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Ian Tromp

Ian Tromp is a freelance writer who lives in Birmingham, England. Among other publications, he is a regular contributor to MacFormat.

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If you enjoy sports and workout regularly, you might already be keeping track of your exercise with one or more of the excellent online services available to you: Runkeeper, DailyMile, Garmin Connect among them. These services are great: they can really help you to gain insight into your performance, and to plot and plan improvements.

Some of us, though, prefer not to upload all our data online; it might be that you’re not particularly interested in the social networking benefits these services offer; or you’re concerned about possible privacy issues (you might not want the maps of your runs available to anybody). And so you might prefer to find an option that keeps the information local, storing it on your Mac. If that describes you, you’ll be interested in hearing about rubiTrack, a mature app that does an excellent job of recording and tracking your workouts.

Join me after the jump for a walkthrough of its main features.

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This is something different for Mac.AppStorm: not a review of an app, but of a book about an app. The book is Kourosh Dini’s Creating Flow with Omnifocus. Dr Dini, a psychiatrist, musician, and author, has written regular blog posts about using OmniFocus, the Omni Group’s brilliant, but often daunting, task management app. Creating Flow… brings together a number of his previous posts, and builds them into a thorough overview of working with the app, as well as offering suggestions for a comprehensive system for approaching task management using OmniFocus.

I’ve read many blog posts and essays on using the app, and watched various screencasts, each of which has had some influence on the system that I have come to use. I became aware of Creating Flow… several months ago, and finally decided I wanted to read it and see if it could teach me anything new about OmniFocus. Join me after the jump for an overview of the book.

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If you, like me, are a word nerd, there’s a good chance that you’ve already run a search for ‘dictionary’ in the Mac App Store. Doing so brings up a number of dictionaries in various languages, a few games, language courses, and a surprisingly small number of English dictionaries. Perhaps developers know that all Macs are shipped with the New Oxford American Dictionary baked right into the operating system, so they shy away from duplication.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the built-in dictionary app is limited – likely adequate most of the time, but still limited. For this reason, now and then you might find yourself calling upon a higher authority and refer to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, which is widely held to be among the world’s best and most definitive references. That’s when you’ll be glad that WordWeb Software has brought this tome to the App Store.

Join us after the jump for a look at how the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary works, and how it might be a useful and even enjoyable addition to your Mac.

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One thing that the latest version of Windows does well is managing application windows. With easy keyboard shortcuts you can flip through visual representations of each of your open programs and instantly resize or move windows. There are several Mac applications available that emulate some of these features, a number of which we’ve reviewed in the past.

Moom is an interesting new option, offered by Many Tricks, a small independent company that produces several very good Mac apps. I’ve long relied on their Witch to improve OS X’s built-in app switching, and I use Desktop Curtain whenever I need to cover up my messy desktop to take screenshots. Moom takes its name from the conjoining of “Move” and “Zoom”, as these are the two main things you can do with the app.

Join us after the jump to see how Moom works.

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There are already many options available to those of us who’re after simple writing tools. These apps encourage their users to focus in on the evolving text, minimizing distractions by cutting back both on visual clutter (I’m looking at you Microsoft Office) and on informational overload in the form of too many options and tweakable settings. We’ve previously reviewed Byword and Writeroom, as well as running a round-up that added a few alternatives. We also published a discussion piece on whether such apps are necessary, which got some interesting debate going in its comments.

Such apps abound on the iPad too, and on that platform one of the most popular choices has been iA Writer. Now Information Architects, the design firm that developed iA Writer for iPad has turned it into a Mac app, available for purchase on the Mac Appstore.

I’m going to settle down for a while, open up iA Writer for Mac, and walk you through its features.

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OS X comes with CD and DVD burning capabilities built-in, so you might have managed so far without needing to install a separate app. When I reinstalled Snow Leopard a few months back, I decided to keep my system as lean as possible, since my old Core Duo MacBook has been showing its age. I only installed applications as a real need for them arose.

As it happens, one of the very first apps I added was for burning discs, since I found the native OS X burning seemed to be slower, and certainly gave me less control of how discs are burned.

I had previously had an earlier version of Toast installed, but I decided not to return to that outdated software, and instead went with a free burner app that had good reviews on MacUpdate. Recently, Roxio released the newest version of Toast, and I’m very glad to have updated.

Though there are lightweight apps that can do some of the things Toast does, and there are many cheaper, and even free, programs available, I believe Toast remains best-in-class. And if you go for the Pro version, it’s actually very good value – but more on that later.

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The market for task management apps seems to be one of the most active of all. There are so many variations on this theme that it’s very easy to end up spending more time on finding, setting up, and tweaking your tools than you do on actually getting things done.

It also seems that the quality of such apps is also steadily improving, as new contenders build on the success of older, more established tools, or learn from their errors or exclusions.

Today we’re considering Firetask for Mac, which promises to combine aspects of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology with more traditional systems using due dates and priorities to manage your task list.

Join us after the jump for a walkthrough of Firetask’s main features…

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With more than five billion photographs uploaded, Flickr is a global go-to site if you’re looking for images. There are all kinds of interesting ways of interacting with the site – I love searching for photos of an unknown destination before I travel there, and it’s always interesting subscribing to the RSS feed of photos tagged with your hometown, as you’re likely to come across unexpected ways of seeing your familiar environment each day.

If you have reason to search for images regularly, or if you simply enjoy hanging out on Flickr, then you might be pleased to learn about Viewfinder. The app comes from the hand of Fraser Spiers and his company, Connected Flow, who have also given the world of Mac apps the excellent FlickrExport for iPhoto and Aperture, and currently costs just £15 (though that’s set to increase to £18 when the next version ships).

Whether your interest is simply in seeing other photographers’ take on subjects you’re keen on, or you’re after images to use in your own blog posts and design projects, Viewfinder makes searching Flickr a simple and enjoyable process. Join us after the jump to find out more!

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We first reviewed Marketcircle’s Billings 3 back in February ’09. If you haven’t already seen that article, why don’t you start by clicking through and reading it, since it covers in depth all the significant features the app has to offer. I’ll wait…

Okay, so now you know how Billings 3 works, and how useful it can be if you need to keep track of expenses and manage invoicing clients. It’s a sign of how popular and important this kind of app is in the life of freelancers that when we ran a Quick Look piece on the app more than a year after that initial piece, the vast majority of readers were interested in seeing an updated review.

This isn’t that article. I have used Billings 3 for few years now, and although I’ve tried a few different options along the way, for all the reasons given in our original review, Billings 3 just seems to make more sense and work with less friction than the other apps I’ve tried. Now Marketcircle have taken a step forward and released Billings Pro, and that’s what I’m focusing on today. Stick around, and I’ll walk you through its main features and tell you how it works.

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In my search for the ideal money management application, I keep coming back to iBank. I reviewed Jumsoft Money here on Mac.AppStorm a few months back, and mentioned a few other options I’ve tried. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect – there are important features that I can’t use, and others that I don’t make use of – but on the whole it’s been stable and easy to work with, and I’ve not yet found an alternative that beats it.

We reviewed the last version here a while back, but now IGG Software has released a major update, so it’s time to revisit iBank and let you know how it works and what you get for your money.

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