The Simplest Way to Create a Graphic With Text Overlay on iOS

At some point, nearly everyone needs to make a graphic. There are countless tools for adding text to an image. Photoshop and Pixelmator give you tons of options and range in difficulty of use, but for an on-the-go, simple app, Typorama is unbeatable.

typorama logo

In fact, I own multiple design programs but often reach for Typorama because it’s so fast and simple. It creates images as good or better than what I would on a computer in less time.

When you open the app, you’re brought to the main screen which prompts you to choose a background and displays free-to-use images (using Pixabay as a database) along with a search bar. You can peruse the near-endless list of images by scrolling down, or you can search for an image type of your choice.

typorama main screen

If you aren’t looking for a specific image to put your text over, scrolling is a great start. These images seem to be curated based on the quality and popularity.

You can also import your own images and slap some text on it.

Here’s what I love about that app that sets it apart from others:

  • free-to-use, integrated image search
  • custom options for sizes optimized for Instagram, Facebook, iPhone wallpapers, and more
  • 30+ included text / font styles for overlaying on your image
  • fine tuning tools for image adjustments–filters, overlays, color enhancements and every color you’d hope for with a color picker for text
  • Text tools to easily 3D rotate the text to have it align with an object in the photo to create a multi-dimensioned look
  • An eraser feature to make it look like the text is behind a portion of the image

Here’s an example of one of my favorite uses of Typorama, utilizing the eraser tool for added depth.


Check out their Instagram feed to see the magic people are creating with Typorama.

What makes Typorama special is that it’s simple, speedy, and makes a person without design skills look like a pro.

With font options like Cutesy, the app doesn’t exactly scream masculinity, but there are plenty of options for whatever style of image you want to create.

I sometimes use Typorama in conjunction with another design program. I’ll create the text overlay using the transparent option (the first option when you open the app), save it, and email it to myself to do more design work on my computer.

My biggest gripe is that there isn’t a way to save images and go back and edit the text style later. Once you leave the image you’re working on to go to another, you can’t go back and tweak the text–you’re stuck recreating from scratch.

A quick tip: each font or text style has multiple options for how it will display, so each time you click on the same font, you’ll get a slightly different design style.

I’d love to be able to fine tune the styles more, but simplicity beats customization here.

I most commonly use the app to create lock screens with verses on it. My wife designed the first image and the second I slapped together in less than a minute.

The app is free but displays a Typorama watermark without an in-app purchase of $2.99. That in-app purchase unlocks all text styles and the watermark designer.


Faster, More Secure Web Searching on iOS

Maybe online privacy isn’t something you think outside of keeping your credit cards and banking information out of the hands of hackers.

iOS offers an option to change your search engine under Settings ? Safari ? Search Engine. There you can choose from:

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Bing
  • DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is the only search engine in the list that doesn’t track and store your search results. That means they aren’t targeting you with ads or trying to sell your data to marketers.

duckduckgo logo

I like having more control over who has my information and search history, but what sold me on DuckDuckGo is a unique feature called bangs.

DuckDuckGo enables you to search certain sites directly by using an exclamation point followed directly by the website shortcut.  Continue reading


The Focus Course Review

As I reflected on the year in 2014 and 2015, the two things I said I wanted to improve the most was my focus. I still have a long way to go, but I’m convinced in an increasingly distracting world, focus is what separates those who make an impact and those who get lost in the shuffle.

I want to focus on not being distracted by social media and giving my full attention to the people around me.

Jim Elliot’s quote continues to resonate with me.

Wherever you are, be all there.

I haven’t come close to fully living that out yet. But I’m working on it, with a lot of help from The Focus Course by Shawn Blanc. Shawn is a prolific writer about creativity, focus, intentionality and runs a few of my favorite websites: Tools and Toys and The Sweet Setup.


What is The Focus Course?

The Focus Course is a 40-day online course that helps you:

  • get clarity about what you want to be doing
  • get real about what you’ve actually been doing
  • plan for what you want to do
  • and helps you take action to be where you want to be and become who you want to become.

The course is split into five modules.

  1. Foundations
  2. Honesty
  3. Clarity
  4. Action
  5. Planning

This course stretches beyond the scope of focus and gets to the heart of living a meaningful, purpose-filled life. It’s about being intentional about how you live and work, putting your values at the center of everything, and making a lasting impact with the one life we have here on earth.

Who Is It For?

Anyone who wants to live with more focus and intention.

I wish I would have taken this as a college student, so I could have more fully lived out the principles embedded in this course.

I’m grateful I took this course as a young professional with a newborn (I started the course in the hospital just after our daughter’s birth!). It will continue to help mold and shape the person (and dad) I want to become.

I’ll retake this course as I grow in my career, my marriage, my relationships. As I start side projects and tackle areas of my life I want to continue to grow in.

Basically, if you have a pulse and want to increase your focus, make a difference, and live a more  purposeful life, The Focus Course is for you.

How Long Does It Take?

Each day takes about five to ten minutes to watch the video or read through the content, but there are additional exercises and assignments you’ll need to complete, which is where the true value comes.

As a warning, the second module about Honesty takes lots of extra time and effort, but it will help you live in reality and see who you want to be and become. It takes serious discipline to keep trudging through days 12 – 17 and finishing the tasks you need to. I promise it is worth it.

Altogether it’s a 40-day course, and I love the way the course is set up. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and having to diligently work through each day and each module means you’re chipping away at bad habits that have been built over a lifetime.

Extras and Improvements

Beyond the daily modules, there are all kinds of assessments for finding what’s distracting you, if you’re addicted to notifications and checking your inbox, extra articles for going deeper in areas like personal integrity, daily habits, tips for how to use your Mac, how to overcome the fear of missing out (FOMO) and a whole lot more.

Shawn continues to improve the course and invest in it heavily. Shawn recently released version two of the course, which adds a video to every single day.

It’s beautifully designed and you can cruise through the course with any device. My personal preference is on iOS. You’ll be able to see all the modules you’ve completed and see your progress as you go through. There’s also a members forum section where you can provide feedback, connect with others, and share what you’re learning and processing.


Favorite Aspects

The most valuable portion of the course for me was thinking about the person I want to become. If a morning manifesto is what is true about yourself, then crafting your values on Day 10 of the course is what guides you in who you want to become.

The course drips with authenticity, attention to detail, and beautiful design. I didn’t know an online course could look so good. Shawn pulled out all the stops in an effort to make the packaging look as good as the product.

I’m a huge fan of the additional articles and assessments for increased productivity I mentioned above.

I’ve started working through the course again to start 2016.

Is It Worth the Money?

In short: absolutely. I fully believe an investment in ourselves in an effort to make a greater impact on the world around us is one of the best ways we can use our hard-earned cash.

If it wasn’t worth the money, I would have asked for a refund. Shawn backs his course up with a 60-day money-back guarantee.

This is a course about intentionality, focus, productivity, making an impact, and living with purpose, all rolled up together. I can’t think of a better way to start the new year.

I can honestly say the cash I dripped on The Focus Course was far and away the best money I spent in 2015. I’m excited to get back into the course again this year.

If you aren’t sure you’re ready to invest a few hundred dollars on the course, Shawn offers a free course called The Elements of Focus with a 16-day email series that will give you a taste of the full Focus Course.

If you decide to sign up for The Focus Course, I’d be grateful if you use my affiliate link. I can’t recommend the course highly enough, and I’d love to hear from you (jshirkman at gmail dot com) if you decide to check out the course.


Why The Internet Can’t Validate Me (But I Try to Let it Anyway)

Writing an Internet post about how posting things on the Internet can strip away your joy is like writing a book about why people shouldn’t write books or singing a song about why we need to stop singing songs.

I’m aware of the irony. Bear with me, please.

I’ve shared that notifications can’t satisfy us. Unfortunately, that truth hasn’t sunk in yet.

Nevertheless, I continue to internally yell “Validate me!” with each post to the Internet.


I’d be lying if I didn’t have the same urge with this post. If I didn’t want you to tell me that you agree or that it was really inspiring.

Most of the time when I share something online, I want to help people or be encouraging. But underneath that well-intentioned shell, I long to hear other things.

Tell me my ideas are good.

Tell me my picture is beautiful.

Tell me my baby is adorable.

Tell me my life is awesome.

I hate that I don’t always share things to share joy or to be helpful, but instead to seek approval and find my sense of self-worth in likes and retweets and online praise.

I forget so easily that thumbs up and shares can’t satisfy me. No statistic can make me happier. No amount of kind comments will give me joy that only Jesus can bring.

Recently, I’ve been using Facebook and Twitter less often 1 . I still have an urge to open an app, check the notifications, and see who is mentioning or praising me.

I once heard that checking Facebook is the modern-day equivalent of opening the refrigerator when you’re bored. Sometimes I check social media and forget why I went there in the first place. It’s like taking a bite of cold pizza from the fridge when you weren’t hungry to begin with.

I don’t want to live for temporal status updates. I’m tired of unsatisfying nibbles at day-old deep dish.

  1. I don’t want to let a constant stream of non-vital information consume my life. The majority of posts will be completely irrelevant in a day or so and 99% will be irrelevant in a year, yet I return to it day in and day out because the habit is so ingrained.
  2. I don’t want want to let the amount of attention a post gets decide how proud or satisfied I am in that moment.

At the same time, I want to celebrate with people, congratulate those I care about, and share in the joy of others.

This is a tricky, fine line to walk. I’m grateful for people’s kind words. I’m thankful that people love me and my family and encourage our socks off regularly. But I don’t want those likes and comments to dictate my life or be the source of my joy, hope, or approval. I want to reserve that place for Jesus alone.

I don’t know your motives. I don’t know why you post the articles you do or share pictures of your vacation or your lunch or your baby or your baby eating lunch on vacation.

It’s totally possible that you have good intentions. Maybe you’ve never even considered why you post what you do.

For me, I know that I don’t always have the best intentions.

I know that I don’t always share things because I want other people to share in my joy but because instead because I want other people to bring me joy or to be jealous of my life.

One more like. One more comment. One more favorite or retweet. That’ll do it. That’ll scratch my itch.

It never does. It can’t.

I don’t know what the solution to this is. For now, I’m spending less time on social networks. I don’t do much to promote blog posts and I’ve turned off comments from this blog because I let them turn into tiny altars of praise to me.

I want to share ideas. I want to be helpful. I want others to share in my joy and see my gratitude. I just don’t want to share things as a means to a selfish end.

I want to combat the lie,

“If I share this and get enough attention for it, I will be happier.”

I don’t want to use my baby as a prop for praise. I don’t want to publicly share my gratitude for my wife so that people will be amazed at my gratitude. I want use social media to be a good tool instead of an unruly master.

I want my validation to flow from who Jesus is and his love for me, not from what other people think of me, whether it is incredibly kind and encouraging or rude and hurtful. Life isn’t more difficult in the digital age than in the thousands of years prior, but it sure has gotten more complicated.

Human nature hasn’t changed. We’re always trying to turn things–good or amoral–into something to worship or as tools to be worshipped with. That’s a heart problem, not a technical issue.


So what am I doing inlight of all of this? To start, when I have the urge to check social media, I (try to) do something else, like:

  1. writing down an idea or thought for a blog post2
  2. praying for something or someone
  3. texting a friend some encouragement.

I haven’t perfected doing these three things by any stretch, but, wow, the ideas have been flowing much easier when I give myself space to think instead of pacifying a split-second of boredom with tweets and posts.

I’ve also created a Workflow from the 39 things you can do instead of checking social media.

This is a tough battle to fight because I am the enemy. My nature is the problem, not the platforms or tools or other people at the water cooler. I’m not ready to call it quits, but something has to change.

  1. Which is to say, still entirely too much

  2. That’s how this post started.


Finding the Side Door to People’s Hearts

Some people simply aren’t interested in discussing spiritual things.

At least, that’s what it seems.

Last week I was chatting with a student who, from the outside, appeared completely apathetic about spiritual matters. I’d asked him a number of questions and it didn’t seem the conversation was going anywhere, but instead of trying to force something that wasn’t there, I kept asking questions to try to find an opportunity to genuinely connect with him about faith.

And then I asked him, “What do you think about when you’re alone?”

He said, “I’m probably not the guy you want to ask. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what happens after we die.”

Actually, my friend, you’re exactly the person I wanted to ask.

side door

At times, in conversations with friends or family, it seems we have to latch onto any opportunity, no matter how small, because we believe these opportunities come once in a lifetime.

“This is it! This is my one and only chance to tell them that Jesus loves us and that he died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead and offers eternal life to those, and only those, who believe in him by faith!”

That approach, which I’ve taken plenty of times, is like trying to kick down a door at the moment someone opens it up just to peek around the corner and see who is knocking. It’s difficult to recover from the carnage that a kicked-in door brings.

But if God is at work in someone’s heart, I believe he’ll continue to work and move, like a prybar against a stubborn nail–twisting, turning, and loosening–until the tension releases and the board comes free.

Trying to rip up something in one fell swoop that’s been stuck a certain way for years or decades is a frustrating process. But intentionally working at it, easing, nudging, putting pressure in the right places, looking for gaps and opportunities? Well, that’s a process with a greater likelihood of success and a lower chance of frustration, injuries, and broken pieces.

Intentional questions with focused listening are the carpentry-equivalent of a hammer and nails in sharing our faith. Asking and listening are the keys to finding opportunities and side doors to people’s hearts. Often bad experiences and emotional barriers keep people from opening the front door of their hearts to the message of the gospel. Our genuine care and concern as we hear from can show us the path to the unlocked side door.

For some of us, we need patience as we explore alongside these friends, relatives, schoolmates and co-workers. Asking  more questions instead of jumping to sharing our perspective and opinions often reveals root of what they are thinking and feeling.

  • Why are you thinking about that?
  • When did you start asking that?
  • Have you come to any conclusions?
  • What keeps bringing you back to that question?
  • Have you always thought that way? What changed your mind?

We also need to have the courage and boldness to walk through the open door when we find it. When they ask us what we think or when we see a clear opportunity for the gospel, we cannot shy away.

This is an art, not a science. There’s no single formula for number of questions + time spent listening = gospel opportunity. Fortunately, as God has given all Christians his Holy Spirit, we don’t have to figure these things out on our own. As we listen to others, we need to listen to the Spirit and look for opportunities he opens up.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

God has set eternity into the heart of every single person. Innately, we all know there is a Creator, and there is a hole in our soul that only he can fill.

We have to live in the tension of life being short and fleeting, and knowing also that every person’s journey toward Jesus is a process–some much longer than others. We must pray and ask for wisdom, boldness, open hearts, and open door.

I’m finding that people are more spiritually open than they may appear at first. It’s just not the front door that’s unlocked.