Archive for January, 2012

Forecast Your Tax Refund with Intuit’s TaxCaster

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Tax season is upon us and if you want to get an idea of how bad the damage will be in terms of any taxes you may owe or see if you’re due for a refund, check out Intuit’s universal TaxCaster app for the iPhone and iPad. TaxCaster is not new to the App Store but it was recently updated for the 2011 tax year and is a free and handy tool to help prepare yourself for the dreaded date of April 15.

Today is the deadline by which employers in the U.S. must mail out W-2 forms to employees so most of you may have already received these documents and can start preparing your 2011 tax forms. TaxCaster will ask you for information from your W-2 as well as for amounts of other income and interest and tax deductions and will provide you with a ballpark estimate of the taxes you may owe or the refund you may be entitled to as a result. Of course, there’s a link in the app to get more information on Intuit’s full TurboTax products, but we expect that and it’s easy to ignore if you’re not interested.

Sample screenshots provided by Intuit

Psychologically, I’m finding that an estimate of a refund that’s this easy to get is an incentive to file my taxes sooner rather than later. Of course, an estimate showing that you owe the IRS money instead may be an incentive to do the opposite but at least you’ll have a heads up.

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Sprint Releases Account Management and Utility App

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Like AT&T and Verizon, Sprint now has its own account management app available for the iPhone. Sprint Mobile Zone debuted in the App Store yesterday and offers Sprint subscribers access to their accounts to check bill amounts, pay bills and more.

The app even has some utility for those who are not Sprint subscribers, offering device information on battery and connectivity status. The Power Controls section will show you estimates of remaining battery life for activities like web browsing and watching video while the Resources section will display a list of apps currently running in the background. You can also use the app to locate an Apple store and call Apple for support.

Sprint Mobile Zone is free and requires iOS 5.0 or higher on an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

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Softmatic’s ‘Pick’ Makes Color Identification a Breeze

Friday, January 27th, 2012

If you’re in marketing or website design and frequently need to find the exact value for a color on the web or in a digital document, Sofmatic’s new Pick application for the Mac is a great choice at the best price ever: free.

Once opened, Pick resides in the menu bar on your Mac and can be activated with a click or a hotkey combination. A virtual loupe lets you home in the color you’d like to identify and left-clicking with your mouse will copy the revealed value to your clipboard for pasting elsewhere. You can choose from several color formats to suit your needs.

Pick is a lightweight application that weighs in at just half a megabyte. It debuted in the Mac App Store earlier this month and requires Mac OS 10.6 or higher and a 64-bit processor.

(For you Mac OS experts out there, yes, Mac OS X includes a color picker app out-of-the-box called DigitalColor Meter. While it offers the same basic functionality and doesn’t require a trip to the Mac App Store to get, its interface isn’t quite as slick and it isn’t as easy to invoke without a hotkey combination or menu bar shortcut.)

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Realmac Software and Impending Preview To Do App ‘Clear’ for iPhone

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

It’s not often that I get excited about task apps. After all, they’re meant to hold the millions of things I have to get done, for which there are never enough hours in a day to complete. Sometimes I get tired just thinking about everything I have to do or should be doing. While I’ve seen several task apps that try to make managing my tasks as painless as possible, Clear, an upcoming app created by Realmac Software and new studio Impending, actually looks like it will make recording my tasks easy to do and even a little fun.

Here’s the preview video for Clear:

I love the multitouch gestures to navigate tasks and lists and how the interface seems to be very simple, as promised by the app’s tagline.

So far, details are sparse about Clear’s features, including any synchronization or back-up capabilities (like with Toodledo, iCloud or Dropbox). What has been revealed so far via the Twitter account for Clear is that it will be for devices running iOS 5 and higher only and it will be available in the App Store in about two weeks. Our sister site, MacRumors, has been able to ferret out a little pricing information at Macworld | iWorld 2012, noting that Clear will be free with in-app purchases for additional color themes and multiple lists capabilities.

Clear will be Realmac Software’s first entry in the iOS App Store, supplementing their existing offerings in the Mac App Store: Courier, RapidWeaver, LittleSnapper, and Analog. Impending is a new studio formed by Phil Ryu and David Lanham of MacHeist bundle fame and other endeavors.

iPoint2 Points You in the Right Direction

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

There are several turn-by-turn navigation apps in the App Store but sometimes these can be overkill when you just need to know the right direction to head in and can figure the rest out yourself. Aliya LX’s iPoint2 for the iPhone hits the sweet spot here, providing the direction and distance to your desired location in a very simple interface.

Say you’re vacationing in an exotic location and want to head back to your hotel but also meander around a little on the way to see the sights. Or you’re exploring a large park and want to keep track of where you are in relation to the park’s entrance. iPoint2 is perfect for these types of situations and many others.

You can save multiple locations to use to guide you as needed. The only time you’ll need a data connection (Wi-Fi or 3G) is to get the Google Maps information to set a location – after these are set, the app will use the iPhone’s compass and GPS receiver to determine current location and heading and calculate distance on its own.

The app’s settings are located in the iPhone’s main Settings app, where you can select metric or imperial units for distances shown, a handy toggle for Americans like me who are used to the nonsensical imperial-based system we’ve grown up with.

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Evi Aims to Bring Siri-Like Functionality to Older iPhones

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

As pointed out by our sister site MacRumors yesterday, TechCrunch noted the debut of Evi, a new iPhone app that offers Siri-like voice search functionality powered by artificial intelligence. Evi, developed by True Knowledge, works on iPhone and iPod touch models running iOS 4, unlike Siri, which is only available on the iPhone 4S.

Here’s the promotional video for Evi:

True Knowledge has sought to differentiate Evi from Siri by emphasizing its ability to provide answers rather than offering to search the internet, a result obtained often with Siri. However, Evi cannot add appointments to your calendar or create reminders and alarms like Siri can.

Unfortunately, Evi has proven to be so popular that True Knowledge’s servers are overloaded and Evi isn’t able to even provide any answers at the moment. True Knowledge has acknowledged these issues and has posted a notice promising that its team is “working around the clock” to address the issues and ensure Evi can handle the volume of requests. So if you want to give Evi a shot, you may want to wait until it’s operational before spending your money. Once operational, Evi may give Siri a run for her money, at least when it comes to providing information.

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Time Warner Cable Brings Live TV Streaming to iPhone and iPod touch

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Time Warner Cable, an American cable television service provider, has released an update to its TWC TV app that adds compatibility for the iPhone and iPod touch, expanding access beyond the iPad for live TV streaming via Wi-Fi within subscribers’ homes.

Time Warner Cable’s TWC TV app first debuted for the iPad only early last year and experienced some controversy shortly after its release when several media companies objected to the use of their content in the app, forcing Time Warner to remove several channels from its line-up available for streaming within the app. Despite this, the list of channels available for streaming through the app has since increased and at least one of the media companies that complained initially, FX, is back in the streaming line-up.

Beyond streaming live programming, TWC TV offers the ability to change channels on compatible cable boxes and DVRs and manage recordings and settings on compatible DVRs. The interactive program guide is also accessible through the app.

The free app requires iOS 4.3 or higher on an iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, 3rd-generation or newer iPod touch, and iPad and iPad 2. You must be a subscriber to Time Warner Cable service with a Standard video package or higher and have a Time Warner Cable user name and password as well as a home Wi-Fi network.

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Apple Announces iBooks 2.0 Update, New iBooks Authoring and iTunes U Apps

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Billed as a reinvention of the textbook, Apple announced iBooks 2 today, as well as a new textbook creation Mac application, and a new iTunes U iOS app at a special media event in New York City’s Guggenheim Museum.

The updated iBooks app offers more interactive elements to enhance textbooks well beyond their paper counterparts. An on-stage demo highlighted the multimedia features of iBooks 2 using a biology textbook, showcasing a video introduction, animated 3D models of cells, access to the glossary simply by tapping on a word, and comprehensive searching capabilities. Also shown was the ability to highlight text and add notes, which can be turned into digital index cards for studying.

A new Textbooks category is now available in iBookstore where high school textbooks will be available for $14.99 or less to start. Apple has partnered with major publishers Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who have made several textbooks used by millions of students across the country available today in iBookstore with more coming soon.

iBooks 2.0 is available now in the App Store.

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Apple also announced a new Mac application today to create the interactive ebooks for iBooks 2. iBooks Author bears a strong resemblance to Apple’s Pages and Keynote applications, offering a WYSIWYG interface with drag-and-drop editing to add multimedia elements. iBooks Author also features a live preview function to display a work-in-progress on a connected iPad.

iBooks Author is a free app and is available today in the Mac App Store.

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Apple also announced a new iTunes U iOS app that will offer direct access to content from universities around the world, storing courses on a bookshelf interface similar to iBooks. The iTunes U catalog will offer entire courses, with videos, audio files, transcripts, and supplemental material available from the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBookstore.

iTunes U is free and available in the App Store now.

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Numberlys: A Charming Interactive Story App for the iPhone and iPad

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

While games can seem to overwhelm the App Store catalog these days, hybrid apps that incorporate storytelling and gaming elements are making an impression with some compelling entries. Moonbot Studios made its debut in the App Store’s Entertainment category last week with Numberlys, a charming universal app with a look heavily influenced by Fritz Lang’s classic science fiction film, Metropolis, that tells a story about how the alphabet came to be.

Here’s Moonbot Studio’s teaser video for Numberlys:

The app’s animation is top-notch and its characters are absolutely adorable. The interactive elements are mostly intuitive (and help screens, which are on by default, will pop up to provide guidance as well) and augment the experience. The entire story takes about 20 minutes to complete, making it an ideal bedtime activity for young ones. Numberlys can also have some educational value for parents with its walk-through of the alphabet.

Numberlys requires iOS 5.0 or higher and works on the iPhone 3Gs, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, 3rd-generation or higher iPod touch, and the iPad and iPad 2.

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OnLive Brings Windows 7 and Microsoft Office to the iPad

Friday, January 13th, 2012

OnLive, a cloud computing company known for its on-demand gaming service, has released OnLive Desktop for iOS, offering a cloud-hosted PC desktop with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office applications on the iPad. OnLive Desktop’s virtual PC experience shows the Windows 7 desktop complete with the Start menu and standard applications including Calculator, Notepad, and Paint, plus Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal has posted a video review of OnLive Desktop for the iPad:

Last week, CloudOn debuted in the App Store, bringing cloud-hosted Microsoft Office to the iPad. While OnLive and CloudOn are similar in this respect, OnLive’s offering is more complete for those looking for a full PC experience with its virtual Windows 7 desktop and free online storage in the Documents folder of the virtual desktop.

An OnLive account is required to use the app and basic accounts are free and include 2 GB of storage. Additional storage will be available in the future for a fee. The app’s performance will vary based on the quality of your internet connection since the interface and applications are streamed from OnLive’s servers to your iPad.

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