A Habit App for Every Day of the Week

A Habit App for Every Day of the Week

In 2015, I, like many of you, made some New Year’s resolutions, fully expecting them not to last. So far, though, they’re holding up pretty well, thanks to a handful of apps I’ve been trying out on my iPhone.

While catching up on Mike Vardy’s new Productivityist podcast, I was introduced to several new-to-me apps and decided that this would be a good time to put them (and some others) through their paces. What follows are the apps I thought were noteworthy.

Good Habits

Good Habits

I picked up Good Habits [App Store, Free with IAP] shortly after its 1.0 release, but in the last two years I unfortunately couldn’t make using it a habit. (That was my fault, not the app’s.) The app uses the “Don’t break the chain” metaphor attributed to Jerry Seinfeld: each day you complete a task forms a link in a chain and your goal is to avoid breaking the chain by skipping a day.

Like all of these apps, Good Habits is easy to use. When creating a new habit, you give it a name, choose a color, and set an optional reminder. You can also specify days off for each habit, so skipping a task on a preset day doesn’t break the chain. Habits can also be paused, should the need arise. Marking a task done requires one tap; to mark it missed, two taps (or just leave it alone—Good Habits doesn’t track skipped tasks).

An optional ($1) in-app purchase allows you to see stats for individual habits: current chain length, longest chain, and more, including distribution. Very geeky stuff. And you can note the reason you broke a chain.

One downside of Good Habits is its limitation to a single daily repetition. A habit that I’m working on is drinking eight glasses of water daily; however, I can’t use the app to track each glass. I’d like to see the developer add the ability to track tasks that need to be done on a “nn times per day” basis.

Full

Full

Mike Vardy’s app of choice is Full [App Store, Free], but after several weeks of using the app I had to delete it. Although its swipe-and-drag interface is easy to use (and it handles not only “nn times per day” tasks, but also “per week” and “per month” tasks), I found that its history feature is too limited to be of any use.

History in the app is displayed per time segment—you can’t look at an overview of daily habits for the month, for example, and instead you must swipe through each day to see your successes and failures. In other words, no chains, no stats.

I also ran across several annoyances: the app opens to a view of your monthly habits (I have none) rather than daily and, since the app never asks for permission (and doesn’t show up in Settings > Notifications), I never receive reminders of my tasks. This would seem to be an issue with the app itself, since most other apps work just fine in this regard. Lastly, an Internet connection is required.

Way of Life

Way of Life

A popular app among those in the know is Way of Life [App Store, Free with IAP]. I like that you can view your list by week or month, not simply by day as most of the other other apps show, and that you can mark a task as skipped. You can filter your view to show only today’s remaining activities and tags offer additional filters. And notes can be added for any day’s activity, not just those that are missed.

Statistics in the app are displayed by charts and they’re very well done. But what’s exceptional is the ability to set multiple reminders and have them focused on individual habits, all habits, your remaining tasks, or tasks with specific tags. You can even choose to have reminder notifications only when tasks in your chosen focus are undone. Smart.

However…

Habits are limited to single daily repetitions, making Way of Life unsuitable for tracking my water consumption. And it’s somewhat annoying that marking a task done requires two taps.

Balanced

Balanced

Balanced [App Store, Free with IAP] is different enough to make it interesting, but its take on habit tracking doesn’t work for me. To start, “[reminders] are built around mindfullness. You get two each day, but only if you haven’t checked the app.” I’m not sure what that first sentence means, but the second one means I won’t be reminded when I need it.

Next, history is limited to (it appears) the prior 14-15 actions per habit, showing you a vague timeline of tasks done, skipped, or late. That’s right: late. The app doesn’t track missed actions, so missing three cups of water in a row in one day, for example, only counts as one late.

Habit Builder

Habit

Habit [App Store, $4] is similar in many respects to Way of Life, both in usage and in stats. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that its developer took some cues from the other. However, there are differences. Marking a task done takes only one tap, but you can’t mark a task skipped. You can have up to six reps of a daily task and note entry is slightly easier, but there is only a single reminder per habit and the app, like Way of Life, only tracks daily habits.

If you care to, both Habit Builder and Way of Life allow you to share your habits with others, although only the former uses a standard iOS share sheet—Way of Life shares to email or Twitter only.

(Habit Builder [App Store, Free] is the lite version of Habit.)

Habit List

Habit List

Habit List [App Store, Free with IAP] is in some ways similar to Good Habits and, like Way of Life, has a wide following. One advantage this app has over the other two is its wide number of options for habit frequency: specific days, every nn days, every two weeks, every month, or 1-6 days per week. But, like most of these apps, you can’t specify “nn times per day.”

A nice touch is that your remaining tasks shuffle to the top of the list, while completed tasks are greyed out. Only a single tap is necessary to mark a task done, or a tap and hold to mark it skipped.

Depending on how you like your stats served, you may find Habit List tastier than Good Habits. Although there’s not as much information about chains, you can see your current and longest streaks, as well as six-week and six-month timelines.

Strides

Strides

Here it is: the Holy Grail. With a caveat. Strides [App Store, Free with IAP] is really more than I need, since it has trackers for not only habit building, but also target value by a specific date; average target value (more or less) by time period; and project completion (with milestones) by a specific date.

But for habit building, it’s very good. There are no limits on reps over a day, week, or month and there seems to be no limit on the number of reminders you can set for an individual habit. (I haven’t actually been able to test reminders, since the app has the same problem as Full, but the developer believes an upcoming update will fix this.) My only nit is that it takes two taps to log a “done” entry.

Stats show your current and best streaks or your goal streak (a separate tracker option), as well as your completion rate. And you can see your completion status by day over the last week and by week for the last seven—but no further.

I have found a few bugs in Strides, but none of them worry me; the developer has been very responsive to my contacts and the version history shows the app is being actively developed. Version 3 is pretty new and it appears it was a massive update that syncs iPads and iPhones with a web-based version of the app.

Now for the caveat: while the app is free, to continue using it after the 30-day trial you’ll need to pony up $5 a month or $50 a year. That’s their “sustainable business model” which will allow them to continue developing the app and the amount is well worth the value you receive if you use the app.

My recommendation

If you need to track daily tasks with no concern for stats or multiple reps, get Good Habits. If you need highly-configurable reminders for daily tasks with no need for multiple reps, get Way of Life.

But to track multiple reps per time period, the only way to go is Strides. If you need multiple reminders and multiple reps for serious habit building, you can get that for about the cost of one of those blended drink thingies at a snooty coffeehouse. And you can use Strides to help you cut back on those, too!

Managing Medications in iOS

Managing Medications in iOS

Although the built-in Reminders app, or any such third-party app, can help you schedule the medications you take, a dedicated medication management app will go beyond reminders and may provide additional features that help protect from overdose, incorrect medication, and harmful interactions; aid caregivers and healthcare professionals; and connect medications to doctors and pharmacies.

For the last few years, Pillboxie [App Store, $1] has been my go-to app for pill reminders. It handles multiple patients (think family members) and has great looking reports (medication lists and history) and its nagging reminders feature—which repeats reminders every minute until you take your meds or snooze the reminders—has overcome my forgetfulness.

So why would I look for a replacement? I’d be willing to overlook that Pillboxie still looks like a pre-iOS 7 app if it weren’t for the fact that it handles neither medications taken “as needed” (PRN) nor those taken at an hourly interval. To simulate the latter I could schedule multiple doses per day, but the reminders wouldn’t be rescheduled based on the time I took my meds. For example, say I take a drug every four hours and I set the first dose for 7am; if I actually take the first dose at 7:25am, the next dose should be taken at 11:25am—and Pillboxie would have me taking it early at 11am.

It turns out that very few apps get this right. Two, as a matter of fact.

When I previewed Easy Pill [App Store, $2] in the App Store, I had a sense I was in the presence of greatness. However, unlike most apps in this category, it’s strictly a paid app, so I didn’t download it until I’d waded through all the free and free-with-in-app-purchase apps first.

The app is gorgeous! It’s not just that it looks like a post-iOS 6 app, but the developer has made it very simple to add and track medications as well. Unlike most other apps I looked at, a single tap is all that is necessary to mark a drug “taken” and you can tap once again to adjust the time taken, if necessary. If you like, you can enable the display of a progress bar for each med that shows how far along in the cycle you are. And if you’re keeping track of how much of a medication is left, you can find the quantity right on the My Meds list.

Development of Easy Pill has been slow but steady over the last three years, perhaps reflecting the thoughtfulness of the developer. But I’m disappointed that in that time one feature important to me hasn’t been added: multiple patients. I could add my children’s names to the medications, I suppose, but it’s not quite as clean as having the feature built in.

Of the 27 apps I interviewed, Dosecast [App Store, $4 in-app purchase] was the final one. While looking at screenshots in the App Store, I wasn’t excited by the app’s design; however, its modest exterior belies the wealth of features inside.

Yes, it tracks medications taken. Yes, it reminds you to take your next dose after a pre-set number of hours. So it hits the two features that I’m needing now and includes (with the in-app purchase) the multi-patient feature that Easy Pill lacks. But wait…there’s more!

With the in-app purchase, you can track the doctor who prescribed the medication, as well as the pharmacy where you had the prescription filled; if you track the quantity, Dosecast will remind you when it’s time to refill. One nice touch is the ability to suspend reminders during bedtime hours, although I’d prefer that this be a per-patient and per-medication option. And I’m looking forward to their upcoming CloudSync service, which I hope will synchronize either select patients or individual medications between different users of the app—which would be great for me and my wife to coordinate our children’s schedules.

This is one of those times where I can’t have both form and function. Because Dosecast supports multiple patients, I’m reluctantly turning to it over Easy Pill to replace Pillboxie. But if you only need single-patient tracking, I wholeheartedly recommend Easy Pill—and I’ll keep my eye on it for future improvements in that area.

Two Years with Line2

Line2: Great service, less-than-great app

I’ve come to the end of two years with Line2, a cloud phone service that has replaced my business landline, and overall I’ve been pleased with the service. However, there are a number of niggling things with the iOS app itself which keep me from fully enjoying the service and which the company is slow—or unwilling—to fix.

The biggest issue for me is that there is no alert/banner or sound for new voicemail messages.

Ember Keeps LittleSnapper's Flame Burning

Ember Keeps LittleSnapper's Flame Burning

I’m a screenshot nut. I take screenshots every day for documentation, support, explanation, etc., and I’ve tried just about every Mac app out there that claims to do the job. Except for a short flirtation with Skitch that ended badly, my utility of choice for the last four-and-a-half years has been LittleSnapper.

An App Store Updates Bug

An App Store Updates Bug

It seems the App Store has a bug, something that I noticed first when I went to download an update to Daylite and then to Instacast. Neither of the apps was showing in Updates, even though an update had been released. And when I searched for the apps, both merely showed an “Open” button on their cards. However, tapping the card to review the listing revealed an “Update” button.

This doesn’t happen with every update, fortunately.

Instashare Adds Clipboard Transfer

Instashare Adds Clipboard Transfer

Last February, I reviewed Instashare, an app [Free ($1 in-app upgrade to remove ads), iOS; $3, OS X] for sharing files between your OS X and iOS devices.

The Problem with Outsourcing Sites

The Problem with Outsourcing Sites

Anyone see a problem here? Need I say more?

Update 9/7/2013: Apparently I do. By “outsourcing sites” (without naming such sites) I mean sites where you go to outsource the work. Generally speaking, those looking to hire from those sites aren’t willing to pay for quality work, hence the project asking for a Drupal programmer at $10/hour.

Monitor an App's Internet Usage

Monitor an App's Internet Usage

Every once in a while I want to watch how an app is connecting to the Internet from my Mac, but outside of using Little Snitch’s network monitor I’ve not been quite sure how to do that. Today I was introduced to lsof, a Terminal command to list open files. After reading the manual (man lsof) I found this syntax to work very well for me:

lsof -a -i -c Dropbox

The “-a” ANDs the next two options—without it, the following options would be ORed.

Daylite Content Moved

Daylite Content Moved

Following my certification as [a Daylite Partner][partner], I have moved all of the content on this site related to Daylite to [a new site][dminsights].

Swapping Axes in Numbers

Swapping Axes in Numbers

I was working on a spreadsheet in Numbers and it occurred to me that the data could be presented better—when I convert it to HTML—if I were to swap the X and Y axes.

Creating iTunes Affiliate Links

Creating iTunes Affiliate Links

Every once in a while I’ll review an OS X or iOS app here and I, of course, post a link to the app. I finally got around to looking into the iTunes affiliate program and what I found wasn’t pretty:

http://click.linksynergy.com/link?id=yC4uoyBXOnA&offerid=146261.623799272&type=2&murl=http%3A%2F%2Fitunes.apple.com%2Fapp%2Fcloud-mate%2Fid623799272%3Fuo%3D5

Seriously, that example link is just ugly.

Enhancing Drupal's Multiple Term Filters

Enhancing Drupal's Multiple Term Filters

The Pathauto module for Drupal makes your links look pretty by automatically creating URL aliases when content is created. For example, when dealing with vocabularies, “example.com/taxonomy/term/1” can be gussied up as “example.com/tag/apple”.

The WWDC 2013 Keynote

OS X Sea Lion

This week’s WWDC keynote was, for a user (at least this user), very exciting. As I watched it, these thoughts occurred to me:

  • Craig Federighi was awesome! Smooth, witty, and articulate.
  • iCloud keychain isn’t new—MobileMe and (I believe) .Mac before it also synced your keychains between devices. Password auto-fill has existed in desktop Safari for some time.

Markdown, Images, and Drupal's Image Styles

Markdown editor for BUEditor

Generally speaking, there is no reason for me to use a WYSIWYG editor in Drupal when I’m using Markdown. Unfortunately, I needed an easy way to add images to my content as well, using a file browser/uploader.

Fortunately, the best image/file uploader and browser for Drupal is, in my opinion, IMCE.