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The Christmas List

The Best Christmas List App for 2014

TheChristmasListApp-iPhone6Plus

For many of you at this point you’re holiday shopping is probably well underway. However, for many more of you you’re probably procrastinating as usual :-) I’ve used my favorite gift list app for the last few years and it’s really good because it’s not really focused just on Christmas. However, the app also hasn’t been updated in a while and “The Christmas List” app came across my desk. I decided to check it out and it instantly became my favorite. It’s really hard to explain other than it simply has an easier workflow. What I expect from the “Best Christmas List App” is that it will allow me to easily add people from my contacts along with their photos. It will easily allow me to create a budget for each person and the ability to add a list of gifts for each person. I also expect it to have a passcode feature and the ability to easily check off the gifts as I get them. As a matter of fact without these basic features the App will likely get deleted from my iPhone. The Christmas List App has all of these basics and more. First off even with the basics it’s really well thought out and quick and fast to make the entries. You can easily add people from your Contacts or create them manually. You can then assign each person a budget.

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After that you can easily add one or more gifts to each person including the ability to add a photo of the gift as well as the price and even a priority rating. Lastly you can even choose the store or add it if it’s not in the list. This will help with shopping lists by store. If you’re giving the same gift to multiple people you only have to enter it once and then assign it to everyone that you’re giving that gift to.

TheChristmasListApp-touchid-iPhone6Plus

It’s gets better. You can not only assign a passcode, but you can even use Touch ID on iPhone 5s or iPhone 6/6 Plus. You get a countdown in the App for Shopping Days til Christmas and in iOS 8 you can even add it as a widget to your Notification Center. While this is called “The Christmas List” app, it’s not actually limited to Christmas. You can add additional “Groups” for any other holidays that you want to celebrate and buy gifts for. You can share your lists via iMessage/SMS, AirDrop as well as Email and Print. While checking things off as you buy them is a must have, it certainly not the only thing to consider. Did you wrap the gift? Does it require shipping? You can not only mark a gift as Purchased, but also Wrapped, Shipping or Received.

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While The Christmas List app is GREAT and my new favorite, it’s not quite perfect. There are a couple of things I would like to see. First and foremost I’d love to see an iPad version. Not sure why so many of these type of apps leave out the iPad? I’d also like to see cloud syncing of lists to iCloud or Dropbox between devices. It’s great that you can add photos of the gifts, but you can only do so with the built-in camera or from the Camera Roll. I’d also like to see an integrated Google search for pics of gifts. It would be so much faster to search for say an Xbox One, find the pic online and insert it rather than having to leave the app to do all that manually. It would also be nice to be able to add countdown dates for the other groups that you create. With a few additions like these I could easily use this app for ALL occasions. Outside of these wishes, it’s still the Best Christmas List App that I’ve seen to date. I also appreciate the fact that it has a “clean” look without too much “Christmas” decoration (ie. tacky clipart).

You can get The Christmas List App here from the iTunes.

 

Be sure to check out 2014 Holiday Gadget Gift Guide for ideas:

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iWatermark+

iWatermark+: Watermark your photos in the iOS 8 Photos App

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I usually like to have a visual watermark on my photos before posting them to social media. If I’m coming from Lightroom on the desktop no problem, I can export the photos as JPGs with the watermark nicely displayed. However, there are times when I’m either taking the photo with my iPhone or accessing an unwatermarked version via Dropbox or an album in the native Photos app. For years I’ve relied on iWatermark to allow me to easily put my logo on my images right on my iPhone or iPad. However, the newly released iWatermark+ takes this process to a whole new level.

iOS 8 brings “Filters” to the table for the native Photos app

Now that 3rd parties can add filters to the native Photos app in iOS 8, we get to experience many more options without having to leave the Camera Roll/Photos App. We can access better image editing tools and more features that 3rd parties offer in their apps. iWatermark+ can be used in a stand alone fashion as always, but now it can also be used as a filter to in the built-in Photos app for iOS 8. Woohoo! This speeds up my workflow considerably. Now instead of having to launch the iWatermark app each time I want to watermark a photo I can simply do it right in the Photos app where the image already resides. Once you configure the iWatermark+ App with the watermark you wish to use (in my case a PNG file of my logo), you can then just bring up any photo in the Photos app, tap Edit to edit it and tap the Filter button (the circle with the 2 dots in it) and choose iWatermark+ as one of the filters. It remembers the last one you used and more importantly where it was placed on the image. The best part is just like any other Edit in the Photos App, this is a non-destructive change. You can always revert the photo back to its “unedited” state to remove the watermark at any time.

But wait, there’s more…

If I left here I’d be quite happy with this app, but it does so much more that I have to remind myself that it’s not just about a logo. With iWatermark+ you can choose between 6 different watermark types. You can use text, a graphic, a signature, a QR Code, metadata (awesome for those photos where the metadata was stripped away) or steganographic. You can use multiple watermarks as well as watermark several photos at once in batch. You can position the watermark anywhere you like as well as control the size and opacity. Once you watermark your photo(s) you can share it right from the app to Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Twitter, the Camera Roll, Email or the clipboard.

The Bottom Line

While visual watermarks don’t necessarily protect your photos from being used without your permission they do add a level of branding and identity to your images that you are posting. It’s also away of promoting yourself if that cat photo you just took goes viral. :-) Watermark your photos with ease with this app!

You can get iWatermark+ for your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch here from the iTunes.

GIF Keyboard

3 Must Have 3rd Party Keyboard Apps for iOS 8

textexpander_iPhone6Plus-wide

Now that iOS 8 allows for 3rd party keyboard apps to be installed, there have been some new entries into this space. Here are my picks for the 3 Must Have 3rd Party Keyboard Apps for iOS 8.

 

GIF Keyboard

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When I smiley face Emoji just isn’t enough you can now send an animated GIF. However, instead of having to find one on the internet or fire up another app, you can just switch to the GIF Keyboard, find the one you like and insert it right into your SMS text message. This keyboard is nicely implemented with categories making it easy to find the GIF you want.

You can get GIF Keyboard here from the iTunes.

 

Swype

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This is a popular 3rd party keyboard on other platforms and now it has made its way to iOS 8. When you bring up the Swype keyboard instead of tapping each letter to spell a word, you simply use your finger to drag through (swype through) the letters that make up that word. It has intellegence built-in to anticipate the word you’re trying to spell even if you don’t hit all the letters. For example when I wanted “cool” I just swiped through “c” “o” and “l” and it knew what I was trying to spell. I can see this keyboard being useful for people that always hitting the wrong keys with the onscreen keyboards of yesterday.

You can get Swype here from the iTunes.

 

Text Expander

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As I mentioned in a previous post, my favorite NEW keyboard is Text Expander. While iOS has had a “shortcut” feature for a while now, Text Expander goes way beyond the built-in iOS shortcut feature. You can configure snippets that are more than just one line. In fact you can do entire paragraphs. Also your snippets can have styling in them.

You can get TextExpander her from the iTunes.

Manual – Custom exposure camera

Manual – Custom Exposure Camera for iPhone

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One of the things that iOS 8 brings to the table is an open door to App Developers to access the manual controls for the camera. Well it didn’t take long for Apps to appear in the App Store that take advantage of this new capability. “Manual” is just such an App. This App allows you full control over your image by allowing you to “manually” set the shutter speed, ISO, white balance, focus and exposure bracketing. It even has a pretty cool “live” histogram that I must admit when I first saw it, I thought it was an audio meter. If you were shooting a challenging scene (such as a bright window in the background) with a DSLR, you could switch to manual and set your shutter speed and ISO. Now you have the same flexibility on your iPhone.

Shot with the Manual App on AUTO

Shot with the Manual App on AUTO

Shot with the Manual App after an ISO adjustment

Shot with the Manual App after an ISO adjustment to expose the shadows more

The interface is pretty straight forward and it definitely let’s me do exactly what I want when it comes to exposure control. The only thing I don’t seem to be able to control on my iPhone 5s is aperture. I see it displayed as 2.2, but it’s greyed out and that may be that on the iPhone 5s you can’t change it? Not sure. Otherwise the app does all that it claims to do and you can even switch between automatic and manual within the app.

You can get Manual here from the iTunes.

TextExpander 3 + custom keyboard

TextExpander is my Favorite 3rd Party Keyboard of iOS 8

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I’ve been using TextExpander for Mac for years. TextExpander is a shortcut utility that allows you to create “snippets” of text and assign a few keystrokes to insert the text into any application. For example, let’s say you always type directions to enter your building ie. “Enter the parking lot from the 1407 driveway. You can park in front of my suite with the glass door. The Driveway for building 1407 leads around to the LEFT and parking lot between buildings 1407 and 1307. If you go in the 2nd driveway (1307) you’ll end up at the back (garage) door of 1307.” Instead of typing that out each time or pulling up a note to copy it from, you could enter it into TextExpander and assign it a shortcut like “bpkglot”. Just type “bpkglot” in any application and TextExpander will replace it with the full text from the snippet. While this is very handy on my Mac it’s now even more useful on my iOS devices where typing on a smaller, on screen keyboard is harder. Smile Software made a touch version of TextExpander before, it required 3rd party app support and never worked in the native iOS Apps such as Mail or Messages. Now that iOS 8 allows for 3rd party keyboards, Smile has made a new version of TextExpander that allows you to install it as an additional keyboard in iOS. Once installed you can choose to sync your snippets from your Mac via Dropbox and then choose the TextExpander keyboard. Now you can use your TextExpander snippets in ANY application!

I can’t tell you how much this will improve my productivity each day. I have dozens of snippets in TextExpander Mac and now I have access to them on my iPhone and iPad. I would use this keyboard 100% of the time if it also allowed for the iOS 8 feature of Predictive Text, but sadly it doesn’t. Apple probably doesn’t allow 3rd party keyboards to access this feature. Otherwise, TextExpander is a must have and definitely one of my favorite things now that I’ve upgraded to iOS 8.

You can get TextExpander for iOS here .

You can get TextExapnder for Mac here.

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