Three years and one month ago, the guys at Panic (one of my favorite Mac/iOS development studios) unveiled a cool project for their office: the Panic Status Board. It contained all kinds of useful and up-to-date info concerning:
- Ongoing projects (deadlines, who's working on what, etc).
- The number of support emails that are queued up for each of their apps.
- The office calendar.
- A revenue tracker.
- Even a local bus route schedule.
And what kinds of results did they see in the office after putting up the Status Board? Here's how they described it:
“Our support turnaround time is faster than it’s ever been. Just the simple act of “publicizing” those numbers — not in a cruel way, but a “where are we at as a group?” way — has kept the support process on-task and, I think, made it a bit more like a video game. (It helps that when all the boxes are at “zero”, a virtual bottle of champagne appears on-screen, and a physical one is likely removed from the fridge.)”
Fast-forward a few years to this past Monday, when Panic announced via Twitter that they would be releasing a brand-new app this week. They also added a cryptic little image to the row of iOS apps on their site.
I was excited enough just from the announcement alone, feeling anxious to try the new thing from these guys, but then later that night I received an unexpected email from Cabel Sasser, giving me early access to the release candidate! I've never been given beta access to something so high-profile before, so of course I had to check it out, right?
As you can probably guess by now, it's an iPad version of the Panic Status Board, and boy is it beautiful.
In his email, Cabel listed off several notable features about the app, but this one in particular caught my eye:
”Best of all, Status Board has one of the best setup assistants you'll ever see. I'm not joking.”
He wasn't too far off. When you first open the app, you're greeted with some quirky-but-friendly elevator music and a "manual" that guides you through a few pages of basic setup.
Allowing access to my location, calendars, and Twitter accounts was as easy as tapping 'OK' a few times, but I had to sign into an IMAP account rather than simply giving it access to my email accounts. Odd.
After completing the basic setup, I was taken to the actual Status Board screen, where a few default modules were already in use: time, weather, upcoming calendar events, etc. Here's what it looked like after I fiddled around a bit:
Editing each panel is pretty simple. Just tap on the little gear icon at the upper left and then tap a module to edit it. Editing looks like this:
Any of those icons on the bottom dock can be dragged up into the grid and placed wherever you like, then resized to a certain extent by dragging on the little corner markers. Some nice touches are the little sounds and bouncing animations used when entering edit mode or tapping on the dock icons.
The first six "Instant" icons (Clock, Weather, Calendar, Email, Twitter, and News Feed) are simple to configure in various ways, while the last three "Pro" modules (Graph, Table, and DIY) require some external tinkering and a server to host CSV, JSON, or HTML files. These are where the most interesting and personalized graphs/charts can be created.
Some example uses for the Instant modules include: tracking how many emails you get each day, displaying follower counts for Twitter, listing upcoming events, scrolling through news stories from various sources (including any RSS feeds you add), etc.
Possibilities for the Pro modules are nigh endless. I imagine one popular use will be analytics for web traffic (Mint) or budgets/expenses (different Mint).
Note: Before moving anything into place , you should decide on a preferred iPad orientation; portrait or landscape (I chose portrait). Once you have everything in place, the panels dont really convert well upon turning the iPad over; they'll be all shifted around and spaced differently than how you set them.
Each module also seems to have its own specific parameters for how large or small it can become, which somewhat limits their flexibility in my mind, but this doesn't leave me with a negative impression or anything.
While in edit mode, you can tap the buttons at the top right to access other options:
- The monitor button toggles the External Display function. Your Status Board can be shown on an external monitor using AirPlay or a video cable. From what I understand, the ability to do so will require a separate in-app purchase, but details on pricing are unavailable at this point.
- The second button is a toggle between 'iPad' and 'HDTV' modes. HDTV mode just opens more space on your grid for extra modules. Since this causes modules to appear shrunken on your iPad screen, I'm guessing the title is literal and that this is meant to be used when outputting to a large external display.
- The last button allows you to share your Status Board via email (which shows a screenshot of your board gift-wrapped with a ribbon), or send some feedback directly to the guys at Panic.
To remove any modules, you can simply drag them off-screen and they'll disappear.
After playing with this for a couple days, I'm left with a few thoughts. For one thing, I just can't state enough how gorgeous and easy to use this app is. Nothing about the setup or UI has felt too difficult to deal with, and it's especially pretty on my Retina iPad.
That being said, I can't say this app has a clear, useful purpose in my life at the moment. Don't get me wrong, this could definitely be useful for small teams of people who collaborate on projects or share an office together. It's just not for a single individual like myself that isn't constantly looking at calendars or weather reports, and who doesn't own a business that needs to track sales trends.
If they could somehow get this information onto the iPad's lock screen, that would make it much more useful for me. But as a separate app, I probably won't spend much time in it except to ogle the pretty graphics from time to time.
Another way I could see myself getting more out of the app is if I can make better use of the "Pro" modules someday. As the app inevitably grows more popular, perhaps people will begin to share their custom code snippets for those modules. I can't wait to see what interesting things people come up with. Until then, I'm afraid I won't be able to utilize the app to its full potential, which seems quite vast really.
If this kind of thing interests you, then pick up Status Board for $10 on the App Store. Just because it doesn't yet fit into my life doesn't mean it can't work for you. If nothing else, buy it just to support a fantastic group of people who always do excellent work.