Don’t Be Boring, Be Square!

Squareboard is a most unusual app that is a new take on organising your life. Sometimes the things we need to note down, buy, schedule or purchase just don’t fit into a neatly ordered list. Squareboard offers us a way to quickly record an item into a square, associate it with a category and add further detail or a photo.

Having each item in a square (or rectangle) allows you to get a quick overview of many tasks in a single glance. You can also freely re-arrange items using simple drag-and-drop gestures. It really is great fun and a novel way to increase your productivity. It offers the ability to group together items of similar interest and then quickly re-organise should your plans change. Take a closer look after the jump.

Like this article? Stay up to date with the latest changes by subscribing to our RSS feed or by following us either on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or App.net.

Square to Begin?

The opening screen of Squareboard is full of empty squares, with a solitary tutorial square as your only guide on how to use the application. Tapping and pinching out on the square expands the area allowing you to read more tutorial instructions. This is a really great way of getting you involved straight away with Squareboard and it’s basic functionality.

Opening screen with a simple tutorial hint

Opening screen with a simple tutorial hint

Whilst the tutorial is minimal, thankfully the user interface is simple and straightforward to work with. A tap-and-hold gesture will bring up the main dialogue window which we’ll get to in a moment, but the first thing I wanted to do was change the backdrop from the ice-cold five shades of grey to something warmer and more colourful.

Bring Me Sunshine

There are sixteen colours to choose from for the main background area and eight patterns to enhance the look and feel of the app. If Midnight Blue is a bit dark and royal for you, perhaps a little bit of Pink Lace or Sweet Orange might be more your style. These unusually-named colours add to the individual and unique presentation of Squareboard, and are delightful.

Single settings page offers various colour and pattern adjustments

Single settings page offers various colour and pattern adjustments

If you can’t make your mind up about which colour or pattern to choose, simply select Surprise At Startup. This will enable a random colour or pattern to be chosen the next time you start the app. I liked this feature as it forced me to try colour combinations that I wouldn’t normally choose, and it gave a feeling of freshness to what is otherwise a very plain user interface.

There are two fonts to choose from, which is a bit limited, and I found the condensed font to be harder to read on the iPad’s screen. What is more helpful is the Tap-On Square Size option that sets the default size of new squares. Adding photos into these can brighten up any board with a splash of colour or an image that represents a key task or project element.

Highlights for the High Lights

You can see from the screenshot below that it is easy to highlight an item or photo to make it stand out. Highlights work best with higher-contrast colour differences, but all are useful and clear. As well as having square shapes with images and text displayed, you can also create regular rectangle shapes for longer text items or landscape photos, for instance.

Items can be highlighted and grouping looks great in some of the higher contrast colours

Items can be highlighted and grouping looks great in some of the higher contrast colours

For squares that are smaller than your text length, Squareboard will wrap as much text as it can in the space available, but the designated icon (top left) is always visible, allowing you to group similar items even without seeing the full box content. This makes choosing your square category important so that, even if you can’t see a full shopping list, for example, you know at least that you have a group of reminders to purchase items.

What’s It All About?

Tap and hold on any square to open up a pane with two text boxes and an array of helpful icons around to service your needs. On the left pane, you can add a simple title that will be displayed on the main screen, so think carefully about the length of this text so that you get a quick and easy-to-see reference word displayed on the main page.

Detailed item description allows the addition of comments, photos and a category choice

Detailed item description allows the addition of comments, photos and a category choice

On the right pane, you can add much more detail. There are no formatting options to add bullet points, italics or other helpful style features to your text, but you do have a free-flow text box that will accommodate a large chunk of useful text. When you are done, simply press the Tick icon, or Cross icon to cancel.

You can hit the Bin icon to delete the square altogether, but it did become a little frustrating not being able to delete squares directly from the main board. If you fully populate the board with 80 elements, this could get a little tedious.

Photos can be added with ease, and show when you tap on each square

Photos can be added with ease, and show when you tap on each square

Tapping the photo icon, bottom right, allows the addition of any image from your photo stream. To add an item from a recent news item about icebergs, I took a screen shot of the berg to my photo stream, then opened up Squareboard to add the app. An image cut-and-paste function would not go amiss here, perhaps also with the ability to add external web links.

Sounds and Colour

There is a reassuring soft click sound heard when moving items around the screen, and a gentle salt-cellar shake sound when touching an item to open. The sounds are optional, but are either on or off. Adjusting the volume control whilst using the app does not alter the volume of the app at all.

Items can be highlighted, but the system sounds can't be adjusted

Items can be highlighted, but the system sounds can’t be adjusted

Overall this is a great application to use, although it may not appeal to everyone’s taste or sensibility. If you are looking for a more artful way to organise your time or project, then it is well worth a look. It still retain much structure and isn’t a free-form doodling tool or mind-mapping aid, but it does pinpoint a niche area of structured yet artful organisation that is sure to appeal to some.


Summary

An innovative app for organising your tasks and time in a colourful fashion. Get away from linear lists and plain points with a delightful square or two.

8
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow