It’s gift buying season again — that time of the year when you’ve got to rack your brain to figure out what would be a good gift for everyone. But one gift idea that keeps popping up from a number of web apps is the gift of a subscription.
That sounds like a great idea at first. Who wouldn’t love a few free months of Netflix or Spotify or Evernote Pro? Or, for those a bit geekier, a free domain name or hosting might sound nice. You could even make sure your family’s data stays safe by giving them a year of CrashPlan. There’s even the more traditional gift subscriptions — Amazon, for instance, has every newspaper and magazine you could think of ready for gifting in paper or digital. Even newer web apps are getting in on it, with Draft offering gift subscriptions as well this year.
And yet, something seems a bit odd about gifting a subscription. It’s great while you’re using the gift subscription for free, but what about next year? It’s almost like you’re giving your family and friends more work — they’ll have to upgrade to their own subscription next year, or cancel their gift subscription when it runs out. That makes it a bit less nice of a gift than, oh, just about any other physical product.
So how do you feel about gifting subscriptions? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Christmas Tree icon via Eighty8four
It’s US Thanksgiving today, the day we set aside to eat turkey, play (or, more likely, watch) American football, and hopefully spend at least a few minutes of reflection about what we’re thankful for from the past year. And so, why not think about the web apps you’re most thankful for at the same time? They’ve changed how you worked, freed you from legacy apps, made you more productive, and likely saved you money. That’s a lot to be thankful for.
And it’s been a great year for web apps, especially as a writer, with so many new writing web apps coming out. It’d still be hard for me to pick my favorite, but I must say that I’m very grateful for Draft, Editorially, and Penflip, all three of which have already proved useful in my work this year. Draft especially has been rather phenomenal at getting so many new features over time, which has been so fun to see — and helpful as a user. Penflip, the newest of the bunch, is going to be very interesting to watch over the coming months.
That’s far from all of the new web apps this year — it’s hard to think of the world of web apps in 2013 without thinking of Typeform, Apple’s new iWork for iCloud apps and the redesigned core iCloud apps, and more. But that’s for later, when we’ll soon be rounding up the best apps of 2013 for your reading pleasure.
So today, we’d love to hear what brand new web apps you’re thankful for in 2013. Tell us why you love the app, and how you use it – and it just might end up being featured in our best of 2013 roundup.
And while we’re taking about being thankful, hey: thank you for being part of our community!
It’s all too surprising these days when books aren’t available in eBook format. J.J. Abrams’ new book S. was most surprising for being a paper-only book — one that, comically enough, was released the same week that the FAA relaxed their rules for using electronic devices (say, an eReader) during aircraft takeoff and landing. It’s an eBook-centric world in publishing these days, enough that it takes something big to break us away from eBooks, and even a plane taking off isn’t a big enough reason.
It’s great, for the most part. You can read books anywhere — Kindle has a great web app, apps like Booki.sh let you read your DRM free eBooks from anywhere with a browser, and there’s online libraries and innovative new services like Safari Flow that make eBooks even more accessible. Apple’s even brought their eBook library to the Mac, and now that they put iWork in the cloud, I’d venture a guess that they’ll make an iBooks web app eventually.
And yet, some people still don’t like eBooks. There’s something to the feel of a paper tome in your hand, the faint ink and aged paper smell in the air, and the beauty of the printed word that makes paper books something that many still love. But it’s still hard to argue with the convenience of eBooks that can go anywhere you do.
I’ve switched my book buying to eBooks almost exclusively, and can’t imagine going back — but how about you? We’d love to hear your book-buying thoughts in the comments below!
When Apple first released the iWork for iCloud web apps, I noted that the apps included far more features than Google Docs, especially for page layout and formatting. There was just one major thing missing: collaboration. That was rectified this week, when at the Apple announcement they went to great lengths to show off (with, of all things, what’s essentially Word Art) that their office suite now has real-time collaboration.
Google Docs — and smaller apps like Etherpad — pride themselves on letting you collaborate with others in real-time. I’ve used it to great effect in the past to work with others on translating documents, among other things, and we share a number of documents at AppStorm on Google Drive — though we rarely if ever are all editing at once. For the most part, it just seems like real-time editing is too much, an opinion seemingly shared with the newer writing and editing apps Draft and Editorially.
And yet, live collaboration seemed like a big enough need to Apple that they added collaboration to their iWork web apps over what others would consider more-needed poweruser features in Pages, Keynote, and Numbers for Mac.
That made me wonder how important live collaboration is to you. Do you regularly live co-edit documents with others, or do you just share documents with others and each edit them at your own leisure? We’d love to hear your thoughts on live editing documents — and, if you’ve tried them, on Apple’s iWork for iCloud web apps — in the comments below.
Google’s new packaged Chrome web apps are radically different from what we’ve been calling “web apps” all along, since they run 100% offline and their online parts feel no more “online” than a native app that syncs. For all intents and purposes, they’re “real” apps. We’ve been making fake “real” apps from web apps with tools like Fluid for OS X for years, letting web apps run in their own separate windows outside the real browser, but in the back of your head you always know that it’s little more than a trick. Let your internet connection go out, and boom — most web apps will loose your data at best, and totally fail to keep working at worst.
So, let’s say there’s two types of web apps: the normal kind you can visit in any browser, and the ones you have to install like Chrome packaged apps. The latter make perfect sense to run in their own window and launch from the Start Menu or Launchpad — they’re real native apps, really. But how about web apps that require you to be online anyhow, ones you can run from any browser just by visiting their site. Should those live in their own windows, too, like a normal app, or do you prefer to keep them in a browser tab where they feel like just another website and you’re reminded that they’re really virtual apps? We’d love to hear your thoughts on whether or not web and native apps — and the halfway house between the two that is Chrome offline apps — should have a difference, or if we’d all be better off if we treated all apps the same.
The world’s most popular social networks sure took their time at finding revenue sources. Twitter’s managed to keep things pretty inconspicuous so far, with promoted tweets and accounts not appearing enough to be too annoying, but that may change post-IPO now that they’re going public. Facebook, though, has slowly ramped up the amount of ads they show to us.
It used to be that Facebook’s only advertisements were the small ads on the sidebar, noticeable but avoidable. Those started showing up under comments on images, then then expanded to full-sized ads in your newsfeed. Now, on mobile especially, it’s hard to read through the day’s posts without seeing at least several ads, typically for game and travel apps in my feed. And their mobile ad expansion has shown, with it representing over a third of their advertising revenue this quarter.
And hey, ads are great since they help pay for the service — we’re not against that at all. But somehow, it seems a bit too much right now. So I was wondering: have Facebook’s ads been bugging you lately? And do you have any advice for the Twitter team as they start down the same road to generating revenue?
Bookmarks are far from dead. They’re built into every browser, sync with our mobile devices, and for the most part just work. And yet, there’s more ways than ever to get around using the traditional bookmarks.
Take reading services. They’re essentially ways to bookmark stuff you want to read later, with the added advantage of automatically saving the page so you can read the article in one tap. Then there’s note-taking apps, the likes of Evernote and others, that let you clip parts of sites you come across to pull up later in your own private library of Internet wisdom. You’ve also got the various favoriting and liking in any number of apps, from RSS readers to news apps, that let you keep up with stuff you might want to come back and check later. And don’t forget the online bookmarking services, ranging from the private to the social, where you can save bookmarks in a way very similar to the bookmarks in your browser.
You know what’s the worst thing? When we’re looking for something, most of the time we simply Google it instead of checking our bookmarks or notes.
It’s all a bit too much. I use a mix of local bookmarks (mainly for bookmarklets), reading services (instead of saving bookmarks I’ll want to revisit precisely once), and note taking tools — but lately have shifted away from normal bookmarking in Pinboard since it just doesn’t seem that I’m getting much benefit out of yet another bookmarking place. Saving a note, though, often means I’ve got the info without opening the site again, and that’s nice.
How about you? How do you save online info these days, and do you still keep a meticulous list of bookmarks? We’d love to hear how you bookmark in 2013 in the comments below.
Just under a week ago, Google officially launched the Chrome Desktop Apps in the non-beta version of Chrome for Windows and on Chromebooks. It’s not officially in Chrome for Mac or Linux just yet, but if you install Chrome Beta, you can use the Chrome desktop apps across all your computers today.
The desktop apps are actually really nice — in fact, they almost feel exactly like native apps on your Mac or PC, if it weren’t for the fact that they have to have Chrome running at the same time. The Chrome desktop apps work offline, can integrate with your peripherals, be launched individually from Launchpad or your Windows 8 start screen, can send push notifications, and in general just work like a native app. But then, when you’re on your PC at work, or hacking on Linux, you’ll have the same apps there too, at least if you’ve got Chrome syncing. It’s a really neat concept, one that’s already boasting support from Wunderlist, Pocket, and more with apps that look practically just like their native Mac counterparts.
It’s Chrome, but it’s a real app.
Now, on the Mac we’ve had Fluid for years to turn web apps into quasi-desktop apps, and Chrome for Windows has let web apps run in their own chromeless window for quite some time. That’s nothing new. What is new is how native-app-like the new Chrome desktop apps are. They really don’t feel like web apps anymore.
So, will you be using them, or are you already using Chrome desktop apps? Or do web apps belong in a tab alongside your other sites? We’d love to hear your thoughts about Chrome desktop apps in the comments below!