serioustiger - personal productivity, apps, and random cool stuff

Overcast - Your New Podcast App

Added on by serioustiger.

Overcast, the long-awaited podcast app from Instapaper developer Marco Arment, is finally on the App Store.

Firstly, I love the look and feel of the app. The UI is absolutely gorgeous. This alone might have been enough for me to switch from my app of choice (recently, Pocket Casts).

There are two tiers - the free version is ok if basic, and allows a time-limited trial of the premium features. It was enough to quickly persuade me that the premium features are definitely worth the £2.99 upgrade (I've paid more for several apps that don't even offer a free version).

This is an app that has clearly been developed with love and consideration to what podcast listeners actually want. It has some great features in the premium version:

  • "Smart Speed" allows not just customisable increase to the playback speed, it suppresses silences for slightly faster playback. This works surprisingly well, and the playback speed range has detailed increments in the range you actually want to use (I never understood why developers put in anything much above 2x - I definitely want to speed up my playback in the interests of efficiency, but I don't want them all read by Pinky and Perky).
  • Voice Boost is nice - a one-button hit to get full volume, voice EQ...never been quite sure exactly what is going on under the hood there, but it just sounds better.
  • "Seek acceleration" - in addition to customisable increments to seek forward/back during playback (which most podcasts apps have), Overcast also offers "seek acceleration" which dynamically increases the seek increment during rapid seeks; this is, frankly, as cool as the other side of the pillow - I love thoughtful little things like this.
  • There are several other small touches - for example "Allow cellular downloads" is where it should be - in the Downloads section, not squirrelled away in Settings; or instant AirPlay access from the Playback view, for throwing to your Apple TV or whatever; or the really easy links to the Show Notes for each podcast, with a "I" button for each.

There is also great social integration - which is of little consequence to me personally, but I suspect will be a hit with most users.

Anything not to like? Well, I'm not sure why I have to sign up for an account for this app - but I really don't mind, if it's going to sync all my casts across devices.

So yeah...Overcast is, on release day, my new favourite podcast app. I recommend you try it out.

Hope for the Future

Added on by serioustiger.

OK, this time I'm asking for 18 minutes of your life, to watch a new Harvard MBA graduate give a commencement address that rivals that of Steve Jobs.

A remarkable performance from an obviously remarkable young man. Just perhaps, the future is in good hands after all?

If the video doesn't load, click here.

Will this Twitter Account Save You A Click?

Added on by serioustiger.

Something a little frivolous this week - the excellent Twitter account @SavedYouAClick, which takes a swipe at blatantly "clickbait" headlines by just summarising the story for you and... saving you a click. Daft but frequently funny:

Florence. (It's just a user poll). RT @mashable: What is the best summer vacation spot in the world?
- @SavedYouAClick

Repeats them 18 times. RT @EliteDaily: The secret behind how Jay Z remembers all his rap lyrics:
- @SavedYouAClick

It's a scooter. RT @BBCWorld: Pack your suitcase, then ride it to the airport. Will this Chinese farmer's invention revolutionise travel?
- @SavedYouAClick

Because scientists are scientists. RT @MotherJones: Dear Jenny McCarthy: This is why you have no business challenging scientific experts.
- @SavedYouAClick

And my current favourite...

Charisma. RT @Inc: What makes someone charismatic?
- @SavedYouAClick

In other news, the CIA joined Twitter this week. Now we can all follow them! Ah, irony...

OmniFocus 2 for Mac

Added on by serioustiger.

Thursday saw the release of Omnifocus 2 for Mac. As anyone that has read my short paper on productivity knows, OF is at the core of my system - aside from Chrome, it is my most-used app and the one that literally runs my life. Here's some initial thoughts based on the first couple of days.

OmniFocus has never been is the premier productivity app and has a price to match. With version 2, however, Omni has given a nod to non-power-users by offering "Standard" and "Pro" versions. Naturally this makes it more affordable at the lower end but crucially, it also means the learning curve is less steep for users who don't need custom perspectives, scripting etc.: good move. Regardless, I do need those things and so I happily ponied up the $39.99 upgrade fee.

After a couple of mild irritations with the new layout (easily fixed in Settings), I felt right at home. My existing perspectives transferred seamlessly along with my tasks - this did take a restore from backup and I always advise that you should copy your most recent backup to a secure location before upgrading any app - but this was pretty painless and Omni seem to have done a good job here.

I love the new UI - clean and flat - a nod to iOS 7 and completely aligned with the recent version 2 for iPhone. Perspectives now sit in a sidebar, which I prefer. The Inspector is now an integrated pane, no longer a floating window. Overall this is a good improvement, however it does present a small niggle in entering times into due dates - since I tend to enter all my task information by tabbing through the fields in the main task line, having to mouse all the way over there and click the calendar is annoying. But that's really my only gripe in an otherwise excellent facelift for the app.

As far as I can tell yet, there isn't really any genuinely new functionality, just improvements to the way existing functionality works. So on that basis is it worth £25? Maybe not - and if you're happy with the way you customised your UI in version 1, you may decide to skip this version. But I'm happy I spent the money, both because I love the new look and feel (and I will spend a lot of time looking at it), and because to me Omni are "one of the good guys" making great apps for an honest wage, and I want to support that.

It's worth noting that the excellent OmniFocus for iPad is next in the queue. That version is the one I use most frequently - the mix of portability and power on the iPad is unbeatable. I would say I use iPad/Mac/iPhone versions in a roughly 60/30/10 ratio. Both the Mac and the iPhone now have their version 2; I eagerly await version 2 for the iPad.