Categories
Tools

Recipes

Cooking! Once you’ve figured out the basics (don’t put stuff in the oven and forget about it, the result is, at best, your house smelling like burnt sadness for a while), it can be pretty fun.1
A lot of the cooking you do can be “let’s see what’s in the fridge and pantry and make something out of that,” but there’s also a lot to be said for working from a recipe.2
You can, of course, go old-school, have a huge stack of cookbooks and magazine clippings and handwritten notecards. Personally, I’d call that giving in to my pack-rat tendencies a bit too much, so I prefer to go digital.3
My recipe management software of choice is Paprika; they’ve got a Mac app, too, and I believe a Windows app?4 Regardless, it’s pretty easy to put stuff into, and they’ve got some nice stuff for actually cooking with (check ingredients off as you go, automatic conversions, multiple timers, it’s almost like the app was made for this).
When you first open it up, it can be a bit empty, and their suggestion of “putter around the internet and find some stuff to get started” didn’t quite work for me. You remember that mention of cookbooks and clippings and notecards? That’s what we used to have; now it’s a much more compact setup, and I’m quite willing to share. About 900 recipes, neatly organized to help you start off your collection. Enjoy!


  1. And, as a fun bonus, it’s generally cheaper than buying ready-made food! 
  2. Especially if you’re baking; cooking is an art, baking is a science. 
  3. Same amount of stuff, but much easier to search through! And the storage is a lot cheaper, too. 
  4. You can tell how long it’s been since I used Windows, not by the fact that I don’t know, but by the way that I don’t know if they’re called apps on Windows or not. Program? Software? Who knows. 
Categories
App

Fluidics 1.2: the Settings Update

I’m happy to announce the release of Fluidics 1.2! This update focused on the settings of the app and customizability; the quickest summary I can give is to include one of the new App Store images:

The first thing to notice is the new cards; they come up from the bottom of the screen, which is a much nicer experience on really tall devices like the iPhone X, and offer a more customizable interface than iOS built-in popup stuff.1
There’s some uses of the cards that I’m not showing here — I rebuilt the onboarding process, that initial setup you go through the first time you open the app, using this card style, and the result looks a lot nicer. There’s also some informational stuff — a new ‘about’ card, the weight/Health connection stuff, and so on — but the biggest things are the two cards in that screenshot. The first is, in my opinion, the more interesting: each Quick Add now has its own unit. If you’re content with the old system, all of them using the same unit, nothing’s changed; the text of the buttons is a bit bigger, but there’s no additional use of space. If you, like me, use a mix of units,2 you’ve now got the option to do that in one place, without needing to go over to the Settings page to switch back and forth all the time. These mixed-unit quick adds, as always, work both from within the app and from the widget.3
Next up is the new Display Settings card; this brings in features I’ve been wanting to have for a while now. Some of the original settings are still there — you can, as before, show or hide the help as you need it, and the ability to select the global display unit has been expanded to include liters as well as mililiters.4 There’s some new settings in there, too: you can choose which page of the app will come up when you first open it — useful if you’ve got your Quick Add values set just right to always work with the widget, and you only need to get into the app to add the occasional weird amount via the Custom Add page. You’ve also got the option to hide the goal display — you’ll still get the nice filling-up of the background, but without the actual number right there, it’s a lower-pressure environment.5 Finally, you can disable the animation of the background; though I spent quite a while making sure it’d work, I know that some people don’t actually want lots of animations going on.6
I also put a bit of polish on the way the Health connection works, so now it’s a single button in Settings that opens up a different card depending on the context — if you haven’t done all the connecting to Health, it’ll give you the option to do that, or leave things as they are; if it is connected to Health, but you haven’t got your weight logged there, you can continue using Fluidics’ built-in weight handling stuff. That’s been improved, as well, and now lets you pick units yourself, instead of going with the default for your region.7
Not mentioned in the release notes, but something I feel like mentioning here, is that I’ve done a bit more groundwork to prepare the app for eventual internationalization. There’s still a lot more ground to cover in that regard, though, so probably I won’t be adding additional languages for another couple versions.8
All that said, I’m pretty happy with where this version is, and I’m also excited to start work on the next big update; the feature list I’m aiming for is pretty neat. Fluidics remains free on the App Store, so please, give it a download.


  1. The specific implementation I’m using is this open-source project; I liked the way the API worked, though the documentation is a bit out of date. 
  2. Because ‘Murica. 
  3. Unfortunately, I had to reset the quick add settings as a result of this transition; the new way they’re stored is thoroughly incompatible with the old way. If you were just using the default ones, you won’t notice any change, but I wasn’t able to come up with a good way to transfer over customized settings. The issue is people like me, who used fluid ounces sometimes and milliliters other times; there’s no good way to combine eight possible options into four spaces without messing something up for someone. 
  4. I also tweaked the way amounts are displayed, so using mixed unit stuff doesn’t result in a downright stupid amount of decimal digits; I don’t think it really matters to anyone that you’ve had 101.327 fluid ounces to drink today, probably you’re alright with just 101.3. 
  5. There’s probably a joke in there about hydraulic pressure, but I’m too lazy to come up with it. 
  6. By default, it’s on, unless you have ‘reduce motion’ enabled on your phone, in which case it’ll default to having the animation disabled. That said, if you’re like me and have ‘reduce motion’ on just to get rid of the somewhat-nauseating parallax effect on iOS’ home screen, you can turn Fluidics’ animation back on while still leaving the global ‘reduce motion’ setting on. Nitpicky details, woo! 
  7. Shoutout to the UK, who can now use pounds, kilograms, or stone for weights; I may mock the US for our weird use of mixed units, but I think the UK is even worse about that. 
  8. At that point, it’ll probably be Spanish and German, since those are the ones I can manage without hiring a translator, but if anyone really vehemently wants a different language, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do. 
Categories
App Portfolio Technology

Fluidics 1.1: The Animation Update

The first major update to Fluidics is now available on the App Store!1 In all honesty, it was largely a ‘bug fixes and performance improvements’ update, but I’ve always hated when app updates list that, so I made sure to include a couple user-facing features so there’d be something fun to talk about, at least.
In this case, those features were animations. The most notable is the background – rather than being drawn once, the ‘water’ in the background is now animated, which I think makes the visual effect much nicer overall. Swiping between the three main pages of the app is also much smoother now; instead of a single ‘swipe’ animation being triggered by any swipe, it directly responds to your swipe, so you can change your mind about which direction to swipe halfway through, and it feels more like you’re moving things around, rather than switching pages.2
The big changes, though, are largely invisible; a whole lot of work on the internals to allow for future features I’m planning.3 The gist of it is that a lot of the internals of the app are now a separate library, which means I can share code between the widget and the main app without needing to copy-and-paste all the changes I make in one place to the other.
Past that, there were a couple little tweaks — the algorithm that calculates the water goal is a bit less aggressive with the way it handles workout time, and there’s now a little “this isn’t a doctor” disclaimer in the Settings page that I put there because the lawyer I don’t have advised that I do that.
And, the bit that turned into more of a project than I thought: VoiceOver support. VoiceOver, for those that don’t know, is one of the core accessibility features of iOS; when enabled, it basically reads the contents of the screen to the user, making it possible for visually-impaired people to use iOS. By default, any app built on UIKit has some support for VoiceOver, but the further you go from the default controls, the more broken that’ll get. The way Fluidics works, it was super broken; technically useable, but downright painful to do. After a day or two of vigorous swearing and arguing with the Accessibility framework, I’m proud to say that Fluidics is now VoiceOver-compatible.
If you’ve already got Fluidics on your phone, it’s a free update from the App Store.4 If not, the whole app is a free download from the App Store, and I’m hoping that you’ll enjoy using it. Leave a review or whatever; I’m trying not to be pushy about that.
Oh, and I’m in the process of updating the app’s website; I got such a good URL for it that I want it to look good to match.


  1. There was a bugfix update earlier, version 1.0.1, but that’s not at all exciting, so I didn’t bother writing anything about it. 
  2. If you’re curious, this involved rebuilding the entire interface, from three separate pages that’re transitioned between to a single page that’s embedded in a scroll view. 
  3. And no, I won’t be telling anybody what those are just yet; I don’t want to promise anything before I know for sure it’ll be possible. 
  4. In fact, it may have already been automatically updated — the easiest way to tell is to open the app and see if the water is moving or not. 
Categories
App Portfolio Technology

Open-sourcing Variations

Now that the whole concert is over, and I’ve finished going through approximately all of the WWDC sessions, I’ve decided that Variations won’t be receiving any further development — it wasn’t going to be enough of a priority for me to do it any justice, and I’d hate to half-ass it.1 The app will remain on the App Store, for now, though if it breaks in future iOS versions, I’ll probably pull it entirely. Instead, I’m releasing the source code, as-is; if you’d like to look through it, it’s right here.
I had fun building it, and I like to think that it does some interesting things with the implementations under the hood, so hopefully somebody can find some use from it.


  1. This is, hopefully, a hint about some of my other projects that are a higher priority; announcements of those will, of course, show up on this here blog. 
Categories
App Portfolio Technology

Fluidics

I made an app! I’m quite excited about it; this is, after all, the sort of thing I want to spend my career doing.

The app is called Fluidics, and it’s for tracking the amount of water you drink. As I mentioned a while back, I like to do a lot of tracking of what I’m eating and how much I’m drinking. That first part wasn’t too hard; there’s a variety of apps on the App Store for logging food, and after a while I was able to find one that wasn’t too bad.1 For water, though, nothing quite worked – Workflow came closest, but using it to do the sort of goal calculations I wanted was on the line between clunky and painful, and it’s such a general-purpose app that it felt visually lacking.
Eventually I remembered that I’m a computer science major, and why am I sitting around complaining about the dearth of options when I’ve basically got a degree in making the dang thing. Months of sketching, programming, swearing, and repeating the whole thing eventually lead to this: what I hope is the easiest water-tracking app on the App Store to use.
It’s been a fascinating process. (Here, by the way, is where I’m going to take advantage of the fact that this is my blog for rambling and start talking about what it was like making it; if you’d like to get more information on the app, I’ve put together a rudimentary website, or you can skip straight to the ‘it’s free on the App Store’ part and give it a whirl.) As it turns out, there’s a whole lot of work involved in making an app; my original sketch was the widget and two screens. Those came together pretty quickly, but I realized that probably nobody would feel comfortable using an app if the first time they opened it it just threw up a message saying “trust me!” and then asked for a bunch of health information, so I wrote up a privacy policy and started building an onboarding flow. Which then ballooned in complexity; looking at the design files, more than half of the app is screens for dealing with something having gone wrong.2
One of the most interesting debates I had with myself during the whole process was deciding what business model to use.3 The App Store has had an unfortunate tendency to be a race to the bottom; while there’s a bit of a market for pro apps, a minimalistic water-tracking app doesn’t fit into that category. There’s also no argument to be made for a subscription, so I’d narrowed it down to ‘free, because I’m turning it in as the capstone project for my computer science major’, ‘free with ads’, or ‘paid up-front’. The first one was the one I was most comfortable with; sure, ‘paid up-front’ would be nice, but I’d also get approximately zero people to download it what with all the free competitors out there. ‘Free with ads’ feels deeply gross, both because I hate online advertising in general, and because I’m doing a lot with health data, and I really don’t want to have any chance of that getting stolen. For a while, I thought it was going to be ‘free forever’, and I’d be justifying it as ‘building a portfolio’.
That wasn’t what I actually settled on, however; instead, I’m going with ‘free with in-app purchase.’ Instead of building in a paywall and locking some features behind it, though, I decided I’d go simpler; the app and all of its features are free. Starting in version 1.1, there’ll be a button in the Settings; a little tip jar.4 I probably won’t make much, but I’ll feel better about it overall, and what’s the harm?
Beyond that debate, most of the challenge of the project as a whole was just building it. I knew going in what I wanted it to look like; what I didn’t know was how to go about doing that. The way the background overlaps the text? That alone took a week of trying different things to get working right.5 A few things I wanted to include in the first version didn’t make it – the widget was originally going to be entirely different, but the way Apple has done the security on health data makes the original design significantly more difficult to do, so I switched it to the current design.6
It was definitely a learning experience, too – I’d done some iOS application design for classes before, but never gone all-in on making something that would be both functional and enjoyable for the end user. If you’re releasing something on the App Store, you can’t just include a note that says “on first run, it’ll ask for a bunch of permissions; just say yes” because nobody will read that. And getting something uploaded to the App Store is itself a whole process – the App Store page doesn’t fill itself out, after all, and copywriting definitely isn’t my strongest suit.7
But it’s done; I’ve made an app and released it to the world. 8 By the time you’re reading this, it should be available on the App Store; as I mentioned, it’s free to download, and I’d love it if you’d give it a try.


  1. That said, I’m also doing some design sketches for my own entry into the field; don’t get your hopes up, I make no promises. 
  2. I’m not talking “my code is full of bugs and something crashed” went wrong, either; it’s all “the user originally gave permission to do something, but then changed their mind and used the Health app to take it away” and other such nonsense. Computers may be finite-state machines, but “eleventy hojillion” is still a finite number. 
  3. I also talked about this a lot with my friend Chase, without whom I would’ve long ago given up on technology and disappeared into the woods to be a Bigfoot impersonator.. 
  4. Yes, I know, I’m just now releasing version 1.0, and I’m already mentioning plans for 1.1. Don’t worry, I’ve got versions 1.2 and 1.3 mapped out, feature-wise, as well, and have some rough ideas for 1.4. 
  5. For a while I thought I was going to have to write code to draw the numbers ‘by hand’; fortunately, I was able to get the drawing to work by taking advantage of layer masks, but good lord are the Interface Builder files a mess as a result. Behind The Scenes, everybody! 
  6. I do still want to get the original design working, probably as an option in the Settings page of the app; a future version is going to add watchOS support, and I believe that a lot of the work I’ll have to do for that will also apply to making the widget work like I intended, so those two will either be the same or subsequent updates. 
  7. Another shoutout to Chase, who wrote the App Store description and turned my pile of 100 disjointed screenshots into the four that’re currently on display. 
  8. Well, “done”; it’s functional and available to the public, but software, as the saying goes, is never finished, only abandoned. I’ve no plans to abandon this project anytime soon; I use it myself several times a day, so I’m pretty invested in keeping it working and making it better. 
Categories
Review

“Things 3”, or, “it’s like they brought the best of Material Design to iOS”

So, in my last post about what apps I use I gave a fairly glowing review of Things 2, my to-do list app of choice. The third version of the app has finally been released, and now that I’ve been using it for a few weeks I figured I’d give it a bit of a review.1
Things is a suite of apps: it’s available on macOS and separately on iPhone and iPad. They’re linked together by Things Cloud, a free account for a service that works incredibly well.
The main paradigm hasn’t changed all that much since Things 2: it’s still (roughly) a Getting Things Done style, with the centerpiece being the ‘Today’ list and the various Areas of Responsibility. The biggest change, aside from the UI, is how Projects are handled: you can now create subheadings within projects, to keep everything a bit more organized, and each individual task can now have a ‘checklist’, so you’ve got another layer of hierarchical organization to take advantage of.2
Where Things 3 really shines is the UI, and it’s pretty clear why it took Cultured Code so long to release a new version: a ton of work went into it. To be honest, my main guess about what happened is “they started work on an Android version, then quit on that to go back to working in the Apple ecosystem, and stole all the best ideas from Material Design along the way.”3 Adding a task is as simple as the plus button that now lives in the very reachable bottom-right corner; if you want to put it somewhere specific, you drag the plus button over the area you’d like the to-do to go, and it gets smoothly inserted there. Drag an item to the right to schedule it for a later date – or to set a reminder at a certain time of a day, another new (and much-awaited) feature – and to the left to send it to an Area or delete it. Projects are even easier to work with, thanks to a filling-circle motif for their completion status.4
Getting somewhere is easier, as well – on macOS, you can just start typing, and as long as you didn’t begin with the spacebar5 it starts searching in your Areas and Projects for whatever list you’re typing. iOS includes the same mechanic, with the added step of pulling down6 to open the keyboard.
Beyond that, it’s just little touches that make everything nicer: the UI as a whole is brighter and more open; setting the ‘when’ for an item on macOS accepts natural language input, so I can just start typing ‘tomorrow’ and it’ll know what I mean; you can close the sidebar, or pull it open wider, on macOS. The biggest win for me is the ‘Upcoming’ view – it links in with your calendar7 to show events as scheduled8 alongside all of your Scheduled items and anything with a due date. OmniFocus has had a feature like this for a while, and it was one of the biggest things that almost got me to switch, so seeing that come to Things is delightful; it’s nice being able to see the whole week (or as far as you’d like) in advance.
All told, I consider Things 3 a great update to a great app, and I can happily continue to recommend it. If you don’t have any sort of to-do list manager, pick it up on your iPhone and Mac; if you’re all-in on it, like me, or are just one of those people who can actually get all of their work done on an iPad, get it there too.


  1. This blog used to be for stuff other than reviews, but I’ve run out of fun travels and I don’t do much else so… here we are, I guess. 
  2. It’s nice for, say, a grocery list: going grocery shopping is only one Thing To Do, so it makes sense to keep it as a single item, but you still want to be able to check off the various items you’ve got to buy. 
  3. And yes, that’s where I got the title of the post from: roll credits. 
  4. It’s reminiscent of the way Things 2 handled Projects in the ‘Projects’ view of the macOS app, with a progress bar filling the space behind the name, but now consistent across all of the apps. 
  5. Which remains the ‘add new’ shortcut, so you won’t even need to rewrite any muscle memory. 
  6. Think ‘pull to refresh,’ it’s a pretty standard pattern in iOS. 
  7. Very easily, too; macOS and iOS include some very nice calendar APIs 
  8. That link also makes an appearance in the Today view, where you get a quick overview of your schedule for the day; if I didn’t add calendar events as often as I do, I could actually stop having Calendar.app open on all of my devices all of the time, and let Things handle that as well. 
Categories
Collection

Word processors

Baldur Bjarnason:

I don’t write primarily in markdown because the format is nice but because markdown apps like Ulysses and Byword value the joy of writing as well as the need for structure. They recognise that writing is equal parts emotional and executive reasoning. Favour emotional logic too much and you get Apple’s glossy, wrapped-in-plastic writing experience. Favour executive reasoning too much and you get Microsoft Office’s kitchen-sink-included helicarrier.

I do all of my writing in Ulysses, and it’s a joy – full Markdown support, with one or two extra touches1 that make everything easy.
As to the Pages vs. Word debate, I tend to use Word – Pages is distinctly easier to use, but it lacks a couple features that I need whenever I’m using a ‘full’ word processor.2


  1. Like their footnote macro, which replaces markdown’s clunky [^footnoteID]/[^footnoteID]: content syntax with a quick, easy (fn) and typing into a popover. 
  2. And I have Office anyways, because the terabyte of OneDrive space and my need for Excel’s power features necessitate it.