unsplash-logoKevin Ku

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

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 by Tapbots for iOS and MacOS

    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 are 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.

    Tweetbot for Apple Watch allows you to view your recent activity, reply to mentions, direct mentions and compose a tweet using force press.

    • iPad Support (Universal)
    • Apple Watch App
    • Extensive 3D Touch Support for iPhone 6 and 7 (including Plus models) and iPhone X
    • Landscape Support on iPhone and iPad
    • View Tweet Statistics and Account Activity : Tracks the popularity of your tweets and new followers every day
    • Column View in Landscape on iPad and the iPhone 6+ : The split view multi-tasking on the iPad dedicates second column to a list, search result, mentions, statistics, or activity stream. IOS 9 multi-tasking also supported on iPad
    • Granular Mute Filter Settings
    • Quick Reply from Notifications
    • Safari View Controller with Support for Content Blockers
    • Support for Multiple Twitter Accounts
    • Push Notifications
    • Customizable Timeline
    • View/Add/Edit/Subscribe to Lists
    • Direct Messages with Support for Images and Unlimited Character Count
    • Mute People, Keywords, Tweet Sources on your Timeline, Lists, and Search Results
    • Save Searches, View Trends, and See Nearby Tweets
    • Edit Your Full Profile Including Avatar and Cover Image
    • Support for 3rd Party Services
    • Night Mode for Low-Light Reading : Automatically switch based on ambient lighting or toggle manually by swiping 2 fingers up or down in the app
    • Gestures for Quick Access to Common Tasks
    • Customizable Tab Buttons (iPhone)
    • Tweet Drafts
    • Portrait and Landscape Orientations
    • No Ads
    • Translate Tweets
    • Read Later : Bitly, Instapaper, Pinboard and Pocket

    Twitterific for Twitter by The Iconfactory for iOS

    Twitterrific for Apple Watch allows you to view your most recent activity and reply to mentions, direct messages via dictation, receive notifications, follow new users, and favorite tweets.

    • iPad Support (Universal)
    • Apple Watch App
    • People Search
    • Save for Later : Send any link to Instapaper, Pocket, Pinboard, or Safari Reading List for convenient reading later
    • Timeline Sync : Sync your timeline via iCloud or Tweet marker among your iOS devices
    • Push Notifications : Receive direct message or mentions
    • Theme Control : sizes, adjust line spacing, font size and light and dark themes
    • Muffle Tweets: Muffle usernames, hashtags, and domains to keep your timeline free from spoilers and unwanted tweets
    • Unified Timeline : Color-coding lets you quickly scan your timeline for tweets that are important to you like mentions and direct messages
    • People Search
    • VoiceOver : Support for Apple’s VoiceOver means accessibility to the visually impaired
    • Save for Later : Send link to Instapaper, Pocket, Pinboard, or Safari Reading List for convenient reading later
    • Stream timelines on WIFI

    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)