Building a Better List App

It has been over 6 years since I first released Paperless on the App Store. It started off as an experiment, a simple list app mostly built for my own use, though it turned out that a lot of people besides me also found the app useful. Over time, hundreds of thousands of people have relied on Paperless to help them stay organized and keep track of all sorts of things. Some people have said it’s the most used app on their iPhone.

In addition, Paperless received high marks when reviewed by Macworld, AppShopper and others, as well as being included in Wired Magazine’s “Wired App Guide” in 2013 and promoted by Dropbox in an email to their many subscribers.

However, Paperless was the first computer program I made*, and I knew that it could be better. Over the years I’ve learned quite a bit about what people need and want in an app to help them organize their lives – but some of those things wouldn’t have fit within the existing structure of Paperless. So, a couple of years ago I started working on building a better solution.

Ikiru

Introducing Ikiru

Soon I’ll be releasing a brand new list app named “Ikiru” (ee-kee-roo) that borrows the best ideas from Paperless, further simplifies and refines them, and adds some big new features that people have been requesting for a long time.

With this new app you’ll be able to:

  • create lists within lists – now your “Travel” list can have a subcategories for “Places To Visit”, “Restaurants” and “Packing”… each with their own subcategories if you want
  • add a photo to each list item
  • add a due date/reminder to each list item, and view all items with due dates in a timeline
  • sort lists/items by dragging and dropping them, or automatically keep a list sorted alphabetically, by date created, by date modified, by date completed, or by due date
  • pick from over 2000 icons to assign to your lists
  • quickly and securely sync lists between devices via iCloud
Ikiru

Beyond that there are a lot of subtle improvements… things you might not even notice because they “just work”.

For example, in Paperless there’s a useful feature to “Uncheck All” items for when you want to reset the list and start working from it again. However, there’s a problem… depending on what order you checked the list items off in, the items might be in a different order within the list after the “Uncheck All”. Ikiru does a better job by having list items remember their original position within a list, so no matter what order you completed items in, you can easily reset the list to its original state.

As another example, Ikiru automatically detects URLs, phone numbers, web addresses and physical addresses to turn them into tappable links. You don’t have to switch between separate “editable” and “read only/detect links” modes like in Paperless.

Ikiru also supports more recent iOS advancements like split screen on an iPad, and includes a Today extension to quickly see items with due dates – along with an Apple Watch app to do the same.

Ikiru

This news is sure to bring up a few questions:

“But I love Paperless! Why didn’t you just add those features to the app I already use?”

The user interface changes needed to add the new features and further simplify the app would have required huge modifications to Paperless. I decided that it would be better to build a new app, rather than rip apart Paperless and try to mold it into something different.

I also wanted to give people a choice. Many people like Paperless for what it is, and would be upset with major changes. For people who still want to use Paperless, don’t worry, it isn’t going anywhere. I plan to keep updating and supporting the app as needed for as long as people are still using it.

“What about all of my existing lists? Will I have to type those into the new app?”

No! There will be an easy way to transfer your existing lists from Paperless to Ikiru.

“Okay, I’m interested. When will this new app be available?”

I’m aiming for mid-August. Sign up for the Crush Apps newsletter if you’d like to be notified when the app is available.

“Why is the app named ‘Ikiru’”?

The word “ikiru” (ee-kee-roo) means “to live” in Japanese. It’s also the title of an Akira Kurosawa film about a man who decides to do something meaningful with his life. Ikiru (the app) is my attempt at doing something meaningful with my life, and hopefully help others live meaningful and productive lives.

Over the years I’ve received emails and app reviews from many people who have found Paperless useful, from busy moms to airplane pilots doing pre-flight checklists to people who suffered a brain injury and needed a little help remembering things. I am humbled that Paperless has been useful to so many different people. My hope is that you’ll find Ikiru even more useful, and that it will make your life just a little bit easier.

Thanks for your support!

* not counting the extremely basic Mac OS 9 app I made that was just an icon of an orc from the game Warcraft II, which when double-clicked would play a random orc sound… “zug zug!

Paperless for iOS 7

Today I’m releasing a free update to Paperless that has been completely redesigned to better fit with the overall aesthetic of iOS 7.

When designing this update, I could have gone a couple of different ways:

  1. I could get rid of themes, and make the interface mostly white with colored buttons like many of Apple’s apps.
  2. I could keep the themes (including the colored navigation bar at the top and colored toolbar at the bottom), and make the buttons white.

I struggled over this for a while, but ultimately opted to keep themes in order to preserve the personality that Paperless has. Themes are something that many people have said they really liked about the app, and removing them would have been a disappointment to many.

Paperless for iOS 7

Paperless was certainly in need of some big changes though – and what I did borrow from iOS 7’s overall design was the clean flat look and thin lines. The heavy shadows and gradients in the bars at the top and bottom are gone, as are the shadows on the icons. Also, most of the user interface buttons have been made thinner, and some are completely different now in an effort to make it clearer what they are for.

There are now 30 themes available, and 24 of them are solid colors (for that clean flat look). I did keep a few of the old favorite patterned themes around though, and added a couple of new ones as well. You can see more here.

In addition to the design changes, there are some nice new features… you can now:

  • print lists and list items directly from the app to an AirPrint compatible printer. If your printer doesn’t support AirPrint, there is software that might help. I use Printopia.
  • post lists to Facebook
  • send lists via iMessage (you might be able to message lists to people not on iMessage as well, though depending on the cellular provider it may be split up into multiple messages if it’s over 160 characters)
  • copy a list as plain text into another app (perhaps you’d like to copy a list of things you did one day into a journaling app like Day One)
  • post individual list items to Facebook, Twitter, send them as text messages

There are many other small improvements as well. I hope you like the update, and if you do please take a moment to rate and review the app… your support will help ensure the continued improvement of Paperless.

Scout Camera Redesigned for iOS 7

A completely redesigned version of Scout Camera for iOS 7 was released today. While many of the changes are cosmetic – to match the distinct look of iOS 7, there are a few other nice improvements that make this a great update.

Scout Camera for iOS 7

The biggest new feature is a slider that lets you adjust the intensity of the current image filter. For most of the filters, adjusting the slider down will lower the intensity of the filter – bringing the image closer to what it looks like naturally (bringing the slider all the way down still shows some filter effect).

The “Pearl” and “Nora” filters behave differently though… for those, adjusting the slider down mixes the filter effect with a standard grayscale image conversion. For “Pearl”, that means a nice range between the high contrast black and white when used at full intensity – and a more standard black and white conversion. For “Nora” it gives a pleasing range of deep blue/gold to black/white tones.

That small addition to the app provides a huge array of possibilities, and I’m looking forward to seeing the great photos people take with it. On top of that, many of the filters have been improved to have a better overall look.

Scout Camera - Filter Select

Other improvements to the app include:

  • a nice new app icon
  • new “color blur” and “grayscale blur” crop border styles that match the blurred background style of iOS 7 (on iPhone 5, iPad 3, iPod Touch 5th gen and newer devices only)
  • a new layout for the flash and front/back camera select controls, which provides easier access to those controls on newer 4″ screen devices
  • larger thumbnail images in the photo browser
  • lots of user interface tweaks, and a couple of small bug fixes

I should mention that the app runs only on iOS 7 and up now… not a problem for most, but if you’re using an iPhone 3GS I’m afraid you’ll need to stick with the previous version of Scout Camera. Also, I’ve chosen to make it a free update rather than offer it as a new app in the App Store.

All in all, it’s a great update. If you haven’t purchased Scout Camera, I hope you’ll check it out… it’s fun to use, and might just be your new favorite camera app.

Paperless 2.1.2 Released

Paperless version 2.1.2 is now available. In addition to the many improvements from Paperless 2.1, this release has a few small additions – plus some important improvements and bug fixes related to syncing.

What’s New

  • You can now sign up for the Crush Apps newsletter directly from the app (on the settings screen)… I’m working on something big, and want you to be the first to know about it.
  • A few people disliked the change that made new lists appear at the top, so there’s now an option in the settings to have them go to the bottom.
  • When you import a list from email, if there is an existing list with the same name, you’re now given the option to merge the two lists or import it as a new list.

Improved Syncing

  • This release eliminates the possibility of conflicted/duplicate copies of lists. Now when there’s a syncing conflict it happens on the item level. In all cases, Paperless preserves information… so, at worst, you may end up having a list item you previously deleted reappear, or two slightly different copies of a list item.
  • When you first sync a device, if there is a list on that device with the same name as a list already on Dropbox, the two lists are automatically merged.
  • Now if you unlink from Dropbox with the “Keep Lists And Unlink” option and then relink to that same Dropbox account, it no longer results in duplicate copies of lists.
  • Plus many other syncing related bug fixes and improvements. (Like letting you know when your Dropbox account is full.)

New URL Schemes

In addition to the URL schemes from the 2.1 update, there are two new ones:

If you’re using an app like Launch Center Pro, and want to open Paperless to a specific list, you would use this:

paperless://viewList?
	listName=YOUR_LIST_NAME

(note that if there are spaces in the list name, you’ll need to replace those with “%20”. For example, if your list name is “My To Do List”, you would use “My%20To%20Do%20List”)

Add multiple items to a specific list:

paperless://addItems?
	toListNamed=YOUR_LIST_NAME
	&listItems=ITEM_NAME1%0DITEM_NAME2%0DITEM_NAME3%0DITEM_NAME4

If there is no list with that name, it will automatically be created. If you don’t specify a list name, it will create a new list named “Untitled”.

You can also add optional parameters for the icon name, whether or not it’s a checklist, and whether or not new items should appear at the top of the list (if the list already exists, it will ignore them… it’s only used if the list hasn’t been created yet):

paperless://addItems?
	toListNamed=YOUR_LIST_NAME
	&isCheckList=YES
	&itemsToTop=YES
	&iconName=NAME_OF_ICON
	&listItems=ITEM_NAME1%0DITEM_NAME2%0DITEM_NAME3%0DITEM_NAME4

… and yes, this does make the previous addItem and addList URL schemes redundant, but they still work if you happen to be using them.

Paperless 2.1 Released

Paperless version 2.1 is now available in the App Store. This release adds a few new features, along with many subtle improvements and bug fixes. Here’s a list of the new features with details on how to use them:

Now includes over 450 icons

Including many that were requested by people who have purchased the app.

New icons

Select multiple lists to merge or delete

On the main screen, when you tap the “Edit” button, you can now select multiple lists to either delete or merge.

When selecting lists to merge, note that the first list you select is the one that lists will be merged into.

Merging Lists

Select multiple list items to move, copy or delete

When viewing a list, you can press the “Edit” button and select multiple list items to move, copy or delete. When deleting multiple items, whether or not you get a confirmation asking if you really want to delete the items depends on what you have the “Warning On Item Delete” switch set to in the app’s settings.

Selecting Multiple Items

Syncing: lists viewed from the Dropbox website are now pretty

When using the “Automatic Backup And Syncing” feature in Paperless, your lists are saved to your Dropbox account in a folder named “Paperless”. Each list is saved as a separate file ending in “.xml”.

Previously, if you viewed one of those XML files on the Dropbox website you’d see the raw XML code. However, now a style sheet has been added so that the list is nicely formatted for viewing. NOTE: You’ll need to modify the list in Paperless to make this change take effect (a new XML file has to be written to Dropbox).

You can also print the lists from the Dropbox website, but note that when printing a checklist you’ll need to do the following:

Safari – make sure the “Print backgrounds” option is selected

Firefox – make sure both the “Print Background Colors” and “Print Background Images” options are selected

Syncing: option to show lists that need to be synced in red text

There is a new option in the “Automatic Backup And Syncing” settings to “Highlight Unsynced”. With that feature turned on, lists that still need to be uploaded to Dropbox will be shown in red text on the main screen.

This should be useful to people who frequently use Paperless in areas with a poor wifi/cellular connection – as it will let you know if a list was unable to be uploaded. Then, once you’re somewhere with a good connection again, you can simply open Paperless and the list should automatically be uploaded (at that point the red text will change back to the normal colors).

Highlight Unsynced feature

Add an item or list via URL schemes

You can now add a list item or an entire list from certain other apps (like the popular app Drafts) by using URL schemes.

NOTE: in the examples below I’ve added spacing to make them easy to read… but in actual use you need to remove all spaces/returns.

To add a list item, the format of the URL scheme is:

paperless://addItem?
	itemName=YOUR_ITEM_NAME
	&itemNote=YOUR_ITEM_NOTE
	&toListNamed=YOUR_LIST_NAME

Both the item note and the list name are optional.

If you don’t specify a list name, the item will simply be added to the first list in Paperless. If you specify a list name that doesn’t exist, a new list will be created with that name.

To add an entire list, the format of the URL scheme is:

paperless://addList?
	listName=YOUR_LIST_NAME
	&isCheckList=YES
	&itemsToTop=YES
	&iconName=NAME_OF_ICON
	&listItems=ITEM_NAME1%0DITEM_NAME2%0DITEM_NAME3%0DITEM_NAME4

Everything but the list name is optional. Also note the %0D characters between each list item… that’s the equivalent of a carriage return. It looks complicated, but if you’re using something like Drafts, once you enter the URL scheme (or “URL Action”) it’s a breeze to use.

For those of you who use Drafts specifically, here are some possible URL Actions:

Item To Paperless

paperless://addItem?
	itemName=[[draft]]
	&toListNamed=Drafts

List To Paperless

paperless://addList?
	listName=Untitled
	&itemsToTop=YES
	&iconName=Folder%20-%20Add
	&listItems=[[draft]]

Checklist To Paperless

paperless://addList?
	listName=Untitled
	&isCheckList=YES
	&itemsToTop=YES
	&iconName=Folder%20-%20Add
	&listItems=[[draft]]

Named Checklist To Paperless (the first line of text is used for the list name)

paperless://addList?
	listName=[[title]]
	&isCheckList=YES
	&itemsToTop=YES
	&iconName=Folder%20-%20Add
	&listItems=[[body]]

See also: instructions on how to create a URL Action in Drafts.

Other improvements

  • new lists are now added to the top
  • improved search – if you search starting from the main screen, that search term is carried over into the list view
  • when using the “Import Items” feature, unnecessary dashes/bullet points are removed
  • fixed a rare but extremely frustrating problem on an iPad where the main screen of lists could be shown partially offscreen

I hope you find these new features useful!