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Music, I think it is fair to say, is a large part of most people’s life. Many of us listen to music whilst we’re on the computer, and, being on Mac, this will probably be through iTunes. But if you want to change the song, pause it, or anything else, you don’t want to disrupt your workflow and open up the bulky musical hub that is iTunes. You could set up a few keyboard shortcuts, but what if you want more functionality?

That’s where Music Commander comes in. Music Commander is a menu bar app, available exclusively in the Mac App Store, which allows you to control certain elements of iTunes from your menu bar, so you can get back to work instantly.

Read on to see how it fares when put to the test.

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There is quite a bit of screenshot functionality built right into OS X. Using global shortcuts, you can grab the entire screen, a specific area or even a specific window and place it either on your desktop or into your clipboard. Also, with QuickTime, you now have the ability to record everything on your screen to a simple movie.

Despite all this functionality, there is definitely room for improvement. Apps like LittleSnapper and Screenium give you tons of professional functionality, but will cost you a whopping $30. So where’s the happy medium of an affordable utility that still packs plenty of great features? Screeny attempts to do just that. Read on to see how it fares.

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I’ve been using Reeder since the very beginning, since back when it was just a wee little app with no subscription management or automatic refresh.

Since that first public beta, reeder has grown from a buggy iOS port to a fully-featured, beautiful Google Reader client. There’s no shortage of Mac RSS applications, and many have developed loyal fanbases across many niches. In this crowded market, can reeder really offer something new?

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To-do apps have such a big market, with new ones coming out almost every week. But what about a to-do app made specifically for students? Keeping up with assignments from all the different courses that you have as a student can be pretty difficult.

The app that we are reviewing today is called iHomework, and, as can likely be guessed by its name, its purpose is to help you keep up with your assignments.

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With the ever-increasing popularity of iPad apps such as Flipboard, and the impending decline of RSS, developers are becoming more and more aware that users want a new way to discover news online – Subscribing to feeds and trawling through thousands of stories is too time-consuming and isn’t a viable option in this modern world where time is everything. Users want to discover the news they want, and read it in an easy way.

This is where Mixtab comes in. Starting off as an iPad app, Mixtab has made the transition to Mac. Mixtab allows you to create tabs to browse news, based on what sort of news you’re looking for. There’s plenty of competition in this field, and I’m sure we’ll see even more in future years. So how does Mixtab compare? Read on to find out.

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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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We all struggle with procrastination from time to time, especially when overwhelmed with the size or scope of a project. There have been a number of studies and books written lately about the benefits of working for shorter periods of time, with regular short breaks in between. In combination with setting specific small goals to accomplish, this technique is supposed to help you stay focused on the task without getting overwhelmed, and makes you less likely to procrastinate.

The developers of Vitamin-R aimed to create an unobtrusive menu-bar app to help you manage your “time slices” and breaks, while encouraging you to stay focused on small tasks. Vitamin-R integrates many of the ideas described by these new productivity techniques into its functionality, but can it really help you stay focused?

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This review should, in hindsight, be more of an obituary. As you are probably aware, Apple is planning to ditch Front Row from its latest release of Mac OS X, Lion. Why is anyone’s guess, but the fact that the last update for it was released in November 2009, I think we could all see it coming.

In comparison to other applications, Front Row is very basic and only offers a limited number of functions. Apple may want people to switch to the Apple TV, a small digital media receiver which did borrow heavily from Front Row, or maybe it ditched Front Row because of the rise of other, third-party media applications.

Boxee is one of these. Although the whole app and its interface had larger TVs in mind, it can still be used on desktops without too much trouble. Boxee has been around for a little while now – the public beta was released in January 2010 – however the application is still in its beta stage of development. It does boast a neat interface and some handy in-built features so even if you don’t have a large TV, you can still gain some use out of it on your computer.

Boxee is, in my opinion, the final nail in the coffin for Front Row. Read on to find out why.
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In recent years e-books have experienced a notable surge in popularity. Much of this can be attributed to devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad, which have seen a huge rise in popularity over recent years and seem to always be in those “top 10 gadget lists”. Amazon now sells more Kindle-format books than standard paper copies and the research and advisory firm mediaIDEAS forecasted that e-book readers are set to become a $25 billion market by the year 2020.

So with all these e-books floating around, you’ll need a way to manage them, right? Well, that’s where Calibre comes in. Think of it as iTunes for your e-books. Although e-book readers such as the Kindle provide their own software, it is a bit basic and you can only read books purchased from the Kindle store.

Calibre allows you to categorize all your books, convert them into different formats and upload them to your device. Although it won’t win any awards for its looks, the old adage is true, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” (or should that be e-book? Sorry, bad joke). Calibre is, to use the age-old comparison, iTunes for your e-books. Read on to find out why.

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Instagram has become a very popular service and app on the iPhone, by allowing you to create and share vintage-looking pictures with your social networks and check the recent pictures from your friends. Unfortunately, though, there isn’t really a way of interacting with the service on your computer. Instagram’s developers know this and have made their API available to anyone who wants to create an app for their service.

The app that we are reviewing today is a beautifully designed companion for using Instagram on your Mac. It’s called Carousel and it looks very promising. Does it deliver?

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