Posts tagged ‘Apps’

Sunday : 05-15-16

Android Study Jam – Completed

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’m really excited about my latest accomplishment. The local chapter of the Google Developer Group ( Hudson Valley) ran a Study Jam based on Udacity’s Android Development for Beginners to introduce people of any background to creating apps on Android back in March-April. I completed it and had been able to showcase my app off at an event at SUNY New Paltz.

I had been pretty nervous about signing up but incredibly excited because the organizers had been so passionate and advised that you didn’t have to have any recent experience in programming. I’ve programmed back when I was going for my Associate’s Degree but I never really pursued it any further. Programming always seems to keep coming back to me and I’ve always wanted to give it a try. This Study Jam gave me the jump start I needed and I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself.

The projects start out pretty easy. The very first one was making a Birthday Card App. I ended up making one for my Mom because at the time it had been pretty close to her birthday. After that we started to do slightly more complex layouts with a Score Counter App for Basketball, where I learned the difficulties of mixing various views and that XML is pretty awesome and can do even more than I had thought it could back in College.  After that, we ended up making an app that would help with ordering coffees, calculating the price and even sending a email to the “coffeeshop” with the details of the order. This was the most impressive because of the fact I only had to program something to call on another application not actually worry about how I was going to send the email too.

After the main apps were finished, the final part of the class was making our own Final Project. This part I think was the hardest for me because I had a million ideas and I had wanted to do EVERYTHING. However, editing is one of the most useful skills that I learned, especially just to show a working version of the app for our Showcase event. I ended up making an app to educate on the various steps of Home Brewing your own beer with some tips that I had learned from my own experiences brewing beer this last year. In the future I hope to add more to it like timers and calendar events to be a helpful resource to home brewers but I think for now I’ve learned an awesome new skill and I’m excited to see what else I’ll make.

Some of the other skills that I picked up were using GitHub  ( which I have an account and you can see the apps I created here) Here’s the certificate that I earned as well. I also got an awesome tee that the organizer’s made.   I also learned how to use Slack which is what we used to communicate in between the two events that we had to get through the entire class. It’s a really powerful tool and I’ll talk about it later in another post.

 

AndroidStudyJamCert

The group is also going to be doing another Study Jam, this time to learn Firebase. I’m excited and can’t wait.  Firebase is a really cool tool for live data requests in place of just using a regular database. There’s a lot built into the Android Studio Libraries with Firebase that makes it super powerful.

If you want to check out your Local Google Developer Group and see what they’re up to, here’s more information:
https://developers.google.com/groups/

GDGHV
https://developers.google.com/groups/chapter/116637480947982055865/

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Wednesday : 07-16-14

Mailbox- Better Than Gmail

I’ve already previously spoken about Mailbox in my trials and tribulations with email.  However, it’s one of my favorite apps on my phone and I wanted to just delve into what makes it so awesome and why you really should be downloading it right now. It’s available for both Android and iPhone but since I’m an Android gal, your mileage in Apple Land could vary.

Mailbox is created by a team which later became part of Dropbox. This is not an email client, well at least not in the traditional sense.  The application’s cleverness is in the way you approach email; the main focus is to keep the inbox empty with emails scheduled for your convenience.  Anything you would want do with an email, is all managed depending on the way you swipe the email.  You can “snooze” an email  later( tomorrow, month, specific date, etc).  All of this can be done from a central inbox where you can manage multiple accounts. This is just the tip of the awesome iceberg that is Mailbox.

About Mailbox
Mailbox on Android
Mailbox on iOS
Website
Additional Screenshots

 


Interface

 

Inbox of Mailbox App

Mailbox’s Main Screen

 

When you first open Mailbox, you’re welcomed by your inbox window with your menu available by hitting your menu window and/or swiping it over. Pretty standard functionality, but I think it looks much nicer in comparison to Gmail. My biggest complaint with Gmail is how cumbersome the menu becomes when I have to start scrolling and scrolling to navigate my labels. Mailbox’s Menu can scroll yet, it’s all very minimal leaving only the categories you need at hand and everything else available with just tapping a category.

The top of your Mailbox window is the always available quick buttons which will allow you to go to the menu, list your snoozed/inbox/archived emails, and compose emails.  Depending on your settings in the menu, this will display emails across all of your accounts ( this is how I use Mailbox) or you could be looking at one account at time.

Swiping Emails

The ease of swiping is a HUGE improvement over Gmail’s swiping of emails. One of the things that drove me nuts with Gmail was that after most updates to it, I would find that the default setting for whether the swipe deleted or archived emails would be changed, often causing me to delete emails that really needed to be archived or vice versa. It was difficult at best to know what had been done with your email until after you’d already done it and the message displayed.  Mailbox avoids this, using colors to represent each action and by showing a very friendly color/icon indication of the action being used. You can do the following just from swiping ( Right is archive/delete and Left is Snooze/Add to List):

1)Archive- Just like in Gmail.
2)Delete- Much the same in Gmail, goes to the trash before it’s permanently deleted.
3)Snooze- This takes the email out of your inbox for a specified amount of time, puts it in a snooze list, and later will reappear in the inbox again.
4)Add to List- You start off with  To Buy, To Watch, To Read and can add/delete/edit as needed. Will not Remind you on these ones.

Mailbox can also learn from what emails you delete, which they call Auto-Swipe.  The app will learn what emails you often delete/archive (via the sender or the subject, for example) and then it will prompt you to set an Auto Swipe Rule. For all emails which meet that criteria it will automatically take that action each time it comes into the inbox. This saves me so much time with the majority of the spam that I’ve accidentally picked up and makes it so I don’t necessarily have to unsubscribe entirely.  You can always check how many/what emails have had the auto swipe applied and you can always turn it off or clear out the rules learned right from the Menu.

Snoozing Emails

This functionality is probably the biggest draw for me. Often times, I’ll tell myself I’ll read or handle an email, only to forget I said I would and then it just becomes a resident of my inbox, that never pays it’s fair share of the rent. The snooze functionality gets it out of my email, so I’m only focused on what I need to be and then I’m easily reminded when I want to be of the emails I need to take care of. You can also easily tell what emails have been snoozed and brought back into your inbox by the yellow dot, unlike the blue one new emails get.

While you can swipe the email to set up a snooze, you can also open an email and choose to snooze it from there as well. You can snooze an email for Later Today, Tomorrow Eve, Tomorrow, Next Weekend, Next Week, In a Month, Someday, and a specific date.  Check out that dialog:

Mailbox's Snooze Options: Later Today, Tomorrow Eve, Tomorrow, Next Weekend, Next Week, In a Month, Someday, and Pick A Date.

Snooze Options

Better yet, these snoozes are driven by the Snooze options that you can control in the settings so that you can customize the snoozes to fit when you’re awake and functioning with the world to handle emails. You can always come back and change this at a later time and it’s flexible to what your needs are.  This is probably one of the best features for snooze as someone who was a second shifter for several years.  If you have also worked those shifts you know what your morning is versus others is completely different and the ability to control this in terms of your email is great!

While these emails are now gone from your inbox, they are never far from your view. The snooze list organizes your emails based on their snoozed till date, and you can easily swipe them to either delete them or place them back in your inbox. You can also easily change the emails if you need to snooze them for a later date.

Lists

While Snooze gives you a list of documents and provides you a reminder, Lists, are just categories to sort your emails with. They are glorified Gmail labels and require you to use them appropriately. I generally stick to slightly modified versions of the ones that come with Mailbox, as they are straight to the point and with the action verb, I’m more likely to take some sort of action with them. These actually correspond to labels which Mailbox will create for you and they can be accessed when logging into the web version of Gmail. To this end, I generally set up more permanent Gmail labels as sort of a filing cabinet for my emails  and use a Mailbox Label to store emails which need to be sorted. I find this system to work the best for me and keeps me from saving emails that are unnecessary.

Cons
So I’ve already told you why the app is awesome, but there are a few flaws which I’d like to point out. None of these flaws really take away from it enough to make it less suitable than using the Gmail app, but it might be something that hopefully the developers will consider in future versions.

Composing Email Functionality is Blah– It’s not bad, but it’s really just ….okay. It’s got the same functionality of every compose email out their on a mobile platform but it brings nothing else to the table. It may be less in fact than offerings such as Touchdown.  I would love to see a bit more functionality added to it like adding a snooze action to it ( if you’re expecting a response from the recipient) or other default action and maybe even some formatting and better attachment options. Really though, for what it is, I’m quite happy with it as I do not write many emails from my phone.

Google or iCloud Accounts only– This one bums me out probably the most. But, it’s more due to complexity of programming/designing Microsoft Exchange Interfaces/APIs  than I believe them purposely leaving other account offerings out. It bums me out the most though because I’d really love to use my work email through Mailbox because then I’d manage all of my email from Mailbox alone. Hopefully, if Mailbox gets popular enough we’ll see an Microsoft Exchange version or better yet other Email Clients implementing Mailbox like functionality.

Unable to Customize Swipe Directions– This one to me isn’t really something that phases me, but something I could see users in general requesting. It would be nice to have the app give you the option of determining which swipe action would do what.  This would probably nice for some users coming from other applications not having to unlearn previous application behaviors and being able to set it up for what works for them.


I really really love this app!  With every day that I use the app, I find more ways for it to change my email managing for the better. It helps me feel less overwhelmed and more successful at being able to maintain my digital life. It feels like it rewards me for keeping a clean inbox and gives me all of the tools necessary for achieving this. My favorite part of my day is getting to see this staring at me:
empty Mailbox
Please let me know what you think about Mailbox in the comments and share any email apps you think that I should check out. I’d love to hear from you and I’m always willing to check out new apps. If there’s something else you’d like me to write about, you can also feel free to let me know in the comments below.