Home Screens – Dr. Drang

This week’s Home Screen guest is Dr. Drang (twitter). The good doctor publishes one of my favorite blogs, And now it’s all this, where he covers programming, productivity and other fine nerdery. So Doctor, show us your home screen.

What are your most interesting home screen apps?

The most interesting app, in the “may you live in interesting times” sense, is OnDeck Parent in the lower right corner. My sons swim for a neighborhood pool, and OnDeck Parent is the front end to an online database of meet results for the league they swim in. It’s an absolutely atrocious app, from its non-retina icon to its too-long name (love the ellipsis) to its scrolling toolbar (yes, it has a bottom toolbar you have to flick left and right to find its most important functions) to its tiny buttons. Everything Apple wants to see in an iOS app, OnDeck Parent isn’t.

It is, however, the only way to get mobile access to meet results, and it’s free. I think OnDeck makes its money selling meet management software and services to pools, and this app is sort of a throwaway freebie that’s probably written to be as cross-platform as possible. I think of it as a small taste of Android that reminds me to appreciate my iPhone.

With swim season over, I’ll be moving OnDeck Parent off to some netherscreen until next summer. 1Password will take its place.

What is your favorite app?

My favorite “app” (it’s just a web page, not a real app) is my homemade weather app at the end of the second row. It was sparked by Ben Brooks’ complaints about not having a weather app with just the features he wanted. I realized I felt the same way and whipped up a simple CGI script that gave me the current conditions, a brief forecast, and a radar map. It loads faster than other apps and is tuned to exactly the information I want. This is why I think learning to script is important.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I’m older than the President and well past the stage where I feel guilty about pleasure.

What is the app you are still missing?

I still want a timer app that mutes the phone for a set period of time. I use the mute switch when I go into a meeting or a movie, but I almost always forget to unmute it when I leave. A timer would be the perfect solution. (Maybe there’s one I haven’t heard of?)

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

Constantly when I’m on the road, to the point where I need to carry an external battery with me. I got a Sanyo Eneloop Mobile Booster for just $20 at Costco a couple of years ago, and it’s been great. A little clunky, but it holds over two full iPhone charges.

I use my phone much less when I’m home or in the office, of course, because there’s always a computer around. I am surprised, though, how often I use the iPhone instead of my MacBook Air, just because it’s right there in my pocket.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Unlike some of the people whose home screens you’ve shown, I don’t really have a system for laying out my apps. My only rule is no folders—if an app is important enough to put on the home screen, it’s important enough to be out on it’s own.

Most of my apps are in Apple’s default positions. When I use a substitute for a built-in app, I usually put it where the original app was. You see that with Agenda, Notesy, PCalc, Due, and iTalk. I find that I launch apps by position. When I want to look at my calendar, my thumb reaches for the second spot in the top row, regardless of the app’s name or icon. (And if I’m not on the home screen, I still tap that spot and end up launching something else entirely.)

Thanks Doctor.

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