Zenbe Lists for iPod Touch and iPhone

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About a month ago, I got an iPod Touch. For the most part, it does everything I want and more. There were a few things that I was hoping for, such as the ability to add songs to a queue while browsing in cover flow mode (I know you can add songs to an On-the-go playlist, which is essentially a queue, but this feature doesn’t work in coverflow mode). I also had a couple of small disappointments from things I was expecting that weren’t there, like the fact that coverflow always shows your entire music library, instead of just the current playlist (yes, as you can tell, I was very excited about having coverflow on my iPod, and although I’m hoping for some improvements, I still love it quite a lot).

There was also one feature that I knew was going to be a disappontment before I bought this thing, and that was the fact that the landscape keyboard didn’t work in any other application besides Safari. This meant that I couldn’t do any writing unless I was connected to the internet. While this was an important feature to be missing in my view, I went ahead with the purchase because it wasn’t the main reason why I was buying the iPod (hello, music?), and also because I took a guess, knowing that this feature was being demanded by Apple’s consumer fan base, that it would soon be made possible. I also knew that the App Store was coming, which meant that if Apple didn’t make it happen, someone else would.

So for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been waiting anxiously for July 11, the debut of the App Store (I know it opened a day early). When the store opened, I spent quite a while browsing through all 500+ apps, like every other Apple fan boy that day, looking to see what amazing new things I could make my iPod do. I found some super cool games, a couple of handy utilities, and even some neat apps that my 18-month-old son could play with. It was a fun experience.

But by the end of the day, I had been through the whole catalog, and had yet to find any applications that used the landscape keyboard at all, much less any offline writing application that would operate in landscape mode. And in that regard, I was dreadfully dissappointed.

But then, late at night, just before I was about to close my eyes, I was laying in bed browsing the app store on my iPod, and I ran accross an app I had previously overlooked, called Zenbe Lists, a list-making app that let’s you write long-format notes in each list item. I downloaded and installed the app, and lo-and-behold, it worked in landscape mode, with a keyboard, and saved the lists locally, no Internet connection required.

There are a couple more amazing things about this app:

  • It syncs your lists to an online database whenever you wish, just push the sync button
  • It’s free

What is this? The only app among the 500+ apps in the brand new App Store that offers an offline landscape keyboard, is free? Unbelievable.

Zenbe works well and is stable from what I’ve seen so far. The syncing could use some work. When syncing a short list, it worked fine, but then I tried syncing a list with a long note, and it ended up duplicating that list item, so that it appeared twice in the list. It also cuts the bottom half off the bottom line where the keyboard slightly overlaps the text field you type into, which wouldn’t be a super big deal, except that the bottom line is almost always the one you’re typing on, which means that it’s a bit difficult to see what you’re typing. It’s not a deal breaker for me; I’m sure they’ll fix it, my eyes are usually on the keyboard when I’m using a thumb board anyway, and hey, when all is said and done, it’s free, right?

Bottom line, it’s a good start to solving a big problem. Zenbe is a great application for writing on the iPod Touch or iPhone. Highly recommended.


2 comments for “Zenbe Lists for iPod Touch and iPhone”

  1. ‘Glad you like the landscape mode. I have to confess it was a bit of an afterthought. The only reason Zenbe Lists supports it is that we had grand designs for having an orientation change trigger a coverflow-like view of lists. This would have required users to flip the phone around, so it seemed like a good idea to make sure landscape mode worked for all the views. Of course, we later discovered we didn’t have time to get coverflow working, but the landscape support remained in.

    Support for orientation changes isn’t that hard to get working as long as you design for it up front. But few developers consider it to be an essential feature, and the Apple SDK generates non-orientation aware code by default, so support for it is usually put off until “later” I imagine. But by the time “later” comes along, developers find they’ve inavdvertantly commited themselves to a single-orientationn UI.

    Anyhow, thought you might find the background for this particular feature amusing. :)

    Posted by Robert Kieffer | July 14, 2008, 3:36 pm
  2. [...] This article appears to clearly indicate that Automattic, the development team behind the iPhone WordPress App, will be implementing a landscape mode in the next version, meaning that you will be able to use the wider keyboard that is currently only available in Safari and Zenbe Lists. [...]

    Posted by Tilted Symmetry | Landscape Mode on the iPhone Wordpress App | July 24, 2008, 9:19 pm

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