Home Screens: Dr. Drang

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Dr. Drang (Twitter) (Blog) is one of my favorite people on the Internet. He is a working stiff, like me, yet still makes time to write up some really useful, nerdy stuff while creeping me out on a nearly daily basis with his psychopathic snowman avatar. So Doctor, show us your home screen.


What are some of your favorite apps and how have they changed over the years?

So many changes since the last time. In particular, what was my (admittedly self serving) favorite app in 2011, an iPhone-formatted homemade weather webapp that still works, has since been banished to a nether screen in favor of Apple’s built-in Weather app, which been greatly improved over the past couple of years.

My old stalwarts, NotesyTweetbotReederDue, and PCalc are still there and still in the same positions. I use them all every day. Fantastical has taken over the calendar spot from Agenda, and not only because of its renowned natural language input method; I really like the compact but thorough way it presents the list of my upcoming events.

To me, the most interesting changes have been these:

  1. My recognition that I text more than I talk, so Messages should be in the Dock and Phone shouldn’t.
  2. The way podcast listening has become important enough for Downcast to displace the iPod (now Music) app in the Dock.
  3. The rise of Drafts (an upDraft?), as both a quick way to enter notes and, through the x-callback-url system, a way to dispatch text off to other apps. I now do most of my note-writing in Drafts; Notesy is more for reading.
  4. The inclusion of Pythonista. I’m continually surprised that the “locked down” iPhone has such a capable programming environment running on it.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Last time I said I was too old to feel guilty about my pleasures, and that still holds, but if I were to feel guilty, it would be for the time spent jumping from word to word in Terminology. Too often I’ve allowed it to change from a productivity app to an anti-productivity app.

I thought I was the only Terminology word surfer. Also check out Wordflex. It will ruin you. -David

What is the app you are still missing?

I’m currently on the hunt for an app to share shopping lists with my wife. There are probably hundreds of list-making apps available, but I’m very particular.

  • I need the process of making and sharing lists to be absolutely transparent for my wife, because she won’t put up with the fiddling that I would tolerate.
  • I need to be able to make and add to lists from my computer, because when I’m at my computer I want to type on a real keyboard.
  • And finally, we need to be able to print a decent looking list from the app via AirPrint. It’s all very futuristic to swipe or tap checkboxes on your phone, but for real efficiency, there’s nothing like a printed grocery list—you don’t need to scroll, you don’t have to worry about dropping it as you reach for the milk, and it never goes blank to preserve battery life.

The top candidate at the moment is 1Writer. Its list-making is almost automatic, and it produces nicely printed lists. It syncs via Dropbox, which is great, but it sometimes needs prodding to upload additions to a recently edited list. It should sync automatically as soon as you dismiss the keyboard.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

Not so much during the day when I’m in the office and at my iMac. Constantly when I’m out of the office.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

I have a computer connected to the internet in my pocket, ready to be used at any time—a device that’s smaller and more capable than any of the computers imagined in the science fiction I read as a kid.

If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

We desperately need inter-app communication in iOS. In the 6+ years of the iPhone, it has raised our expectations of what a phone can do, and I don’t see how those expectations can continue to rise without a sanctioned and fully supported means of moving data between apps. I applaud Greg Pierce and every developer who supports the x-callback-url protocol, but that’s a workaround, not a permanent solution.

Thanks Doc.