Testing an app and reporting issues
Why should I test an app I’m having developed by someone else? It can be exciting as a client to receive a build of your app. Before you sign off an app for release to the App Store or Google Play you should check that the app functions as you expect. Often there may be testing that it is difficult for your developer to carry out - for example if you have a location based app it isn’t always feasible for the developer to test the app in the right location, particularly if you want to keep development costs down.
How safe is your data?
As a freelancer my data is very important to me. I need to know that my files are safe. Most of my note taking, project planning, time tracking and other documents is handled by Emacs using Org mode. A major benefit of using this system over more proprietary apps is that I retain ownership of my data and can easily automate backup to different places. I use my own app beorg to edit these files on my iPhone and iPad.
Software I'm using in 2021
It’s been a few years since I’ve done a proper review of the software I’m using. I find it a useful activity to take a look at those apps which help me be a productive freelance and indie software developer. This article covers only macOS software, since getting an M1 MacBook Air I have few reasons to use iOS apps for work purposes. What I need to do Communicate with my clients Provide support for my indie apps Write proposals for new projects Plan projects Track tasks - for projects and for supporting existing apps Designing UI for mobile and web apps Develop apps for iOS Develop apps for Android Develop web apps (writing both frontend and server-side code currently in AngularJS, Angular and PHP) Create/update websites for my indie apps Forecast income over the next few months Track time spent on projects - both fixed price and work charged for time spent Main software Emacs I only started using Emacs in 2017 (which prompted me to write my app beorg) and now use throughout my day for writing code (when working on web apps), editing my websites, planning projects, tracking time and more.
Clearing out support desk spam after Christmas
I use Freshdesk for support email ticketing and user forums. Whilst I’m generally happy with the solution (standalone hosted forums seem very expensive elsewhere, and I have a price plan which is no longer generally available) it’s spam filtering is quite woeful. The response from their customer support to dealing with the type of spam I’ve been getting is to setup a custom rule to automatically mark and delete items containing specific characters - and this requires frequent updating.
Org mode clocking in the menu bar with Hammerspoon
I’m off mid morning today for my son’s end of term church service - so rather than getting stuck into some serious coding I thought I’d have a play with Hammerspoon to bring the active Org mode clock to the macOS menu bar. Hammerspoon is a macOS automation scripting tool which uses the language Lua . I’ve dabbled with Lua in the past, even going so far as to make it a scripting language in my app Trunk Notes (now discontinued so don’t go looking for it on the App Store.
Migrating from Harvest to Org mode for time tracking
I’ve set myself a challenge of migrating from Harvest to Org mode for the purposes of tracking time and ensuring projects don’t go over budget. This is still a work in progress and I haven’t yet got a solution to give me a percentage of budget used based on the time spent, maybe a task for next week! I have however spent a little time on getting past projects into Org mode.
A goodbye To Trunk Notes
Trunk Notes has been in development since 2009 and unfortunately it has come time to say goodbye. Revenue from Trunk Notes in the past couple of years has been very low. The interest in personal wikis, especially when lacking a companion web or desktop app, just isn’t high enough to generate the sales needed for further development. To give an idea of monthly income from Trunk Notes - it is equivalent to about one hour worked on projects for clients.
iOS 12 Siri Shortcuts
Siri shortcuts may turn out to be one of the most impactful new features in iOS 12. In short they allow users to assign a spoken phrase of their choosing to quickly take a specific action in an app. It’s easy to think of shortcuts which could be added to an app. To get you started here are some examples. Restaurant app: Quickly start a booking for the user’s favourite restaurant.
Questions to ask a potential developer
Finding the right someone to develop an app for you or your client isn’t easy. Here are some questions to ask them to improve your chances of making the right choice. One. What apps have you got on the App Store and Google Play? Your potential developer should be able to point to some apps they’ve published. Even if they are new to working with clients they should have written an app for themselves.
Get some expert advice
A common scenario: “We are an award winning agency and have the go ahead to develop an app for a fantastic client. We haven’t developed a mobile app before but out client wants one and we should give it a go.” What happens all too frequently is that an agency goes through discovery, creates mockups and specs an app. All without anyone involved who has been on app project before.
What iOS and Android versions should my app support?
A question to ask, ideally before you start coding: “What operating systems should I support?” Let’s look at some popular apps: App Min iOS Min Android Facebook 8.0+ 4.1 Twitter 9.0+ 4.0 iA Writer 10.0+ 4.0 Buffer 10.0 2.2 1Password 11.0 4.0 (Note: for Android it can be a little tricky to quickly find out the minimum version required for the latest version of the app just by looking on Google Play)
Our phones are amazing
My phone is amazing. On an average day it will: Be my book when I take my asleep 7 month daughter downstairs first thing in morning (Kindle app) Check traffic on the school run before heading out (Google Maps) Take phone calls from clients looking for an update on their app See if it’s going to rain before going for a walk at lunchtime (Dark Sky) Generating a banner image for a blog post (Adobe Spark Post) Check and respond to email if out of the office (Inbox by Gmail) Play a podcast on the way home from work (Overcast) Help get my daughter to sleep with some white noise when it’s my wife’s turn to do our son’s bath (Spotify) Catching up on RSS feeds (Reeder), Twitter (Tweetbot), Reddit (Apollo) whilst she’s falling asleep Draft an idea for my latest blog post (Drafts/iA Writer) Keep track of something I’ve thought needs to be done tomorrow (beorg) Put something from Netflix on the Apple TV when the remote had gone missing again (iOS 11 Apple TV control centre function) Thanks to my phone and all the apps I use everyday!