Posts Tagged apps

Cactus Album Preview

Track your cacti and succulent collection on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch – Coming Soon!

Last month I announced Cactus Album, my forthcoming iOS app for cacti enthusiasts. It’s still early in development, but I thought I’d give you an early peek at how the app is progressing so far.

Cactus Album is the app I wish I’d had back when I first caught the cactus bug. It quickly becomes overwhelming to keep track of the unique requirements and milestones of every plant in your collection, and having such an app on your iOS device is a great timer-saver for record-keeping.

If Cactus Album interests you and you’d like to either participate in the Beta test or be notified when the app launches, head on over to the email sign-up page. There’s also a Cactus Album Facebook page. If you’ve got any questions, suggestions, or other comments, I’d love to hear them either here or via email: CactusAlbum AT andrewnicolle DOT com.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Announcing Cactus Album for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch


Having recently completed the iOS 7 updates for all my apps, I began thinking about a new project for the iOS platform. It would have to be something I was personally interested in, and in a niche which is not currently well-served by any of the existing apps in the App Store. This is easier said than done, given how the App Store is stuffed to the gills in seemingly every category!

Today I’m pleased to announce my new iOS app, Cactus Album, coming to the App Store in 2014.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I have a bunch of other interests aside from writing apps. While I’m heavily into Bonsai (and created an app for that), I’m also a collector of cacti and succulents. This hobby began as a child when a neighbour in Australia got me started with a few tiny cacti, one of which was already 10 years old at the time. Since moving to the US, my parents have looked after them, and from what I hear, they’re still doing great.

About 5 years ago I caught the cactus bug again and was always on the look-out for new specimens at nurseries and on eBay. You can see a bunch of my acquisitions on Flickr in the following photo sets: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Over the years I’ve also visited the fantastic cactus and succulent collection at the Chicago Botanic Garden, collections at the Royal Botanic Gardens (Sydney, Australia) and Adelaide Botanic Gardens (Adelaide, Australia), and the cacti and succulent show and sale at Chicago Botanic Garden.

One thing you’ll slowly learn is that while most cacti thrive on neglect, some are rather picky about exactly how they’re neglected. They need fast-draining and coarse soil, plenty of light, occasional fertilizing, and water free of many of the additives you’ll find in tap water. The more pickier cacti have specific watering schedules, sometimes requiring no water for months at a time. Failure to adhere to any of the above may lead to sick or dead cacti. RIP, poor Lithops.

It would be nice to have an app to keep track of specific cacti, wouldn’t it? For the longest time I resisted writing such an app, being rather busy on other projects. Over the past few weeks I’ve been researching apps on the App Store for keeping track of my cacti and succulent collection. While I found several with information or photos, I didn’t find much at all that would suit my purposes.

No doubt there are many other cacti fans who would appreciate an iPhone or iPad app to organize their collections. A good many of these are probably getting by right now with cobbled-together spreadsheets or databases on their computers, or maybe not tracking anything at all. This niche is definitely small, but it’s an area where there seems to be a noticeable gap in the market.

I don’t have a full feature list locked down at this point, but if you’re familiar with my Bonsai Album app, you should get a fairly good idea of what I’m planning for Cactus Album. It’ll be a universal app, meaning it’ll work on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. If you’re interested in learning more about Cactus Album, visit the Cactus Album Facebook page or sign up at to be notified via email when the app launches (and also when the Beta test begins).

I’m excited about working on Cactus Album, and I look forward to providing more information closer to launch!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bonsai Album v2.0 update now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

The Bonsai Album v2.0 update is now available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Bonsai Album makes keeping track of your bonsai or penjing collection easy, whether you’re new to bonsai, a collector, a dealer, or even a bonsai master.

Bonsai Album

This update contains the following changes:

  • Photos can now be rearranged. In the photo grid view for any Bonsai, Pot or Log, long press (not tap) the photo and drag it to the new position
  • Added a search bar on the Bonsai, Pots, and Logs lists
  • Improved Bluetooth keyboard support
  • Removed the photo slot selection button on the full-screen photo view. The main photo slots now reflect the order of photos on the Photos screen
  • Updated database transfer alerts to mention the ability to connect with the Mac version of Bonsai Album
  • Added Oldest Tree statistic
  • Bug fixes

If you’re enjoying the app, please take a moment to rate or review it on the App Store!

You can learn more about Bonsai Album at my website or on the Bonsai Album Facebook group.

Tags: , ,

Story Tracker v2.6 update now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

Story Tracker v2.6 is now available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Story Tracker

This update contains the following changes:

  • Added search bar feature on the Stories, Markets, and Submissions lists
  • Improved Bluetooth keyboard support
  • Added “character” pay rate unit for Markets

If you like what you see, please spare a moment to rate or review the app on the App Store!

You can learn more about Story Tracker at my website or on the Story Tracker Facebook group.

Tags: , , ,

Announcing Artwork Tracker for Mac

Artwork Tracker for Mac

In late 2010 I released Artwork Tracker for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. As the name suggests, Artwork Tracker is a mobile artwork tracking app, specifically designed for artists, art collectors, and art dealers. Ever since it was released I’ve had people wondering when it might be coming to other platforms. I’ve always said a Mac version was a possibility, but until recently I hadn’t worked on any Mac apps.

Over the last year I’ve released two Mac apps: Story Tracker and Bonsai Album. I’m pleased with how they turned out, so lately I’ve been giving some serious thought to bringing Artwork Tracker to the Mac.

Well, today I’ve decided to commence working on Artwork Tracker for Mac! I’m planning to bring it to the Mac App Store and will also offer it for direct purchase via my website. I don’t have a firm release date planned just yet, but I’m tentatively aiming for release later in 2013.

The Mac version of Artwork Tracker will contain many of the same features of the iOS app, with the addition of photo organization, enhanced search, and printing capabilities. It will also include support for Mac Retina displays, and you’ll be able to transfer data to and from the iOS version. While I don’t yet have any screenshots available, you can get a pretty good idea of how it’ll look by the Bonsai Album for Mac screenshots.

If you’re interested in learning more about Artwork Tracker for Mac, visit the Artwork Tracker Facebook page or sign up here to be notified via email when the app launches. I’m keen to get started on Artwork Tracker for Mac, and I look forward to providing more information closer to launch!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Bonsai Album for Mac – Now Available!

Bonsai Album for Mac is now available for direct download from my site. Bonsai Album makes keeping track of your bonsai or penjing collection easy. Track development of your trees throughout their lives, on your Mac!

Bonsai Album for Mac

Today I’m pleased to present my new Mac app, Bonsai Album. It brings the features of the iOS app to the Mac platform, with some nice additions including photo organization, enhanced search, and printing capabilities. If you’ve got a Mac with Retina display, you’ll also appreciate how Bonsai Album looks in glorious high-resolution.

Bonsai is an art and science with international appeal, a fact that was heavily reinforced after I released the iOS version of Bonsai Album in English back in 2011. Over the following seven months I received many emails and reviews from across the world requesting localization into other languages. Shortly thereafter I released multiple app updates providing support for an additional six of the most popular languages used by my customers. Like the iOS version, Bonsai Album for Mac has been localized into English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. To assist international visitors to this site, I’ll soon be adding a series of posts containing localized versions of the app description and screenshots.

To run Bonsai Album, you’ll need a Mac with either Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.6), Lion (OS X 10.7.x), or Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8.x).

The download version initially runs in an unregistered trial mode, limited to 3 bonsai, 3 pots, and 3 logs, with 3 photos each. In this mode it also only allows a single database window, and database import is disabled. You may purchase a license either within the app or via the Web Store to unlock the app’s full functionality. After it’s unlocked, this version contains the same features as the forthcoming Mac App Store version, including an automatic software updating feature.

You can find more details including screenshots and the full list of features on the Bonsai Album for Mac page of my site.

What about the Mac App Store, you may ask? I submitted the app to Apple yesterday, so it’ll probably be another few weeks before approval. Meanwhile, feel free to download the trial version here and take the app for a spin while you wait.

I’d like to thank all the wonderful Beta testers who helped refine the app into its final form. I received a lot of great feedback over the last month that helped improve the app and allowed me to identify some issues I might otherwise have missed.

I’d also like to thank the open source community, including Andy Matuschak for the indispensable Sparkle updating system, Andy Kim and Matt Gallagher for LetsMove, Bit Stadium GmbH for HockeyApp, Gleb Dolgich for the fantastic CocoaFob, and FastSpring for their customer service and handy FastSpring Embedded Store. If you’re a Mac developer, I highly recommend you check out all of the above.

I hope bonsai fans around the world find Bonsai Album for Mac a useful and enjoyable tool for tracking your bonsai collections, and I welcome any feature suggestions or comments you may have. Enjoy!

Tags: , ,

Announcing Story Tracker for PC

Story Tracker for PC

Since the launch of the iOS version of Story Tracker in 2009, I’ve had requests for bringing the app to other platforms. Last year I released Story Tracker for Mac after a prolonged development cycle. The release on a desktop platform naturally led to questions about when a PC version might be coming along.

Wonder, no more! Today I’m announcing my plans for a Windows PC version of Story Tracker.

I’ve considered and discarded the idea in the past. I moved away from PC development over the last decade as I focused on my fiction writing and iOS app development efforts. As a result, my knowledge in this area is quite out of date. However, I consider my iOS and Mac development skills to be quite good, having launched and maintained several apps for sale since 2009. The existence of viable platforms for sale (the App Store, and later, the Mac App Store) meant all the messy details had been taken care of: license management, payment processing, handling updates, and most important of all, an audience.

Microsoft has recently launched their own online store for Windows 8 apps, but at this stage my impression is that it’s a bit of a mess, and Windows 8 itself isn’t doing as well as expected. For now, that means all the aforementioned messy details still exist on the PC platform. There’s also the matter of costly development tools and multiple operating systems to support. Until recently I believed development of a PC version of Story Tracker would be a costly and frustrating exercise. I no longer believe that to be the case.

The free Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop product should meet most of my development needs, and as far as I can determine, it seems to have no limitations on commercial distribution of applications developed with it. This set of tools also covers targets from Windows XP through to Windows 8 desktop. If it turns out this edition of Visual Studio is a little too limited, there’s always the Pro version which isn’t prohibitively expensive.

Is there a market for a PC version of Story Tracker? That remains to be seen. However, I believe there is, if you consider the size of the PC market in comparison to that for Macs. While Mac sales seem to be on the rise in recent years, the Mac user base is still dwarfed by the huge numbers of PCs out there. While Macs are popular amongst writers and other creative folk, they still make up a comparatively small slice of the overall market.

How about the other thorny issues mentioned above? In my investigations in recent months, I’ve identified several services and packages that should address those concerns. The biggest one, payment processing, is well covered these days. I’m already using FastSpring to handle payment processing and license generation for direct sales of Story Tracker for Mac via my website. I’ve been very impressed with their service, and I think they’d make a great fit for direct sales of the PC version, too.

When can you expect to see Story Tracker for PC available for sale? I’m currently working on Bonsai Album for Mac, which I’m targeting for a spring 2013 release. Once that’s done, I’ll be diving into development on the PC version of Story Tracker in a big way. I’m hopeful it’ll be available for sale sometime later this year. I can’t pin down a more exact release date, since I expect there to be a steep learning curve, and I still have updates to work on for my other apps.

If you’re interested in learning more about Story Tracker for PC as development progresses, visit the Story Tracker Facebook page or sign up here to be notified via email when the app launches.

Tags: , , , ,

2012 Retrospective

As 2012 draws to a close, it’s time for another retrospective blog post!

Personally, I don’t have too many complaints about 2012. I accomplished some of my goals for the year, fell short in others, and learned a whole bunch. Work at the day job was interesting and challenging, yet I still managed to carve out time for my after-hours hobbies. I finally released my first Mac app, released a heap of updates for my iOS apps, learned even more about Bonsai than I’d hoped, and came to terms with some truths about my writing. I’m disappointed I didn’t accomplish some of my goals, but that just gives me something to strive for next year.

For many years I’ve drifted in and out of fiction writing, since my first efforts in 2003 where I changed from a mindset of writing for my own enjoyment to writing for publication. Over the past 4 years my efforts have dwindled to the point where I’m really just keeping stories in circulation, and not actively writing much new material. I spend most of my spare time working on apps these days, leaving little time for fiction writing.

Last year I took part in my first NaNoWriMo and learned a lot about the craft of novel-writing, despite not reaching the 50,000 word goal. What I ended up with was two-thirds of a novel and a decent outline for the rest. It was the longest single piece of fiction I’d ever written, and I was understandably chuffed and looking forward to finishing it in 2012. Due to apps eating my spare time, I never got around to it. As November approached, I again decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, and in keeping with the spirit of the thing, I planned to work on my 2nd novel. Unfortunately I didn’t get started until a few days into November, and progress was painfully slow. It took a further week before ideas started to gel, but by then I’d begun to get discouraged and felt little motivation to plow ahead for the rest of the month. It didn’t help that I still had some urgent app updates to work on, along with a strong desire to get started on a new Mac app.

So writing-wise, 2012 was a huge disappointment. That said, a few days before Christmas I received a nice email: an acceptance from an editor of a cool online fiction market for a short story I’d collaborated on with Samantha Henderson. We were both pleased our little tale found the perfect home. I look forward to announcing the story and venue closer to actual publication.

I’d planned to do a lot more reading this year, but this didn’t work out too well, as you can see from the extremely short list below:

Horns by Joe Hill
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

All were fantastic reads, so I’m pleased that what little reading time I had was well-spent.

I made good use of my daily commutes. I found myself drifting away from the comics podcasts I’d typically listen to, instead switching to a regular dose of short fiction through a wonderful trio of podcasts: Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and PodCastle. It was like revisiting an old friend after a long absence, finding them to be just as delightful as you’d remembered. If you’re an avid genre fiction reader with time for podcasts, I recommend these three wholeheartedly. Not only do they showcase some excellent work, but they’re also free, operating on a donation model. Throw a few bucks their way, if you can. You’ll be helping to fund some of the best short fiction produced today.

No retrospective would be complete without some stats:

2012 Stats:

New apps released: 1
App updates released: 28 (includes Lite and Paid versions)
2012 Word count: 4,382
Stories written: 0 (novels still in progress!)
Total submissions: 3
Total acceptances: 1
Total rejections: 2
Waiting for response: 0
Books read: 3
Comics read: 42

My app plans for 2012 were fairly aggressive. I planned to release my first Mac app, Story Tracker for Mac, along with releasing a bunch of updates to my three existing iOS apps: Story Tracker, Artwork Tracker, and Bonsai Album. For the latter, I planned to localize the app into several languages.

The Mac app took longer than expected, but I finally released it for direct-sale and via the Mac App Store in September. You can read all about the trials and tribulations of Mac app development here and here. It’s already received some good reviews from AppStorm and AppModo. Having gained a good feel for Mac development, in mid-July I announced a Mac version of Bonsai Album. That’s coming along nicely. I’ve posted an early screenshot, and I’m on track to release the app in spring 2013.

From May through October, I localized Bonsai Album into six languages, including Japanese, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Portuguese. While it wasn’t a trivial exercise, the process was made much easier by using the app localization services of iCanLocalize and managing the translated strings using the superb Linguan app. Feedback from customers was fantastic, which was one of the key reasons behind my decision to bring the app to the Mac. If you’re curious about what localization can do for your app, consider this: over 60% of the sales of Bonsai Album come from outside the US, and over 40% are from non English-speaking countries. The app market is global, and your customers definitely appreciate localization efforts.

In addition to putting a lot of effort into the user interface on Story Tracker for Mac, I tried to improve my icon design skills. I found the Icon Resource videos to be quite useful, and spent many hours translating what I’d learned into designing icons in Inkscape. While it’s by no means perfect, I’m pleased with how the icon for Story Tracker for Mac turned out. I’ve come a long way from my first effort on the iOS version of Story Tracker! I took what I’d learned from the Mac icon and gave the iOS version a much needed update, too.

This year I attended a handful of monthly meetings of the Midwest Bonsai Society, along with the shows they run at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This year I visited 3 Bonsai shows, two of which were at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and one at Morton Arboretum. I attended more workshops than in years past (Satsuki Azalea, Kingsville Boxwood, Bring-Your-Own-Tree, and Ponderosa Pine) and added a new tree to my growing collection (a Brazilian Raintree). I especially enjoyed Andy Smith’s Ponderosa Pine workshop – he really has an eye for great material and knows how to bring out the best in any tree of this species. For the Bring-Your-Own-Tree workshop with visiting master, Peter Warren, I brought along my Bald Cypress, and got some great hands-on tips and styling advice. Peter Warren’s exhibit critique of the August show was interesting and informative, which you can see here. While looking for bonsai pots online, I came across Iker Bonsai Pottery and found some great hand-crafted work. I ordered a nice pot for my new Boxwood there. This is one of those aspects of the hobby I haven’t paid much attention to until now. It’s like a whole other hobby in itself!

Things were pretty quiet travel-wise this year. We made some short road trips to Michigan and spent some time in Milwaukee and Door County in Wisconsin. Closer to home, we stayed at the incredible Ravenstone Castle B&B in Harvard, Illinois.

As usual, my personal fitness varied throughout 2012. I was off to a strong start, keeping a regular routine until May or June when I began putting even more time into the apps. I returned to my regular workouts in late November and again learned why it’s always better to avoid long gaps between workouts.

Though I always seem to have trouble meeting my personal goals for the New Year, I just can’t help myself from coming up with more. So here I go for 2013…

I got a bit out of shape later in the year, so I want to try to avoid that in future. I intend to maintain my workouts in 2013, but most definitely do not plan to participate in any marathons or other extreme contests of strength or endurance!

For apps, it goes without saying I’ll need to work on updates for my existing apps. In particular, I have some cool stuff in mind for Story Tracker and Bonsai Album. Bonsai Album for Mac will be my first priority, though. I’d also like to come up with something new. The financial return from my huge time investment in apps is still very modest indeed, and it’d be great to come up with some app ideas that really take off.

I enjoy working on the app stuff, but would like to dedicate more time to writing in 2013. I also need to read more than a paltry handful of books! At this stage I can’t see myself participating in NaNoWriMo next year, since I have more than enough on my plate with two novels to finish. I also plan to write some new short stories and get some of my inventory out into circulation again. It’s going to be a tough juggling act, for sure.

Best wishes for 2013, and I hope you have a happy and productive New Year!

Tags: , , , ,

Story Tracker v2.4 update now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

Story Tracker v2.4 is now available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Story Tracker

This update contains the following changes:

  • Fixed truncation bug affecting decimal number fields
  • Localized decimal numbers on info and statistics screens, and in CSV output
  • Improved data saving behavior
  • Prevent automatic screen-locking during database transfer over WiFi
  • Added iTunes File Sharing support
  • Bug fixes

Note: This update requires iOS 4.3 or higher! The original iPhone, iPhone 3G, and 1st or 2nd-gen iPod touch devices are no longer supported.

If you like what you see, please spare a moment to rate or review the app on the App Store!

You can learn more about Story Tracker at my website or on the Story Tracker Facebook group.

Tags: , , ,

Artwork Tracker v1.9 update now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

The Artwork Tracker v1.9 update is now available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Artwork Tracker is a must-have mobile app for artists, art collectors, or art dealers. Keep track of artwork and submissions on the go, with access to all your data and full-screen artwork at your fingertips.

Artwork Tracker

This update contains the following changes:

  • Fixed truncation bug affecting decimal number fields
  • Fixed photo grid layout bugs
  • Localized decimal numbers on info and statistics screens, in CSV output, and in artwork reports

If you’re enjoying the app, please take a moment to rate or review it on the App Store!

You can learn more about Artwork Tracker at my website or on the Artwork Tracker Facebook group.

Tags: ,