All posts in “Software”

Flare for Mac

When it comes to the iPhone, there’s no shortage of apps to give your photos effects and filters to make them look even better than what comes straight out of the camera. Because of the ease of making a photo look great with just a few touches, I do find myself using the iPhone camera to take photos much more than separate camera where things are more painstaking on the Mac to enhance and improve. Step forward Flare for Mac.

Flare for Mac by Iconfactory was released to the Mac App Store [direct link] a matter of weeks ago. I downloaded the trial version and once I saw it’s capabilities, pretty much upon opening, I went ahead and purchased it for the limited time introductory price of $9.99. To be fair, even at the full price of $19.95 this app is well worth it.

When you launch the app and drag your photo in, you’re presented with a bunch of one-touch presets. But that’s only the start of it as every single preset can be edited (and saved for future use) to suit your needs. This is what I love about this app – you can really get stuck in and spend hours creating your own preset based on another, adding effects, borders, lightleaks, textures, grains, vignettes…the list goes on.

If you don’t want to spend too long on your own custom-made preset, then aswell as the dozens that come bundled in the app, you’ll find the Additional Presets page on the Flare website updated regularly with more ready for download. Once you’ve created your masterpiece you can save your image to a file, send to iPhoto, email it and upload directly to Flickr. Moreover, photos created in Flare for Mac retain their EXIF data, unlike CameraBag for Mac which sadly wipes out all such data.

I’ve enhanced several of my photos in Flare recently, including this one which quickly found it’s way to Flickr Explore. I’m particularly pleased about this one as straight from the camera it wasn’t looking nearly as good as it did to my eye at the time of taking and was about ready to be filed under trash, but some quick enhancement soon sorted that out.

My profile on about.me has also had the Flare effect with this excellent ‘Folder Poster’ effect which does the job perfectly…

about.me profile page

Check it out in all it’s glory.

From chatting to the developer on Twitter, it seems updates for Flare for Mac are never going to be in short supply, infact they have a whole bunch ready and waiting for us. I love apps that are constantly being worked on and improved for us. Now all I want to know is: when can we expect this on the iPhone?!! ;)

Flare for Mac.

[rating:5/5]

CalendarBar for Mac

I discovered CalendarBar for Mac yesterday entirely by accident after visiting a website that carried an advert for it. Who says adverts are useless and annoying, eh?

CalendarBar is a unique way to keep track of your events. It supports Facebook, iCal and Google Calendar allowing you to keep track of all your upcoming events, all from hitting the icon in your menubar. And it all looks a little like this…

It’s nice to be able to access my events all from my menubar, rather than launching iCal each time and set-up couldn’t be easier. For iCal it’s just the tick of a box in the preferences, for Google Calendar just pop-in your login credentials to sync and for Facebook once again a tick of a box, authorisation with your account then sync up so you’ll never miss an important event again. All that and a beautifully polished UI to boot.

At the time of purchasing and writing, CalendarBar is available for the introductory limited time price of £1.19. Grab it before the price goes up!

Track your App Addiction

Yesterday one of my Twitter friends tweeted the amount he’d spent on the iTunes App Store, courtesy of a clever little Mac application called App Store Expense Monitor which gathers all your iPhone applications from your iTunes folder and provides you with the total amount of money you have spent on the App Store.

I must admit I was a little surprised to see that I’d spent a whopping £190.18. However, I do remember that in the early days of the App Store, many apps were priced at £5.99, but have happily reduced in price over the last 18 months. But it just goes to show how those 59p’s and £1.19′s soon add up.

What’s your total? (if you’re comfortable sharing in the comments, of course)

Festive Gifts and Survival Kits

Thanks to severe back pain for the past 10 days, I haven’t had the opportunity to get a post out about festive gifts sooner than this. So the ones I’m about to recommend for the geek in your life won’t arrive in time for the big day, but we all love a New Year surprise, don’t we?

iPhone App Coasters

www.iphoneappscoasters.com (not taking any more orders currently)
[rating:4.5/5]

I ordered a set of these at the end of November as a surprise gift for a friend. A week later I received the news that they wouldn’t be shipped in time for Christmas so a replacement gift was ordered. Less than a week after that, they arrived unexpectedly. So, they became a me-to-me gift.

iPhone Coasters

The cost of a set of six was just £12.99 plus postage and packing, which in total came to around £15. The quality of the images on the coasters are very good and they’re also very well made, with cork backing. Having seen similar coasters in the US for double the price, these are well worth it and the perfect gift for any iPhone fan.

Twitter Mousepad

Meninos

I currently can’t give a rating on this item as I’m still waiting to take delivery, since I only ordered about 10 days ago. But, as a Twitter addict I am so looking forward to having my Magic Mouse glide across it. I’ll give a full review upon receiving mine, but if you are someone you know/love is a Twitterer then they’ll love this. Facebook mousepads are also available and pretty much everything that Meninos sell is Geek Paradise. The Twitter Mousepad cost approximately £12.50 with shipping which is bargainous.

Throwboy Pillows

Throwboy.com
[rating:5/5]

I wrote about Throwboy Pillows earlier in the year – you can see my review here.

Keep Smiling

These are perfect gifts not only for the Mac Geek, but now they have a bigger selection to choose from including RSS and Chat Pillows, so every geek is catered for. They’re fantastic quality, great to snuggle up with or have on display. Priced at $29 each (+ $8 shipping to the UK).

Now we’ve covered the hardware, what about some great software for your computer and particularly the iPhone to keep you entertained when festivities are over?

CameraBag Desktop for Mac and PC

NeverCenter.com
[rating:5/5]

I reviewed CameraBag Desktop a couple of months ago – full review. It’s making my recommendations list again because originally I gave it a 3/5 rating due to no trial period being initially available, so it was somewhat a blind purchase. However, having used it frequently in recent months I have no regrets about purchasing it. Here’s a couple of photos I’ve taken recently and edited in CameraBag Desktop.

Sun Swan
I'm struggling with Swan related titles...

CameraBag is also available for the iPhone and is one of my favourite photo editing apps.

Ramp Champ

RampChamp.com | iTunes: £1.19
[rating:4.5/5]

RampChamp is one of the most addictive games I have played on the iPhone – combining great game play with beautiful design. Recently they released a free festive ramp called North Pole which you can download within the app by going to to the add-on tab. After you’ve knocked over fun and colourful characters and objects with the 9 balls you are allocated for each game, you can redeem your tickets for prizes and loot.

northpoleramp.jpg

I’d have given a full 5 stars to Ramp Champ in my rating if the application was a little more stable. Even after recent updates the app still crashes my iPhone occasionally which is a little frustrating when all you want to do is throw balls at the freaky characters in the Clown Town Ramp! Once these little issues are addressed then it’ll get full marks from me.

Doodle Jump

iTunes: 59p
[rating:4.5/5]

Having read the rave reviews, I decided to download this app last week. The warning was that it was insanely addictive. A bold statement, one that it definitely lives up to. The aim is to get the Doodle Monster to jump onto each platform and basically go as far as you can, with springs, trampolines and rocket packs assisting you on some of the platforms you land on. The newest update gives it a snow-mode so it’s fun and festive at the same time.

doodlejump.jpg

Outside

Outsideapp.com | iTunes: £1.79
[rating:5/5]

The standard Weather app on the iPhone is okay, but it’s a bit limited and a bit boring. I’ve searched for a while for a replacement weather app and last night I found it, Outside in the App Store. Not only is this a very polished and elegant application that uses GPS to find your exact location but it also comes with Push Notifications which will tell you what you want to know, when you want to know it such as when the temperature drops below a number you set, when rain is forecast and more.

Outside iPhone.png

You will receive 4 weeks worth of free push notifications and if you want to subscribe for longer then it will cost just 59p for 90 days worth. This has instantly replaced Weather.app on my home screen and seems to be pretty accurate so far.

American Greetings eCards

iTunes: Free
[rating:3.5/5]

If, like me, you are a little behind on posting out cards this year by the deadline, then you might be wanting to send an eCard to a friend to wish them a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year. American Greetings eCards has a bunch of categories to choose from and you can even build your own card and e-mail it to a friend.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp.com | iTunes: 59p
[rating:5/5]

This is an app that is definitely up there on my Festive Survival Kit list. I can’t speak highly enough about this one which just keeps on raising the bar with every update it releases. If you have an iPhone and your contacts have an iPhone then this will replace SMS for you. I wrote a review of it a couple of months ago, but recently it has received some extra features which make this a must-have for your iPhone.

Version 2.3 brought us the ability to send pictures, video (for the 3GS users) and voice memos to others with the application. I use WhatsApp to keep in touch with several of my iPhone using friends and this is particularly useful when one of them is overseas. Sending an SMS/MMS to him would cost me money via the data network. However, with WhatsApp it’s absolutely free. Fantastic application to keep you in touch with friends over the festive period.

So, that about concludes my must-haves for this Festive Season. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Managing kerchings with Cha-Ching

Because of the wonderful and almost frighteningly simple way one can spend money online these days, I have always written down my outgoings into a notepad on my desk. However, with the frequency of buying apps and music from the iTunes Store, sometimes these little purchases going unrecorded and the balance in my bank differs from the balance guessed on my notepad.

So, a few weeks back I felt I could do with an application to keep me on track with my budget for online transactions. I browsed through the app store and came across Cha-Ching. Not only can I manage my finances there but I can also sync it, via wifi, with the Cha-Ching Mac application, which is currently free in beta. The best of both worlds.

cha-chingiPhone.jpg

I firstly put in my budget for online spending and then whenever I make a purchase online I tell Cha-Ching and it will then show me my remaining balance. Plus, I get to keep a record of the purchases I’ve made which is very useful to have. This has made me so much more conscious of what I buy, but more importantly spend. Instead of having to go through the tedius task of checking my bank account each day for my balance, Cha-Ching keeps me on track.

I’ve been using Cha-Ching for about one month now and I’m pleased that it hasn’t been a novelty purchase that I’ve used for a few days and forgotten about. Because I have it on my iPhone and Mac, I have Cha-Ching where I need it so when purchasing an app over the air on my iPhone I don’t have to wait until I’m back at my Mac before entering this transaction, which I’d likely forget about. Now I can just open up Cha-Ching, enter it, sync it and forget about it.

The Cha-Ching iPhone app [iTunes link] is just £1.79 and as mentioned above, the Mac application with which it syncs beautifully with is free in beta.

Fruit Bytes [rating:5/5]

Phoney Dock Icon for Tweetie Mac

I just want to pass on this wonderful alternative dock icon for Tweetie Mac, created by Matthew Rex, which matches the new icon for Tweetie 2 iPhone.

tweetieicon.jpg

Let’s hope this becomes the official icon for the next version of Tweetie for Mac. It looks so much more stylish in my dock than the default.

To change the dock icon, I recommend downloading the trial of CandyBar.

CameraBag Desktop

A couple of months ago I wrote about how photos taken with the iPhone 3G can be much improved with camera applications such as CameraBag and ShakeItPhoto. These apps can add much character to an otherwise washed out and often bland offering.

Several weeks ago, the developer behind CameraBag for iPhone announced CameraBag Desktop, for Mac OS X. At the time of the release, there was no trial before buying which was a little disappointing, but because I had enjoyed the speedy way to enhance a photo on the iPhone I decided to jump right on in and plump up the $19 asking price. This was done mostly with the intention of checking it out so I could write an honest review here and let you, my dear readers, know whether it was worth parting with your money.

camerabagdesktop.jpg

The application is extremely easy to use. Drag a photo onto the app window and you have all of your filters along the bottom as you can see. There’s plenty to choose from: Helga, Lolo, Mono, 1962, 1974, Instant, Magazine, Cinema and Colorcross – a filter that is not yet in the iPhone app. Aside from applying one filter, you also have a multi-filter option.

Let’s have a look at some before and after photos. First up is a photo I took today of my Nintendo DS…

DSCF0004.JPG

And here is that same photo, with the Colorcross filter applied, along with a medium border…

Gamer Girl

In just one click, it has made a boring photo look really quite interesting. Here’s another of a sign post I took last year…

To Germany

And here with the Colorcross filter, once again…

germanysign.jpg

And finally this photo of the Millennium Bridge in Newcastle upon Tyne…

bridgeorig.JPG

And now with the Instant filter applied…

bridgeinstant.jpg

CameraBag Desktop is a great way to make your photos look interesting in one click without spending time in your usual photo editor. I can’t say I will be using CameraBag Desktop as often as I will Pixelmator for photo editing, but when a photo calls for more than just a little contrast and vignette then it will be very useful.

I’m going to give CameraBag Desktop a rating of 3 stars. It would have received more had the 15-day trial been available when released, to avoid blindly buying.

[rating:3/5]

You can download a 15-day trial of CameraBag Desktop, here. Saving is disabled and images contain a watermark in the trial version.

The Big Cat

After Snow Leopard was a no show for me and many others on release day yesterday, apparently due to Royal Mail walkouts, I was hopeful that my copy would arrive today but wasn’t too expectant as the estimated delivery date was 2nd September. However, at 10am sharp my copy landed on the doormat. Once I’d told the world twitter that it had arrived, I went back to bed. Well, it is a Saturday afterall ;)

The Big Cat

After breakfast I did a full Time Machine back-up, then ran OnyX to give my system a good clean. I also did this on Thursday in anticipation of a Friday installation, so things were pretty speedy with the housekeeping today. Once that was complete I popped in my disc and followed the on-screen instructions which was ‘Install Mac OS X’. I chose to upgrade rather than a clean install as I’d read it was Apple’s most tested path, hence why it’s offered as default. The installation took approximately 45 minutes and then a welcome sight was a big green tick with the words “Install Succeeded”.

Following my first reboot I noticed that DockStar wasn’t showing in my Mail preferences, so I had to reinstall that. CoverSutra was also another app that failed to work under Snow Leopard but I noticed an update had become available recently and now it works fine. I’m very impressed with the speed when opening some apps including Mail and Safari. I have also gained back 20GB hard disk space, so I jumped from 148GB to 168GB in 45 minutes. Impressive considering Apple estimated a freeing of 7GB.

Has your Big Cat arrived? Did your installation go smoothly?

Pre-ordering Snow Leopard

Mac OS X Snow Leopard was added to the Apple Store today for pre-order, with a release date of Friday 28th August, priced £25/$29 with free shipping.

deliverystatussnow.jpg

I pre-ordered my copy early this afternoon. I must admit to not being terribly excited about Snow Leopard as my focus has been somewhat on their hardware and this iTablet/iPad that has been rumoured to death for months now. I hope Apple officially announce one way or another soon what is happening on that front. Hopefully there will be confirmation on or around the next Apple Event, expected in September.

So, have you pre-ordered Snow Leopard yet? What features are you most looking forward to?

Manage Multiple Gmail accounts with Notify

For a year or two I have been using Gmail’s Notifier app on my Mac to keep a check on new mail. It sat in my menu bar and would give me a Growl notification when new mail was awaiting me. Now I’ve found another menu bar app that does the same thing, but oh so nicer.

Notify is a beautiful free app that sits in your menu bar and auto-checks your mail accounts as often every 1 minute or up to 15 minutes. Notify also has Growl Integration and will handle up to four Gmail accounts, unlike many others out there.

notifyfb.jpg

This has completely replaced Google’s official Gmail notifier for me. Elegant and beautiful, Notify feels right at home on the Mac.