Web apps are typically single-purpose: you use one app for one thing. That’s in sharp contrast to most desktop apps, where you might use the same app (hello, Excel!) for dozens of different things. Being focused is great, but it can also sometimes be limiting.
Take Microsoft Office Access, for example. For years it’s been the go-to app for small businesses when they need a new form-driven internal app. Instead of buying some new app, anyone with the tiniest bit of computer skills can put together a custom solution without too much trouble. It might not be as powerful as a full-featured app for the same purpose, but it gets the job done without too much trouble.
Papyrs, an intranet tool we covered a couple years back, has recently added a new Apps mode that makes it easy for anyone to turn a Papyrs form into a custom database app. It’s Access, reinvented for the web.
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!
The most exciting new open-source blog platform this year, Ghost 0.3 beta has finally been released to the public and is ready for you to use for your own new blog. It’s not 100% finished yet, but it’s already good enough that Envato has used it to launch the new Inside Envato blog — and it’s a great platform for you to start a new Markdown-powered blog that gives you an easy way to share your thoughts with the world.
Ghost is a bit more involved to get running than, say, WordPress, but we’ve already covered everything you need to get a new Ghost blog running. And once it’s running, Ghost is insanely easy to use. You’ll likely find yourself writing more than ever when it’s this simple to publish.
But what good’s a new blog without a shiny new theme? The default theme’s pretty nice, but if you want more than that, you’re in luck. There’s already dozens of beautiful Ghost themes online, ready for you to add to your Ghost blog or tweak to look just like you want, including over 30 on the ThemeForest Ghost marketplace, a handful of nice themes from the new Theme Spectre and Polygonix teams, and free themes on GitHub. Here’s our dozen favorite Ghost themes from across the web:
Cloud storage solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive are fantastic, but they don’t solve all the file-sharing needs you would have online. For starters, they require you to have an account to use them, and there’s no anonymity in sharing the file itself.
In the course of using the internet, you will often need different file-sharing solutions for different tasks. There is no one-size-fits-all service that gets everything done. So here are the best services for file-sharing, depending on what you need to do.
The independent cartographer’s future business options are looking a little shaky at present. There’s only one platform most of us use for visualizing addresses and researching locations, and it just happens to be attached to the world’s most popular search engine.
I am, of course, referring to Google Maps — a service which, due to its general-use popularity, seems to provide about nine out of every ten maps you see embedded around the web. There’s nothing terribly surprising about this, even when the restrictive nature of map-building with Google is taken into consideration — convenience, after all, is king. What is surprising is that no competitor has produced a similarly easy-to-use platform that also offers greater freedom. But things are changing.
A startup named MapBox, three years in the making, is out to corner the online cartographic marketplace. Its original breakthrough came in the shape of TileMill, an open source native mapping app. Now, however, MapBox has its own online platform — but can it snatch Google’s crown?
There’s been an explosion in new RSS feed readers since Google Reader was shut down, but most of the best are are only designed to help you read your feeds from an app or the web. The brand-new throttle is a brilliantly reinvented RSS reader app that not only makes it simple to read your feeds on any device, but also helps you discover the very best feeds in curated lists and based on your interests.
Throttle starts off with a simple, light-colored UI that makes it easy to read all of your feeds. You can import your feeds from your OPML file or add them directly in the app or with throttle’s bookmarklet, then organize them into groups so you can read feeds about similar topics together. There’s the sharing options you’d expect, as well as an option to save articles for later reading right in the app.
Then, what’s really great in throttle is its Discovery tools. You can browse through popular sites, find stuff you’d be interested in reading, and follow lists of sites curated by throttle readers. We’ve put together a list of all of the AppStorm sites you can follow directly on throttle, as well as lists of some of our favorite Web and Mac app blogs, and you can do the same with your favorite sites.
Go try throttle!
Whether you’ve already found an app to replace Google Reader, or have given up on RSS feeds altogether, you’ve got to try out throttle. It’s a brilliant new RSS reader experience that’ll help you discover great new sites to follow, looks great on every device, and is 100% free. Go try it out, then follow our AppStorm RSS lists to keep up with our articles and the sites we follow right on throttle with one click!
Google Maps is a fantastic resource, whether you are using it to figure out your bearings or exploring the world through its Street View mode. But did you know it offers a lot beyond the mere utility features?
For some time now, developers have been using the Google Maps API to make cool games. Whether it’s figuring out where in the world a photos is taken from or diving from the skies towards the Statue of Liberty, Google Maps games are a whole lot of fun.
Here are a few you should be playing.
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.