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review

Imagine, for a moment, that the apps bundled with OS X — Preview, TextEdit, Safari, Mail, and the rest — along with the iWork and iLife apps were the only apps that could run on the Mac. There’d still be a lot you could do with a Mac, and some would still buy them — but in all reality, if there were no 3rd party apps for the Mac, we’d all end up switching platforms.

Apps make or break our computing experiences. They’re what make a thousand dollar slab of aluminum turn into something that can do whatever we want. The lack of indie apps on Windows is one of the sharpest contrasts with the Mac’s vibrant 3rd party app market — and that’s what keeps our Macs being amazing machines, far more than the core stuff in OS X.

But apps are tough to make, and take serious time and money to develop and design and support. And it’s getting harder — the race to the bottom in app pricing has made it tough for developers to keep making amazing apps. It’s time we started helping developers out.

Here’s how:

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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…)

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…)

When Apple brought iCloud Tabs, Photo Stream, and AirDrop to the Mac and iOS, users could finally stop emailing things to themselves or plugging in their iOS devices to transfer a photo. Still, AirDrop and these other services don’t do everything. What if you wanted to send your clipboard to your mobile phone or tablet? Or maybe you have a text document that you need to take with you to a lecture. Either of these scenarios can be solved with Dropbox, but what if there was something faster?

DeskConnect boasts “seamless” transfer of text, audio, driving directions, etc. from your mobile device to your computer and vice versa. Over the years, there have been a lot of these services, from Clipboard to Bump, but none of them have truly brought desktop and mobile together for a unified experience. Does DeskConnect? (more…)

The epitome of a businessperson always used to be an employee of a Venture Capital company on Wall Street. When someone spoke about this sort of individual, you’d imagine them with short hair, always wearing a suit and tie, typically taking a taxi to the workplace each day, and maybe going out for nightly cocktails with equally important people at the karaoke bar a few blocks from work. This would be the typical stockbroker.

In his set of tools, the aforementioned person would typically have two displays at his desk always keeping an eye on the industries he’s responsible for. In the movie version of his life, at least, the stock app would look beautiful — but in real life, they usually look more like the LED ticker boards in use on Wall Street. There’s never really been a native Mac app dedicated to making stock market monitoring an effortless — and may we say, tastefully designed — task. At least, that used to be the issue. Visible Market, the developer of StockTouch for iPad, has recently brought its popular iOS Stocks app alternative to the Mac. It’s pretty, yes, but does it do the job?
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MainStage has long been Apple’s answer to the live music performance industry. While the company hasn’t listed names of popular bands who use the app (like they did with Logic Pro), there are quite a few artists who use the concert-optimized DAW for synthesizers and sometimes even mixing. I’ve been using the second version of MainStage to play synths at church for over three years now, and while it was a learning process to understand things, I’m fully invested in the app now, and I love it.

When I saw MainStage 3, I was excited to see new features like arpeggiators and drum machines finally making their way to the app. The sparkly user interface, too, looked like a nice change. After a bit of testing, I’ve come to a few conclusions about the app. Let’s go over them. (more…)

AirPlay is a fantastic feature if you want to listen to a podcast wirelessly on your home speakers or watch a film that’s available only on Amazon Prime Video (which is not included with the Apple TV). However, it is missing one feature: the ability to stream from your iPhone to your Mac, rather than a TV. This could be handy if you use your iMac as a TV and want to play your movies and games on the big screen, or don’t want to take your iPhone out of your pocket to listen to a podcast while in the coffee shop (because you didn’t buy Instacast on both platforms).

There has long been a solution available, properly titled AirServer. The thing is, we never got around to reviewing it here at Mac.AppStorm, so today I’m going to do just that. Is the little utility worth the price and does it do everything that’s promised? (more…)

I first heard about The Settlers of Catan in CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, and I was surprised to never have played such a popular title. The board game, if you don’t already know, was invented in Germany and became extremely popular outside Europe, selling over 15 million copies in the U.S. by 2009. It’s also available as a video game on common platforms like the Nintendo DS, PC, and the Mac.

While the game has been available on iOS since late 2009, there hasn’t been an official Mac app until this July saw the release of Catan. I’ve been playing it for the past few days to get a hang of things. The board game is great, but will the legend live on in a Mac world? (more…)

MacBook Airs, as we all very well know, have much less internal storage than their sibling, the MacBook Pro. This can be a major downside for artists — photographers, musicians, video editors, etc. For example, if you’re a photographer, you probably have a hard time keeping your entire portfolio on your MacBook. You could just plug in an external hard drive and travel around with that, but it’s just an extra device you don’t need to carry, so why not optimize your image files for a smaller hard drive?

JPEGmini‘s developers claim the app can compress your existing images into JPEGs that have a much smaller footprint without compromising quality. Being a person who works with images on a daily basis, this sounded a bit fake to me, but I decided to give the app a try anyway. Here’s our thoughts on the app — and a chance for you to win a free copy of JPEGmini! (more…)

When Instacast came to the Mac a few months ago, I decided it was time to make the switch from Downcast on my iOS devices. I’ve enjoyed Instacast ever since, but now the people over at Downcast have released a shiny new Mac counterpart. I was intrigued, so I’ve spent the past day learning its ins and outs to tell you whether or not it’s worth downloading.

Let’s take a look.

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