Archive for August, 2011

Quick Look: ‘Note Taker HD’ is a Full-Featured Note-taking App for iPad

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

If you’re looking to go completely digital and do away with paper and ink pens to take notes and you have an iPad, the App Store has you covered when it comes to note-taking apps. One that’s always stood out in the pack to me has been Note Taker HD by Software Garden, which just received a significant upgrade this week to version 6.0 that includes a completely overhauled interface, better document management and more.

Note Taker HD first hit the App Store in May 2010 and it has earned an impressive 4-star average overall at the time of this post. It was created by Dan Bricklin, the co-creator of the VisiCalc spreadsheet program in the late 70’s. Yes, you have him and Bob Frankston to thank for laying the groundwork for Excel and other programs to make your number-crunching a little easier. Or, if spreadsheets are the bane of your existence, at least now where you know to place the blame.

Note Taker HD caught my eye because it was one of the first iPad apps that offered a zoomed handwriting feature as well as an auto-advance feature to allow you to write more quickly overall. The zoomed handwriting feature provides a small window at the bottom of the screen where you write and the text appears on the page above in a smaller size so you can fit more text on a page. The auto-advance feature mean that you can keep writing in a continuous line without constantly moving the text box that controls where what you write is shown on the page.

I realize that this is probably hard to visualize. Thankfully, Dan Bricklin realized this too and created a demo video to show how the app works, which is below. Note that this video is pretty long and if you want to skip to the section that showcases the zoomed writing and auto-advance features, skip to around 1:22.

I’ve found Note Taker HD to work very well. I try not to use paper notebooks anymore when I attend meetings or conferences and instead use my iPad and a capacitive stylus to take hand-written notes. The interface changes in the most recent update do give it a more polished look and the new document management features are very welcome.

There are several competing apps available in the App Store. I’ve tried Noteshelf by Ramki, which also has a zoomed writing feature though no auto-advance, as well as Cocoa Box Design’s Penultimate, which has no zoomed writing or auto-advance features at all. Another app that nearly matches Note Taker HD‘s feature set is Viet Tran’s Notes Plus, which actually improves on the auto-advance feature a bit with an additional feature that automatically moves the text entry box to the next line once you’ve reached the end of the current line.

If you’re a full-time student or a professional who attends a lot of meetings and you prefer to take handwritten notes digitally, Note Taker HD is an excellent, full-featured app you’ll want to get. If you’re not sure that Note Taker HD is the write note-taking app for you, Software Garden also offers a Note Taker Lite app (for the iPhone but it will install on an iPad) which will at least give you a general feel for how Note Taker HD works though it has significantly fewer features.

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Notable New Apps and Updates: AOL Editions and Google+

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Even though summer is usually the time for vacations and relaxation, app developers are certainly not taking a break. AOL has released another new app while Google has put out an update to the Google+ app for its new social networking service.

AOL released its new Editions app for the iPad last week. Editions by AOL is a personalized digital magazine app that presents articles together from general topics you select (from a defined list) from multiple sources based on your own interests. Editions “learns” your interests better over time as you add and remove topic keywords and article sources. You can also customize when Editions “delivers” your daily magazine issue  with or without a push notification at the selected time.

Editions also provides local weather information and can be linked to your Facebook and Twitter accounts for easy sharing and even a summary of upcoming birthdays and events stored in the iPad’s Calendar and in your Facebook account.

Editions has received fairly favorable feedback so far with an average of 3.5 stars out of more than 600 ratings at the time of this post. AOL had released PLAY, a music sharing and exploration app, earlier this summer that doesn’t seem to be enjoying the same popularity, however.

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Google released an update for its Google+ app yesterday, adding support for the iPad and iPod touch and a few other tweaks. Google+ debuted in the App Store last month and has proved to be quite popular so far, earning more than 20 million users in its first few weeks according to reports.

The iPad and iPod touch support part is a little misleading however, since Google+ is not universal and lacks an interface optimized for the iPad’s larger screen. Version of Google+ can now be installed on the iPad and iPod touch, which was not possible at all with the previous version. Additionally, the new version of Google+ includes new settings for Huddles, which are group chats and changes in how circle notifications are handled along with the old stand-by “performance and stability improvements.”

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FBI Releases ‘Child ID’ for iPhone

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Today the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the release of Child ID, its first iPhone app intended to help parents store and quickly access information about their children in case of emergencies. The app can store pictures and other information, such as a child’s height and weight, for quick reference and dissemination to the police and other officials in case a child goes missing.

You’re shopping at the mall with your children when one of them suddenly disappears. A quick search of the nearby area is unsuccessful. What do you do?

Now there’s a free new tool from the FBI that can help. Our just launched Child ID app—the first mobile application created by the FBI—provides a convenient place to electronically store photos and vital information about your children so that it’s literally right at hand if you need it. You can show the pictures and provide physical identifiers such as height and weight to security or police officers on the spot. Using a special tab on the app, you can also quickly and easily e-mail the information to authorities with a few clicks.

The FBI investigates crimes against children and deems the first few hours after a child goes missing as critical in securing the child’s safe return. We applaud the FBI for creating an app that could be a useful tool to help parents and local, state, and federal authorities locate kidnapped children.

The FBI isn’t the first federal entity to publish an app in the App Store. First there was The White House app that hit the App Store in January 2010. Then we saw the Transportation Security Adminstration put out its My TSA app last year, followed by the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler app last month.

Child ID is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad (though it lacks an interface optimized for the iPad’s larger screen) and requires iOS 4.2 or higher.

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IKEA Catalog Comes to iPad

Friday, August 5th, 2011

If you’re lucky enough to live near one of the 280 retail stores in the Swedish home furnishing retail giant’s chain, you’ll be happy to know that browsing IKEA’s U.S. catalog is now a cinch for iPad owners. IKEA released its 2012 catalog via a new iPad app earlier this week, making it even easier to browse the company’s wares without hunting down a paper version in one of its stores or by mail.

Once you get the app, you must first select to download the (free) catalog before you can do any leisurely browsing for new throw pillows or serving spoons. The catalog weighs in at a hefty 470 MB so be sure you’re on a fast Wi-Fi network first (or an unlimited data plan if you’re using a 3G-equipped iPad).

The app’s help guide points out that the printed IKEA catalog has been around for more than 60 years and goes on to provide navigation tips to help you browse the catalog. While it’s not possible to place an order through the app, you can at least bookmark pages for later reference as you wander around one of their enormous and invariably crowded stores.

The IKEA catalogue app for the iPhone (which is now universal thanks to a recent update) has been available for about a year now and while we’re not sure why it took the Scandinavian purveyor of moderately-priced housewares so long to create one for the iPad, we’re still happy to be able to browse the catalog more easily on the iPad’s larger screen.

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Skype for iPad Now Available

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Skype, the popular VoIP service, announced the release of its iPad app today. Skype for iPad hit the App Store for the first time late last night though it “went live prematurely” according to the company and was subsequently pulled. It returned to the App Store today and is here to stay.

Skype for iPad offers the same features as its iPhone counterpart including video calling and instant messaging with an interface optimized for the iPad’s larger screen. Skype has created a demo video to showcase the features of its new app:

Skype put out its last major update to the iPhone app at the end of December, adding 2-way video calling on supported devices. Skype for the iPhone first debuted in March 2009 and began offering the ability to make calls over 3G networks last summer.

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Discovery Channel Releases Shark Week Apps for iPad and iPhone

Monday, August 1st, 2011

The Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week event is here and the Maryland-based cable channel has released two apps to help you get the most out of it. Shark Week kicked off yesterday and will run through Friday, August 5 with a number of new programs and repeat showings of popular shows from Shark Week in previous years.

iPad owners can augment their Shark Week viewing with Ultimate Sharks, which contains detailed information about the 10 deadliest sharks, attack stories and exclusive videos and photos. Ultimate Sharks debuted in the App Store late last week and costs $4.99.

iPhone owners can download the free Shark Week Live app that offers a co-viewing experience of exclusive content coordinated with live broadcasts of Shark Week shows. When you’re watching one of the Shark Week shows, just open the app and let it “hear” the show and you’ll be presented with trivia and other content that coincides with what’s going on.

iPad owners aren’t left out in the cold when it comes to co-viewing – this is also available through the free Discovery Channel HD app thanks to an update late last week bringing the version number to 1.5 that added other new features as well.

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