From the Author

Calendar Meal Planner
December 20, 2020

Version 4.0 got released today. This is a big update-- redesigned iPad navigation and a calendar meal planner with drag-and-drop functionality! I have always thought that meal planning can be made a lot simpler through drag-and-drop. It's hard to believe that MealBoard's meal planner had not been changed since the app was written 11 years ago. It worked well, but this version is a big improvement. Drag-and-drop is supported in the iPhone as well, though it can be unwieldy doing it on a small screen.

In addition, the iPad navigation was streamlined to improve usability and the app's icon got a fresh coat of paint.

Merry Christmas and here's wishing you all a healthy new year!

Recipe Scanning
August 30, 2020

Version 3.9.4 is out and this has got to be one of my favorite releases! Mainly because it adds recipe scanning capability. Now, you can scan recipe text from printed materials like cookbooks and recipe magazines.

Personally, I have found that the recipes in cookbooks tend to be better that what you can find in the web. And for good reason. It costs money to publish books, and it costs almost nothing to publish in the web. So over the years, I have relied on recipes from my treasured set of cookbooks. But there was no easy way to load these recipes into the app. I had been wanting to add recipe scanning to MealBoard. But there were challenges-- OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software was very pricey, at least the good ones. And the free ones did not work well.

This all changed when Apple added Text Recognition capability in iOS 13. Having this built-in capability allowed me to add such feature in the app. I should note, though, that there's a bit of work involved to scan recipes. You won't be able to take a single photo of the whole page and expect the app to figure out the parts of the recipe. That would be the holy grail, and I think that is still a distant future. You will need to scan each recipe part (title, ingredient list, directions) separately. So it's not as easy as importing recipes from the web, but it certainly beats typing the entire thing.

I look forward to spending a weekend scanning all my favorite recipes!

January 3, 2020

I had been working on small things that improves usability. You know that little thing the occasionally annoys you while using the app? I'm getting that fixed! Not that there's a lot of them, but this upcoming update is all about finesse. No new groundbreaking features. Just small, small things that will make the app work a bit better. Small touches that will make the app look a bit better. No new features on this one, but this is turning out to be one of my favorite updates!

10 Years in the App Store!
October 9, 2019

Today marks MealBoard's 10th year in the App Store.

What was once a small app that I planned to use for myself turned out to be a very successful app. Yes, the side income is nice, but more than anything, it's been a ton of fun! I do mainly backend work on my day job, and working on MealBoard scratches my itch to do mobile programming and gives me the opportunity to work on interesting and very cool stuff (e.g. Siri/Alexa integration, Apple Watch platform). In addition, I get to wear many hats doing this app-- designer, developer, tester, marketer, decision maker, analyst, you name it. I'll be hard-pressed to find that kind of opportunity anywhere else.

Having said all that, I think what really keeps me going is the satisfaction that I get hearing from hordes of users who love the app. To all of you, I say thank you very much.

Big Update
August 31, 2019

Version 3.8 just got released. This is a big update that took almost a year to finish. Lots of user interface improvements and under the hood changes, and it adds 2 of the most popular feature requests that I get-- text messaging and adding pantry items to the meal plan.

I have always favored small incremental updates over big, long releases. But my list of fixes and features to add had grown so long that I decided I'd do them all in one big update. So it was a grueling long period of development followed by one long QA testing cycle. Needless to say, I got it done and I hope you all like the new improvements!

Product Photos
October 21, 2018

One of the most requested features I get from users is to provide product photos. And that totally makes sense. I have found myself in countless situations where my wife would ask me to buy something and I'd end up buying the wrong item (different brand, size, flavor, etc.) Because I wasn't told about those details. Or, according to her, I flatly forgot! (you know how that goes :)) A photo would surely help.

The update that was released last week adds photos to shopping items. Tap the shopping item, tap Photo and use your camera to snap a picture. The photo gets synced across devices.

In addition to photos, the update includes a minor user interface refresh, small tweaks and a couple of bug fixes.

Recipe Importing
May 21, 2018

Since the early days of the app, recipe importing has been one of the most challenging things to get right. There's so many recipe websites out there, each using it's own format (HTML markup). And those websites constantly change. You can think of them as moving targets. I would fix the recipe importing for a particular website, only to find it broken again later due to website changes. Fixing them became a huge time sink.

So early this year, I decided that I would build a smarter recipe importing engine. Something that doesn't depend on specific HTML markups. Something that sort of understands what a recipe is, the different parts of a recipe and how all these parts relate to each other. You can call it artificial intelligence if you want. And this thing actually works! I spent 2 months developing it. And another month testing. Tested on more than 200 recipe websites, and it was a lot of work.

This new recipe importing capability got released last week. If you're not keeping tabs of the app updates, I suggest that you try importing recipes from the web. You should be able to import from most sites. It's not 100% perfect though. My estimate is that it'll work on 95% of all recipes sites. So there's still some room for improvement. Also, based on my own testing, sometimes it's not able to pick the correct recipe photo (but most of the time, it does). The app does not use image analysis, so it's not able to differentiate between a site banner and the actual recipe photo (say, a roasted chicken). If it picks the wrong photo, you'll have to manually pick the right one using the clipping tool in the app.

March 11, 2018

I just released another app update today. The most notable addition is to ability to filter recipes by multiple categories. It's one of the most requested features, and hopefully that'll help you find things much quicker!

This would be the 2nd update released in 2018, so I think I'm off to a great start! I plan do more incremental updates, as opposed to big feature updates that take almost a year to finish. That way, issues get fixed a lot quicker (not that there's a lot ) and QA testing doesn't become a monumental task.

iOS 11
October 10, 2017

I spent the last few months optimizing MealBoard for iOS 11 and the iPhone X. Getting it to work with the iPhone X was challenging due to problems created by the "notch"-- that small area at the top where the camera and the sensors are. I also chipped in some bug fixes and a few of the most requested features such as the pantry notes.

And one thing about iOS development is that APIs constantly get deprecated. So every year when a new iOS version comes along, the newly deprecated APIs add to your technical debt. Not that I have to fix it right away, but those things add up over time. This is something that I worked on in the upcoming update as well.

I'm currently testing this update and it should be ready in a couple of weeks.

Web UI Update
December 20, 2016

The web UI is turning out to be a monster to work on, and will definitely take more time than I originally thought. It's about 30% done and I stopped working on it in October so I can focus on another app update. And the update was released last week. It's a big update-- much improved recipe importing, more polished look, bug fixes and small tweaks to the UI to make the user experience just a bit better. I hope you all like it.

Also, I've been getting lots of requests for the Android version of MealBoard. I've been holding off on the Android version for a while now, mainly due to the platform's fragmentation that makes it difficult to support and maintain Android apps. But I'm taking another look at the platform. I've heard good things about the latest Android version.

Version 3.4
May 3, 2016

Version 3.4 is finally released. I hope you all find the new features useful. I had to release 2 builds after discovering performance issues that slipped through my testing. I personally think this version is a significant improvement over the previous version, and the subtle UI changes give the app more polish.

Up next I'll be working on the next version of the web UI! The current web UI was written in 2010 and is showing its age. So this next version will be a complete rewrite, designed from the ground up. I couldn't be more excited doing this. I get tons of feature requests for the web UI. I just hope this doesn't take too long to finish!

January 14, 2016

I have been working on a feature-packed release that should hopefully be available sometime next month. This release includes UI improvements on the iPhone version, and a couple of pantry features (expiration dates, inventory locations) the have long been requested. So there's quite a few new UI screens to write, and changes to the data model. Data model changes are always tricky. A single bug could potentially mess up user data. So I always do lots of QA testing on these. More testing than necessary. And that's a good thing.

What's Up?
September 8, 2015

I had been working on features that I consider not-so-critical but nevertheless essential features that should result to better user experience. These are some of the most-requested and interesting ideas that I get from customers. Features that I had been putting off for so long due to critical changes taking most of my time (such as the migration to iOS 7/8, and the migration from XML to JSON). One thing about working solo is that there is only so much development time available that it's hard to find time to work on the less critical, but interesting things. So, the last couple months of development has been really exciting for me. It reminds me of the early days when I was gradually building the feature set of the app.

Oh, and I should apologize to users who experienced the server outtage over the weekend. I recently started using a load balancer and it crashed twice under heavy load last Sunday. That was surprising, as these things are designed to handle heavy load. Nevertheless, I have replaced it with a different one. Hope this works better.

May 14, 2015

I was finally able to release the under-the-hood changes that I had been working on for a while. The app is much optimized now--runs faster and uses less memory. Users who store a large collection of recipes (more than 2000 recipes) will benefit the most. It's amazing how some of you store that many recipes! The app was originally designed to handle no more than a few hundred recipes. Major changes had to be done to fix this.

UI Refresh
December 3, 2014

The release of the bigger-screen iPhones (iPhone 6/iPhone 6+) prompted major re-work of MealBoard's screen layouts so they automatically adjust to whatever the screen size is. In addition, I decided to change the color themes to suit the UI trend that we're all seeing in iOS and Android-- flat, bright and bold colors. The result? I'm loving it! I also had my graphic designer throw in a new app icon. The latest release is truly a UI refresh. It was long overdue. This took a while to finish. Reminds me of the changes required for iOS 7. I have realized that in the past 2 years, I have spent an inordinate amount of time (total of 10 months!) updating the app due to changes brought by iOS 7 and iOS 8. That's not a productive period from the features standpoint, but it had to be done. I'm hoping for a much slower pace of iOS changes in the next couple of years. Need to focus back on the product roadmap.

Minor Update
June 20, 2014

I'm still working on the under-the-hood changes that I talked about, but I decided to release a minor update to keep the app fresh and updated. Mainly, I tweaked the UI a bit (brighter colors and replaced some of the icons). I also added a few more supported websites that have been requested. The update has been submitted to Apple and it should be available early next week.

March 4, 2014

I submitted version 2.9.5 last weekend. It includes barcode scanning (the most requested feature as of late) and a couple other convenience features. I love these types of small changes-- bigs wins for the token amount to work necessary to implement it.

Now, I have laid out the plan for the next release. And it's not a laundry list of user-requested features. Rather, I will be focusing on core, under-the-hood changes to make the app work even better. This is going to require some rewriting of the foundation of the app (I hope I don't break anything!) to make it leaner, faster and more scalable. Some users are storing 2000 or more recipes in the app and performance starts to slow down when you reach that point. Not a widespread problem but this next release should address that. I realize that feature-wise, I have added quite a lot in the past couple of years, and I'm going to take a step back, fix things, shed the app a few pounds and make it ready for the next wave of things to come. There are big plans ahead, but not before I do some housekeeping. This is going to take a while.

Backward Compatible
November 10, 2013

Finally, version 2.9.2 got released last week. The app is now optimized for iOS 7 while maintaining backward compatibility with iOS 6. I thought it was important to keep the app backward compatible, but that required a whole lot of additional work. Not only did I have to make the UI look good in both iOS versions, but also I had to test the functionality in both versions. And iOS 7 introduced changes that caused so many issues I had to pretty much fix each screen in the app. Needless to say, the changes brought by iOS 7 threw a wrench to the app's features rollout. It certainly delayed the schedule by a couple of months.

Anyway, now the app's development is back on track. This next feature coming up is a long overdue.

iOS 7
August 20, 2013

Last June at WWDC, Apple showed the upcoming version of iOS, the iOS 7. It was the first major overhaul of the iPhone UI since the iPhone debuted in 2007. There was much anticipation in the developer community. But the first time I saw it, I should say that I was initially underwhelmed. It was such a major shift from the look and feel that we have gotten used to. iOS 7 is very plain-looking, and I thought the borderless buttons were not intuitive. And the app icons in the home screen use a color palette that I would never consider using in my own app. But as I learned the reasons behind the redesign, it started to grow on me. The new iOS is all about making things cleaner and simpler. It's about making the app content be the focus and eliminating the peripheral distractions. And I think consumers will love it.

So here we are, on our way to iOS 7. The past couple of months, I have been working to transition MealBoard to iOS 7. It's not quite there yet, but I have decided to release what I've finished so far (Version 2.9.1). I believe that this update is a major improvement from a UI standpoint, and it comes with other enhancements as well. Mainly, it adds better pantry integration with the shopping list and meal plan. And it fixes the import function for a few of the supported sites. Expect the update to be available in a few days from now.

Auto-Sync Feature
April 3, 2013

Version 2.9 just got released, and this update notably adds auto-syncing capability. It took a while to do this one, just because the cloud sync process needs to be fast and efficient to support auto-syncing. So this includes lots of underlying changes especially on the server. There's still some room for improvement, but what we have now is plenty fast.

The last 3 Months...
November 18, 2012

Three months ago, I had the "fortune" of getting laid off from my day job as a result of my company cutting cost. While it's never good to lose a job, part of me was ecstatic. Why? First, I got paid in the process. But more importantly, I'll be able to work full-time on MealBoard! At least until I get another day job. And so the past three months was just tremendous! I was able to put in so much work on the app, work that would have normally taken me a year to finish. And now, all that work just got released in the App Store (MealBoard v2.8). I hope y'all enjoy the new features I have put in!

And because I've started working again, future updates won't be as big as the last two. But let me say that the app is now among the most fully-featured meal planners in the App Store.

August 29, 2012

I was able to release a flurry of updates since the iPad version. Two big features-- the in-app recipe import feature and support for multiple stores, were added along with some major UI enhancements. The most recent version is much more polished and is closer to what I had initially envisioned. Still working on a few critical features. Expect more updates to come!

iPad Version!
April 30, 2012

MealBoard is now a universal app, optimized for the new iPad! This update took almost 6 months to finish (the longest so far). Much longer than what I expected. I had something working early on but had to scrap it and do it all over again due to usability concerns (I found it confusing to use). Then, later on, memory problems were found during testing and I had to refactor some of the UI code. But alas, it is finished. The iPad version was the most requested by users and I'm quite pleased with the results. I hope you all will like it. It's still a little rough in the edges and is very much a work in progress (a couple of critical features coming up soon!), but it should work well as it is.

Version 2.4
September 1, 2011

The big update mentioned in my previous post didn't go as well as I had hoped. I added a notification feature and it broke the app's compatibility with iOS versions older than 4.0, resulting to a lot of frustrated users. I didn't have a device running iPhone OS 3 and so there was no way to test backward compatibility. Compounding the problem, I flew to Australia for a two-week vacation right after the release! Yes, not the smartest thing to do. :)

Anyway, I got back home and quickly bought a used iPod Touch 1G from eBay to debug and test the fix. Version 2.5 was out in no time. Thanks all for your patience!

Big update coming up!
June 8, 2011

I have been working on the next update. It's hard to believe it's taking months! This is by far the longest time it has taken to finish an update. Lots of underlying changes in the app. UI changes included, and a couple of very cool features! If all goes well in testing, it should be ready by the end of the month.

Version 2.3 Submitted for Approval
February 10, 2011

Early this week, I submitted Version 2.3 for approval. Expect it to be out soon. It adds search functionality as well as the ability to easily share recipes with other MealBoard users! Plus a few bug fixes and enhancements. I hope you all like it.

One Year in the App Store
November 1, 2010

MealBoard has been in the App Store for a year, and what a year it was! Thanks to all users who sent feedback. Those suggestions are what drive the continuous development of the app. Without it, the app wouldn't be what it is today. It was a busy year. Writing Objective-C code wasn't bad at all. The Java code for the backend server was even easier. But doing the UI design, the color themes, icons-- those took *A LOT* of time. Probably because developers are not the best creative designers ;-).

I'd also like to announce that Version 2.2.2 is coming up soon! It'll add yet another most requested feature, plus a number of UI improvements that will make the app even more pleasant to use!

Version 2.2 Released
July 30, 2010

Version 2.2 became available for download yesterday. This version adds cloud syncing and a web interface to input recipes! Doing the web interface in this release was not in the plan, but I thought it made a lot of sense to do it now. This was the most requested feature among users, and with good reason-- it's not easy to type a lot of text in the iPhone. With the cloud sync feature, you can upload your data, log into the website, add recipes, and download it back to your device.

Cloud Syncing
June 14, 2010

I have been working on the online sync feature that will hopefully get done by next month. This is going to be the biggest feature by far in terms of the amount of development work needed, not to mention the remote server setup required and the server code to be written. I have to admit that I had been putting this off =), but with users getting iPads and with the upcoming iPhone 4, I think it has become necessary to have this feature which allows users to transfer data between devices.

Also, may I mention that I've gotten a lot of positive reponses to the template feature released last month. I thought it brought the app's capability to another level.

Feature Creep
April 26, 2010

More feature requests have been coming in and I have a started to be really careful about what to add and what to leave off. The last thing I'd like to happen is to have an overly complex product that has every conceivable feature but is hard to use. One user commented that the app has the right balance of form and function and is simple enough to actually use. I plan to keep it that way.

With that said, I'm working on a new powerful feature that will further make meal planning a snap! I'm excited to use this feature myself. It will be out in a couple of weeks.

Ranked in the Top 100
March 8, 2010

Soon after Version 1.2 update got released, MealBoard climbed up the rankings and made the Top 100 paid apps in the Health and Fitness Category! I think this is quite a feat considering that the app has never gotten any sort of publicity (I have not bothered to submit it to app review websites) and I have spent $0 in marketing it. I've always believed that if I build a quality app, people will find it. And sure enough, people are finding it. So, this is exciting news.

On another note, I just submitted Version 1.3 update today. It adds an in-app tutorial, more user-requested features, and usabiliy improvements based mostly on a feedback I got from a particular user (thanks Mike!).

Version 1.2 Coming Soon!
January 28, 2010

Yesterday, I submitted Version 1.2 update to Apple. It took a while to finish (I had a 3-week vacation during the holidays). Now, it's finally done and I'm real excited about it. This update contains some of the most-requested features among users. Can't wait to get feedback. Thanks to all who sent their suggestions. And keep them coming!

Negative Rating Bias in the App Store
November 9, 2009

Since MealBoard was released, I have gotten lots of positive feedback through email, mostly saying how they like the app and a number of them offering suggestions to improve it. I have been working on these suggestions and I'm happy to say that it will be out by next month. Just a little more time and it should be ready.

Anyway, back to the main topic of this post. Looking at MealBoard's App Store ratings through iTunes, I've found that it has gotten quite a number of 1-star ratings, and all but one of these 1-star ratings did not come with text reviews. Now, I have found out why the 1-star ratings. When users delete an app from their iPhone (usually because they don't like it or it was not what they expected), they get prompted to rate the app (they get prompted for a star rating only, without a text review). I think this produces a bias towards low ratings. They're deleting the app because they don't like it, and asking them to rate it at that moment will most likely produce a low rating. As someone puts it, this is akin to asking people who just walked out in the middle of a movie to rate the movie! I think this is unfair to developers and Apple needs to fix it. If they want to prompt users to rate apps, they should do so randomly.

In the meantime, if you have bought and used MealBoard, I would very much appreciate if you can spare a minute to rate the app (you may do it through iTunes or the App Store). Doing so will help produce a true rating which is critical in helping sales and thus support its further development.

Thanks to all.

Version 1.1 Now Available
November 4, 2009

Version 1.1 update is now available in the App Store. The update mainly contains fixes based on user feedback. And it includes a newly designed app icon.

Initial Feedback
October 11, 2009

It's been two days since MealBoard went on sale and I have received some feedback. Overall, it was very positive feedback but I had to scramble today to come up with a tutorial on how to use the app. I did not realize that there's a bit of a learning curve to use it. I think that the challenge comes from 2 things-- (1) users having to go through the list of food categories before they can select the food items to be added to the mealplan, and (2) the app being extremely customizable (you can add, remove, edit, rename, reorder almost any data that the app displays. While these do make the app a little hard to learn initially, I think users will find it worthwhile as they get comfortable.

I'm hoping to get more feedback and reviews. I have already identified a few new features to work on. I'll be busy in the next few weekends.

MealBoard Available for Sale on October 9
October 7, 2009

Today, I finally received the approval email from Apple. MealBoard should be available in the U.S. App Store in a couple of days (tomorrow for the rest of the world).

I have been using the app for the past 2 weeks. It's something that I had been looking for as early as 8 years ago when I bought a Palm Pilot. I hope others will find it useful. I'm looking forward to get some feedback!

MealBoard Submitted for Approval
September 28, 2009

MealBoard Version 1.0 is finally submitted to Apple for approval. That comes after 3 months of hard work (design, coding, testing), and prior to that, 4 months of learning Objective-C and the iPhone SDK. That was such a long time. But then, I work on it only on weekends.

I hope I have done enough testing to uncover all bugs. I was a little hesitant to submit it yet, but I have gotten tired testing and I couldn't find any more bugs. Now, let's see how long it'll take to get approved.