Every week the editors at iMore carefully select some of our favorite, most useful, most extraordinary apps, accessories, gadgets, and websites. This weeks selections include apps for weather, for tasks, for to-dos, for design, for guitar learning, and for fitness.
Sometimes you just want to know what the temperature is. Sometimes you want a little more, but you don't really want to wait around for your local meteorologist at 5 p.m. You might even want to know what it will be like over the next 2-3 days.
If you have an iPad and an active data connection, a great solution is WeatherMotion HD. WeatherMotion HD gives you today's weather and forecast along with the forecast for the next three days - all in stunning HD. The hook with this app is the video wallpaper behind each forecast. The attached screenshot just cannot do it justice. You see simply a daisy behind today's weather information. I see a daisy blowing gently in the wind, it's petals moving from side to side on the breeze. Depending on the weather and corresponding image, you might see clouds drifting by, casting lazy shadows on the fields below, or thunderstorms unleashing the fury of Mother Nature.
WeatherMotion HD even has a sound track, if you are so inclined. The sound is always soothing, and good enough to nap to! And if the soundtrack causes you to nod off, you also get an alarm option so that WeatherMotion HD will wake you up, as well as lull you to sleep.
Set your location manually (great if you're trying to keep up with friends and relatives in different climes) or allow location services to use your current location. In a word, this app is just beautiful.
I've been making a concerted effort to streamline my productivity goals in the past few weeks, because I go through periods in which I try everything under the sun, and then dial it back to almost zero to reset my brain. Part of this process relies heavily on utilizing my email inbox since I live in it all day (see my former Pick of the Week Captio for a great way to do this). Another part that I'm in the process of rediscovering is using the built-in Reminders app new to iOS 5.
When iOS 5 beta was released, I played with Reminders for exactly five minutes before I deemed it nearly useless to me, as it fell in the shadow of several more robust task apps I was using at the time. Since then, iOS 5 has been released officially, iCloud support has become reliable (I didn't risk playing with it in beta) and Siri has added an input mechanism that proves indispensable for quick addition of items. Only this week did I discover that I could set recurring reminders (I know, I don't know how I missed it) to fire every week, month, or at an interval of my choosing. So I've decided to use Reminders as an ancillary support to my inbox, and I put all my personal tasks into Reminders now.
I used to use calendar alerts to remind me of recurring items, but sometimes I'd miss the notification on the desktop, and for the longest time I had everyone's calendar in the office syncing on my iPhone, so I started dismissing and ignoring alerts since they popped up all the time. I've stopped using those types of alerts for certain things and moved them into Reminders instead. I like the way that the Reminders notifications stack up in Notification Center, and I keep them at the top so that every time I pull that shade, I'm reminded of what's coming up or what needs to be done in the next short span of time. I still use other standard calendar alerts for business meetings and such, but having iCloud sync Reminders from the Mac to the iPhone and back again has become my new favorite thing. Until my next favorite thing.
After reading Leanna's review of HQ: To Do, I had to try it out. I already use the default built-in Reminders app but there was something that made me want to try HQ: To Do. Maybe it was the design or the overall feel of the app but I'm glad I did. I've found it to be an excellent way to track projects and add tasks to them on the go. Reminders will let me sort through my tasks my list but not add things to a project.
I've tried several project management apps and while I find some to be incredibly good, they aren't always easy to use. HQ: To Do solves this problem by creating a clean and appealing interface to dead easy to use controls. Not only is it easy to create projects and add tasks, the app is just beautifully designed. I've also found myself using it for grocery lists.
Now I just use my reminders apps to remind me of broad tasks and deadlines. I have started using HQ: To Do to manage individual tasks that are part of a bigger project. If you need a good project app, HQ: To Do is definitely worth checking out!
Skala Preview and Skala View are a brilliant piece of kit from the brilliant piece of kit makers at Bjango. It's not an app combo for everyone, but for iOS app designers who have long been seeking a way to preview pixel- and color-perfect versions of their app designs on iOS, it's a godsend. Now I'll caveat this up-frontish: Marc Edwards, who runs Bjango, is also my co-host on the Iterate podcast so some may think I'm predisposed to give his stuff a defacto recommendation. Far from it. It just means I was fortunate to have heard about it a little early, and had a chance to try it for a couple of days before release.
Here's what it does: Skala Preview is a $4.99 Mac App Store app and Skala View is a free iOS app. Get them both. Install them on your Mac and iPhone/iPad. And from then on you can take user interface designs you're working on in Photoshop (or pixel editing apps) and push them over to your iPhone or iPad, grab your magnifying glass, and see how it holds up. If you're using Adobe Photoshop CS 5 12.0.4 or up, all this can happen in real time, while you work. Nudge here, it shows up there. If you're using older versions of Photoshop, or if you're a Fireworks, Acorn, or Pixelmator guy, Skala will watch your clipboard and any time you copy to it, Skala Preview will grab it and Skala View will show it on your device. You can zoom crisply, you can preview landscape and portrait, you can test different color-blindness options, and you can push to multiple iOS devices at once.
It's not perfect, mind you. Both Photoshop, which only copies to clipboard when the app loses focus, and Apple, who tightly controls what apps can and can't do, sometimes force an extra step here or there. But in each case Skala does as much of the heavy lifting as possible, and offers simply the best workflow to date for previewing design work done on a Mac, on actual iPhones and iPads.
Kudos to Marc and Bjango. They found an itch and scratched it to the delight of designers everywhere.
I'm going a little off the charts this week with my selection. It's something I know not everyone will be interested in but it's a good selection for those it's meant for. Beginner Guitar Lessons is an app from the folks at GuitarJamz.com, a site that is dedicated to helping you learn how to play guitar and has great video lessons for those interested. They have a few apps in the iTunes App Store, but sticking to basics I chose Beginner Guitar Lessons because it comes with a guide to help you learn how to tune your guitar, teaches you basic chords and includes built in function to playback a set of numerous beginner guitar lesson videos. The owner, Marty does a great job of explaining what you need to know and best of all -- the app is free to download. It's basic but the information in the app is great for those wanting to learn how to play guitar.
We're into the second week of Mobile Nations fitness month and I have have a confession to make -- I've been doing a terrible job. One of my assignments for this week was to find a great fitness app to give away to you guys, and I settled on Hundred PushUps, a training program that will have you doing 100 consecutive push ups in 6 weeks. At the same time, I decided that it's time for me to get serious about fitness month (or fitness life, really) and my husband and I are working through Hundred PushUps together.
Hundred PushUps first instructs you to do as many push ups as you can and record your result. Form there, the app will build your routine and tell you how many push ups to do each day. Today, I had to do two sets of 6 push ups, followed by two sets of 4 pushups, and finish off with one set of 5 push ups -- with a 60s timed rest between each set. I was very impressed with out accurately predicted what I would be able to do.
I'm really looking forward to finishing this fitness program and I think you should join me!
Looking for the best way to watch live or archived business and financial news? Or maybe you're just interesting in the latest stock statistics from the companies you follow? Bloomberg TV+ is the answer, with access to live Bloomberg television 24-hours a day as well as a number of popular programs on-demand.
Bloomberg TV+ is one of the first -- if not the first -- apps to provide access to the worlds most popular networks in the business/finance realm at absolutely no cost. Think of it as an "app as a channel", where by launching Bloomberg TV+, you're basically tuning into the network without requiring a subscription or cable provider. You can even download videos directly to your iPad for offline viewing if you know you'll soon be away from a WiFi network or out of 3G range (perfect for flights or long trips). When you're done watching your favorite program, you can share with Twitter, Facebook or via email.
In addition to live news, you also have access to on-demand content from a number of popular programs including Charlie Rose, Tech Stars, Innovators, Game Changers and more. Bloomberg TV+ offers access to a multitude of high-profile interviews as well, so if business and finances is your thing, there's really no longer a need for a standard cable subscription with everything Bloomberg TV+ makes available. If you're looking for some help in "cutting the cable", Bloomberg TV+ is definitely going to help you get there!
What was the best app, accessory, gadget, or website you saw or used this week? How did it make your life more productive, more informed, more entertaining, or simply more fun? We're always on the lookout for new and amazing bits and atoms, and we'd love to know your pick of the week. Leave it in the comments below!