Apr
14
2014

Screens 3 for Mac Review

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Since 2010, I’ve been using Edovia’s Screens for all my VNC needs: an elegant client with a polished interface and just the right amount of options, I’ve always been a fan of Edovia’s focus on elegance and simplicity combined with touch controls.

The iOS app has changed quite a bit over the years: notably, with iOS 7 Edovia took the opportunity to completely redesign Screens with a cleaner UI and updated gestures, adding on-disconnect actions, hot corners, and trackpad mode with subsequent updates that continued to strike a good balance between feature additions and intuitiveness. I don’t need to access dozens of Macs remotely every day – I only log into my local MacBook Air (when I’m in bed or in another room) and my remote Mac mini – but I know that Screens for iOS has everything I need.

Screens 3 is Edovia’s latest update to their Mac client, originally released in 2011. A free update for existing Screens 2 customers, Screens 3 is available both on Edovia’s website and the Mac App Store at $34.99, but only the Mac App Store version can offer iCloud sync across devices; because of this limitation, I recommend buying Screens from the Mac App Store.

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Apr
9
2014

Carousel

Carousel, a new gallery app released today by Dropbox, aims at providing an integrated solution for all photos and videos stored in a Dropbox account, unifying them in a single interface that automatically sorts files by time and location. As someone who relies on Dropbox and a custom workflow for photo backup, management, and viewing, I followed today’s announcements with curiosity and anticipation – the company’s previous photo products weren’t the most advanced or versatile ones on the App Store, but they showed an interest for turning Dropbox into a cloud-based Camera Roll, which is where Apple is struggling with its confusing Photo Stream.

I’m still exploring various possibilities for my photo management workflow (I played around with Everpix, Loom, Picturelife, Unbound, and many other services and clients) and Carousel offers an interesting take on the problem: it’s photo and video archival based on Dropbox storage, but it’s also a separate iOS app with sharing options that include messaging and public links on the web.

I took Carousel for a spin[1] this afternoon, and I collected some first impressions below. They’re not exhaustive, but I believe they’re fairly indicative of the app’s current state and limitations. (more…)

Hider 2

I try not to be too paranoid about the security of files I keep on my Mac, but I do enjoy the peace of mind provided by encrypting some work documents when necessary, hoping that there will be an extra layer of security for those files in case of disaster or device loss. For the past week, I’ve been trying MacPaw’s Hider 2, a new app that wants to unify and streamline the process of hiding and encrypting files in a single, intuitive interface. (more…)

We’ve all been there: bored out of our minds in a meeting because someone has put together a PowerPoint presentation with about ten million words written on each slide and their speech comprises of them just (struggling) to read the slides. But as easy as it is to criticise people for doing this, the truth is, it can actually be really hard to make a great PowerPoint or Keynote presentation. Deckset, a new app on the Mac App Store, aims to make it just a little bit easier to create something great when it is your turn to present. (more…)

Apr
2
2014

Monument Valley Review

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Monument Valley

Monument Valley is a game about paths that don’t exist – unless you want to see them. In its beautiful intricacy of platforms and perspectives that defy the laws of physics, geometry, and gravity, Monument Valley, developed by London-based studio ustwo, impresses visually and technically thanks to a fantastic combination of gorgeous artwork, intuitive controls, and just the right amount of puzzle-solving that works perfectly for an iPhone or iPad.

In Monument Valley, you control Ida, a silent princess that has embarked on a quest for forgiveness that will require her to find exits in monuments once built by men but now inhabited by crow people, totems, and other strange entities. “Tap the path to move Ida”, Monument Valley begins, and, sure enough, tapping on the screen advances the character on a linear path, accompanied by a sound effect. The first stage of Monument Valley is immediately perplexing: while Ida can walk a few steps, the aforementioned path isn’t connected to anything. Hold and rotate a wheel next to the path, however, and a pillar changes its orientation, creating an optical illusion that allows Ida to walk over the path and reach the exit of the stage. Monument Valley perpetuates a lie – that perspective can be used to alter physics – for the sake of gameplay, and, ultimately, that’s fun and intriguing.

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Apr
2
2014

Ever since Apple introduced Reminders in 2011, I’ve been looking for a truly great app capable of combining my todos and calendar events in a single, coherent interface. Fantastical for iPad, released today by Flexibits, is that app.

Based on the solid foundation of Fantastical 2 for iPhone, Fantastical for iPad expands the app’s functionality to take advantage of the larger screen while retaining intuitive features and powerful advanced options. I put Fantastical in my dock when I received the first beta in November, and I wouldn’t be able to go back to using Apple’s Calendar and Reminders apps on my iPad.

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One of iOS' biggest shortcomings is the inability to attach multiple files to an email message. Caused by Apple's resistance to bringing a visible filesystem to iOS or building inter-app communication features to access files outside of an app's own sandbox, the problem is epitomized by antiquated limitations such as the Open In menu and the aforementioned lack of multiple attachments in Mail. Interestingly, these two limitations are exactly what Multiple Attachments, developed by Jan Mazurczak, uses to send email messages containing attachments that aren't just photos or videos.

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Apple’s iOS apps often serve as a foundation of ideas and technologies that third-party developers can build upon to create new and more advanced functionalities – this has been the case for years with email clients, todo apps, and, more recently, Camera Roll alternatives. With iOS 7, Apple revamped its Photos app to integrate the Camera Roll with Photo Stream and organize photos in Collections and Moments, but the effort lacked proper tools to view metadata for individual photos or all photos on a single map view. Since last year, a number of apps aimed at offering different features than Apple’s Photos app have come out on the App Store, and I was impressed with Justin Williams’ idea of presenting photos as large thumbnails with metadata visualization for locations and timestamps.

I downloaded PhotosPro when it was on sale earlier this month on the App Store, and find the app, available on both the iPhone and iPad, to have the kind of browsing and viewing options I’d like to see in Apple’s Photos in the future.

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Mar
14
2014

When I collected my must-have apps at the end of last year, I included musiXmatch in the iPhone and iPad roundups, but never got around publishing a proper review of the app. I’ve been using musiXmatch on a daily basis for the past six months, and I think it offers a solid song lyric-matching experience for iOS.

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