E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #6

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés Beach

 

Continuing further along with the series of blog posts for My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week, here we are, once again, with the next round of iOS apps I would want to share across that may be worth while checking out, in case you may not have played with, nor seen, them just yet. As usual, this list of recommended apps, unless stated otherwise, would be available for both iPad and iPhone, so you can make your pick accordingly. Also, as I have mentioned in a previous entry that I will be doing from there onwards, I will be sharing along the main themes where these apps would be fitting in, so you can have a sneak peek to check what’s coming up next. So this week’s themes would be Utilities, Productivity, Healthcare & Fitness, Reference and (Social) Collaboration.

Thus without much further ado, here’s the list of recommended iOS apps for this week:  

  • 1Password: There are plenty of very good options out there to help you handle the several dozens of passwords we get to use more or less on a regular basis and, after having tried them all out for a good while, the only one that has remained installed in either of my iOS devices over the course of the years has always been 1Password. There are tons of things I enjoy about this app on its own apart from helping me remember what passwords to use for what service, but perhaps my two favourite ones would be how pervasive it is, as I can use it on either my laptop or my iOS gadgets as well as the integration with iCloud services (Or Dropbox), which means all of the passwords I may use at one given point in time are all in sync with one another and I don’t have to worry whether they are up to date or not. I just know they are. Like I said, if you would need a pretty decent and powerful password management app 1Password is the way to go! 
  • Ulysses: If you have been reading this blog for a while now, you may have noticed how I have a tendency to be a bit too verbose with my own blog posts. I know they may well not be the ideal length, nor even the recommended one! for that matter, and I would say that there will be a couple of apps I could blame for that. Of course, I am referring to those that would allow you to focus on just writing along whatever ideas you may want to develop further without having any distractions while just focusing on that act of writing. Ulysses is one of them. In fact, at the moment, it’s my favourite one for #longread documents I would be jotting down from my iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard.

    It’s a pure delight and while there are a few others that allow you to achieve the same results (i.e. focused writing without distractions) I just keep coming back to it, specially, when I’m disconnected from the network while on the road traveling. The great thing about Ulysses, and which I haven’t put to the test just yet, although it’s coming up nice and slow, is that it has got all of the full potential to become the tool that would allow you to write (e)books effortlessly and that’s what I’m really looking forward to explore some more, although in this regard there area couple of other apps that are worthy competitors, but I will talk about them in its due time. For now, like I said, if you are looking for an app that would allow you to do uninterrupted, focused #longread writing, Ulysses does a wonderful job at it. I can strongly recommend it, in case you haven’t tried it out just yet and you happen to be as verbose as I am … 

  • Calm [iPhone Only]: There are tons of different apps in this realm of Healthcare & Fitness that would allow you to detox, relax, take things easier, chill out, take good breaks, complete a number of different exercises and routines to make you feel more at ease with both yourself and whatever circumstances you may be going through at one particular moment, etc. etc., but the one I have been using myself for a good few years already has been Calm from calm.com. In fact, in more than one occasion it’s helped me establish a routine to fight some pretty stressful work related situations and just for that I’d be ever eternally grateful. The many relaxing ambient sounds and wonderful imagery, the different routines, exercises, themes, friendly schedules and an overall gorgeous user experience do the trick for me. I tell you, if you are out there looking for an app around mindfulness meditation with a purpose, look no further than Calm. As far as I am concerned, it’s as good as it gets, and, if you don’t believe me, take it for a spin yourself and let me know what you think. 
  • Drippler: If you are using any iOS device out there, whether an iPhone, iPad or iPod and you would want to be informed at all times about news items, hints and tips, tricks, how tos, best deals on the App Store, and what not, Drippler is the only app you would need to have installed to enjoy all of that and so much more! I check it on a daily basis to read the recommended articles on how to get the most out of all of these iOS gadgets as well as going through the best deals to find out some other interesting and worth while checking apps that may be for sale during that day. So if you are into saving yourself a buck or two, while trying out some really cool new apps, this would be the app to use, regardless. It’s a must-have, I tell you, and your wallet will be ever so grateful to you the moment you installed it. 
  • IBM Watson Workspace: And, finally, the one app I’m most excited about for this year. The app I have been waiting for a good few months already to make its debut out there in the market because I feel it will become a game changer over the course of just a few weeks in terms of what it has got to offer to help improve the way we communicate, collaborate, share our knowledge across and work together effectively in teams. The app itself is called IBM Watson Workspace, and while you can access it as well from your favourite Web browser in your computer, there is also a free app for it that works flawlessly in iOS devices giving you the very same user experience.

    There are lots of things I could say about this particular application that just launched its pre-view beta version this week that have got me pretty excited about it, but I think I could just summarise them all with a single keyword: AI. And not necessarily AI as in Artificial Intelligence, but more specifically AI as Assisted Intelligence. If you would want to find out more about what I mean with the latter in an attempt to humanise AI, I have put together an article with the following heading that pretty much explains where all of my excitement comes from: ‘Can IBM Watson Workspace Save Our Productivity?’ Take a look into the blog entry itself and let me know what you think, whether there is a reason for us all to be thrilled about its huge potential, or not. Something tells me that it may well change not only the way we view productivity, but also the way we get teamwork done more effectively altogether not necessarily by replacing our human capability, but, on the contrary, augmenting it a great deal altogether. We shall see … I am pretty excited, I tell you, and I can’t wait to see how it would develop further over the course of the next few days, weeks, months … 

And that’s it for this week, folks! Next week there will be a new round of iOS recommended apps for this series of My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week that I will be sharing across, so stay tuned for plenty more to come along. I still have got a couple of dozen other apps I would want to talk about that I use on a regular basis, so I hope you get a chance to enjoy them just as much as I do myself. Hopefully, there will be something out there for everyone to try out and play with … So keep having fun and till next time! 

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Can IBM Watson Workspace Save Our Productivity?

Apparently, our productivity as employees has been plummeting since the mid 70s. Yes, indeed, you are reading it right, since the mid 70s! And yet we seem to be working more hours nowadays than ever before with a rather horrifying effect on us all for that matter. Yet, productivity still is very weak and we don’t seem to succeed in figuring out who (or what) is to blame for that. We just keep working hard, to the extenuation, having fully embraced the Cult of Busyness as if there is no tomorrow, well, because, you know, there won’t be a tomorrow anyway, if we all go on like this claiming we are just too busy doing things, while, at one point in time, sooner rather than later, we are all very aware we are bound to collapse. Is there hope for us? Can we help redefine productivity for us all, once more, and, more interestingly, can we rely on technology, specially, AI, to help us out in that daunting task at hand? I think we can, I think we will, although not necessarily through Artificial Intelligence but more along the lines of Assisted Intelligence

Welcome to the wonderful brave new world of IBM’s Watson Workspace! 

IBM Watson Workspace

 

If you look out there, and read carefully, you would notice how vast majority of people keep saying how AI (newest shiny object out there in the tech scene at the moment) is going to save us all from almost everything. Perhaps even ourselves! The thing is that I have always been a bit concerned about the specific role we seem to have placed upon AI to come to our rescue and solve all of our societal / business problems, even to the point of replacing our very own decision making processes, therefore becoming the new managers. Yet, when I come to look a bit closer and observe how most AI has been applied through algorithms into some of the media tools I rely on I despair, and more and more by the day, frankly. All of a sudden we see how our overall user experiences are bastardised when an algorithm starts acting on behalf of us, the individual human beings, assuming they know better than we do what we really want, what our needs may well be and what our decision making process should have been like without even bothering about figuring out our context in the first place. 

It’s horrifying. Not necessarily because of the potential implications, but more than anything else because of the overall horrendous user experience they provide. It’s one of the main reasons as to why I deleted my Facebook account, my LinkedIn and my Google Plus Profiles; why I use Tweetbot everywhere vs. the regular Twitter Web site; why I have gone from the state of loving Instagram to loathing it more and more by the day; why every time there is a new media tool out there that comes with an algorithm I keep running away from it like the plague. I don’t want AI to decide for me what’s best, or not, for me. I don’t want AI to make me dumber by sacrificing my own privacy in exchange of convenience. You see? I don’t think that’s the role to explore the huge potential AI has got to offer in today’s world. If anything, I would want AI to make me better, smarter, and, overall, a much more effective decision maker, so that instead of replacing me and obliterating my entire thinking process, it can augment it helping me become more aware, more conscious, tolerant, diverse, empathic, caring and, overall, a better human being as a result.

Now, that’s what humanising AI should be all about, if you ask me, which is why I’m so incredibly excited about IBM’s announcement, from earlier on this week, at the World of Watson conference event, where Watson Workspace was officially launched as a pre-view beta of what the future of collaboration, knowledge sharing, learning and innovating around knowledge should be all about. Not replacing and wiping out entirely our human potential, but, instead, augmenting our capability through enhanced, trustworthy and advisory commentary from IBM Watson itself.

Welcome to the amazingly exciting world of Assisted Intelligence! 

Earlier on this week, IBM announced a new product called Watson Workspace coming into play in an already rather crowded space, that is, the one around Messaging / Chatting apps with plenty of already rather solid products available like Slack, HipChat, Microsoft Teams, Spark, Circuit, RingCentral, TalkSpirit, Ryver, HiBox, Telegram, etc. etc. The list goes on and on and on. You may say they may well be a bit too late into the market, but then again no-one ever said that when Google first introduced Google Search over 15 years ago. It wasn’t the first search engine coming into the market, it wasn’t the last one either, indeed, but it transformed the way we use the Web today.

If you had a chance to view and participate in its live launch or if, instead, you have been playing with it already for the last couple of days or some more, Watson Workspace, that is, you will know it’s still very much in pre-view beta status, because plenty of the key basic capabilities from vast majority of messaging and chatting apps are still missing from the product itself, which, you may say, it’s a bit of a pity, but then again I am certain all of those standard features will come to par in a matter of weeks, if not days. Then what? Well, that’s when the fun truly kicks in, because what Workspace has got to offer is rather unique on its own, at least, that I know of. As a starting point, we will have Watson Work Services, which means that it will provide an opportunity to be integrated with almost everything that’s out there that would want to tinker around with its open APIs.

Watson Workspace - Slack Integration

And then there is IBM Watson itself through a superb new capability called Moments, which is, by far, what excites me the most about the application itself. Moments can best be described as, essentially, Assisted Intelligence at hard work with you and therefore helping me become smarter at what I do with what I know, without having to work harder unnecessarily. Moments is that brilliant new capability of applying cognitive computing to the way you collaborate by making your decision process much more effective keeping in your know of what’s happening while you are there, or even when you are not there. It will summarise interactions and conversations already held for you, present you with options on what you may, or may not, need to do to complete a certain ask or request, and eventually reduce all of the potential friction and clutter as to who does what, when, with whom and for what purpose. 

Watson Workspace - Moments

Now, not sure what you would think about it, but that’s not only what I would call the Future of Work, but the brilliant and exciting #PresentOfWork, frankly, and I just can’t wait for Workspace to unleash its full potential by demonstrating, in a very capable manner, it is very possible to turn Artificial Intelligence into Assisted Intelligence, to no longer think about replacing the human(s) when doing (collaborative) work, but to realise the full potential of the human intellect by enhancing the way we share our knowledge across and how we collaborate to get work done more effectively, which is, eventually, what productivity has been about all along either as an individual or collective activity.

WoW, I am really excited about Workspace’s present, never mind its bright future! And you?


[PS. Ok, I know, you all want to take it for a spin and judge for yourselves, right? Well, if you are interested in giving it a serious try, just either leave a comment over here below, or reach out to me on Twitter via @elsua, and I will invite you all into a space where we can play around with it. Oh, and if you would want to keep up with news items, updates, capabilities, enhancements, fixes, etc. etc. you may also want to follow IBM Watson Workspace’s Twitter ID. I just did!]

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #5

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés Beach

 

Once again, it’s that time of the week where we dive into the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series and recommend further along the next round of apps I think would be worth while exploring some more for iOS devices. This blog entry is going to be one about discovery, because two of the recommended apps I will be sharing across will be about two new ones I discovered myself earlier on this week and that they got me hooked up from day one since I started using them. So that should be interesting and perhaps worth while checking out for you folks as well, who knows… At the same time I have been thinking it is probably a good idea to include some keywords about where those apps would fit in, so that you would have an opportunity to figure out, earlier on in the post, what you may be able to expect. So in this week’s Top 5 iOS Apps we have got task management, process automation, podcasting and photography. 

Thus, without much further ado here are My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #5

  • Trello: There are a number of different task management apps I have been using over the course of the years. Some of them come and go. And others stick around for a while, even in between upgrading devices, and while I realise I will be talking about my favourite ones over the course of time, the one I’m currently using and enjoying quite a bit is Trello. There are a lot of things to like about this particular app to manage yours tasks, but the ones I enjoy the most are the reaffirmation that completing and managing tasks can well be a visually appealing activity to the point where it will hook you up from day one and you won’t be able to escape it that easily.

    It integrates fully with a whole bunch of third party apps as well, which is a really nice capability to have, but the one that makes it even worth while on its own is the integration with Slack. It’s just gorgeous and worth while trying in case you may not have just yet. And, finally, the other one thing I really like about it is how flexible it is to the point where you can hack it to achieve almost everything you would want to with it, even to the point of organising your entire life! So when using Trello the only limit I can think of is just your imagination and how you put it to work getting the creative you out of the box. In terms of flexibility very very few apps are just as good as Trello is. 

  • Workflow: Now, I should state at this point in time that I am not very much in favour of automation per se, but you know there are times when you have got a number of different repetitive tasks or processes you need to take care of while in your iOS devices and knowing there is a superb option out there that could help out tremendously in this regard is a huge bonus. Well, that app is Workflow.

    As I keep relying more and more on working mobile either with my iPhone or iPad Pro, I have developed the habit of using Workflow every time I repeat an action or a process three times, at least. That would confirm it is regular enough for me to want to automate it and save myself some time so I could do some other things. If you would want to know how the app works and how you, too, could build up those automated workflows, take a look into this short YouTube tutorial that explains how you can get things started and from there onwards let the play begin!

  • Overcast: You know, there are tons of people who keep saying that podcasting is back, and with a vengeance, and I, actually, think they may well be right, because this year alone I’m listening to more podcasting shows than in any other previous years. I listen to them when I exercise first thing in the morning, during work breaks, or at the end of the evening when things start to quiet down a fair bit. And I am loving it, more than anything else because of the app I’m currently using that has got me totally hooked up. It’s Overcast.

    It’s got a beautiful design, the ability to sync podcasts in between devices and a really nice user interface that makes it extremely friendly to use. Too easy, perhaps, even. Oh, and I can listen to podcasting episodes streaming them out, or downloading them ahead of time before I go offline for an extended period of time, like when on a plane, which makes the perfect combination, if you ask me. Yes, I realise most podcasting applications on the desktop do all of this already and, maybe, plenty more, but, like I said, I’m mostly on iOS devices nowadays, so having Overcast as my podcasting app is just all I need heh

  • Polarr: Just the other day I was counting the number of different apps I’m currently using for various different purposes to process, edit, modify and enhance photos I take with my iPhone 6S Plus and it’s well over a dozen of them at the moment! Ouchie! Yes, I know, far too many! Well, that’s what it takes to go out there and start exploring all of the options, play some more and see what sticks around that fits one’s needs. I got an entire folder with just photography related apps and the list keeps growing on and on and on. So you can expect to see, in upcoming blog posts, an additional number of recommended apps around photography and how I get to tweak photos with them.

    However, for this blog post, I’m going to start sharing across a recommendation for the one app I bumped into this week and which I have really enjoyed using so far, specially, on the iPad Pro. It’s called Polarr. It’s free, although if you would want to make use of an extensive list of really cool, fancy, filters and advanced capabilities you could buy those packages separately, but it’s totally worth it. The features and possibilities you have to tweak photos from applying filters, shades, colour, shapes, tilting, saturation, contrast, etc. etc. are just phenomenal, but what I like the most about the app is how easy it is to use and learn quickly about tweaking those photos, when, with other apps, a number of YouTube video tutorials were required by yours truly to make sense of some of their features. With Polarr, no need to, unless you are into the pro editing field. But if you are looking for an app easy enough to use to get some spectacular results, it’s worth while a try, for sure! And yes, no worries, in upcoming blog entries I will share some other apps I use when handling photos. Polarr itself is not the only one…   

  • The Roll: And, finally, off we go with the last recommendation for this week’s post. And it’s another photography related app I discovered earlier on this week as well and that I’m currently loving it, because it comes to fill in a void that even iOS 10 hasn’t been able to address to the extent I would have wanted it. And I will give you an example of what I mean … The Roll is a free app that allows you ‘automatically organise your camera roll’ and in a very effective manner if I may add. It will eventually apply some AI in order to categorise the photos from your camera roll in such a way that would make you go WOW! From Your Best Photos This Week, to Your Best Photos, it will just group all of your photos according to different group names which you can access through folders and within a matter of seconds, BANG!, you can find all of the photos in your iOS devices associated with one another where it may well be fit, according to those initial groupings. Like I said, just WOW!!

    But, don’t worry, there is even more! Another really really interesting and pretty neat capability is that one where from the groups of pictures that it may put together it will tell you which one would rank the highest in terms of aesthetics that would then entice you perhaps to share it across in different media tools. Very much worth while a look, I tell you. If you are crazy about taking all sorts of photos across the board and then try to make some sense of them flawlessly I can strongly recommend you take a look into The Roll, because something tells me you will like it!

And that’s it! That’s the list of My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week for this week that I think would be worth while having a look into and see if they can make it into any of your iOS devices as well and next week there will be some more. Again, trying to keep a balance between work related apps and for personal use ones, hoping there may well be something out there for everyone to play with. Hope you enjoy them just as much as I do and get ready for next week’s!

Ohhh, and, again, if you have got an app you would want to recommend and that would be worth while trying it out, let me know, as I am always very keen on discovering new cool apps that can help me work more effectively while getting the most out of these iOS devices. Remember, after all, 2016 is the year I, finally, went mobile

(About time, too!)

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #4

Gran Canaria - Degollada de las Yeguas in the winter

 

One of the things I am finding really interesting from the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series of blog posts is the fact that it’s an exercise that’s helping me really evaluate how I eventually make use of either my iPhone or iPad, whether for personal, private use or whether for work, and I must admit that at this point in time there is just such a blend between the two types of apps that I no longer make a distinction for neither of them. To me, they are just apps with a job in mind to execute, and do well, and then move on to the next thing. And it’s intriguing, a fair bit, because when I was a salaried employee it wasn’t like that. I had a good number of folders, in each device, that would help me classify and organise the apps accordingly as to which ones were related to work or not. I am not too sure whether, somewhere along the way, I lost that urge to keep everything organised to the extenuation or, on the other hand, whether my freelance life has taken over helping me understand that one and the other are pretty much the same thing: me as a knowledge (Web 2.0) worker trying to remain productive AND effective while on the move!

Thus, here we go, once again, with the next blog entry in the series sharing along the different apps I enjoy making heavy use of from either device, whether iPhone or iPad. As you will be able to see for this week, there is a little bit of a blend between work and personal use related apps, so I’m hoping there will be a bit of everything for everyone. As usual, unless it’s specified otherwise, the app would work both in iPhone and iPad, so without much further ado here are My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #4
 

  • Box: Yes, I know there are a bunch of file sharing applications and services out there with Dropbox, perhaps, being one of the most popular ones. Alas, for me, Box is the one that pretty much hits the nail on the head and for a good couple of reasons. As a starting point, I have got two different accounts making up to 60GB of disk space, which suffices my needs pretty well without having upgraded just yet and, secondly, it’s incredibly pervasive helping me work more effectively with my documents regardless of which device I may be using, whether iPad, iPhone or MacBook Air.

    Eventually, all of my files and documents are in sync, so whenever I’m on the move I know where to find that particular document for that specific client presentation and right at my fingertips. It can’t get any better than that. Oh, hang on, it does! I love how Box keeps integrating with other third part apps, specially, Enterprise Social Networking tools which makes it extremely easy for everyone to work with documents while inside the ESNs themselves. It’s like an extension of the capabilities already offered but with a better opportunity of making sense of the documents you are currently working on, because that’s the only thing you can do with Box, effective social file sharing.
     

  • Paper: With my iPad Pro and my Apple Pencil Paper is, by far, the single app I enjoy the most for a good number of different productivity related activities, going from Note Taking (Although I use a few other apps in this realm that I will be talking about over the course of time), to sketching, to doodling or just simply try to get out some of my crazy ideas into whatever the visual that comes along, if at all. It’s just such an amazing app that even I, someone who doesn’t even have a single skill for drawing anything, can get something done with it! With a bit of time, and tons of practice, it helps you get better and better by the day to the point where whenever I have got those idle moments where I’d want to jot down something Paper is the app I am, almost always, ending up in. But then again, upon watching in YouTube a number of different tutorials about how to make the most out of it, I can only realise I’m just getting started, but I’m loving it! Highly recommended if you would want to venture into the world of doodling and sketching with a superior user experience! 
  • MindNode: And talking about love, I love MindMapping, did I tell you about that before? I think I have been using MindMapping apps for over 10 years, if not longer, and during the course of that time I may have used several dozens of applications in a good number of computing devices, yet, the one single app I keep coming back to is MindNode. It’s, by far, one of my favourite MindMapping apps and while I know I will be talking about a few others over the course of time that may well be worth while checking out, the one I’d recommend using nowadays first would be this one. Most people may not know this, but I usually get to prepare my initial sketches for presentations in MindMaps where I get to develop different ideas, connect them, word them, and then start looking for some kind of order and visuals to go along with them. They are incredibly powerful and when thinking about writing down different ideas or list items there is no better way to make sense out of them all than using a MindMap. It’s one of those essential productivity apps I would definitely recommend everyone to take a look, even for personal use! 
  • CityMapper [iPhone Only]: Whenever I get to travel to a major city (They are currently listing over 200 of them at the moment!, if I recall correctly) and I happen to be lucky enough to be connected either via mobile data or WiFi, CityMapper is one of the main traveling & map apps I use on a regular basis, specially, when I may need to resort to public transport to get out and about in the city. It’s one of the most comprehensive and user friendly traveling apps I have used in years and one that becomes part of the survival kit when going to a major city in order to avoid getting lost. Of course, not all cities are available just yet, but you can either vote for your own city or for other potential candidates which means it keeps getting updated on a regular basis with more city maps. But, again, if you are going to a major city some time soon, and are connected to the Internet via your mobile phone, CityMapper is one huge assistant to help you not get lost in the process! It’s saved me a few times already in the last couple of years and just can’t take it off my iPhone at the moment. 
  • Spotify: I know there are tons of live streaming music services out there, going from Google Play, to Tidal, to SoundCloud or even Apple Music, but the one I keep coming back over and over again has always been Spotify. You see? There are a lot of things I quite like about Spotify itself, including as well the wonderfully inspiring capability of pretty much nailing it in terms of helping you build the playlists you know you’re going to enjoy the most (Discover Weekly, Release Radar and the Daily Mixes are some of my favourites). There are also a lot of things you can stream via Spotify that you may not even have heard about in the past to make it even more useful. It even claims that it knows you better than yourself. But the main reason why I keep coming back to Spotify to livestream music, or listen to it offline, is because the overall user experience is far superior, in all devices, to everything else, helping you focus on what you just want to focus on, i.e. listening to some really good music, versus trying to figure out how the app really works.

    And to get all of what you get for the monthly prize of being a premium user, it’s just too tough to beat it. To the point where I eventually resisted the temptation of going elsewhere, as most folks may have done already, and decided to stick around with it. A few months later, still no regrets and loving it as if it was the very first day of listening to unlimited music in your own terms, at your own pace, while enjoying all the benefits. Plus plenty more!

And that’s it! That’s the next round of My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week. Hope everyone gets to enjoy them and, like I have said in previous blog posts, if there is an app you would want to suggest, recommend I try out, let me know in the comments and I’ll be more than happy to and then report back on how I got along with it and whether it’ll be making it for good in my iOS devices over time. Who knows, there may well be a great chance for that to happen, because you never know what’s going to enhance your own productivity or even make you enjoy your mobile devices just a little tiny bit more!

That’s how we roll, right? 

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #3

Barcelona - View from Montjuic's Castle

Last week I didn’t have much of a chance to put together another blog post from the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series, as I was away on a short holiday break to Barcelona, Spain. This time around I decided to keep a low profile, on purpose, in the different media tools I use more or less on a regular basis and remain, for the vast majority of the time, disconnected from the online world. Phew! That surely was a liberating experience, I tell you. I very much enjoyed every single minute of it more than anything else because it was, most probably, the first time in a couple of years I went in the dark without saying anything. I can highly recommend it, for sure!, as the end-result can be quite intriguing and refreshing altogether. Now, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t using my iPhone, nor my iPad Pro, of course, I was still using them more often than not, as I still needed to go out and about, get round different places, get together with real life friends and what not. I suppose that for next time around I will do a bit of an experiment leaving them both behind and see how that would fair along. But that would be the subject for another blog post at some point in time…

Now that I am back home here I am, once more, sharing along the next round of Apps hoping you may find some of them useful as well. Oh, and watch out for a little gift I will be sharing along for one of them at the end of this post…

Thus, without much further ado, here are My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #3. Oh, and remember, unless I specify it accordingly, all of these apps are universal in iOS, whether for iPhone or iPad, so you can make your pick as you may see fit:

  • CityMaps2Go: Before I was going on holidays last week to Barcelona, I briefly mentioned on Twitter how I was very eager to give a try to a new app Google has put together called Google Trips that is supposedly going to fix all of the potential issues with traveling, wether for work or for pleasure. Well, errr, nope! It didn’t do it for me. I downloaded the details for the trip to Barcelona offline, even though I have got 4G on my iPhone / iPad, just to see what it would be like if I were going abroad, and overall I wasn’t convinced by the choices of places offered whether for sightseeing or eat & dine. Overall I thought it was just a bit too over-engineered with very little room for serendipity to kick in, to explore things and places further along, to let yourself get lost to then find yourself again, in short, to improvise. In a nutshell, far too organised for my tasting. Mind you, I may well give it a go though next time around I travel to another city that I may not know from before and see how it would go, but this time around it just didn’t cut it.So I went back to one of my all time favourite maps & traveling apps, CityMaps2Go. It allows me to combine perfectly, a well organised offline map to get around, but also the improvisation of discovering new places wherever I may well be, plus recommendations from real people on what to check out and what not. My favourite capability from the App though is the compass that comes with it that points me back in the right direction in case I get lost heh Oh, and one other activity I love doing with the app is to accumulate all of the various different offline city maps I have used during the course of the year with all the trips I may do and reflect where I have been that year, before I start the new year with a clean slate. Pretty neat, if you ask me.
  • Human: [iPhone Only] Over the course of the last few years I have made extensive use of a good number of different Exercise & Fitness Apps, such as RunKeeper Pro, Runtastic Pro, Strava, Nike+, RockMyRun, Zova, etc. etc. that I may include in this series in the long run, we shall see, but right now there is only one of them that’s still installed in my iPhone and that is Human. It’s my favourite exercise and fitness app by far, more than anything else, because its main premise is not to put too much strain in your body with the exercise you do, but to remind you, kindly, you need to remain active and a minimum of 30 minutes of activity may well do. I like that!I also like the fact you don’t have to compete with other people, or even with yourself, through the app, so the gamification component is just not there. Yes, I quite like that, indeed! Yes, I know, there is Clubs in the App, but I am not part of any at the moment and there is also Pulse which I never check anyway. And that’s what I really like about the app, because its focus is in the long term activity, not the short bursts of competing with others, till you are bored to death and you move somewhere else. Not my kind of game, I am afraid, which is why I heart Human so much. 30 minutes of daily activity for the rest of your lifetime. That simple. Yes, of course, you can do so much more than that, but, you see?, there is no real competition, just you and your daily healthy activity check. heh
  • Kindle: Yes, I know, I know, the Kindle App is an obvious one, everyone has it, but I just had to include it as this past holiday week in Barcelona was the perfect opportunity for me to catch up with plenty of reads I have meant to be done with by now, but that they have may dropped out for whatever the reason. I can’t remember the last time I had a paper book in my hands, or that I may have bought one. Ever since the Kindle app came out, I have defaulted to ebooks, in whatever the form or format, and I just love it. Why? Well, because everywhere I may well go, whether work related or not, and for those spare minutes where something needs to happen, but it doesn’t, I take out my iPhone and continue reading where I left it. Oh, yes, the screen of the iPhone 6S Plus does make a difference. A huge difference altogether! (So you can imagine how it would work on my iPad Pro, too!). ‘Oh, what kinds of books are you reading at the moment, by the way?’, you may be wondering, right? Hold on, I will talk about that soon enough when I share the App I’m currently using to store notes / reviews of the books I have read or I am reading at the moment… Yes, there is an app for that, and I would say it’d be totally unexpected for most of you when I share it along in this series at a later time 😀
  • WiFox: This is probably my favourite new app that I just installed last week and that I am surely looking forward to taking it for a spin on my next business trip I may well do and see how it would play along, but, I tell you, it could well be a game changer for all of the road / air warriors out there. Imagine this, an app that contains all of the WiFi hotspots at airports, and other public spaces, along with their passwords and all of that available for free! My goodness!, my dear WiFox, where have you been all of this time?!?!?! Which world have I have been living myself in for not having found you sooner?!?! Either way, if you are a frequent world traveler and are in clear need of remaining connected at whichever airport you may well be, this app might be the answer to all of our ever growing pains and headaches to continue working online while on the move! Yay!![Of course, I will report back in this post next time around I get a chance to use it to confirm how accurate and helpful it may well be, thus stay tuned!]
  • Elevate: And, finally, games! Of course! Why not, right? I don’t think I have mentioned it on previous blog entries from this series, but I’m hoping to be able to share as well some of my favourite games that I keep playing over the course of time. There used to be a time where, at one point, I had several dozens of games in my iOS devices, but right now there are only a couple of them that I keep playing  every so often and, perhaps, one of my all time favourite ones is Elevate.Despite the growing skepticism and research about the potential benefits of Brain Training apps, I keep enjoying Elevate quite a bit and mainly for three different reasons: a) I am not a native English speaker myself, so plenty of the different games inside the app help me improve my overall English skills around writing, listening, speaking and reading, which I very much appreciate to help me keep up, as I graduated as an English teacher a few years back; b) It also has got a Study section that allows me to improve my overall skills around public speaking, speed reading, math and vocabulary building, which is just perfect for when I have got that spare minute and I’d want to learn or improve on a specific area; c) And, finally, through Performance, it allows me to keep track of my own progress and identify those areas where I’m doing well, and those other areas where I may need to improve a bit, which is just perfect to help me define what my own learning needs may well be at that point in time and act upon them. Just brilliant!

    Now, at the beginning of this blog post, I mentioned how I had a little gift for you folks out there who may be interested, in this case, to check out Elevate itself, and more specifically, the Pro version, because I have got the lovely opportunity to share across some promo codes with you all to give the pro version a try for a full week. So if you haven’t tried Elevate just yet, or if you are using the free version and would want to check the full one, leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter (@elsua) and I will go ahead and share that promo code across. Happy gaming, happy learning!

And that’s it for today! Hope you folks enjoy this week’s suggestions and favourite iOS Apps from yours truly and if you want to enjoy that little gift to try out Elevate Pro for a full week, reach out to me and I will share it right away!

Enjoy them! 😀👍🏻

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #2

Gran Canaria - La Culata's surroundings

I never thought I would be enjoying this much putting together this series of blog entries around my Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week as I am currently doing at the moment. More than anything else, because of the trip down the memory lane from over 8 years ago till today to see whether my own work habits and productivity hacks, while on the move, have evolved a fair bit, or perhaps not so much. Or whether, maybe, I have completely changed my own user behaviours so drastically that it has morphed into something completely different altogether. Quite an interesting and intriguing journey, if you ask me. As I get to write down today’s post, it makes me think that, perhaps, for the core group of tasks I do on a regular basis I haven’t really changed much my own habits, which seems to confirm, pretty much, how hard it is to just change for the sake of it, but somehow it’s the good fun around the edges that I’m enjoying the most so far, as I get to explore new apps and new ways of getting work done. After all, it’s all about working smarter, not necessarily harder, even in a mobile world, right?

One of the several things that I have found rather enlightening, and eye-opening at the same time, is how, instead of having a single app to perform a specific action, or complete a particular task, I almost always have a handful of apps to handle such kinds of interactions without really having a single favourite one, since I enjoy all of them for what they do and the overall user experience they provide me with. It’s happening to me, for instance, with apps around photography, RSS news feed readers, blogging, podcasting, note taking, drawing / sketching, mindmapping, web browsing, maps / traveling, etc. etc. So I am hoping that, over time, I get a chance to share them all over here as well with an opportunity to indicate what makes me want to keep using multiple of them based on their different nuances, because somehow I feel they all contribute into a richness of productivity hacks I suspect some of you may find useful as well. So, we shall see how that goes as we move further along …

For this week, though, it’s now a good time to share my Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week, indicating whether they are available for iPhone, iPad, or both and explain with a single one-liner or two the main reason as to why I use each of those iOS Apps. Thus without much further ado, here we go:

  • Blogo: On my MacBook Air, I don’t have a single doubt in terms of my favourite offline blogging app and for a good few years already. It’s MarsEdit. On iOS things change substantially, because I don’t have a single favourite one, but multiple of them, so I suppose, over time, I may have a chance to include them all in this series of blog entries and explain why for each of them. For now, I will start with the one I like quite a bit lately and that I have been using extensively to draft my blog posts while on the iPad Pro. It’s Blogo.There is also a desktop app, but again MarsEdit does it for me, so for those folks who may be looking for alternatives or new options, Blogo may well be worth a try. What I like the most about the iOS app is that’s incredibly focused on the act of writing blog posts, no interruptions, no distractions, no fuss, just cut to the chase on ideas you may want to jot down and develop further and keep on writing those drafts further along. The set-up process of WordPress blogs is a gem, too! So easy and user friendly to do that anyone can start their own blog right away! Oh, and the use of images in your blog posts is rather cool as well with tons of options you can toy and play with, if that’s what you are into heh.
  • Feedly: Yes, 2016 and I still read RSS news feeds. Every single day, actually. I spend a significant amount of time just browsing through my RSS feeds while I continue to prune and re-build my own blogroll, which I am hoping to share it along in the next few weeks… And in terms of iOS RSS news feed readers, and like I said already, I have got multiple apps I use on a regular basis and for different purposes, mostly whether it’s an app I can use offline or not, for instance. Right now, one of my favourites is Feedly, more than anything else, because it’s one of the most popular and extended ones and because it allows me to syndicate online as well as offline resources given me something I quite enjoy: choices!One of the little things I appreciate the most from Feedly at the moment as well, ever since I got it working again on my iPad Pro, is how much it feels like just reading a news paper, an online one, to the point where there is only one other app that makes it a superiour user experience than what Feedly provides, but that I’ll talk about that app in an upcoming post. Still, at the moment, for online RSS news feed reading, Feedly does it for me.
  • Pocket: You could say that Pocket is also a fancy RSS news feed reader and I would probably have to agree with you on that one. Not like Feedly or other traditional RSS news feed readers, but it certainly does the job of helping you curate content you bump into that you find relevant and equally interesting but that perhaps you may want to read at a later time, specially, when offline and disconnected from the Internet. This is where Pocket excels in terms of providing one of the most enlightening user experiences for browsing the Web while offline, if I can say that. But there are a couple of other things I enjoy a fair bit from Pocket that have made it an indispensable productivity and learning tool for yours truly.As a starting point, it allows people to share across their recommended reads, so, in a way, you can connect with other people who may share similar interests to yours and read each other’s recommendations. Pretty nifty if you would want to nurture your networks based on content you all may be mutually interested in. And the other rather nifty feature is how pervasive it is. I use it on my Web browsers on my Mac or the desktop app to save items to read later. I use it on my iOS devices, but what I like the most about it is that it’s fully integrated with other apps, like Tweetbot, allowing me to go through my Twitter feeds and save for later links shared by my networks that I may find of interest. Then at the end of the day, usually, I will go through them, read along, save, recommend, share across, etc. etc. The combination of Tweetbot and Pocket to curate interesting links is a killer. Loving it.
  • Haiku Deck: On my MacBook Air, Keynote is the main productivity tool I use to put together presentations I then use for public speaking events or for client work. I often use Keynote for complex presentations where I need to follow certain flows, do hands-on demos (with screen shots) or more complex visuals, etc. but when it’s a presentation that needs to become very visually appealing to go further along with a powerful story then I resort to one of my favourite iOS Apps out there: Haiku Deck.You put together the words, the story, and Haiku Deck gathers and presents you with plenty of absolutely stunning visuals you can then toy with to make it one of those presentations to remember. What I like the most about the app? Well, it allows you to craft beautiful presentations without too much wording or far too complex visuals / graphics in them, so death by PowerPoint can be happily avoided and save you tons of unwanted headaches. It just works: a powerful story + a handful of powerful images and off you go to rock the main stage! Perhaps the way presentations should have been framed all along…
  • Telegram: Yes, there are tons of Messaging & Chatting apps out there. Probably, far too many to count them all with both hands and still fall short! Yes, we all know that WhatsApp perhaps dominates that market at the moment. Yes, we know that plenty of the big players (Google, Facebook itself, Microsoft, etc. etc.) keep trying to debunk it and, eventually, they keep failing. Well, there is one Messaging App out there that has certainly done the magic for me, helping me move away from WhatsApp itself and still use, rather heavily, messaging for both work and personal use. It is Telegram.To me, it’s one of the most powerful chatting and messaging apps out there at the moment, allowing me to be on top of the conversations I have in it without getting too overwhelmed by the different notifications from each of the group / individual chats, but if there would be a feature that I’d enjoy the most it would be how pervasive it is. There is a Mac desktop app, so you can continue with your messaging along while at your desk; there is an app for iPhone and for iPad, fully in sync with each other, so depending on what you may be doing you can pick and choose whatever may suit you best, something that, for instance, WhatsApp doesn’t seem to handle too well, never mind the fact there isn’t one for iPad. Oh, and Telegram handles with grace the ability of mixing work and personal use, so you get to experience a bit more of a biz app than, say, WhatsApp. I tell you, if you are looking for a pretty decent messaging app that does a beautiful job at it, Telegram it is!

And that is it! That’s this week’s Top 5 iOS Apps for me that you can take for a spin yourself either on your iPhone or iPad and let me know what you think about them in the comments section below. Oh, and if you’d have some additional suggestions or recommendations of apps I should give a try and share my twopence on them, please do let me know as well. I’m always open to try new apps and see how they would fair further along with my day to day work routines.

Hope you folks enjoyed this week’s selection as next week there will be some more!

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