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March 7, 2016 / carlispina

Bring Some Fun To Your To-Do List With Victories

Victories LogoHave you ever wanted to make your to-do list a bit more dramatic? A bit more fun? Victories is a new app that will help with this process. Despite having many features found in a standard mobile to-do list app, Victories differentiates itself by adding game elements to the process.

When you first set up the app, you are asked to decide whether you wish to be a king or a queen. Once you have decided, you are then given a selection of 8-bit style characters to select from. This character starts as a lowly peasant, but as you complete items on your to-do list, you can earn points to level your character up over time. Completing an item on your list is a battle that you have “won” and any items you remove from your list without completing them are “surrenders.” The app not only grants you points for completing tasks, but also tracks stats on time spent between battles and “conquests” which are to-do lists taken as a whole.

These are the fun elements of the app, but the mechanics of the to-do list features are also important. The app uses simple gestures that will be familiar to those who have used other mobile to-do list apps. Adding a task only requires double tapping on the screen, at which point you can type multiple tasks with double space in between them or you can include notes on individual items by only a single space. When you complete an item on the list, you simply swipe to the right to “win” that battle and earn your points. Items that you no longer want to complete can be removed by swiping left. The mechanics of the app work well and when combined with the cute graphics and entertaining point system, make this a nice option for users who think a sense of competition will motivate them to complete tasks.

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March 3, 2016 / carlispina

Create Unique Video Content With Boomerang

Rather than simply sticking with its initial focus on still photos, Instagram has continued to branch out to offer new types of content creation and sharing. The latest of these new features is Boomerang. This app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices, allows for video creation with a twist: the resulting videos play both backwards and forwards to create a continuous loop, but one that looks much different than a standard looping GIF or video.

The app itself has an easy-to-use interface that is not unlike Instagram’s other apps. You simply touch a button on your screen to record. As soon as you release the button, the video recording stops and are you automatically taken to a preview of your completed loop. You can record either a “boomerang,” which refers to video taken with the camera on the back of your device, or a “selfieboom,” which refers to video taken with the camera on the face of your device. That choice and whether or not to use your device’s flash are the only options that the app gives you when creating your video. Completed videos can be saved, shared on Instagram or Facebook, or passed along to another app on your phone. The entire experience is quick and intuitive. In truth, my sole complaint about Boomerang and Instagram’s other similar content creation apps is that they silo all of these features in separate apps rather than bringing them together into a single experience. However, given that all of the apps released so far have been free, this is a fairly minor complaint. If you enjoy creating video content and sharing it on social media, Boomerang is a fun new tool. You can see the app in action below.

February 29, 2016 / carlispina

Voice Editing Comes to Google Docs

Last fall I wrote about Google’s new Voice Typing feature. This tool brought fairly high-quality dictation options to Google Docs, which was a very impressive new addition. On February 24th, this feature was significantly expanded to allow you to not only dictate text but to also edit your document through voice commands as well.

These new features allow you to navigate through your document to make changes and additions to earlier sections of your work as well as making it easy to add formatting as you go along without ever touching your keyboard. Using this tool you can do everything from cutting and pasting text, to adding equations to your file, to inserting tables. To do this, you will need to be familiar with a lengthy list of commands, but fortunately many of them are quite intuitive. As with most all current dictation and voice command tools, this is not perfect and does require a specific set of circumstances, such as a decent quality microphone (though you may be able to use the one built into your device) and a room without too much background noise. However, the tool is impressive, particularly for those who are looking for a free/low-cost option for dictation or voice command software. It is definitely worth a try.  You can check out this tool in action in the video below:

February 25, 2016 / carlispina

Create Your Own GIFs With Piku Piku

Piku Piku logoPiku Piku is a recent addition to the long list of tools that can be used to create personalized GIFs. Using either the front- or rear-facing camera on your iOS camera, this app allows you to create either GIFs or videos that can be exported from the app or shared directly on a variety of social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

The tool includes a number of nice features that set it apart in terms of GIF-creation tools. First, it is nice that the tool allows you to record either a GIF or a longer video if you would prefer. It is also helpful that the app integrates a timer so that you can set up GIFs and scenes while using the 3, 5, or 10 second timer element. In addition to these features, Piku Piku also includes filters that you can add to your GIF at the time of creation. In the free version of the app, there are only 5 color filters that can be used, but if you purchase additional filters there are others that go beyond simple color overlays. These filters add a fun and unique element to the final GIFs, though it is important to note that the resulting GIFs and videos cannot be edited to add or remove filters after they are completed. If you enjoy creating GIFs, Piku Piku is an app that will be worth your time.

February 22, 2016 / carlispina

Create Crazy Images With Colorburn

Colorburn logoEarlier this week I wrote about an app that allows you to make your photos more dramatic by isolating only select colors, but this time I am writing about an app that is virtually the opposite. Colorburn is an app that allows you to add a crazy array of colors to any image or collage of images.

This app works with both images that you already have saved on your device and those that you take from within the app. Once you have an image selected or have taken your picture, you can change the brightness, contrast, saturation, and exposure of the image or edit the image just like in many other photo editing apps. But, what Colorburn has that most other apps do not is the ability to also add multiple colors to a single image. You can choose from 1,000 color filters (though some require in-app purchases) and a wide range of grids, which allow you to lay the filters out in different patterns. This makes it possible to create a customized effect that is perfect for your particular picture. You can also add frames and designs to finalize your image as you can see in the example below. Multiple images can be combined into a single collage that uses a different filter on each image, expanding the range of this app even further. Overall, Colorburn is a really fun app to play with and offers an impressive range of options even if you only pay for the base version of the app, which currently costs $.99.

Colorburn example

February 18, 2016 / carlispina

Make Your Photos More Dynamic With Vivv

Vivv logoThere are many apps out there to help you take better photos with your iOS device, whether this means retouching colors or adding filters. What sets Vivv apart from these other apps is that it allows users to make filter and color decisions before ever taking a picture. The app must be given access to your device’s camera, but once you have done this, you can use the app to take beautiful photos and videos. Included within the free version of the app are 10 filters that can be added to both photos and videos. These range from the standard color filters to one called lo-fi, which pixelates your pictures. Photos taken after you have selected a filter will integrate it into the image in a single step. The upside of this is that the process is quick and seamless, though the downside is that you cannot change the filter after the fact.

Though this feature might be enough to make the app entertaining, Vivv’s truly interesting feature is the option to select one or more colors in your image and capture only these while leaving the rest of the image in black and white. To use this feature, you can simply line up your shot and then tap the color picker option in the lower left of your screen. By tapping colors on your screen, you can then select which colors are included in the final image and which sections of the image are left black and white. Though I have tried other apps that allow you to isolate colors in an image after it has been taken, Vivv makes this process much quicker and easier. The resulting images are dramatic and engaging, making this free app well worth a try.

February 15, 2016 / carlispina

Pick Meeting Times With WhenIsGood

Scheduling meetings and events with a large number of participants can be difficult, making good scheduling tools important. Doodle Poll has been my go-to option for this, but recently I discovered an alternative that offers some very nice features. Called WhenIsGood, this tool makes it quick to set up a poll. When you first create a new event you are presented with a calendar showing 60 minute intervals over a three week period. You can select possible times by simply “painting” them with your mouse, which means clicking and dragging over all of the available times. From there you can name your event and your poll is ready to be circulated. If these default settings don’t meet your needs, you can further customize your calendar to show 15 or 30 minute intervals, display only particular days or times of day, or specify a timezone.

WhenIsGood Screenshot

Once you have finalized your invitation, you can create the event with the click of a button, at which point you will be given a code that is used to retrieve the results of the poll and a URL for sharing your poll with participants. This entire process can be completed in mere minutes and does not require an account or any login process. If you opt to create a free account, you do gain access to some additional features, including the ability to edit or delete polls. For those with even greater needs, there is also an option to pay $20 a year for a premium account that removes ads, offers the option to say a time might work, and includes the ability to export to Excel. WhenIsGood is a great alternative to other polling tools and, in many cases, will probably allow you to create and respond to polls even more quickly than other comparable tools. It is well worth a try.