How to Write an App Using Google

Do you have 1) a great idea for an app and 2) minimal coding experience?

Step 1 — Google Broadly

Start by Googling a basic description of what you’re trying to do, something like “how to use a scrolling picker in Swift.” Chances are, you’ll find a rather simple solution — and by simple I mean that it will have only a few steps. However, those steps will likely use terminology you’ve never even heard before, things like “view controller” and “app delegate.” For an experienced coder, these are simple steps. For you, not so much (and that’s OK!). Which brings us to Step 2…

Step 2 — Google Specifically

Dive deeper into what you’re trying to learn by Googling any terms you don’t understand. Turns out you place UI elements inside a view controller, but what the heck are constraints? Google that too! This takes time and effort to effectively learn and piece together information. But it does work, and it does pay off in the end.

Except when you can’t find what you’re looking for. Which brings us to step 3…

Step 3 — Ask!

Stack Overflow is a wonderful resource to find other people who’ve had the same problem as you and who have already found a solution. I used to be hesitant to post my own questions to Stack Overflow. To be perfectly honest, I was too lazy and too impatient, thinking an answer would take days.

If you think so too, you’re completely wrong. The few times I’ve posted to Stack Overflow, I’ve gotten an educated response within an hour. It’s an amazing community.

Now, make sure you do your homework. First, be sure the question hasn’t been asked before on Stack Overflow. If something similar has been asked, make sure you cite that question in your post, and explain what makes your situation different. Second, be specific. Include large blocks of your own code. This is the only way anyone will be able to understand what you’re trying to accomplish and, more importantly, what you’re doing wrong.

Conclusion

I recently published my first app. Before starting the project, I had some basic experience with coding, minimal experience with iOS programming, and lots of experience with Google. But enough about me, this is about you! With a little determination and a lot of patience, it is possible to Google your way through almost any programming problem. Happy hacking!

 

Stand Hours – My First App!

I’ve been reviewing apps here for a long time, but today I’m incredibly excited to announce that I’ve made an app of my own! Being an iOS developer has been a dream of mine for years, and I’m very proud of the app I’ve made. Please go check the app out and send me feedback on features you want added!

Stand Hours app icon Stand Hours – Download Now!

Stand Hours is an app I created that helps you live healthier by sitting less and moving more throughout your day. If you work at a desk (like me), or are in school and spend lots of time doing homework (also like me), this is an easy way to become just a little bit healthier each day. Getting up and walking around for even just one minute (at least 100 steps) during an hour counts as a stand hour.


Stand Hours reads your step data from the Health app, which means it works with any fitness tracker that supports Apple Health (including the iPhone’s built-in pedometer).

Stand Hours also gives you hourly reminders throughout the day to get up and move around.

In addition to reading steps from Apple Health, Stand Hours can (optionally) export your stand hours to Apple Health. Yes, Apple Health has a metric called “Stand Hours,” but that can only be used by the Apple Watch. Instead, this app can store your stand hours as ANY activity metric in Apple Health – such as an empty one that you don’t use. It’s a great way to see this data in the Health app, even if you don’t have an Apple Watch!

You can use the form below to submit feedback, request features, or report bugs. This app is still in early stages, so if you’ve got a feature you want added to the app I’m all ears! Thanks for checking it out.

You can view the Stand Hours’ privacy policy here. TL;DR, all data in the app stays on your device, we don’t collect or sell it in any way.
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SoundForest: Patterns and Beats

SoundForest – Free on the App Store

Years ago, when I first got an iPad, I remember playing around with GarageBand. Sure, it was fun to strum on the on-screen guitar, but I actually play the guitar, so that got old pretty quickly. What was fun, however, was the drum machine. There was a grid on the screen, with two axis labeled “Loud/Quiet” and “Complex/Simple.” You would drag each element of the drum kit somewhere onto the grid, and it would play a beat for you. It was honestly really fun.

SoundForest immediately brought me back the enjoyment I used to get from GarageBand. It’s a similar idea, drag icons onto the screen to create music, but even better. In SoundForest, your song moves left to right, playing each “note” that you’ve placed in order. You can stack different icons to play two sounds at once, or play two of the same sound, which changes it slightly. I’d talk more about it, but it’s honestly better to just watch it yourself. Here’s a tune I made:

Best of all, SoundForest does this with really neat, minimalistic artwork of trees and flowers and animals that you might find in, well in the forest. It’s a gorgeous app. Simple, fun, and beautiful. What more could you want?


Thanks for reading! Have comments or feedback? I’d love to hear from you! I respond to all messages I receive. Drop me a line on Twitter @NickFoster56 or email me at staringatphones@icloud.com. And be sure to subscribe to my blog and follow me on Medium!

Enlight Photofox: Jaw-Dropping iOS Photo Edits

Enlight Photofox – Free on the App Store

There are dozens of great image editors for iOS. However, most of them seem to lean towards the Instagram-filter type of edits that have become so popular over the past few years. That’s fine. I love Instagram filters are much as the next person. But today I discovered an app that does the kind of edits I used to think I could only do on the computer. Enlight Photofox is a full-blown image editor with support for transparency and layers.

When I was in middle school, I started to play around with GIMP, a free, open-source alternative to Photoshop. GIMP is hard to work with, but I remember the huge “aha” moment I had when I finally figured out how layers work. See those two little thumbnails in the upper right corner of the screenshot above? Those are my two layers. I’ve imported two images right on top of each other – two of my favorite pictures from my trip to San Francisco last summer – and I can use transparency to let one photo bleed through the other. Layer-based editing is the gateway that opens the power of professional-grade software like Photoshop.

If you’re looking for a free photo editor that goes beyond filters, look no further. Enlight Photofox is the app that will do the job. ••

Bibliography: I found this app from this App Store article, a great tutorial on how to create a double exposure. Go check it out!


Thanks for reading! Have comments or feedback? I’d love to hear from you! I respond to all messages I receive. Drop me a line on Twitter @NickFoster56 or email me at staringatphones@icloud.com. And be sure to subscribe to my blog and follow me on Medium!

3 Reasons Why iOS 11 is Incredible on the iPad Pro

I’ve been a big fan of the iPad for a long time. I stopped bringing my laptop to school with me years ago, instead relying on my trusty little iPad Mini 2 with a Bluetooth keyboard and a stylus I bought on Amazon. That iPad was a great little device. I think it’s safe to say that it was my most-beloved piece of tech. It was just such a joy to use. Over time, however, it had gotten a little… slow.

So I bought the new 10.5” iPad Pro back in July. It’s an incredible device. The screen is beautiful, everything is lighting fast, and the Apple Pencil was a game changer for taking notes at school. But a big part of why I bought a new iPad was what I saw of iOS 11 when it was unveiled last summer at WWDC. So after spending three months drooling over the new features, I’ve finally had some time to actually use iOS 11.

And it’s amazing.

Seriously, it’s made using and being productive on the iPad better than ever. It’s also made using the iPad more fun than ever. So, in a slight deviation from my usual focus on specific apps, here are my favorite three features of iOS 11.

One: Better Multitasking

Having all those apps accessible on the new dock, without having to go back to the home screen, makes iOS so much faster and easier to use. I love being able to have all my most-used apps right there, all the time, and the predictive/recent area over to the right is great too. The fact that side by side apps stay paired together is really nice as well – I’ve found it’s super helpful to keep my email and todo list next to each other all the time. 2Do doesn’t need much of the screen, so it stays on the side, leaving most of the real estate for Airmail. Awesome.

Two: Drag and Drop

Why did we not have this before? It’s amazing. The other day I was in a lab at school, and I had some screenshots from the lab computer that I had uploaded to iCloud Drive so I could put them into Notability. Before, I would have had to import them, one at a time, using a photo picker in Notability. But instead, I just pulled up the files app over Notability and dropped all four images in at once. Amazing. The WordPress app supports this too!

Three: Screenshots and Screen Recording

Two features here: You can now take a screen recording of your iPad or iPhone directly on the device, without connecting it to your computer. Pretty neat! Screenshots are even better though. When you take a screenshot, it now appears in a little bubble in the corner of your screen. You can then tap this to bring up an editor, and do stuff like put red arrows pointing to the thing you want to draw attention to. You can then share this screenshot directly from the editor. Or, if you don’t need to edit, you can just drag and drop the bubble directly into whatever app you’re using! ••

Fun fact: You can’t screenshot the screenshot bubble! It just doesn’t show up. That’s the reason the status bar is red in that screenshot above – I actually had to do a screen recording to get that capture.

Mini Metro: Sim City for the Stressed Out

 

Mini Metro – $4.99 on the App Store

There are a lot of apps on my iPad that stress me out sometimes. Managing email, keeping up with todo lists, organizing homework – life is busy! That’s why I really appreciate a good, calming iOS game. Gentle music, soft colors, and a moderate pace all make for an enjoyable experience when I’m feeling tense. Mini Metro has all of this. I’m even going to put it in the same category as Monument Valley and Alto’s Adventure. Yeah, it’s good.

Mini Metro is a real time strategy game in which you create subway lines to move passengers around a city. The map starts small, but more stations pop up quickly as time goes on. You can connect the stations any way you want, but you’re limited by the number of lines, trains, and tunnels at your disposal. You earn more of these resources as the game progresses, allowing you to create a larger network.

What really makes the game challenging for me is the different types of stations. At first, there are three: the triangle, the square, and the circle. Each “passenger” is represented by the shape of the station they’re trying to reach. As the game progresses, more obscure shapes start popping up. There might be only one star-shaped station on the entire map, which means a passenger will have to transfer lines. Uh-oh.

I love this game because the objective is simple, but the execution is difficult! One minute my subway is operating like a well oiled machine, and the next minute I’ve got three stations nearing capacity. I’m still learning what strategies work best, and I’m enjoying experimenting with different techniques. Mini Metro is a great game because there are a myriad of ways to approach it. When my mind feels cramped, letting it out of the box like this is a great way to relax. ••


Thanks for reading! Have comments or feedback? I’d love to hear from you! I respond to all messages I receive. Drop me a line on Twitter @NickFoster56 or email me at staringatphones@icloud.com. And be sure to subscribe to my blog and follow me on Medium!

5 Apps from my Friends that You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

As part of my epic quest to bring you Apps to Make Your Life Better, this week I reached out on Facebook and Ghacklabs to ask you for great apps. Here’s the catch – I asked for really obscure apps that most people haven’t heard of. Here’s what I got! (These descriptions were all written by those who submitted, although some were edited by me)

Opinion – Record & edit podcasts on your iPhone

One app that I love to use is called Opinion. It allows you to create a podcast from your iPhone, without any hassle of complex software or cutting/mixing/etc. I use it to record the Building Task Pigeon podcast. I was looking for a solution that would allow me to quickly and easily record and upload a podcast to platforms such as iTunes, without having to download the file to my computer, edit it and then submit it. It really has saved me a ton of time, and I enjoy using it as a way of sharing short and interesting stories on what I am doing with Task Pigeon.
Submitted by Paul Towers

Reverb – Buy and Sell Gear

Reverb.com is the best place on the internet to buy and sell musical gear. There are thousands of listings, but the Reverb app very well designed. The filters are very specific and allow me to easily narrow my search to find exactly what I want. Reverb has tons of listings, but the app makes it easy to find whatever I’m looking for.
Submitted by Ryan Foster and Daniel LaRoche

Cachebot Geocaching

If you’ve never been geocaching, you’re in for a treat. People hide “caches” all over the world and post the coordinates online, and then you go find them, signing the log book and swapping trinkets. The official Geocaching app won’t let you view advanced caches without paying, so using Cachebot is a good alternative.
Submitted by Austin Adams

Moji Edit – Your Custom Emoji Avatar Face

This app allows you to express your personality and identity literally. It was founded by two twins. You can create a custom representation of yourself in the app, changing the look and outfit, and then send stickers to your friends.
Submitted by Luke Fitzpatrick

Clipper – Clipboard Manager

This app is a clipboard that saves the last 20 text clips you copied into your phone’s memory buffer. This app is available on Android; if you’re on iOS, Clips is a similar app.
Submitted by Alex Yong


Have an app suggestion, feedback, or just want to say Hi? I’d love to hear from you! I respond to all messages I receive. Drop me a line on Twitter @NickFoster56 or email me at staringatphones@icloud.com.