Apps

Applications for smartphones, tablets, etc. get reviewed here.

Final thoughts on Evernote

evernote_ipad_wallpaperPreviously, I had given a brief overview of Evernote and what it offers at a time when I was just playing around with it, promising to delve more into my experiences after I got serious with the program. That day has come, and I just have to say: I’m in love. Evernote is not just a lifesaver, but a time saver, particularly when you work on multiple devices. Though I have not used the software for this purpose, I can also see it being incredibly useful for collaborative purposes — and while I would love to test it (I am interested in giving co-authorship a try), I don’t foresee the opportunity arising anytime soon, but I am interested in hearing others’ experiences on using Evernote for this purpose.

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App Review: Google Keep

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Let Google Keep take care of your notes, photos and provide a method of creating lists and checking off tasks.

I was recently forced to get a new phone after my old phone decided it could no longer make or take calls. On the old phone, I used Astrid Tasks, but since it’s now defunct, I couldn’t download it onto my new one. While looking through the preloaded apps on my android phone, I came across Google Keep and decided to launch it. I was greeted by a series of example posted notes, including one that contained a checklist. I figured, oh why not.

So here I am testing it out and really enjoying it for what it is. It is very much Google’s version of Evernote; I’d call it Evernote lite. It’s good for jotting down quick notes, checklists, voice-recorded notes and photos. It lacks many of the perks of Evernote, which include utilizing a web clipper, creating different notebooks, organizing things via tags and so much more. But even so, it is a fine app for what it is.

I can see myself utilizing it at work to jot down quick writing ideas that pop into my head. I could also use it to scribble down to-do lists or my grocery list. It lacks a lot of the features that the Evernote Android app has, but for me that is a bit of a perk. It’s quicker to jot down the little things for Keep since there are less bonuses to wade through. However, Keep will not be replacing Evernote in my writing arsenal. Evernote will continue to be reserved for in-depth notes, research and book development — at least, the electronic variety since my old-fashioned notebooks usually get the bulk of my notes. Nothing beats the feeling of a pen and paper.

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A screenshot of my Keep notes.

As I’ve mentioned, Keep is very lean, and its interface is very simple. You simply click one of four options: the note button, the checklist button, the voice recorder or the photo button (which in return gives you the option to take a photo or to pull one from the photos on your phone). From there you can give your note a title and then jump to the body. You also have the option to give notes different colors, giving users the change to color-coordinate them. As can be seen by screenshot, I just picked whatever colors I wanted to without really giving thought to coordination.

If you are interested in Keep for the purpose of creating checklists and to-do lists, there is a reminder feature that will keep you on track to succeed at whatever deadlines you give yourself. Of course, you don’t have to use the checklist note to use the reminder feature. You can set it on any type of note.

So what do you do if you need to clear up space in your notes? Well, you don’t have the option to create additional notebooks, so instead you have two choice: You can archive completed notes in case you need them in the future, or you can delete them, sending them to Davy Jones’ locker, as it were.

So is it worth the download? That really depends on you and if you have use for it. If you use Evernote, Keep is going to fall short. It just lacks too many useful features that Evernote has in abundance. However, if you need something more simple or quicker to work than Evernote, this app just might be for you — especially if you are just looking for a checklist for your grocery shopping needs.

Besides using the Android app (Keep is probably also on iTunes, but since I have no Apple products, I’m not certain if it is), Keep can be accessed using your Web browser and Google account, much like Google Docs, etc.

 

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App Review: Kindle Buffet

As writers, we love to read. And like most creative types, we are often poor. So what better than a smorgasbord of free Kindle ebooks? This is where Kindle Buffet — available on both Google Play and iTunes — comes in handy by providing you with your daily menu of free Kindle books. While you can Google or hunt for free ebooks via a variety of different sources, Kindle Buffet cuts down on the time spent in the act by pulling up the cream of the crop as it were.

I first learned of this app from my frugal friend who has a Kindle and of course had to have it. Fortunately, I was able to download the app for my Android phone, and over the course of using the app, I’ve found several fascinating books from cookbooks and nonfiction to fantasy novels. And the big plus? Well, if you end up not liking something, there is no reason to fret: You are only out the time, not the money.

When you launch the app, you are greet by the Editor’s Choice. This page features approximately eight editor picks, plus a couple of top bargains for the day. These picks often feature a wide variety from romance and thriller to politics, though I’ve notice a tendency to lean more toward the romance. With each book entry on the Editor’s Choice page, you are told the genre of the book, plus provided a summary and a brief bio for the author.

On the same page is the Bargains for Today section, which features ebooks that have had a huge cut in price. For example, “Unbreakable: My Story, My Way” by the late Jenni Rivera normally sells for $9.99 but today is only $1.99 — not bad, right? Of course, both the Bargains of the Today and the Editor’s Choice update daily, so each day there will be something new to discover, which is always nice.

However, if nothing on the Editor’s Choice catches your fancy, that’s alright! Just hit the Fiction Top Sellers tab and select from whatever genre will satisfy your reading needs, or just select the Top Free Fiction titles. Once you select what you are looking for, you will be directed to the Amazon website itself to free eBooks of your chosen genre. You can do the exact same thing with nonfiction titles with genres like: cooking, food and wine; advice & how-to; children’s nonfiction; and so on.

Beyond books, this app also highlights free apps that are available through Amazon. If you have an Android, Kindle Buffet will also highlight general free apps.

Now you might be wondering, how come these books are discounted or free. Well often, the author or publisher choose to do so, more often than not to gain exposure. According to Weber Books, the maker of the app, these giveaways can be used to spark additional sales of an author’s previous books. Of course, they also note: “Kindle freebies are a hotly debated topic among authors. Many believe that the giveaways devalue all books, making it harder for each author to earn a living. They argue that readers will buy far fewer books if the market is flooded with freebies. However, perhaps an equal number of authors — including many highly successful ones — believe that the giveaways provide invaluable exposure, enabling them to broaden their fan base and ultimately sell more books.”

No matter what your viewpoint is on ebooks or freebies, Kindle Buffet is a fun app for the average user and holds the possibility of introducing a reader to a new favorite author or book. So happy reading!

 

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App Review: Astrid Tasks

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Let me be your personal assistant! With a grin like this, how can you resist?

Sometimes a writer needs all the help they can get to stay focused, organized and on task. While not strictly a writer’s app, Astrid Tasks can do just that for a writer: allowing writers to organize writing tasks, prioritize writing tasks, set deadlines and share task lists.

The app, available on Android phones and tablets, iPhone, iPad, and on the web, is easy to use. I have experienced some minor glitches on my Android phone, including the app spontaneously shutting off or tasks not disappearing right away after I cross them off; however, these have only been minor annoyances, no where near being a deal breakers.

Astrid Tasks’ menus are clear and easily navigated. The default menu sections are: My Tasks (the main list), Today, Recently Modified, I’ve Assigned, Not in any List, Home, Personal, Shopping and Work. However, users have the ability to create their own lists, such as a writing list. Once you have your custom list, it is easy to add writing tasks, such as complete outline, finish query letter, etc., simply by hitting the plus symbol. Then as you add tasks you can assign priorities, deadlines and a description of the task.

Users also have the ability to share lists, which can come in handy if you are co-writing a writing project with someone else, so you both can see what needs done. There is also the ability to assign certain tasks to different users in a shared list. Users can also leave comments to let their co-author — this feature can also be used to leave yourself comments/notes.

Other handy features include the timer feature, which allows users to record how much time they have spent on a task, and reminders, which will send a message alerting to impending to deadlines. The reminder feature is customizable to go off when a task is due, when a task is overdue or to randomly remind a user of their task during a period of time they set.

All in all Astrid Tasks is a handy app for organization. It also encourages writers to sit down and prioritize what needs to be done and when. Astrid Task is definitely, plus the regular version is free, so you aren’t out anything but time. There is also an premium version of Astrid Task, which is not free, so be careful what you click!

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App Review: Dictionary.com

I have long been a fan of Dictionary.com, which I use over other sites when I’m in a pinch for a word or want to make sure I’ve picked the right one. So of course, when I got a smartphone (android), I had to download the Dictionary.com app. I must say it has come in handy after I started changing my writing locations — especially when I did not have wifi turned on.

The app, of course, comes with the dictionary component where users can search words. There is also the ability to switch over to the thesaurus both on the main screen and then later on word entries. Like on the main site, users have the ability to favorite words, in addition to viewing recently searched for words — very handy especially if you are forgetful like I can be.

It is also nice that they have included the “Daily” feature, which includes the Word of the Day, The Hot Word, Question of the Day and the Spanish Word of the Day. Personally, I love the Word of the Day. It is a great way to freshen up one’s vocabulary; however, it can be a double-edged sword, which I will explain in tomorrow’s entry.

Another way to check out words you might not have heard before is to hit the “Trends” button, where users will find trending words, popular words and the sort-of-creepy nearby searched words section. My favorite word so far from the latter section having been “sackbut,” a medieval form of the trombone, which was searched by someone in nearby Goshen. Nearby searched words certainly appeals to the nosy neighbor/stalker.

The app also offers the ability for users to earn mPoints for things like searching regularly, visiting the app, making thesaurus searches, downloading related apps, adding words to your favorites list, etc. Apparently by racking up points, users can earn giftcards, not that I’m too interested in that, because I’m caught on the notion that there has to be a catch. However, for those of you not as paranoid, it is quite easy to rack up points; so far, without even trying, I have amassed 200 points. Of course, when you go to claim said points, it bumps you to a page with a advertisement, giving you only the option to click the advert or visit the rewards store without the ability to go back and collect more points. So you get wrapped up into a tedious cycle of having to return to the opening screen, click mPoints, click again to collect more points and then bam — back to an advertisement.

However, for its main purpose, it makes a handy dictionary-on-the-go and is definitely worth the download, plus its free! Definitely a must-have for writers on the go.

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