I’ve had a post sitting in my draft box about my favorite email client for months now. I never got around to finishing it and now it looks like I never will. I’m talking of course about Sparrow, the well-designed, simple and easy to use Mac (and iOS) mail client. I started using Sparrow when it was still in private beta, that’s why it pains me to inform you they’ve discontinued development.
According to their website, Sparrow has been acquired by Google. I know the end goal for many startups is to be eaten up by a big-time player but this particular case really makes me sad. They will make Sparrow available and continue to support it but they will be “joining the Gmail team to accomplish a bigger vision.” I’m happy for the team, really. I’m sure that’s a huge opportunity and if in the same situation, it’d be hard to turn down a job at Google. I’m sad for all of us users though, we’ve lost the best email client around. Sure we can still use it but it will never be updated and will slowly become less and less relevant.
Here’s what I think Google (and the old Sparrow team) should do… rebrand it. Make it an official Google product. The iOS Sparrow app is leaps and bounds better than the iOS Gmail app. The only complaints I’ve heard (and share myself) are about the lack of push notifications. Google can handle that, their Gmail app already does. They could easily add that functionality to the existing Sparrow app and package it up as the new Gmail app. It’s a win for everyone. Sparrow users will be glad their beloved email app hasn’t faded to oblivion and Gmail users will be pleasantly surprised by a new (to them) and wonderful replacement. Perhaps they should even consider porting it to Android. Why not share the wealth? It’s a shame to let such an innovative and beautiful product go to waste.
Most importantly, I’d like to see them do a similar thing with the desktop version. Like I said before, I’ve been using Sparrow for quite some time. I love the slick and minimal interface. It’s fast, easy to use and let’s me manage multiple accounts in one place. I love how well it handles Gmail labels and starring. It’s really the Gmail experience I wish the web had, but better because it’s a separate app. I know Google doesn’t have an official desktop email client and they probably weren’t planning to. That said, why not have one? The bulk of the work is already done with Sparrow. If you’re not going to continue developing the Sparrow anymore, at least re-visit gmail.com’s interface. It’s gotten to be unruly and could use a little of Sparrow influence.
Overall I just hope the Sparrow team does well at Google. I’m cautiously optimistic they can influence the Gmail team for the better. On the flip side, I’m a bit irritated that development on one of my favorite Mac AND iOS apps is dead.
R.I.P Sparrow, you will be missed.
I love shortcuts. On my computer I’m constantly using key commands to avoid moving the mouse and save myself a few seconds here and there. After a while that time really adds up. It only makes sense then that I’m always looking for shortcuts and time-savers on my phone as well. I’d like to share one of those shortcuts with you.
It’s a little-publicized feature of iOS called keyboard shortcuts. Basically it takes advantage of the auto-correct feature and allows you to have common phrases replace your custom shortcut text.
For example, if you find yourself typing “birthday” a lot, why not set up a shortcut of “bday” that will automatically correct itself into “birthday” on the fly. It’s extremely simple to set up and even easier to use.
To get started, navigate from Settings > General > Keyboard. You’ll want to make sure “Auto-Correction” is switched on. After that swipe down to find “Shortcuts.” These are the ones currently enabled on your phone. By default there should be a couple such as “omw” that turns into “On my way!”
To add your own shortcut, just tap “Add New ” below. Add your phrase, such as “by the way” and then the shortcut you’d like for it, such as “btw.” Hit the save button in the upper right corner and you’re all set. Anytime you type your new shortcut it should auto-correct into your phrase. It’s a great way to save yourself some time.
It’s been a while since Yahoo mattered much. You hear about it every once in a while in the news, usually about an attempted take-over or how irrelevant it’s become and how much money it’s hemorrhaging. Over the last few days they’ve actually had some positive press. For the first time in a long time they’ve made a really great choice. They’ve hired Marissa Mayer as their CEO. Mayer is a very intelligent woman who is one of the first 20 or so employees of Google. It’s big news.
I wrote off Yahoo years ago. I figured they had their time and were easily replaced by the likes of Google and other forward-thinking companies. It seemed Yahoo had stalled out. Occasionally they’d do something smart, like buy Flickr but they’d always mess that up too. When’s the last time Flickr was relevant? Yahoo basically bought a great innovative product it and never did anything with it, letting the competition catch up and surpass it.
I’m hopeful that Mayer can turn things around. What I’ve read about her it seems she has the smarts, the leadership and vision to turn it into something useful again. I’m no expert but I have a few opinions on Yahoo. If I were in her shoes I’d concentrate on making Yahoo do one thing really well instead of 60 things just ok. They’ve got a huge portfolio of products but none of them are outstanding. A few of them are decent and if resources were re-arranged and concentrated to those products, they could become great.
Yahoo isn’t going to be Google. It’s just not. We don’t need it to be and they shouldn’t fizzle into oblivion trying to be. I think they just need to re-focus and narrow in on a few things to do. Becoming a news portal or beefing up Flickr to be creative again could be a couple of ways to improve. I just hope Mayer isn’t afraid to really shake things up. It’d be a shame to see such an iconic company such as Yahoo fade away but it needs a lot of work and radical change to survive. I wish you the best of luck Marissa, I truly hope you and Yahoo can succeed.
When foursquare announced lists a while back I got really excited. It seemed like such a cool way to build up a collection of hot spots. A few days later I all but forgot you could make them. The problem was, I just didn’t have a need. Around my town there’s about a dozen lists for “Best Mexican Restaurants” that all have the same 5 or so places. Why do I need to make yet another list of the same old spots.
Then foursquare launched the #VisitUS challenge. It was a really cool contest that would award a few cities badges based on user-sourced “best of” lists. About Foursquare has a good write-up on it. That’s when I created my first useful list. I collaborated with a friend and we gave Kalamazoo a city guide, foursquare style. Kalamazoo didn’t end up winning a badge but it was a great exercise in creating lists.
Fast forward a few months and I actually pulled up that list again and shared with a couple of friends who were in town for my wedding. They had never been to the area and wanted to know where to go for food and fun. The list was perfect, it was already created, offered and easy way to share the info and gave them directions to and info about each place on it.
This re-ignited my passion for foursquare lists and I set out to make another. This time I planned to make a list of disc golf courses in Michigan (yes, disc golf is an obsession). It was mainly for my benefit. I liked the idea of exploring the state and playing disc golf along the way. I used review websites to compile nearby courses I was interested in playing and then found them on foursquare so I could add them to my list. It’s quickly grown from a small list of nearby courses to a giant list of courses all over Michigan.
Making lists are easy. Adding new places to your list are even easier. Here’s a quick how-to so you can start creating your own lists. When you come across a venue you’d like to add to your list, just click the “Save” button. A menu will pop up listing your current lists (and a “Create a new list…” option if you don’t have any). Just select the list you want it saved to and you’re all set. You can do this on the website (see screenshot) or in the mobile app. It’s the same basic procedure either way.
If you’re creating a brand new list, a dialog pops up for you to add a name to your list. Don’t worry, you can always change it later.
Editing your lists is easy too. Just navigate to your list on the website (pull down menu under your name > lists) and then hit the big orange “Edit” button. You can then put the venues in a certain order, add tips or photos and remove venues. Near the top of the list you can edit the name and description of your list and use the search box to add more venues. When you’re all set just click “Finished Editing.” Be sure to share your list when you are done.
Do you make a lot of foursquare lists? Maybe you just like to follow them. What lists are your favorite?
I’m constantly looking for new disc golf courses to play. That means I’m visiting Disc Golf Course Review all the time. It’s a great site with a wealth of information. The only problem I run into is that it’s not a very mobile friendly site. This means when I’m on the go and want to search for a course, it’s a very clunky process. I decided there was an easier way and set off to create it.
I really like these simple projects. They’re very gratifying to be able to fill a need with such an easy solution. I think the whole site took me about 15 minutes to complete and I’m sure I’ll use it over and over again. I welcome you to give it a shot too. Eventually I’ll add in other search options offered on DG Course Review but the two there now are what I use most.
**Update July 18, 2012**
Turns out there is a mobile version of DG Course Review
. I stumbled upon it in the forums. You have to navigate specifically to it (there’s no device/resolution detection to redirect you) but it is pretty handy.