CoPilot Live

For all of the App Store restrictions, the lack of proper turn by turn sat nav software seemed to cause the most grief. The iPhone was more than capable of running the software but Apple restricted the sale of turn by turn navigation software until OS 3.0 was launched. Alongside that announcement was the news that Tom Tom would be coming to the iPhone with a software and hardware add-on. Many have waited for Tom tom due to it’s history and market share but I plumped for CoPilot Live, partly due to it’s good reviews and partly it’s price of £25.99, less than half that of Tom Tom.

Even though the price is excellent this isn’t an under featured sat nav. The features include (yes, lazy cut and paste from their website):

  • Full spoken turn-by-turn voice directions
  • Detailed street maps of UK and Ireland with full UK post codes stored on your iPhone
  • Clear 3D and 2D driving views with SmartZoom™ speed-variable zoom and street names
  • Navigate to a house number, street, intersection or address book contact
  • Automatic portrait and landscape display switching
  • Comprehensive multi-stop pre-trip planning and preview
  • Route optimizer works out the best way around multiple stops
  • Intelligent navigation provides guidance in tunnels and underpasses
  • Automatic day/night mode
  • Navigate to thousands of Points of Interest
  • Lane indicator & CoPilot ClearTurn™ provides a more realistic view of motorway exits and junctions
  • Real Signpost display matches real-life signs
  • LiveLink™ location sharing and messaging: keep track of your CoPilot friends, live on-screen!
  • Live 5 day weather forecast for your location or destination
  • Roadside Assistance helps you contact your breakdown company and tell them your location
  • Huge range of customization features to suit the way you travel
  • Customized trip status displays, including eta, distance remaining and more

CoPilotNot a bad list of features but does it work? I tried it last week when I was away on business and driving between Bristol and Bath I had no issues – in fact I was really quite impressed. Once the GPS had locked onto my location I entered the postcode of my destination and CoPilot quickly worked out a route. One issue I do have is that you can’t easily see an overview of your route. You can move around the map and zoom out but it would be nice to see the total route before commencing your journey. For the first journey CoPilot recommended a different route from normal – I trusted the normal route and pleasingly CoPilot recalculated in 2-4 seconds which I was happy with. I read some comments on the App Store reviews that people thought this was slow but I don’t see it as an issue.

The rest of the journey went really well – clear instructions on both vocally and on the screen and the GPS positioning was excellent. Chris also picked up CoPilot and felt that when the car was stopped, CoPilot would ‘shut-down’ and would take 10-20 seconds to start working again once he had started moving. I haven’t noticed this issue but others are reporting it and it will allegedly be addressed in the next CoPilot update.

Other journeys have worked really well. I found the controls a bit odd though. Unlike other app’s on the iphone this doesn’t really take advantage of iPhone controls. It feels like a sat nav – big buttons and a non qwerty keyboard (fix in next version). I’m mixed on the looks – it’s functional but isn’t the best looking. Looking at Tom Tom they seemed to have delivered an ap that looks and feels like other iPhone app’s. Time will tell which design approach makes most sense.

CoPilot 2Despite reservations with the menu’s, I think the map graphics are excellent. Clear in either 3D or 2D modes with support for different colourings and night modes. No complaints there. The audio is also very clear with six different voice options. The maps display Points of Interest and they can also be selected and navigated to. One update for the next version is the ability to call a Point of Interest like a hotel or museum which will be handy. One large omission is speed camera’s which CoPilot’s rivals do have. Again this will be addressed in the next update. It looks like CoPilot decided to get this release into the App Store as quick as possible ahead of Tom Tom. Ultimately this is a smart move as the software is more than capable on this release and at this price is an absolute steal. There are also some Live services included – you can see friends on the maps as long as they let you follow them, see a 5 day weather forecast for current location and also contact emergency services with your current location. One Live Service which will be a paid for (I guess monthly subscription) is traffic reports, similar to other sat nav systems.

After using CoPilot for two weeks I have no regrets picking this over Tom Tom or the other sat nav app’s available on the iPhone. CoPilot works well, it’s location searching hasn’t failed me yet and the software has a lot of features that work well. It also removes the need for separate sat nav hardware and at £26 that a bargain thats hard to ignore. Hopefully the 1.1 update will address the shortfalls mentioned above and there is one niggle that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere – will map updates cost money i.e. yearly updates? Only time will tell.

To see a comparison of all the iPhone sat nav app features, see this comparison chart.

LittleSnapper 1.5 and Ember

There are no shortage of screenshot snapping tools on the Mac but one of the best I’ve used is LittleSnapper from Realmac Software which has recently been updated to version 1.5. LittleSnapper makes it easy to snap screenshots and websites in a variety of ways but more importantly it helps you organise your snaps into collections for easy retrieval.

The capture engine has been re-written for 1.5 and allows for full screen and timed captures. The timed capture is a welcome addition as previous to 1.5 it wasn’t included which was frustrating. You can also snap an area instead of the full desktop and also a window. One nice feature is holding down shift when selecting multiple windows will create a separate snapped image for each window. Hold down cmd when selecting windows and only one image containing the selected windows will be created. The webpage snapping doesn’t just snap what is currently visible – LittleSnapper will snap the full web page which is great for keeping screenshots of inspirational sites as you surf. View the webpage within LittleSnapper and you can select individual elements of the page to snap which is far easier than selecting an area.

Your screenshots and images are held in a local library. Within the library you can organise by type (mockup, illustration, screenshot etc), folders and collections. Each image can be tagged too which makes it easy to find an image in a large library. I have a few collections for blog and website designs that I like and also for podcast album art. One tip is that you can move the LittleSnapper library to a disk location of your choosing. I’ve moved mine to my Dropbox account which means I can share my library across mac’s.

LittleSnapper's editing tools, with highlighting and blurred sections used on the image
LittleSnapper's editing tools, with highlighting and blurred sections used on the image

The editing tools allow you to crop the snap’s further and also add non-destructive edits like text, boxes, arrows and also the ability to highlight and blur out area’s. These are all available in one easy to use toolbar and are simple but quick to use.

You can export snap’s into local folders, an FTP account, Flickr or to Ember, the partner service to LittleSnapper. At first I dismissed Ember (formally called QuickSnapper) as a poor man’s Flickr clone in that you can upload images, favourite other images, follow other Ember users and make comments on images. Nothing too ground breaking really.

Explore Ember

The difference is in the content uploaded and the collections that people are making available. The ember homepage will highlight an image liked by the developers and also give you access to popular images, recent images and also access to to groups of images via tags and collections. The screenshot above shows the homepage and also the ability of LittleSnapper to snap the whole web page, not just what’s visible via the browser.

The content is of more interest. It’s more focussed on web and application design with an abundance of great looking websites and applications being highlighted by the Ember community. Since the update I’ve found Ember to be a great go to site for design idea’s, more so than anything I’ve found on Flickr. It’s also easy to browse around the site by collections, tag’s or user and can be a real time sink.

Ember is free to use and upload to but the free account is limited to hosting three online collections and 30 uploads per month. You also see adverts while using Ember but these aren’t intrusive and for me the free account is more than enough. The pro account costs $24.99 per year and allows unlimited uploads and collections, removes the adverts and also gives you free upgrades to LittleSnapper. It’s important to note that you can use Ember without LittleSnapper and it is well worth a visit if your interested in web or application on any platform.

There are many competing screen capture tools like Skitch, Voila and Snapz Pro but I found LittleSnapper to be one of the best. Used alongside Ember it makes for a great capture and design resource.