A messy desktop causes anxiety, gets in the way, and is a pain to deal with. Spotless for Mac, keeps your files organized.Read More…
Back in 2014, we covered UniChar, a cool third-party keyboard that offered access to the wide world of Unicode characters and symbols. While the keyboard functionality of the app has remained mostly unchanged, a recent update leverages Apple’s CoreML and Vision to introduce a new way to find for the perfect pictograph…. Read the rest of this post here
“UniChar uses Machine Learning to make finding special characters easier” is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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I’ve been a multi-device user for a long time. In high school, I used an iPod, a flip phone, and the shared family desktop computer.
The purpose for each device was fairly clear. If I wanted to tell a friend I was coming over, my device choice was clear. I wasn’t going to go to my computer and send an email (although MSN messenger could have been a viable option, assuming we were both online). Odds were, I would grab my cell phone and either sends text or i my friend to let them know I was on my way.
If I wanted to listen to music, I had more options. I could use the computer and iTunes to listen to music (assuming I was at home and sitting at the computer), I could pop in earbuds and listen to music on my iPod, or I could go “old school” and listen to the radio or CDs. In reality, the most complicated device decision I had to make was where and how I wanted to listen to music.
Through college, the same was more or less true. My iPod was still my default music playing device, although I had a laptop that untethered me slightly from my high school days. I was still using a “basic” phone – just calls, texting and a camera. There was very rarely a question about what “the right device” was, if I had a paper to write, I wasn’t doing it on an LG Rumor or a Motorola ROKR.
Then, things changed.
When Apple launched the iPhone, it began to blur some of those lines, though. Now the iPhone could be used in place of an iPod or an email device. It became more about what devices was situationally more convenient. iPod sales began to slow as more and more smartphones offered an integrated music player and easy music library management.
In 2010 the iPad was announced and it found its way into the multi-device lifestyle of many people. The iPhone was powerful enough for small tasks, the iPad was better for long-form reading and writing, and the Mac (or any computer) was the place to do more detailed, power-intensive work.
Fast forward just a few short years, and we got iPhones with larger displays. This enabled “bigger” work to be done on an iPhone. Not only could you email or text or browse the web and social media on an iPhone – you could edit photos, audio, or video. You could create and edit spreadsheets and presentations. With a few choice apps, you could create, edit, and deploy code or remotely administer a server. It wasn’t an ideal experience in some cases, but it was sufficient in a pinch.
At the same time, the iPad was getting better. More apps took advantage of the power and even the bigger screen. Third-party accessory makers started creating fancy stands, cases, and keyboards. Then the iPad got iOS 9. Now the iPad could do two things at once. It was more capable than an iPhone, but not quite a traditional computer.
iOS 9 became the start of a tipping point in the tech journalism industry. The iPad could do enough computer stuff to get work done. Apps like Workflow helped to fill in some gaps and allow for better inter-application communication. The iPad was still generally viewed as inferior – a second class citizen in the computer world – but (contrary to sales numbers) it was growing.
Then the iPad Pro happened, and not long after, iOS 11. Now, the iPad could do 3 things at a time. You could quickly drag data between apps. Pairing apps was easier. The files app allowed for easy document access (mostly). The line between iPad and Computer was beginning to blur with iOS 9. Now the line is gone.1 Left behind is personal preference.
Now that there are multiple devices, all capable of performing the same task, the idea of a distinct device for a specific thing is fading. The right device is either the one you have available, or the one that offers the experience you prefer. There isn’t a “right device for a job”. There is a “right device for a job for you”. Whether it’s an app you like better on iOS, or a process that you are personally more efficient at doing on a computer, it’s no longer about what is correct, it’s about what is comfortable.
The iPod was just a music player. The Motorola RAZR was just a phone and texting device. Devices aren’t so simple anymore. They are a multi-tool of computing. The iPhone is a pocket sized computer, and nobody seems to push back on that. Why are we still arguing about whether or not the iPad is computer?
It does computer things. The interface may be different, but the same is true of macOS vs Windows. Instead of fighting about whether you can do real work on an iPad, maybe we should be asking ourselves the more important question – What’s a computer?2
The quest for the best email app for iOS or Mac seems to be never ending. With each new app comes some killer feature, and usually, a laundry list of annoyances or frustrations. For me, my searching ended when I found Astro. Now version 3.0 is looking to make an already solid app even better.
Astro for iOS and macOS (free for iPhone, iPad, and Mac) is primarily an email app. It has all the things you would expect from a modern email app – an inbox with threaded messages, robust searching, priority grouping (Focused for Outlook, Primary for Google), snoozing features, and the ability to undo an accidental send.
What sets Astro apart, though, can be broken down into a few key features. These features improve functionality, ease of use, and efficiency for the app.
Key Features of Astro
The main difference with Astro (compared to other email apps) is also the key feature – Astrobot. Before version 3, the Astrobot served as a “chat” interface for adding an account, creating reminders (literally a scheduled email to yourself), recommending possible VIP contacts, and suggesting emails that required a response.
In version 3.0, Astrobot has learned some new skills. Now, VIP suggestions and other suggested email actions have. Moved to the new Insight tab in the app, so you can have a better idea of what emails need our attention. Because of that, Astrobot has gotten a little smarter, and is more like an assistant inside your email app, adding the ability to manage reminders and calendar event creation through spoken or typed chat to Astrobot.
Another big feature that helped make Astro my go to email app is the collection of message handing options. Features like setting emails to auto-archive after you respond, allowing for a less cluttered inbox. Astro also give you control over when to mark messages as read (on open or on scroll, as well as when archiving), or what the app should do after archiving an email (back to inbox, auto-advance to next message). Having an app that removes a step from my usual process makes working through email much more efficient, and Astro does just that.
The final point of Astro that makes it my favorite email app to use really shines on the Mac. Much like using google mail (either gmail or google apps) web browser, Astro is full of great keyboard shortcuts. Mastering just a few quick commands – “E” for archive the current or selected message, “A” to reply all, ⌘-enter to send – has made moving through email a breeze. It’s hard to quantify how nice simple shortcuts are, but they truly make a huge productivity difference, especially compared to the stock mail.app and the never ending list of shifts, options, ⌘, and control modifiers.
From a design aesthetic, Astro 3.0 borrows on their previous app design, only puts more of the important sections of the app – Astrobot, insights, calendar, mail, and settings – into tabs along the bottom of the app (iOS). On the Mac, “Ask Astrobot” is now in a quick text entry field on the left, with Insights located near the top with Inbox and Calendar. Overall, the app is clean, simple, and includes a fun “mascot” to sit in the dock or on your home screen!
Astro also includes Slack and Amazon Alexa integrations, which I wasn’t able to test. From the look of it, they’re super interesting, but I can’t speak to the actual functionality. If you’re heavily into Slack or Amazon’s Alexa devices, this could be a great added perk.
Having used Astro for the last 6+ months, the updates in version 3.0 make it an even better all-around email, and now calendar, application. While not everyone will find the Astrobot useful, the ability to create calendar entries, search for messages, or add reminders with “natural language” makes it a great bonus feature to an otherwise solid application. Currently, Astro only supports Gmail/Google Apps accounts, and Office365 accounts, which may pose a problem for those using other email services (like Outlook/Live or iCloud).
- Available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac (and Android)
- Convenient keyboard shortcuts
- Automatic messaging handling
- Built-in Calendar and Reminders
- Astrobot assistant and insights
- Astrobot requires specific formatting
- Only supports Google and Office365 accounts.
If you’re looking for a new email app, or like exploring the whole wide world of alternatives to the stock apps on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, Astro is worth giving shot! Download it on the App Store (iPhone and iPad) or at helloastro.com for Mac!