If you saw our post earlier, then you know that Apple dropped a bomb on us with a sneak preview of the upcoming Mountain Lion update to OS X. James touched briefly on the handful of new features that Apple announced, all of which are exciting and intend to bring an even more iOS-like experience to your Mac. However, because I’m particularly interested in communication, I’m going to go a little bit more in depth with one particular feature of OS X Mountain Lion: Messages.

Messages is the new Mac app that replaces iChat, and the beta is available for download today. I’ve been toying with it all morning, and I have to say that I’m very pleased with it. Hit the jump to see what it’s all about.

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This post is part of a three-part series of roundups dedicated to finding apps for your home and family life. In part one, we’ll focus on fun and educational apps for your kids.

So you’ve bought your shiny new Mac, and you’ve got it all set up on your desk, ready to go. Even the kids can sense the wonder and awe emanating from behind those office doors. Surely you can find some time in between all of those important projects to let them play, right? But what will they do? You don’t want to set them loose on the vast expanse of the Internet, but something tells you that they’ll find your Numbers spreadsheets a bit less than exciting.

Fortunately for you, I’ve rounded up a handful of fun and productive apps that your kids will enjoy using on your Mac, and I will introduce them to you in this first part of our series on Mac apps for your home and family. Disclaimer: I assume no responsibility for children hogging the family computer.

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There are few game categories that I enjoy exploring and playing more than indie games. There’s something about supporting indie games and their developers that feels like I’m “doing my part.” It’s sort of like the “buying local” of video gaming. But there’s also the feeling of awe and excitement I get when I play amazing games that were birthed into existence without the aid of a major developer or publisher. If you also enjoy indie games, then you probably know that the Mac App Store has, thus far, been a goldmine for such games.

Limbo is an independently developed side-scrolling puzzle game from Playdead that is available on a multitude of platforms. I first played it on the Xbox Live Arcade, but didn’t really get a chance to play all the way through it until I downloaded it on my Mac. Today I’m going to delve into the world of Limbo, and since the best part of playing the game is not knowing what comes next, I’m going to try to do it as spoiler-free as possible! Hit the jump to read on.

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I love iTunes. As Apple’s native music player and iOS powerhouse command station, it is unlikely that anything will ever wholly replace iTunes for me. It’s an integrated hub for surfing the iTunes music store, buying iOS apps, making playlists, the Ping network (even though it’s somewhat barren), managing the media and content on my iPhone and iPad, and more. But in spite of my love for iTunes, I will be the first to admit that with a music library the size of mine, it can be a bit slow, unwieldy, and bloated when all I want to do is play some tunes.

When I began reading up on Sonora, a beta-phase app coded by Indragie Karunaratne and designed by Tyler Murphy, I was impressed with the obvious target niche that Sonora was appealing to. At the risk of sounding “scoff-y”, independently developed music players rarely appeal to me because they so often claim to be an iTunes replacement–which, for the reasons listed in the above paragraph, is unlikely for me. Sonora, on the other hand, markets itself as a companion player, humbly leaving the heavy lifting of music purchases and iOS management to iTunes and providing a lightweight player for the express purpose of playing music. Hit the jump to read more about Sonora.

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At AppStorm, when we get excited about great Mac software, we love to give the developers who worked hard to bring it to us the credit and recognition they deserve. Back in 2010, we ran a post highlighting some awesome software developers and the apps they make that we love to use.

As you may be aware, the Mac App Store has launched since then, providing a grand stage for even more rockstar devs to strut their stuff. Today I’m going to take a look at another handful of these developers. Hit the jump to see what I’ve rounded up this year!

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I’ve been fortunate enough to work with several time tracking applications in my time here at AppStorm (such an app can be indispensable for a freelancer). Some of these apps are nothing more than glorified spreadsheets, some place timers in your menubar that need to be activated at precisely the right times, and still others promise to sit quietly in the back of the room and make a note of your every move.

This premise may sound creepy, but consider for a moment the value of such data. First, it can provide valuable insight to how you spend (read: waste) your time on your computer. Second, it can take a lot of the headache out of invoicing for freelance projects, allowing you to tally up a very accurate number of hours that you spent on a given project.

Today I’m going to look at Time Track Pro, a time tracking app from the folks at Bloop that proves very useful in both of these regards.

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We’ve discussed, on several occasions here on Mac.AppStorm, the niche of apps comprised of consumer-grade imaging and design software. It is still a fairly young app space with huge potential for hobbyists and part-time designers that may not have the funds (or the feature requirements) for the professional tools like those developed by Adobe.

I like to dabble a small bit (emphasis on “small”) in vector art, and with a brother who is a graphic designer by trade, I’ve had my time to play with the big guns like Illustrator. Not only is it way more firepower than I’ll ever need, but I’m also not willing to shell out the required cash for what amounts to a part time hobby for me. Today, I’ll take a look at iDraw, a vector drawing app by Indeeo with a more reasonable price tag and a less immensely overwhelming feature set for the small-timers like me.

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Way back in my unenlightened days as a Windows user, I spent a great deal of time using various PDF editors. In an effort to avoid conflict with our friends at Windows.AppStorm, allow me to clarify: I don’t hate on Windows simply to hate on Windows–and indeed there are a lot of great Windows apps out there. But I think that even they will agree with me when I say that there are a lot of poorly designed PDF manipulation apps floating around on the Internet.

As an unrelated product of circumstance, my need for PDF manipulation apps has decreased since I became a Mac user. However, all of those frustrating memories came rushing back when I was given the opportunity to check out PDFactory from the folks at Appthology. An app that promised to be the perfect balance between the power of Adobe Acrobat and the slim-profile native glory that is OS X’s very own Preview had to be worth a try, right? Hit the jump to find out exactly how PDFactory holds up!

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Who doesn’t love a good world domination game? I mean, a good game is one thing. And a good fighting game is another. But a good fighting game where the goal is to take over the world? And with robots, no less!

Independent game studio Hexage fills this precise opening with a game called Robotek. Robotek is a turn based combat game in which you aim to reclaim the world from the evil robot uprising that caused the fall of humanity. Intrigued yet? Hit the jump to find out more!

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As you may have gathered from my recent posts, I have yet to upgrade to Lion on my personal MacBook Pro. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my ways of playing with the new operating system (and the apps and utilities that are released for it). And let me just say… developers are taking the changes in stride and coming up with some really great apps.

File management is a big deal for people who use their Mac every day, especially if it’s how you make your living. Some of you are command-line ninjas, and moving files about your hard drive with just a few keystrokes is second nature. But for the rest of us who rely on the GUI to drag files between folders, documents, emails, and various other drop locations, OS X Lion’s full-screen apps are less than conducive to streamlining this process.

It’s entirely likely that, if you have not yet discovered Yoink, you’ve used workarounds for moving files that you weren’t even aware were inconvenient. You create temporary folders, or drag files to the desktop, and then have to clean up extraneous copies after the move is complete. The new app from Eternal Storms Software (creators of flickery and ScreenFloat) is intended to remedy that. Yoink puts a contextual shelf on the side of your screen that appears only when you need it to aide you in cross-space file movement.

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