The epitome of a businessperson always used to be an employee of a Venture Capital company on Wall Street. When someone spoke about this sort of individual, you’d imagine them with short hair, always wearing a suit and tie, typically taking a taxi to the workplace each day, and maybe going out for nightly cocktails with equally important people at the karaoke bar a few blocks from work. This would be the typical stockbroker.
In his set of tools, the aforementioned person would typically have two displays at his desk always keeping an eye on the industries he’s responsible for. In the movie version of his life, at least, the stock app would look beautiful — but in real life, they usually look more like the LED ticker boards in use on Wall Street. There’s never really been a native Mac app dedicated to making stock market monitoring an effortless — and may we say, tastefully designed — task. At least, that used to be the issue. Visible Market, the developer of StockTouch for iPad, has recently brought its popular iOS Stocks app alternative to the Mac. It’s pretty, yes, but does it do the job?
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Swipe, Pinch, Zoom — Navigate!
As the name implies, StockTouch is heavily reliant upon a touchscreen. The entire iOS app was built for one, after all. When porting an app from iOS to Mac, things can often get jumbled. It’s not common to see mobile apps brought to the desktop (it’s typically vice versa), but the developers did it right with StockTouch.
Macs have their own version of a touchscreen: a trackpad. StockTouch introduces you to its control scheme when you first open the app, explaining that there are three gestures: tap to zoom, pinch to zoom out, and tap to favorite. The problem is, it doesn’t explain a bunch of other things, like the fact that you have to tap with two fingers to zoom in, you can also expand your fingers to zoom in, and “tapping” in all senses requires that you have tap to click enabled.
Zoom in on a category or stock by clicking it or using the Mac’s zoom gesture (expand two fingers on the trackpad).
Such incomplete instructions make the base user experience rather unimpressive, but there’s more under the shell. When you click away the welcome screen, a beautiful wave of green, red, and black colors is displayed. It’s the entire stock market at your fingertips, presented in a way you have only seen on a mobile device. In short, it’s beautiful.
A User Interface Worth Showing Off
After you use StockTouch to check in on your investments, you won’t ever want to go back. Its user interface is far superior to anything offered by Google, Yahoo, and other popular Web apps. The simple use of three colors, in different shades, makes for the epitome of market browsing. Individual stocks have their own beautiful graphs, too, with the option to display data from one day to five years time. For all timelines, there are little indicators telling you where the high and low points of the stock.
It’s the little things in this interface that make you proud of having it on an external monitor while you do work. Favorites, for example, are highlighted with a raised 3D look. Rather than changing color and becoming distracting, they match the rest of the interface, but manage to distinguish themselves in the perfect way.
Only Basic Functionality
I have a few concerns about the way StockTouch presents its data. First there are the little indicators I was talking about. It’s nice to know the high and low points of any stock, but it’s very silly when you can’t see exactly when they were. For example, if you are writing an article on the recent $MSFT (Microsoft) spike (which I was the other day), you may want to use StockTouch as a reference tool. Well, don’t. It doesn’t work very well. You can’t get approximate dates for the high and low points and the app doesn’t let you zoom in beyond one day (to, say, an hour’s time). It also doesn’t support jumping to a certain point in a stock’s history.
StockTouch isn’t technically meant for research purposes, but it is an all-purpose stocks app. It’s one of the few, in fact. Others either don’t look as nice or simply crash when you launch them. StockTouch isn’t this bad, but it could definitely use some more advanced features. Most of the app’s features are rudimentary ones. It doesn’t really go beyond the call of duty in anything but the user interface, and that’s disappointing. It’d be nice to see a special screen capture function so you can grab charts from the app. A way to save the currently statistics as a PDF could also come in handy.
The Issues: Sporadic Crashing, Slow Loading, and Fullscreen Glitches
Let’s talk about bugs, which is all Mac App Store reviewers can talk about. Apparently the app crashes “instantly” for quite a few other users. I have only had the app crash twice in my use. I’m not running any developer OS, just the latest version of Mountain Lion on a late–2012 MacBook Air.
While I haven’t had any major problems with the app crashing, it does load very slow at the start, taking about a full minute to load all the stock information each time I launch it. Refreshing is the worst effect of this. Whenever I manually refresh the app, it takes nearly five minutes, sometimes just timing out. Leaving “automatic refresh” enabled is the best option, but this simply should not happen on a solid 7 Mbps Internet connection.
Last, but not least, is a very strange bug related to fullscreen mode. StockTouch does support fullscreen, but whenever I open I’m presented with is an app that takes up as much space as it can without overlapping the dock and menu bar. There’s no toolbar with the usual fullscreen button and no options in the View menu. The usual shortcuts of CMD + Shift + F or CMD + Option + F don’t work either. I found that I had manually shrink the app by pushing the corners and force it into a true windowed mode, then the button appeared.
It still glitched like crazy whenever I did anything and didn’t remember that I had it in fullscreen in the last instance, which suggested that fullscreen mode may not actually be supported. I spoke with the developer about the issue and a team member informed me that they have submitted an update to the Mac App Store.
Nice with a Trackpad, Buggy in Areas, Shiny All Around
You can’t deny that this is a good-looking app. After using it, you’ll never want to browse any crummy stock Web services anymore. However, you may have to. The lack of research features stops StockTouch from fulfilling its potential and becoming the best stock market app to ever be developed for Mac. It can get there, though, and I’m sure it will eventually.
The pressing issue is for owners of desktop computers. If you have a traditional mouse for your Mac, even if it’s a Magic Mouse, you will not find StockTouch experience at all enjoyable. It doesn’t feel natural. To solve this problem, the developer could have included some keyboard shortcuts, but the only one I actually ended up was CMD + S for searching. A simple “F” keystroke would be useful for favoriting stocks, with CMD + F to open Favorites (the latter currently shows and hides them). It feels very inconsistent to press escape to zoom out when you just clicked to zoom in, which is why a regular mouse doesn’t work with this app.