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I’ve long said that the best tools are the ones that do one thing well. There are some app categories that really benefit from this, but something I’ve been learning with all my photo-taking tools is that photography apps often benefit the most from it. I love my all-in-one kits like Photoshop and Aperture, but they’re not perfect. There’s certainly room for improvement in certain areas.

One of those areas, at least for me, lies within vignettes and focus points. I like to tinker with them, and they often cause really cool effects, but I never like to keep them — they never turn out well. For the longest time, I thought it was just me, but I’ve come to realize it’s also the tool. It should be no surprise to many that MacPhun, one of the kings of photography apps, has come up with an incredible solution for this problem called Focus 2. Read on to find out what makes this a must-have for photographers who love a little focus in their lives.

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I bought Day One as a gift to myself on all of my devices last January. I’ve always wanted to keep a diary and have been consistently impressed with the diligence of those who return to a journal day after day. I just never seem to keep up with daily personal writing, and I inevitably misplace my journal, eventually forgetting about it entirely for months at a time. Day One’s omnipresence on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad seemed like it would fix all of that for me.

And it did! Now Day One has updated with some great new features on the Mac app, and I wanted to take a closer look at all the improvements. (more…)

As a photographer brought up in the digital age, the taking of photos, to my mind, has always been inextricably linked with computing. And my computing has always been done on a Mac, and Macs have always had iPhoto to keep pictures neatly organized. Okay, so iPhoto hasn’t been around for ever — it was introduced 11 years ago, alongside OSX 10.1 — but as a child of the OSX period, it’s hard for me to imagine what photo handling looked like, pre-iLife.

However, as the versions of OSX have rolled by, iPhoto has grown and grown, adding more features and a heavier CPU workload along the way. In some respects, this one-time light, nimble, agile photo library is now too large for its own good.

Which is where an app like Unbound ($9.99, beta release free) has an opportunity. It doesn’t edit, it doesn’t let you create cards or calendars, but it does claim to give you quick-time access to your photos. But does Unbound’s simplicity and speed outweigh iPhoto’s heavyweight functionality?

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At the end of the week, creative people often wonder how much they actually accomplished. They tell their friends they only spent 40–50 hours on the computer working when, in reality, it’s more like 60–70 hours. Staring at a screen most of the day isn’t great for your eyes, so why not lessen the amount of time you spend using a computer? That’s not as easy as it sounds, because you first have to find out how much you are spending on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube each day.

There’s now a different type of time tracker available. It’s called RescueTime. Rather than requiring that you manually clock in and out, it monitors everything you do and sends you a report at an interval you choose. When I first heard about the service, I was cautious about the privacy implications and whether it even did a good job. After using it for nearly two months, I have a bit more to say about it. (more…)

I’ll say this about my iPhone: it’s a lot easier to connect with people with it than it is while using a Mac. My Mac doesn’t have anywhere near the messaging options: there’s no Whisper or Facebook Messenger available for Mac, and iMessage is often a lukewarm offering at best (although I am grateful it’s there). Google Hangouts is abysmally bad in Chrome and my iPhone — much worse than Gmail Chat ever was, in my opinion — so I’ve rarely used it.

But it’s hard to simply swear all these apps off — after all, some people might not have my number, and for them, Facebook or Hangouts is the easiest way to get in touch. That’s why I was glad to try out Flamingo, a Mac app built from the ground up for Google Hangouts, Facebook messaging, and even XMPP. Is it worth the purchase? Read on to find out.

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It would take a cold heart to write off the night sky as merely sparks of light in the blackness. Yes, gazing upwards on a clear evening provides a beautiful show, but it also offers a perspective of our location in the middle of everything. So, it seems bizarre that astronomy is often thought of as a niche hobby of knitwear-clothed nerds, but perhaps that perception can be attributed to the depth of mind-stored knowledge that has traditionally been required to fully appreciate the heavens.

It seems to me that this perception is due an update. Information about the stars has never been more accessible, thanks to technology and, in particular, apps. One of the first generation of standout iOS apps was GoSkyWatch, which utilized the iPad’s accelerometers and compass to allow users to pan around a virtual sky filled with information. But sometimes, you just want to digest information in the light, warm surroundings of your sitting room.

Hence, there seems to be a place for OSX apps like RedShift Astronomy. Packed with information, and brimming with 3D visualizations, this $18.99 offering should be a hit with anyone interested in exploring the universe. But does it do the magnificence of space true justice?

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Private journals are a much better way of venting your frustration than Twitter. Studies have proven this. (Okay not really.) This explains Day One’s success. The thing is, there aren’t that many quality journaling options available on the Mac. I reviewed Capture 365 Journal — a nice-looking alternative — about a year ago and found it to be less than satisfactory compared to Day One. Is there no hope for a Day One stand-in? I think I’ve found one, actually.

Its name is Bits, developed by the people who brought you Numi. It lives up to its very short name, and I’d go so far as to call it the smallest journaling app available on the Mac. It’s very minimal in appearance, but the developers have given it a unique strength: blog integration. Could this tiny app be the basic digital journal we’ve always wanted? (more…)

Trey Ratcliff is one of the most respected people in professional photography today. He pioneered the use of HDR (high dynamic range) to capture scenes in a lifelike way; he also writes one of the most detailed and well-composed tutorials for HDR on the Internet. Ratcliff is also known for some other side projects, like Stuck On Earth, a previously iPad-only app for exploring the world through photographs.

Ratcliff’s handy tool is now available on the Mac, and I’m going to take a look at how it fares in comparison to the iPad app. (more…)

Everyone likes getting a deal, and Craigslist is a great place to start. I always feel like I’m behind the eight ball, though, because everyone seems to be on top of the great listings before I even get there.

That’s why I tried out GreatApp for Craigslist, with its personalized searches and lots of filters. Its notifications should help me stay out in front of the newest listings. I’m going to see if this app is really a help to searching Craigslist or if I’d be better off sticking to the website. (more…)

Apple’s Notes app is fine if you’re quickly jotting things down, but after a while you may start to want something more powerful. That’s when services like Evernote and Simplenote. The former has had a native Mac app for a while now, but the latter has relied on third-party solutions like the newer Justnotes and Brett Terpstra’s fantastic nvALT.

But now there’s something new on the market. It’s an official app developed by Automattic, the team behind WordPress which now owns Simplenote itself as well. The free Simplenote for Mac promises to bring the whole experience to your computer without a Web browser, and kicks off an entire new wave of Simplenote apps across all their supported platforms. Is the long-awaited client everything we’ve dreamed of? (more…)

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