ALPHA! Sofa is a fun, minimalist calendar that displays as a simple list. It is an experiment in how design is a feature itself and how it shapes your perception of information. Right now it is only a web app, and the next iteration will include syncing with Google Calendar as well as, possibly, a mobile app.
Latest Sofa News
Jun 8, 2020
Published I suspect I’m not alone in saying that 2020 has been a big year for personal media consumption. The absence of normal social events has meant more time for reading, watching shows and movies, and other forms of relaxation. At the end of last year I wrote about how I was using Sofa , a media list app, to track the TV and films I’d watched in 2019. I’ve used the same approach throughout 2020, and it continues to work well for me. The only change is that I’ve been testing a big update to Sofa for the last few weeks that’s available now. Previously exclusive to the iPhone, Sofa now offers a rich iPad experience complete with Split View, Slide Over, and multiwindowing, keyboard shortcuts, and mouse and trackpad support. Additionally, today’s update adds a robust theming system to the app and seamless iCloud syncing. It’s a strong step forward for the app, making it more versatile than ever before. iPad App It may have taken longer than I’d like for Sofa to offer an iPad app, but developer Shawn Hickman made sure the wait was well worth it by going all-out with supported features. Following standard design mechanics, the iPad version of Sofa enables viewing your lists in a sidebar menu next to the contents of the currently selected list. When in Split View you can still see the same two-column layout, depending on the size allotted to the app. Multiwindow support enables you to keep different lists or views open in separate windows. So you could open two Sofa windows side by side in Split View to compare lists, or keep a specific list open in Slide Over all the time while you navigate the full app via a separate window. What you do with the feature is up to your needs, but it’s great to have this option. Though a simple media tracking app may not seem to require rich support for connected keyboards and pointing devices, I’m happy to see those things present in Sofa because they prove that the best iPad experience for an app involves supporting multiple modes of use. Personally, my iPad is attached to a Magic Keyboard nearly all the time, so I have a hardware keyboard and trackpad right at my fingertips constantly. Sofa accommodates for this setup by offering keyboard shortcuts to navigate to different parts of the app or add something new to my lists; there’s also pointer support so I can right-click lists or items to open context menus, and the cursor snaps to different interface elements like a list’s checkboxes. Every modern iPad app should take note: rich keyboard and pointer support should not be limited to productivity apps. Themes Besides the addition of an iPad app, the biggest change in Sofa’s update involves themes. There’s a new Themes tab in the main navigation bar where you can browse nearly 40 different options to customize the look of the app. Themes span categories like the 80s and 90s, Spring and Summer, Nature and Outerspace, and five different color categories. The Themes tab goes beyond what I’ve seen in any app before, not only with the sheer number of themes, but also in the functionality. Every theme offers a Preview option, which enables activating that theme for 30 seconds so you can see how you like it. Aside from the few default themes which are free, every other theme comes with its own $0.99 price tag. Since Sofa is a free download, themes are the area where you can support the app’s development. Once you’ve purchased a theme, it gets added to the My Themes collection at the top of the screen, where all unlocked themes live. There’s also a Theme Settings screen, which enables setting different themes for your device’s light and dark modes; custom app icons can be set here too. It isn’t obvious right away, but for every theme you buy, you unlock the custom app icon that accompanies that theme. And you don’t have to actually use the theme to use its custom icon, so even if you aren’t as interested in a particular theme, but would love to have its icon on your Home screen, that’s an option Sofa provides. The whole flow of browsing themes, previewing them, and buying them for one-off charges has been really well executed here, and I hope it’s a successful business model for the app. My only nitpick is that despite the huge variety of theme options, there are very few options with a simple white background available. Most light-shaded themes use a sepia tone, though a couple are closer to grey or silver, and the only ones that come close to being white also include a distinct set of accent colors that may not be for everyone. With so many options available already, I’m surprised a simple white background theme doesn’t exist. Miscellany iCloud sync. Now that Sofa is available across multiple devices, the app supports iCloud data syncing which happens automatically in the background, keeping your lists in sync across iPhone and iPad. Edit activity log dates. When you check off an item in one of your lists, it goes straight to Sofa’s activity log, where you can see a historical account of all the media you’ve enjoyed recently. The activity log now has a dedicated tab in the updated app’s tab bar, but it also has one small improvement I’ve long wished for: the ability to edit the date something was marked complete, which can be done from a context menu or by swiping left on the item. I like to keep precise historical accounts of things I’ve done, but don’t like the stress associated with remembering to check something off right away or risk having an inaccurate historical record. Now, I can check Sofa just once or twice a week and still log the precise dates I watched, read, or listened to something. As important a device as the iPhone is to me, the iPad is even more essential: I use my iPad Pro all day, every day, so I’m thrilled to report that Sofa’s leap to the iPad couldn’t have been better executed. With modern features like multiwindow, pointer support, and keyboard shortcuts, Sofa checks the boxes of a great iPad experience. Themes may be merely an aesthetic change, but they’re a really nice addition nonetheless, especially since each theme unlocks a unique alternate icon as well. I’m all for offering customization options so an app can feel more personal to each user’s tastes, and Sofa’s built the kind of rich experience with themes that I’ve never seen before. If you need a flexible tool for tracking media of all kinds – movies and TV shows, books, video games, podcasts, and music – Sofa is an excellent all-in-one option. Share your thoughts! Drop us a line at [email protected] . You can also rate us in Apple Podcasts or recommend us in Overcast to help more people discover the show! FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More. You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter , Facebook , and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories , reviews , how-tos , and subscribe to our YouTube channel A newly-granted Apple patent describes a way to create synthetic group photos from individual selfies. It’s an interesting idea, especially now , but a friend came up with a far simpler way to use this same tech: group photos with everyone looking at the camera, eyes open and smiling. Anyone who has ever taken a photo of a group of friends knows that half the time, someone will turn out to have had their eyes closed, or be scowling, or yawning, or looking down … It’s a particular nightmare if taking photos of large groups, like those at weddings. Experienced wedding photographers will always take a burst of shots, hope they have one with everyone’s eyes open, but fully expect to spend time in Photoshop to copy-and-paste eyes between shots. A friend who read this morning’s piece said he’d like to see the tech used to do this automatically. This could be a nice addition to the suite of computational photography. I’m surprised that there are no apps that allow you to merge multiple group photos and select which picture of each person you want, so no one is blinking or looking away. Nokia had this 10-12 years ago. As he points out, this is tech that Nokia Lumia phones had many years ago . Ever take a picture of your friends and someone has their eyes closed or they are looking away? If you catch it, you can always re-shoot the picture but then everyone gets impatient and they threaten to revolt. If you miss it, then you’re stuck with a bad photo. Smart Shoot is designed to avoid these type situations. Once you have your friends lined up just right, hit the shutter button or tap the screen and Smart Shoot will take five pictures about a second apart (you’ll need to keep the camera steady). You can then swipe up or down on the screen to find the best of the five to save or if you need to swap faces around to get everyone looking in the right direction, smiling and with their eyes open there’s an option to change the faces around. Once you find the best photo of the bunch, to change the faces just choose the edit faces option from the edit menu button (on the right side of the screen). The edit faces option circles all the faces in the picture and from there, tap on the face you want to change and you can then tap to scroll through the other faces (from the other images) and pick the best expression. When done, tap the check button and your image is saved. Apple has long utilized various forms of computational photography in successive generations of iPhones. Examples include HDR, and its successors Smart HDR and then Deep Fusion ; Portrait mode , now with Depth Control ; and Night mode . The iPhone also already offers burst mode (though not as easily accessible as it once was). Adding in a Lumia-style group photo feature would seem a relatively straightforward feature: if Nokia could do it in 2012, then for sure Apple can do it with today’s massively more powerful iPhones. FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More. Watchsmith is a powerful Apple Watch application that gives you the ability to create custom dynamic complications for your watch faces. A new update for Watchsmith today focuses on introducing dynamic and interactive maps. In general, maps on watchOS are static and non-interactive, but developer David Smith has created a “custom system” of interactive and dynamic maps for Watchsmith. In a blog post announcing today’s update, Smith writes: Since the first Apple Watch a built-in Maps app has been included with watchOS. This provides turn-by-turn directions and point-of-interest search. This functionality, however, isn’t available for 3rd-party apps. For us all we have had a basic map component that provides for static display of a map with optional pin annotations. With the watchOS limitations in mind, Smith set out to create a “fully dynamic mapping system” in watchOS, with features such as full interaction, dynamic zoom, and rich overlays. He was able to accomplish it using SwiftUI: I was delighted to eventually to get this to work, which is a testament to the great work the watchOS team has done with bringing SwiftUI to the Apple Watch. Even more exciting is that this can run smoothly on a variety of Apple Watch hardware (including the Series 3). The new maps are available in a few different places throughout Watchsmith. First and foremost, there is a new fully interactive radar map in the weather section of the app. This allows you to pan by swiping your finger, use the Digital Crown to zoom in and out, and more. There is also a new live workout map feature in Watchsmith. This allows you to view a live map with your current position during outdoor workouts. Finally, for any workout that includes route tracking, you can see an interactive summary map. Here are the full release notes for today’s update to Watchsmith: This update is all about mapping. Most maps shown on watchOS are static and non-interactive. For Watchsmith I wanted to do more, so I’ve built out a custom system of dynamic, interactive maps. These allow me to introduce features not previously possible on the Apple Watch. Fully interactive, zoomable, animated radar maps (requires a Premium subscription) Live outdoor workout tracking maps Workout route maps showing your workout path Watchsmith is available on the App Store for free with in-app subscriptions. For more, be sure to check out David Smith’s appearances on the 9to5Mac Watch Time podcast with Zac Hall: