The Magazine- My first Newsstand Subscription

The Newsstand app on the iPhone has been the unused app on my phone for over a year now. Some how I just don’t need news, I am a person who believes, if any news is worth my time it would come to me no matter what, that’s why I just don’t follow any political news what’s so ever. Most important news for day to day life like fuel price hikes, tax related news etc just comes to me from friends. Yeah you got it, I don’t read a news paper at all. How ever there is an exception, I do follow technology, I try to be on the bleeding edge by following a very cautiously selected set of tech blogs, so yeah Reeder is my second most used app after Mail on the phone. So newsstand had nothing till this Monday, this Monday that changed, and I am sure it changed for good.

Monday was when I found out about the launch of The Magazine. Ideally I should have found out about it last Friday, but given I was recovering from a week long flu and had an epic ride on Sunday, it happened only on Monday. I admire Marco and I trust him and his ideas and he is an inspiration.I read his blog all the time and don’t miss his podcast every week. So as soon as I found of his new idea from his blog, I knew I had to try it and I did.

I have had the magazine in the newsstand for over three days now, but I just had only about 2 hours to dig into it so far and I have to say, I enjoyed it. Time well spent. Below are a few reasons why I like it, and I think it’s very synonymous to the reasons for which the magazine was created and exists.

  1. The experience is nearly perfect. Navigation is minimal and elegant while the content is elaborate and interesting. Not many flashy images, and unwanted gibberish to skim through to find the important articles. Articles have links in them and links show up as previews right there at the bottom for you so that you can decide to read more of the link or not right there and continue with the article without moving out of the app.
  2. I don’t need news/ reviews and it doesn’t offer any.
  3. I can read long insightful articles, from time to time (not everyday) and I think that kind of reading is going to get a big boost from the Magazine, since all articles in the magazine are just that. They are insightful and aim to give u a bigger outlook of how things are.
  4. I have a predictable number of articles to read through every month, unlike the traditional magazines where I am not sure how much i will have to and how much i will be actually able to.
  5. I know and follow Marco and I like most of his content and so I am sure, I will like most of the content The Magazine would publish since he is the editor at least for now.

If you like reading technology columns and geeky insightful articles, you mostly will like the Magazine. Even of you don’t know who Marco is, you should just try the magazine free for week and decide for yourself. Just click here to try it remember the subscription is 1.99$ for a month.

Reeder App 3.0 Review (link)

I spend quite a lot of my commute time consuming content from the internet on the iPhone. Its the time I spend reading my subscribed feeds. If you came here looking for reviews of feed reader apps to consider,  I used to be a Feedly user for while and then I switched to Reeder and have never looked for a replacement. Please feel free to read my review of the earlier version here. In fact I spend an easy 8 to 10 hours using the app every week, and I think thats a lot of attention just for one app on the iPhone. That just shows how good  the app experience is.

Last week the Reeder app was updated to version 3.0 which i wanted to review here. Since Shawn has already done an awesome work reviewing it here rather very elaborately, I will link to him and save myself some time.

In brief the Reeder app is awesome as ever, with a few feature enhancements. The New design gives a little more mature feel to the app while the animations give it a little more polish. All I wish  now was if the app could use the full screen space just like how Instapaper on the iPhone does, by slowly hiding the tools bar and the status bar after a few seconds to make use of the Full Screen for the content on the iPhone.

Byword for IOS – Review

Byword app for ios is my recent purchase on the app store and the first of its kind for writing. I don’t have a Mac yet and hence do my writing on the iPad, iPhone or on Write Monkey (you can read my review of write monkey here) on my desktop. Dropbox on both helps me keep my files synced. While I sync my files on the desktop manually, Byword has the option to sync files using iCloud or Dropbox built right within and syncs files seamlessly. Setting up sync is just a breeze. Byword handles conflicts quite nicely as well. There is an option not sync files as well for people who don’t need the feature.

To me the number of features an app has matters but also their implementation and usability. I would prefer an app that has 2 features well implemented rather than 4 features not so usable. Byword is quite a minimalist on the iOS, yet at the same time it has all the features you would need to pour out your awesomeness into words. All you can customize in the preferences is your choice from 4 nice fonts, turn on/off autocorrect, auto capitalization and spell checker. On the settings screen you can export the text into HTML or copy as HTML to paste it directly to your blog , website etc or email it. You can print the document as well via AirPrint. I haven’t tried print as I don’t have an AirPrint printer yet.

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p style=”text-align:center;”> What I like about any app is the amount of attention to detail the developers put into the small things that constitutes for a far rewarding experience than otherwise. In Byword I am delighted by the toolbar which doubles as a status bar. It’s so nice and helpful I would like to call it the awesome bar. A few pictures should explain why I would call it the awesome bar. Byword status bar Byword toolbar Byword toolbar2

The awesome bar just shows the word count initially and a tap reveals the number of characters and another tap reveals both the word and character count. Gently swipe the status bar from right to left and you will be surprised to see that the status bar just became your toolbar with buttons for inserting tab spaces, various brackets, quotes and asterisk. On the iPhone the right half of the toolbar reveals an undo button which is nice, but I liked the left and right arrow keys the most. I always felt a need for these keys while typing on the mail composer on iOS, most often I have had to delete the entire word instead of just correcting a letter in the middle of the word and it’s been a pain to get the cursor to the right spot especially on the iPhone. The last button is a nifty keyboard minimizer button. On the iPad the tool remains the same except for the undo and minimize keyboard button are replaced by up and down cursor keys. I am not sure why they changed the buttons, but personally I would prefer the iPhone buttons and functionality.

Further swiping the toolbar once more to the left reveals more buttons to insert markdown shortcuts for headers, links, images and lists. While the right set of buttons remain the same as the previous tool bar. It is questionable that markdown was created with the notion to avoid the hassles of paying too much attention to the formatting and tagging and having tool bar buttons to insert these formatting defeats the purpose of markdown. Well actually in Byword it doesn’t. The iPad and iPhone don’t have a full size keyboard where we have access to all the symbols and numbers with in reach. Most often they are 1 or 2 taps away, so instead of tapping twice to get to a hash symbol for a header we are better off with the hash tool bar button. So the toolbar saves quite a lot of taps in all with out defeating some of the purpose of markdown.

What I would like to see in the future releases of Byword is for a night mode option to just reverse the font and background color. It would be quite nice and handy for somebody like me who fiddles with his iPhone at odd hours in the night.

To sum it up, Byword exceeds expectations for a minimalist writing app and is a perfect markdown writing tool for iOS. I would recommend it to anybody who is looking for a writing app on the iOS markdown or not.

Mark Down and Write Monkey

Its no breaking news that I like apple products and I follow Apple on a daily basis. I keep track of apple not by just surfing the interwebz for news about apple, I relegiously consume audio and text from quite a few prominent people in the apple community. I follow John Gruber (thats a no brainer and you dont call yourself an apple fan if you havent stumbled across his blog 😉 ), Marco Arment, I listen to their podcasts at 5by5 (actually am typing this while i am listening to this weeks episode of build and analyze) along with subscribing to read and trust feeds, where most of the bloggers are Apple enthusiasts, who follow apple closely as well.

It was on marco’s blog that I stumbled upon the word Markdown for the first time when I was checking out what software powered his blog. I ve heard about markup earlier, but markdown was new and I started digging up a bit more and was surprised to find it was created by John Gruber along with Aaron Swartz. That was an eyer opener about John’s other contributions. The nerd that I am (though i dont code as such like most do, i do suffer N.A.D.D ), I quickly grasped the need for markdown. BTW you should have a look at the syntax to get the feel of its usability and simplicity. I really wanted to give it a try for my blog posts at the very least.

I am always looking for a better offline blog editor, and so far there hasnt been anything better than live writer on windows, which wasnt great(sometimes it could be a pain especially if you switch themes on your blog) but enough to get your job done. Since I knew live writer isnt markdown capable, I was looking for an editor with markdown support and as well publish to my blog. Unfortunately there isnt any such for windows yet. So i had to settle to writing in markdown, converting to HTML and manually copy-paste the HTML to my blog. I would love to hear if you have any suggestions to automate this.

I stumbled upon write monkey when I searched for a markdown editor for windows. I am mind blown at its capabilities and simplicity. I heard about write room for mac 2 years back. I was tempted by its simplicty to try it, but hardly were there any that could even come close on windows and finally after 2 years of search, I’ve found something comparable in write monkey. The app is hardly a 3 MB zip file and runs out of the box(no installation required if you have.NET framework 3.5 and above). Prepare to be surprised when you launch the app for the first time, Coz you might not be sure if windows blanked out on you as usual or what?, actually the blank screen is the sacred space for distraction free writing with no window borders, crappy buttons etc, . Write monkey has a wide set of features and can look a bit alarming on the first look at the shortcuts and controls, but once you get used to it, its a breeze . Just get used to the function keys and you are good to go. Just like every where F1 is your help around. Just press ctrl+Shift+H to convert your selected markdown text to HTML.It cant get any simpler.

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To sum it up Write Monkey is a simple,hassle free, elegant writing tool and i recommend you try it. Also feel free to donate to write monkey project at the website by clicking the paypal link to keep the project alive.