Sweet App: DropVox

DropVox has completely replaced the native iPhone Voice Memos app for me.

I often record voice memos to myself regarding articles I’m working on or other ideas. This is especially true when I’m in the car because things have a tendency to pop into my mind when I’m driving around running errands, and the only way to capture that is to record a voice memo. Also, there are times when I record Shawn Today using my iPhone.

Back in August I began using DropVox instead of the native Voice Memos app. Basically this app creates a folder in your Dropbox account, and then when you launch the app you have one option: record. You record your voice memo and the app uploads it to your Dropbox account in the previously created DropVox folder. It uploads quickly, and in the background if necessary.

The audio quality is not quite as high as what you’ll get with the native Voice Memos app, but that aids in the quick upload times, and I do not find the audio quality to be lacking.

The utility of DropVox is superb. It does one thing and it does so very, very well. If you’re regularly recording voice memos that you don’t want confined to your iPhone, this one-dollar app is a great choice.

Sweet App: DropVox

My thanks to Studio Neat for sponsoring the RSS feed this week.

The iPhone 4S has an amazing camera. This is undisputed. What the iPhone lacks, however, is a tripod thread for mounting it to a tripod. Enter the Glif.

The Glif is a small and simple accessory for mounting your iPhone 4 or 4S to any standard tripod. It also acts as a little kickstand to prop your iPhone up for watching movies, using FaceTime, etc.

And now, we are offering Glif+, a deluxe Glif package. It comes with Ligature, a keychain loop for always keeping your Glif handy, and Serif, an additional attachment to keep your iPhone super secure in extreme situations. We are also offering the +Pack, for those of you that already own a Glif and just want the add-ons. Both are available for preorder now, and will ship in 1-2 weeks.

With the holidays fast approaching, the Glif makes a great stocking stuffer. Available now at StudioNeat.

The Glif and Glif+ [Sponsor]

A Hack to Get Back “Save As”

I miss Save As. A lot.

A common workflow for me was to open a previously saved document and use it as my template for a new document. I would make changes to it and then save it a as a new document. To Save As meant you took the document you were working on and saved it as a new document in its current state while discarding those changes from the original and leaving that original document as it was. I used Save As all the time.

But in Lion, the ability to Save As is gone. Sadly, Command+Shift+S gets you nothing.

In place of “Save As”, we now have “Duplicate”.1

Duplicating means the document you’re currently using gets, well, duplicated. A new document window pops up and out of the original and now you have two. The new one gets named something like “my document copy” and now you have two documents open.

If you Duplicate your file after you’ve already begun making edits to it then you’ll have the option to: (a) revert the original document back to it’s pre-edited state once you’ve duplicated it; (b) keep the current document as it is and duplicate it as well; (c) cancel.

Duplicate File Options

For the most part, Duplicate and Revert is the new Save As.

In the end you mostly get the same result as what we used to with Save As, but this duplicating and reverting business always feels cumbersome to me. Moreover, it’s a little bit scary — it still catches me off guard and forces me to stop and think for a few seconds about what it is I’m doing. I used to just hit Command+Shift+S and have my new document based on the first in no time.

And to add insult to injury, as a keyboard junkie it’s not just the removing of “Save As” that saddens me. It is also the removal of a very handy keyboard shortcut that I used many times a day: Command+Shift+S

And so, by harnessing the power of Keyboard Maestro, I set up Command+Shift+S as a “Save As Hack”.

  • I set the macro to only run in Pages, Numbers, Byword, and TextEdit. These are the apps I use on a daily or near-daily basis.
  • With a keyboard shortcut of Command+Shift+S, the macro will select “Duplicate” from the File menu, choose “Duplicate and Revert” for the original document, close the original document, and then open up a Save dialog box for the new document.

Download the macro

In essence, it’s an automated hack to get Save As and its keyboard shortcut back.

You can download the macro here.

  1. The Save As menu option isn’t gone completely from the system, just only for apps that utilize new document features in Lion such as versioning and auto save. For apps I use the most often, Duplicate has replaced Save As in Pages, Numbers, TextEdit, Byword. However, for apps which have not updated for the new Lion features (such as Adobe CS3), the Save As menu item is still present.
A Hack to Get Back “Save As”

It’s always great to read posts from people who use their devices in real life and have their reasons for why they like it. Such is the case with Geof Harries and his Windows Phone phone.

Geof is right that many of the Windows Phone reviews found on major sites talk about how it’s a great OS but alas it’s short on apps. I have not spent any time with a Windows Phone phone and so I cannot say if I would ever be willing to switch to it or not. No doubt it would be hard for me to give up some of my favorite iPhone apps, such as OmniFocus, Tweetbot, Instagram, and Simplenote, but I think I could get by if there was at least an alternative for Simplenote.

The Reports of Windows Phone Lacking in Apps Are Greatly Exaggerated

This post on Quora by Chris Wake provides some food for thought. I think Chris’s list of “habits” isn’t completely accurate, but they certainly serve as red flags to help assess if you’re not quite as productive as you think you are.

For example: the habit “consuming more than you create” is not a cut-and-dry issue. I, for one, read far more than I write. But that is needed because a lot of what I write is based upon the things I read. For me, “consuming” is a huge part of the creation process. But there is a difference between things like researching, drawing inspiration, and learning, as opposed to lurking, procrastinating, and vegging out. The former is effective, the latter is not.

Hidden Habits of Ineffective People

Simple Social Networks

The apps I use the most tend to be apps that do one thing well. No doubt the vast majority of those reading this opening paragraph are of that same disposition. Instead of using apps which do lots of things fairly well, I much prefer to use apps that do just one thing and do so very well.

Simplenote is a prime example. It’s a note-taking app that syncs across all your devices. And it does this task exceptionally well. Dropbox is another example: it will sync the main Dropbox folder with any other computer you have Dropbox installed on. Another example: Yojimbo. Hands down, the finest Anything Bucket out there.

What is now growing as a new type of “thing” is social networks which are built around a singular idea and which implement that idea very well.

Twitter was one of the first examples of this, and is now certainly the most prominent. It has grown a bit more complex since it first began several years ago, but the premise is unchanged: what are you doing? Answer that question in under 140 characters and you can use Twitter.

Instagram is another prime example of a simple social network. The only function of the app and its integrated social network is to post pictures. You have fun with it by applying semi-cheesy filters and exaggerated tilt-shift blurs, but there is little complexity beyond posting your own pics and then liking and commenting on other people’s pics.

I believe it is their simplicity that makes social networks like Twitter and Instagram sticky. If a service is easy to use, people are more likely to use it. The more complex it is, the less likely people are to use it.

Obviously there are additional and very significant things which make social networks appealing, such as the ability to share and connect with friends and family members. But I like how the forced brevity of Twitter and the forced cheesiness of Instagram help to remove the potential for self censorship. The constraints of these social networks also turn into a game — or challenge — for users who adopt the goal of tweeting deeply meaningful or hilarious things or ‘gramming beautiful images.

Stamped is another simple social network. It is more like Instagram than Twitter in that: (a) it currently exists only on the iPhone; and (b) the social network and the iPhone app are one and the same.

I downloaded Stamped last week when it came out and it quickly worked it’s way onto my iPhone’s Home screen, right next to Instagram. I love the simple concept of Stamped: you pick something you like and you stamp it with your stamp of approval. What Twitter is to status updates, Stamped is to our favorite things in life.


It’s not the simplicity in and of itself that appeals to me. I like the whole idea of the Stamped app. I enjoy stamping things that I like. Who doesn’t?

Beyond that, there are a few things in particular which stand out to me as great:

  • The Design: You cannot launch the app without instantly noticing the design. Every pixel seems as if it were put in place with precise intent. The use of color, type, and layout is extraordinary. The interface of Stamped goes a long way in making the app easier to use and more enjoyable.

  • The To-Dos: When you come across something new that your friend has stamped, you can add it as a to-do (maybe its a book you want to read or a restaurant you want to check out next time you’re in San Francisco). This is one of my favorite features of Stamped, and is a clear sign that the people who designed this app actually use it as well.

The way your To-Do list works is simple: (a) someone you’re following Stamps something you’ve never heard of (could be a movie, a book, a band, a restaurant, or something totally obscure); (b) you decide you want to check it out; and (c) you add it as a To-Do item.

Right now I have 9 To-Dos in Stamped. A few movies, a few books, a restaurant in San Francisco, a Web app, and a kitchen appliance.

  • The Liberation of Simplicity: There are no rules for what you can stamp. On Thanksgiving Day people were stamping things like “after-lunch nap” and “pumpkin pie”. Stamped is set up in such a way as to encourage the stamping of whatever suits your fancy. It can be as serious as your favorite book, or as lighthearted as a 2nd cup of coffee on a Wednesday morning. There are no rules.


I do have a few quibbles with the app.

  • New User Discovery: One thing I don’t like about the app is how difficult it is to discover new people to follow. If I don’t follow you on Twitter or if you are not in my iPhone’s contact list then the chances of me finding you are slim to none.

I don’t just want to follow my friends, I also want to follow people who have impeccable taste. Who in Kansas City knows the best restaurants? Who has the same taste in movies as me but gets out more often? Who reads a lot of fabulous books? Those too are the people I want to follow on Stamped.

How can Stamped solve this problem? Perhaps give us the ability to stamp a user. Or, when viewing someone’s profile, show a descending list of who they give the most credits to. Just like there are people on Twitter that I don’t follow on Instagram, and vice versa, how do I find the great users in Stamped whom I don’t yet know are there?

  • No Business Model, Yet: Build a big and happy user base now, figure out how to sustain the business later. That seems to be the business model of choice for many new startups. It was Twitter’s business model, it is Instagram’s, and it is Stamped’s as well.

However, I did notice that Stamped has one source of income: affiliate links. When a book or a DVD is stamped and can be purchased on Amazon, then a Buy Now button will show up on that item’s detail page within the App. Tapping “Buy Now” will launch you over to the Amazon site with Stamped’s affiliate ID in the URL.

Also I’ve noticed that if it’s a movie which is playing in theaters, then you can get tickets via Fandango. Tapping to buy a movie ticket will kick you through a Commission Junction domain.

I have absolutely no problem with affiliate links. I think the feature of being able to find and buy a Stamped item right from within the app is a great idea. And so if you’re going to be linking to Amazon anyway, there’s no reason not to do so via an affiliate link. It’s a clever and non-invasive way to make a few extra bucks from the app. However, affiliate links require a lot of traffic to generate even a modest income, and they are not Stamped’s primary plan for income.

I emailed the guys at Stamped to ask them if there were any planned sources of revenue beyond the affiliate links. CEO and Co-Founder, Robby Stein, wrote me back, saying:

Right now, we are 100% focused on building a product that our users love. We will continue to look at revenue opportunities that make the product more useful by allowing people to easily go try what’s been stamped, but don’t have any specific plans right now.

Building a large and happy user base is much easier when your product is free. But monetizing later on can be tricky. There are pros and cons to both strategies, and so I hope Stamped has wild success.

Stamping Stamped

One of the first things I stamped in Stamped was Stamped, Inc.

I very much love the categories that this app slash social network is in. It is a simple social network, and, though it is Web based, it is not a Web app. I much prefer native apps over Web apps (on the desktop and on mobile). I also prefer apps which are simple and do just one thing. Stamped is a blend of both, and I think it has a lot of potential to be very fun.

Simple Social Networks