Mail in Mavericks with Gmail

Apple Mail in Mavericks with Google Gmail

The launch of Mac OS X 10.9 "Mavericks" brought with it significant changes to the way Apple Mail integrates with Google's Gmail service. Unfortunately, these changes were unexpected and initially not documented anywhere, so it took a lot of people by surprise, including myself.

The most comprehensive account of the situation I've read is by Joe Kissell over at TidBits. It's a good read if you manage your email through Apple Mail in Mavericks with Gmail.

I won't go into the details, as most of what you need to know is in Joe's article (there's good info in the comments as well). However, I will go through my personal case and maybe it'll help some of you in a similar situation.

First things first. I have a Google Apps for Business account that I got back when it was free for a certain number of users. At some point, Google removed this option and today you can only get the premium version, but they did grandfather those of us who'd signed up before the change.

I've been using this account for years with a personal domain and have set up email accounts for several family members that are not technically savvy. Just thinking about changing anything that might affect them seems like more trouble than it's worth. At least for now, I'd rather leave it as is.

Personally, I manage all my email with Apple Mail in the Mac and the built in apps in iOS. Prior to Mavericks, making Gmail work with Mail required you to go into Gmail settings and prevent the "All Mail" label from showing up in IMAP.

Mavericks changed that and it now tries to interpret Google's weird way of integrating with IMAP. When I first installed Mavericks and went to my emails it all seemed normal. Until I deleted a few emails from my inbox. Every time I opened Mail again those deleted emails reappeared. It was frustrating.

I spent some time testing different things until eventually I re-enabled All Mail, effectively reversing the pre-Mavericks "fix".

As I expected, Mail started to download thousands of emails. Normally, I would've stopped it and tried something else, but it was late at night and I decided to just leave it overnight and check what had happened in the morning.

By the morning Mail had finished doing its thing and everything seemed to work well again. I've been running it like this for 2 weeks and it's stable and everything syncs as expected.

So that solved my particular problem. But a few caveats though:

  1. I only use that specific account for light personal email. There are only 6,546 emails in All Mail.
  2. I rarely save attachments in emails. I download what I want to keep and file it away and delete the email. I'm using less than 800MB out of the 16GB in the account.
  3. I have never used Gmail labels or any other Gmail specific feature.
  4. I don't use folders in Apple Mail with the Gmail account.
  5. I never use Gmail from the web interface. It's always through Apple Mail on both Mac and iOS.

This means I'm perfectly happy keeping a copy of every single email in my Mac and the labels/folders issues don't affect me. If you're a heavy Gmail user this might not be an option for you. Enabling the All Mail label in IMAP means that Apple Mail (and any other normal IMAP email client) will download everything locally.

But if you use Gmail similar to me, try turning on All Mail (The Mac Observer has a quick how-to), letting it do it's thing until it finishes, and test if it meets your expectations. I'm happy with the way it works now.

The hidden "game" in the Compass app of iOS 7

Yesterday I was listening to the Mac Geek Gab podcast episode 469 and Dave Hamilton mentioned a hidden feature in the Compass app that comes built into iOS 7 on the iPhone.

The feature is effetively a levels app. After calibrating the Compass by rolling a little ball around, just flick right to a second screen to access it.

Dave threw out the challenge to get a screenshot of the compass at exactly 0 degrees when it turns green. Well, in a few minutes of boredom yesterday I decided to give it a go.

It took multiple tries to get it at exactly zero with the full green tint. The moment you press the buttons to take the screenshot you naturally move, so it's not easy to get it, but after a few tries I managed to get it:

iPhone Compass app in iOS 7

Yes, it's a bit silly to try and catch the green 0 degrees. But the actual feature is useful if you ever need to ensure something isn't at a slant.

To close off, here are a few tries:

iPhone Compass app in iOS 7

iTunes Radio coming (in the US)

iTunes Radio press release in Australia

One of the features I was looking forward to with the release of iOS 7 was iTunes Radio. On launch day, I was too busy exploring the new OS, installing new apps (and deleting many) to get to the Music app, but that night I read a great article by Gabe Weatherhead from Macdrifter about it and it got me excited.

I opened up the Music app and... nothing. What the hell?. I went back to Gabe's article and compared his screenshots. Something was different with my Music app.

Of course, I went searching for an answer.

I quickly found myself in the Apple website reading the press release for iTunes Radio. One paragraph read "Coming this fall (in the US), iTunes Radio...". Hang on. What's this about "in the US"? I don't remember them saying anything about different availability at the WWDC keynote. I then noticed a .../au/... in the URL, meaning I was reading the Australian version (where I am).

I removed the /au/ and reloaded the page. This is what that same paragraph says in the US version of the press release:

iTunes Radio press release in US

In hindsight I guess it shouldn't have been unexpected. International rights to music are difficult and even the iTunes Store has different songs and prices between the US and Australian stores. But why didn't they mention in the keynote that it would only be available in the US?

Reeder 2 is live!

Reeder 2 app for iPhone and iPad

Today is a good day. Reeder, my favourite RSS reader has been updated and is now available in the App Store as a brand new app called, appropriatly, Reeder 2. This time around, it's a universal app that looks beautiful in both the iPhone and the iPad.

Back in June when Google shut down Google Reader, I wrote about my temporary RSS setup and lamented that I had to stop using Reeder. Fortunately, a few weeks after that, sync with Text Wrangler as added to Reeder for iPhone and I switched back.

After almost 2 months, I missed the IFTTT integration that I had with Google Reader and switched to Feedly as the RSS sync service, and continued to use Reeder for iPhone (I actually had both Feedly and Feed Wrangler syncing with Reeder).

But I still missed Reeder for iPad.

I never deleted the app from my iPad and actually stopped reading RSS on the iPad altogether. That's how much I liked Reeder. All my RSS reading since has been on the iPhone using Reeder for iPhone.

Today, thanks to Reeder 2, I'm happily back to having one of my favourite apps on both devices again.

And before you start whinging that it's a new app and not a free update to a $4 (or whatever it cost) app you bought 2 years ago, stop. Don't be a dick and pay for good software. Especially if you use it every day. I've already heard a few complaints and read a few people moaining in Twitter.

I purchased Reeder for iPad in October 2010 and Reeder for iPhone before that (I can't find the receipt for that one). I'm pretty sure I paid less than $10 for both back then. I think I've gotten pretty good value out of my 10 bucks over the last 3 years.

I can't believe I'm trying to rationalise this for the whingers.

Anyway, Reeder 2 is out and that makes me happy. Federico Viticci at Macstories has a great review up already. Go check Reeder 2 out now and support the developers that build the software you love.

Snapback Slim Wallet Review

The Snapback Slim Wallet - A new minimalist wallet at Kickstarter

The Snapback Slim Wallet - A new minimalist wallet at Kickstarter

The Snapback Slim Wallet is another Kickstarter minimalist wallet that, as of right now, is almost fully funded with 17 days to go. The designer, Nick Augeri contacted me a couple of months ago and offered to send me his wallet for review.

At first, I was a bit hesitant as it looked very similar to the Supr Slim Wallet which I reviewed before and had been using for over 6 months. After some thought, I decided to give it a go and I'm glad I did. I've been using the Snapback Slim Wallet for several weeks now and it's replaced the Supr Slim as my main wallet.

As always, I didn't want to write a review until I had been using it daily and formed a real opinion of it. These are my first impressions.

The Snapback Slim Wallet

The Snapback Slim wallet is simply a strip of elastic band stitched together to form a wallet. The elastic material is definitely good quality, it feels great, and is the perfect size to fit up to 10 cards.

What really differentiates the Snapback Slim is a coloured strap attached to its side that wraps around the wallet itself. This small detail makes a world of difference as I'll explain later. It comes in 5 colours, which give it a bit of personality.

The wallet is small and fits in almost any pocket.

The Snapback Slim Wallet in use

In my review for the Supr Slim wallet back in February, I wrote that it wasn't good for carrying cash. The only option is to fold it in three and stick it in with the cards. I concluded that it didn't matter because I mainly use credit cards and would "just keep a few bills in my front pocket" when I needed them.

Although I still use credit cards as much as I can (love those frequent flyer points), the reality is that I do carry cash almost all the time. Yes, it's only a few bills, but keeping them in my front pocket turned out to be more annoying than I originally thought.

And that's exactly where the Snapback Slim Wallet's coloured strap comes in. It's perfect for holding those few notes and temporary receipts.

It's surprising how such a simple thing can remove so much friction.

The strap can also be attached to your wrist if you find yourself without pockets. Pretty handy I thought.

The wallet is so thin that with 4 credit cards and a few notes it fits into the small pocket-inside-a-pocket of your jeans. You know, that small one where you put your coins. I mostly keep it in my back pocket, but it's good to hide it there in busy places where pickpocketing might be an issue.

Conclusion

As I said, the Snapback Slim wallet is now on daily use and I love it. Since I got a pre-production sample I don't know what the final packaging will be like, but Nick is working with a supplier to ensure it "looks cool when it arrives", and given the quality of the wallet I have, I'm sure it'll be awesome.

It's US$22 at the Kickstarter page. If you're into minimalist wallets it's a no brainer. You get a pretty cool one and get to support a product designer and entrepreneur. How cool is that?

TrailMix Pro Review - Run to your beat

Those of you who've been hanging around in this corner of the Internet know that in addition to being somewhat of a geek, I'm also a runner. As such, I'm always excited to check out new tech toys that combine these two passions. One such thing is an iPhone app called TrailMix Pro.

TrailMix Pro Review - iPhone app Screens

What is TrailMix Pro?

First and foremost, TrailMix Pro is a clever running app that automatically changes the beat of the song you're listening to so it matches your pace.

If you run faster, the song will speed up; if you run slower, the song will slow down, without changing the pitch.

I'll confess that at first I thought it was a bit gimmicky, but in practice I found it to be surprisingly useful and a lot of fun.

Running to the beat of music

The idea of running to music that matches your pace isn't new to me. I even started a website about it! In fact, a couple of years ago I went through the process of adding beats-per-minute (BPM) metadata to all songs in my iTunes library using a software called beaTunes. Now I just create smart playlists with different tempos and use the appropriate one depending on how fast I want to run. It's awesome; but it's also a pain to have to add the BPM metadata to new songs.

TrailMix Pro solves this problem, as it figures out the BPM automatically. And the fact that it can change the tempo of a song as you run is pretty cool.

This live-tempo-changing turned out to be a killer feature for me. You see, unless you run shortish distances on a completely flat surface, you're likely not going to maintain the same pace for the entire run. Hills, for example, naturally slow you down. On long runs, you'll get tired towards the end. Having the music match your pace automatically is brilliant.

Of course, you can also set a specific pace and TrailMix Pro will adapt the tempo of all songs to match. They call this Cruise Control.

Oh, and it's also a pedometer.

How does it work?

TrailMix Pro uses the accelerometer in the iPhone to detect your motion as you run or walk. It then analyses the information and uses it to determine your pace and to count your steps. And since it knows which track is playing, it simultaneously finds the BPM of the song.

So now TrailMix Pro knows your steps-per-minute and the beats-per-minute of the song you're listening to. With these, all it needs to do is calculate the difference between them and make the song faster or slower to match your pace. Pretty clever, I think.

TrailMix Pro in actual use

OK, so how good is it in practice? Well, I think it's pretty obvious by now, but I think it's pretty cool.

The process couldn't be easier. Put in your earbuds, fire up the app, pick a playlist, tap on the Magic Shuffle button, and start running.

That's exactly what I did on my first run with TrailMix Pro. I was thinking about writing this review and wanted to see how easy it was to get the hang of it. At first, it was a bit weird. The first song was from Pitbull (don't judge, I like it only for running) and because I was walking slowly it plllaayyyeed veeerryyyy sllooooowwlllyyyyy. Pretty funny for an upbeat song. But as soon as I started running the tempo picked up and amazingly matched my footsteps exactly.

As I went about the run, the music kept up with my pace. It was great. When I got to the hills and slowed down, so did the song. My feet kept hitting the floor in sync with the beat.

For my next run, I decided to set the pace myself using Cruise Control and try to keep up. I went on the exact same route as the previous run and did maintain a higher pace. I'm already thinking about a training plan using both Cruise Control and normal modes.

After using TrailMix Pro for several weeks, I've realised it pays to create playlists specifically for running. For example, avoid slow songs and songs with no bass. These sound weird. In one fairly fast run, the track changed from Pendulum to Nearness of You, by Norah Jones. Trust me, no matter how much you speed up Norah Jones, it's impossible to get it to match your beat.

By the way, if you use Runkeeper (or similar) and, like me, get a nervous twitch at the mere thought of loosing your stats, you're in luck. You can use both apps concurrently without a problem. Just don't play any music through Runkeeper and you're good.

TrailMix Pro Review iPhone app screens

Conclusion

TrailMix Pro was a pleasant surprise. Honestly, my only complaint is the interface. The design has a lot of room for improvement, but it works fine and is intuitive enough. My real issue is this whole sharing on social media push that many apps do. It drives me crazy.

When you finish a run, you get a screen with useful stats (steps taken, time spent, average pace), and a big ass "Tell Your Friends!" message with huge Facebook and Twitter buttons. OK if you like that, but I find it really annoying.

That's a minor gripe though. The truth is that I found TrailMix Pro useful and enjoyable. It makes it exceptionally easy to match your music to your beat.

I've kept using it and I know I will continue to do so.

Update on my RSS setup after 2 months

photo credit:  Wiertz Sébastien

photo credit: Wiertz Sébastien

After Google Reader was discontinued, I wrote an article describing what my RSS setup was detailing the services and apps I had chosen to replace it.

In summary, what I did was use Feed Wrangler as the sync service and their own apps for iPhone and iPad to read my feeds. As soon as Reeder for iPhone added support, I switched back and all was good. Except for one little problem that I mentioned in the article. With Google Reader, I had an IFTTT recipe that sent me an email with every starred item. Turns out, I really, really missed having that.

I tried a few workarounds using Feed Wrangler, but nothing worked as well as my previous set up.

In a moment of frustration, I went searching IFTTT to see what I could use and found that Feedly has really good integration with IFTTT and is also supported by Reeder for iPhone. I recreated my old recipe, imported my feed list, logged in with Reeder, and found it all worked smoothly.

I now have pretty much my old setup back. I still need Reeder for iPad and Mac to add support for Feedly.

Still, I don't have much faith in the long term viability of this setup given that Feedly is free. At some point they'll need to start making money somehow and I have a feeling it'll most likely be by either pushing advertising to me or selling my data. Think about it. Imagine the kind of intel they have about us just by tracking our RSS behaviour. Between what we subscribe to, what we actually read, what we share, and what we mark as favourite, they have a pretty detailed idea about us. Neither of these ways of monetising sound good to me.

That is precisely why I went with Feed Wrangler in the first place. And I still think it's the best service. If only Feed Wrangler worked with IFTTT (yes, I get the irony that IFTTT is free as well). That would be awesome. I'd switch back in a second.

OmniFocus and Evernote working together

Sometimes life gets so hectic that you're forced to ignore your carefully defined productivity system and just go with your gut.

OmniFocus and Evernote Together

This happened to me last month. Instead of my usual morning routine (coffee > OmniFocus > Evernote > work), I had to drop my planned tasks to go put out some unexpected fires for several weeks. I missed 3 weekly reviews and didn't open OmniFocus once during that time. I knew what had to be done, so I just did it.

The fires were eventually sorted out and everything was back to normal. Or so I thought. I opened up OmniFocus to find over 50 overdue actions, a handful of unfinished projects, and an Inbox full of unprocessed stuff.

That, my friends, is seriously overwhelming.

Fortunately, I keep most of my commitments organised using a combination of OmniFocus and Evernote, so getting back on track required nothing more than a clear head, several espressos, and a few hours going through those two applications.

Here's how I use OmniFocus and Evernote together as the core of my productivity system.

OmniFocus manages Projects and Actions

At it's core, OmniFocus is where I keep track of my tasks. It gives me a quick way to decide what I need to do at any given time. But I don't just dump every task in, I could use Apple's Reminders for that. No, I'm a bit more methodical.

At the root level, I have a folder for each area of focus. These are the high level themes that are most important to me and I've chosen to actively keep an eye on.

OmniFocus Library

Inside each folder are the relevant Projects, which in turn hold Actions. That way, I can quickly zero in on anything I need to focus on at any given time.

For example, when I'm working on a strategy document for a specific client, I can quickly find all relevant tasks by opening the Career/Work folder and clicking on the relevant project. Or if I'm planning an upcoming SCUBA diving trip, I just need to go to my Recreation folder and there it is.

As a side note, once I find the project I'm working on, I just hit cmd-ctrl-F (or hit the Focus button in the Toolbar) and everything else disappears. That's one of the beauties of OmniFocus. It's great at letting you, well, focus.

So that's what goes into OmniFocus. But what's arguably more important is what I keep out of it.

Evernote manages Reference Material and relevant Notes

If it's not an actionable task, it doesn't make it into OmniFocus. Ever. If it's not something I need to do, but I want to keep for some reason, it goes into Evernote. Conversely, if it is an action, I won't put it in Evernote.

In order to maintain consistency across both applications, I have a notebook (or stack) in Evernote for each Area of Focus, mirroring the structure in OmniFocus.

Evernote Library

Essentially, Evernote is where I keep all reference material and project related notes.

Using OmniFocus and Evernote together

Smarter people than me have figured out ways to automate certain aspects of using OmniFocus and Evernote together, but I like to keep it simple. I don't use any additional software or scripts to connect them or any fancy stuff.

For me, it all starts in OmniFocus. If an action needs to refer to anything that's in a note in Evernote, all I do is paste a link to it in the notes field of the OmniFocus task.

OmniFocus task with link to Evernote note

This way, when I'm looking at the task in OmniFocus, all I have to do is click on the link and Evernote fires up and opens the specific note.

OmniFocus and Evernote Copy Note Link

To get the link, just select the note, option-click (or right-click) and choose Copy Note Link, then paste it into the notes field in the OmniFocus task.

Examples of using this OmniFocus/Evernote system

I have a notebook in Evernote for this site. It contains all sorts of notes that relate to disturbancesinthewash.net in one way or another. One note is a list of article topics that I want to write. Every time I have an idea for a post, I add it to the list. In OmniFocus I have a recurring task that just says "write article for ditw" with a reference link to this note.

When the task becomes available, I click on the link and go through the list in Evernote, pick one, and write the article. When I finish, I remove it from the list in Evernote and mark the task as complete in OmniFocus.

Once upon a time, I used to create a new action in OmniFocus every time I had an idea for an article. At one point I had hundreds of these action "tasks" that were only ideas for posts. Nothing actionable in itself. It quickly got out of hand and became just noise. To the point that I ended up ignoring everything because it was too much.

Another example is SCUBA diving. It's one of my hobbies. I have a Notebook in Evernote dedicated to SCUBA diving that holds notes about places I want to go diving, equipment I'm researching, manuals of dive computers, and pdf's of underwater signs, among other things.

Most of these notes aren't related to any OmniFocus tasks, but some are reference material for when I do have an active SCUBA diving project.

As you can see, these two apps work great together and are arguably the best at what they do. The trick, for me, is to use each for what their best at in a complementary way and not to fall into the trap of mixing uses across both.

By the way, the best and quickest way to learn Evernote in depth is Brett Kelly's Evernote Essentials ebook. I highly recommend it.

This is what happens when you miss your weekly review

Sometimes, life gets so overwhelming that it's hard to stay on top of it all. It's one thing to commit to more projects than you can handle. That's bad planning and entirely under your control. It's a very different problem, however, when circumstances around you change so much that you end up with way more things fighting for your time and attention than you can realistically provide.

If you're like me, you have a system that keeps you sane. Maybe a task management application, your calendar, a bunch of post it notes, or a combination of things. Somewhere where you keep your projects and tasks organised so you know what you need to, or can, be doing at any given time.

But when the shit truly hits the fan, as they say, you often need to jump straight into firefighting mode and attend to the immediate issue. And then the next. And the next. And very quickly you realise you've neglected your system and have no idea what's going on.

Overdue items shout for attention. Due items start to create pressure. An inbox left unprocessed collects too many items that quickly start to rot. In no time, the noise becomes so much that it's impossible to decide what is truly urgent, so it's easier to just shut down and ignore everything except for the loudest thing in front of you.

My system revolves around OmniFocus and this is exactly what I've been through lately. Today I opened OmniFocus for the first time in 5 weeks and this is what it looks like:

omnifocus after missing weekly reviews

The past 6 weeks or so have been tough. I've had multiple work and personal commitments. Things out of my control have happened and I've struggled to keep track of everything I need to do and is expected of me. It's happened before.

I dropped the ball on more things than I care to admit. Sadly, work was loudest and what I neglected was mostly personal stuff. It's not a good feeling.

Today I decided it was enough. I can't run around chasing the thing that screams at me the loudest. I need to focus on what actually matters. And the only way to know what matters is to stop, look at the big picture, think, and plan. I need to do my weekly review. Now.

My RSS reading setup after the death of Google Reader

Tomorrow, Google Reader will be shut down. When the announcement was made back in March, I mentioned I couldn't think of a good alternative. Since then, several developers have stepped up to the challenge and today we have a handful of options. Unfortunately, I still haven't found the ideal replacement.

My RSS reading setup up, until yesterday, consisted of the following:

  • Sync via Google Reader (I never used the website).
  • Reeder for iPhone, iPad, and Mac to read shorter articles and/or send elsewhere.
  • Longer articles got sent to Instapaper.
  • Articles I wanted to "action" got starred and an ifttt recipe emailed them to me. Then a mail rule in iCloud dropped them into an Action folder so they never appeared in my Inbox. These were articles I wanted to blog about or research further, for example.

It was perfect. In fact, it was so good that I didn't even think about it. It was just part of my every day.

Sadly, I haven't found a setup that works as well for me. Either it's a free service (I don't like free services), or the apps are ugly, or it's too much work to set up, or it doesn't have an ifttt channel.

I'm sure in a few months we'll have much better RSS reading options, but for now they all seem to be almost there, but not quite there yet.

After a lot of research and trials of several services, I've settled with the following RSS reading setup:

  • Sync via Feed Wrangler. It's the closest to my ideal. It's $19 a year (so has a real business model), offers a 3rd party API for developers to integrate their apps, and the smart streams feature is innovative.
  • For apps I'm using the Feed Wrangler ones for now. They're not even close to Reeder and there's no Mac version, but they'll have to do for now. I do like the Instapaper button though, only one tap and done.

Reeder is adding Feed Wrangler support to Reeder for iPhone, albeit without smart streams. As soon as it's available I'll give it a go and will likely switch back. Reeder for iPad and Mac will get it too, but it seems it won't be any time soon. Not perfect, but getting there.

What I'm still missing is a way to quickly flag articles I want to action. ifttt doesn't work with Feed Wrangler, so I'm not sure what to do with that one.

It's still a work in progress. In an ideal world, Reeder will add full support for Feed Wrangler to all their apps and Feed Wrangler becomes a channel in ifttt. With the smart streams this will be even better than before. Hopefully it won't be long.

VSCO Cam for iPhone (and fix the download error)

vsco-cam-iphone-app.png

Visual Supply Co. (VSCO) develop VSCO Cam, which has quickly become my favourite photography app for iPhone. I have it permanently on my homescreen and use it for 90% of photos I take with the iPhone now.

VSCO Cam replaced a previous app by the same company called VSCOCam (yep, without the space), which I onwned and really liked. When I say replaced, I mean exaclty that. The previous version is no longer available or supported.

While the previous one was a paid app (from memory it was US$.99), the new one is free with in-app purchases. If you own the old one and have it installed, you get a bunch of paid filters for free when you download the new one. This is a nice touch from VSCO.

But the new filters are even better than the old ones. I purchased the full pack of filters and I'll be spending some quality time with them. So far, I really like it.

One thing I noticed when I bought the filter pack is that it kept giving me an error in the middle of the download. The error message said only "There was a connection error" and all I could do was start the download again. I tried multiple times and always got the same error.

Frustrated, I tried again and watched the phone through the download instead of just letting it do it's thing. That's when I realised the download took so long that the screen went dark and the iPhone locked.

If you purchase the full filter pack, it's about 108MB and I assume the app can't download in the background.

vsco-cam-connection-error.png

So, to fix the VSCO Cam download error issue, just go to the Settings app, then General > Auto-Lock and set it to Never. Then start the download again. It'll take a while, but it'll finish fine.

Once it finishes, remember to go back and set the Auto-Lock to whatever you had before.

Zombies, Run! First Impressions Review

Last month I ran my second marathon. Just as the first time, I didn't train as much as I should have. It was tough. Finishing a marathon is an amazing experience, but running 42 kilometres without training properly is demanding. In my case, it was so rough on my body (and mind) that I stopped running for over a month.

Zombies, Run! Review

This week I decided to start running again. I wanted to take it slow and not too seriously to get back into the rhythm. It was the perfect opportunity to try out Zombies, Run!, an iPhone app I've been curious about for months.

Zombies, Run! in a nutshell

Zombies, Run! is a weird combination of a fitness app and a game, with a twist. Think of it like RunKeeper in the world of The Walking Dead with the gameplay of the first SimCity.

In essence, it's a running app that entertains you with a post-apocalyptic story while you run and rewards you with basic gameplay afterwards.

Put in your earbuds, start the app, and go. You're a character in a zombie infested world and have to complete several missions as the plot unfolds. The app tracks your distance, time, pace, and calories burned via GPS. As you run, you collect supplies which are used to help build the main town, heal wounded, or support soldiers.

First runs with Zombies, Run!

I've run 3 missions of Zombies, Run! The first one begins with you riding in a helicopter that gets hit by a rocket. You're the only one that survives the attack. A radio operator tells you there are zombies around you and begs you to run for your life.

As you run, your own music starts playing, which is pretty cool... if you chose an appropriate playlist. On my first run I didn't specify one and I ended up running to Rachmaninoff. The first thing I did when I got back was create a few playlists specifically to run while being chased by zombies. Subsequent runs have been much more engaging.

The story seems a bit too similar to The Walking Dead. The main town in Zombies, Run! is Abel Township, which made me think of of Woodbury. Abel Township has the Major, while Woodbury has the Governor. Your character is a "runner", which reminds me of Glen. To be fair, it's still early in the story. I hope it develops further into its own plot.

There are several nice features in Zombies, Run! For example, the way they integrated intervals is awesome. At seemingly random moments, zombies get too close and start chasing you. To escape, you need to increase your pace by approximately 20% for about a minute. Sounds easy, but by the third time it's tough.

Another good idea is the radio station. Each mission is either 30 minutes or 1 hour in length (you choose), but you can continue running past the time. The mission ends and a radio station kicks in where the radio operator and another guy play DJs as part of the story.

Zombies, Run! also integrates with Runkeeper so your run data appears in both places.

Conclusion

I bet Zombies, Run! is one of those apps that people either love with a passion or avidly hate. I'll confess I absolutely loved it. And I honestly didn't think I would.

As a disclaimer, I am a fan of The Walking Dead (both the comic and the TV show) and the "undead" genre in general. I'm also a runner. So I may be biased.

In any case, one thing I can say is that I'm looking forward to my run tomorrow morning. I want to know more about Abel Township and what happens next with the story. That's more than any other running app has done.

UPDATE (12/09/13): I've been running with Zombies, Run! consistently for over 3 months and still like it just as much. My only complaint is that you have to download the missions and I've found myself out the door at 5:30am ready to start only to realise the next mission isn't available. They're about 8mb each, so it only takes a minute or so to download. But still, it's annoying when you're ready to start. I wish it had a setting to let it download the next 3 missions automatically over Wi-Fi. Other than that, my thoughts above hold true.