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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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Sometime last year, frustrated by the complexities of the majority of task-tracking and GTD apps on the Mac (I’m looking at you, OmniFocus), I spent some time exploring the software that’s already built into OS X. That is: To Dos and Notes in Mail.app, and those same To Dos in iCal.

I turned more of my information into Events in iCal. Deadlines and reminders, which in the past had been undated items linked to particular Projects in OmniFocus or Things, now became dated To Dos or Events.

This worked quite well for me, but I found that I wanted to have easier access to my calendar, without needing to keep iCal open all the time. I tried using Bjango’s excellent Organized), but in general I don’t use Dashboard, so an ordinary app suited me better.

I considered a few options, and the one I liked most was Second Gear Software’s Today. Read on for a walkthrough of the basic feature set.

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Our sister site, iPhone.AppStorm, reviewed the iPhone version of Soulver back in March this year. When I read that piece, I was really taken with the app, though I didn’t think that I needed a calculator much in my day-to-day life. I also read the excellent piece by Marco Arment that’s linked in a note to the review, and that got me fascinated by the application’s user interface, and the subtly disruptive things it does with familiar expectations for how a calculator looks and works. So I took myself over to the App Store and paid my money.

And then I realised that, actually, I use a calculator just about every day at work – a grey little handheld number that’s always disappearing onto my colleague Mary’s desk. I lose track of the number of times I’ve had to re-enter a column of numbers to check I’d got them right, and the number of times my sum turned out different on each of two or three checks.

So I started using my iPhone and Soulver for doing these calculations, and found the ability to check and refer back to previous lines invaluable.

I knew that Soulver began life as a desktop app (actually, quite a long time ago: you can read more about the history of the app in this 2006 press release), so I had to download that and see if it was as good as the iPhone app. I got in touch with the developer, and learned that they were soon to release a new version, Soulver 2. Well, that happy day has come, and here’s a quick walkthrough…

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I’m a firm believer in the benefits of journalling and writing every day. Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way” has been very significant in my life, and after reading it for the first time, I kept up the central practice she recommends – of writing three pages first thing every morning – almost every day for the following five years. For the past few months, I’ve fallen out of the habit, but I know I will pick it up again in time, and that I will most likely continue to keep a journal of some kind for the rest of my life.

I’ve always preferred pen or pencil on paper for this kind of writing, but I thought it might be time to have a go with one of the several journaling apps available for the Mac. I’ve gone straight to Mémoires, an app produced by Coding Robots, whose YouTube viewer, Cathodique, we included in our piece on improving YouTube.

Like Cathodique, Mémoires is a well-focused application: it does one thing, with minimal fuss or distraction. And yet it does that single thing well enough that it makes one take note. Join us after the jump for a quick walkthrough of Mémoires’ main features.

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It seems fairly clear now that Google has won the RSS war. There aren’t many serious contenders for the title now that Newsgator has closed down their own aggregators and shifted their users over to Google Reader. Bloglines, though it has a pretty good web interface, seems to have suffered by comparison.

There are of course other options out there (Fever is a favourite among the more tech savvy), but of these three who were a while ago the main contenders, Google seems to have come out with the greatest number of users and the most rapidly developing platform.

Today we’ll be taking a look at a desktop companion to the Google Reader juggernaut. Gruml is a relatively new RSS reader for the Mac that syncs well with the service, and offers plenty of customisation options. Join us after the jump for a quick tour of its main features.

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We spend more and more time reading web pages. So much of the information we take in each day comes from the sites we visit, whether that be in the course of work, pleasure, or study. If you have the time to spend on following a trail of links and reading whatever crosses your screen, just as it grabs your attention, you’re luckier than most of us.

Mostly we have to rely on some system for saving things of interest so that we don’t lose out. Today we’ll be taking a look at one tool in particular; QuietRead.

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If you like to know what’s happening behind the scenes on your Mac, Bjango’s iStat Menus 3 (currently on sale for $10) is one of the very best apps available to you. I’ve heard people recommending it for years, but though I’ve tried it several times, it’s never really stuck for me – until recently.

Bjango recently released version 3 and, although there are some significant changes in this version, there’s not much new except for the addition of battery monitoring.

I’ll walk you through the app’s main features, and conclude with a few comments on what I’d like to see added in the future, as well as suggesting a couple of alternative options.

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Radium’s grown up a lot since we first reviewed it, so be sure to check out our review of Radium 3, the latest version, as well!

I’m a bit of a BBC Radio 4 and World Service addict. We have a couple of digital radios in the house, and with the UK’s Freeview television network, it’s easy to listen to a number of digital stations via your TV. When I’m on the road away from any of my radios, and have access to a wireless network, I’ve used Phantom Gorilla’s unofficial BBC Radio Widget to get my fix.

That all looks likely to change, now that Radium has arrived. Read on for a walk-through of a simple and effective radio app that makes it very easy to tune in to your favourite stations – and discover hundreds of new ones – on your Mac.

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What a great service YouTube is. It’s all too easy to lose sight of how revolutionary it was when it first launched. It broke all kinds of rules and expectations of how we watch video, and how we relate to its distribution. It opened up broadcasting, allowing anybody at all with a video recording device to easily and quickly make their videos available to anybody, anywhere.

YouTube also did something curious to how we consume news: just about any story that hits the headlines is likely to have an accompanying video on YouTube. Remember when Michael Jackson died? It didn’t take long for recordings of the ambulance leaving his home to start popping up on YouTube. For many of us, YouTube’s become a frontline news service – along with Twitter.

Unfortunately, YouTube is far from perfect. From the small-minded, snarky comments, right through to the frustrating use of Flash. Nowadays I rarely visit YouTube at all, and when I do, it’s just to get a URL for a video, or to jump from that page to a different service.

Our site is well-known for its long lists of tips and app recommendations. This article is different: I’m going to recommend just three ways to make YouTube better.

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When I reviewed Together a couple of months ago, several commenters noted its similarity to Yojimbo, and suggested that we take a look. Of course I’d heard of Yojimbo before: it’s one of those near-legendary apps that the Great and the Good of the Mac world seem to swear by. It turns up fairly often on one of my favourite blogs, The Setup.

But for some reason, I’ve never given Yojimbo much more than a cursory glance. I’ve downloaded it once or twice and run it for a while each time, but it’s never stuck for me. I was aware of some complaints about the speed of development of Yojimbo – it seemed to have been standing still for quite some time.

But then version 2.0 arrived (quite suddenly, and without much fanfare). The changes implemented in the new version seem to have done the trick for many people – some who had started wondering about other, similar products (Together, DevonThink, VoodooPad, etc.) returned to the fold. And I decided it was time for me to have a proper look too…

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When we first reviewed Fontcase over a year ago, one of the things we said we’d like to see was auto-activation. If you take a look at the comments on that review, you will see that several readers agreed, and one or two said very plainly that this was a deal-breaker for them. So long as Fontcase, for all its obvious beauty and other great features, didn’t offer auto-activation, they would stick with whatever they were using already.

Well, happy day! Bohemian Coding have recently released a new version of Fontcase, which includes a few important changes and improvements.

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