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Productivity

When I first started writing for Appstorm, I immediately grabbed a copy of MarsEdit, since I had read such great things (on AppStorm) and finally had a reason to use it. I know HTML, but I hate looking at all those tags when I’m writing, so I did most of my work in Rich Text mode, then switched it to HTML, and copied into WordPress. It wasn’t a bad workflow, but it wasn’t ideal. When I reviewed ByWord, I got hooked on the minimal writing environment, and searched for a way to integrate it into my workflow.

From ByWord documentation, I learned about the infinitely useful Markdown syntax, which I’d previously dismissed as something too geeky-sounding to try. Markdown is two things: a standardized plain-text writing syntax, and a tool for converting plain text into HTML. With limited knowledge of HTML, writers can type out content in a natural markup-free environment, then easily convert their text into properly encoded HTML. Marked is a lightweight, inexpensive app that lets you preview the HTML output of your document as you’re writing. In this article, I’m going to go over some of the basics of Markdown, and demonstrate how Marked can contribute to an efficient blogging workflow.

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Organization is crucial for greater productivity and we all know the famous saying, “A failure to prepare is a preperation to fail.” On Macs, you’ve got a whole range of programs designed to help you become more productive and improve your organizational skills. You can use the traditional option of iCal, which has been given a much-needed rework in Lion, or if you prefer to have your calendar synced across all platforms, you can use Google Calendar. Facebook also comes in handy for keeping track of those house parties as well as your friends’ birthdays.

But there are times where you want to see exactly what’s happening across all your calendars without having to look all over the place. Enter CalendarBar. It’s a lightweight application available exclusively from the Mac App Store that runs quietly and nonchalantly in your menu bar and lets you view all your appointments from all your synchronized calendars with one click. The developers, Clean Cut Code, state on CalendarBar’s website that it’s a “unique way to keep track of your events”. Let’s take a closer look at CalendarBar and see whether this claim holds up.

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It seems like there’s been an influx of RSS reader reviews here on AppStorm recently.  With great new (and sometimes novel) readers like Pulp or Reeder, we can’t help but get excited about them.  However, every now and then an RSS app comes out that doesn’t dabble with novel formats or unique interfaces.  They set out to achieve the simple goal of utility, and do it well.

MobileRSS is a Google Reader client that has long been popular on iOS devices, and now comes to Mac.  How does the desktop version hold up?

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One thing that the latest version of Windows does well is managing application windows. With easy keyboard shortcuts you can flip through visual representations of each of your open programs and instantly resize or move windows. There are several Mac applications available that emulate some of these features, a number of which we’ve reviewed in the past.

Moom is an interesting new option, offered by Many Tricks, a small independent company that produces several very good Mac apps. I’ve long relied on their Witch to improve OS X’s built-in app switching, and I use Desktop Curtain whenever I need to cover up my messy desktop to take screenshots. Moom takes its name from the conjoining of “Move” and “Zoom”, as these are the two main things you can do with the app.

Join us after the jump to see how Moom works.

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Producteev has long been one of my favorite web-based task management solutions. Before Producteev, there were fully-featured GTD solutions and there were free solutions, and the two almost never overlapped.

Then Producteev came along providing free web and iPhone apps, automatic task syncing, multiple workspaces, due dates, labels, and a lot more. The one thing that it has always lacked is a native Mac app. That problem was remedied earlier this week. Let’s take a look.

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You’ve no doubt heard about quick-launcher apps, they are utilities that are triggered by a keyboard shortcut and that let you do things like open apps or files a lot faster than if you did so by going into the menus. You just have to trigger the bar, type in what you are looking for and press enter. The great thing is that it works for so many more things than launching apps.

The app that we are reviewing today is one of these utilities and it’s called, of all things, Launcher. Come take a look at what it has to offer!

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Apple products have long been hailed as great tools for education.  It hasn’t been too long since I was a student myself, and even since then some of my favorite Mac software has been apps aimed at students.  Because developers see the market for this, students have access to great apps like iProcrastinate for task management, Papers for project management, and even Schoolhouse for all-in-one student productivity.  If your academic app arsenal lacks a good note-taking app, Dear Panda aims to fill that gap with CourseNotes.

CourseNotes is a lightweight, yet robust note-taking app for students.  It is designed to eliminate the hassle of keeping track of your notes by organizing them into subjects and sessions, as well as making them fully searchable.  CourseNotes also has a companion iPad app that syncs with the Mac counterpart, but more on that later.
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Keeping files synced between different computers, servers and external drives isn’t the easiest task in the world. You constantly have to compare multiple versions to see which is the most recent and spend far too much time manually copying files from one location to another. This is especially true of web developers who work locally and then have to push those changes to the web for testing.

With FolderWatch, virtually all of the work is removed from this process. After a simple setup process, FolderWatch will keep an eye on the specified folders and sync any changes automatically.

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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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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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