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Productivity

With the new year coming up, Mac AppStorm wants to make sure you get introduced to apps that will make you more productive in 2013. Mind mapping apps just may be the type of tool you need to boost your productivity in the upcoming year. From project management to presentations to brainstorming, mind mapping apps are flexible tools that assist users in storing and processing information of all types.

This review includes two apps that take a more minimalist, simplistic approach to mind mapping—MindNode and SimpleMind—and two apps that take a more power user approach—XMind and NovaMind. Read on to find out which app may best fit your needs.

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In 2002, a book entitled Getting Things Done was published by author David Allen, to widespread critical acclaim and quickly began to amass an almost cult following. In it, the author set forth a method for improving the efficiency of work processes by employing time management techniques, task prioritisation, and concentration on the most important tasks. Ten years, and many improved work-flows later, Allen’s theory remains as prevalent as ever, but not necessarily in the state he first imagined.

Despite being the title of Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, or GTD, has since become the byword for any method of improving productivity, regardless of relevance to the author’s original. Allen’s paper-based method has become outdated in the ten years since its publication, and, largely in response to technological advance and the Internet, other more relevant GTD theories have emerged, such as David Sparks’ Paperless.

With the myriad of electronic devices that now dominate many work flows and work places, making distractions easier to come by—ahem, Twitter—new ways of boosting productivity have come about. However, not everybody has time to read, implement, and stick to a special system. So, how do we bridge this impasse? It’s simple: take away the Internet, or at least part of it. Intrigued? Find out more after the break.

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Think of a typical task on your to-do list, and I’m sure there’s an app that can help you accomplish it. You’ve got Mac apps designed for a plethora of purposes, each designed to solve or complete different kinds of tasks in a number of unique ways. In fact, there are apps that are made to bring different standalone apps and services together to easily manage and keep track of. Off the top of my head are Words for save-for-later articles, MarsEdit for publishing to different blogging platforms, and Favs for all your social favorites.

For today’s review, I’ll be taking a look at Notesdeck for Mac, a relatively unique app that consolidates all of your iCloud, Dropbox, Simplenote, and Evernote notes into a single dashboard to view, edit, and sync in real time. Developed by Michael Petruzzo of Dark Heartfelt, it’s an app where notes—whichever service or note-taking app used—are editable and available at a click of a button.

With this concept in mind, can Notesdeck assist the everyday note-taking Mac user? How does Notesdeck fair in the productivity circle? Let’s find out.

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In theory, I love the idea of being able to easily take handwritten notes and have them stored on my computer. I’m going back to school and taking a bunch of math classes, so it would be nice to be able to handwrite equations and insert them in my notes, rather than using a dedicated equation editor. I could try to do the handwritten style notes on my iPad and take regular notes on my computer, merging them after class, but that seems unnecessarily difficult. Unfortunately, I kind of need something that doesn’t seem to exist quite yet, so in the meantime I’ve been exploring various apps to take handwritten notes directly on my computer.

PenJournal was my latest trial – it’s a simple program made to take handwritten notes, primarily using a graphics tablet. You can take notes, draw simple images, import/annotate PDFs and much more. Obviously, using a graphics tablet is not ideal for taking notes in class (my desk in class isn’t big enough for all that), but it’s still a program worth taking a look at. Stick with me after the jump to learn more about the features of PenJournal and how it stacks up to its pricier competitors, and how it works both with and without a tablet.

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I’m always looking for apps to make things easier and make my workflow run more smoothly. Especially when I’m repeatedly opening the same document or the same website, over and over again, I want to make what I’m doing less of a chore. I stick things on my Dock or in my bookmarks bar, but then I just end up with a lot of clutter. What I need is workflow help that goes unseen until I really need it.

RocketShip may be the app I’ve been looking for. It allows users to create shortcuts to just about anything, including applications and URLs. Instead of clicking an icon in your Dock or on your menubar, you get there by typing a keystroke you created yourself. Can RocketShip save me the time, and most of all the stopping and starting, of switching among applications and websites all day? (more…)

We’ve shown you a fair share of distraction-free writing apps before, everything from markdown editing apps to other more intricate apps that can get you writing a novel by playing sounds and placing images to get you in a creative mood. However, today we’re going to show you an even simpler and cheaper alternative to all the other apps we’ve showcased before.

It’s called Imagine. Instead of just imagining how it’d be to write with, let’s take a look at it and see how it holds up to the competition.
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The critically-acclaimed iPhone task manager Clear just came to the Mac earlier this month. Even though it received a lot of great support from reviewers across the Internet, users responded harshly to this release. Some claimed that it “doesn’t live up to its hype”, others that it was merely a start, and some went so far as to bash every living feature of its being. For the price, can you get more? Jimmy Do, developer of Mochi, thinks so.

Do introduced the app in August, put it on sale for 99 cents last month, and then updated it with printing and bug fixes and raised the price back to normal. In other words, it’s been around for a few months and the developer cares about updating it — two good signs. Mochi takes the same simple approach as clear, only with a bit more detail in the areas that count. It’s not to be considered a competitor to the colorful task manager, but rather an alternative. Does it live up to such expectations? (more…)

Two years ago, when I reviewed Curio 6.4, I described the application as a “workshop for your creative projects.” Today I’m going to take a long look at the just released Curio 8. According to Curio’s developer, George Browning of Zengobi, the new version is “the most ambitious Curio release since its inception ten years ago.” Does Curio 8 live up to this billing? Is it a major improvement? Should you upgrade? I hope to provide those answers for you, as well as giving you an orientation to the new version that will help you better evaluate it for yourself.

Those not familiar with Curio should begin by reading my earlier review, because I’m not going to repeat the basic introduction to Curio that is provided in that article. With over 40 improvements, there is plenty to say just about the changes in version 8.

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With the advent of the shift to a Paperless world, OCR has gained even greater importance. It’s the often overlooked detail that you may take for granted. That is of course until you try and search a PDF you scanned and realize it’s just an embedded image. Chances are that you may already have a good document scanner that does OCR. If, however, you don’t, then Prizmo 2 may just be what the doctor ordered.

Now I could just say that Prizmo does OCR with style, but the truth is that it does so much more. Read on after the break to find out what I mean. (more…)

Not too long ago, we reviewed Parallels Desktop 7 and deemed it to be a great app for all those needing to run alternate operating systems on their Macs. Now the team behind Parallels has release a new version of their flagship app and we decided to take a renewed look to see if they managed to improve on an already excellent product.

Join us as we discover some of the improvements and tweaks Parallels Desktop 8 has to offer and work around the few snags we found along the way.
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