10 iPhone Apps I love right now: September 2010

It’s been nearly seven months since my last post talking about iPhone apps I love. I still use nearly all of those apps regularly (I’m a little burnt out on Bejeweled 2 at the moment), but it’s high time I shared more of my favourites with you*.

Favourite Notetaking App: Awesome Note

$3.99 (free version available)

iTunes link

This is my go-to notetaking app on my phone. I love that you can file the notes in folders by subject. There is also a “quick note” option for those scratchpad-style notes that you may or may not need later (there is an option to save quick notes as full notes until you choose to clear them).

There are multiple views for each folder: thumbnails, list, to do, detailed, diary, photo and calendar. It is also possible to set due dates/alarms for each of your tasks. You can also back up, sync or transfer your notes to Google Docs or Evernote.

I use this app all the time and I really only use the basic features. As you can see, I use Awesome Note to jot down little notes about things I’m thinking about on the go. (There are also folders for Sean and for recipes off-screen.) I still keep a paper notebook in my purse, but I find I use it much less than I did before I got this app. Totally worth paying for.

Favourite Delicious App: Yummy

$1.99 (free, pared-down version available)

iTunes link

This mobile Delicious (the social bookmarking site owned by Yahoo!) client is one of the few (if not only) iPhone app that allows people to sign into Delicious with their associated Yahoo! ID. (If you use a Yahoo! ID with Delicious, you can only sign in with that ID and not with your Delicious ID. I learned that one the hard way.) It’s simple and does the job. View and add your bookmarks on the go, add links to Read It Later (more about that app further down). The Safari bookmarklet makes it easy to send links you’re reading in Safari to Delicious without emailling to yourself to access from your desktop. Simple but very useful.

Favourite RSS Management App: Feeds


iTunes link

While I still use Byline for most of my actual feed reading, I didn’t like that it couldn’t add, delete or organize feeds for me on my phone. Enter Feeds. It does all of those things, and is a nice little RSS reader to boot. It syncs with Google Reader or can be used as a standalone reader (nice if you don’t want to use Google as your main reader) Feeds has a clean interface with choice of colours (hey look! I’m using orange!) It also does offline reading, but since I like Byline so much, I haven’t used this feature much yet.

Favourite Offline Reading App: Read it Later

$4.99 (free version available)

iTunes link

Read it Later allows you to save any website for well, reading it later. It is available as a Firefox extension as well as an iPhone app. There is also a web version and unofficial (user-created) apps for Android, Blackberry and webOS, so you’re not out of luck if you don’t have an iPhone/iPad.

This is one of those apps that you don’t realize how useful it will be to you until you start to use it. I use it most when I’m reading something and find a link that I want to read, but don’t really have the time to look at carefully.  Instead of emailling the link to myself for later, I can click on the Read it Later icon in my browser (or from the bookmarklet in mobile Safari, or from Echofon, my Twitter client of choice). Then, when I do have a moment, I can fire up my Read it Later list and catch up on my reading. Another great place to use this is when I am reading my Twitter stream and want to read the posted links. I want to read the links, but also want to catch up on the other 2034 tweets in my stream. Send that link to Read it Later and they’re there when I’m done. Read it Later syncs across all your devices once you have an account and if I make sure all the articles are downloaded before I go offline, I can catch up with my reading on the subway.

Then, once I’ve read the link for myself, I have the option of sharing it with Delicious, Twitter, Facebook, Digg and a whack of other places. I find I use my Read it Later list as a pre-bookmarking list. I may read the article once and decide I’m done and mark it read and never look at it again. Or I may decide I want to keep it and bookmark it to Delicious. Your usage may vary depending on what sites you use. The sharing options only come with the Pro version, and while this is one of the more expensive apps I’ve bought, the price is totally worth it.

Favourite Birthday App: Occasions


iTunes link

This app pulls birthday information from your contacts and Facebook friends and puts them into an attractive interface. You can also add occasions for the people in your lives who aren’t in your Contacts or on Facebook (like my two year-old daughter). You can also pull holiday information from 44 countries and six religions – super-useful if you’re like me and never remember exactly what day certain holidays fall on.

The interface is clean and easy-t0-read and you can choose from several backgrounds. Push notifications are available (and customizable) and you can contact the birthday person directly from the app. Great for those “oh crap! it’s so-and-so’s birthday! I need to call/Facebook/text them. Where is their @#$% number again?” The whole app is very customizable. You don’t have to have all of your Facebook friends’ birthday information loaded into this app. (I use it for my nearest and dearest only). The help/troubleshooting and tutorial sections are very well done.

Favourite Diary App: Momento


iTunes link

Momento is a diary/journal app that you can input “moments” into – brief thoughts you want to record. It also imports your “social moments” – your Twitter  feed, Flickr pictures, Facebook updates and last.fm songs. While you may not think you need yet another place to track those moments, I’ve been really enjoying the calendar-style interface, which shows me just how social I’ve been. I’ve been using this app as a mini-diary for the things I don’t want to (or shouldn’t) share with the world. You can tag places, people, events or create custom tags. Photos can also be added to your moments. Finally the moment itself can be rated from 1-5 stars. I find I’m not using a lot of these features yet, but I’ve only been playing with this app for a couple of weeks. I’ve heard that beta testing is happening for the next version and I’m excited to see what’s coming in that release. Moments can be backed up into an XML plist file, which is readable by a text editor. You lose the pictures, but if you saved those in your Camera Roll, you should be okay.

Favourite Task Tracking App: Streaks


iTunes link

Streaks is a motivational calendar that allows you to track how many times you’ve completed a goal by marking a big red X on a calendar. You can track multiple goals (each gets their own calendar) and there is a push notification option to see what your longest streak currently is. Right now, I’m using this app to track how often I’m blogging but you could use it for tracking exercise, diet or the days since your last smoke. This type of calendar can be very motivating so it’s nice to be able to create one on the go.

Favourite Flickr Upload App: Flickit

Free (pay version available)

iTunes link

The reason I picked up this app was because I wanted to do batch uploads to Flickr – the official app only allows one picture to go at a time. I like that I can control each picture’s set and tags individually. You can also set the pictures to be blogged or Twittered once the photo is uploaded. Simple, easy-to-use, and it works. A great app for all iPhone users who post to Flickr.

Favourite Game: Angry Birds

$0.99 (free version available)

iTunes link

I won’t go into big detail about this incredibly popular game. You fling birds towards pigs with the intent to squash them. It is very addicting and is totally worth the hype. I started with the Lite version and had to buy the full one so I could play more levels. Absolutely worth the 99 cents.

Favourite Dictionary App: Slango


iTunes link

I like urbandictionary.com. It keeps me aware of how the kids talking these days. Slango is a portable version of the site that allows you to search for specific terms. I find it helpful when there’s a term in a book or online I don’t understand. It’s also useful if I just heard some kid say something that sounds filthy and I want to confirm it for myself.

That and the random word lookup often makes me giggle.

To all the other iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad users out there: what are your favourite apps? Tell me about them in the comments. I still have money on the iTunes cards I got for my birthday and now that you can use a gift card to pay for apps in Canada, it’s easier not to run up your credit card on iTunes.

*Disclaimer, no one paid me to review these apps, or gave me free apps to try out. These are genuine reviews of apps I use regularly that I paid for myself.

Best of: my favourite posts on hellomelissa.net

If you are new to hellomelissa.net, this page will lead you to some of my favourite posts on the site. There’s over fifteen years of writing here, and this page will save you from digging through the archives. Although if you really want to dig through the archives, go nuts.

Adventures and Misadventures

Adventures and misadventures make for the best stories.

Young Love

Stories from a marriage.

Motherhood, Parenting and Family Life

My take on modern motherhood.

Meta: Life Online

IRL is for sissies.


I don’t know where to file these ones.

  • Dimes – where I get thinking about a superstition my mother told me about a few years ago.


Because we all can use a new recipe once in a while.

My Favourite iPhone Apps Right Now

Back in October, Sean and I joined the world of iPhone owners. Like so many others before us, once we got the hang of the touchscreens and how the phone worked, we went nuts picking out apps. We have some apps in common, but there really isn’t a whole lot of duplication. If you pick up our phones, you can definitely tell which is Sean’s and which is mine (and not just because of the purple case I use).

Here is a list of apps that I’m using a lot right now. You may find them useful, but one thing I’ve found while searching Apple’s App Store is that when you want an app for a specific purpose, there’s usually lots to choose from. But only one app has the one killer feature you need, or is set up to do things the way you want them to. So this list may help you, or it may lead you to other apps that work better for you. And your phone will look different from mine. Which will make picking it up off a table full of iPhones that much easier.

Echofon Pro screenshotFavourite Twitter App: Echofon Pro for Twitter

Price: $4.99 (Free version available)

Echofon is by Naan Studio and exists as an iPhone app, a Mac app and a Firefox extension. I used the Firefox extension for a while last year back when it was still called ‘Twitterfox’. I find the single-column layout more useful on my iPhone, given the limited screen space. The app works well and can post pictures directly to my Flickr account which was a great bonus. Free and paid versions are available. The pro version does push notifications from other Echofon users. This has been the only Twitter app I’ve had on my phone since I’ve had it and it serves me well.

Ping! app screenshotFavourite Messaging App: Ping!

Price: $0.99 (Free version also available)

Ping! is an iPhone-to-iPhone messaging app that replaces SMS messaging. (For all you Blackberry users, it’s like Blackberry Messenger). Great if you have a low SMS message plan. Sean and I use this to send quick messages to each other when we’re apart and a phone call is overkill or inappropriate.

There is a extra paid option in the pro app to send picture messages, but we haven’t bothered to upgrade to that yet. And it’s made by a fellow Torontonian to boot.

Remember the Milk screenshotFavourite To-do App: Remember the Milk

Price: App itself is free, but requires a Pro Remember the Milk account to use it ($25/year).

I’ve been using my free Remember the Milk web account since 2007 so I knew I really wanted to have it sync with my iPhone so I could take my to-do list with me wherever I went. I haven’t been disappointed. RTM is very customizable, and allows you categorize your to-do lists in all sorts of different ways. Reminders can be received via email, SMS, Twitter and of course, iPhone push notifications. Tasks can be sent to RTM using any of these methods too. I keep all my to-do’s in here: from doctor’s appointments to website ideas. It really works for me. I would definitely recommend trying the web app for free before shelling out the $25 for the Pro account though.

Our Groceries screenshotFavourite List App: OurGroceries

Price: Free

OurGroceries is a very simple app that does something incredibly useful – it syncs lists between multiple iPhones. As you see, we’re using it for our groceries, our Costco runs and Sean’s growing cigar collection (I guess he thinks I’m going to support his habit). Any user can add to the list at any time and it will sync with the other users list when they open the app next. I like being able to add things to the list as I remember them (no missing paper lists), and Sean can do the same. Then whoever goes to the store next has a complete list. Tap the item and it gets crossed off. If the other person has the app on when the other one is shopping, they can see the items being crossed off. (Sean tried to mess with me one night by repeatedly adding garbage bags back to the list after I had crossed them off. Fortunately, I only bought one box of garbage bags.) There is also a saved recipe option where you can add the ingredients for a recipe in one tap, but we don’t use that.

Byline app screenshotFavourite RSS App: Byline

Price: $3.99 (described as a “special price in anticipation of version 3.0)

I must admit, I’m new to RSS and feed readers in general. I’ve tried different readers on my computer and just couldn’t get into it. What made me try Byline out was the fact that I could cache the articles and read them offline. This meant that I could load it up when I was online do some reading on the subway without an internet connection. This allows me to catch up on the blogs and sites I don’t always get to read but enjoy when I do. It syncs with Google Reader, so if you’re already set up there, you can have Byline set up really quickly.

Favourite Game Apps: Bejeweled 2 & Words with Friends

Price: $2.99 each (free version available for Words with Friends)

I feel like showing screenshots of these well-loved games will just fuel my addiction so you can have a look at the screenshots on your own. Bejeweled has several play modes, including Bejeweled Blitz, which hooks up to Facebook if you play there as well. Since I put this on my phone, I’m not sitting at my computer playing Bejeweled. Another great time filler for the subway (the scores sync up when you’re online next). As for Words with Friends, it’s a Scrabble clone that is played asynchronously. I can take my turn now, and my opponent could play in two minutes or two days. Players can have up to 20 games going at a time so it’s helpful to have lots of games on the go to make up for the slower players when you’re ready to play yourself. This game needs an online connection so not a subway timewaster. Good for just about anywhere else though.

I try not to go too crazy with app downloading, but these aren’t the only ones I have (I haven’t even mentioned the ones I got for Flora and I to play with!). What are your favourite apps? Let me know in the comments.

Modern communication between a husband and wife

This is Sean’s new tattoo. The bull is the old logo for the Belleville Bulls, the OHL team closest to our hometown.

Here’s the story of how he ended up getting it today, and how I found out about it.

Sean and our friend Jason had made plans to go to Toronto’s Fan Expo today. They got all the way down there and discovered hordes of people in long lines that weren’t moving anywhere. They walked through various open doors to find more lines of people (many dressed up as their favourite character from whatever fandom they enjoy best). There were lines to buy tickets. There were lines to get in after those tickets were purchased. They decided that waiting in all those lines wasn’t worth their time. So they left.

What’s with all this buildup? I’ll get to that.

So apparently they wandered around downtown for awhile, visiting the Silver Snail, having a couple of beers at The Bier Markt, and buying cigars at Frank Correnti Cigars. So, it was a good guy’s day out. After a quick visit with a friend of Jason’s who works in the area they were in, they ended up in a tattoo shop. Sean has been considering getting a tattoo in commemoration of Flora’s birth. He’s been struggling with the image as I don’t think he’s keen on getting a flower (the meaning of the name Flora) tattooed on him, and wanted to make sure any tattoo he did get was the right one. (I’ve tried to veto the use of a fireflower for Super Mario Brothers with her name and birthdate underneath, but I need to remember that it’s not my body – I just have to look at it.)

So they were looking at the different designs in the shop when Jason (ever the good friend), points out the sample of the original Belleville Bulls logo. Sean has always said that if he won the lottery, he would buy the Belleville Bulls – he’s that big a Bull Booster. So he was excited to see the Bulls logo in tattoo form, and once he saw that artwork, made an appointment right away to get it put on his calf.

Keep in mind that I don’t know any of this is happening right now. I’m home with Flora thinking that these two are spending too much money on GI Joe action figures and getting their pictures taken with Star Wars characters and Transformers.

At about 6PM, Jason and Sean come in. Jason is in first and gives me a very low-key “hi”. I ask what’s going on, and he kinda points at Sean, mumbling that something happened to him. As he hobbled through the door, I see that Sean is all bandaged up. “What the hell happened to you?” I ask (it was more sympathetic than it sounds). Sean then tells me that he was hit by a cyclist while walking downtown and it scraped up his leg really bad. They flagged down a paramedic driving by and he bandaged it up. Shocked and worried, I ask if he’s all right and if he needs stitches or followup care. He says it needs to be wrapped until tomorrow, but he’s essentially okay – the pebbles have been cleaned out and the wound looks dressed enough that it won’t leak all over the couch or sheets.

The evening progresses and I put Flora to bed. Once she is down, I go on my computer in the next room to kill time while making sure that Flora is really going down for the night. I open up Facebook and I see that Sean has updated his profile picture. To the picture you see above.

I know Sean is a big Bulls fan, but I think to myself “it’s tacky to use someone else’s tattoo as your profile photo”. When I looked closer, I thought to myself “holy shit, that’s *my* couch in the background of that photo”. I go downstairs and make the following statement:

“I had to find out you got a new tattoo via Facebook?”

Big laughs all around. They wondered how long it would take me to find out. Turns out I found out about two minutes after the photo was posted. There was no teenage cyclist who ran my husband down. The two of them concocted that story on the way home.

It’s a good thing I checked Facebook tonight. I had planned to write a Twitter status, complaining about assholes on bikes who run down people and don’t even stay to apologize or help the victim get up. And that would have been posted to Facebook too.

And that would have just looked silly, given what I know now. Our friends would think we never talk to each other.

Picking the *right* profile photo is agonizing enough, thanks

Yesterday, I read a blog post from the good women at Lunapads about an article written by Katie Roiphe called “Get Your Kid Off Your Facebook Page“. Ms Roiphe doesn’t think women should use their Facebook profile picture to show off pictures of their kids because it means that they are hiding behind their children. She then states:

“The choice may seem trivial, but the whole idea behind Facebook is to create a social persona, an image of who you are projected into hundreds of bedrooms and cafes and offices across the country. Why would that image be of someone else, however closely bound they are to your life, genetically and otherwise? The choice seems to constitute a retreat to an older form of identity, to a time when women were called Mrs. John Smith, to a time when fresh scrubbed Vassar girls were losing their minds amidst vacuum cleaners and sandboxes. Which is not to say that I don’t understand the temptation to put a photograph of your beautiful child on Facebook, because I do. After all, it frees you of the burden of looking halfway decent for a picture, and of the whole excruciating business of being yourself.

(emphasis mine)

In the first emphasized sentence, I understand where she’s coming from. If my Facebook page (or any other online profile) is to be my little portal to the rest of the world and completely devoted to me and my life, well, shouldn’t the picture be of me? Or at least have me in it? The second emphasized sentence however, made me angry. It perpetuates the stereotype that mothers of young children are barely functioning, poorly-dressed zombies who can only talk about their children’s achievements. I don’t know a single mother who lives up to this stereotype, and most of the mums I know are first-time mums of babies – prime candidates.

As one of those first-time mums, I can’t speak for more experienced mothers but I am the first to admit that new mums spend a lot of time talking about their babies. I’m sure I’ve overshared with the wrong people, but I do generally try to keep the baby talk to a minimum among people who are not all that interested in it. I get that *my* baby isn’t the biggest thing in *your* life. But when you spend virtually all your time with your child for months on end (I know many women don’t have this luxury and I’m thankful for Canada’s employment laws), well there’s not always a lot else for me to initiate a conversation about. I was shocked at how small my world became when my daughter was first born. I just wasn’t doing much else outside of mothering. And the stuff I *was* doing (napping, doing housework and catching up with what was on TV or going on online) wasn’t usually worth starting a conversation over.  Also, keep in mind that it takes a minimum of two people to have a conversation. You’re welcome to change the subject, or even ask me to tone it down. I would not be offended, and would probably love to talk about something else anyway.

Back to the subject at hand. All of the above reasoning for my less-than-stellar conversation skills can apply to why I’m putting pictures of my kid on my Facebook page (or Flickr, or Twitter, or this website). I’m taking a lot more pictures of her right now than I am of myself. I take most of the pictures in our family and right now, most of the pictures I’m taking are of my daughter. And when I want to show my friends how she is growing and changing, Facebook is an easy tool to do that. My friends check Facebook, but don’t always visit this website or any other social site I frequent.

I agree with Ms Roiphe that you shouldn’t hide behind your children. I don’t think using your Facebook profile photo to show off a cute kid picture is always proof that that is what a mother is doing. I decided a long time ago (before Flora was born) that my Facebook photo would always have me as the main picture. In part because I didn’t want people to think I didn’t exist without my husband, but mostly because I wanted people to know it was *my* profile when they searched my name, especially since I hyphenated it after I got married. Now when I post a new picture, I often use one of Flora and I, not because I’m hiding behind her, but because there just aren’t that many pictures of the two of us together and I want to show them off. Those pictures make me happy, which I think is a great thing to share with my friends, Facebook or otherwise. If someone else wants to show a picture of just their kid alone because it makes them happy, I say go to town.

Naturally this article doesn’t mention the dads putting up pictures of their babies as their profile picture. Because of course, they’re not hiding behind their children, they’re just showing off a cute kid. My husband has used pictures of Flora alone as his profile picture. She was brand new and it was the fastest way to get her picture out to a lot of people. Now he has a picture of the two of them together, and I imagine it’s for the same reason I chose mine – it makes him happy.

Another interesting site somewhat related to this subject is The 30 Standard Facebook Profile Photo Styles. Mr. O’Neill sums up the various styles succintly. One could certainly analyze each of these picture styles to death to find out what each user is hiding, avoiding or showing off. Personally, I think I’ll just say “what a great new picture” and not overthink it too much.

Oh, and by the way, are formal at-home dinner parties really that common in the parents-of-young-children age group? The dinner party seems like such a go-to example to dump on parents and their child-rearing abilities and yet I don’t think I’ve ever been to one. I have people over and we eat, but it’s not the big hairy deal everyone makes it out to be.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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