Tag Archives: mobile

Genealogy in My Pocket

Have you seen the new update to Ancestry.com’s iOS app? It’s very nice! Randy Seaver has a full review of the update at Genea-Musings if you want to learn more. There are a growing number of genealogy-related apps available for iOS, Android and even Windows devices. Some of them are simple, yet smart – like the BillionGraves Camera App that captures the location of the grave using the device’s builtin GPS services along with the photo of the headstone. And, you can add details about the grave and marker while you are standing in front of it. 

 Others, like Mobile Family Tree, are quite impressive. I’ve found I’m spending as much time in Mobile Family Tree [iOS – $14.99] as I am in its companion Mac Family Tree [Mac – $49.99]. Why? Because my iPad is always nearby when a thought or idea inspires me. The really interesting aspect of these companion apps is that both are fully-funtional alone and they keep their databases synched via iCloud. The synching is done automatically in the background. If I’m not mistaken, Mobile Family Tree is currently the only fully-functional genealogy app for mobile. I expect we’ll see more apps like this soon. 

By combining Mobile Family Tree and Evernote, I have a very functional mobile research platform. At this point I use it mostly for “spur of the moment” ideas or searches. And since my iPad is my reading platform of choice, I find I’m doing more and more record reviews and analysis here too. My big screen desktop still is my primary research platform because I can have multiple sites and programs open at the same time and easily move between them all. I don’t see that changing soon.

What I do love about my iThings is that one or both of them is always nearby when an idea strikes. The key to using them effectively is developing workflows. What is a workflow? Basically, it’s the steps involved in completing a task. The research workflows I learned in school were all paper-based. Yes, I can adapt those procedures to digital content, but it doesn’t save me any time or effort. The challenge is to develop a workflow to make my life easier. In my case it involved trading in notebooks, tabs and copied files for tags and smart searching. 

I don’t see my desktop computer going away anytime soon, but as my research transitions to a digital world I find that my mobile devices are taking on an even bigger role. 

Life is good.

WordPress Redesigns Mobile App

I’m writing this post in the updated WordPress mobile app. The editor has received a nice facelift including the ability to edit image settings without leaving the editor screen. There’s now an image icon on the editing toolbar that takes you right to the Photos app to select the image you want to import. At the top of the editing screen you’ll find the Settings and Preview icons which also make it much easier to access the tools needed to write, publish and manage your content.

editor screen in mobile WprdPress app

A look at the updated editor in the WordPress mobile app for iOS.

Once you’ve inserted an image, tap on it and a pencil icon appears as an overlay on the image. Tap the icon to display the image’s settings. Add titles, captions and alt text, then set your appearance choices. Tap close and you are right back in the editor screen ready to keep typing.

These updates have turned the app into a truly functional editor – and one I’ll be using a lot more often.

WordPress Mobile for iOS is free in the app store.

Mobile Blogging Update

I find I’m spending a lot more time blogging from my iPad. Not only have blogging apps improved significantly, but thanks to Markdown it’s a lot easier to include formatting that used to require HTML coding (a real effort on an iPad keyboard). I have Markdown turned on for my WordPress blogs. You’ll find the “switch” in the Settings > Writing panel on WordPress.com sites. Self-hosted sites will need the Jetpack plugin with Markdown activated. Tumblr supports Markdown, but finding the switch to turn it on can be a challenge. markdown settings in tumblr Once set, you’ll notice the editor shows you that you are in Markdown mode. Click it and you’ll be taken to the Markdown syntax page at Daring Fireball. tumblr editor screen As of today, Blogger doesn’t support Markdown, but don’t let that stop you. Using the Byword editor for Mac and iOS with its publisher feature turned on, you can write in Markdown. Byword converts it to HTML for you before sending it on to Blogger.  The Blogsy app for iPad also supports Markdown and publishes to every blog platform known to man.

I’m having trouble finding blog editors for Android devices. WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger offer their mobile apps, but what few “general purpose” apps I’ve seen don’t look too appetizing. If anyone has a recommendation for a good mobile blogging app for Android, please tell us about it in the comments.


iPad Genealogy

Lately I’ve found I’m spending more and more research time on my iPad. There are two reasons for this – Evernote and MobileFamilyTree [iOS – $14.99]. MobileFamilyTree has a companion app for the desktop called MacFamilyTree [Mac – $49.99] but although both can use the same database when it’s stored on iCloud, the mobile app is entirely independent of the desktop version. I believe at the moment, it’s the only mobile iOS app that is. Another advantage is that both versions can synch family tree data with FamilySearch.org.

MobileFamilyTree person page.

MobileFamilyTree person page.

One thing I love about both the Mac and Mobile editions is that I can view and edit all of a person’s detail information on one screen without constantly opening and closing data boxes. That is so irritating.

Same person page in MacFamilyTree.

Same person page in MacFamilyTree.

Even with MobileFamilyTree’s synching capability, I still prefer to do most of my FamilySearching via web browser. Why? so I can capture source information and download record image files into Evernote. I’ve found the Dolphin Browser [iPad – free] has a much better Evernote capture interface than the Safari browser on the iPad. It works much like the Web Clipper installed on my desktop Safari.

Granted, the iPad is not the best platform for bouncing around between web sites and apps – something I tend to do a lot. My solution is to take written notes. Sure that slows me down, but I’m finding that’s actually a good thing. Writing those notes instead of copy/pasting or clipping them makes me think about them more – more time to consider what this record adds to my research. At the end of a session, I’ll use Evernote on my iPad to photograph those notes so they can easily be found again when I need them. So far, I’ve had very good luck with Evernote’s search engine “reading” my handwriting.

What’s the down side? Trying to read original documents – especially census records – on my iPad mini’s small screen. Sure I can zoom into a document so I can see the content, but when I do it’s displaying such a small bit of screen area that I’m scrolling all over the place trying to see all the information. That gets real tedious real fast.

Am I ready to give up my desktop? Not even. I do find that developing mobile research skills and workflows at home has significantly improved my efforts when researching at the library. Since I’m planning a couple of research trips, these skills can become even more useful when I have a limited amount of time in a distant archive.

That being said, I do see where the iPad could become a primary research tool – especially for seniors who never used a computer but have found the iPad quite useful. Platforms like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org seem to be making it easy to get them started and I expect that’s a trend that will continue to grow.

Tumblr App Adds Style

Actually, they call it “Appearance”. It’s a new feature on the Tumblr mobile app that lets you customize how your Tumblr blog will look within the app. Most blogs have clean, uncluttered designs when viewed on small devices. The theme used on a standard web page often doesn’t work on a phone’s smaller screen. Well, Tumblr has found a way you can give your Tumblr blog a bit of mobile style that doesn’t impact its viewability.

The things you can change are the background color and accent color, header image, avatar image and shape (square or round) and font for the blog’s title and description. Here’s a quick walk-thru . . .

Your changes won’t be visible in the reader until someone taps on an item to see the article at your blog, but it’s still an easy and fun way to jazz up your Tumblr’s mobile look. And, since most Tumblr’s use their phone to keep up with their reading, you’re readers will appreciate your efforts.

Tumblr updates iOS and Android apps

I’m finding Tumblr more fascinating every day. Think of it as a sort of long-form Twitter only you’re following blogs (and hashtag conversations) and reblogging posts. The iOS app update makes it even easier.

Tumblr has revamped its Android app and cranked up social discovery for iOS in the first updates that its mobile apps have gotten since the company was acquired by Yahoo in a $1.1 billion deal that closed last month.

Tumblr for iOS has “a brand new discovery experience” to help users find new content from their device more easily. The app’s search tab now includes trending hashtags and blogs to demonstrate what’s popular across the network at any given time. Users can look for blogs and tags from the search tab; the app will also serve up recommended blogs based on searched tags.

The Next Web has the details.

The Phone Photography Project

I still have a lot to learn about iPhonography so when I stumbled onto Big Picture Classes’ Phone Photography Project, I signed up immediately. It sounds like it will be full of useful information from 32 talented instructors – and daily challenges to get me using what I learn. The workshop covers both iPhone and Android phones, includes app reviews and they’re promising contests, giveaways and other fun stuff. It begins July 1st and continues for 32 days. Cost is $39. I can’t wait!

A look at the post-PC world?

The figures on mobile device sales shown in this article are staggering while the PC market remains flat. But where is Microsoft in all of this?

As little ago as 2009, almost all online access was done via PCs and as almost all PCs run Windows that meant Microsoft’s share of the “connected device” market was pretty large: 80% or so. But as more and more smartphones and tablets have been sold, which almost entirely run non-Microsoft OSs, so that share has steadily declined ever since. It’s now down to 25% or so. Certainly, in terms of things like determining web standards, Microsoft is a much diminished influence.

via TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog.

An Interesting iOS7 Perspective

I’m looking forward to iOS7’s release this fall – and hope it will be early fall and not in the middle of the holiday season. Today, Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper and one of my favorite tech writers, describes why iOS7 is so impressive.

The App Store is crowded: almost every common app type is well-served by at least one or two dominant players. They’ve been able to keep their leads by evolving alongside iOS: when the OS would add a new API or icon size, developers could just add them incrementally and be done with it. Established players only became more established.

iOS 7 is different. It isn’t just a new skin: it introduces entirely new navigational and structural standards far beyond the extent of any previous UI changes. Existing apps can support iOS 7 fairly easily without looking broken, but they’ll look and feel ancient.

I have enjoyed the innovation in app design and functionality iOS has brought to technology and look forward to discovering even more apps that revolutionize how I work and relax.

Fertile Ground at Marco.org.