Introducing My New App: Braid Mail

A few months ago I started working with a team on an iOS mail app called Braid Mail. It’s been pretty crazy time, like I imagine most startups are. I’ve flown back and forth to San Francisco a bunch of times, had some late nights and a lot of trips to the Ritual Coffee cart in Hayes Valley. Version 1.0 came out not long ago, but I knew we’d be doing a few things with it in the next update that made where we were going a little more clear, so I didn’t want to push it too hard… until now.

(If you’d like you can just go get it for free now before continue reading.)

Version 1.1 still isn’t perfect (software never is), but it does a good job of showing off at least one unique feature that I think people will really like that displays in the app in two ways, the categories and the activity screen. Here’s what that looks like (worth mentioning the activity screen is using data we made up in this shot):

Activity Screen
The Sidebar

What categories are is Braid recognizing important messages for you and turning those into categories we display in the side bar. So if you have emails from an airline, we’ll add a “travel” category, or if you have shipping notifications, we’ll add a “deliveries” category. The idea is to — without messing with your inbox and screwing up your organization — put things into a place where you can find them easily without having to search or poke around too much.

The activity feed is related to categories, but serves a different purpose. Instead of discrete categories for your email, it’s a running list of all the kinds of messages which Braid was able to categorize. It’s a different way of viewing incoming messages that makes it easier to see what kind of mail you’re receiving, and find stuff that’s important when you’re not sure of what category it might fit into.

When designing Braid Mail, the goal was to create something which felt completely at home on iOS 7 and also introduced features that we didn’t feel were being done great by any other apps available for iOS users. My opinion has always been that when creating something new it’s better to decide what your app is about and really do the hell out of that thing, and that’s the direction that we’ve taken in designing Braid.

We still have a lot we want to do, and I’m sure we will for a long time. For starters we want to support more services than just Gmail, and give you the ability to tell Braid how to categorize messages that it didn’t know about. As it stands I think there’s a lot for us to be proud of here, and I’d really appreciate you taking the time to check it out. It’s free on the The App Store and you can get it now.

Photos+

My friend Justin Williams has just released his new photo viewing and management app, Photos+. It’s excellent. Photos+ can be used as a true replacement for the built in Photos app, and has the right features for hardcore photography nerds to love it without ever feeling the least bit complicated. In fact, if anything I’d say just getting around feels less complicated than in the system app, because it eschews a bunch of features I almost never use.

The grid view in Photos+ is my new favorite way to view my photos on any platform. Instead of putting each photo into an equally sized and spaced grid of images, thumbnails are scaled proportionally and put nearly right up against each other. This maximizes the number of photos you can see at a time and makes them large enough that you can actually tell what you’re looking at. It’s a better example of iOS 7’s content first strategy than Apple has actually shipped themselves in any of their apps.

You can read Justin’s post about Photos+ on his blog, or just go get it right now for $2.99 on The App Store.

Short Review of Marked 2

A few days ago Brett Terpstra released a new version of his wonderful Markdown preview app Marked. It’s only available outside of the Mac App Store on its own site, and costs $11.99. The great thing about Marked is that even though it does a lot, you can ignore any features you don’t want easily. If all you want is Markdown preview for when you’re writing Sublime Text or BBEdit, you just have to launch the app and use it that way. If you do decide to explore them though, some of the new features are great.

Two things in Marked 2 are the most useful for me personally. The first is the ability to set up words to highlight which you’d like to avoid or consider alternates for. I can’t think of another time where a writing app has done something that will actively improve my writing, so this feature alone is worth the $11.99. The second feature that I’m going to use a lot is the ability to preview a document that’s being worked on in MarsEdit. The preview window in MarsEdit is fine, but basic. Being able to use Marked when writing in MarsEdit means I won’t miss out on its features if I decide to skip the dance of writing in another app and then copy and pasting my text before publishing.

Cody at MacStories has an in-depth review that’s worth reading if you want to find out about all the new features. You can buy Marked 2 from its own website.

Use Find My Friends To Help Your Mom Worry Less

Since I’m working in San Francisco now, I’ve been traveling back and forth a lot, and every time I talk to my mom she always asks me to let her know that I got there and home safely. A neat feature I just discovered in Find My Friends is that if you go to the “me” tab, you can set it to notify whoever you want every time you arrive at a specific location. So, I can set it to notify Mom whenever I reach SFO or PDX.

NetNewsWire 4 Public Beta

NetNewsWire has been my favorite feed reader for the Mac since I’ve known what a feed reader is. When the great folks at Black Pixel took it over, I knew they’d do something great with it and — since I love being right — I’m happy to say the new beta really is just as great as I’d hoped. Syncing will come in time, and in the meantime it’s absolutely worth it to download the beta and spend the $10 to pre-order the final version.

The hardest, scariest, thing I can imagine is to take something so many people love, and that does so much, and dramatically simplify it without ruining the essence of why people loved it in the first place. The public beta of NetNewsWire 4 shows not only that Black Pixel gets it, but that once again they can deliver on taking something outstanding and making it even better.

Go download it for free.

Introducing Vesper

Of all the people I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with over the past few years, three of the smartest and most talented are Brent Simmons, Dave Wiskus, and John Gruber. Today they’ve released Vesper, an app I was lucky enough to help test. Vesper is a note taking app, but instead of being a replacement for Evernote or Notational Velocity — it’s sort of its own thing.

While other apps do a lot more, the amount of more that’s there usually makes getting to the simple things kind of a kludge. Vesper — in contrast — is painstakingly simple, and designed by someone who was totally okay with people either loving or hating it. I don’t mean that I think anyone was inflexible in creating it — during the beta I saw them take a great deal of care in selecting the best feedback and integrating it into the app. What I mean that I can’t imagine anyone being “just okay” with this app, and that I think the reason for that is that there was a clear vision for what Vesper is and isn’t, and that it’s been adhered to without compromise. My guess is that a lot of people are going to fall into the love it category.

Buy Vesper on The App Store.