keeping with the current dark mode on the Mac. The default light mode is still an option.

Accessibility improvements include the option to add a text description to an uploaded image before tweeting which allows a Twitter user to access the image description with VoiceOver and the ability to auto-play video in the timeline view with mouseover instead of clicking. This can be toggled on and off. Grouped image windows are now swipeable when clicking on grouped images.

More details about Tweetbot for Mac can be found on Tapbots’ website

Twitter for Mac Text and Icons
Twitter for Mac Icons

New Features

  • Expandable Sidebar  Tweetbot’s new optional expanded sidebar provides one-click access to all of your subsections like lists, direct message conversations, and saved searches.
  • Drag & Drop Columns  Columns have been rebuilt from the ground up to be far more accessible and customizable. Easily add/remove columns, change the content of a column or reorder them.
  • Media  Automatically play videos and GIFs in your timeline with a quick mouseover. A click on media opens it up in our lightning fast new media viewer.
  • Night Mode  Your eyes will appreciate the new dark mode in low light situations. Images and video in your timeline pop beautifully.
  • Timeline Filters  The powerful timeline filters from Tweetbot for iOS are finally on the Mac. Quickly filter a timeline to show only tweets with media, retweets, links, or create your own keyword or rules-based filters.
  • Mute Filters  Hide Tweets in your timelines by specific users, keywords, hashtags, or even the client that published the Tweet. Create limited time filters to avoid spoilers for upcoming blockbuster movies or sporting events.
  • Lists  Full support for managing your Twitter lists. Use them as custom curated timelines or even as your main timeline.
  • Notifications  View your mentions and activity in a combined view or separately under the new notifications tab.
  • iCloud Sync  Tweetbot for Mac syncs your read position and much more with Tweetbot for iOS so your experience is seamless when switching from desktop to mobile and vice versa.
  • Tweet Topics  Topics automatically chain together multiple Tweets to easily create tweetstorms or live blog events.
  • Full Screen  Open Tweetbot fullscreen with columns for a command center-like Twitter experience.
  • Multiple Accounts  Quickly switch between multiple accounts via the quick account picker, menu bar or keyboard shortcuts. Open them in separate windows or full screen spaces.
  • Profile Notes  Ever forget why you followed someone or wanted to jot notes on a user for future reference? Create notes on a user’s profile that only you can see.
  • Quick Paste Links  Paste Tweet or profile web links directly into Tweetbot to view them instantly.

Here’s what Tapbots says about the API changes:

There’s a lot of confusion about upcoming Twitter changes and we’d like to clear that up:

  • API deprecations have been delayed indefinitely
  • If/when Twitter deprecates the current streaming APIs, the apps will still function fine. Only a few features may be slower or removed.
  • Twitter has a replacement API that (if we’re given access to) we’ll be able to use to replace almost all of the functionality that they are deprecating.
  • On Mac, the worst case scenario is that we won’t be able to show notifications for Likes/Retweets. Notifications for Tweets, Mentions, Quotes, DMs and Follows will be delayed 1-2 minutes.

Related Links

  • View various tips and tricks for Tweetbot 3 for Mac here
  • How to get columns in Tweetbot on YouTube

Spark - A Smart Email App

There are a handful of apps I really love for their productivity and ease of use.  Spark, a free download, by Readdle, Inc. is one of them. I understand that Apple's Mail App works for the general population at large, but if you need a mail app with more options to assist with your workflow and productivity, Spark is the answer.

Spark Mail App

Spark handles multiple email accounts and can be set up to sync those accounts among your devices. Like Apple's Mail app, you can view all your emails in one "inbox" or you can view each account's inbox independent from each other. However, Spark also sports what is called a "Smart Inbox," a unified inbox which knows the difference between personal email, a notification or a newsletter. This allows you to see your incoming email on cards; new, notifications, newsletters and pins (or flagged). Notifications can be set up to swipe left to archive, delete or mark your emails as read.

Choices while reading an email include pinning the email and/or scheduling the task for another day (the snooze option). There are also quick replies, such as "like", "thanks," or an emoji smile among others plus you can also edit the list to include your own. Add the calendar widget to see event invitations and respond and save them to your phone's calendar. Other options include print (if you have an air printer), save, move, archive, delete, view details, mark as spam, as well as save to PDF and share on social media, send to notes or other applications which you may have on your iPhone. OmniFocus support is one of my favorites.

Emails can also be scheduled to be sent later in the day when they are most likely to be read by the recipient and you can set up Reminders to follow up on email if you don't get a reply.

Setup signatures for use by each individual email account in settings and then swipe between signatures to choose the right one for your email. I personally love this option since I have several email accounts, including personal and business. Spark will also automatically detect and will add your most used signatures to your list.

Smart search uses natural language which makes it easier to sort through emails in all of your mailboxes. If you type "emails with attachments" you can view emails sent to you with attachments during the month. "Attachments" is also an option in the menu list. Save searches by hitting the star icon in the header. You will note a recent and saved option in the quick bar. How many times have you had to enter the same search information for a client or vendor? Now you can save those searches and save time.

Use the calendar widget to view and respond to invitations and save them to your phone or iPad calendar with just a tap.

If you have just sent an email and forgot to send the attachment, you have five seconds to undo the send action. If you are working on an email and you need to attend to another task, you can choose to save the email and come back to it later.

Connect to and save or send attachments using the following services: Dropbox, Box, Readability, Evernote, Instapaper, Google Drive, OneDrive, Pocket and OneNote.

Supported email services include Gmail, Exchange, Yahoo!, iCloud, Outlook and Kerio Connect.

Spark Mail app can be viewed in either vertical or horizontal format depending on your mobile device. This is something I especially enjoy on my iPhone 8Plus.

Spark for Apple Watch allows you to look at your inbox, see the number of unread emails, and displays the sender and subject for the last received email. You will also see the number of pinned emails for the day. You can reply to emails using dictation or use one of Spark's "quick replies" without using your iPhone. Any emails you have designated as important will alert you with a tap on the wrist and you can then decide to read it, reply to it, or pass on it for later. Emails that are too lengthy for the Apple Watch will be passed off to your iPhone for you to continue reading or writing a reply. All in all, they have done an excellent job of making the Spark Apple Watch App very intuitive and user friendly.

Spark mail app is available for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac but is planning a cross-platform email client soon. Spark for Teams offers collaboration allowing disccussion and sharing of emails with colleagues.

Website:  https://sparkmailapp.com
Download for Mac: https://itunes.apple.com/app/spark-love-your-email-again/id1176895641?mt=12
Download for iPhone and iPad: https://itunes.apple.com/app/spark-by-readdle/id997102246?mt=8


iOS Content Blockers

Mobile device browser content blockers are becoming popular as more websites offer up more advertising in the way of ads and tracking, images, scripts, social media buttons and comments making the browsing experience less than enjoyable. Content blocking has become more popular among consumers and are a way of telling publishers and companies who advertise on websites that they want a less intrusive web experience. There are many ad blocker apps available with some differences in terms of options, and many allowing what is called “whitelisting” for those consumers who want to support sites they visit frequently by allowing advertising impressions.

Some ad blockers are free to download and try out, but to get a full list of features which enable the software more effective, you will need to pay via an in-app purchase.

How does an ad blocker work?

Read More

Countable - Contact Congress and Vote on Bills

Countable mobile app for iOS and Android platforms has been featured on the Today Show, The NYTimes, MSNBC, Politico and can be found in the iTunes and Google Play app stores.

Countable App

Today's political world is rift with conflicting views about some of the most controversial issues including the affects of climate change on our environment, energy policies, the governmentís role in funding science initiatives, food safety, drug abuse, healthcare and education. Countable allows you to view upcoming bills, vote on them with one tap voting, and then see how your representatives vote on those issues. One reviewer said the following about Countable:

"Countable excels in global awareness, critical thinking & problem solving, communication, social/cross-cultural skills, leadership & responsibility, and civic/information/media literacies. It is truly the most impressive app when considering just 21st century skills."

Countable Review

Some Countable features are as follows:

  • Easily call your representatives with a built-in menu with their phone numbers
  • 3D Touch app icon for quick representative listing
  • Send video messages to your representatives and to the President using your camera on your phone
  • Daily notifications about upcoming votes, short non-partisan summaries of news and legislation and unbiased discussion for and against.
  • Do your representatives votes align with yours? Post an opinion or vote; posts will reach your lawmakers and don't be surprised if you receive a reply.
  • Community support
  • See what your community is saying about issues; up vote their opinions (much like on Reddit)