Tuesday, September 1, 2009

aList -- 3 ways to make a new list

The help window explains how to add a new list either by selecting the green plus sign button or the microphone button along the top navigation bar of the app.  Tapping the plus sign will bring up the obvious text based interface with all the necessary controls to enter a new list.  The name of the list is the only required information.  Everything can be added later in the "Edit List" interface.  In this example I type "Day Job" for the name and assigned it a category of "Tasks". I'll also be adding a list called "Night Job" (you're looking at me doing that job right now).  I will also assign it the "Tasks" category.  Lists in the same category are grouped together in the active list and archive display.

These two images show a little bit of the text entry process.  By selecting the "New Category" on the spinner you can add a new category name as shown in the next image.

If you're like me, typing on the little keyboard is not ideal.  It's spectacular for what it is, but for somebody that is a fast a touch typist it's a bit fussy.  So aList allows you to enter the name of a new list using the Android voice recognition service.

Tap the microphone image button and you can say the name of the list you want to add and the category you want it to be in.  For enter a list name, I arbitrarily process the voice recognition results into two groups.  The first group is every word spoken expect the last word.  The first group is the used as the name of the list. The last word spoken when adding a new list is used as the category.  If you have a bunch of two word or three word categories, you'll have to fix things up by typing.  (This is the first place I'll readily admit where the app could use some tweaks and improvements -- like making all the combinations of the words searching through the existing categories.  However, entering the list name is not the most useful and fun part of the voice recognition in aList.  Adding items is the best part of voice recognition and I'll explain that in a subsequent post).  In this example I said "Night" "Job" "Tasks" and sure enough, that's what pops up on the edit interface and all I have to do is click OK.

Unfortunately, in the last minute rush to submit the app to the ADC, I overlooked a couple of things.  There is a bug that causes a "force close" if you cancel the speech recognition when adding a list (but not when adding list items).  A stupid bug, but there's nothing I can do about it now.  Less egregious, but a bug none the less is the processing of the category text entry fails to detect when you type in the name of a category you already have so you can get duplicate categories.  A bug or a feature.  I think it's a bug, but I did deliberately allow duplicate list names.

The third and final way to start a new list is to import one.  The app includes ready-made lists you can import.  You can import lists from the SD Card.  A list on your SD Card can be one you create yourself in a text editor and add to your SD Card, one you get via email or download from a site or one you previously exported from the app. We'll get to all those things in due time.  For now, let's pull in the example grocery list that is included with the app.  (The movie list is fun to play with and it was a good list for testing since is has so many entries.  I don't know how useful it will be in the end.  Let me know what you think about it).  To get the grocery list do the obvious (I hope).  Bring up the options menu by tapping the menu button on your device.  Tap the import menu item and tap the plus sign next to the Groceries entry.  The list will not have any active entries.  All of the entries start out in the Archive.  Tap the green "Lists" button in the control bar at the top and switch to the Archive and start planning your shopping trip by selecting items to use them in the active list.

PS.  The more astute among you will notice that the time stamp on the phone through this sequence of screen snaps is not monotonic.  And there is a minute increment between the speech and the returned values.  That's just a coincidence.  As for the others, I had to stop and fix bugs in between don't you know.  Too bad I didn't notice the problem canceling the speech recognition.

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