Apps Of The Week: Litnin, Ello, Gestimer, Google Trends, Dark Sky

I’m still trying to dig out some interesting web apps to pad out the lull of new OS X and iOS apps between WWDC and the OS releases. First up is a minimal RSS reader that’s entirely in the browser. I’ve got a Mac app that has a unique take on reminders. We close out the week with an update to one of the most popular iOS weather apps.

Litnin – Web


Litnin is as simple as an RSS Reader can get. Rather than having an account, clients, and sharing services— Litnin is a webpage that uses cookies to store your OPML/RSS info. This means that you can't sync anything.

It goes without saying that this isn't for power users with dozens of feeds to follow. Especially when your entire account is a cleared cache away from disappearing. However, I think that the best use for Litnin is a roll your own coverage reader. It comes a little late for WWDC, but this might be the perfect way to load up on the stories coming out around an Apple event.

I actually wish that this was a bit more robust. The design is as simple as can be, just a list of links. You manage your feeds as a cloud of names, and there's nothing more complex than some simple animations. Having a persistent log in would probably win more than a few people over. The app also tends to reload some feeds entire archive all at once, but that problem might be on the feed's side.

What's Good: Excellent minimal design, easy to set up.

What Sucks: No account, no sync.

Buy it?: If you want a simple RSS reader with a focus on the simple, check out Litnin.

Ello – iOS(Universal)


Ello was supposed to be the next big Facebook killer. It thrived on a promise of no ads, and a focus on good design. Like many would be king killers, nerds came to reserve their usernames and never really came back. The community has settled into a smaller niche, mostly sharing arty photos with each other.

Now you can check out Ello via their new iOS app. It has the same minimal look that the website has, a pastiche of ASCII art. You can post, browse your feed, and see recommended posts. It's a functional app, but one I am not sure is going to draw people to the service. I could be wrong, I am out here in the Midwest. I could just be the wrong demographic for the app.

What's Good: Well designed app-ification of Ello's site and features.

What Sucks: Not a lot of use unless you're already heavily involved with the network.

Buy it?: If you're curious about Ello or already using the network check out their new app for free on the App Store.

Gestimer – iOS


Gestimer is an app that is almost perfect. You can set a timed reminder by simply dragging the Menu Bar icon out until the time matches. Then you can add text to describe the reminder. This is an ingenious UI, one that makes it really easy to create reminders in a visual way. The problem is that they're only good for the computer you're sitting on.

This is a Mac App Store app, so it doesn't make sense to not have built in sync with Reminders. This interface is an easy way to quickly capture something you're trying to remember. Those things aren't necessarily going to be done in front of your computer. That limits the usefulness of this app for me.

What's Good: Clever UI

What Sucks: Needs Reminders Sync.

Buy it?: If you're looking for a quick way to set reminders, and do't mind keeping them on one computer, check out Gestimers. Buy it on the App Store for $2.99

Google Trends – Web


I know that Google Trends has been around for some time, but it never did much beyond helping bloggers do year end reviews. The newest version of the app does much the same thing, but with a more real time focus. This puts the site in competition with Reddit and Digg for the title of Front page of The Internet.

The new Trends breaks down into two sections. The top is the featured stories, which Google produces using analytical data. This includes things like which NBA Finals team was more popular in searches, and which Presidential candidate is garnering the most search traffic. Below the fold you'll get a break down of trending searches. It scrolls for quite awhile, letting you dig down deep into the more odd thoughts of the internet.

The most obvious use case for this type of tool is for content farmers and marketers looking for trends they can riff on for more traffic. On the other hand, Trends is just as useful to see the true headlines. This isn't going to make you informed, but you will know what stories the most people care about.

What's Good: Great way to see details of what's popular on Google, which is basically what's popular on the Internet.

What Sucks: Can be depressing to find out exactly how silly most people's tastes are.

Buy it?: If you've got a burning curiosity or a job that requires you to know what people are searching for, check out Google Trends.

Dark Sky – iOS(Universal)


Dark Sky is a powerful weather App without being too complicated. When the original version came out, it was focused on very accurate alerts about upcoming rain. The current version builds on that, allowing you to create custom alerts for yourself.

These can take a bunch of different forms, you can set a reminder at a specific time each day if rain or snow is expected. You can also set alarms to remind you of the current/next day's weather. There's improved support for government warnings, so you can get an alert if there's a severe thunderstorm watch or warning. (I haven't been able to really test this, and see how it compares with the build in text alerts you may get in your area by default.) You can also set a Do Not Disturb time to ensure alerts don't wake you up.

The interface got some attention as well. The daily forecast is now along a vertical line, including when you drill down to a day on the extended forecast page. I didn't think that the older design was crowded, but the update does look a bit cleaner. It's also easy to see the weather at a glance. Some user may not like the way to expands the amount of space data takes up on the screen.

What's Good: Improved alerts, including custom alert creation and daily forecast reminders.

What Sucks: New design is pretty, but kind of crowded.

Buy it?: If you're looking for an App that makes weather as custom and frictionless as possible, check out Dark Sky. Get it on the App Store for $3.99.

Mac geek? Gamer? Why not both? Mike is a writer from Wisconsin who enjoys wasting immense amounts of time on the Internet. You can follow him on Twitter.