Apps Gone Free is like Goldilocks: not too much, not too little

apps_freeI’ve tried a couple of different apps whose purpose of existence is to alert users to the existence of other apps that are temporarily discounted or free. So far, the standout for me is Apps Gone Free.

I’m not a big games person, and several of the “free stuff” apps I tried out are fairly games-oriented, so I ended up deleting them within a day or so. Other such apps seem to list every app that is on discount or is free–and I found that I just didn’t have time to go through them all and filter out what was of interest (and held some minimal promise of basic functionality–which is not necessarily a safe assumption at the app store).

“Apps Gone Free” is the Goldilocks of these apps for me–it’s not too many, not too few. Continue reading

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Logitech Ultrathin wins my Heart

It really is the other half of my iPad mini.

It really is the other half of my iPad mini.

A while back, I did a side-by-side review of the in-app dictation software in the more recent iOS versions and the free Dragon dictation app. The in-app software won (sad though I am to admit it, as I do love Dragon)–not just for convenience of integration, but also for accuracy.

I have never pretended to love the onscreen virtual keyboards, and so for some time now, I have been using the in-app dictation for quick emails and messages on my phone, and only using the virtual keyboard just for quick corrections. I missed this on my trusty iPad 2 (which doesn’t support this feature) and so in recent weeks, I began contemplating the prospect of upgrading to the new iPad mini. A quick crowdsource on Facebook revealed strongly positive comments on the mini, and so I took the plunge.

The logitech ultrathin was an impulse purchase in that I didn’t set out to purchase it with the mini–and indeed, knew nothing about it. But of course, times being what they are (i.e. connected), upon seeing it at the store, I looked up reviews. Strongly positive–and so, I purchased that, instead of the smartcover I’d intended to buy.

And. I. Love. It. LOVE. It.  Continue reading

Goodreader is actually the Bestreader

Freehand and typed annotations are a breeze with this feature-rich, easy-to-use app!

Freehand and typed annotations are a breeze with this feature-rich, easy-to-use app!

Looking back through my old posts, I was simultaneously astonished and chagrined that I had not yet written anything about Goodreader.

It was one of my early purchases on the iPad and has been one of my top, go-to apps since. It might not be the prettiest pdf reader out there, but I have found it absolutely invaluable, thanks to its easy, integrated functionality. Continue reading

Productivity App: Advanced To Do Lists

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A screen shot of my 2Do app for the weekend. The first set of tabs comes with the app (All, Today etc.) and are smart tabs that sort based on specific information in the task or project. Below those, you can see the “roles” tabs. Because I’m in the “all tasks” view, the app also displays the specific role in which I’ve categorized the goals/tasks I have listed for the weekend.

I’m a productivity junkie.

Modern life, with all its devices, information and demands means that if you’ve got your fingers in more than one pie (and most of us do) we can’t afford to waste a moment–and that if we’re very very good at optimizing, we might actually manage to grab a few zen moments in a day.

Lately, I’ve turned to one of the productivity classics, hoping to up my effectiveness. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is far from new, but this means it has the advantage of having been tried by many people I know and respect–and it has generally come with high accolades. There’s a lot I like about it, including the idea that you work outward from the solid foundation of your principles, values and integrities. I have never taken the seminar–instead, I’m working through the chapters over time, trying to really incorporate and entrench the Habits as habits or paradigms. I want them to get as close to being second nature as possible, and that takes time. So for the next while, I’m concentrating in integrating, applying and making second nature the first three “individual” habits. Later, I’ll move onto the other three habits, once these feel well-established.

One of the things I sought, because I don’t have a lot of money and don’t want to buy pricey planners that are Covey-themed, was a to-do list or planner that might lend itself to the method of time management described in the book. I’ve purchased a variety of simple and complex ones through the years–and having gone through my collection, I found that the one that was best suited to my needs was the app 2Do. I don’t have the desktop edition, unfortunately (I came *this* close to buying it, but due to a complication with dropbox integration, I decided not to bother).

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Siri and the Dragon

I recently traded up my old iphone 3gs for an iphone 5.

As some of you readers know, I have been a sometime user of Dragon Dictation, the free app for my iOS devices. Given that, I was eager to try a side-by-side comparison of Dragon Dictation and the new iOS in app dictation option. As a side note: though Siri is also voice activated and involves speech recognition tech, I suspect the the in-app dictation feature and Siri are kind of separate functions (one is about transcription, while the other is about interpretation)–still, I just couldn’t resist the title of this post, plus I suspect that many people conflate the two.

Now, given that my ipad is of the generation that predates the in-app dictation option, this seemed an ideal opportunity to do the side-by-side test. I wasn’t particularly scientific about it, but was able to make note of some general overall trends. For those who are interested, I will insert the unedited dictations from both at the bottom of this post for your own perusal. Continue reading

Penultimate v. Note Taker HD

I’ve been toying with the idea of trying out a stylus for a while now. I had gotten one with a screen cleaning kit a while back, however, and been unimpressed by it. Then, in a recent lecture, I saw a fellow using a far more intriguing–and to my mind, viable–stylus. I immediately rushed over after it was over and asked if I could try it out. The gadget/tech-loving community being what it generally is (friendly and happy to chat about devices and apps with kindred spirits), he graciously let me try it out on my phone and I was much happier with the feel of it.

This sparked a quest for a stylus to call my own. I eventually settled on this little beauty in blue (it had the virtue of being the cheapest one I could find, basically–I still wasn’t altogether committed). I then set about researching and acquiring the two apps that my stylus-using lecturemate recommended. They were both reasonably priced, and each had their advantages and downsides.

See, the thing is, I have a special need when it comes to styluses and touch screens: I’m a lefty. Even when I write on paper, a pen with a wetter ink (or less porus paper) will result in my leaving a smudgy mess in my wake, because my hand curls around and rubs against the lines that I have written as I move down the page (I used to write backwards as a child–mirror writing, essentially, starting at the bottom right of the page–because I found this smudginess such an annoying effect–especially since my fingers also get ink on them. But of course I was the only one who could read it, so I ultimately stopped). Continue reading

Not just for Easy Relaxing…

June 2012 Update:  I notice that this app is no longer available–I had wanted to load it on a new device a few weeks back, only to discover that it’s no longer in the app store! The app I downloaded instead, BrainWave, is also great. It is not as customizable, and doesn’t have the “relaxing music” components of ER Ultimate. But, if you’re looking for binaural patterns and white noise, this is the app for you. I’ve been making frequent use of it (I downloaded the 30 program version) and have been very happy with its functionality and with the range of options that are available. I don’t know if I necessarily buy into the binaural theory, but I will say that the headache reliever pattern actually did help me with a mild headache I had, much to my surprise (and it was one of those “it’s not going anywhere” kinds of pains, so this rather impressed me). At any rate, it features several different patterns for different modes, and a few different ambient/white/pink noise options. Enjoy!

[original review below]

Today’s review features Easy Relax Ultimate (or Easy Relax/Easy Relax Lite, and Binaural Beats, which are the cheap/free versions. I started with these, then upgraded to the pay, not because the others were too feature-light, but because I found it so useful that I felt it important to compensate the creator by buying the paid version). I’ve been using this app for years and really love it, not just for relaxing, but also for presenting a wash of neutral sound when I’m trying to work in busy spaces and the nature of the work is such that I can’t concentrate properly while listening to music. In fact, that is one of its primary uses, for me. The other way in which I find it invaluable  is as a foil to my procrastination. Permit me to explain.

Procrastination-Buster

I love the idea of being productive, but often when faced with the prospect of it, I find facebook intensely compelling and also feel the need to tweet about a variety of things. Enter, Easy Relax Ultimate, and the wonder of a timer. I set myself a bargain: 10 minutes of work, and then if I feel like it, I have permission to do facebook. ERU is timer-based, and so I put on one of its “white noise” tracks (waves and windchimes with a binaural beat of “busy thinking” for instance–more on this latter bit later), set the 10 min timer and go at it. And it works. Either I get 10 mins of work done that I wouldn’t have otherwise done (before losing myself in FB for an hour, instead of just FB-ing for an hour and ten mins!) OR I end up finding the focus I needed and continuing with the work I started, and enjoying a productive morning. Win-win. More or less. ERU is great for this kind of self-bargaining, which I find works so well with my own particular reward-incentive way of thinking.

Continue reading