release

Simon 5.0b2 released

Here is a second beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Version 5.0b2 includes an updated app icon in the Big Sur style:

New app icon

Plus other changes for improved Big Sur compatibility, a new Speak Error notifier, and sync improvements.

Please Note

  • This is an early beta release, with significant changes. Probably best to wait for the general release, unless you're keen. Use with caution!
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 are eligible for a free upgrade; contact Dejal for details.

Read on for the full release notes:

Big Sur

  • Simon is now a universal app for Apple M1 silicon and Intel on Big Sur; it also supports back to Sierra (10.12).
  • Updated the app icon for the Big Sur squircle style.
  • Improved compatibility.

Added a new Speak Error notifier

  • This new notifier will read out loud the text of the last error that occurred.
  • Especially useful when a failure or recovery occurs, though can be used with any test result.

Sync

  • Improved the efficiency and reliability of syncing.

More coming later

  • I wanted to get a beta release out so brave people can begin kicking the tires. There is more planned for version 5.
  • Don't expect rapid updates; it will slowly improve over the next few months, and go into general release when deemed ready.
  • Please let me know of any issues you find via the contact form or the Dejal Subreddit.

Want to try it?

Please read the warnings and release notes above before jumping in. This is a beta release, not ready for primetime quite yet.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Time Out 2.7.1 released

Here's a quick update of Time Out, my popular break reminder tool, to fix a few issues:

  • Fixed an issue that caused text for the Text theme to be forgotten.
  • Fixed the Break Preview prematurely stopping.
  • Tweaked the new Ask to Start feature to immediately ask when due, instead of waiting for a natural break.
  • Tweaked the appearance of the status menu.
  • Worked around an issue with displaying a time like 23 hours 45 minutes as "0 seconds".

Want to try it?

If you are using the Mac App Store edition, you can update via the App Store app.

Similarly, if you are using the Setapp edition, it will handle that update for you.

If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download Time Out 2.7.1 now!

Time Out 2.7 released

I'm pleased to announce the general release of version 2.7 of Time Out, my popular break reminder tool.

This update includes a new app icon, plus a number of changes for compatibility with Big Sur, including being built for Apple's new M1-based Macs, in addition to Intel ones. It also includes a much-requested new feature to ask to start a break, improvements to the break preview feature, adds several new break themes, and much more.

Big Sur

Apple's latest version of macOS, Big Sur (macOS 11) has a number of refinements to its appearance. One that is immediately apparent is that app icons now look more like iOS ones, with a rounded rectangle (aka "squircle") shape, and often more bold colors.

Time Out's icon has adopted this style, taking the relaxing palm trees and smiling hammock that you know and love, and leaping through the frame into the scene, thanks to the excellent Matthew Skiles:

Time Out icon

Version 2.7 also includes several other changes for Big Sur compatibility, including using the Dejal green color for controls and the sidebar if the accent color in General System Preferences is set to "multicolor", and a number of other UI tweaks. It also fixes an issue where the break control panel could move downwards on each break in Big Sur.

Apple Silicon

As you probably know, Apple recently introduced new super-fast low-end Macs using Apple-designed "M1" chips. Time Out is now a universal app for Apple M1 silicon and Intel on Big Sur; it also supports back to Yosemite (macOS 10.10).

New option to ask to start a break

This update adds a much-requested new feature to ask to start a break, as a new option on the Break Schedule preferences page:

Ask options

If chosen, a time interval control appears to specify a limit, after which it should start anyway. This defaults to 5 minutes (also supports units of seconds and hours; like other interval pickers, tab to or click the units to edit via arrows, typing, or click again to show a menu). When a break is due with this option, the control panel will appear, with a button to manually start the break when you're ready, and the screen won't dim:

Start controls

When you click the Start Break button, the screen dims and the break continues as normal. If you don't click within the time limit, the break starts anyway; this is needed to avoid accidentally blocking subsequent breaks. As a helpful reminder, a countdown to auto-starting appears once halfway through the time limit.

Improved break preview

When clicking the Preview button on the Break Appearance page, the break now appears with a Stop Preview button to dismiss it. The preview has no time limit; it'll remain until dismissed. Dismissing the preview doesn't count as skipping it, so doesn't affect your statistics or daily limits:

Stop button

If you want to try the full break experience, click the Start button in the sidebar instead.

Several new break themes

The default "Icon" theme has been updated to use the new app icon, and a new "Round Icon" theme has been added that includes the old icon, if you miss that.

Other new break themes include a "Dejal Blog" theme, that shows the Dejal blog for news from Dejal, "Dejus Blog", that shows my personal blog, with daily interesting photos, and to complete the set, "Yellow Cottage Blog", that shows my homestead blog, with pictures of feral cats, ducks, chickens, and more. Check 'em out!

As an example of a static remote picture, there's also a "Ducks & Fish" theme, that shows that. You can edit the theme to show a picture of your choosing. Plus an "Inspirational Quotes" theme, that shows a quote for each break, a "Pexels Nature" theme, that shows a random nature picture, and "Photo Slideshow", that can be edited to show 10 local images of your choosing.

Pexels Nature theme

Plus a bunch of little quality-of-life improvements

When looking at the handy Activity view, sometimes you may want to know more precisely when an app was used (I know I do; I use this feature all the time). So I added the time range to the tooltips for breaks and apps on the Activity page.

A fun feature of the status menu (available to supporters via the General page) is that when you click an item in the menu, the full window expands out from the status menu. That looks especially nice when the full window is aligned with the status menu, so now the Advanced option to reset the position of the full window after displaying the status menu is a checkbox to keep that behavior, instead of a button for a one-time reset. So you can freely move the window around the screen, and it'll be back with the status menu next time, if that's what you want.

Speaking of the status item, I tweaked the size and alignment of it when only an icon or only the countdown is displayed, to look a bit nicer, and fixed break rows not highlighting properly in the status item menu on recent macOS versions, and worked around Apple bug with displaying a time like 59 minutes 30 seconds as "0d".

Another fun thing is throbbing red heart icons that appear to indicate supporter rewards. But some people didn't notice them, and were surprised when a feature reverted after the hour trial. So now the info popover for a reward trial automatically appears each time a page is displayed during the hour trial, to make that more clear.

Oh, and speaking of rewards, a reminder as a reward for reading this far: if you haven't already taken advantage of it, you can become a supporter for free at present; since March I've been giving it away to help people working from home. If you have already got that, don't worry; the new features in this update will be fully unlocked for you.

On the Exclusions page, it now skips breaks during a screen recording by default for new users. Existing users can see this blog post to add this exclusion. It now skips when using Zoom too; see this blog post.

Break Actions are a handy feature to play sounds, show notifications, and more, before, during, or after a break. I fixed a bug where they could occur incorrectly if manually starting a break while paused, and now list scripts in alphabetical order, plus fixed the Sound Action Repeat checkbox color in dark mode.

Finally, I added Dejal Reddit and other tweaks to the Help menu.

Phew, that's quite a lot of improvements!

Want to try it?

If you are using the Mac App Store edition, you can update via the App Store app.

Similarly, if you are using the Setapp edition, it will handle that update for you.

If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download Time Out 2.7 now!

Time Out 2.7b2 released

Here's a second beta of Time Out 2.7.

The general release will probably be in a couple of days, but I'd appreciate a few people kicking the tires now, to make sure nothing is broken.

A big change in this release is that it is now built for Apple's new M1-based Macs, in addition to Intel ones. I don't have an M1 Mac (yet), so if you do, I'd especially like to hear of any issues. Update: Actually, due to a third-party incompatibility, this version is not built for M1. But I've fixed that for the general release. If you have an M1 Mac, please get in touch to get early access to that.

Another big change is the app icon, adopting the new Big Sur style, thanks to the excellent Matthew Skiles:

Time Out icon

Plus a bunch of fixes for Big Sur and more; read on for the full changes in this beta:

Big Sur

  • Time Out is now a universal app for Apple M1 silicon and Intel on Big Sur; it also supports back to Yosemite (10.10).
  • Improved the row heights in the sidebar on Big Sur.
  • Fixed the break control panel moving downwards on Big Sur.
  • Fixed the appearance of the Activity headers on Big Sur.
  • Improved the layout of some other controls.
  • Updated the app icon for the Big Sur squircle style.

Updated break themes

  • Updated the default Icon theme to use the new app icon.
  • Added a Round Icon theme that includes the old icon, if you miss that.

Other changes

  • When manually starting a break while Time Out is paused, actions are now performed as expected, instead of performing them after resuming.
  • Added the time range to the tooltips for breaks and apps on the Activity page, for a more precise indication of when each occurred.
  • Changed the Advanced option to reset the position of the full window after displaying the status menu from a button to a checkbox, to keep that behavior, instead of a one-time reset.
  • Improved the size and alignment of the status item when only an icon or only the countdown is displayed.
  • Some people missed the red heart icons indicating supporter rewards, so now the info popover for a reward trial automatically appears each time a page is displayed during the hour trial.

Want to try it?

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Time Out 2.7b1 released

I'm pleased to announce the first beta release of Time Out 2.7!

This update includes changes for compatibility with Big Sur, plus a much-requested new feature to ask to start a break:

Ask options

When enabled, the break control panel appears without dimming the screen, with a Start Break button to actually start the break:

Start controls

This update also includes improvements to the Preview feature, to preview themes without affecting stats:

Stop button

It also bundles several more themes (that are available via the Time Out Extras page), and a bunch of other changes.

Here are the full release notes; read on for more information:

Big Sur

  • The app is compatible with Big Sur; please let me know of any issues you notice.
  • Controls use the Dejal green accent color on Big Sur if the accent color in General System Preferences is set to "multicolor".

New option to ask to start a break

  • Added a new option in the "when this break is due" pop-up menu: Ask When to Start.
  • If chosen, a time interval control appears to specify a limit, after which it should start anyway. This defaults to 5 minutes (also supports units of seconds and hours).
  • When a break is due with this option, the control panel will appear, with a button to manually start the break when you're ready, and the screen won't dim.
  • When you click the Start Break button, the screen dims and the break continues as normal.
  • If you don't click within the time limit, the break starts anyway; this is needed to avoid accidentally blocking subsequent breaks.
  • A countdown to auto-starting appears once halfway through the time limit.

Improved break preview

  • When clicking the Preview button on the Break Appearance page, the break now appears with a Stop Preview button to dismiss it.
  • The preview has no time limit; it'll remain until dismissed.
  • Dismissing the preview doesn't count as skipping it, so doesn't affect your statistics or daily limits.
  • If you want to try the full break experience, click the Start button in the sidebar instead.

Added several new break themes

  • Added a "Dejal Blog" break theme, that shows the Dejal blog for news from Dejal.
  • Also added "Dejus Blog", that shows the author's personal blog, with daily interesting photos.
  • And to complete the set, "Yellow Cottage Blog", that shows the author's homestead blog, with pictures of feral cats, ducks, chickens, and more.
  • As an example of a static remote picture, added a "Ducks & Fish" theme, that shows that. You can edit the theme to show a picture of your choosing.
  • Added an "Inspirational Quotes" theme, that shows a quote for each break.
  • Added a "Pexels Nature" theme, that shows a random nature picture.
  • Added "Photo Slideshow", that can be edited to show 10 local images of your choosing.

Other changes

  • Now skips breaks during a screen recording by default for new users. Existing users can see this blog post to add this exclusion.
  • Also now skips when using Zoom too; see this blog post.
  • Fixed the break control panel sometimes moving offscreen.
  • Fixed break rows not highlighting properly in the status item menu.
  • Worked around Apple bug with displaying a time like 59 minutes 30 seconds as "0d".
  • The scripts for Break Actions are now listed in alphabetical order.
  • Fixed the Sound Action Repeat checkbox color in dark mode.
  • Updated the Help menu to include the Dejal Reddit and other tweaks.

Want to try it?

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b1 released

I'm pleased to introduce the first beta release of a major upgrade of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs!

Sync preferences

Tests and other data can be viewed and edited on any of your Macs, and checked on a specific Mac:

Test options

What's more, notifiers can be performed on any of the Macs, even a different one than did the check. For example, have a Mac in a data center do a check, and play a sound or speak some text on the Mac on your desk if it fails or changes:

Test notifiers

Something else many people have wanted, it also includes the ability to check if other copies of Simon are still working:

Simon Status test

Other enhancements include a new Link Checker filter, to validate all links on a web page, a Server Result filter, to easily check result codes, an iMessage notifier, to send a message, a new more efficient data format, and numerous other changes.

Please Note

  • This is an early beta release, with significant changes. Probably best to wait for the general release, unless you're keen. Use with caution!
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 are eligible for a free upgrade; contact Dejal for details.

Read on for the full release notes:

Simon now supports syncing via iCloud!

  • The Simon data is not synced by default, but if the new Sync preference is enabled (see below), the data is moved to iCloud.
  • Each test can be checked on a specific computer, but edited from any synced Mac.
  • Notifiers can also be performed on a specific computer, but it doesn't have to be the same one, e.g. check a test on Mac 1, and notify on Mac 2 (or both).
  • Manually starting a check, pausing, editing, etc can be done from any synced computer.
  • When syncing, the computer that will perform the check is displayed in the tests list and logs, and is available as a sorting option.
  • Note that the Preview is not available when viewing a test for another computer, since that might lead to confusing results.
  • If Simon is quit on another computer, its tests show a power icon (semicircle with vertical line), or if not quit but not seen in a while, an unavailable icon (a circle with a slash through it).
  • The data format has changed to support this, including splitting up the data files to be more efficient, and converting to JSON format.

Editor changes for syncing

  • When editing a test with syncing enabled, the Test Options page now includes a new "check on" pop-up menu to choose on which computer to check the test.
  • Similarly, the Test Notifiers page includes a pop-up menu to choose the computer to perform the notification, which doesn't have to be the same one.
  • The summary page (non-editing mode) now also indicates the chosen computers.

New Sync preferences

  • A new Sync preference pane includes buttons to turn syncing off and on. By default it is off, with data stored on your local Mac as before.
  • When iCloud syncing is enabled, a list of computers that have accessed the data is displayed. It includes the computer name, the version of Simon, and when the data was first and most recently accessed.
  • The computer names can be changed (this only affects how Simon displays them), or unwanted ones can be removed. They will re-appear if used again.
  • An icon indicates the status of each computer, with the Mac type for the current computer, a green triangle for online computers, or a quit or unavailable icon as above.
  • If syncing is enabled when there is already some Simon data in iCloud, you are asked if you want to use that data (discarding the local data), or replace that data (with the local data).
  • If syncing is disabled when multiple computers are using iCloud, you are asked if you want to make a local copy, leaving the iCloud data intact.
  • If syncing is disabled when this is the only computer using iCloud, the data is moved to the computer and removed from iCloud.
  • A sync-related change: the preference to keep backups of data files has been removed, to avoid unnecessary syncing.
  • Also, the auto-save frequency preference now uses a shorter time range, for more responsive syncing.

New Sync Setup Assistant

  • When updating to version 5, or a fresh install, a Setup Assistant page will be displayed with the same options as the Sync preferences, to ask whether to store the data locally, or on iCloud.
  • If you choose to keep the data on this Mac, it continues to work as in previous versions, and any existing iCloud data (if you chose differently on another Mac) is left intact.
  • If you choose to sync when there is already some Simon data in iCloud, you are asked if you want to use that data (discarding the local data), or replace that data (with the local data).

Web service changes

  • Renamed the default "Web (HTTP)" service as "Web Page", to be more clear.
  • When capturing the rendered source (via the option on the Other page), the <html> tags are now included.
  • The default protocol is now "https://" instead of "http://".
  • Now doesn't add "www." before a domain name if missing the ".com".

Added a new Simon Status service

  • When you are syncing Simon data between multiple computers with the new sync feature, this new service enables checking the state of the Simon instances.
  • You can choose to check all computers, or a specific one.
  • The output of the service can be customized, including variables.
  • Optionally Simon being quit and/or unavailable can result in a failure, with customizable error messages for each.
  • A "Simon Status" service has been added to the data by default, to check all computers; you can customize what to check and output in the test editor, or add new services.

Added a new Link Checker filter

  • This new filter will check multiple links to see if they are valid or invalid.
  • For input, it can extract links out of HTML source from a web page, or a list of URLs separated by linefeeds or commas.
  • It can scan only local links (within the same site), only remote links (to other websites), or both.
  • A link is considered invalid if either the server can't be contacted, or the server reports an error (e.g. 404, page not found) when requesting the header (it doesn't load the actual content).
  • It outputs a list of the found URLs, optionally with some text or emoji indicating it is valid or invalid, and/or the status code or error message.
  • For the result, it can be always a success (for further evaluation of the output), or a failure if any local and/or remote links are invalid.
  • A Link Checker filter is included in the default data for use with tests. More options can be configured by editing this filter (or adding new ones).

Added a new Server Result filter

  • This new filter can be used with the Result Code input to detect an invalid HTTP result.
  • If the input number is 400 or more, this makes the test check be a failure.

Added an iMessage notifier

  • This notifier can send an iMessage to a recipient if you already have a conversation with them in the Messages app.
  • Contributed by Chris Copleston; available on the Simon Extras page for people using earlier versions.

Removed some services and notifiers that are no longer supported

  • Removed the Calendar notifier, as it uses obsolete technology. Let me know if you used this; I could rewrite it with modern APIs.
  • Removed the Email Cycle service from the default data, as it can't receive email successfully (and hasn't for a while; clearly nobody uses it).
  • Removed the Growl notifier, as it is obsolete. Use the Notification Center notifier instead.
  • Removed the MySQL service, as it used a 32-bit helper that no longer works with Catalina and later.
  • Removed the SMS notifier, as the third-party Clickatell connection doesn't work anymore, and the email-based option had significant issues; switch to using an Email notifier directly if needed.
  • Removed the Twitter notifier, as it hasn't been supported by macOS for a few years.

Plus several other improvements

  • Simon now displays a small progress window while starting, since loading lots of tests, especially when syncing, can take a few moments.
  • Simon now prompts for approval to send Apple events, as required on recent macOS versions. Please approve this, otherwise the Email notifier and Script-based services won't work.
  • The Setup Assistant now supports importing Safari and Chrome bookmarks.
  • All services are now checked in the background, so they don't interfere with updating the lists etc. This also fixes a weird temporal anomaly where a check start could be logged after a finish.
  • The contents of groups in the lists are now sorted properly.
  • Fixed importing some malformed AppleScripts in the Script editor.
  • Fixed the service, filter, etc kinds not being listed in alphabetic order.
  • Fixed some summary labels being enabled when showing a group, where they don't apply.
  • The File ▸ Check Now menu item is now disabled for the Filters page, since it doesn't do anything there.
  • Improved character encoding of report templates to work better with non-ASCII characters.
  • Improved localization support.
  • Improved dark mode support.
  • Updated for Big Sur (macOS 11) and Catalina (macOS 10.15), but still compatible back to Sierra (10.12).

More coming later

  • I wanted to get a beta release out so brave people can begin kicking the tires. There is more planned for version 5.
  • Don't expect rapid updates; it will slowly improve over the next few months, and go into general release when deemed ready.
  • There are still a number of known issues with this first beta. But please let me know of any issues you find via the contact form or the Dejal Subreddit.

Want to try it?

Please read the warnings and release notes above before jumping in. This is a beta release, not ready for primetime quite yet.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

SheetPlanner 1.2 beta available

In between working on my Dejal apps and other projects, I've been hard at work on a big update to one of my consulting projects, SheetPlanner. Version 1.2 is now being beta tested.

SheetPlanner is a powerful macOS app that combines an outliner, todo, project timeline, calendar, notes, links, and more. This update includes a new picture column type, multi-selection in list cells, cell-specific styles and improved style controls, notifications for date cells, a timeline info popover, a date stamp option, and many more great enhancements.

If you're interested in helping test this update, please request the beta via the SheetPlanner contact form.

Pack 2.1 released

I'm pleased to announce version 2.1 of Pack, my simple trip packing app for iPhone.

If you missed version 2.0, you may be interested to learn that Pack is now totally free for everyone! It no longer has an in-app purchase to unlock features; everything is available. Read the 2.0 blog post if you're curious why.

Want to get it right now? Download Pack from the App Store. Read on for details.

Version 2.1 includes support for iOS 13, including dark mode. (Don't worry, it still works on iOS 12 too.)

Here's the packing view, where you cross off items as you put them in your suitcase:

Pack screenshot

Flip over to the Choose Items view to pick what to pack:

Pack screenshot

And editing items:

Pack screenshot

You get the idea. Of course, the light mode is also still available. But I know a lot of people prefer dark mode, myself included.

Version 2.1 also includes some improvements to tags, one of the new features of version 2.0, where items can have any number of tags assigned to them, e.g. "Clothing" and "Cold" to enable further categorizing items to guide choosing what to pack for a trip.

Notice in the screenshots above that some items, e.g. "Sweatshirt", appear twice, once under "Clothing", and once under "Cold". Toggling one will toggle the other, since they are just two tags for the same item. You can also arrange the items by name or by person, if that makes more sense to you. (Personally I usually use by person.)

Want to try it?

Again, Pack 2 is completely free! So download it from the App Store and try it before your next trip.

Please rate & review

If you do try it, please do me a favor and write a review for it. The old version had some 1-star reviews due to old issues, but I'd like to get some more positive ones there, to encourage people to give it a try. Pack has long been an indispensable app for me, and I'm sure others will find it useful too.

Thank you,
David

Time Out is now in Setapp!

I'm pleased to announce that my popular break reminder tool, Time Out, is now available via Setapp!

Setapp logo

As you may know, Setapp is a third-party solution kind of like the Mac App Store, but instead of selling apps individually, they offer a hand-picked collection of the best apps for one low monthly price. Like Netflix for apps.

And now Time Out is amongst that elite set of apps.

All apps in Setapp are fully-featured, with no up-front purchases, in-app purchases, or ads. And fully supported by the developers. Time Out is no different: the Setapp edition includes all supporter rewards, past, present, and future.

If you're already a Setapp subscriber, I'd appreciate it if you switched over to the Setapp edition, since the more people who use it, the more money I earn from Setapp. Then you'll get future supporter rewards at no cost. But if you prefer to stick with the Mac App Store or direct editions, that's fine too. Whichever you prefer.

If you aren't yet a Setapp subscriber, now is a great time to try it. I'm confident that you'll find several apps that you'll find useful, easily justifying the cost. Try it free for a week! To get started, click the following link (and that'll help me too; if you sign up via this link, I'll get a referral bonus for the lifetime of your account; much appreciated!):

Check out Setapp!

Time Out 2.6.1 released

Here's a little update of Time Out, my popular break reminder tool, with just a few tweaks:

  • Fixed some situations where the new Fixed Time option didn't calculate the best time.
  • When the Break Appearance page was selected then you choose a break with a duration of zero, the Actions page is now selected instead.
  • Now automatically shows the Learn More information when first displaying the Support Time Out page, to help answer common questions.
  • Improved the auto-start option to avoid showing the Preferences window when starting up the Mac.

Want to try it?

If you are using the Mac App Store edition, you can update via the App Store app.

If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download Time Out now!

Time Out 2.6.1b1 released

Here's a beta of a little update to Time Out, to fix a few things.

Only a few changes in this beta:

  • Fixed some situations where the new Fixed Time option didn't calculate the best time.
  • When the Break Appearance page was selected then you choose a break with a duration of zero, the Actions page is now selected instead.
  • Now automatically shows the Learn More information when first displaying the Support Time Out page, to help answer common questions.
  • Improved the auto-start option to avoid showing the Preferences window when starting up the Mac.

Want to try it?

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Time Out 2.6 released

I'm pleased to announce the general release of version 2.6 of Time Out, my popular break reminder tool.

Fixed time breaks

A significant enhancement in this update is the ability to have breaks that occur at a fixed number of minutes past the hour. What's more, you can now also have a break offset from the completion time instead of the start time.

These new options are available via a new From pop-up menu on the Break Schedule page, that includes options for Last Due, Last Done, and Fixed Time. Last Due is what previously happened, and the default.

Last Done is a new option, that will reset the break after it is completed, so the next break will occur the frequency interval after that. For example, a 10 minute break every 30 minutes will next occur 30 minutes after the break finishes, instead of 30 minutes after it starts (as with the Last Due option).

Fixed Time is another new option, which will display a field to enter the number of minutes past the hour (0 - 59), and will start the break at that time, or some multiple if the frequency is less than an hour. For example, setting it to 50 for an hourly break will start the break at 09:50, 10:50, 11:50, etc. Or setting it to 15 for a break every 30 minutes will start it at 09:15, 09:45, 10:15, 10:45, etc (you may need to also use the Available option to set a start time in this situation).

The latter two are new rewards for current or future supporters; others can try them for an hour at a time.

Schedule page

Break Schedule now supports smaller duration and frequency

But wait, there's more! By popular request, you can now configure a break to last zero seconds, to avoid showing the control panel at all. When the duration is zero, the Appearance page is disabled, since it doesn't apply. Use Actions like Flash Screen or Display Notification instead.

You can also now use seconds as a frequency unit, i.e. have the break occur as often as once per second, if desired (though not recommended!).

Both options can be useful for a 10 second blink reminder that just flashes the screen.

Random Word theme

Version 2.6 also bundles the Random Word theme, contributed by Michelle Lim. This theme displays a different word and its definition each time it is displayed — entertaining and informative.

Random Word theme

Catalina

Time Out has been updated to be compatible with Catalina (macOS 10.15). The direct edition now uses the hardened runtime and is notarized by Apple, as required for Catalina.

And various other fixes and tweaks

Including proper sorting of the Activity dates, fixed row heights in the status popover, counting postponing and skipping a break via the Options pop-up menu, always showing the Preferences window, several improvements to in-app purchases, and help updates.

See the release notes for details.

Want to try it?

If you are using the Mac App Store edition, you can update via the App Store app.

If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download Time Out now!

Time Out 2.6b2 released

Here's a second beta of Time Out 2.6.

Only a few changes in this beta:

  • Postponing and skipping a break via the Options pop-up menu are now counted with the postpone/skip/done counts.
  • Opening Time Out will now always show the Preferences window, unless it's within five minutes of restarting (to avoid showing it when automatically launched on startup).
  • Improved handling of in-app purchases that require approval.
  • Improved handling of restoring purchases for names with Cyrillic characters.
  • Now uses the hardened runtime, in anticipation of notarization.

Want to try it?

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Time Out 2.6b1 released

Another release this week: this time a beta of my handy break reminder Mac app, Time Out.

Version 2.6b1 adds a much-requested option for fixed-time breaks, plus better support for blink reminders by enabling zero-length breaks, and having breaks that occur every few seconds. Plus other enhancements and fixes.

Here are the deets:

Fixed-time breaks

  • Added a From pop-up menu to the Break Schedule page. It includes options for Last Due, Last Done, and Fixed Time.
  • Last Due is what previously happened, and the default.
  • Last Done will reset the break after it is completed, so the next break will occur the frequency interval after that. For example, a 10 minute break every 30 minutes will next occur 30 minutes after the break finishes, instead of 30 minutes after it starts (as with the Last Due option).
  • Fixed Time will display a field to enter the number of minutes past the hour (0 - 59), and will start the break at that time, or some multiple if the frequency is less than an hour. For example, setting it to 50 for an hourly break will start the break at 09:50, 10:50, 11:50, etc. Or setting it to 15 for a break every 30 minutes will start it at 09:15, 09:45, 10:15, 10:45, etc (you may need to also use the Available option to set a start time in this situation).
  • The latter two are new rewards for current or future supporters; others can try them for an hour at a time.

Break Schedule now supports smaller duration and frequency

  • Can now configure a break to last zero seconds, to avoid showing the control panel at all.
  • When the duration is zero, the Appearance page is disabled, since it doesn't apply. Use Actions like Flash Screen or Display Notification instead.
  • Can also now use seconds as a frequency unit, i.e. have the break occur as often as once per second, if desired (though not recommended!).
  • Both options can be useful for a 10 second blink reminder that just flashes the screen.

Other changes

  • Added the Random Word theme, contributed by Michelle Lim.
  • The Activity dates are now in the correct order, instead of sometimes jumbled up.
  • Fixed row heights sometimes being wrong in the status popover.
  • Improved the error message when purchasing is unavailable.
  • Updated the help.

Catalina

  • The app hasn't been tested on Catalina betas yet, but will be before general release; please let me know of any issues you notice.

Want to try it?

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

SheetPlanner 1.1 released

Another of my consulting projects, SheetPlanner, has also recently had a big update, to version 1.1.

SheetPlanner is a powerful macOS app that combines an outliner, todo, project timeline, calendar, notes, links, and more. This update includes dependency features, new progress and symbol column types, auto-enter options, and many more great enhancements.

SheetPlanner window

Get the app and start a free trial via the Mac App Store.

SheetPlanner is now also available via Setapp.

Or learn more about the changes in this update.

NewsBlur 9 released

NewsBlur for iOS version 9 is now available on the App Store.

NewsBlur is a popular RSS service, and the iOS app enables reading stories from the convenience of your iPhone or iPad.

This update includes full screen, autoscroll, customizable story titles, story change highlighter, and return to last read story, among other improvements.

Go to the App Store to get the app, or read the official NewsBlur blog post for more information on this update.

(NewsBlur for iOS is a Dejal consulting project.)

Pack 2.0 released

I'm pleased to announce version 2.0 of Pack, my simple trip packing app for iPhone.

And best of all, Pack is now totally free for everyone! It no longer has an in-app purchase to unlock features; everything is available.

Want to get it right now? Download Pack from the App Store. Read on for details.

The app has been completely rewritten from the ground up, using the latest Swift development tools, to provide a solid foundation for future enhancements. But if you used version 1, don't worry, it still loads your existing list.

The basic design philosophy is unchanged: a single list of all things you might want to take on a trip, from which you choose what to take, then flip over to cross things off as you pack. No need to make new trip lists, add extraneous information like weights or quantities, or ugly graphics. Just what you need.

You'll start with the choosing view, but are probably more interested in the packing view. Here it is:

Pack screenshot

I've enhanced crossing items off, including a subtle haptic feedback. And improved the sharing feature to work better with more apps, and include the packed state as a leading checkmark, or unpacked as a dash, among other changes.

Tap the eye icon to reveal new Packing Options, to control how to display the packing list, including by item name, by tag, or by person, and whether to show all items, only unpacked ones, or put the packed ones at the end, after the unpacked ones:

Pack screenshot

Flip over to the Choose Items view to pick what to pack:

Pack screenshot

You can add or edit items:

Pack screenshot

Other than a modernized UI, including support for the X-style iPhones, a big enhancement is to replace categories with tags, so you can now assign items to multiple tags, e.g. "Cold" and "Clothing":

Pack screenshot

As before, you can assign items to multiple people, so they show up separately for each person. This used to be a paid feature, but can now be enjoyed for free:

Pack screenshot

Like with the Packing view, the Choosing view also has some Choosing Options, with the same arrangement options, the ability to show only packed or unpacked, or all items, and buttons to select or deselect all items, and mark the items as packed or unpacked:

Pack screenshot

Why free?

So why did I spend all that time rewriting the app, only to release it for free?

My wife and I travel a few times each year, and use Pack before each trip to ensure we don't leave anything we need behind. But I use an iPhone XS Max currently, and the old version wasn't optimized for that. I could have updated it, but the code was rather old and crusty, using old technologies that I don't prefer nowadays. It was also a little unstable in some situations. I prefer writing apps in Swift now, and Pack is a fairly small app, so I decided to rewrite it to address those issues and make it much more modern.

So why free? I am primarily a Mac developer, though certainly have iOS apps, and do consulting on iOS apps (e.g. NewsBlur), but Pack has never been a big earner for me. I originally wrote it for my own use, and actually used it for quite some time before releasing it. I released version 1 for free, with an in-app purchase to unlock premium features, but most people were satisfied with the free features, if they stuck with the app. That was fine with me. I definitely wanted to continue supporting the app, if only for my own use, but didn't think it was worthwhile to continue trying to monetize it.

It's actually quite nice releasing it for free; it takes some of the pressure off me. And of course now more people can enjoy it, too, without having to worry about paying for it.

I will of course continue to use it for every trip, and have plans for several enhancements I want to make in future versions, while keeping the overall design simple and easy to use.

And now the watch has ended

It's not all improvements. One casualty of the rewrite is that I didn't re-implement the Apple Watch app. The old one was built for an early version of watchOS, before it was called watchOS, when it was just a remote view of the iPhone app. It would have had to be rewritten from scratch, and since I didn't tend to use it myself, I decided not to take that time. Sorry if you did use it; please let me know if so. I might re-implement it in a future version, if there's demand, though no promises.

Want to try it?

Again, Pack 2 is completely free! So download it from the App Store and try it before your next trip.

Please rate & review

If you do try it, please do me a favor and write a review for it. The old version had some 1-star reviews due to old issues, but I'd like to get some more positive ones there, to encourage people to give it a try. Pack has long been an indispensable app for me, and I'm sure others will find it useful too.

Thank you,
David

Pack 2 TestFlight

Pack, my simple packing list iPhone app, has (finally) been updated for the latest iPhone models. It has been rewritten from the ground up to modernize the UI and the code.

Here's what's changed:

  • Pack is now totally free for everyone!
  • A complete rewrite of the app in the latest Swift tools, and including a solid foundation for future enhancements.
  • Still loads the version 1 data.
  • Replaced the categories with tags, so you can now assign items to multiple tags, e.g. "Cold" and "Clothing".
  • New View Options to control how to display the Choosing and Packing lists.
  • Now doesn't show tags and people when arranging by those, since that's redundant.
  • Enhanced crossing items off the Packing list, including haptic feedback.
  • Improved the sharing feature to work better with more apps, and include the packed state as a leading checkmark, or unpacked as a dash.
  • Removed the Apple Watch app. Sorry if you used it; it was built for an early version of watchOS, and would have to be rewritten from scratch.

Want to help test it?

Join the TestFlight!

Time Out 2.5 released

I'm pleased to announce the general release of version 2.5 of Time Out, my popular break reminder tool.

The most obvious change in version 2.5 is dark mode support on Mojave (macOS 10.14):

Mojave dark mode schedule screenshot

Isn't that pretty?

In addition to Mojave compatibility, this update also includes a new option on the Break Schedule page of the preferences to choose which days of the week a break is available. Eagle-eyed people may have noticed it in the above screenshot:

Mojave dark mode schedule screenshot

Using this option, you could indicate that breaks should only occur on weekdays, as above, or only Fridays, or any other combination. The days of the week can combine with a time range, or apply all day on the indicated days. This new feature is available as a reward for current supporters, or you can try it as often as you like, for an hour at a time.

(Don't worry, the first day of the week will respect your System Preferences; if you consider that the week starts on Sunday, for example, that'll be first in the control.)

Another new supporter option is on the Advanced preferences page: the ability to disable the app switcher, force quit, and shut down panels during a break:

Mojave dark mode advanced screenshot

Most people probably don't need this, but if you need a little extra encouragement to avoid skipping breaks, this might be helpful, when combined with existing options to disable the postpone and skip buttons.

There are of course a number of other enhancements and fixes. I recommend everyone update to this version.

Here are the full release notes:

Mojave dark mode and compatibility

  • All of the app content has been updated to support dark mode on macOS 10.14.
  • Built for Mojave (macOS 10.14), but still compatible back to Yosemite (10.10).

New option to choose which days of the week a break is available

  • Renamed the Break Schedule Available options to "Every Day" and "Between", and added a new "All Day" option.
  • The latter two now include buttons for the days of the week, enabling days to be toggled off or on, to indicate on which days to use the break.
  • The difference between them is that "All Day" doesn't have the time fields, and "Between" does.
  • This new feature could be useful to have breaks that are only used on weekends, or working days, or Wednesdays and Fridays, or any other combination.
  • This new option is available as a reward for current supporters. If you were a supporter in the past, but it has expired, you can extend your supporter status to use this feature, or try for an hour at a time.

New option to disable the app switcher, force quit, and shut down panels during a break

  • Added a checkbox on the Advanced page to disable the panels that appear when switching apps via Cmd-Tab, force quit via Cmd-Option-Escape, and sleep, restart, or shut down via Ctrl-Eject (or Ctrl-Power). Defaults off.
  • This new option is also available as a reward for current supporters.

Other changes

  • Can now manually postpone a break for longer than the frequency interval.
  • Fixed playing a sound for the Display Notification break action.
  • Fixed a scheduler issue where a lower priority break may be skipped if a higher priority break has never been done.
  • Removed the Fabric crash reporter, to avoid sending unnecessary data to a third party.

Want to try it?

If you are using the Mac App Store edition, you can update via the App Store app.

If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download Time Out 2.5 now!

Time Out 2.5b2 released

What's this? Another Time Out beta already? Yep!

This second beta of version 2.5 includes a couple much-requested new features for supporters, improvements for Mojave, and a fix for prior OS versions, among other changes.

Read on for details:

New option to choose which days of the week a break is available

  • Renamed the Break Schedule Available options to "Every Day" and "Between", and added a new "All Day" option.
  • The latter two now include buttons for the days of the week, enabling days to be toggled off or on, to indicate on which days to use the break.
  • The difference between them is that "All Day" doesn't have the time fields, and "Between" does.
  • This new feature could be useful to have breaks that are only used on weekends, or working days, or Wednesdays and Fridays, or any other combination.
  • This new option is available as a reward for current supporters. If you were a supporter in the past, but it has expired, you can extend your supporter status to use this feature, or try for an hour at a time.

New option to disable the app switcher, force quit, and shut down panels during a break

  • Added a checkbox on the Advanced page to disable the panels that appear when switching apps via Cmd-Tab, force quit via Cmd-Option-Escape, and sleep, restart, or shut down via Ctrl-Eject (or Ctrl-Power). Defaults off.
  • This new option is also available as a reward for current supporters.

Mojave dark mode and compatibility

  • Fixed a crash of the previous beta on macOS versions before Mojave, when displaying the status popover. Sorry about that!
  • Fixed some cosmetic visual issues from the previous beta.

Other changes

  • Can now manually postpone a break for longer than the frequency interval.
  • Fixed playing a sound for the Display Notification break action.

Want to try it?

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download 2.5b2 now!

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