We’ve collected the top four reviews, roundups and how-to articles from across the AppStorm network in December. Whether you’re interested in Mac, iPhone, Web, Android, Windows, or iPad apps, there’s bound to be something you didn’t spot over the course of the month. Now would be a good time to explore a part of the AppStorm Network you’ve never seen before!
Thanks for reading AppStorm, and I hope you enjoy looking over some of our favourite posts from last month!
Best of Android.AppStorm
A year ago, when someone asked me why I used an Android phone, I felt I had to go on the defensive. Tasker! Open source! Customization! Swype!
Today, people don’t ask why I use Android; they ask whether they can try mine. Android has become a legitimate mobile platform, and in this look back over the past year we’ll see how it got there.
Funky Smugglers is a highly original and brilliantly fun arcade-style game where you have to remove contraband items from boarding passengers… all to a funk-infused soundtrack. The game includes a solo mode, but also an online collaborative mode where your score contributes towards a team total. The graphics are sublime, the music is brilliant — everyone needs more funk in their lives! — and the gameplay is simple yet challenging. Following is a closer and detailed look.
It’s been exactly one year since I bought an Android tablet and throughout this year, I have enjoyed setting it up, using it, evangelizing the 7″ form factor and watching Android tablets rise in popularity with Google’s official endorsement of the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10 later on. The iPad had dominated the tablet market for quite some time, but it seems as though Android tablets are finally getting the credit, spotlight and market share that they deserve.
However, once users get past the purchase, Android tablets are still facing the same problem they had one year ago: tablet-optimized apps curation and discovery. Google has done absolutely zero effort to remedy the situation, despite the availability — and dare I say abundance — of quality tablet apps. Personally, I have spent countless days looking for them and crying over the many quality apps that never get more than a few hundred downloads because no one can really find them in the Play Store. I have also done my best, ever since I took charge of the editorial duties at Android.Appstorm to cover more tablet apps roundups and help readers find these hidden gems.
One of the reasons I was really excited about purchasing a Google Nexus 7 was that I’d finally be able to carry a ready reckoner of recipes and cooking videos right into the kitchen to follow along — you know, just to make it look like there’s a method to the madness. But sometimes, I don’t even know what to cook or how to achieve certain results, and that’s where an app like BBC Good Food – Recipes comes in handy.
Culled from the eponymous British magazine, this is a beautiful collection of recipes, cooking tips and tools that are infinitely helpful for both experienced and amateur home cooks. Every recipe is clearly detailed and accompanied by a beautiful photograph, and the app includes a few extra features that make it a must-have in your culinary arsenal. Plus, it’s loaded with a ton of recipes that are perfect for this holiday season.
Best of iPad.AppStorm
When it hit the news that Google acquired Sparrow, a very popular third-party email app at the time, there was a harsh outcry by tech blogs and social media. Users were saddened by the notion that their beloved app would essentially be abandoned and stripped for parts. Unlike most app developers, the team at Sparrow was very good about collaborating with users in order to continually improve the app, which users really admired; so, the outcry was understandable.
At this point you may be wondering if I’ve forgotten that I’m reviewing an iPad app, since Sparrow is only available for the iPhone. Rest assured, I haven’t. If you’ve ever used Sparrow on the iPhone you know that the development team behind the app is obviously very talented, but when they shifted gears to work on the Gmail app, post buyout, I began to wait anxiously as I wanted to see if they’d be up to the challenge of fixing Google’s all but failed first attempt at developing a native Gmail app. Now that version 2.0 of Gmail has been released, maybe now I can find out.
His name was John Gruber. Maybe you’ve heard of him as the Apple blogger who knows the system better than them all. Then again, maybe you read his “linkblog” when you’re looking for interesting new things in the technology market. One thing you probably didn’t know is that he created a lightweight markup language named Markdown back in 2004. In its early days, only Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit used it because Gruber was employed there. No one else even bothered with it because the application ecosystem was not like it is today.
Things are a lot different now, though. A lot of people are on constant lookout for a Markdown editor to fit their tastes. Whether it has previewing capabilities, dual-editing functions for HTML and other code alongside Gruber’s, or just iCloud sync with a simple interface, we’ve all come to know distraction-free editors as ones that solely employ Markdown for making things fast and easy. After all, rich text is a thing of the past.
All these new pieces of software have recently been brought to the iPad because it’s a platform fit for such editing tasks. Users enjoy reading on the device, and some thoroughly have a good time writing their thoughts down in something like Day One. Then there are those like the AppStorm team, and most of us really love writing, no matter where it gets done. If you’re looking for something quick and easy for Markdown editing or even a more feature-packed app, we’ve got everything you’ll ever hope for and more in today’s roundup.
Crafting can be a messy affair, what with all that glue and glitter threatening to cover every inch of every available surface. Not to mention the cleaning up involved afterwards! Ugh. Never fear, Martha Stewart is here to help — or an app which bears the domestic goddess’ name is, anyway.
Developed under the not so snappy name of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc, Martha Stewart CraftStudio will allow you to create digital greeting cards, invitations, announcements and more that can be printed out and shared without having to tidy up afterwards. Find out more after the jump
I wasn’t one of the guy who latched onto the Grand Theft Auto series when it first hit big in the late 1990s. Instead, I came along in 2002 when Grand Theft Auto: Vice City first was released, and I burned away my 20s trying to get 100% completion on the console title as well as all of its sequels (and eventually, GTA: III). Man did I love that game.
But the GTA series on iOS has been a bit more finicky for me. GTA: III was too difficult to control, and I never saw the appeal in Chinatown Wars. At the time, I chalked it up to my awkwardness with a virtual controller combined with a faulty UI, but Rockstar promised that all that went away with the 10-year anniversary release of GTA: Vice City on iOS. Did they succeed in making the classic game fun to play on a touchscreen device, or is it just more of the same? Let’s find out after the jump.
Best of Windows.AppStorm
We find ourselves in an interesting transitional period. For those who have just switched to Windows 8 from Windows 7 or below, the sudden absence of the start menu is jarring. We feel lost, and just donít know how to work the operating system as effectively as we did before.
Now, for the most part, a lot of us have learned to operate anew, but for a lot more of us there’s still that itch. That itching to keep the start menu around for a little while longer. Pokki’s here to scratch that itch.
So you have finally decided to trade in your old desktop or notebook PC for a new model. But before you resell or recycle it, you need to ensure that none of the personal data stored on your PC gets into the hands of whoever uses it next.
The quick way, of course, is to just format your hard drive. But if you are reselling the device, deleting Windows 7 or any older version of the OS will diminish its value; after all, your buyer wants a fully functional PC too.
Don’t worry, you can get rid of all your data with the help of a few apps.
One of the major pain points of using a Windows PC is the constant attention it needs to secure and optimize it. However, things have improved to a great extent with the current crop of Windows releases. Besides, there a ton of quality apps available to help you make the experience a whole lot better.
In fact, with the right set of apps, you can actually optimize, tune and push the limits of your hardware. After the break we have compiled a list of apps that will come in handy to make the most out of your desktop. Check it out!
Inky is a new email application that, in the words of its website, ‘pulls all your email accounts together in one place, [and] sorts your mail by relevance, letting you see your most important mail first. Enjoy your email again!’ Taglines telling us to enjoy our email again are as old as the hills, and we’ve seen them on at least a half a dozen ambitious mail clients who ultimately fail in their promise to assist with the drudgery of email.
What makes Inky different? Does it succeed in its promise to make email enjoyable? Read on to find out.
Best of iPhone.AppStorm
Evernote is one of the most popular digital notebooks services, and it has been very popular with iOS users for some time now. There have been many complaints (mostly plain text fanatics) about Evernote’s export ability if you choose to leave the service, but I feel that Evernote is better fit as a digital archive rather than an ongoing list of notes. What has brought people to using Evernote in the past is how easy it is to save info from the web for reference and items to remember later. Have a great meal? Save the image into Evernote along with the recipe for when you would like to cook it.
While features are not touted as the main new items in the new Evernote, the redesign is. The old Evernote seemed to suffer from an identity crisis. On iOS, the app was not uniform and looked completely different when using the iPad and iPhone. With the new redesign, the app and service has become more uniform and looks consistent, with extra features on the iPad due to screen real estate. Let’s take a closer look after the jump.
The holiday season is stressful for all involved, in more ways that one. There’s shopping, family get-togethers and all that cooking. No one understands this more than the family chef, the person responsible for pulling off a beautiful meal that everyone, with all their peculiarities of preference, will love. And it’s best, of course, if the whole undertaking appears effortless.
Recipe/social cookbook app Foodily can’t finish up your holiday shopping or get that one string of lights to stop blinking already, but it can lend a hand when it comes to putting together a piping hot feast. A powerful search, recipes with user comments and pictures, and lots of advice from celebrity chefs are all on the table with Foodily.
It’s time to get some last-minute holiday shopping done. And, by the way, if you don’t think you’ve arrived at the last-minute yet, this is your wake-up call. It’s time to bite the bullet, my friend.
And now you don’t have the time or the cash to waste running from store to store, or surfing every corner of the Internet trying to find the best deal on whatever tech toy your little brother wants this year. Click “more” to take a look at these five price comparison apps that can help you find what you’re searching for while trying to remain under budget.
Are you looking to perfect your home coffee brewing technique? Intelligentsia, a coffee bar with locations in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, seeks to elevate your coffee experience from bean to cup. These guys don’t just sell coffee, they develop blends working directly with growers and they perform the roasting. With the Intelligentsia Coffee app, you can geek out on coffee by checking out the beautifully illustrated brewing techniques, keeping up with the latest seasonal coffees offered and utilizing the brew timer for ultimate brewing precision.
This smart, sleek app also connects you with Intelligentsia via their twitter feed and maps of all locations (with hours). Share your favorite coffee blends from the app on Facebook and find impressions from other coffee lovers (or leave your own) in the coffee comments.
If you know what a Chemex is or carefully calibrate your coffee grinder for the perfect cup of French Press every morning, the Intelligentsia Coffee app was made for you. Did I mention it’s free?
Best of Web.AppStorm
For the past few years, blogging has taken over the internet and it’s no surprise that blogging software and platforms have been increasingly easier to quickly access and use. However, if you just want to write the occasional post and aren’t too bothered about maintaining a full blog, these tools can seem incredibly bloated. Themes, categories, tags — these can quickly become a major pain to maintain. That’s where Feathers comes in.
Feathers gets you focused on the writing again and you can be up and blogging in seconds — relieving the need to configure a full blog. Read on to find out more!
About a month ago, I rounded up a set of 10 tiny but really useful free web apps for designers. Given how well the app ecosystem on the web has evolved over the years, there’s no reason to stick with the theme of designers, so here’s a list of 10 similar apps, but for web developers.
Made by one of the most prolific community of professionals on the web, these apps were made by developers for themselves and other like them. All these apps are simple, focused on doing one thing and doing it right. If you are a web developer, they all might come in pretty handy at some point or another.
Occasionally, we review brilliant apps in their infancy and following our reviews, they grow ridiculously and major changes are made and features added to make them even greater. For this reason, some apps have changed so much in this period that they warrant another review from us to see whether the changes have been for the better or worse.
One such app is Buffer. I reviewed it back in early 2011 while it was still young, and since then, it’s managed to attract over 400,000 users who all want an easy way to schedule their social updates. In this article, I’ll be taking a look at some of the most significant changes in the newest incarnation of the Buffer app. Just read on to find out more!
Keeping up with your finances can be tricky, especially if your pay and bills aren’t consistent every month. But you know what’s even harder to keep track of? Investments. Those tricky things have the bad habit of gaining and losing value all the time, and knowing the actual amount you have in stocks and bonds at any given time is usually a guess at best. Then, if you want to know if your investments are actually working out good for you, you’ll need a ton more research … and luck.
SigFig is a new web app that aims to make it much simpler to keeps tabs on your portfolio and know exactly what you have and what’s happening with your investments in real-time. Let’s take a look and see if it’s the app you’ve been needing to take the guesswork out of investing.
Best of Mac.AppStorm
To the untrained eye, Alfred may seem like just another simple frontend to spotlight, allowing you to launch apps and search your Mac. However, beneath its seemingly humble facade lies a dormant beast. A powerful and flexible beast, that is, that with a little knowledge can be woken from its slumber to bring your productivity to new heights.
Join me on this epic quest as we set free the beast within Alfred and have it do your bidding.
Taking down notes, whether by hand or on my computer, has always been an integral part of my workflow. Capturing information wherever and whenever, notes always in handy considering that I have such a short memory span to work with.
As such, note-taking apps like NotesTab are of great interest to me, and since version 3 of FIPLAB’s note-taking menu bar app is available for download, I thought I’d take a look at what has changed and what features were added since reviewing it a couple of months back. Likewise, the pro version offers several additional features to make the note-taking experience even better, which I will touch on later in the review. If you’re hesitant to spend an extra $4.99 for the upgrade, but would like to know what you’d receive if you do, read on.
After being featured on TechCrunch as well as being tweeted by our fellow sister site MacTuts, it seems that Inky has enjoyed an unexpected surge of interest this week, despite having been around since May of this year. The interest was generated after a random post on Hacker News generated a fair bit of chatter among users and gave the app a fair bit of attention – something that the Maryland-based developers certainly weren’t expecting as they’ve never really actively sought out press coverage before.
Inky promises to reinvent email – and this time it’s for good (none of those wishy-washy promises like from other companies) – and any company or software product that promises that instantly grabs my attention. So I thought it worth to take a quick look at Inky (it’s currently in the public beta stage at the moment) to see what all the fuss is about.
Last month we looked at a couple of programs to improve the Finder experience on your Mac. Several readers mentioned XtraFinder in the comments to that post. It appeared to be very similar to TotalFinder, so I decided to take a look at it to see how it compares to the other Finder tools already examined. Turns out, it’s a pretty awesome free alternative that’s worth trying out.
Share Your Ideas
Is there something in particular you’d like to see on the site next month? We’d absolutely love to hear your suggestions for articles, topics and giveaways. Just let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading AppStorm!