I have recently become interested in finding a tool that can search my corner of the web on my iPhone and Mac; a Spotlight for the many things outside of Spotlight’s reach.
Did I get that link via email, or was it from my friend’s Facebook wall post? Was that great quote in a tweet or an article I saved in Pocket? I don’t have to ask these questions very often anymore, thanks to these two apps.
Favs is an iPhone and Mac app that collects your favorite stuff from a wide varity of services including, but not limited to: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Google Reader, GitHub, Delicious, Pinboard, Instapaper, Pocket, Stack Overflow, YouTube, Vimeo, and more. Click the star/like/favorite/whatever button at these services, and Favs will collect that content and make it searchable on your device.
Fav does have one perk or drawback, depending on your use for such an app. Where possible, it allows you to add accounts without requiring a password. For example, if your Twitter, Pinboard, Dribbble, Pocket, and Zootool accounts are public, you can just toss in your username because the things you mark as favorite are also public.
However, other accounts like Facebook, Delicious, Google Reader, Instagram, and Instapaper require your username and password because of certain rules or requirements each service enforces. This isn’t Favs fault, though. It has to abide by the same login rules as everyone else.
Still, Favs works really well as a big, automated bucket for all the stuff I publicly thumbs-up across many of the services I use. But there’s enough flexibility here for you to use it as a light “read later for everything” app (though it doesn’t do offline wizardry), or a scrapbook for your favorite stuff around the web.
Over time, Cue for iPhone and web has become one of my favorite apps. It has a similar purpose as Favs, though with a different focus and more power, depending on what you’re looking to do. Unlike Favs, Cue is an app that is powered by a freemium service, and I’ll explain that in a minute.
Like Favs, one of Cue’s primary purposes is to be a big, searchable bucket for lots of your stuff, especially things that Spotlight does not and likely cannot otherwise peer into (especially if you want to access this stuff on your iPhone, which I do). However, Cue focuses a little less on social media and more on productivity tools like email, calendaring, and business-centric communication.
A handful of the usual suspects are here—Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, and Pinboard. But while Cue does not (yet?) support some services like Dribbble, Flickr, and Zootool, it does support many others like: Gmail, iCloud mail, Google Calendar and Docs, on-device contacts, Google Contacts, Evernote, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Reader, Reddit (yep, seriously), Yammer, Salesforce, Highrise, Basecamp, and Campfire.
Another perk or drawback, again, depending on how you want to use the service, is that Cue is not meant to be an inbox where you view all your activity from today, this week, or this month. Instead, you get a smart search box interface for finding something you need. There are some handy features here, though, to make Cue better than just a simple search box. Notably, it understands the difference between things like emails, files, social media posts, and people, allowing for some useful filtering.
Cue’s other primary feature is being a daily planner for your email, contacts, and calendars. A day view can collect your scheduled events and the people involved with them, offering some great integration. For example, if you search for a person or tap through to them from your day view, Cue will collect things like their latest emails and social posts, but also tell you the first time you communicated with them and show any other events across all your services (including Facebook) they’re involved in.
Now, Cue is a freemium app and service, which means the app and many account types are free. You can even unlock a handful of account types like Delicious, Tumblr, and Google Reader by inviting friends to join. Cue only asks you to pay up for a monthly ($5) or yearly ($50) if you want to add Evernote, Yammer, Salesforce, Highrise, Basecamp, or Campfire accounts. I subscribed earlier this year and have been a happy customer.
The right kind of ‘everything bucket’
Three years ago, Alex Payne made a great case against “everything buckets” like Evernote, Yojimbo, Together, and DEVONthink. If he were to revisit the topic, I wonder whether Favs and Cue would get exemptions.
I agree to a degree with Payne’s core criticism—that apps work best with structured data. But I think there is some wiggle room, which is why, in my experience, the approach these two apps use works really well (and why I’m a generally happy, paying Evernote customer). Favs and Cue collect your activity and data across a variety of services, but they maintain most of the useful barriers that create context and purpose.
Favs allows you to view your favorite items according to each individual service, but sometimes it’s really handy to tap the “All” section and view everything in one big stream. Cue collects everything into one big bucket, but it offers search and filtering tools to quickly zone in on the item or type of item you need.
There is also a lot to be said about the passive nature of these apps. The ability to participate as a native in your social networks, schedule events with your coworkers like normal, and email (like a boss, if you must) without so much as manually adding a BCC forward address significantly lowers the barrier to making these apps useful. Just do what you’re already doing, and Favs and Cue will make your regular activity even more useful.