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Using Extreme Agenda 5.0 features to create EA 5.0

So I’m in the rather cool position of working on Extreme Agenda 5.0 and also using the evolving product to plan the work to be done.

So let this be a little preview of what is coming in Extreme Agenda 5.0 as well as the power it will provide. We have decided to double down on power features, and have some that only a handful of other apps may have, but you won’t find them all in one place like this. Our direction is now defining EA to be the premium app for organization with power and flexibility. It always has, but we want to make that a more solid position in the premium space.

So a lot of this feature planning falls into our already powerful Reminder List, using a Getting Things Done(GTD) like system on the iPhone. Check out our older blog post on GTD in Extreme Agenda for more help.

 

The first big thing is that we have made this list have 3 levels of sorting(effectively 4 as name is used as the last one if not used before). So our setup is to sort by Status( Actions like “Next Action“, “Planning”, and “Active“), then Completed, and then Priority. So as we move features we are adding in to groups like the Next Action group, we can have a few in the group and then use the tap-n-hold popup toolbar to change the priority to move them up and down the list. And with this setup the completed reminders drop down to the bottom of the current group.

The second, and arguably one of the biggest new game changing features of EA 5.0, is that you can add lists to reminders and events. So now each feature reminder can have a sub-list built right in that I can access and check off as I complete the smaller pieces that make up the feature. We can’t begin to explain how handy this feature is. Wait until you see it’s implementation and uses. And best of all they are embedded into your notes, so they appear anywhere you look at the event or reminder.

We also have added color to the flat icon set, and are using that to our advantage. Another way of grouping our new features is that we added several categories to the system based on size of the feature(approximately how many hours or how much effort). We set all of these categories to the same flat ruler icon(denotes size) but gave them all different colors. Now at a glance when looking at the reminder list I can tell by color whether this feature is Large, Medium, or Small. I can also re-sort based on category, status, completed, and see what is left for big chunks of time.

And finally we are taking advantage of updates to the template system, so we can tap n hold the + button, select the template choice and then select a template from the list for say a “Small, Next Action, High Priority” reminder and fill in the name only, and we have a filled in reminder.

So with Extreme Agenda 5.0, get ready to be even more organized. This is just the start of what new features are going in to version 5.0 to make it the best planner on iOS.

 

 

Where we are at 2016…

Just a little update on where Birdsoft is….

We are very proud of our two brand new products launched in 2015.

The Dog Ate It is a great full featured student planner that is built to feel simple and easy to use, but has as many if not more features than the current student planners that are established in the App Store. Unfortunately with the current problems in today’s Apple’s App Store, we can’t quickly bubble to the top and really prove that is true. So we could use your help to get people trying it, for FREE, and realize what a great tool it is for students in the classroom.

Swim Track is an app that I just had to write personally, so I could use it for my own swimmer. I knew I wanted to see a graph of her progress in events in both her club and summer swim teams, and be able to handle all the conversions from yards to meters seamlessly. I started out writing it for myself, but then put enough polish on it, that it is pretty much the top solution on the App Store for doing just that.

We hope to expand on our great UtiliForms offering in 2016 as well. We have some great ideas to really make it what every utility or service that serves utilities needs to quickly handle reporting in the field with super simple customizable forms that any of the crew can handle.

Now Im had at work adding some great new features that will refine the Extreme Agenda experience. I have it updated for iPad Pro, have a couple bug fixes in there, and am now starting on 4-6 new features that at least in my main work flows, will make it infinitely more useable. A few of which are multiple sort levels in Reminders, adjustments to make templates even easier, and additions to the filtering to make that way more powerful. And a really cool feature that can make any reminder or event into a list…. We are bouncing around a couple other features like printing and notes on the calendar, to make it the most powerful Extreme Agenda yet….

So watch for Extreme Agenda to get even better soon, we think with the changes we will have by far the most flexible Reminder List for Getting Things Done on iOS, and yeah, the top calendar too!

Extreme Agenda on the App Store

And as mentioned earlier, today’s App Store is kind of a mess. And with the problems and all the competition out there, it has become very important that if you want to see continued advancements on a product you love, you need to help out us developers by spreading the word and adding positive reviews in the AppStore. It all helps so much and we really appreciate it. Birdsoft is  happy to have some of the most loyal and outstanding customers and we thank you, and want to continue to find more great people to enjoy the time and quality we put into each App.

Thanks!

The Dog Ate It – The iPhone Student Planner

Just in time for back to school….

We are pleased to announce the release of our new Student Planner for iPhone, The Dog Ate It. Having had a version of this app dating back to 2002 on Windows Mobile and later on Windows desktop, we always had it in our mind that we would bring a really cool new version of this to iOS at some point.

We have watched this market since the start of the AppStore and while we liked what the one leader in this field was doing, we just felt it was always an app that was not quite organized correctly and had pieces ‘strapped’ to it in confusing ways in order to say they were there. There aren’t any other really good alternatives that do about everything you want(grading is essential for students, otherwise why not just use a good organizer), or aren’t dependent on online accounts.

So this app has been in development for a long time. It was actually mostly done before last school year, but with our situation, we ended up taking a full extra year to polish it. We went in thinking we needed to strip the idea of the planner down and build it back up. We know students are going to be using it, for the most part, in the few minutes at the end of class or in between classes, so we wanted things to be right there, really clear, and really really easy to add and update quickly.

We think students will love the design. Colors and icons play a prominent part in allowing you to quickly identify classes and see what you have going. Shortcuts are built in to allow you to quickly add, reschedule, or finish assignments. There are only a few main screens involved so you don’t sit and wonder which way the app was meant to be used. Jump to the schedule tab to see your week or month, or just look at your classes individually.

And with our design we do have it ready to expand in several ways. Under the hood it uses Core Data, and actually has all the code in there to sync to iCloud. We just ran into some problems in testing and wanted to put out the most solid app possible at launch so pulled that temporarily, but allow you to email a backup of all your data. And we have plans that if enough students love it, we can quickly move to the iPad as well… And then sync will be more important…. And what about a notification widget and the watch and….

We do believe in features. Lots of them. And flexibility. So we think we have ways to accommodate some of the more advanced things that you might need for your school. Flexible class time scheduling(Lecture/Labs, period naming, etc…) and custom grading scales including weighted grading. And we put in features that are the only basis for other apps. Want to know what you need on a test to keep a certain class grade? We have a screen for that….

And we love the idea of free trials. We want you to see what the app can do to know if you like it. Unfortunately we are not yet allowed to do that the traditional way of having a time trial on the AppStore. So we had to set some limits. Please take a FREE look at the app and remember what we intended, that if you like it, you buy the full product at a more than fair price. Sorry, we were forced to do this in a less than stellar way…

Thanks and as always if you have ways to improve the app in any way, drop us an email…

Download from the AppStore

Birdsoft

 

The hours thing.

So we have always thought our ‘Billing Hours’ has been a better product than the popular ‘Hours’ app. We realize that they have built out a great network to get it up and selling, have some friends at Apple, and do self promotion amazingly. But the fact is, their app is lacking in many areas. It has some neat effects and some novelty interactions, but it just doesn’t do everything that you might want it to do, and actually can be a little confusing for how ‘easy’ it is supposed to be. It seems to be missing several very basic features.

Granted they did jump right on the Apple Watch thing, and seemed to have done a nice job with doing what they already do on there, if you have an Apple watch…

So we noticed that they are giving it away free and made a blog post about their future plans to enter the Enterprise world with their basic timer app. And always being the salesman they blow over the fact that some companies will require more. They will require features they don’t have. Features that may be a long time coming. And the features they plan to add, they seem to hint they will be monetizing in new ways…

So we thought, what a great time for us to do another of our FREE giveaways of our App, so you can see jut how much more usable an app can be when it has more of the features you need. Like sending an invoice!

So give BOTH apps a try.. Give them a fair shake, and consider… Does their UI with some interesting shortcuts and interactions really make anything easier in the long run? Is having it a good tradeoff for not having the features that people that actually do track time might use the most? Or does the simpler app do what you need?

I think you’ll agree that Billing Hours has more potential. And we have a new version coming that we won’t be adding monetization and steering towards Enterprise.. It will just have some neat UI tricks of our own, and requested features. So drop us an email on what you think, and what we can add….

Billing Hours on the AppStore.

Thanks

 

Update: Edited as this post was initially written pretty hastily and so came off a tad harsh. Obviously Hours has some benefits and is enough for many people’s needs.  And other may not know about the several other more full featured Time Trackers that exist as this one was one of the most visible. Check out ‘Hours Tracker’ for another great and more full featured option…

 

Let’s not call it a Post-Mortem… We just need a little life support.

So Birdsoft is going part time as of October 13th, 2014.

What does this mean? 

Well, Ive taken an iOS development(and possibly other flavors) job with a company that I’ve done quite a bit of consulting work for in the past. It will be a new adventure getting to create and work on some great mobile products.

Birdsoft will still live on. This new company is really cool and very open to you doing whatever you want on the side. So some nights and weekends I will be doing updates, adding features and trying to fit in as much of what I used to do in doing this full time, and still keep my sanity. I have Extreme Agenda 5 well under way, I have my new product pretty much done, and I just got all of my major apps updated to be working with iOS8.. So Birdsoft is in a pretty good place that way…

And my apps are mostly solid and mature at this point, so don’t think that part time means I wont be offering email support or squashing the bugs that do come up or adding anything. That will still hold a high priority….

I’m not throwing away 11+ years of full time work. I’d like to think I did some pretty cool things in there…

Why?

This is a hard one. I don’t want to pass all the blame off on Apple, though they deserve a large portion of it. I simply didn’t maintain making enough money to support myself with just Birdsoft, even though I feel like I have better products now than I did when I was able to do it…

I did make a few mistakes and focused on the wrong things a few times. I didn’t quite play the ever changing game right, it was like hitting a moving target(notice I didn’t use the word ‘evolving’). I did play it fairly right in 2012, but Apple already has changed the rules a couple times since then.

And I could have done a much better job of finding and embracing the network of developers out there(and Press and Apple itself). But basically Ive determined that one of the only real ways of doing that would have meant spending thousands of dollars to get to THE developer conference(WWDC), solely to mingle and network. It was hard to justify…. but it turned out to be a mistake that I didn’t. Who charges that much, when the mobile stores used to throw the same types of things free, Oh yeah that’s Apple….

But really it is that Apple made the AppStore a mess. They seem to be cleaning it up a bit, but then I’ve thought that before. They simply made decisions that did not help the good middle of the road developers. They didn’t see us as that important. So now they have a trash heap of half-done apps that you have to dig through in order to find the gems.

My biggest example. Apple actually championing the ‘race to the bottom’ price wise is the biggest mess. You don’t think they support that? I have an app that has made six figures, and I have a somewhat similar app that hasn’t even made 5 figures. The first is a paid app and the second is freemium. Guess which app they rush through reviews and show higher in searches? Yeah, the one that has more downloads, not the one that keeps me in business….

Good for you Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. I love that the vast majority of the billions that the AppStore makes goes to only a couple companies that make good but not great games, but have learned to manipulate people in the same ways as casinos do.  I’m glad that’s who Apple has decided to shape their rules around, to reward them instead of trying to make a nice big playing field that thousands of developers could live and thrive off of…

They have so many things structured like search, discovery, reviews, top charts  that are all just skewed and broken.  And the biggest mistake was promoting how many apps they had. 1,000,000 apps didn’t mean anything, when like 5% were any good. We’ve pointed most of these issues out since the beginning of the store, and yet some have gotten worse… It’s just a mess that I hope they are trying to fix and change their direction on….

Its a vicious cycle, reward the apps that are cheap or free with more downloads, but cycle them out as new ones come in, and hope enough people keep playing the game. Developers then don’t make enough money on apps(or make it all up front only), so those app don’t keep developer’s attention. So the developer then don’t improve them to what they should be. Now we have a lot of non-updated apps along with all the poor ones all sitting around clogging the system.

And add to that you have ‘developer experts’ actually telling new developer to make simple apps that are over designed but with very few features in order to turn out product and play this game… And Apple promoting and even giving design awards and Editor’s choice to apps that don’t even do what they’re supposed to do very well, with very few features, but they look pretty…

So at least we have over 1,000,000 apps.

Side Note: You know what I still to this day find: My apps with the most features still sell the best!

Add to that the press being a ‘good ol’ boys’ club at this point that will push for and ‘love’ some pretty average apps because they met the developer once and that developer kisses up to them on Twitter or has been around doing Mac stuff, and some really good apps are getting passed over….

It all makes it hard…

So who would have thought that the mobile app market was more stable and dare I say better before the iPhone. From my 11+ years experience, unfortunately that’s the case…

I’m around. Birdsoft is still going. But Im seeing some pretty big names dropping out of the fight, even today… and I feel like by doing this I just couldn’t quite pull it off fully either.. stinks!

 

 

 

We’re here…

So what an interesting summer….

Well, we keep on churning out iOS development. We are currently doing a bunch of fixes and changes for Apple’s iOS8 and new iPhone sizes. We probably could have been a little quicker with our updates. But then again, Apple did hold out any information on those screens, because, well you know… secrecy… No, not a great reason, but it’s Apple. They don’t make mistakes… Well, except the mess that is iOS8 so far, and….

We did just come off of doing a huge project for a very high profile client, which we can’t mention because of Lawyer stuff… But it is an AWESOME app that we had a part in getting ready to ship for a top news agency….

So that got in the way of us shipping our latest big new product which is now about 95% complete, and work done on the new EXTREME AGENDA 5.0! So along with consulting, once we get these ‘fix’ updates out those 2 things are our main priorities. We have some great ideas and the good stuff that is in iOS8 made that list grow even longer, so… We hope to show you some neat new things very soon….

 

 

 

 

iPhone Billable Hours Tracking

As a contractor doing iOS consulting I was looking for an app that could track my billable hours on projects and easily invoice the customer. And while there are some out there, a lot of them have long since been abandoned and have poor interfaces dating them back to early iOS, are too complicated, or require you to sign up for a service and pay a subscription. No thanks.

So I set out to write a simple iPhone app that strips away some of the unneeded extra bloat, flowed perfectly with iOS7 and was built to expand if customers interact with us and want it to be more. And what I came up with is ‘Billing Hours’.

 

Create a client, create a project, and then start creating time or billable item entries. View those entries by week, month, or custom pay period. Send filtered professional reports in both csv and pdf formats. Create and email or print an invoice that can use both items and timed entries and even combine your time. Password lock the app to keep out prying eyes. It is all streamlined and easy to follow…

And some of the expandability has already quickly happened as we’ve iterated. People asked to be able to import contact information as a client, and that is done. One reviewer, instead of emailing us, complained about not having next actions when filling out clients. Done.

The app has room to grow and can be even more, as it is built  to go to iPad and to quickly switch to using iCloud if we get enough support. So give it a try and let us know what you think with an email or help us out with a good review.

We want to help your track your billing hours quickly and easily on the go.

Billing Hours on the AppStore

 

Thanks

 

 

What’s the plan….

So we haven’t done an update of our current plans in a while… So here it is.

We are currently juggling a few consulting projects, one being a pretty neat Android project, so we have opened up that can of worms… So along with juggling those, we have some pretty big plans for the coming months for our own products.

We have just released updates to all of the Extreme line of products and Grid Calendar products, and are working to get those completely stable on iOS7-7.1 for those few people that are seeing issues. And then we plan on a big update to Extreme Agenda, hopefully dropping this summer.

We have an update to ‘All-In Poker’ very close to done that adds a lot of neat effects and some graphics upgrades to the app, along with 2 new games…

But our biggest plan is that we have ideas for 5-6 very high quality apps that at this point we are able to turn around in a month or less. How? Well, we now have built out a very stable new framework to start with and then with code re-use and switching to some newer iOS technologies, we can create very capable products utilizing our 5+ years experience on this platform(as long as it has existed) very quickly. And ask our many satisfied iOS clients, we are very efficient developing for them, or YOU, as well…

The first of these apps just dropped called “Billing Hours” and took less than a month’s development  time. But it has features competing with and even above the top guys in that market.  It is a time tracking app that allows contractors to keep track of and even invoice their hours and billable items. Check it out now at it’s low introductory price.

 

We have already started in on the 2nd app. It is the resurrection of a Birdsoft oldie but a goodie, dating back to our Pocket PC days and should compete or even top what exists in that space as well….We’re pretty excited…

We have some big plans and hopefully a big deal in place for a solution we have ready for Form Data collection and entry, right now targeting the utility world, http://www.utiliforms.com . We plan to expand on this as well in the AppStore, with a more standard version as one of our new “high end apps” coming soon.

But like always, if we can handle a consulting project for you, that will be first priority…. So drop us a line if you have the next killer app idea…

We’re hoping 2014 brings some great new iOS devices, some great new Birdsoft products and updates that can rise above the mess that is the current AppStore, and to continually keep our clients happy…

Thanks

Dissection of a Good Bad Review on the AppStore

or is it ‘Bad Good Review’…

So there has always been a lot of talk about how broken the AppStore review system is and developers have pleaded with Apple to fix it. So I thought I would demonstrate just a bit of the problem using a recent review I received for my top application Extreme Agenda.

It starts out:

“This is a good calendar and reminders application. Apparently, creating a calendar and reminder’s app is very difficult. There are a bunch of them and most are bad and/or don’t work with all the iDevices and/or have some bad oddity.”

Great. I’m happy this reviewer i.Doug took the time to write a thorough review of my app. And at least he went into some detail about his thoughts so I can see what people are thinking. I respect that. So he then went on to point out a couple valid points and a couple of very strange ones, that Im glad I get to see to try to see into the mind of customers out there…

“Not all features work in all screens. Example: Drag and Drop only works with the ‘Interface” of Tabs in the Month calendar view. Then only by selecting the day and from the day section(upper right), select the event or reminder, by holding it and then dragging it to a different day. This means you can cannot drag and drop to change the time, nor can you drag and drop from any other view in any other interface.”

Ok, so there are a couple places we can add drag and drop functionality. But to set time using it and dragging things to other views, how does he see that working? And if he has an idea in mind, how about sending it to the developer? Basically it works where you would definitely expect it to. (Note: we have move/copy and paste implemented everywhere that essentially cover his drag and drop ideas. And we do plan to do more).

But here is where it gets a little strange.. Essentially he starts complaining because we have too many options. You bought an advanced application. If you want an over designed, highly locked down 1 or 2 theme app with very little customization, don’t buy one that at every turn tells you it is more than that…

“Be prepared to do a lot of editing to get the estherics to your liking. The developer(s) have made a huge error in providing many cosmetic options for this app. By providing the options it is easy for a use to get lost in verbage. The option labels are not clear(“Back Color” & “Cal Back Color”, I could not figure out which one changes what.)

Ummmm… “Cal Back color” changes the month Calendar’s Background Color and “Back Color” changes the Background Color everywhere else? I can see where with our limited room(because of the iPhone) some labels can get a little confusing, but this is your example?

“and not all possible options are available(no text color option).”

So do you want more or less options, Im confused(see below)?!

(We will consider adding ‘text color’ though, thanks…)

“it would be a big help if the developer would hire a designer. Then remove the cosmetic options and leave a small number of themes.”

Well, there kind of is a designer. That is why there are like 6 pre-made themes that ship with the application that you can just use by selecting them and not mess with the display options at all. How about just not tinkering in that screen if you don’t like to as the default theme is a very clean well done theme.

Maybe it just isn’t clear to this user that the very top choice of a theme is what is controlling what is selected in every other box in this screen. I’ll definitely consider ways to point this out better…

Many many people love the flexibility of adjusting almost everything to their liking…

Also, they should remove the “Interface” option and just pick one, that would make testing all the themes easier. As is, not all screens work with all themes/options.

Fair enough. We have debated dumping the 3 available “Interface options” (2 for iPad), as there are a few very minor option differences as he suggests. But all themes work with all interfaces, they are just color and drawing settings. I like that the reviewer is exploring the options, but in this case I would think then that you would be someone who wants the most options available.

We default it to what we think is the ‘best option’ but ultimately decided to let the customer decide if they want to change the interface setting and live with the various limitations and advantages(screen real estate, tabs, features, etc…)

“My guess is the developer is trying to be everything to everyone with this app. Frankly, the end result works, but it is a mess.”

Well you get our program, but I guess the “mess” part is subjective. If you want a simple calendar or reminders app with less options, there are plenty. But like he suggested, they don’t all work that well… Ours does, but if you try to tinker with the options it becomes ‘a mess’? I would argue all day that out of the gate our app is much cleaner and simpler than any of the other few apps that even come close to the functionality found in this app.

So what would you expect after reading the first paragraph of the review. Yeah, 4 or 5 stars. Even after reading it all, still probably 3 stars right? Well the problem with the AppStore is each customer gets their own scale… And ‘i.Doug’ decided that a “good calendar and reminders application.”  ultimately deserves 2 stars because in his over exploration of it’s flexibility he noticed some small but planned/known inconsistencies.

I guess the point is that it is handy for a developer to see a review like this. But since we can’t respond like I did here it is just straight out confusing for new customers to be fed half the information like this. And then the two star rating is rather contradictory and probably doesn’t fall on the scale where average users would put it. Now that score will ultimately be on the store pulling down the App’s all important ratings forever, as customers like this rarely revisit a review…

So thank you i.Doug for the good bad review… but really we would be better served with an email containing your thoughts and not the inconsistent review you ended up sharing with the world…

 

 

 

Midnight Grid vs. Fantastical 2 (Revisited)

So we thought we’d follow up on our comparison with the Midnight version of our minimal calendar App “The Grid” as compared to Fantastical. Fantastical 2 has come out with a few new features so we’ll try to update our table to show new features that have come along since we wrote this… (And we won’t even think about showing a table like this against Extreme Agenda, needless to say it has all of the Midnight Grid features and SO MANY MORE).

Midnight

 

So here is a breakdown of what we see as benefits of each:

The Grid Midnight Fantastical
Month View X X
Week Strip View X X
Search X X
Copy/Move Events X X
Week Numbers X X
Day Badge X X
Attendees X X
Natural Language Entry X (in v.1.5) X
Time Zone Support X (in v.1.5) X
Drag-n-Drop X
Templates X
Text on Calendar X
One Touch Filtering X
Multiple Event Alarms X
Advanced Repeating Events X  F2
Email and Share Events X  F2(only email)
Multiple Themes X  Two in F2
Dated Reminders X  F2
Universal X
Weather X

Thanks for considering ‘The Grid’, and if you aren’t convinced try out the FREE version and give it a try before upgrading or buying Midnight. Or go all out and explore Extreme Agenda for new levels of productivity.

Midnight “The Grid” on AppStore