Great apps

Speaking of great things, Apple recently announced their annual Apple Design Award winners. They honor developers and designers whose apps stood out from a very crowded field in the ever expanding Apple App Store.

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I was especially happy to see Day One win for its Mac app. It won previously for its great iOS app. Day One, the ultimate journal, is one of my most used apps. It’s beautiful and smart and has become a daily part of my attempt to chronicle and reflect on my life.

I use some of the other award winning apps, too. Sky Guide is magical. Just hold your device to the sky, and it shows you which stars or planets or constellations you’re seeing. (Or point your device at the ground and see the stars visible from the other side of the Earth!) At the beach this week we’ve used Sky Guide a few times to identify the planets appearing in the sunset sky.

Monument Valley is a beautiful, frustratingly challenging, and ultimately satisfyingly delightful iPad game. My 9-year-old went from near tears to fist-pumping triumph and back again trying to play her way through the many levels of puzzles. She’s playing it through again as I write this.

Threes is a fun and engrossing game with charming little details throughout.

There are a lot of poorly executed apps out there, apps that don’t delight. Too many developers are looking for a quick and easy buck, hoping to be the next Instagram or Angry Birds. I appreciate creators who disdain the “quick and easy” approach, and instead put in the effort to make beautifully designed and smartly executed apps that solve problems and add value to my life.

I’m amused by friends who flinch when I recommend an app that costs $3, or, heaven forbid, $5. (These same friends think nothing of dropping that much or more on a cup of coffee that’s gone in a few minutes.) I’m actually a bit leery of free apps. Is this free app going to target ads at me or set me up for in-app purchases or mine my information for some other service? I would rather pay directly to the makers of products I value and know I’m getting my money’s worth.

Go for quality in the things you possess, including the apps you use. Kudos to the makers who bring such wonderful tools to our devices.

Here are my current iPhone and iPad home screens:

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My bookshelf

I’ve gone to iBooks as my primary reading app. Books just look better in iBooks compared to the Kindle app. iBooks allows for a natural ragged right margin, which is so much more appealing than the jarring full justification of Kindle titles. And I’m kind of digging the scrolling option that iBooks offers rather than standard page turns.

I received a generous iTunes gift card for Christmas from my in-laws. When my wife asked me what my favorite gift was, I said it was the iTunes card. It was a pleasure to ponder and explore book recommendations for a couple of weeks, and I was emboldened to be more adventurous with my acquisitions.

Below is a screenshot of the top of my bookshelf on my iPad. I’m especially enjoying Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote, a wry look at the positive benefits of negative thinking. It’s a nice complement to my recent readings in the Stoic philosophers.

I recently finished Candice Millard’s excellent Destiny of the Republic, a page-turner of a history book. I’ll post some thoughts on it soon.

I tend to dip in and out of books until one grabs hold and compels me to commit to it. Burkeman’s book is pulling me in now. Looking forward to working my way through this stack.

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