Ulysses Mobile

March 18, 2016 by macjeff

Ulysses Mobile ($19.99) by The Soulmen GbR has finally been updated to bring the desktop-class writing experience to your iPhone. Previously, Ulysses was only available on the Mac, then it came onto the iPad. And now the trifecta is now complete with an iPhone version. If you love to write, and write a lot (especially on-the-go), then having Ulysses Mobile on your iPhone will prove to be an invaluable and essential tool.

Ever since I was a kid, I loved writing. I wrote my own stories (as corny as they were at the time), and I always had a lot to write for essays and assignments in school. When I got to high school, I made sure I joined the school paper, as journalism was a thing that interested me. When I got to college, I went after a journalism degree because I love the news and I love writing, so it was a perfect fit for me. Since I ended up at AppAdvice, I truly love what I do — write about iOS apps everyday. Because I am always checking out what is on the App Store and writing, I end up writing a few thousand words a week. For a mobile person, I need a writing editor that can work with me as well.

I only recently bought Ulysses for my Mac a few weeks ago, and have fallen in love with how it handles all of my files and lets me edit them without having to go through the traditional Finder method. While I have an old iPad 3, I hardly ever use it anymore, and so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Ulysses on the iPhone, so that I can use it on my iPhone 6s Plus. Now the day has come where it is finally universal, and I put it through its paces. Basically, this is one of the best writing apps a writer could have on their iOS (and Mac) device.

Visually, Ulysses Mobile has a simple and clean aesthetic, which will appeal to all minimalists out there. Honestly, if you show Ulysses Mobile to someone who does not know much about apps, they may think that it’s just another app that comes pre-installed on the iPhone, because it has the barebones iOS look. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of how the app looks — there are plenty of customization options, the organizational layout is intuitive and straightforward, everything is super responsive, there are plenty of power-user keyboard extensions (great for both writers and coders), fast iCloud syncing, and a ton of different ways to get your writing out of the app. While Ulysses looks like a simple text editor on the surface, it packs quite a punch when it comes to all of your writing needs in one place.

While I’m fairly new to Ulysses, one feature I did love about the Mac version is the fact that you can just add external folders to the file pane, I was a bit disappointed to see that this did not work the same in the iOS version. I’ve been saving all of my writings to Dropbox for the past several years, and it is the primary place where I store my files. Unfortunately, on the iOS version, I am not able to get access to my Dropbox folders, since they put the focus on iCloud syncing. It’s a shame, really, as I don’t entirely trust iCloud, but I’ll have to make-do with it for now, copying my completed files over to Dropbox while I’m using Ulysses on my Mac. Hopefully the developers can reconsider this in the future.

Now, as with any writing environment, you’ll want to make it yours before you fully dive in to it, as it should help you focus on writing when things are set up the way you like. To change how Ulysses looks, just tap on the gear icon when you’re in a sheet (new or existing). You’re able to change all of the editor settings, including font, layout, theme, dark mode toggle for writing at night, text editing, sheet preview, and markdown format. As far as fonts go, users can choose from any of the installed fonts on their device, or install custom fonts by opening an OTF or TFF file in the Ulysses app. I’m a big fan of this, because having the right typeface while writing motivates me to write more and more, and it’s just nice to have a lot of choice when it comes to creating your perfect writing environment.

While Ulysses Mobile places the focus on iCloud, there is still an External Files section in the Library, though Dropbox does not work. However, you can import DOCX, Markdown, or text files from iCloud, or Google Drive, and edit those as you please. Hopefully one day, Dropbox files can be edited directly from Ulysses Mobile as well.

When you want to create a new sheet, just navigate to the Library source you want to add it to, and then tap on the “New Sheet” button that is located in the bottom toolbar. Ulysses will then go into the sheet in editor mode, so you can start writing. To edit files that you already have, just tap on the one you want to work on, and you’ll be in editing mode as well.

As you’re in editing mode, you can do a lot of different things. There’s a magnifying glass that lets you search for keywords in the document, in case you need to replace it with a synonym or just see how many times you used a single word. There is an undo and redo button in case of those writing boo-boos. In the middle of the keyboard extension are three buttons: a hamburger button, a format button, and a Command (⌘) button. Each of these has a different function, with the hamburger being for heading text, comment, code, or source blocks, lists, block quotes, line breaks, indent and outdent, and clearing your markup. The format button lets you format your text for strong (bold), emphasis (italics), links, comment, images, video, footnotes, annotations, and more. The Command button lets you insert the beginning and ends of brackets, parentheses, and other symbols. At the very end of the keyboard extension are two buttons for navigating the cursor left and right.

While there aren’t any workflows (such as Editorial) that you can use in Ulysses to make your life easier, Ulysses Mobile still has an impressive feature set when it comes to writing. Plus, you’re able to see all of the formatting, inserted images and video placeholders, links, and other fun stuff in your text as you write. They’re all color-coded so you can easily differentiate them from one another.

When you’re done with your writings, there are several different ways to get them out of Ulysses Mobile. Just tap on the Share button at the top of the document, and you can choose between HTML, Text, ePub, PDF, DOCX, and even Medium. Then you can change the style depending on the format you chose, as well as the paper format. Once you’re done making your choices on how to export it, tap on the “…” button to see what actions you can take. The file can be sent to or opened in another app, printed, or uploaded to iCloud Drive, Google Docs, or Dropbox.

Despite the fact that I’m still pretty new to the whole Ulysses family, I am in love with the app so far. On the Mac, Ulysses has replaced Byword, and Ulysses Mobile is giving Editorial on my iPhone a run for its money. I love the customization of the app, the super fast syncing (changes are almost instantaneous between my Mac and iPhone), and the powerful keyboard extension makes writing so much easier on-the-go. However, I’m just a bit annoyed that I can’t access my Dropbox folder directly for editing without some workarounds, and I do miss having workflows, though it’s something I can try to get used to. Still, Ulysses Mobile is an excellent writing tool for any writer, and having it available on all of your devices makes it a winner.

I highly recommend giving Ulysses Mobile a try if you haven’t already. It’s a powerful and comprehensive text editor that is flexible enough to work with you, for the most part. You can get Ulysses Mobile on the App Store as a universal download for $19.99 for a limited time (normally $24.99). Ulysses for Mac is also available on the Mac App Store for $44.99. If you already owned Ulysses for iPad, this is a free update. The Mac version was also updated today with many improvements, notably to iCloud syncing with the iOS version.

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credit : appadvice

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Placeboard – Remember, organize and share your favorite places or locations

March 18, 2016 by macjeff

Placeboard – Remember, organize and share your favorite places or locations ($4.99) by Quentin Mathe is an app to help you remember and organize those places that you love or want to visit. It is similar to other apps that are already out on the market, such as Rego and Picplace.

I love going out and exploring new places to eat or hang out with my friends and family, but when you live in a big city like Los Angeles, keeping track of all of that can be quite a daunting task — it’s a huge city with plenty of smaller cities in it, after all. As I am constantly getting recommendations on new places to eat or check out, I have to keep a list somewhere that I can refer to it later. I use Yelp often for bookmarking, but it’s a damn shame that they think of bookmarks as an afterthought — it’s incredibly hard to get to within the app and even the website. I have been using Rego often since I gave it a whirl in 2014, but I’m always up for checking out new apps that do things similarly to what I already use. I mean, how else will I determine which app works better for my needs? So when I got the news of Placeboard in my inbox, I was intrigued in giving it a try as well.

The design of Placeboard is pretty simple and barebones compared to the competition, so if you are a fan of minimalism, then Placeboard has it. The app features a lot of white with a soothing mint green accent, which I like a lot. The typography is fairly plain and easy to read, the iconography is straightforward, and everything is organized by groups and tags, making it easy to navigate. Instead of relying on just folders and lists, Placeboard makes use of tags, which is the more popular and efficient way of organizing things it seems (this is how I use Evernote). You can even collaborate with other users to create lists of hot spots, which is fantastic for vacations or fun trips with friends and family. If you’ve used other apps like Rego, then it may take a bit of getting used to Placeboard, since some things are a bit different. However, once you get the basics, the app is pretty easy to use.

When you first launch Placeboard, the app will be empty, naturally. To add an item, just tap on the “plus” button in the top right corner. This brings up three options: Place, Tag, or Share List.

If you choose to add a place, Placeboard brings up a screen where you can select the range radius (from 500 feet to infinite), then type in the point of interest that you’re searching for. Placeboard will give you results instantly, and you can see just how far away the place is from your current location. Another option is to drop a custom pin wherever you want, in case you can’t find it in the search results. When you find the one you’re looking for, just tap on it to select it, and then tap the “Add” button in the top right corner. Then it will be under “Unclassified,” though you can tap the item to view it on the map, get business details like address, city, phone number, and even website link. Other things you can do with the spot is give it a rating out of five stars, add tags for organizational purposes, add notes, edit the business information if needed, and add photos to better recognize a spot. There are also buttons so you can get directions in Apple Maps, directly call a business, or visit their website.

When you deal with tags, you can add as many tags as you want, and assign a color to each one. Placeboard is pretty smart about this, as it will automatically hide colors that you’ve already used, though you can tap a toggle to show used colors. Tags will show up on the main view, with the icons shown in the selected color, and you can see how many locations have been added with a particular tag. Once you have accumulated several spots in the app, you can tap on the “Cities” section to view all of the different cities that you have spots added in, and tapping them lets you see what you have. Unfortunately, there is no number badge on the Cities section, so you can’t see how many items are under each location — perhaps the developer can consider changing this in a future update. You can also view “All” if you prefer to see everything you have in the app with one glance, rather than going into separate sections.

By default, Placeboard will show you collections in just a plain list view. However, you can view everything on a map with a tap of a button, and it will display all of your points of interest on the map with pins. This is more of what I’m used to since that is the default view of Rego, so I appreciate being able to see all of my spots on a map at once. You can use multitouch gestures to zoom in and out and pan the map around if need be.

The last option in Placeboard is to create a Share List. This lets you create a new list by giving it a name and color, and you can choose between a Tag List or Share List. A Tag List is similar to just creating a new tag and grouping several places under it, but a Share List lets you invite other users and then collaborate on the selected list, so you are basically crowdsourcing points of interests with your friends and family. Just tap on the “People” section to invite, and then tap on the “plus” button in the list to add places.

Placeboard also keeps a history of all actions that occurred in the app, which is pretty nice. You can view your history by tapping on the clock icon in the bottom tab bar, and you can switch between List or App History. The List History only displays changes that were made to lists, such as adding or removing items, and App History has a full list of what you’ve done in the app, such as editing information, giving ratings, adding items, and more. You can tap on the “Edit” button in the main view to do things like delete lists and tags, or even edit the name and color. The settings in Placeboard have options for changing your distance unit, history size (from 500 to 10,000 actions, though the slider is very inaccurate once you lift your finger from the screen), and how often Shared Lists should be synced. You can also import or export data to and from iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or even Google Drive.

So far, I’m finding Placeboard to be a handy little app to have to keep track of places I love and ones I want to hit up someday. The app itself is minimalistic, pretty easy to use, and has a lot of flexible features to make it work for you. However, I don’t think it will be replacing Rego for me, personally, but it’s a good and cheaper alternative to consider, since it’s a $4.99 price tag versus the $14.99 of Rego. I hope the developer makes some improvements, though, such as adding a number count for spots under each city and an easier and more accurate slider option for app action history. It would also be nice to see other options for directions in the app, such as Google Maps and Waze, instead of just Apple Maps.

I recommend checking out Placeboard if you want a simple app for keeping track of your favorite spots and ones you want to visit one day. Plus, the ability to collaborate with others make this a great app for trip planning.

Placeboard is available on the iPhone App Store for just $4.99. There are no in-app purchases.

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March 18, 2016 by macjeff

_PRISM ($2.99) by Clint Siu is an atmospheric puzzle game that takes you on a journey through a microcosmic galaxy. If you need to unwind after a long day with an immersive puzzle game on your iOS device, then _PRISM is worth checking out. It has a similar vibe to some other games out on the market, such as Cobe the Gallery and Maestria.

During my time here at AppAdvice, I’ve covered hundreds of games in the past several years. I’ve tried many different genres, and while I pretty much love anything that can just help me pass the time, my favorite is still the good old puzzle game. These are the types of games that stimulate my mind while also putting me at ease, which is something I need even more as of late. I think I’ve tried pretty much every popular puzzle game that there is on the App Store, but as you know, I’m always on the lookout for the next big thing, because variety is definitely the spice of life. So when I got news of _PRISM in my inbox, I was intrigued and had to check it out.

The visuals in _PRISM are absolutely gorgeous. Since it takes place in a self-described “microcosmic galaxy,” the game features dark color gradients in the background that are filled with particles of light that closely resemble stars. The level selection screen resembles a geometric solar system, as there is a large orb in the middle (like a sun) that has different shapes surrounding it, though nothing moves as if in orbit. All of the shapes are fully rendered in 3-D, with silky, reflective surfaces thanks to the stunning lighting system and soft particle effects, and seamless transitions as they expand and collapse during gameplay. The animations in the game are smooth and fluid, with no lag or choppiness on my iPhone 6s Plus. The ambient soundtrack is peaceful and calming, which is delightful to listen to as you play since it should help you focus. Sound effects are whimsical and somewhat mysterious, which only add to the overall charm of the game.

Like other puzzle games, _PRISM features a variety of puzzles that come in multiple stages that you must solve before moving on to the next. The game has a total of 13 levels at the moment, which only total about an hour of gameplay. This is a bit disappointing since it seems so short, but it can also serve as a way to just sit back and relax due to the graphics and music. Hopefully the developer is considering adding more stages in the future, because at the moment, the price is a tad high for what you get.

Controls in _PRISM are simple enough to understand, as everything is pretty straightforward and intuitive. As you go through the puzzles, you’ll be using a combination of multitouch gestures to adjust the camera angle and move lines around in order to find the solution. The objects can be rotated by dragging your finger around, you can pinch to zoom in or out, lines can be rotated by using two fingers, and drag the solid dots to move line patterns into their proper places on the side of the object. When you figure out the answer to one side of the object, another face will light up and you’ll have to go there and solve that part. You repeat this process until you find the solution for all of the lit up sides and complete that shape in the galaxy.

So the game is made up of various shapes and lines, but there’s more to it than that. According to the developer’s app description, each piece of geometry is a symbol of the classical elements that build up our lives and the rest of the world. It’s a bit philosophical for a puzzle game, but I believe it is done incredibly well. The game serves as your own camera lens into these elements and the exploration of each can be done at your own pace, so it’s a nice, meditative experience. For a game that is only made by one person, it’s rather impressive.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what _PRISM has to offer, but so far I’m enjoying the ride. The visuals are downright beautiful, the music is captivating and immersive, the controls feel natural, and the gameplay is rather interesting. If you need a way to relax, then this is the perfect little gem to do so. I just hope to see more content in the future, if at all possible.

I recommend giving the game a try if you want a zen-like puzzle game that you can play at your own pace after a long, hectic day. You can get _PRISM on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for just $2.99. There are no in-app purchases.

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Shadow Blade: Reload

March 18, 2016 by macjeff

Shadow Blade: Reload ($4.99) by Crescent Moon Games and Dead Mage is the surprise remake of the original Shadow Blade that came out back in January 2014. If you love fast-paced action platformers, ninjas, and epic combat, then Shadow Blade: Reload is the perfect mix for you.

Ever since I started watching anime in high school, I developed a liking for ninjas and all kinds of crazy action in cartoons. I mean, what’s not to like about stealthy shadow-like warriors who use katanas and are super agile? And of course, I grew up on platformer games back in the day, so naturally, when you mix in kickass ninjas and action-packed platforming, I’m all over it like white on rice. I enjoyed the original Shadow Blade when it first came out two years ago, but as a big Crescent Moon Games fan, I was eager to check out what else they had in store for this awesome action platformer game. Turns out they did not disappoint.

Visually, Shadow Blade: Reload is stunning. Since the original came out a while ago, the graphics in this followup are much more polished and look fantastic on Retina screens. It has a classic graphic novel art style to it, which just adds to the overall charm of the title. The environments are vast and full of small details, and the colors in the game are a nice mix of dark and gloomy and rich, vibrant hues, depending on where you are. Shadow Blade: Reload also doesn’t skimp out on the textures, so everything is about as realistic as you’d expect from a detailed graphic novel. Animations in the game are smooth and fluid, with no lag on my iPhone 6s Plus. The ambient soundtrack is captivating and fits in perfectly with the theme, making you feel drawn into the world. Sound effects are a bit “bloody” as you slice up your foes, but that just adds to the charm of the game. I mean, it’s ninjas — what did you expect, rainbows and sunshine?

In Shadow Blade: Reload, there are two game modes: Story and Challenges. The Story will take you through the campaign, which has a pretty simple enough story and you’ll traverse through different stages on a map until you finally restore balance in the world. There are more than 40 levels, and each stage has a different layout, naturally, and you must go from the start to the ending point while getting rid of all of the enemies that stand in your way. There are also four challenging boss fights that you’ll need to best to progress in the game. You get a grade at the end of a level depending on your performance, with points awarded for completing it quickly, kills, and completion (finding orbs and kanji). If you die, you get penalized for it, so the less deaths, the better. Challenges are more like tests of skill and endurance, with difficulty levels that are much harder than the campaign levels. These are real challenges and not for the faint of heart — I recommend playing the story mode first and mastering the basics before even attempting to do Challenges.

Controls in Shadow Blade: Reload are simple and straightforward. If you’ve played platformers before on the iOS platform, then you’ll be familiar with the generic control scheme. In the bottom left will be two directional buttons for your character to move left or right. You can double tap on these arrow buttons to perform a dash in that direction, allowing you to smash through some feeble wooden blockades. On the opposite side, you have three buttons: jump, attack, and ranged attack with shurikens (ninja stars). You’re only able to throw three shurikens at a time, so make sure to keep an eye on that in the top left corner to make sure you have enough at any given time. You can perform double jumps by tapping the button twice, and when you’re on a wall, your ninja can perform wall jumps consecutively as long as you keep the momentum going. As you’re in range of enemies, tapping on the attack button lets you slice them up and move on.

Due to the fast-paced nature of the game, you will die if you fall into a dangerous obstacle like spikes, or get hit by an enemy (ranged or melee). However, there are many checkpoints that are scattered throughout each stage that allows you to pick up from that point if you die, though again, you are penalized for deaths, so keep them to a minimum if possible. You can always attempt to restart it and try for no deaths after you memorize how a stage goes. As new enemy types are introduced in the game, you’ll get some interesting little cutscenes that show off their unique specialities, which let you strategize how to bring them down.

Even though there is a set number of stages in the campaign and challenge modes, there is plenty of replay value to be had here. You’ll always want to go back and replay levels to find all orbs and kanji that you may have missed, and it’s fun to try and best your own previous high score. The game also has Game Center integration for leaderboards and achievements, so you can compare scores with each other.

I’ve only been playing Shadow Blade: Reload for a bit, but so far I’m loving every second of it. The game looks gorgeous, the music gets you in the mood for some ninja action, and the controls are intuitive. Gameplay starts out pretty simple, but the difficulty level amps up gradually, giving you enough of a challenge to keep you busy. Having two different modes means there is enough variety in the game to keep things fresh as well, so the replay value is high. The only thing I don’t like about the game is that everything looks rather small on the iPhone, even the 6s Plus, so I wish that things could be a bit bigger, as I sometimes died due to not clearly seeing what was ahead because of the small graphics and fast pace. Hopefully this can be fixed in the future, but it is still a fun game overall.

I recommend checking out Shadow Blade: Reload if you are a fan of Crescent Moon Games, enjoy ninjas and bloody platforming action. You can get Shadow Blade: Reload on the App Store as a universal app for the iPhone and iPad for just $4.99. There are no in-app purchases.

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March 18, 2016 by macjeff

Abzorb ($2.99) by Gerald Kelley is an arcade game that involves a lot of absorption, tilting, and fast reflexes. If you enjoyed titles like Tilt To Live 2: Redonkulous and its predecessor, then you are sure to love what Abzorb brings to the table.

I have gone through hundreds of games on iOS throughout the years, and while I’ve tried many genres, I believe that the arcade game that can be enjoyed in short bursts throughout the day is one of the best for the platform. These are fast-paced, levels are usually short, and it’s challenging enough so that you don’t just breeze right through everything. These games are the ones that you can enjoy on your commute or while you wait in line at the store. I’ve gone through plenty of these arcade style games, but I am always on the lookout for new ones to keep me occupied. This week, I was delighted to check out Abzorb this week when news of it hit my inbox.

Visually, Abzorb features a simple and clean style that minimalists will love. The game sports a slightly off-white background that provides great contrast for the blue and red circles, dark gray lines, and the triangle that you control in all of the craziness. Everything is flat, so it goes well with modern iOS aesthetics, and the sans serif typography is easy to read, even when the remaining time in the background of a level is blurred. The colors all go together well, and the animations are smooth and fluid with no lag on my iPhone 6s Plus. There are also other color themes that you can unlock as you play the game, so there is plenty of choice to be had once you get far enough. The ambient soundtrack is soothing and relaxing, which is nice compared to the hectic action of the gameplay itself. Sound effects are pretty fun, as they have a “clicky” sound to them, which are nice indicators of when you are doing something right or something bad is happening. Overall, Abzorb is a nice little gem in term of visuals and audio.

Like a lot of other arcade games, Abzorb is based on levels and has a total of 65 stages for you to tilt your way through. The objective is pretty straightforward: fill your triangle’s surrounding circle with blue, which is absorbed from the blue circles that are flying around. The absorption process starts when the blue is contained within your own circle, but be careful to not bump into them, as you’ll bounce away and have to recover. Watch out for the red circles, though, as they will steal time away from you, and those seconds matter a lot. There is a time limit on each level, as indicated by the ticking numbers in the background, and you can earn up to three stars on stages depending on your performance. The remaining time on a level is your final score. Once your triangle’s circle is filled with blue through its entirety, then you’ve cleared the stage and can move on to the next.

Controls in Abzorb are entirely tilt-based, so prepare to look a bit weird if you want to play it in public. When the game is first launched, it will ask you if you prefer a custom or flat positioning, with the latter being the recommendation. No matter which one you choose, though, the controls are pretty much the same all around — just tilt your device to steer your triangle around on the screen, collect and absorb the blue while avoiding the red. Sometimes you’ll also encounter special orbs that can give you bonuses or help you out, such as extending the range at which you can absorb blue, time extensions, and more. As you find and discover these special orbs, you’ll find out what they can do, so you’ll want to make sure to use them to your advantage.

Even though there are only 65 levels in the game, I found the replay value of it to be pretty high. This is because you can go back to any stage to replay it and hopefully get a better score than your last best one, as well as earn all of those precious stars. There is also Game Center integration so you can climb the leaderboards and impress your friends.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of Abzorb, but so far I’m finding the game to be rather enjoyable. I love the minimal graphics, the music and sounds are fun, and the gameplay itself is pretty challenging. But the intuitive and natural controls mean that it is easy to pick up and play but put down when needed. This is a title that is best enjoyed in short bursts throughout the day, so it’s a great time-waster when you need it.

I recommend giving Abzorb a try if you’re in the mood for a simple pick-up-and-play arcade game that tests your speed and reflexes. You can find Abzorb on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for just $2.99. There are no in-app purchases.

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