Replies for Mac App

Are you among of the developers who spend more time replying to emails than adding more features to the app? New startups with small teams or individuals running the entire operation are often faced with the herculean task of providing support to the ever growing user base of the application. This is turn leaves less time to actually spend on developing the app. Ruben Bakkers, developer of Mailplane, decided to do something about it when his brilliant app garnered thousands of active users in a short time. Pestered with support emails, Bakkers designed the Replies App for Mac back in 2009 for personal use. He discovered how most of his replies were repetitive and that a considerable amount of time was wasted in rewriting them. Bakkers recently launched Replies for Mac commercially and we decided to take it out for a spin.

The biggest feature of Replies is the ability to search content within old replies and reuse it. All replies sent using the app are broken down into chunks of reusable snippets that you can be later inserted into a new reply. A new reply starts off with a default greeting at the top, signature at the bottom and the snippet box in the middle. Esc is the shortcut key to search for previous replies and selectively add content from them into the new reply. Attachments that were part of the reply can be imported too. In addition to that, you can add attachments by using the drag and drop feature or via the file browser window. More snippets can be added to the reply by using the Cmd + Return shortcut. Alternatively, an icon to insert snippet pops up when the cursor is placed in-between a word space or around a link break. Content reusability makes a lot of sense for customer support and Replies does a good job at helping you find the right content and insert it at the right place.

Personalization to a mail helps build relationships with the customers and  Replies keeps that in mind. It loads recent conversations with a customer that makes it easier to add personal details to the body of the mail. It never hurts to have the undo button in a mail application. With Replies, you can not only undo the send mail action for a few seconds after sending the reply but also undo other tasks such as dismissing a draft or archiving a message.

Replies has a three-pane user interface that Sparrow for Mac users will be familiar with. Left pane lists all the folders, middle pane displays the email subjects and its preview snippet, with the full email content being shown in the rightmost column. The folders in the leftmost pane are sorted according to priority; helping you respond to important mails quickly. This is pretty  much like the Priority Inbox feature that Gmail has; but only better.  Folders can be made smarter by applying a bunch of filters to have them sort the mail intelligently. Any new folders created using the app are synced across to the server. Another really handy feature is the ability to mark messages as pending or resolved. All these small things help you save a great deal of time in the long run.

Customer support can become a challenging task when the number of active users grow rapidly for an app. Replies not only helps you save time but also lets you send personalized and detailed messages to every customer. A lot of thought has gone into the Replies app and it is a good solid app to deploy for your customer support needs. The app comes with Full-screen support for Lion and after spending the last few days with the app, I can vouch for its stability and usability. Customer support junkies might find the app lacking advanced features but there’s only so much you can expect from the first release. For someone who develops and handles customer support for an app independently, Replies is a godsend and there isn’t better investment for your company than spending $79.99 for this app. Organizational licenses are available for $129.99 a piece. Go grab it now and show off your customer support superpowers!

Flipboard for iPhone Now Available →

The much awaited update to Flipboard — the one that was supposed to bring support for iPhone is now available in the App Store.

The update, v1.7 is now a universal app running on your iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. This update also brings along a feature exclusive to the iPhone (for now) called Cover Stories — a curated collection of content being shared with you.

With Flipboard for iPhone we’re introducing Cover Stories — one place to quickly catch up on some of the most interesting news, updates and photos being shared with you right now. The more you interact with your friends and the stories being shared, the smarter Cover Stories gets. You can refine what appears here by adding content to your Flipboard, muting anyone you’d rather not hear from, and connecting to your social networks. Cover Stories will be coming to your iPad in the near future.

Go ahead and grab Flipboard from the App Store. It’s Free.

PopClip for Mac

Last year, Apple announced OS X Lion at its ‘Back to the Mac’ event. The focus of the event was how Apple had learnt from iOS and managed to improve OS X by incorporating features from it into Lion. The developers at Pilotmoon Software decided to take cue from it and went a step ahead further and brought the familiar Copy/Paste bar from iOS to OS X with PopClip for Mac.

PopClip is a neat little bar that makes copying/pasting text faster and easier on your Mac. One doesn’t have to jump to the keyboard right after selecting a piece of text to be able to copy it. The bar pops up after selecting the text and lets you copy it with a single click. Press and hold the mouse button for a fraction of a second and the paste icon jumps out of thin air, letting you place your copied text right at that cursor position. The size of the bar can be adjusted in the preferences. Apart from the cut/copy/paste functionality, the developers have added some interesting new features to the bar in the latest version. It now has web search, URL opening, spelling and dictionary integrated. Selected text can be searched on the web with a single click using the search button on the bar. If the selected text is a URL, clicking the link icon opens the link in the browser. The dictionary and spelling feature is self-explanatory. It would have been magical if clicking the dictionary button on the bar popped up the inline dictionary than open the Dictionary app. I hope that is something the developers consider bringing to the app in one of its next iterations.

The Copy/Paste bar was truly a revolutionary feature for iOS when it was first introduced. Looking back, you wonder why Apple themselves didn’t bring it to OS X Lion. Some might argue that sometimes the bar is bit intrusive on OS X as it pops up when you don’t expect it to and they do have a point, but leaving aside this small niggle, it has definitely enhanced my user experience on OS X. If you don’t like the bar popping up when working with apps like Photoshop, just include such apps in the ‘Excluded apps’ list in PopClip preferences. PopClip works with OS X 10.6.6 or later. It is available for $4.99 in the Mac App Store. A double thumbs up to the Pilotmoon Software team for this must-have nifty little app!

Justin Williams on iPad Magazines →

Justin Williams, developer of popular apps like Elements and Today, shares his experience of trying to read his favorite magazines on his iPad:

Remember, kids. The first rule of App Club is that no one gives a fuck about your brand. A splash screen with a giant logo is something that makes editors and marketing directors feel good, but to a user it just feels like a meaningless delay. You know that feeling of frustration you get each time there’s a 15-second preroll before a video on the web? That’s what a splash screen with logos and advertisements is.

A lot of magazines available on the App Store suffer with the same issues Justin outlines above. I have personally tried apps like India Today and GG — none of which impressed me.

50% Off on all AgileBits Products →

1Password is one of the first apps I install on a Mac and highly recommend to anyone who is serious about the security of their online presence. Heck, we’ve written extensively about 1Password here on Smoking Apples various times in the past here, here and here. The fine folks at AgileBits are having a “Thanks-To-You” Sale wherein all their products are 50% off. If you’ve held off on your purchase and needed a reason, let this be it.

If you use the following links to purchase the apps, you’ll be supporting us as well.

Reflecting back on iPhone 4S

It’s been a month since the iPhone 4S launched, selling four million units on the first weekend itself making it the most successful launch ever. I was among the ones who woke up till 3am to pre-order mine when Apple opened the doors to pre-orders on Oct 7. Surprisingly, I ended up ordering through AT&T’s site after grappling with Apple’s Online Store for an hour without any luck. The next week was tough, waiting for it to ship and on the launch day the wait for the FedEx guy to deliver the iPhone was excruciating but in the end it was worth the wait. There were no activation issues for me and it has been smooth sailing since and my love for Siri has crossed appropriate bounds.

A lot was said and written about the 4S when it was announced as people expected a lot more from this upgrade but an enhanced camera and goodness of Siri were more than enough to keep me interested in going for it. With one month completed, I can safely say that I haven’t been disappointed a single bit with my purchase. The appearance of the 4S might not be the talking point but there’s a lot has changed on the inside that makes 4S worth the upgrade. Right from out of the box PC free experience to the intelligence of Siri , iPhone 4S has a lot to offer. Let’s start with Siri, the most talked about feature on the 4S.

The magic of Siri

Siri is a delight to use. I had my reservations about Siri recognizing an Indian accent but it does a decent job. There are times when I have to speak my query twice to make it understand, but most of the times I get it correct in the first go. The trick lies in speaking a tad bit slower than what we Indians normally do. I(and probably every iPhone 4S owner) spent the first few days thinking of clever things to ask Siri and then watch it turn up with funny answers only to post it on the web. Those few days playing with Siri were totally fun but we’re back to business now and she’s the best personal assistant you could’ve asked for. Siri does an excellent job at crunching complex queries to return meaningful results. So be it getting directions to a new restaurant in town or setting up reminders, Siri can handle it all with ease. The ability to pull data from WolframAlpha to answer queries is really cool. Dictation is another awesome feature and the list doesn’t end here. You’ll need to use it to experience the awesomeness that Siri is. Reliability though is an issue and network problems crop up every once in a while and that is probably the reason Apple decided to give the service a beta tag. iOS 5.1 is rumored to add more features to Siri such as toggling WiFi/Bluetooth switches, taking photos/videos and other neat stuff. Once you’ve gotten used to Siri, there’s no looking back as it has already become an indispensable part of your life.  Read the full article →