StandDesk

StandDesk

Research has shown that sitting at a desk all day is terrible for our health, well-being, productivity, and even life expectancy.

Standing desks—especially those that adjust between sitting and standing positions—are a good way to counteract the negative effects of all that sitting, but they can be pretty expensive. (A fact I’m all too familiar with; my current “standing desk” is a pile of books on the kitchen counter with my iPad+keyboard on top.)

Enter StandDesk. This Kickstarter campaign aims to bring a more affordable automated standing desk to the masses, one that is relatively lightweight and easy to assemble, but still able to hold a lot of stuff comfortably.

Adjusting its height is easy: just hold the up or down button for a couple seconds, let go, and it automatically elevates/lowers until you press the button again. The base model has only the up and down buttons, while the ‘deluxe’ model has the ability to save four different heights as presets.

For more details, I recommend watching their Kickstarter promo video. Backer rewards to get a StandDesk start at $399 (which will go up to $499 once the product goes to market).

Monument Valley for iOS

Monument Valley for iOS

Monument Valley is a new game for iPhone and iPad that was clearly inspired by the art of M.C. Escher. You play as Ida, a silent princess who must navigate and exit a series of seemingly impossible architecture by solving puzzles and avoiding the strange inhabitants of each world.

Each level presents a structure that looks impossible to traverse, but by moving or rotating sections of the environment, you can alter these optical illusions to create a path where none existed before. Watch the official trailer and you’ll see what I mean.

Monument Valley for iOS

As noted in a behind-the-scenes video, every stage is like a different work of art, beautiful enough to be printed out and hung on a wall. As you interact with Ida’s world, you are greeted with pleasant sound effects and music, and I recommend playing with headphones for the best experience.

Monument Valley is one of the most gorgeous and thoughtfully considered games I’ve seen on iOS, one that answers the question, “Are video games art?” with a resounding yes! You’d be remiss not to play it.

It’s only $4, so I don’t want to hear any excuses.

TextExpander Touch 2.5

TextExpander Touch 2.5

Speaking of TextExpander Touch, it’s been updated to version 2.5 and sports a new iOS 7 design along with some new features. They’ve made it much easier to rename and reorder snippet groups, as well as move individual snippets between groups. Groups that are only useful on a Mac can now be disabled for iOS.

They’ve also added some external keyboard shortcuts:

  • ⌘+ and ⌘- increase and decrease the font size of selected text
  • ⌘N creates a new snippet, group, or note
  • ⌘Return functions as Done, or shares snippet or note
  • Escape functions as Cancel
  • ⌘T toggles between Notes and Groups
  • Up and down arrows navigate through the list of snippets or notes on iPad

All in all, a very welcome update to one of my most-used apps. TextExpander Touch is $5 on the iOS App Store.

Fantastical 2 for iPad

Fantastical 2 for iPad

The only thing that ever bugged me about Fantastical 2 was that it was an iPhone-only app. I suppose it still worked well enough on an iPad in 2x mode, but thankfully our long national nightmare is over because Fantastical 2 for iPad was released this morning.

The new interface is more like a dashboard than strictly a calendar. In addition to familiar elements like the top toolbar, the DayTicker, and the events list, they have added a month calendar on the lower right. Making good use of the iPad’s larger screen, each section shows more information than the iPhone app can, and without feeling cluttered or confusing—no matter if you’re in landscape or portrait mode.

Pull down on the DayTicker, and it displays a half-week view like the one you’d get when switching the iPhone app to landscape. Pull down some more, and you get a full-screen week view that lets you drag, drop, and stretch/shrink events. It all feels very intuitive.

Just like the iPhone version, Fantastical 2 for iPad lets you create events using natural language. Type (or say) things like “Get lunch with Caleb on Saturday” or “move trash cart to the curb every other Wednesday night” and it will accurately parse these statements to create events. It also still supports TextExpander Touch snippets, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Fantastical 2 for iPad is $10 on the iOS App Store, a launch sale of 33% off. If you have yet to try the iPhone app, it’s just $5 on the App Store.

CHECK IT OUT Find more: Apps, iPad

Cartom Wrist Wallet

Cartom Wrist Wallet

As slim as wallets have gotten in recent years, there are still times when it’s unfeasible to carry one. Some mornings, I enjoy a quick bike ride to and from my local coffee shop but I’m often wearing shorts with no pockets. I could toss my wallet and keys into a backpack, but I don’t need or want to carry all my stuff just to get my caffeine fix.

The Cartom Wrist Wallet is awesome for times like these. As the name implies, it’s a bracelet-type thing that can hold a credit card, ID card, one or two keys, and a little cash. Perfect for biking, working out, going to the beach (a plastic inner zip bag is included), and even riding rides at an amusement park (I’m not kidding; my dad once had a wallet fly out of his pocket on a roller coaster).

One thing to keep in mind: whatever size you think your wrist is, order the next size up because these wallets run a little small. If you want to measure your wrist, use this sizing chart:

  • Small/Medium: 5¾” to 6½”
  • Large/XL: 6½” to 9″
  • XXL: 9″ to 11″

The Cartom Wrist Wallet is $8.75 on Amazon and comes in black, blue, or green.

Featured Sponsor: Igloo

Featured Sponsor: Igloo

Igloo is an intranet you’ll actually like: built with easy-to-use apps like shared calendars, Twitter-like microblogs, file sharing, and more. Everything you need is built-in, and everything is social. This means if you upload a file or write a corporate blog post, your coworkers can share it, comment on it, rate it, like it, and even make changes as a new version.

The whole idea is to get your company communicating better and more openly.

If your company has a legacy intranet or a customer community built on SharePoint, you should give Igloo a try. This report from Igloo and Osterman Research outlines the five main areas SharePoint falls short and how Igloo does it better.

Igloo has customer case studies to show you how other companies have made the switch. And best of all, Igloo is free to try with up to ten people.

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Our thanks to Igloo Software for sponsoring the RSS feed this week.

WriteRight for iOS

WriteRight for iOS

WriteRight is an app for iPhone and iPad that probably won’t replace your favorite iOS text editor (*cough* Editorial *cough*), but works nicely as a supplemental writing and editing tool.

It analyzes your writing and offers synonyms and antonyms for any highlighted text, and will even show alternative ways to phrase a multi-word selection. It understands gender, number, and conjugation, so its suggestions are usually accurate. The icing on the cake: these text-substitution tools work in both English and Spanish.

WriteRight will help spice up your writing, and there’s no better time to try it out since it’s on sale for $3, which is 30% off the normal price.

Leatherman Mako Ti Bike Tool

Leatherman Mako Ti Bike Tool

The Leatherman Mako Ti Bike Tool, made from aerospace-grade titanium, packs several bike repair tools into a small, light package. It comes with everything listed below:

  • A variety of box wrenches: 8mm, 9mm, 10mm, 15mm, and 16mm
  • 14 and 15g spoke wrenches
  • 5mm and 6mm Allen heads
  • #2 Phillips head
  • T25 Torx
  • Bottle opener (it’s not exactly a bike repair tool, but may come in handy on the trail)
  • Lanyard holder

Its neoprene inserts carry up to four driver bits of your choice, allowing you to customize the tool to best suit your bike. The whole thing weighs in at 19 grams and is tougher than nails too. Be sure to check out this Amazon reviewer’s tips on getting the most out of the Mako Ti.

The Mako Ti bike tool is $29 on Amazon.

CHECK IT OUT Find more: Biking, Tools

Paprika Recipe Manager for iOS

Paprika Recipe Manager for iOS

For a long time, my go-to recipe manager was Evernote. Then, it was Basil for iPad. It’s been a while since that switch, but the limitation of Basil being iPad-only (amongst a few other quibbles) has finally started wearing on me, so I’ve been looking for another replacement.

I should’ve known that our sister site The Sweet Setup had already compared recipe apps for iOS. Their top pick was Paprika, which also has an iPhone component (sold separately). I’m still in the process of manually transferring my recipes over from Basil, but Paprika is already growing on me.

Aside from managing and organizing recipes on multiple devices, I’m loving the way it forms grocery shopping lists from recipes I intend to cook. The TSS review noted this as well:

“When viewing the Grocery List, similar items are consolidated (i.e. if one recipe calls for one egg and another two, your grocery list will have 3 eggs) [...] And, as expected, the Grocery List allows you to check off items as you purchase them.”

If you’d like to try out Paprika for yourself, the iPad app and iPhone app are each $5. There’s also a $20 Mac version if you want the most robust option available.

Mercer Hell’s Handle Fish Spatula

Mercer Hell’s Handle Fish Spatula

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the best tool in my kitchen is my cast iron skillet. My cheap metal spatula kind of sucks though, so I’ve been on the lookout for something better. Thankfully, The Sweethome did the leg work for me by testing a bunch of spatulas and naming the Mercer Hell’s Handle fish spatula ($23) as their top pick.

Despite its name, this spatula isn’t just for flipping fish—it works just as well with burgers, steaks, stir-fry, cookies, casseroles, lasagna, and more. The combination of its shape, thinness, and flexibility allows it to wriggle underneath foods without disfiguring them, but it’s also strong enough to lift relatively heavy foods with no problem.

As The Sweethome notes, you might want to pair the Mercer fish spatula with the LamsonSharp Easy-Entry turner ($16) if you enjoy smashing foods (such as burgers and grilled cheese), or if you ever use your spatula to cut up a pan of brownies. The latter is better designed for those types of things.

CHECK IT OUT Find more: Food, Home, Kitchen

‘The Hare & The Flying Tortoise’ Collection by Gnome & Bow

‘The Hare & The Flying Tortoise’ Collection by Gnome & Bow

“What if bags could be more? What if bags could tell stories?”

This is the question Quanda Ong asked himself in May 2013, when he quit his banking job to found fashion company Gnome & Bow. This mindset led him to develop an imaginative brand that focuses on making great bags and other accessories that use clever, subtle details to tell a story.

'The Hare & The Flying Tortoise' Collection by Gnome & Bow

After months of designing and prototyping, he’s finally ready to put The Hare and the Flying Tortoise collection into production. The collection consists of a folio, a briefcase, a duffel, a backpack, a cardholder, a card sleeve, a billfold wallet and a bracelet. The bags and folio are available in three styles (not just camo as pictured above).

Each item is made from top-notch, durable materials—such as full-grain leather and 100% cotton twill—and you’ll find the hare/tortoise story on nearly all of them.

To get this project off the ground, he has turned to the Pozible crowdfunding platform. They’ve already reached 2/3 of their funding goal, and there are still 24 days to go. The various backer reward tiers earn you items from the collection at discounted prices, so now is your chance to get in on some awesome stuff before it goes to market.

‘The Way to Go’ by Kate Ascher

‘The Way to Go’ by Kate Ascher

If you’re the kind of person that likes to know how the infrastructure all around you works, then you’re gonna love Kate Ascher’s books.

In 2007′s The Works: Anatomy of a City, she showed us the myriad factors that keep a city like NYC running every day. You find out all sorts of interesting things: how electricity makes its way from the power plant to your home outlet, how traffic lights are coordinated, how the mail gets processed, and a lot more. These facts are accompanied by excellent illustrations that even a kid can understand.

And now, she has just released a new book called The Way to Go: Moving by Sea, Land, and Air that explores the world of transportation. This time around, you get to learn how helicopters actually fly, how planes and ships navigate, what keeps bridges from falling apart, what happens when lightning strikes a plane, the way airports manage local airspace, and much more.

Just like the last book, The Way to Go is chock-full of rich illustrations. If you need an example, Slate has an excerpt you can check out. As you will see, these are great reads for curious people young and old.

The Way to Go is available from Amazon for $26, and only as a hardcover. The Works: Anatomy of a City is a $14 paperback.

CHECK IT OUT Find more: Books, Travel

Sean McCabe’s ‘Learn Lettering’ Classes

Sean McCabe’s ‘Learn Lettering’ Classes

Sean McCabe, the guy who designed the awesome ‘Influence the World’ poster (amongst many other things) has put together a set of video courses to help you become a hand-lettering artist yourself.

In these videos, Sean shows you how to craft a hand-lettered composition from start to finish, including lots of tips on technique and style. In the more advanced lessons, he talks about how you can turn your newfound lettering skills into a business.

There are three course levels to choose from, based on how much you want to get out of these lessons:

  • Starter: 1 course, 5 videos ($29)
  • Intermediate: 3 courses, 17 videos ($79)
  • Master: 10 courses, 50 videos ($249)

Head over to Sean’s classes page for more details about the contents of each course level.

‘On Writing Well’ by William Zinsser

‘On Writing Well’ by William Zinsser

William Zinsser’s On Writing Well—much like The Elements of Style and Stephen King’s On Writing—is one of those books that gets recommended to all writers sooner or later. And for good reason.

Zinsser has been in the writing business a loooong time (nearly 70 years, in fact). He’s taught classes and workshops, worked as a journalist, and authored nearly 20 books on a variety of topics. When he gives writing advice it’s best to listen up, and On Writing Well is chock-full of that advice.

Where The Elements of Style comes across as dry and stuffy, On Writing Well is warm and inviting. Sure, Zinsser provides some concrete rules to abide by, but he also admits that it’s okay for an experienced writer to break those rules sometimes.

On Writing Well is available from Amazon in paperback form ($9) and as a Kindle edition ($8.50).

CHECK IT OUT Find more: Books, Writing

Safety 1st Finger Pinch Preventer

Safety 1st Finger Pinch Preventer

This is one of those things I wish I’d known about sooner. My 2yo son has a habit of closing house doors a little too roughly, and this whole time we could’ve been using the Safety 1st Finger Pinch Preventer as a precautionary measure.

It can be fitted on the hinge or knob side of a door, preventing those horrible finger pinches toddlers inevitably forget about. When not in-use, it can simply be hung from a doorknob for easy access later.

A two-pack of these pinch preventers is $9, while a four-pack is $15. Big thanks goes to Marco Arment for mentioning them in his recent toddler stuff review.

CHECK IT OUT Find more: Home, Kids

Featured Sponsor: 22Slides, a Simple Portfolio Website Builder

Featured Sponsor: 22Slides, a Simple Portfolio Website Builder

22Slides is a simple portfolio website builder created by a photographer and long-time shawnblanc.net (and more recently, Tools & Toys) reader.

Sideways-scrolling image galleries, full-screen photos, great search engine and mobile optimization, custom domain names, great image quality… yadda yadda yadda, you already know this stuff.

The bottom line is that we can help make a great portfolio website with probably a lot less effort than you’d expect. And, we’re a surprisingly small business, probably a lot like yours. We should stick together.

We’d be honored if you kept 22Slides in mind the next time you encounter someone in need of a good portfolio website.

Try 22Slides for free.

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Our thanks to 22Slides for sponsoring the RSS feed this week.

Bholsa iPhone Sleeve + Wallet

Bholsa iPhone Sleeve + Wallet

Bholsa is a small Portuguese shop that makes lots of felt, anti-pilling, water-resistant cases for various devices. This sleeve+wallet combo, which features two front slots for cards and bills, is available for iPhone 5/5s and iPhone 4/4s. It looks great, protects your iPhone, and may save you the trouble of carrying a separate wallet.

Available on Etsy for $18.50.

11+ Sound 1 Bluetooth Speakers

11+ Sound 1 Bluetooth Speakers

The Sound 1 by 11+ are a beautiful set of Bluetooth speakers that won’t break the bank. A lot of thought has gone into their design and packaging, as you can see in Andrew Kim’s review on Minimally Minimal.

The bottoms of both speakers are cut at an angle so that the speakers tilt toward you for better audio projection. Underneath each speaker is a magnetic post, which allows the speakers to be attached together with their cords neatly tucked in the middle. While attached this way, the whole thing can be wrapped up in a special carrying case that resembles a sushi roll. Sounds odd, but really it looks rather nice.

11+ Sound 1 Bluetooth Speakers

The set has an average battery life of about 20 hours, and is rechargeable via USB. These speakers aren’t going to please any audiophiles, but they’re decent for the price and their beautiful simplicity will add a pleasant touch to your listening space.

$85 at Leibal.

CHECK IT OUT Find more: Audio

Monster Outlets to Go 4-Outlet Power Strip

Monster Outlets to Go 4-Outlet Power Strip

As any seasoned traveler knows, it isn’t always easy to find enough power outlets to charge your various devices. It’s also not very economical to carry an entire power strip around in your bag.

This is where the Monster Outlets to Go 4-Outlet Power Strip comes in handy, despite it’s overly long name. It sports four outlets (two on each side) in a single portable package. Compact enough to toss in your bag, and maybe even your pocket in a pinch. The power cord can be folded over and plugged into one of the unit’s own outlets for easy storage.

Such a useful little thing to keep around if you travel a lot, and it’s only $9.50 on Amazon.

Half-Pint Leather Jar Sleeve

Half-Pint Leather Jar Sleeve

Matt Pierce runs the blog/shop Wood&Faulk, where he tinkers and experiments with various ideas for leather items. Sometimes those experiments turn into actual products, which is the case with the half-pint leather jar sleeve.

Made of English bridle leather, these sleeves are designed to fit over half-pint mason jars. Drinking hot beverages out of jars has come back in style, and Matt’s sleeve will keep your hands from getting scalded if you decide to hop on that train. They look pretty cool too, which is always a bonus.

Matt sells these sleeves—available in tan, chestnut, brown, and black—for $28 a pop, and each comes complete with a jar and lid, ready to go.

CHECK IT OUT Find more: Drinks
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