Category Archives: app of the week

MindGenius – iPad App of the Week

MindGenius – iPad App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is MindGenius for iPad.

MindGenius for iPad is the perfect tool for capturing information on the go.

Use it for taking notes in meetings and seminars, creating quick to do lists, and anywhere else you require a fast, intuitive method to collect ideas and information and think things through.

MindGenius for iPad can help you improve your personal productivity and can be used in conjunction with MindGenius for PC. Open maps created in the desktop version and vice versa.

Free

Within my college the standard mind mapping application on the desktop is MindGenius. Though there have been various mind mapping apps for the iPad, I have been using iThoughts HD for a while now (see the review), it wasn’t that simple to transfer mind maps from the iPad to the PC and back again. As a result when I was told that there was a new dedicated MindGenius app for the iPad I was pleased as this would mean that it would be much easier for staff and learners to transfer mind maps between their iPads and the PC.

As you might expect, the app makes it very easy to create mind maps, adding text, child and siblings is simple and quite intuitive.

Using the sidebar it is possible to add more information to the mind map, information on each part of the mind map, add tasks to the nodes and add notes.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t change the default colours of the different branches.

Where this app falls down is how you can share your mind map. You can either e-mail the mind map or save it to Dropbox in the native MindGenius .mgmx format.

You can’t export as a PDF or PNG (image file), neither can you export in a different mind mapping format. You can’t print your mind map either. As a result the only way to do any of the that is to e-mail it to a PC and open the mind map on the PC and then export, save or print.

As a result as a standalone free app, it’s fine for making notes, but you won’t be able to do that much with your finished mind map. As a result, even though it is free, you will find it quite limiting. However if you already have MindGenius on your PC then you may find this app useful for making mind maps on your iPad on the move or in the classroom.

Get MindGenius for iPad in the iTunes App Store.

Skitch – iPad App of the Week

Skitch – iPad App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is Skitch for iPad.

Express yourself with fewer words, emails and meetings…with Skitch for iPad!

Use shapes, arrows, sketches and text annotation to get your point across fast. Mark up photos, screenshots, maps, and webpages then share them with anyone you like.

Free

In my line of work I often have to make screenshots and sometimes annotate them. In the past I would take a screenshot using the built in function in the OS and then paste into Fireworks before using that to add annotations. I would then need to either e-mail the image or upload it somewhere.

For a while I used TinyGrab, mainly as it automatically uploaded the screenshot to the web and copied the resulting URL to the clipboard so it could be pasted into an e-mail or as I was doing more frequently then into Twitter. However TinyGrab wouldn’t let you annotate (so sometimes I would resort back to Fireworks) and then there was the premature launch of TinyGrab 2.0 following the hacking of TinyGrab. It was at this point I decided to look for another app and fell upon Skitch for the Mac. This was (at the time) a paid app, but it worked really well and I still use it on a regular basis.

So when Skitch for iPad was announced I downloaded it for my iPad.

Having started Skitch for iPad, the first thing is to get a screenshot or an image into the app. You can use an image or photo from your photo library, use the camera in the iPad, take a screenshot (using that built in function in iOS to take screenshots). You can use the built-in browser in the app to snap webpages. The app also allows you to browse Google maps and then snap a map before you annotate it.

Finally you can also start with a blank canvas (think whiteboard). The app adds previous snaps to the apps main screen so if you need to go back to a previous working image you can find it pretty easily.

Once you have an image in Skitch you can annotate it to emphasise or add information.

So you can create arrows, shapes and add text. Though there are limitations in the options you have for the different annotations, I can live with that. If I really really really need to do something really really really complex then I won’t be using Skitch. Skitch is for quick screenshots with quick, rough annotations.

You can edit your annotations once places, however editing is quite limited in the same sense of adding them. However you can reposition them, recolour them or remove them!

The sharing options built in are “limited”, you can send to Twitter, e-mail or save to your photo library.

Of course once in your photo library then you can “push” them out to where you need them. Now that Evernote own Skitch you can also send your annotated snaps to Evernote.

For those that want to “show” their snaps, you can use Airplay and an Apple TV connected to a projector or TV. Another option is to use the VGA or HDMI cable.

There are lots of uses for an app such as Skitch.

  • Point out details in a photograph or a screenshot.
  • Show someone how to use a particular app or website.
  • Where to find stuff on a map.

Overall I really like Skitch for the iPad. Though I don’t use it as much as I do the Mac version, it is still a key app for my iPad. If you ever need to annotate screenshots on your iPad then do have a look at Skitch.

Get Skitch for iPad in the iTunes App Store.

PhotoToaster – iPad App of the Week

PhotoToaster – iPad App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is PhotoToaster.

Flexible Interface

PhotoToaster™ combines the ease of use of a ‘pick from a preset’ app with the power and flexibility of full manual adjustment. Three different editing interfaces are available to provide ease of use for the novice and creative accuracy for the discerning professional. Start with the collection of beautiful global presets, move down to the category presets, or dive right in and adjust individual settings. The edits are non-destructive, so you can experiment all you want.

Blazingly Fast Performance

Speed is a major ingredient of the Toaster. You don’t have to let go of a slider and then wait to see the result. The sliders are ‘live’ and the feedback is instant. There’s no waiting with the Toaster.

Non-destructive

Non-destructive photo processing means that order doesn’t matter. If you add a vignette and then adjust crop, the vignette will be reapplied. If you add a border and then do an image adjustment, the adjustment is applied only to the image. This allows for a fun and creative editing experience.

Creative

The adjustments are combined to provide infinite possibilities. Your photo doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s with the Toaster. Even if you start with a preset, you can open the manual settings and adjust the controls until it’s just right for you.

You can email or message the result, post it to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr, or save to your photo album.

£1.49

Regular readers of this series will know that I have a particular fondness for image editing apps and do like trying out different photo imaging apps.

PhotoToaster allows you to edit photographs, manipulating the brightness and contrast, add filters (effects), add textures and add borders or vignettes. Continue reading PhotoToaster – iPad App of the Week

PlainText – iPhone App of the Week

PlainText – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is PlainText.

For editing text on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. PlainText is a simple text editor with an uncomplicated, paper-like user interface. Unlike the default Notes app, PlainText allows you to create and organize your documents in folders and sync everything with Dropbox.com.

Free

PlainText is a simple tool that allows you to edit a text document and unlike the built in Notes app it syncs automatically with Dropbox so you can access your notes when you need to from your computer, another device or a browser.

You can type in text on your iPhone and once you have connected PlainText to your Dropbox it will “appear” there!

PlainText is an universal app so also works on the iPad. If you need something with more settings then the developer of PlainText has created WriteRoom.

If you want to make notes and sync them automatically to Dropbox and you are not worried about formatting or tags (use Evernote for that kind of thing) then PlainText is probably the right app for you.

Get PlainText in the iTunes App Store.

ebrary – iPad App of the Week

ebrary – iPad App of the Week

Update: The app has now been discontinued.

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is ebrary.

Researchers now have an optimized way to experience authoritative content – both online and offline – from multiple sources including e-books that their institutions acquire from leading publishers and materials uploaded and integrated by librarians.

Free

I have a bit of a passion for e-books. It’s not about replacing paper books, much more a way to provider greater access to books at a time and place to suit the learner.

The e-Books for FE from JISC Collections enables FE Colleges to start with e-Books through the ebrary platform.If you can it makes sense to provide authenticated external access, either through Federated Access or Athens.

One of the disadvantages of the ebrary platform was it was browser based, though that meant you could easily access the collection through a PC or a Mac, it did mean that it was either not possible or challenging to read them on a mobile device.

Recently ebrary have added a download feature to the collection, this means you can download either 40 pages as an unprotected PDF or the whole book for a 14 day loan using Adobe Digital Editions. This means you could transfer it to some e-book readers such as the Sony Reader.

ebrary have just released an iPad and iPhone App. What surprised me was how much better the app was for reading books than the browser based platform on the iPad.

Disappointingly the only way I could get the app to work was to link my account on ebrary that I use with Federated Access with my Facebook account and then link the App with my Facebook account. There didn’t appear to be a way of logging into the App using Federated Access (and I also believe it isn’t possible with Athens either). I guess there is a technical reason for this, but this could cause problems if your institution blocks Facebook for staff or learners (or both).

The app doesn’t “hold” the authentication for very long either, so as a result you do need to re-authenticate on a regular basis. So it’s not like you can authenticate at home and then use it in college, you would need to authenticate across the college network. Though if staff or learners have a 3G iPad then they could just use 3G to authenticate and then go back to wifi to access the book!

In my own college that wouldn’t be an issue, learners would have access to Facebook over the student wireless network and though we do block Facebook to staff, staff who have an “academic need” to use Facebook can get the block lifted. Using Facebook to access ebrary would be a legitimate “academic need”.

Once authenticated you can search and browse for books as you can on the browser platform.

The books download page by page which on a slow connection can be frustratingly slow. It makes much more sense to download the books, but to do that you need an Adobe ID for the Adobe Digital Editions. This is in addition to the other IDs. I can imagine that this could be complicated for learners in having to combine various IDs to use the app. Also if they have been using Ebrary purely through IP authentication on campus they may not even know they need an ID to access the books.

The books are quite large too, the ones I looked at were in the 70-100MB range which on a slow broadband connection will take a while to download. Once downloaded though, moving between chapters, or flicking between pages the experience is so much faster and better than trying to read the books “live” having to download each page. Also it doesn’t require you to re-authenticate so making it much easier to read books on the move. However once you have downloaded a book and it expires you don’t seem to be able to download it again!

I am looking into this limitation. You can return a book early, so I am guessing that is one limited solution. I have managed to re-download an expired book, but I suspect that there may be a watiing time before you can “borrow” it again. The ebrary help does cover some of this, but as the ebrary platform can be used for a variety of books and collections, the help isn’t always specific to the e-Books for FE or the iOS App.

You can copy and paste text from the e-books and what I do like (as it does in the browser) is it adds the appropriate reference to the pasted text. This makes it much easier for learners to understand and recognise the importance of referencing the text they cut and paste.

I will admit that the ebrary app is not perfect, but it does work and it does allow you to access the ebrary collection from your iOS device, there is an app for the iPhone as well as the iPad.

If you are subscribed to the ebrary collection, have a Facebook account and have an iPad, then get this app.

Get the ebrary app in the iTunes App Store. Update: The app has now been discontinued.

Dermandar Panorama – iPhone App of the Week

Dermandar Panorama – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is Dermandar Panorama.

“While many iOS apps offer panorama stitching, or even capturing and stitching, few make it as easy as Dermandar Panorama … it’s really hard to take a bad panorama.” – Macworld.

Features:
Fully automated capture system
Blazing fast stitching, see the results in no time
Full light exposure control
Immersive 3D viewer, pinch or double tap to zoom, autoplay…
Full 360 panoramas
On-device local gallery
Web gallery to enjoy thousands of public panoramas
”Near me” gallery, see panoramas near your location
No need to register anywhere to save your panoramas on your device
Sign up/sign in and upload for free to Dermandar.com

Sharing:

Save to your Photo Album
Facebook, share a link to an immersive 3D viewer page (HTML5 and Flash)
Twitter, tweet a link to an immersive 3D viewer page (HTML5 and Flash)
Email the panorama as an image or as a link
Copy the link (to paste it somewhere else, like in an SMS)

Quick-start guide:

Hold the device in portrait mode and avoid tilting it (straight vertical !)
Tap the START button
Rotate the device to the left or right
When the two shapes on top form a circle, an image will be taken automatically
Keep rotating the device in the chosen direction
Tap the FINISH button or put the device in landscape orientation to stitch and view the panorama
Tap the Gallery button anytime to cancel shooting

£1.49

I have tried a few panorama apps before, I quite like PhotoSynth and You Gotta See This! both of those however don’t really create “true” panoramas.

I bought Dermandar Panorama some time ago on the recommendation of a friend, but never really tried it out in anger, as in taking an actual panorama.

The process for taking a panorama is very simple and literally is almost point and shoot.

The process was simple and clear and I was quite pleased with the end result.

I thought the stitching was quite seamless and a lot better than other panorama apps I have used.

There are various options for sharing your panorama, but you can simply save to your camera and roll and then do whatever you want to from there. You can get an account with Dermandar, but it isn’t necessary to, in order to use the app.

A future update will bring higher resolutions which will be useful for print.

Overall I was really pleased with this app, it’s easy to use, and produces really good results.

Get Dermandar Panorama in the iTunes App Store.

Fotopedia Heritage – iPhone App of the Week

Fotopedia Heritage – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is Fotopedia Heritage.

This app was recently selected as one of the top 50 apps of all time in Apple’s new Hall of Fame. With 25,000 awe-inspiring photos, this much loved app has been called the world’s largest photo book, an inspiring travel guide, an entertaining teaching device and even a bed-time relaxation tool.

Created in cooperation with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Fotopedia Heritage provides a virtual passport to the hundreds of sites that constitute the world’s collective cultural and natural human legacy.

With our thanks to the Fotopedia community of photographers who created or contributed so many of the world’s most beautiful and representative photos, while curators carefully sorted and selected them to provide a stunning experience.

Free

I quite like photo browsing apps, the Guardian Eyewitness app for example is really nice.

What Fotopedia Heritage does is curate a series of photographs from various soures (including Flickr) and presents them as online slideshows.

What makes this useful for learners over just searching sites aimlessly is the curation of the images themselves. Imagine a Travel & Tourism student doing a project on Venice, well here are a series of images that show the beauty of Venice.

One of the issues I do have with the app is the navigation, it wasn’t entirely clear how to navigate the collections through the menu at the bottom of the screen. This is an ongoing issue I find with many iOS apps that there is an inconsistent approach to button and menu placement. It means that you need to learn how to use each app individually rather than learn how to use a standardised OS interface that can then be applied to each app. However that is not unique to iOS, the same can be said for Android, HTML5 Web Apps as well as Windows and OS X.

What’s nice about the images within the app is that it tells you the licensing so if you want to re-use the image (say in a presentation) you can knowing that you won’t be infringing copyright. It also means that practitioners can use the photographs too, for their presentations, handouts or learning objects.

You can of course visit the Fotopedia website via your computer, but the nice thing about an app is that it provides a focus for the user. It also has nice features that enable you to share or download the images you find that you want to use or keep.

It’s an universal app so will also work on the iPad and would make for a nice photo frame app with slideshows.

Overall an app that allows you to browse some wonderful images, and for some courses these images will be really useful for the learners and practitioners on them.

Get Fotopedia Heritage in the iTunes App Store. Update: no longer available

Flipboard – iPhone App of the Week

Flipboard – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is Flipboard.

Named Apple’s iPad App of the year and one of TIME’s Top 50 Innovations, Flipboard creates a personalized magazine out of everything being shared with you, from Instagram photos and Facebook updates to Tumblr posts and articles from your favorite publications. Fill Flipboard with the things you like to read, from the smallest blogs to publications like Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair, and use Instapaper or Read It Later to save articles to read later. Connect Flipboard to all your social networks, and you’ll have a single place to enjoy, browse, comment on and share all the news, photos and updates that matter to you.

New to Flipboard on iPhone is Cover Stories, a selection of interesting articles and photos being shared with you right now. And it gets smarter every time you use it.

I really do like Flipboard for the iPad, it was in my list of top ten web tools of 2011. I was pleased to hear that it was also available for the iPhone. I did wonder how it would work on the smaller screen and if it would have the same usability as the excellent iPad app.

Once Flipboard had intergreated Google Reader into the app, it was at this point (along with Twitter and Facebook integration) that the app turned from an interesting diversion to a useful tool that allowed me to keep on top of the news and social stream of information without becoming overloaded. Flipping between pages of content felt very natural and magazine like.

So I was intrigued if Flipboard could make the transition to the iPhone, they had certainly taken their time, Flipboard was Apple’s App of the Year in 2010, so well over a year in the making.

One useful addition to Flipboard has been user accounts, this allows you to sign in and all your “feeds” are then there ready to go. This is very useful if you as I do have multiple iOS devices. So there I was with the Flipboard iPhone App, I signed into my Flipboard account and it found all my feeds.

The interface, though nowhere as near as nice as the iPad version, does work well on the smaller iPhone screen. I think Flipboard know that their large screen interface wouldn’t have worked on the small screen and as a result are trying something different. I quite like it and I found it easy to move between links and stories.

I even think it is quite usable as a casual Twitter client, remember that it doesn’t get all of your Twitter stream. Having said that you can of course drill down with Flipboard from a larger stream to a smaller one.

Overall I am pleased with the new Flipboard for the iPhone and if you like to browse your RSS feeds, Google Reader, Twitter and Facebook, then do have a look at Flipboard.

Get Flipboard in the iTunes App Store.

Microsoft OneNote for iPad – iPad App of the Week

Microsoft OneNote for iPad – iPad App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is Microsoft OneNote for iPad.

Microsoft OneNote for iPad is a note-taking app for capturing all of your ideas and to-dos on the go, brought to you by Microsoft Office.

Create searchable notes with text, pictures and bullets. Make and manage to-do lists with checkboxes. Then keep your notes in sync using free Microsoft SkyDrive® online storage to access, edit and manage them from virtually anywhere, from your PC or almost any web browser. Access your notes online at http://skydrive.com.

Free

My preferred note app is Evernote, but working within a Microsoft environment I now and again look at Microsoft’s OneNote. I did manage to get OneNote for the iPhone when it was US only, but it eventually came to the UK. I didn’t use it much, but quite liked certain features.

Microsoft have now released OneNote for the iPad and I think the iPad is a much better platform for note taking compared to the iPhone; the iPhone works better as a to do list and for reading notes in my opinion.

It’s a free app, but you are restricted to 500 notes, however you can go beyond 500 with an £10.49 in-app purchase for unlimited notes. Seems expensive, but Evernote Premium at $5 per month, or $45 per year is a lot more pricey.

You will need a Windows Live ID to use OneNote, but this is free and you get other features (such as Skydrive) which can be useful. There are some functions that will only be possible on the OneNote web app or in the OneNote application, but it’s not as though the Evernote iPad app was free of restrictions.

The app is very easy to use, and it is easy to add photographs or images, you can add bullet points and check lists.

At the end of the day I think the only real way to evaluate OneNote for the iPad is to use it on a regular basis, as it is a free app then it at least won’t cost you anything.

Get OneNote in the iTunes App Store.


The Amazing Type-Writer – iPhone App of the Week

The Amazing Type-Writer – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is The Amazing Type-Writer.

A type-writer of finest manufacture, at a special introductory price!

– Record your thoughts & textual doodles for posterity on high-quality cardstock!
– Post your cards to the prestigious Typewritten Gallery!
– View the works of others, and unabashedly type on their cards!

The engineers at Doormouse Mfg. have at last combined the latest in mobile pneumatic tubes technology with the highest-quality typewriter swing-arms available—and for a fraction of the price of the competition.

Only a limited number of the Doormouse Mfg. Amazing Type-Writers will be produced. Don’t miss your chance to own the highest-quality pocket-sized type-writer currently available!

£1.49

This is just a fun app with one purpose…

To create typewritten index cards, nothing more, nothing less. You can then share the creations.

Get it from the iTunes App Store.