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Power Tips for Ulti-Planner

We have been running a fun daily “Tip of the day” feature on our Twitter account for @ultiplanner, and we thought it would be good idea to bring them over here as well for easy access. Make sure you check out both places as more will be added.

Tip of the day: Slide up on the main month calendar to turn it into a week strip view, slide down to make the month full screen.

Tip of the day: Find the ‘custom filter’ button at the end of the tab list of filters (shown with main filter button in bottom toolbar). Now create a powerful filter to easily access another set of data, filtered by tags, calendars, participants and with its own look.

Tip of the day: Try out the embedded list feature to quickly add and update lists in your schedule items. On the card view of an event or reminder hit the ‘List’ button to make shopping, todo, or other checklists that will get saved right in the notes.

Tip of the day: Use an app like @launchcenterpro with the ‘ultiplanner:’ app url to quickly open our app. ‘ultiplanner://newevent’ and ‘ultiplanner://newreminder’ will try to jump to item creation. We’d love requests for what else you’d like added!

Tip of the day: Cut-Copy-Paste functionality is built right in. Sliding left (or holding) will expose menus with “more” that have copy and move choices for that item. Select it and the item will be remembered, and then tap-n-hold on headers or month days to expose ‘paste’.

Tip of the day: If you hold on the app icon when outside the app, it has shortcuts to add an event or a reminder built in to the menu that pops up.

Tip of the day: On the month and week and timeline views, if you tap and hold on an event or reminder you can drag it to another day to move it. Drag-n-Drop!!!

Tip of the day: Hashtags can be added to any event or reminder from the Card View, and will be stored in the notes of that item. The interface remembers already used tags for quick re-entry. You can then assign icons to hashtags in Settings, and use them in custom filters!

The Power in Ulti-Planner

So what features can not be ignored in the all new Ulti-Planner. Well, where do I start.

Note that some of these advanced features may only be available in the Premium version. So give that free trial a try to give all this power a test drive.

Card Interface

By now we’ve all gotten used to the awesome interfaces built around cards that pop up from the bottom to show you the information you need quickly and clearly. Well, we have brought this to the calendar as well. A card will pop up to show you information on your item, with popular options of what you can do with them, including tying an icon directly to that event. If you swipe the card up further more information and options will be shown including a way to get to Apple’s details.

Hashtags

Everybody is familiar with the advantages of having #hashtags available. Well we have built an engine that can detect and add hashtags to the notes fields of your events and reminders. You can then use them to do advanced filtering, sorting, and adding of Icons.

And specialty keywords can also be added in Settings that work much in the same way. Icons can be assigned and they can be used for filtering later. So if you have a bunch of generated events in your calendar that all happen to have one keyword( like ‘scrum’ or ‘volleyball’), you can setup a filter in order to only view these items.

Custom Filters

Don’t miss this amazing feature. On every calendar view is a filter button that you can toggle on and off. By default it will show all of the individual calendars you are using, as well as a special Birthday filter. But the real power of this comes in if you scroll the filter tabs to the end to find where you can add custom filters.

A custom filter allows you to basically create a specific view of your calendar, with filters by calendars, lists, hashtags and keywords, and participants. A calendar type can be specified for this filter, so if you normally like calendar text, but for this you would rather see an Icon and Time Bar view, you can do that. This is a game changer for how you use your calendar.

The filter toggling has been specifically designed so it will remember the last filter you have selected. So if you usually switch between two sets of information, the toggle will jump right into your regular or custom filter with one press.

Reminders

We have spent a bunch of time making Reminders a lot more flexible so they can be organized in a lot of ways, including custom views, and can continue to be molded into the way you want to use them, whether it be setting up a custom system like GTD or your own.

Embedded Lists

Embedded lists have been brought over from Extreme Agenda to allow you to essentially make any event or reminder into a list that is managed more simply and noted in the notes of your item. Try it out using the button in the card view and see just how powerful adding a todo or shopping list to an event can really be.

Widgets

A good calendar app needs to be able to show your data at a glance with all the right information. So we decided that we needed to ship Ulti-Planner with some really nice clean widgets that can show you your data with icons and colors just like you’d see in the app. It even uses the theming of the app for title coloring.

Accessibility

The new code in Ulti-Planner meant I was handling the UI much better, and allowed me to start to give a much better experience with accessibility features. So it allows for better voiceover and touch options, and we hope to continue to improve on this as we go along.

Welcome

These are just some of the advancements we have made in Ulti-Planner. If you haven’t been using our innovative products in the past, we hope you are in for a few surprises and increased productivity. If you have you should expect to find a great set of powerful features as you’d expect, and know we will continue to add more power and flexibility.

Ulti-Planner

We’d like to introduce you to Ulti-Planner, our new flagship product at Birdsoft. It is the end result of over 5 years of work and over 1200 hours of new development. Which doesn’t include the thousands more hours that have gone into our legacy calendar and productivity apps that are at its foundation.

Not Extreme Agenda 10.0, yet.

What is the idea behind it? Well, it obviously has its roots in our expertise in productivity apps, and more specifically Extreme Agenda. Let’s call it an extension of that. But Extreme Agenda for iOS was started in 2009, so a lot of that App is based on ideas and code that are over 13 years old (which in turn was based on the Windows Mobile version that was even older). iOS has grown as a platform and I’ve grown as a developer since the early days. So I had to decide if I wanted to keep painfully band-aiding that legacy code forever, or do a clean break and rebuild almost completely from scratch to have more modern, clean, and flexible code that will make it enjoyable again to expand on and be much more future-proof.

But if I was going to do this, I wanted to have creative freedom to really make it in a new way, and just starting it as “Extreme Agenda 10.0” still handcuffed me in several ways to use or deal with some of the issues that I wanted to get away from. Too much of that code would have had to come along. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the good parts did, but I wanted them only if they made sense. And even most of those good parts got rewritten.

I admit, I started down the road to rewrite the existing EA code first, it just didn’t feel right…

And if I really want to get back to this being my main thing I had to make it something I really looked forward to jumping into all the time and more importantly to be viable in a business sense. Extreme Agenda has baggage in that Apple almost forces a new app listing to do a “paid upgrade”. Or switching an app that has only even been a paid app at a premium price to a free app with purchases/subscriptions just adds a whole can of worms. Compounding that issue is the secondary versions of the app that upgrade to the full version, like Extreme Week, as they only add to the confusion.

Business

To make a productivity app viable as a business, I have to try to have my premium products go after a premium market. With my Grid calendar app, I put out a lightweight(for the time) calendar app with a lot of great features and a cool design. I have always been proud that so many thousands of people thought that was enough, they just wanted a cool lightweight calendar with calendar text. So Ulti-Planner will in a way replace that. The basic version feels like a souped up version of that app. But then that equation didn’t translate into sales even at a low upgrade price so the Grid’s development never really paid for itself. So I need to convert and/or reestablish a great base like that, and have a better value proposition and better ways to express that value. I have to find ways to have more of the people that use and love my products for years help support further development. I need to replace some of the simple of Grid, and at the same time all of the power of Extreme Agenda, in one package.

The Code, so good…

The codebase of this app is something I’m very proud of. It actually started as a suite of apps that are in one codebase, so a Contacts and List app are right there needing to be finished up and incorporated too. Uniformity in design and modularity in execution.

You’ll also notice that these apps are super lightweight and super fast. The goal was to build it to stay under 10mb as an app, and open instantly. Quick install and quick launch. And they are built to use a lot of the same UX/UI choices of the apps that you use from Apple all the time, but with a touch of something extra. So they should be super fast, super intuitive, super sexy, and ultimately super powerful once you continue to discover what’s under the hood in the advanced features.

This code has been in development for over 5 years, so has been thoroughly vetted in that time. I have used it as a daily driver for over 4 years now, and have had it in beta for much longer than would normally happen. So the app is very solid from release. And in that time I’ve allowed the scope to run away from me. The calendar and reminders basically have feature parity with Extrema Agenda and then it adds so many more new features that the new code affords. It is a mature product from the get go.

And yes, one of the reasons I ultimately decided on this route is so that eventually this Engine can be used to build that elusive Extreme Agenda 10. Having it all in one project meant that right away I built an internal target that is a tab based app, with each of the Apps in a tab. Obviously that alone won’t get me to what I want to do with EA10, but it’s a beautiful foundation to build on. I’ll have to figure out those other questions about how to handle EA10 when I get there. Right now grinding Ulti-Planner is the goal.

Competition

We watch the competition, and we wouldn’t claim that this is a “best-in-class” app without knowing what’s out there. IT IS BEST-In-CLASS! We have created a blend of the right features in the right package that you can stack up with any of the established leaders in each product category, and come out feeling ahead. And our price point for the planner still generally falls under the price these other premium products are trying to get for one app. Usually “way” under them.

We encourage you to see for yourself.

History

So Ulti-Planner was my original Windows Mobile planner way back starting in about 2004. So it pre-dates the widely successful Extreme Agenda, and happened to have a lot of the same DNA, as all my apps do as they evolve. It featured multiple calendar views and tasks along with tons of customizations, a recipe we haven’t given up on.

We have been doing mobile calendars/organizers for 20 years!! So hopefully we can demonstrate just how far we’ve come in the game…

Thank You

So there is the idea behind this overly ambitious project. I wanted to get back to the roots of what our passion is at Birdsoft. And I feel like the market is finally to the point where it can recognize and support premium level apps. I’d like to thank all of the customers that have supported Birdsoft over the years, and welcome any new users that want to see just what we are about…

Any feedback is always welcome.

Ulti-Planner.

Your calendar evolved.

QuickNine Golf Scorecard

Well, we finally got out one of our two apps that we have had in the works for a long time. This one was hard to get the last bits in place, because when we were testing it, we were also golfing, and well… we like golfing.

The quick story is, I wrote the “big sister” of QuickNine back in the early 2000s on Windows Mobile. FairwayWatch had a lot of the same bells and whistles like quick score entry, stat tracking, GPS range finder, etc… that QuickNine now has. You’ll see some of the natural inheritance that came from the original UI…

Well, when the pandemic hit I, like thousands of others, got back into golf pretty heavily to stay in shape, and get outside, and easily social distance. So I went to the AppStore to look for an app that could help me keep track of my scoring and progression and hopefully do some GPS distancing and planning as well. But everything I looked at was either very quickly thrown together by a hobbyist with very few features, or was very well backed but either had a clunky confusing interface or required an online account and massive data collection in order to use it. Or Both. And they had price tags in the $30-100/year range to top it all off.

So I did what I do, and wrote an app.

I think you will see that for a 1.0 version, I have it pretty dialed in with most of the features you will need. Having tons of experience in this space before and like 15 years experience in the power that iOS has, I was able to create something that I’m really proud of, and that can be the basis for a bunch of other cooler stuff in the future. Yeah, we get a Watch version done right is probably really needed. Better Stats, shot tracking, club selection; I think these are all cool things, but are also things that need to be done right or they really get in the way of just letting you golf!!

So give the app a try and see what you think. The 14 Day free trial let’s you do all the Rangefinder and mapping as well as a bunch of advanced scoring, so try it out completely and let us know what you would like to see. Or use the Scorecard for FREE if that’s all you need.

http://qnineapp.bsft.co

Fall 2021

Quick little update…

We have spent the last few weeks doing some more cleanup on our apps in the AppStore that needed some attention.

In the last few weeks SwimTrack and MapPlan have gotten bumps in code to handle current devices and the newest iOS much better and/or fixed a few bugs that have lingered.

We also spent considerable time to get Billing Hours up to date. It was working well, as we use it to manage our own time and invoices, but it needed to be modernized like the rest of the apps have been. And we have it ready for you to continue to use for your tracking needs.

Next up we have plans to finally get to and release our “BIG PROJECT” that is over 4 years and over 500 hours in the making, out to you in some form or another. It has been in use in beta in various forms for a long time, and we think it is just too good, that we might have to lower our grand expectations and cut off the feature creep and just get it out there, as it is superior in a lot of ways to everything in its class already, and should replace apps in our arsenal that you have all been so faithful to for so many years…

So hopefully you will see that, and a few more upgrades, and possibly another new app that I’ve also had 90% done for about 2 years, that I need to just release and iterate instead of churning on for so long without a product to show.

Thanks for continuing to follow us…

PokerTimer 3.0

The last few months we have been digging into our archives and cleaning up some long running titles in our collection. Apple forced our hand and threatened AppStore removal if we didn’t update a couple of them(that were working just fine), but I get it and I have started to do what is necessary to get them working better on new devices and try to make them as future proof as possible. Most of them have required some major work as a majority of the code in some of these apps was originally written in 2008-2010, so yeah, it’s amazing they still work as well as they do…

You’ll notice The Grid and All-In Poker have gotten new updates. We have updates coming for TriPeaks and the entire Extreme Agenda line as well.

But the last 2 weeks were spent taking a brush to PokerTimer. This is one of our most downloaded apps to this day, and the original 2010 design still looks great and just works for a clean efficient way to run a poker tournament. But it needed some attention, and it got it. The whole architecture was rewritten along with how the main screen does layouts dynamically for various screen sizes.

We took special care not to change the overall look, we still think it looks way better than a lot of the over busy app competitors. But we carefully added the most requested features and modernized a few of the existing ones so that it has some of the bells and whistles you might really want, but not by sacrificing on simplicity just to get them in there.

New features like showing the next blinds is available to all users, and a handy hand timer and the chip color display for Pro users have been asked for and received.

And features like the ability to share and use the PokerTimer for Mac ‘Blind files’ through email, and the handling of the Custom Sound Option in Pro by just clicking on .wav files in Mail or Files and allowing you to remove it in settings just make it all easier.

And we’ve spent some time on the sound system, so sounds should play more consistently, and added some ticking countdowns, a 1 minute warning and even speech announcements(in Pro).

So we hope we’ve covered most of what was on your wishlist, and made it solid for another 10 years. It now should be easier to add a few more ideas we have for it as well.

Enjoy your tournaments, and let us know if it works well now having the new features when you need them, but getting out of the way too so you can just play some poker….

Thanks.

http://pokertimer.co

Epic vs Apple

So I’ve been reading a lot on the opinions of what Epic has done to challenge the monopoly of Apple on the AppStore. And there are a lot of differing opinions, a lot from very narrow ways of looking at things.

For some context, Epic added a way to buy InApp Purchases at a discount using their own payment services in their hugely successful Fortnite game, circumventing the rule that Apple has in place that you have to use Apple’s purchase system, so they get their 30% cut on everything. Epic did this to blatantly break Apple’s rules so that they would get banned, which they did, and have ammunition to file an already prepared lawsuit, which they did.

I have been frustrated and critical of Apple since the beginning of the AppStore for its “Closed” system. I made as much or more money in the days before the magical iPhone in a much smaller market when I had the freedom to use any and all curated stores and channels and purchasing options as I could engineer(mainly free trials and paid updates) in the Windows Mobile and Palm worlds. I could choose if someones 30% “tax” was worth it to my business.

But now over the years it has been ingrained that this “closed system” is great for your peace of mind, and that Apple does all these extra things of value that they deserve it all. Opinions may vary, but there should be a choice.

The way I see all the mistakes they’ve made in the store, all the rejection hassles for no reason, the encouraging a race to the bottom and wanting “millions of apps” available which drove the quality of the average app down considerably. The horrible search results, the unfair curating practices to play favors, the not allowing trials…. The list goes on and on. Most of us knew that the big problem with the AppStore is they just threw apps into the iTunes media model, and acted like they had done tons and tons of work to create this great experience. They hadn’t. And not starting on a real foundation, we still see the effects of that.

But my biggest gripe right now, is everyone is saying the AppStore is making a safe environment. They aren’t. The review process allows garbage and bad actors that are gaming the system and ripping people off in all the time. And they use that system and their rules to stifle creativity and reject apps that would compete too closely with something they want to do themselves.

Everything that actually makes the system safe can be done without the AppStore. They do it on Mac. Those things are built into the Operating System, not the AppStore. We have to be checked and sign apps. And apps still have to ask whether you can have access to sensitive APIs and data whether it is from the AppStore or not. So regardless of where you get the app, those will be in place.

If you think that that safety is needed, guess what, it will still be there for you to use. There will be nobody there forcing you to get any app not on the AppStore. And obviously it would be in everybody’s best interest if when this happens some parental type controls are put in place to not always allow this in iOS. But now it’s up to you if you trust the company, not Apple.

So just give us a choice.

How is the world going to be that much different if we can get apps another way. The developer can pursue different channels and different marketing and sales models, and if Apple’s store is worth it, we’ll use it too. But then real developers can have options like more direct contact with users, issue refunds ourselves, price freedom, new marketing channels… This list goes on and on too, it lets a business be a business and not depend on following ever changing and restrictive rules that come at a large cost.

So thank you to Epic for finally getting to the point where you can fight this, it had to be somebody with the resources. And yes, they obviously have some ulterior motives in play, but who cares, they are doing what someone has needed to do for a long time. And to get what they ultimately want, they have to bring all of us little guys with them…

2020 and beyond

Another year is underway. And with that a new enthusiasm for what Birdsoft can become.

In 2019 we did some app updates that we hope you appreciated, but we were more busy laying a foundation for the reimagining of some of what we hope to make the centerpiece of Birdsoft going forward.

A new set of products that will capitalize on our years of development experience to bring you something that we are truly proud of, and with a sustainable revenue model that can keep us iterating and improving on our products at a much greater level. A new modern codebase with new innovations baked in will just be the start. And we can’t wait to show it to you soon…

At this point we are approaching 20 years of mobile development… What a fun ride!

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!