Macworld's 2011 App Gems Awards

App Gems: Top communication apps

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Communication starts long before you open your mouth. You first have to come up with an idea, put it into words, and then present it to the world at large. Our top communication apps from the past year cover this process from start to finish.

Textastic Code Editor

There are a lot of good writing apps capable of handling basic writing, highlighted by previous App Gem winner Elements. But if your writing includes any sort of code, Textastic Code Editor from Alexander Blach stands out by making editing on an iPad much less painful. For starters, it offers more than 20 color themes, each of which includes syntax highlighting and document navigation for a slew of file and code types, including Markdown, HTML, XML, CSS, Perl, JavaScript, and C variants. The app’s onscreen keyboard offers an additional scrolling row for frequently-used coding characters, and a brilliant onscreen controller can be summoned at will to precisely move the cursor and quickly select ranges of text. A powerful, interactive search feature makes it easy to find and replace text, and Markdown users will love the features for previewing documents and grabbing HTML. Textastic is also connected, letting you open files from, and save them to, Dropbox, FTP, SFTP, and WebDAV servers; a built in WebDAV server lets you exchange files wirelessly with your computer, and the app offers a slew of options for sharing files with other people and apps. Even after using Textastic for several months, we’re still discovering neat features.—Dan Frakes

iThoughts HD

But what about generating ideas? We recommend you turn to the sophisticated, easy-to-use iThoughtsHD. This thoughtfully designed mind-mapping app from CMS is among the best we’ve ever tested—and not just on the iPad, but on the Mac as well. iThoughtsHD offers a number of shortcuts to help you make quick work of brainstorming sessions; once that initial work is complete, the app provides many options for formatting, manipulating, and editing your map. But, the real beauty of iThoughts HD is that you never feel that you’re sacrificing quality by creating your mind map using a tablet and not a computer.—Jeffery Battersby


Of course, ideas will only take you so far it you can’t share them with anyone. Enter Twitter, and its abundance of clients on the iOS platform. With so many fine apps to choose from, why does the iPhone-only Tweetbot from Tapbots stand out from the tweeting crowd? Because it offers a unique user experience and lots of great features. Start with a customizable interface that’s attractive and fun to use—for example, if you want to view an entire conversation, just swipe to the right any message in that conversation. In addition to the usual Twitter-client offerings, Tweetbot includes message drafts, enhanced multiple-account support, muting (of people, hashtags, or clients), notifications, username and tag auto-complete, detailed info about messages and people, Favstar integration, and more. You can choose your favorite URL-shortening, photo- and video-uploading, and read-later services, and Tweetbot can even translate tweets for you. It was also one of the first clients to incorporate the Tweet Marker service, and it’s still the only one that makes Twitter lists a front-and-center feature of your timeline. Tweetbot simply gets all the details right.—Dan Frakes

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