Latest App-quisition: Phoster

Phoster sample

Phoster: easy and funky posters in mere minutes.

Every week or so (basically, whenever I’m feeling somewhat disinclined to dive into doing stuff here at home), I check out the App store and then cruise the app reviews of any specific offerings that catch my interest. This week’s “featured app”, here in Canada, is called Phoster [Photo+poster, presumably, not some wordplay relating to yummy Vietnamese restaurants nor to hipster spellings of “faux”]. Currently on sale for $0.99 (it’s normally $1.99), I figured I’d download it for both my phone and my iPad during the sale, and thereby pay for both what I’d normally pay for just the one. Turns out, the one download gives you a license for both. I downloaded the app for my second device at no extra cost. Sweet!

Basic Premise

Create posters easily, using images from your camera roll and a variety of pre-created templates. Continue reading

Scanner Apps for iPhone

If you don’t know about the existence of scanner apps, you probably should. I’ve generally used such apps when I’ve wanted a clear, crisp, black and white image of printed text.

Once you have downloaded the app, you simply need to configure your settings for black and white text (this can, of course, be changed at any time, via the Settings option), then take a photo with your phone, via the in-app camera (or you can import a photo from your album, if you want). The scanner software will filter out the shades and gradations and will generally get you a fairly clean, black and white image. This can be incredibly useful, whether it’s to get a quick copy of a quote that caught your eye, or to grab a page or two out of a textbook (obviously, I’m not advocating the use of such apps to exceed your fair use quotas!).

The two apps I’ve tried are JotNot, which I downloaded ages ago and then almost immediately upgraded to the Pro version, for greater functionality, and Genius Scan (whose App image I’ve used to illustrate the post). They both seem fairly similar. Though I have not upgraded to the Pro version of Genius Scan, the app seems to have a slightly more attractive, streamlined interface. Continue reading

Scrivener Scrivenings Part II

In Part I, I discussed some of the many ways that I use Scrivener for planning, plotting, drafting and editing my novels and short stories. In this section, I’m discussing some of my other uses for Scrivener.

Taking Notes in Class

Scrivener is not only useful for creative writing projects–I’ve also found it’s a good program for other purposes as well, such as taking notes in class. In that workflow, it’s different from most word processors because you can take notes for each individual class, but you can also view them as a continuous file. They can be easily compiled into a continuous Word or Pdf document for printing, or you can just compile one or two individual classes, should a classmate need notes from a missed session, for instance.

Next term, I also plan to use the index card feature to summarize what happened in each class, as a way of reviewing and studying the material. These index card notations can also be compiled as a Word or Pdf document as a quick references, for instance.

Continue reading

Scrivener scrivenings Part I

An Effective Writing Tool for Novelists and Short Story Writers

If you are a writer in possession of a Mac and you haven’t yet tried scrivener, I strongly suggest you get thee to thy computer and download the free trial–though it is probably best to hold off on giving it a try until you’re about to start a long project, such that you have a chance to work with it from the early stages. That way, you can get a taste of some of the real advantages Scrivener has over regular word processing apps. This includes the fabulously useful the index card feature, which can be recruited for planning your scenes and laying out different storylines, while seeing how the subplots can be interspersed to best effect, and so on. Continue reading

I never expected to be a dictator…

I have decided to undertake a series of posts regarding apps, software programs, devices, and workflows that I use and that I find really helpful and fabulous–or even just useful in small ways, and which facilitate my projects.

I begin with Dragon dictation, a software app that can be downloaded for free, onto your iPhone or iPad, and allows you to dictate notes or thoughts or any other such verbal rantings and ramblings into your phone or iPad.

One of the strengths of this app is that it’s reasonably accurate (it transcribed “tsarists” as “guitarists” at one point, but that’s somewhat understandable) It’s fairly stable. It is also really helpful if you’re like me, in that you are sometimes stuck with a blank page and an equally blank mind and need to get stuff written. With Dragon dictation, tapping “record” and starting to talk about what you’re wanting to work on, literally fills the pages and can sometimes break that block and get the ideas flowing. As such, it can be a key first step when deadlines are looming and inspiration is scarce.

One of the other things that I really like about it is that it allows you to explore a different idiom. It’s really striking, once you see what you’ve dictated, written on the page, how different your spoken idiom can be to your written way of expressing yourself. It’s a fascinating exercise in itself, but also a useful way to switch things up a little.

The iPhone version is fairly basic, featuring a dictation interface that then transcribes it over the Internet. If you navigate away from the app by pressing the home screen, without first copying, you will lose your dictation. Sometimes, the previous dictation remains intact if you just swap apps rather an navigating away, but it’s best to copy your content every time navigate out of the app. On the iPad, there is no such difficulty. You can save multiple dictations as notes, edit the dictations within the app (this one feature is also an option on the iPhone) and undo the last dictation or delete the entire note (with the iPhone app, you have to press the home button and then return to the app in order to clear the previous dictation).

Some of the problems: the program can be a little bit unstable. For instance, with the first verbal draft that I made of this post, I was editing it with a little pop-up keyboard within the app. I went to switch orientations, in order to activate wider keyboard, and the app crashed. I lost the draft, because it hadn’t saved automatically.

To be fair however, it hadn’t taken me all that long to dictate the first draft. As well, I think the second draft is a lot clearer. It is better structured and better organized–so possibly the loss was for the best. But still, knowing there is that instability means that I can take precautionary measures next time. Continue reading