MoneyBook for iPhone: iPhone Budgeting App

MoneyBook for iPhone

After a recent unfortunate computer accident — word to the wise: never allow liquids near your laptop — I have decided to go on a strict budget to recoup the costs of paying for repairs.

In my search for the best way to document my purchases and keep a close watch on my spending, I have discovered an iPhone app that has been tremendously helpful for managing my budget: MoneyBook for iPhone ($2.99 in the App Store as of this writing).

MoneyBook for iPhone

The MoneyBook iPhone app lets you input transactions (both income and expenses) and categorize them so that you can keep track of what kinds of things you are spending your money on.

The app’s main page (pictured above) displays your salary (in my case, my budget for the month), your remaining funds, and a list of your top three expense categories.

Inputting New Transaction History

MoneyBook New Transaction

To input a transaction, simply touch “New Transaction” and enter the amount of your purchase. You may also select a category and write a note about your purchase. MoneyBook has a number of default categories, which you can modify in the settings.

Viewing Your Transactions

MoneyBook All Transactions

Moneybook lets you view your transaction history in several ways. You can view the current month’s transactions in the Transactions section, where your latest purchases are displayed by date, including the categories, notes and monetary amounts. These transaction items can also be edited.

The History section of the MoneyBook app displays your transactions in the same way, except that you can view your transaction history from past months.

MoneyBook Graph

The third and most interesting way to view your transactions is in the bar graph, which you can pull up by reorienting your iPhone on its side (landscape) when in the Transactions section. The bar graph shows you how much money you have spent per category in the current month. This is useful for narrowing down what types of things you spend the most money on.

You might find, for example, that you have been spending more money eating out than on groceries, and then you can adjust your budget accordingly.

Recurring Transactions

MoneyBook Recurring Transactions

Another great feature of the MoneyBook iPhone app is the ability to set recurring transactions, for example rent, cell phone bill and other regular monthly transactions.


I have tried other budgeting apps in the past, but they were either too simple or too complicated to use. MoneyBook for iPhone, on the other hand, includes the right set of helpful features (modifiable categories, good summaries of my transaction history, recurring transactions, etc.) in an easy-to-use interface that has served me well in my recent attempt to better manage my finances.

Going forward, I plan to make my financial security a top priority, and the $3 MoneyBook app will be an essential tool for helping me attain that goal.

If you are serious about saving money and budgeting your earnings, the MoneyBook iPhone app can seriously help.

Have you used MoneyBook for iPhone? What iPhone app do you use to help you stay on budget?

App Store Updates That Remove Functionality: Unfair Business Practice?

Shazam No Longer Free

First, it was the Pandora Radio app, which added annoying audio advertisements in an App Store update. Then, after updating the Shazam app this past summer, I recently learned that the app now becomes obsolete after five uses (per month) and forces you to pay $5 and upgrade in order to restore its functionality. That’s what you get for being an early adopter, I guess.

Typically, when you think of an update, you expect features to be added to your apps. Occasionally, though, companies are updating apps to remove — rather than add — functionality from apps.

I expect some people will say the company has the right to do whatever they want, especially because it’s a free app. I agree. However, is this sound business practice? It’s certainly a great way to piss off — or at least annoy — your most loyal users.

It is the classic bait and switch — they advertise the product as free and unlimited, then swipe your privileges away and force you to pay in order to maintain the features you once enjoyed for free. As one user in a forum thread discussing the issue asked, “How do I know that I won’t be required to pay more to keep using their product in the future?”

In a TechCrunch post yesterday, digital business strategist David Dalka criticized this same kind of behavior among social networks:

It is time for the web community to stand up and shout that they are sick and tired of constant terms of service changes, privacy changes, steps backward in usability that degrade our mutual experience, comfort level with the sites we use and our enjoyment of the web.

Just as social networks are increasingly taking advantage of users with constant terms of service changes, App Store app makers are doing the same. Sure, no one is going to take away these businesses’ operating licenses, but it’s a good way to hurt the brand image.

What do you think? Is this unethical behavior? Should app makers show more respect to their early adopters or are they perfectly entitled to pull the proverbial rug out from under their users’ feet with App Store updates that remove functionality?

Prowl Manages Your iPhone Push Notifications, But There’s a Catch…

Prowl for iPhone

In a recent post, I described how the LockInfo app lists recent push notifications on the lock screen of my jailbroken iPhone. LockInfo fixes one of the major flaws in the iPhone operating system: the lack of a notification handling system. In the default iOS operating system, if you get one push notification popup after another, the new notification will erase the previous one. And there is no way to view notifications you recently received. I have written before about the need for a notification handling system on the iPhone, something like the page on Facebook that lets you view all of your recent notifications.

Well, I’ve recently learned of another way to receive and manage notifications on the iPhone, without the need to jailbreak. With a $3 app called Prowl, you can get notifications similar to iPhone’s default push notifications, and you can view and manage them within the Prowl app. But there is a caveat…

Prowl Depends on Growl

The Prowl app only works if you have Growl, a free software (Mac and Windows) that receives push notifications from online services like Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

Growl to Prowl

What Prowl does is push your notifications from Growl on your computer to your iPhone. Prowl handles notifications well, but there’s a problem: your computer must be online all the time. So you can receive notifications for a bunch of things, but when your computer is asleep or your ISP is down, you miss out on the notifications because Growl does not receive them. This is Prowl’s Achilles’ Heel, in my opinion. In spite of its strengths, the Prowl app is hindered by its reliance on your home or office Internet connection.

I purchased Prowl hoping to use it for my notifications and simply turn off iPhone’s default push notifications, but apparently the computer will not send notifications to my iPhone when it’s asleep (since the WiFi adapter goes to sleep, and thus there is no Internet signal).

So Prowl might be useful if you leave your work or home computer on when you leave, but I generally like to put my computer to sleep whenever I’m not using it. Energy-conscious or budget-minded people who do not like to leave their computer on all day might find Prowl to be somewhat obsolete.

If you do leave your computer on when you’re away from your desk, then Prowl could be useful. But if you are transporting your laptop in a backpack or it is on standby, then you will miss out on most of the alerts, at least until your computer is back online, but by then it might be too late.

Prowl Notifications

Prowl Notifications for iPhone

Prowl will notify you of events on your computer, like a completed download, updates to Firefox or its add-ons, and updates from web services like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. As noted above, most of these notifications require your computer to be online in order for them to be sent from Growl to Prowl.

However, Prowl supports certain web services that will send you notifications when your computer is offline, but the list seems limited to Twitter, Google Voice and USPS updates.

Prowl notifications look just like iPhone’s default notifications, with the only difference being that you can see your recent notifications listed in the app. In the Prowl app, you’ll see a brief summary of your notifications. This might be sufficient, except that I would like to be able to touch my notifications and go directly to the relevant app, which you can’t do.

You can, however, set certain notifications to redirect to certain apps when you get a popup. So if you get a notification from Twitter, you can set it to open the Echofon app, for example.


If you’re looking for a notification handling solution, Prowl can be helpful in certain circumstances, like when you are taking a break at work and want to stay informed of events on your computer, such as completed downloads, incoming Skype or Google Voice calls, or warnings that your site is down.

Otherwise, it is generally unreliable as a notification handling solution since it requires your computer to be turned on in order to send important notifications. Although some web services will send notifications to Prowl without the need for an Internet connection, Prowl only supports a limited amount of these web services. Furthermore, push notifications from iPhone apps that are unsupported by Growl or Prowl cannot be sent to Prowl and listed in the app.

There is always the option to receive the default iPhone push notifications in conjunction with Prowl, but there is unfortunately little you can do to unify all of your notifications in one place consistently, unless you have a jailbroken iPhone. Prowl is a step in the right direction, but it does not quite resolve iPhone’s notification handling problem.

Mind Mapping on iPad

As someone who uses the iThoughts mind mapping app on my iPhone, and as a user of FreeMind on my computer, I can’t help but imagine each time I make a mind map how amazing it must be to do mind mapping on an iPad.

Today, I looked it up. And I’m not the only one who thinks mind mapping on the iPad is incredibly cool — although I have yet to try it myself.

Mind mapping expert Chuck Frey points us to the new iThoughts HD iPad mind mapping app.

iPad Mind Mapping

I would love to one day use this mind mapping app on the iPad. It’s tempting to get an iPad for this app alone. Mind mapping points to a truth I’m realizing about the iPad: That even if it is just a “big iPod Touch,” the larger form factor of the iPad can certainly have an advantage in certain scenarios, as in mind mapping.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the practice of mind mapping evolves with time on the iPad. If mind mapping becomes popular (and I think it will), developers will compete to create the best mind mapping app, and we will all benefit. A feature I would love to see on a mind mapping app is the ability to link maps together. For example, if I am working on writing a book, I would like to brainstorm the book content with one mind map, the publicity plan with another, and a newsletter series with a third map. I should then be able to LINK all these maps together in the context of a project.

The Art of Mind Mapping

From Wikipedia:

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

Mind Map on Notebook

As someone who has at times struggled to stay organized, I have found mind mapping to be a great way to plan and ease anxiety about a project. Mind mapping can boost your productivity tenfold by helping you prepare for an assignment ahead of time in a holistic manner that is much more all-encompassing than a To-Do list.

With mind mapping, you start with a central idea and then create branches, followed by more and more branches that collectively map out all the connections you can make about a project. Once you try mind mapping, you’ll get it right away and be hooked. At least, I was.

I have used mind maps to prepare presentations, plan papers, and create a newsletter that I’m currently working on — stay tuned.

The great thing about mind mapping on a flat surface like the iPad or iPhone is that it is dynamic. Unlike a mind map on a piece of paper, a mind map on the iPad lets you reorganize and edit your mind map as it grows.

Do you do any mind mapping on the iPhone or iPad? What is your favorite mind mapping app?

iGorilla App is Good Model for Donation-Based Non-Profits [App Review]

iGorilla iPhone app

iGorilla is a charitable iPhone app that lets you track the work the Virunga National Park is doing — with your donations — to save mountain gorillas in the Congo. With your $4USD App Store purchase, the park gets a $2.80 donation, and you get mobile access to field journals about the gorilla families that the park is working with.

What’s great about the iGorilla app is that in exchange for your contribution you are able to actually see what people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are doing for the gorillas, and why they need your support.

Upon downloading the iGorilla app, I began to follow the Kabirizi gorilla family. After browsing photos and biographies of the gorillas, I navigated to the Kabirizi family blog, where field workers document the plight of this endangered species. While there are exciting stories of new births, many of the stories in the blog address the harsh reality of life for gorillas in the Congo, who often get caught in snares or go missing.

The BBC reports:

The mountain gorilla population has been reduced by poaching, civil conflict, deforestation and disease. But conservation work is helping to secure the remaining 720 animals, with an estimated 211 of the great apes living in the park.

Ultimately, the Virunga National Park hopes you will feel some kind of attachment to these gorillas whose stories you carry around in your pocket that you will touch the iPhone app’s ever-present “Give” button to contribute more to the project.

The iGorilla app is an extension of the community that has emerged at, where users can interact, donate money, and take other actions to save the gorillas.

A Model for Non-Profits

iGorilla Donate

The Virunga National Parks runs a great online campaign. Their website and blog serves to document the plight of the gorillas and the work that is being done to save them, while offering visitors the chance to not only donate, but to see how their donations are put to work.

What if all non-profits developed iPhone apps to engage sympathetic people on the go? Although not the first charity-based iPhone app, iGorilla is a good model for savvy organizations that see the increasing relevance of the mobile web.

iGorilla demonstrates how iPhone apps can be used for social and ecological good. Non-profits take note.

Room for Improvement

What is sorely missing from this app is social media integration. The website gives visitors the opportunity to share blog posts, videos and pictures on Facebook and via email, but the iPhone app lacks this social sharing capability.

iGorilla Donate

It would also be great to see the park add features to give users more opportunities/reminders to donate. What if I was able to get a pop-up notification each time a post relating to my gorilla family was added? What if blog posts outlined the problem and exactly what materials are needed to fix it, then offered a chance to donate funds for these specific items. This would contribute to the transparency that the park has already cultivated on its website, where people can pitch in to specifically purchase petrol, sacks, and support for gorilla orphans as well as park rangers.

Overall, I am glad to see this charitable organization taking their message to the App Store and using the iPhone as a tool for social good. I hope to see more non-profits follow suit.

TomTom for iPhone Review [iPhone GPS App Review]

TomTom iPhone GPS App

The TomTom GPS app is the first navigation app I’ve used on my iPhone other than Maps. With turn-by-turn orientation, voice navigation and location-based features, TomTom is a definite upgrade. But there are some weaknesses to consider before you shell out $70 in the App Store for this iPhone GPS app. Continue reading my TomTom for iPhone review to learn more.

Disclosure: This app was donated to me free in exchange for a review. Sometimes I review donated products or apps that interest me. I do my best to be fair and objective. The FTC requires that I disclose my relationship with companies, and I agree that it is important to mention.

TomTom for iPhone Review

The first thing I noticed was how much more user-friendly the maps themselves are. Rather than a small blue circle on a static 2D map, TomTom shows you a big arrow that always points forward as a 3D map orients itself below. Whereas the Maps app shows you your location from a satellite’s perspective, the TomTom app allows you to see yourself as well as the road ahead at all times.

Google Maps vs TomTom

The second basic improvement over Maps is voice navigation, which helps you keep your eyes on the road as a customizable voice guides you through each turn. TomTom supports many different languages for its GPS app, including male and female voices in English, Spanish, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Italian, French, etc.

TomTom iPhone GPS App Languages

iPhone’s default Maps app is certainly lagging behind, and the TomTom GPS app beats it in the basics. But how useful is TomTom for iPhone overall? Here are the pros & cons of this iPhone GPS app, according to my review of TomTom for iPhone:

TomTom for iPhone: Pros & Cons

Things I’ve observed while using TomTom for iPhone:


  • Turn-By-Turn Navigation
  • Voice-Guided Navigation
  • A dashboard at the bottom of the app tells you the remaining time and mileage to your destination, the distance and direction of your next turn, and information about your speed.

    TomTom iPhone GPS App

  • The map can be viewed in vertical or horizontal orientation (I prefer horizontal). The default iPhone Maps app only lets you view maps vertically.
  • Nearby gas stations appear on the map, so that you can anticipate places to refill your tank as you drive. You can also locate Points of Interest like Gas Stations, Hotels & Motels, Restaurants and Parking Garages either in your area or along your route. Like the iPhone’s default Maps app, TomTom also lets you search Google for other local destinations.

    TomTom iPhone Points of Interest

  • A music control panel can be enabled to allow you to control your iPod as it plays in the background.

    TomTom iPhone GPS App Music Controls

  • TomTom lets you avoid toll roads if you choose.


  • Entering addresses on TomTom is, quite frankly, a pain in the a**. Instead of just letting you enter the address in full, TomTom makes you set the city, then the street name on a subsequent page, followed by the house number on yet another page. That is way too many steps to enter an address. And because the city, street name and house number are entered separately, you can’t simply copy and paste an address into TomTom. This is a serious limitation of this app, in my opinion.

    Entering a destination address in the TomTom app is a 4-step process:

    TomTom for iPhone Address Input

  • No Google Earth view. TomTom offers 3d and 2d graphical maps, but it does not let you view the earth from a satellite like you can with Google Maps.
  • Steep price point. $70 is not pocket change for most people. TomTom also offers a real-time traffic service for $20 per year. If Google introduces its turn-by-turn navigation for Maps on the iPhone, then this high price could be hard to justify unless TomTom adds premium innovations to outcompete Google.
  • When you pinch to zoom out on a map, you can’t see street names on the map. Fail.
  • The clock is not visible within the TomTom app. If you have a clock on your dashboard this is no problem, but if you’re not in your car and you rely on your iPhone for the time, then you’ll need to exit the app.

What did you think of this TomTom for iPhone review? Do you use TomTom for iPhone or some other iPhone GPS app?