Friday, April 11, 2014

23 mobile things: thing 12

Books, books, and more books--what's not to like? I'm using Free Books, and so far I like it. If I want to pay for an upgrade it will also do audiobooks, but their collection of ebooks is free. The app will show lists by genre, collections, or featured; or you can search for specific items. A lot of the collections are authors (alphabetized by first name!), but some are topics that didn't fit under genre, like ghost stories or epics. Featured includes both the collections and the genres together, listed alphabetically.

I downloaded a few books and tried it out. Navigating around within a book can be done via a slider at the bottom of the screen, which is pretty sensitive--I had trouble getting it to stop on the page I wanted it to. The table of contents, at least in the books I have, will not jump you to a particular chapter. But I think it may, in some books. There is an option in the controls called Chapters, but when I tried it it says "we don't have table of contents for this book yet" but that they're always adding more. So I'm guessing that in some books you can jump around by chapter. And of course I can place bookmarks.

The controls generally are sensitive--while reading I can tap in the middle of the screen to access the controls, but sometimes it interprets my tap as a slide to turn the page. The other controls are font size, and a choice of colors: Sepia print on white, or white print on black (to give off less light, I assume, since that option is called Night). Also I can access user reviews of a book while I'm reading it, highlight, take notes, and share via social media.

One minor annoyance is the ads. Every time I download a book, I get a full-screen pop-up; and while scrolling through lists there are frequent ads placed among the titles in the list. But I know that's what you get with a free app. They have to make money somehow.

Monday, March 31, 2014

23 mobile things: thing 11

I'm skipping things 9 and 10 for now, because my iPod doesn't have a camera. I can do them with my library's iPad later.

Thing 11 is library apps. I already had Hennepin County Library's mobile app and Overdrive media console on my iPod, but had never done anything with them. So I took a look. hclibmobile is pretty nice. I can check my account, look up library locations and hours, and events and classes. I can access online customer service. I can search the catalog and place holds, with separate tabs for new titles and downloadables. It includes BookLook, which is very cool: scan or type in an item's ISBN barcode, and it will show if the library owns the item. There are links to HCL's facebook and twitter pages. And there are links to locations, and events and classes, for libraries in the Twin Cities metro area that are not part of the Hennepin County system. So it has all the basic functions, plus some nice extra features.

I still haven't done much with Overdrive. I like the fact that I can download ebooks or mp3 audiobooks to my iPod, but I have not done so as yet. I have successfully added Hennepin County Library to my list of libraries (it is my entire list, since as a Hennepin County resident I don't think I'm eligible to use any other system's downloadables), so when I want to search for titles it automatically connects me to the catalog. I have also poked around in the settings and help topics to get a handle on how the whole process works.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

23 mobile things: thing 8

Thing 8 is social media management. I tried Cloze, which is linked to email and social media, and filters them to prioritize the people it thinks I'm closest to, based on amount of interaction. I'm not on social media much, so combining it with email seemed like a good fit for me--I can see stuff from my key people all in one place, whether from email or facebook.

It shows me mail from key people, then other mail in a separate list, and has several social lists: key people, social mentions, losing touch, and life events, plus a list called All Social, which appears to be everything I would see in my facebook newsfeed, only organized differently. I don't know why cloze bothers to include this--if I wanted to see everything, I'd be looking at facebook and not cloze. I suppose for people on multiple social media platforms it might be more useful.

I looked for a way to delete things or mark them as read. Cloze has Archive, which to my mind isn't really the same thing. I don't need to archive every piece of email, and certainly not every facebook item. But the archive command is apparently what I have to use to clear things off my lists.

I had to poke around in the settings to find a simple list of who Cloze considers to be my key people, which was...interesting. Because it rates people by the amount of contact I've had with them, my list includes the realtor I worked with to buy my house; I haven't emailed her in years, but at one time we were emailing each other heavily, so she made the cut. So the automatic ratings need some tweaking, which can be done in settings.

Another oddity was that the app appears to have gone through other items on my iPod. Several old shopping lists, which all happened to start with the same item, turned up in one of my lists as if that grocery item were one of my contacts. I use Notes on my iPod to write shopping lists; I have no idea how or why cloze would be able to see old deleted notes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

23 mobile things: thing 7

Thing 7 is content saving and sharing, or social bookmarking. This is another instance where my old iPod is not sufficient for either of the choices offered on the 23 things website, so I went looking for other options. I Googled social bookmarking apps for iOS, and read some articles. I found that there is no shortage of apps out there, but most of the ones I looked at are not free, or are no longer in operation, or require higher versions of iOS that my iPod won't support. I decided on Pearltrees, which has a free version (upgrades available for a price) and only requires iOS 5.

I've never used social bookmarking before, so it's hard to know what features I would find most useful. But Pearltrees sounds pretty good. It allows users to "pearl" websites, photos, and notes, and to organize those pearls into trees for easy access. Users can also see related pearls from other users, and "pick" them to add to the user's own trees. In the free version all pearls are public; privacy can be had in the pay versions. I would prefer to be able to choose whether my trees are public or private, so I don't like the fact that Pearltrees makes you pay for that choice. But I doubt I'll be using the app much, so I guess it's a moot point.

I did not find it very intuitive to use. The app's own information on how to use it was long on concepts and short on specifics--I was able to easily add websites and notes, but once added I never saw them again. The appearance of my home page did not change, except that once I added something it would show me a "related" icon, which did nothing when I tapped it. I couldn't see the pearls I had added, and could find no information as to where they were supposed to be. The app includes something called the dropzone, which I believe is where pearls are stored until they are organized into trees, but I could not see any way to see the contents of the dropzone. So I could not organize my pearls, and also could not access them in their un-organized state. I don't know what Pearltrees did with them, but once I added them they seemed to disappear.

There were a couple of instances where the app said to use a tool supposedly visible onscreen, which was actually not. So it may be that the app simply doesn't work properly on an iPod touch, even though the app store claims they are compatible. I still consider that attempting to use it has been a good learning experience.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

23 things: thing 6

Thing 6 is document creation and editing, and I tried out Quickoffice. It's not something I see myself using much, if ever. On a tablet it would make a little more sense, but creating documents on an iPod or phone is a hassle. The screen and keyboard are tiny, and I have to type with one hand while holding the device in the other hand. I can't imagine any circumstance in which I need /want to create a document but the only computer available to me to do it on is my iPod.

Having said that, how is Quickoffice as a product? I looked through the example documents before creating anything, to get an idea of what it can do, and it seemed serviceable, nothing fancy. There are a row of buttons at the bottom of the screen to allow basic editing options--different fonts and type size, bold/italic/underline, paragraph formatting, spellcheck, search-and-replace, word count, undo/redo, printing options. Basic, useful stuff. However, I found that when I actually started typing in a new document, those buttons were not there. If I tapped "Done" and the keyboard went away, then the buttons long as I had the iPod in vertical, portrait orientation. In landscape, the buttons simply weren't there. And I type in landscape, because it makes the keyboard slightly bigger and I hit fewer wrong keys.

How big a drawback is this? Hard to say. I can't access the buttons anyway without hitting Done and making the keyboard go away, and there's no reason to keep it in landscape if I'm not using the keyboard. But it is one more step separating the typing from the editing. The editing works fine once I was able to get to it. I tried formatting my paragraphs, spell-checked, and did a word count. Documents can be stored in the cloud (Google Drive), so they don't take up space on the device.

On the whole, I'd say that Quickoffice is a bit cumbersome but functional. If I absolutely had to create a document on my iPod, this app would allow me to do that, but there are better means, on larger computers with real keyboards, available to me.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

23 mobile things: thing 4

I skipped over thing 4 at first, because my initial experience was not entirely useful. I downloaded Flipboard to my iPod touch, and found that it did not function as I expected. The welcome screen contained nothing but the login for existing accounts, and a prompt to create an account. I was not able to flip past the welcome screen, which online tutorials said should be possible. It simply wouldn't flip. I can only assume that on an older device running iOS 5, you have to create an account to use flipboard. I choose not to do this, because I read their privacy policy and I don't care for it.

So flipboard is out. Zite is also out, because it requires iOS 7. So I did some research of my own to find another RSS app that will work on my device, and decided on a combination of products: I set up Feedly on my computer at home, and installed Newsify on my iPod to sync with it.

So far I am happy with my choice. Feedly allows me to search for content by specific url or by subject. It provides a list of common subjects of interest, but when I entered one that was not on their list (science) it provided a list of appropriate websites just as it does with the more common ones. Content can be organized on the page in several different ways (list, magazine, cards, etc). I currently have it set to magazine. When I add a new source, it prompts me to give it a label, and then groups all feeds with the same label into folders.

Newsify syncs with feedly whenever I open it while connected to the internet. I can choose to display my feeds in the app either as a list or magazine. The home page displays my folders, as well as All Items, Unread Items, and Starred Items (I haven't starred anything yet), with numbers by each one giving the total unread items. Once I go into a folder, there is a settings button that allows me to mark all as read if I want.

On the whole, I think that this setup is equivalent to the app choices given on the 23mobilethings website. I hope this counts as a completed thing. I think it is a challenge to do these things on an older device. I'm doing more of my own research to choose which app to use, even on the things where I've used one of the suggested apps, which makes it an even greater learning experience. In any case, I'm very happy with feedly/newsify.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

23 mobile things: thing 5

For thing 5, I'm trying Remember the milk. I've added a couple of tasks, deleted one, marked one complete, and added a note. I've poked around in the settings and read some of the help topics, to get a better idea what things the app can do, and how to make it do them. I've enabled tags as a default field, but haven't changed the settings otherwise so far.

It seems like a good tool. There are extra features, like push notifications, that are only available if you upgrade to the pro version, but I think the free version is fine. You can view your tasks in various calendars if you want (Apple calendar, Google calendar, your device's calendar).

It's fairly easy to use. The first screen you see when you open it has a lot of icons that aren't explained, but just going through them and tapping each one reveals their function if the pictures used aren't enough. I like it.