TouchMyApps » Ray Gans All Things iPhone and iPad for those who like to Touch. iOS App reviews, News, New Apps, Price Drops and App Gone Free Sat, 14 Nov 2015 06:42:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 DropCopy in Review – Sharing Your Stuff Fri, 15 Jul 2011 17:55:11 +0000 Sharing stuff is a common need for anyone who uses a computer, iPhone, iPad or have friends/family with these devices. For example, I may want to use my iPad to read a pdf file on my computer, copy some text from a document on my iPad to a friend’s iPhone, or share a picture I … Read more]]>

Sharing stuff is a common need for anyone who uses a computer, iPhone, iPad or have friends/family with these devices. For example, I may want to use my iPad to read a pdf file on my computer, copy some text from a document on my iPad to a friend’s iPhone, or share a picture I just took with my wife. There are loads of apps available today that can transfer pictures, files, clipboards, URLs and other things, e.g., Bump, between devices, but is there anything that works well with all this media – and has a user interface that’s comprehensible to the average user?

Let’s take a look at one of them. DropCopy is a universal app for iOS devices and Macs (sorry, no PCs yet). It has a fun and unique user interface and works well with transferring most types of media.

First of all, why do we need another app for this? We can always use e-mail since most apps support it and almost all work with copy and paste. Still it’s an extra couple steps to use e-mail and our inboxes are cluttered enough without using them as temporary holding areas.

The visual metaphor DropCopy employs to connect devices looks (to me) like a circular wormhole called the dropzone that works through bluetooth or local WiFi. Connection is automatic, just start the app on the devices you wish to transfer stuff between and all your devices will find each other.

The free Mac app available on the Mac App store (also called DropCopy) displays its dropzone as a circle (upper left side of the screen above) which can be placed anywhere you wish on your desktop. Just drag files into the dropzone and it will ask where you want them transferred.

Right-clicking on the Mac’s dropzone will pop up a list of connected devices which can be used to:

  • send a message to the connected device
  • send the Mac’s clipboard to the device
  • pull (get) the clipboard from the device

Note that a Mac is not needed to use DropCopy. Transfers between iOS devices work just fine with DropCopy.

Files received on an iPhone or iPad are placed into a local file system managed by the DropCopy app. By default they are placed in one of 4 folders:

  • Documents
  • pdfs
  • Images
  • A/V (audio/video)

These files can then be managed from within the DropCopy app to be previewed, copied to another device or emailed.

If your iOS device has an app installed that’s compatible with the transferred item’s file type, then that app can be launched to open and save the transferred item.

DropCopy also has the ability to send and save text between devices (messages) and is one of the very few apps that allow text on the clipboard to be transferred between devices.

Clipboard text can be either sent from one device to another or pulled from a connected device to the receiver. This can be a very convenient way to copy some text or a URL and get it quickly onto another devices’s clipboard for pasting into an app or document.

If you’re interested in trying DropCopy out before purchasing, a free version, DropCopy Lite, is available which is fully functional for file transfers (only).

The free Mac application on the Mac App Store, DropCopy, lets your Mac connect with up to 3 other devices simultaneously. DropCopy Pro is an upgraded version that removes this 3 device limit.

The developer is responsive to e-mail feedback. I found an issue with the clipboard and he corrected it right away!

Bottom line, this app works well and is fun to use. It isn’t prefect and you may occasionally run across a few glitches, but I like it and the developer seems interested in making improvements. I hope DropBox support is added sometime since it would be a good alternative to retrieving and storing files (especially when a Mac isn’t available or the user has a PC).

App Summary
Title: DropCopy – share files and clipboards wirelessly Developer: 10base-t Interactive
Reviewed Ver: 3.8 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $4.99 App Size: 2.1 MB
  • Free version exists
  • Universal app
  • Plays well with other apps
  • Clipboard transfers!
  • In-app tutorial
  • Fun to use
  • No Windows client
  • Some rough edges and occasional connection issues — resolved by restarting the app
  • A DropBox interface would be a good compliment for storage


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Review: Transfer Pictures & Photos Wirelessly between iDevices – Redux Sun, 19 Jun 2011 03:04:34 +0000 . Photo Sender MediaTransfer PhotoSync . A few months ago I reviewed three nice universal apps that streamline the transfer of photos between iDevices and your desktop (see TMA review). Since then I’ve kept my eyes open and found a few more which are also noteworthy. These are quite different apps from each other with … Read more]]>


Photo Sender MediaTransfer PhotoSync

A few months ago I reviewed three nice universal apps that streamline the transfer of photos between iDevices and your desktop (see TMA review). Since then I’ve kept my eyes open and found a few more which are also noteworthy. These are quite different apps from each other with unique features that you might find appealing.

Photo Sender – Similar to the previously reviewed Photo Transfer app. What makes it stand out is its ability to add some simple effects plus do in-app down-sizing for quicker transfers.

MediaTransfer – Perfect for the person who takes lots of snapshots and just wants to periodically dump new ones to a folder his or her computer without any fuss — and it’s FAST!

PhotoSync – Lots of options and a very nice user interface. The best transfer app I’ve seen for sending and receiving photos and videos between devices and other services.

Photo Sender MediaTransfer PhotoSync
Computer to iDevice yes no yes
iDevice to Computer yes yes yes
iDevice to iDevice app to app no app to app
Video Transfer no yes yes
Bluetooth Option no no iDevice only
Picture Preview at transfer no yes
Universal App coming yes yes


Photo Sender 1.01

Photo Sender is a good transfer app but unlike many, it provides options to slim pictures down so they don’t take up so much space (which is usually OK if you don’t need high resolution). It also includes options to post your photos directly to e-mail, DropBox and social networks like Facebook or Twitpic plus you can add some simple effects before transfer.

To move photos off an iDevice you first prepare a set of them in 5 Steps:

  1. Select pictures from albums/events on iDevice
  2. Select output format (zip, multi files, animated GIF, etc.)
  3. Select size of each photo (4 choices – small to full resolution)
  4. Select photo effect (none, border, greyscale, oil paint)
  5. Preview and choose e-mail, save or upload

You can preview the photos as larger images before transfer. This is good, however, it would be more convenient to examine them first on the iDevice’s thumbnail selection screen to help choose the best among similar photos.

Computer Transfers

To transfer photos or videos to your computer, prepare a batch of pictures as described above and Save them locally in Step 5. Then  press the Transfer button and start the Transfer Server (you’ll get a URL to type into your computer’s browser).

From your computer, you can select and pull any saved batches to your hard disk or choose pictures on the computer to upload (push) to the iDevice.

iDevice to iDevice Transfers

Sharing pictures between iDevices is easy when both devices are running the Photo Sender app. Pictures are selected as before and then transferred app to app over a shared WiFi connection using the Upload to Storage button in Step 5. Press Transfer using Photo Sender on the receiving device and it’s name should show up on the sending device where your photos can be pushed via the upload button.

Sending photos to Dropbox or to Twitter or Facebook is done in a similar manner.


Photo Sender is a nice app for transferring photos especially when you want to cut down their size before transfer (important when uploading lots of them or posting them to social networking sites). Its requirement to save batches locally before transfer to a computer seems is an extra step but it’s still straightforward. Detailed instructions for the app are available on the developer’s web site.

Grab It Rating - 4/5

App Summary
Title: Photo Sender – The Ultimate Multi Photo Sharing Tool Developer: Dion Cho
Reviewed Ver: 1.01 Min OS Req: 4.1
Price: $2.99 App Size: 4.6 MB
  • Reduce the size of pictures to reduce transfer time
  • Post to e-mail, DropBox and social networks (Facebook and Twitter)
  • Can preview photos before sending
  • Can upload pictures from a computer
  • Not universal (but coming)
  • Must save batches before transfer to a computer
  • Detailed documentation is only available on the web site



MediaTransfer v2.03

This free app has fewer features than the other two, but its purpose is simple: fast transfer of photos and videos from iDevice to computer. Unlike other transfer apps, this one moves media strictly via ftp.

MediaTransfer dumps all pictures in an iDevice to a folder on a computer’s hard disk. Once transferred, the app remembers what was sent and doesn’t resend them again unless requested. This makes it an ideal tool for quickly transferring the most recent photos to a computer without needing to select them individually. Note that iOS currently doesn’t allow apps to remove photos from an iDevice after transferring them, so they still need to be manually deleted.

The initial set up takes some effort, but once completed, it works great. Read the documentation which explains how to run a (free) ftp server on the computer and identify a directory (or create one) for MediaTransfer’s repository. On the Mac, for example, the default directory is the Pictures folder.

You get to Settings by a strong swipe from bottom to top on the iDevice screen (press hard). There’s a long list of options available you can see by scrolling up. Most aren’t needed but I decided to edit two things.

1) I created a directory called MediaTransfer in my Mac’s Pictures folder and entered its name into the ftp path.

2)  Then I set the Auto Transfer to OFF (scroll up to see it). This lets me choose when MediaTransfer begins the transfer.

Now whenever I want to transfer the latest pictures I’ve taken on my iPhone, I just start the app, press Transfer and all my latest pictures are sent to my MediaTransfer folder.


While limited in features, if all you want to do is transfer photos quickly to a computer, this app is ideal. You don’t have to waste time selecting photos, just start the app and transfer all the latest ones over. I found it very helpful to transfer screen shots I took for this review article. There is plenty of documentation and setup videos available on the developer’s web site — I strongly encourage you to review it.

Tap It Rating - 3/5

App Summary
Title: MediaTransfer Developer: MapPin Software
Reviewed Ver: 2.03 Min OS Req: 4.2
Price: Free App Size: 2.8 MB
  • Fast and elegant solution to move pictures from iDevice to computer
  • Extensive documentation describing set up and use on developer web site
  • Set up is complex and may be too much for some users
  • Limited ability to select pictures
  • No inter-iDevice transfers



PhotoSync v1.1

For flexibility in your picture transfers, look no farther than PhotoSync. This app is easy to use and has the most options and best user interface for selecting and transferring. All pictures can be viewed within the app by pressing the “eye” button at the bottom of the screen and selecting a picture.

Computer Transfers

Transferring photos and videos to or from your computer can be done via an free Mac or Windows application or via the web interface. Each method has it’s place depending on your needs.

PhotoSync Companion is a free desktop application that connects to PhotoSync via WiFi on the iDevice. With this application, one or more photos/videos can be selected on the iDevice and pushed to the computer. Where possible, this is the easiest and preferred method for transfer.

Transfers done in this way is called syncing and, like MediaTransfer, it syncs the chosen camera roll or album/event with pictures already saved to a directory on the computer. Unlike MediaTransfer, however, specific pictures can be selected to transfer in PhotoSync if desired.

For example, if you have 100 pictures saved on your iPhone, you can copy them all over to your computer into a directory set up in the Companion’s preferences. Later, after taking several more snapshots, you can choose to sync just the new ones but leave the 100 previously transferred alone or choose specific snapshots for transfer instead. This may seem complicated, but trust me, it’s easy to manage and very handy.

Photos/videos selected on the computer can be pushed to the iDevice as well. Transfers from the computer can be done via drag and drop or through a standard file dialog. Both Mac and Windows versions of PhotoSync Companion are available for download from the developer’s web site.

If you’re at a friend’s house who doesn’t have the Companion installed or if you want to pull pictures off your iDevice, you can type in a URL in a computer’s browser (similar to Photo Sender). PhotoSync has a beautiful web interface that allows easy selection and viewing of pictures on the iDevice. Choose a picture you want and click to download it.

iDevice Transfers

Photsync provides an iDevice to iDevice transfer capability, provided that both devices are running the app.

Transfers are done similarly to computer transfers where one, some, or all pictures can be sync’d from one device to another. iDevice to iDevice transfers can be done using (slower) Bluetooth when WiFi isn’t available.

Other Transfers

Transfers can be made from Photosync using the FTP protocol (you’ll need the ftp server address to do this). Dropbox and Flicker transfers are supported too. Like other devices, all three cloud services can be synced with one, some, or all pictures on the device.

Photos can also be copied to the clipboard and/or e-mailed from the view screen (press the “eye” button to get there).


For the most flexibility in moving your photos and videos between devices, PhotoSync is hard to beat. And the attractive and easy to use interface is just icing on the cake.

Update for v1.2 (6/20/2011)

  • Transfer photos/videos to Picasa, Facebook, Flickr and SmugMug.
  • Quick Transfer allows transfer of all new/selected pictures to a default computer (or service) by a long press on the sync button.
  • Resize photos before transfer to a computer or iDevice.
  • And more…

Kiss It Rating - 5/5

App Summary
Title: PhotoSync – wirelessly transfers your photos and videos Developer: touchbyte GmbH
Reviewed Ver: 1.1 Min OS Req: 4.2
Price: $1.99 App Size: 10.8 MB
  • Attractive and function user interface
  • Fully featured with lots of options
  • “Eye” function to display pictures inside the app
  • Extensive help for troubleshooting
  • Upload to Dropbox and Flicker
  • Help text requires internet connection
  • Syncing devices and albums is an essential (and good) concept behind the app – but could confuse some users


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Mr. Reader in Review – New Guy on the Block Thu, 02 Jun 2011 15:10:34 +0000 The app store hosts many decent RSS news reader apps. None (to my knowledge) have dethroned Reeder (TMA review) as king of them all yet. Mr. Reader, however, showed up a couple months ago and it’s one of the first I’ve seen in a while to challenge the king. Mr. Reader is an iPad only app … Read more]]>

The app store hosts many decent RSS news reader apps. None (to my knowledge) have dethroned Reeder (TMA review) as king of them all yet. Mr. Reader, however, showed up a couple months ago and it’s one of the first I’ve seen in a while to challenge the king.

Mr. Reader is an iPad only app and it’s been designed to make good use of the iPad’s large screen. Like most modern RSS news readers, it connects to your (free) Google Reader account, so sign up if you don’t have one. It also has a simple to follow user interface but it’s packed – I mean PACKED with options!

Mr. Reader hosts one of the most complete Google Reader API implementations I’ve seen. It supports shared items, friends’ shared items and tagging. Want to to subscribe to a new feed or cancel an old one? Add/delete folders and manage their contents?  Do you need to rename stuff or cache text/images for offline viewing? No problem, Mr. Reader handles it all within the app. Reeder doesn’t.

You can post to most of the popular social networking sites plus open pages in the Safari, Atomic Web, iCab Mobile, or Mercury web browsers. Do you need E-mail, Instapaper and Read It Later support? Check! Plus there’s lots more.

A feature I really like is the ability to create a task directly in OmniFocus or Things (TMA Review) from Mr. Reader. This is a great way for us who are joined by the hip to our GTD (Getting Things Done) apps to add a new task to our Inboxes with a link to the item’s URL. So whenever we see something we want to spend a little time researching just tap to add it to the queue.

Tagging is another nice feature that allows you to mark feed items with your own predefined categories. This provides a convenient means to group selected articles together for later browsing. New tags can be added as needed to your Google Reader account right from Mr. Reader and tagged articles are easily selected from the left hand menu.

I’ve been using Mr. Reader almost exclusively for the last couple weeks and I must say I like it a lot. It did take a little time to wean myself off the familiar Reeder user interface, but Mr. Reader’s UI is also good.

When displaying a feed item, Mr. Reader shows its summary and provides options to view the details via a web browser, or the decluttered Instapaper Mobilizer or Readability views. After using it a bit, I’ve found these 3 options to be quite handy. Mobilizer and Readability strip off ads and extra cruft, which is much easier on the eyes and sometimes gives a quicker page load.

On the down side, all these options come with a price and that’s speed. If you have 50+ RSS feeds, prepare for a longer sync time than some of the other RSS readers. I’d say this is my biggest gripe, but once sync’d, the app works well and has proven to be very stable.

Mr. Reader a very new app, so I expect performance improvements to follow soon. I plan to continue using it and look forward to its next update.

Grab It Rating - 4/5

App Summary
Title: Mr. Reader Developer: Oliver Fürniß
Reviewed Ver: 1.1 Min OS Req: 4.2
Price: $2.99 App Size: 2.8 MB
  • Plethora of cool options
  • Tag and Folder management
  • Subscribe/unsubscribe to feeds
  • Instapaper Mobilizer and Readability
  • Sluggish, especially when syncing lots of RSS feeds
  • Limited documentation available


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Library App Reviews: Goodreads, iBookshelf and Book Crawler Thu, 31 Mar 2011 18:05:11 +0000 Goodreads iBookshelf Book Crawler . We all love books, right? If you’re like me, your reading list is long and getting longer every day. We’ll never finish them all, but heck, when someone recommends a book, we probably still want to jot it down for future reference. A good list can be a real blessing when … Read more]]>
Goodreads iBookshelf Book Crawler

We all love books, right? If you’re like me, your reading list is long and getting longer every day. We’ll never finish them all, but heck, when someone recommends a book, we probably still want to jot it down for future reference.

A good list can be a real blessing when trying to remember an author or a book we’ve just read, finding the name of the next book in a series, or easily sharing our favorite books with friends.

The three apps reviewed here are excellent candidates for keeping track of all the books we love and all the books we want to read.

To find the best book library (or book list) manager app, you’ll have to figure out how you want to use it. Goodreads is best for those who use the Goodreads web service. If you don’t want to keep your books and personal preferences online or want to to have more flexibility in what you keep on your list, then Book Crawler or iBookshelf may be more in line with your needs.

######### Goodreads iBookshelf Book Crawler
Backup autosync
to website
Dropbox, E-Mail,
Dropbox, E-Mail,
Library Finder no WorldCat WorldCat
Author Info yes no no
Price Compare yes yes no
Goodreads Reviews yes yes yes
ISBN Scanner Red Laser pic2shop, ZBar,
Red Laser
pic2shop, ZBar
Import/Export CSV, others CSV CSV
Track Loans no yes yes
Offline Viewing no yes yes
Sharing Friends &
E-mail, Twitter,
E-mail, Twitter,
Universal App no yes yes

Free versions exist for all these apps, so you can try them out yourself first before selecting one.

Individual books, audiobooks and ebooks may be added manually (author & title) or by scanning the ISBN barcode – the rest of the information is automatically looked up. I did not test any of the apps on an iPod Touch or iPad 2 – though the reliability of their cameras for scanning barcodes could be an issue unless Red Laser is used.

One feature all these apps have in common is that they can import and export their data as CSV (comma separated value) files which can be opened in word processors and spreadsheets. For bulk updates, like when you want to copy your books from a paper list or external book database (or move it from one app to another), you’ll probably have to do a little CSV editing to make the transfer, but it does work without too much effort (I’ve done it).

Once you’ve added your books, these apps let you organize, track (ownership, loans, want-to-buy, etc.), and share your books with others. Plus you’ll have searchable list whenever you need them.

Warning: Any time you store lots of information on your iDevice, it is essential that it gets backed up regularly. The device backup that occurs when you do a sync to your computer does not save 3rd party app data. One glitch or a bad update and all your work can be lost. Both iBookshelf and Book Crawler have excellent backup and restore database features, but they are manual – you must remember to do it. Goodreads auto-syncs to the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about it.


Goodreads v1.2.1

If you’re a book lover and haven’t taken a look at the Goodreads web site yet, I highly encourage you to do so. One might call it a “Facebook for Book Lovers” (but without all the craziness and noise). On Goodreads you’ll find over 4 million members who have created an astounding collection of books, reviews and recommendations far larger than anything else you’re likely to find – and it’s free! You can meet new friends there (or invite your existing friends) to share reviews and recommendations for the books you’ve read and/or want to read.

The Goodreads app (it’s also free!) has the most polished user interface of the three apps reviewed here for the iPhone, but it does require an active data connection to display more than just a simple list of books.This app allows you to add books to your personal on-line collection (scan in the ISBN or enter title/author), find out what your friends are reading, and build your wishlist by perusing lists of books others love.

My all time favorite: Dandelion Wine!

Goodreads has a vast pool of information such as author pictures and bios, lots of detailed user reviews and info any bibliophile would love. Since it’s maintained by volunteer librarians, it isn’t always perfect, but there are plenty of people (librarians) who will make corrections if you alert them on the forums – or become a librarian yourself.

I was disappointed that the series number of a book is not displayed in the app (like it is on the web) unless the number is included in the title. This may not be an issue for everyone, but I like to follow author’s characters chronologically.


For anyone with a Goodreads account, this app is a must-have. It provides a good clean interface, book scanning capability (device camera required) and auto-syncs to your web account. Note that a data connection (cellular or WiFi) is required to use the app. The app has not (yet?) been enhanced for the iPad.

Grab It Rating - 4/5

App Summary
Title: Goodreads Developer: Goodreads
Reviewed Ver: 1.2.1 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: Free App Size: 9.5 MB
  • Ties into your Goodreads account
  • Instantly syncs all updates to Goodreads cloud (this is goodness)
  • Lots of information about books including details of many editions
  • Must-have for Goodreads users
  • Requires an online connection to display more than a simple book list
  • No series info displayed in-app unless included in title (which many are)
  • Can’t add additional information about books other than comments and tags




iBookshelf v2.10.1

This app is part of a group of similar media database apps for books (iBookshelf), movies (MyBoxOffice) and music (Disk Tracker) which are also available in an all-in-one app called My Library that contains all their features. If you’re interested in tracking more than just your books, take a look at My Library. Free Lite versions also exist for all these apps.

iBookshelf is an easy app to use with a broad feature set. Books can be sorted 8 ways and a collections feature exists to group books together into named subsets for separate sorting and viewing. You can also customize the app’s look and feel through its settings in the Settings app. The iPad and iPhone user interfaces are fairly similar.

This app is unable to fill out book information from online sources once a book is saved in its database. So after importing CSV files or manually adding a book without doing an online search for data, you can’t make the app look it up later. If books are entered one at a time, however, this usually shouldn’t be a problem.

Local libraries containing the books you wish to read can be listed and Dropbox backup/restore are available as in Book Crawler (backup/restore is essential in any app that saves data on your iDevice). If you own the QuickReader or MegaReader apps, iBookshelf has a custom interface that connects to them from the app itself. Like Goodreads, it has a Red Laser scanning camera interface which works well with lower resolution cameras, plus it can autoselect the best camera based on the device being used. If you want to get book recommendations, it also contains an interface to the iRecommends app.


While perhaps not as polished as the other two apps, iBookshelf does a good job with collecting data. It has a very motivated developer who is open to feature requests and who makes frequent updates. I tested a soon to be released version that is focused on stability improvements (something each of these 3 apps under review could use).

Tap It Rating - 3/5

App Summary
Title: iBookshelf
iBookshelf Lite (free)
Developer: Josh Pressnell
Reviewed Ver: 2.10.1 Min OS Req: 3.1
Price: $1.99 App Size: 6.5 MB
  • Scans up to 16 data sources for book information
  • Interface to QuickReader and MegaReader for e-books
  • Connects to iRecommend app to get book recommendations
  • Universal app
  • Can’t autofill additional information about a book once it has been saved
  • User interface is functional but occasionally awkward to use
  • Documentation is only on web site
  • Backup is manual



Book Crawler v3.1

Of the three apps reviewed, Book Crawler has the most pleasing user interface (especially on the iPad) and provides the most flexiblity to customize your library. More information is collected and displayed by this app than the others. If your goal is to include a lot of information about your books, then this app will give you the best experience.

Book Crawler has a dedicated Author section where you can view and rate individual authors and look for other books they’ve published. Besides the standard book data fields, Book Crawler includes several custom fields that can be labeled and used to add additional information about your books, like who recommended a book, the date added to your database, etc. Additional authors (or narrators for audiobooks) can be added as well to any book.

Book Crawler has the most flexible interface for adding new books individually or in batch. Most data fields can be given default values from the app settings panel and CSV data can be input in almost any order. Like iBookShelf, the number in a book series is either automatically added or easily entered later and books can be sorted based on your choice of 18 data fields.

Book Crawler can tag books with multiple labels and you can build smart collections (groups of books) based on complex rule sets. For example, you could create a collection of books marked with the tag “Female Protagonist” that were published after the year 2005 with a 4 star or better rating and are owned by you. Any book matching this criteria is automatically added to the collection.


From a feature standpoint, this app is hard to beat plus it looks great. I ran into some intermittent stability problems, but nothing serious and overall it delivers all one would want. Good documentation exists throughout the app to help one learn how to use it. The app has a very motivated developer who makes frequent improvements and gives quick responses to questions.

Kiss It Rating - 5/5

App Summary
Title: Book Crawler
Book Crawler Lite (free)
Developer: Jaime Stokes
Reviewed Ver: 3.1.1 Min OS Req: 3.1
Price: $1.99 App Size: 6.5 MB
  • Attractive and functional user interface (especially on the iPad)
  • List and rate authors
  • Lookup additional books by author
  • Several custom data fields
  • Good in-app documentation
  • Smart Collections
  • Universal app
  • Correcting misspelled author names is best done by delete/replace
  • A few features (e.g., collections, adding multiple editions) are awkward to use
  • Backup is manual


Related Articles:

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2Screens in Review – Presentation Expert for iPad Mon, 28 Feb 2011 16:40:17 +0000 For those of us in the business world, few things will raise eyebrows in wonder and envy more than plugging an iPad into an overhead projector during a meeting to show a PowerPoint presentation or render other media displayed on the screen. “Oh, anyone can do that on a laptop,” some will say. But it’s … Read more]]>

For those of us in the business world, few things will raise eyebrows in wonder and envy more than plugging an iPad into an overhead projector during a meeting to show a PowerPoint presentation or render other media displayed on the screen. “Oh, anyone can do that on a laptop,” some will say. But it’s just not as cool, trust me.

Several presentation apps are available on the App Store but 2Screens – Presentation Expert stands out in that it displays a broad range of file types concurrently and has a companion iPhone app called 2Screens Remote than can be used to control presentation slideshows.

One thing that surprises many people is that Apple’s $29 iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter (i.e., the cable adaptor) doesn’t display everything that’s on the iPad’s screen when connected to a monitor or projector. This is true. An app has to be designed to work with the cable adaptor to display anything. This was a problem 9 months ago when very few apps had this ability, but today, it’s very common to find this functionality – even id’s game RAGE HD has it.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, "The Annunciation" 1898

Therefore apps can include controls, popups, speaker notes and other features on the iPad screen that don’t get projected externally, giving the presenter more flexibility to make the most of a presentation without cluttering up the display for the attendees. You can also turn on a “laser pointer” to point out specifics on the display. Check out the angel Gabriel as a pillar of light in the slide above!

2Screens not only supports a wide variety of different media, it can also switch between them by just pressing preset tabs on the iPad screen. Just load your tabs with Powerpoint presentations, videos, pdfs, web pages, pictures, whatever you need and then flip between them as needed – without concerns of losing your connection with the projector!

Supported File Types

  • Web: HTML, PDF, TEXT, Safari WebArchive
  • Microsoft Office: Words, Excel, PowerPoint (DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPTX, PPS)
  • Apple iWork: Pages, Numbers, Keynote
  • Image: PNG, JPEG, BMP, TIFF, GIF, etc.
  • AV: HTML5 Video, MP3, AIFF, M4A, MOV, M4V

Document Management

The easiest way to get a document into 2Screens is to drag it over from iTunes. The developers are promising file transfer over WiFi soon. Documents can be put into folders and moved around within the app. You can also mark particular documents and pages with bookmarks for quick loading.


Then 2Screens main display on the iPad has 25 different controls to manage the projection! Syncing to an external display is simple and automatic – just plug it in and the app recognizes the external display or projector.

You can turn on whiteboard mode to annotate whatever is displayed (and dump it to a snapshots folder for later retrieval), pop up a (hidden) note to jot down ideas and feedback, display presenter notes on the iPad, plus run a slideshow.

Note that animations in Powerpoint and Keynote presentations are not preserved at this time so such presentations may need to be adapted as required for display.

2Screens Remote

The 2Screens Remote companion app connects an iPhone (or another iPad) through bluetooth to control page/slide advancement.

Setup is straightforward to sync the two devices and 2Screens holds the two devices active so neither one goes to standby . It’s nice to move around during a presentation and use your iPhone as a remote control (it does run the risk of you being labeled a complete geek by your audience, however, so be careful).

The remote control also displays the current slide and allows you to turn the laser pointer on and off and drag it around the screen. This actually works quite well with a little practice. You can toggle the display on and off as needed too.

Another nice feature of the Remote is that you can select different tabs right from the iPhone so you can jump from Powerpoint to a web browser to pdf without touching the iPad or switching apps – very cool.

An extensive User Guide (web based) is available and I highly recommend examining it thoroughly prior to operating the app.


I’ve used 2Screens on many occasions. Normally I prefer pdf files, but I have used it to diplay Powerpoint, Excel, web pages and pictures without any trouble. The app stability is very good – I’ve never had a presentation stop or crash yet. I have noticed, however, that loading lots of tabs can occasionally overload it causing a failure, but since the app is updated regularly, I expect this to be corrected soon. 2Screens Remote has had some problems losing sync over bluetooth connections prior to iOS 4.1.1, so I recommend you upgrade to the latest iOS release. It’s probably also not a good idea to walk too far away (more than 20 feet) from the iPad while using it.

Grab It - 4/5

App Summary
Title: 2Screens Presentation Expert

2Screens Remote

Developer: Edwin Lam
Reviewed Ver: 1.8.1 – Expert
1.3    - Remote
Min OS Req: 3.2
Price: $4.99 – Expert
$2.99 – Remote
App Size: Size: 2.2 MB
Size: 0.3 MB
  • Works with a wide variety of media
  • Tabs & bookmarks allow switching between several different media/files
  • Remote allows presenter to move around
  • Speaker notes, markup, laser pointer are all available as needed
  • Remote sometimes doesn’t recognize a tap to advance
  • Occasional stability problems with lots of active tabs
  • Can’t display animations from Powerpoint or Keynote


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TechWire in Review – An App for your Tech Blog Addiction Thu, 24 Feb 2011 03:20:37 +0000 I watch a lot of technical blogs to get different perspectives on interesting news and for the occasional gems I find there. I don’t have time, however, to read or even scan them all every day and sometimes won’t browse through some of them for weeks. They’re just handy to have around. The downside is … Read more]]>

I watch a lot of technical blogs to get different perspectives on interesting news and for the occasional gems I find there. I don’t have time, however, to read or even scan them all every day and sometimes won’t browse through some of them for weeks. They’re just handy to have around.

The downside is that they clog up my newsreader and slow things down while waiting for refreshes. I don’t want to unsubscribe and lose them, so what do I do?

Enter TechWire, a free app that collects many of the most popular technical blogs in one place!

I’m a big fan of Reeder, the preeminent Google Reader client for iDevices (TMA Review). I use it several times a day to keep up with the latest breaking news on my favorite topics. Like many, I have a tendency to sign up for too many RSS feeds and then have to suffer waiting for them all to update whenever I refresh the feeds. The more feeds I have, the longer it takes to update, especially on a 3G (or worse, Edge) connection.

TechWire fits in well with to handle this and most of the tech blogs I follow are available through the app. Current blogs include:

  • Techcrunch
  • BGR
  • Gizmodo
  • Engadget
  • Mashable
  • Lifehacker
  • Wired Top News
  • ARS Technica
  • Pocket Lint
  • Boing Boing
  • Read Write Web
  • MobileCrunch

It’s easy to scan through the articles in each blog. It loads them when the blog is selected from the list (instead of articles from all blogs at once), so wait time is usually short. TechWire only grabs the last few days of articles, so it’s not the best for catching up on things over a long period of time - which is usually not a problem if you only want to see what’s been happening lately.

It is possible to send references to articles via e-mail, tweets and posts to your Facebook wall directly from the app. TechWire seems to support abilities like Comment (post to?) and Heart (like?) an article, but the functionality doesn’t appear to be working yet in this first release. An interface to Instapaper would also be nice to save articles for later reading, especially since they only remain in TechWire for a few days.

The user interface is identical between the iPhone and iPad other than screen space. One issue that could be a problem for some is that articles you’ve read are not marked in any way.

Reading full articles can be done via the built-in web browser with the expected zoom and hyperlink functionality; plus forward/back controls are available to navigate within the browser.


As a first release, this app really shows promise and will definitely find a spot on my iPhone and iPad. If you’re interested in having these technical blogs available to you on your iDevice, but don’t want to load down your newsreader with all their articles, then check out TechWire. If the list of supported blogs is missing one of your favorites, let the developer know and it might get added in the next release!

Grab It - 4/5

App Summary
Title: TechWire Developer: Connor Zwick
Reviewed Ver: 1.0 Min OS Req: 3.1
Price: Free App Size: Size: 3.5 MB
  • Pleasing user interface without ads.
  • Summary and detail available in-app for all articles.
  • No requirement to sign up for RSS feeds.
  • E-mail, Twitter and Facebook integration.
  • No way to see posts already read.
  • Articles are only available for a few days.
  • Some (non-essential) functionality doesn’t seem to work yet.


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Review: Transferring Pictures Wirelessly between iDevices Mon, 21 Feb 2011 18:01:43 +0000 . Photo Transfer Pic Transfer WiFi Photo . We all know that you can transfer a picture or video between a Mac or PC with an iPhone or iPad by just plugging the device into iTunes and syncing. Other options are to do so using e-mail or even MMS. Oh… but that’s so 2007! Surely … Read more]]>


Photo Transfer Pic Transfer WiFi Photo

We all know that you can transfer a picture or video between a Mac or PC with an iPhone or iPad by just plugging the device into iTunes and syncing. Other options are to do so using e-mail or even MMS. Oh… but that’s so 2007! Surely there’s an app for that?

In fact there are several. Photo Transfer, Pic Transfer and WiFi Photo are great examples and can come in really handy when you want the flexibility to select and transfer multiple items at once. Let’s take a look and see why they’re so useful.

First of all, since we have WiFi and bluetooth, it should be all we need to move pictures and videos around! A picture transfer app can make this task easy by allowing one to choose multiple pictures or videos and push or pull them to the device of interest. The big advantage over a cable is that you can move pictures not only to your computer but to a friend’s iDevice directly without going through the extra step of e-mail (as long as both devices need to be running the same app).

As universal apps, these three all have identical functionality on both the iPhone and iPad (I did not test them on an iPod Touch).

######### Photo Transfer Pic Transfer WiFi Photo Transfer
Computer to iDevice yes no no
iDevice to Computer zipfile Mac only zipfile
iDevice to iDevice app to app app to app no
Video Transfer yes yes no
Bluetooth Option iDevice only iDevice only no
Picture Preview at transfer thumbnail only at selection
Universal App yes yes yes



Photo Transfer 2.2

Of the apps reviewed here, this one provides the widest number of transfer options: iDevice to iDevice, iDevice to Computer and the only one to do Computer to iDevice. A connection between the computer and the iDevice is made by typing a URL or IP address into a computer’s web browser that shares the same local WiFi connection. This is nice because the app can connect to almost any computer that uses a modern web browser.

Computer Transfers

To transfer photos or videos to your computer, launch the app and choose your options to Send to PC.

Press the Select Photos button and navigate through the albums on your device; then tap the picture or video thumbnails you wish to transfer.

Enter the the listed URL on any computer’s web browser to make the connection.

From your computer’s browser you can preview the photos as larger images before transfer. This is nice, but it would be more convenient to examine them first on the iDevice’s thumbnail selection screen to help choose the best among similar photos.

Press the Download link on the browser and the selected photos are transferred over WiFi as a zipfile.

Uploading pictures or videos from computer to iDevice is done by selecting them one at a time from the computer’s browser and then pushing it to the iDevice via the Upload button on the browser screen.

iDevice to iDevice Transfers

Sharing videos and pictures between iDevices is easy when both devices are running the Photo Transfer app. Pictures or videos are selected as before and then transferred app to app over a shared WiFi connection.

A progress bar is displayed as pictures and videos are pulled to the receiving device. Transferred items are placed in the default photo album.


Photo Transfer provides excellent step by step instructions for each transfer function as well as tips for troubleshooting connection problems. It is the most costly of the three apps reviewed here, but it is a good value for the money.

App Summary
Title: Photo Transfer App Developer: Enrique Rodriguez
Reviewed Ver: 2.2 Min OS Req: 3.1
Price: $2.99 App Size: Size: 5.9 MB
  • All the options you need.
  • Great help text for troubleshooting connection problems.
  • Can transfer pictures from Mac/PC to iDevice
  • Difficult to distinguish similar pictures at selection time.
  • Requires same app to transfer pictures between iDevices.




Pic Transfer v3.2

If you use a Mac or only want to transfer photos between iDevices, then this app may be the one for you. Pic Transfer will move pictures between iDevices using either a WiFi or bluetooth connection or from an iDevice to a Mac (only) using a free desktop application.

This app has a simple user interface and can transfer lots of pictures without using a zipfile. There’s no help included with this app, but it’s so simple to use, it probably doesn’t need one. Pictures or videos are selected by touch from album thumbnails on the iDevice. As can be seen below, there’s no way to examine similar pictures (two checked ones in second row) before transfer so you either transfer both or guess.

After pictures are selected, the receiving device (Mac or iDevice) is set to Receive and the transferring iDevice is set to Send. Choose the receiving device from the menu on the sending device and voila the pictures are pushed over.

Here is the Mac app user interface that controls where received videos and picture are saved. It’s free and available on the Mac App Store.

Transfer progress is shown by a progress bar and count. The same general user interface is used on all transfers.


Pic Transfer is a great solution for doing quick picture and video transfers between iDevices or directly to your Mac. For 99 cents it’s a nice clean way to skip the MMS or e-mail transfer hassle. It’s the transfer app I use to download screenshots for my TMA reviews.

App Summary
Title: Pic Transfer Developer: Objective App LLC
Reviewed Ver: 3.2 Min OS Req: 4.0
Price: $0.99 App Size: Size: 0.6 MB
  • No nonsense user interface that makes connection and transfer very simple.
  • Multiple pictures are transferred individually without zipfile.
  • No need to enter a special URL to connect to a Mac.
  • PC picture/video is not supported (Mac only).
  • Similar pictures are difficult to distinguish when selecting for transfer.
  • Requires same app to transfer pictures between iDevices.




WiFi Photo Transfer v1.3

This last app has less features than the other two, but it’s free. It only supports photo transfers (no videos) from iDevices to your computer. Like Photo Transfer, you launch the app and enter the multi-digit local iDevice IP and port address into your desktop/laptop browser.

This isn’t as difficult as it sounds and once set up, pictures are easily pulled from your iDevice by the browser. One very nice feature is that the browser interface presents a list of your albums and allows you to preview individual pictures in larger than thumbnail size on your iDevice as you select them.

You can transfer photos one at a time by clicking on the thumbnails either in full resolution or as large/medium/small web-friendly jpg images using the save features of the browser. Multiple pictures can be selected at once and transferred as a compressed zip file.


While limited in features, if all you want to do is transfer photos to your computer, this app is ideal. It isn’t as slick as the other two, but it gets the job done.

App Summary
Title: WiFi Photo Transfer Developer: Janos Barkai
Reviewed Ver: 1.3 Min OS Req: 4.0
Price: Free App Size: Size: 3.0 MB
  • Selection of pictures is managed and previewed by receiving desktop device.
  • It’s free!
  • No iDevice to iDevice transfer.
  • INdividual transfers must be manually saved in the browser.


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Nonograms in Review – A Puzzler for people who think they don’t have time for games Mon, 08 Nov 2010 17:52:12 +0000 Many people say they don’t have time to play games. I can understand this because we all have so much on our plates that it’s hard to justify. What if, however, there was a puzzle game that didn’t take too long, was analytically challenging (but not overly formidable), didn’t require a 17 year old’s dexterity … Read more]]>

Many people say they don’t have time to play games. I can understand this because we all have so much on our plates that it’s hard to justify. What if, however, there was a puzzle game that didn’t take too long, was analytically challenging (but not overly formidable), didn’t require a 17 year old’s dexterity and… gave a nice sense of accomplishment when you finished it?

It’s not my habit to write game reviews but occasionally one comes along that deserves to be noted. Nonograms for iPad and its sister Nonograms Pro for iPhone are two of those games. Challenging, engrossing, pick up & play, and really fun – ideal for busy professionals or others with hectic lives and little time.

Nonograms is a puzzle game where hidden patterns of boxes on a matrix grid are deciphered through hints and logic. Think of a minesweeper/sudoku combo – but kinder and gentler, quick and compelling. Games are played on grids of 5×5, 10×10, 15×15 cells or more. There is a timer, but it’s very low key and only used to measure how long you’ve taken to solve the puzzle. The iPhone version is similar to its big brother and includes cursor buttons to help mark the grid.

Just choose the puzzle size to correspond to the approximate time available and see how quickly you can solve it. If you make a mistake you have unlimited undos to go back, plus games can be paused or restarted again. With 12,500 puzzles, you won’t run out of them soon.

Probably the best way to describe play is with an example. Here’s a simple 5×5 grid.

Notice the rows and columns have headers marked with numbers. These numbers correspond to sets of connected boxes in that row/column which make up the hidden pattern. If there are two numbers, then one or more blank spaces must exist between the sets. We can begin at any point on the grid but let’s look at the rightmost column. It says there should be 3 connected boxes followed by one or more spaces and then a single box – but that’s 5 total, so we can just fill it in!

Row and column headers change from white to orange automatically whenever the specified pattern is achieved (but don’t be fooled, there may be several ways to meet the row or column requirement, but only one will be correct to solve the puzzle). Here, the last column’s header has been marked in orange as complete. The middle row’s header also shows it’s complete because there can only be one box in that row. Next we can fill out the top two rows and the bottom row because each defines a single set of connected boxes that must include the corresponding box in the last column.

Finally we complete the 4th row to match the unfinished columns and voila, we win!

Granted the 5×5 puzzles are fairly straightforward, but they’re good to learn the methods needed to solve more complex puzzles. To assist in your efforts, cells can be marked with an X to eliminate them from consideration which greatly helps to reduce the number of alternatives. Tips for solving Nonogram puzzles can also be found on Wikipedia.
10×10 puzzles are lots of fun and with practice can often be completed in under 5 minutes.

15×15 puzzles are my staple and usually take me about 10 to 20 minutes (or longer if I get a hard one).

For the truly hard core, try a 25×25 matrix — this one was completed in under 40 minutes!

In conclusion, Nonograms is a great game that’s easy to learn and will stretch your analytical faculties. Free Lite versions exist for both the iPad and iPhone versions that contain 300 unique puzzles. So try it out today!


App Summary
Title: Nonograms
Nonograms Pro
Developer: Hot Cocoa Games
Reviewed Ver: 1.04 (iPad)
1.1 (iPhone)
Min OS Req: 3.2
Price: Nonograms – $4.99
Nonograms Pro – $2.99
App Size: 8.4 MB
5.7 MB
  • Clean and simple user interface
  • Can choose game size based on approx time available
  • Unobtrusive timer and pause
  • Free Lite versions available
  • Games are numbered but can’t share or replay them (feature coming)


Can’t get enough of the puzzle genre? Take a peek at some of our other reviews:

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Taking Notes on an iPad: A Look at 20 Apps Fri, 24 Sep 2010 18:25:36 +0000 I purchased my iPad in part to take notes at business meetings – at least that’s what I told myself when I plunked down the cash. The iPad comes with a note taking app (Notes) which like it’s cousin on the iPhone is woefully limited. Luckily there are many alternatives in the App Store (many … Read more]]>

I purchased my iPad in part to take notes at business meetings – at least that’s what I told myself when I plunked down the cash. The iPad comes with a note taking app (Notes) which like it’s cousin on the iPhone is woefully limited. Luckily there are many alternatives in the App Store (many many alternatives). A new one seems to pop out every week! Not only that, but they’re constantly in flux with bug fixes and feature enhancements.

Depending on the situation (taking personal notes, meeting minutes, lecture notes, etc.) and your preferred method of note taking, your choice of an app may differ, because there is a wide variation in the approach and functionality available. If you haven’t looked closely at the options, you may be pleasantly surprised at what’s available!

Typing on an iPad is much easier and productive than on an iPhone, in fact one can create a long note without too much trouble. Taking notes effectively with an iPad in meetings or situations traditionally the mainstay of pencil & paper, however, requires a good app and some well-practiced skills:

  • Position the iPad on a surface where you can use both hands to type freely without making too many errors.
  • Become proficient with the cut/copy/paste and select/replace functionality built into the iPad operating system (iOS).
  • Finally, find a good note taking app that you can trust and be willing to put some time into learning its features and idiosyncrasies.
  • Ideally a good app should require limited attention so you can still participate in the meeting/classroom dialogue if desired.

Primary considerations

  • Text Entry & Editing
    Entering text quickly in the manner you want it will often be the deciding factor on whether to use the iPad or a laptop. Notetaking apps are not word processors and should not be expected to take on that role. One text font, size and style per note are likely the most you’ll find and if your app happens to support bullets and auto-indent functionality then you should be in good shape for most notetaking situations. Making quick corrections and additions to notes should also be natural and not involve undue poking and prodding.
  • Organization
    The true test for those taking dozens or hundreds of notes over a long period of time is finding information when it’s needed later. Creating separate notebooks by subject is a good first step and organizing notes within a notebook via dates and titles is also helpful. In practice, however, this isn’t enough. Managing too many notebooks or notes constrained in length (rather than multi-paged or unlimited length notes) will become burdensome as the numbers of them increase.
  • Backup and Recovery
    Systems crash, apps occasionally have bad updates and users make catastrophic errors… you need to back up your data! And if it isn’t easy, if you’re like most of us, it won’t happen very often. Auto-sync to cloud is ideal, manual in-app backup/recovery is OK, and iTunes manual file copy or export to pdf is better than nothing.

Secondary considerations (which may be essential for some users)

  • Sketching and drawing tools
  • Audio recording and playback
  • Bullets and indentation formatting
  • Graphics/photo pasting and import
  • pdf annotation
  • Hyperlink and web browser integration
  • Password protection
  • Sharing notes with others
  • To-do lists

Matrix PDF file

To help break things down, I’ve divided the notetaking apps reviewed here into 4 categories based on typical usage plus a 5th category for specialized apps. And for your reference, I’ve also created a custom matrix to help breakdown all the main features for each app mentioned in this article. To download the PDF file, click HERE.

Basic Notetaking Apps

These apps, like Apple’s Notes, offer limited functionality but are easy to pick up and use.

Notes v3.2.2 - Price: Free
Apple’s Notes provides a notebook with separate pages of unlimited length. Notes can be e-mailed and synced with Mail or Outlook through the standard iTunes sync.
Pros: All notes are timestamped. Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, street addresses and URLs are recognized as such by the app.
Cons: Only one text font and size. Very limited note organization.
iDo-Notepad v1.4.1 - Price: Free
Easy to master task-oriented app with calendar and priorities. Notes can be tagged with one of 4 categories and searched by category. A nice app for managing sets of simple note-oriented tasks. This app is a free and less functional version of Neil Notepad.
Pros: Notes can be assigned a priority and protected with a global password. Includes a keyboard “TAB” button for indents.
Cons: Limited note organization plus no good means for backup and recovery. Can only export a note via e-mail.
Paperdesk for iPad v1.5 - Price: $1.99, Free
One of the first popular notetaking apps for the iPad that hosts additional functionality beyond text input, including sketching/drawing tools, audio recording and VGA output.
Pros: Separate notebooks with bookmarks for pages. Export notes as pdf to free cloud service. A free LITE version exists.
Cons: Only one font/size for text. Very limited note organization. No text search or recovery options.

Text Writing Apps

For notetakers primarily focused on text entry from one or more devices. Several of these apps allow pictures and audio to be included, but the focus is on text entry. Most of these apps sync their contents to the cloud, thus providing complete security for backup and recovery.

3banana Notes v3.6 - Price: Free
Impressive casual notetaker and universal app. Easy to jot notes and combine them with pictures. Full backup/recovery and note sharing through Snaptic. Includes geo tagging, maps and text tags to group notes. Great free replacement for Apple’s Notes.
Pros: Free cloud syncing between multiple devices. Universal app. Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, street addresses and URLs are recognized as such by the app.
Cons: One font/size for text. Limited ability to organize notes other than tagging.
Elements – Dropbox Powered Text Editor v1.0.2 - Price: $4.99
No frills text-only universal app with auto-sync through Dropbox. Allows editing same notes on iPad, iPhone and Mac/PC. This is a fairly new app with a motivated developer that should add features over time. Good choice for text-only needs.
Pros: TextExpander support. Scratchpad for jotting down ideas on the fly. Universal app allows multi-device use through Dropbox plus backup and recovery.
Cons: No way to organize notes, all notes share the same font/size, no timestamps on notes and no ability to search text.
Evernote v3.3.2 - Price: Free
The main premise of Evernote is to throw all your ideas, notes, graphics, and even audio into the cloud, tag them and then mine the collection for information and sharing later. Evernote is a mature universal app that has a large following. A more secure and high storage/bandwidth premium service is available.
Pros: Text, web clips, photos, video and audio can all be marked with custom tags and geo-tagged for organization plus everything can be saved and recovered from the cloud on multiple devices.
Cons: No text formatting options.
myMemoir v3.0 - Price: $1.99
Very attractive app designed for journaling. Entries (pages) have unlimited length and are dated. Can manage multiple journals with different page styles and text fonts/sizes. Journals can also be useful as individual project or meeting notebooks. Up to 3 pictures from your photo album can be attached to individual entries (pages). Export is available to pdf, ePub or e-mail.
Pros: Optional password protection by journal. Other text documents can be imported through iTunes file copy.
Cons: No sync service – backup and recovery is possible, but manual and awkward.
Simplenote v3.0.3 - Price: Free
This is a basic (and popular) text notetaking app with a simple interface. As a universal app, it shines in its multi-device syncing ability and a unique slider that displays the version history of text changes. Tags can be assigned to notes to group them into folders. Recognizes web & e-mail links. A premium subscription service is available with additional capabilities and services.
Pros: Custom tags allow notes to be grouped together in multiple ways. As a universal app it provides multi-device sync through cloud. TextExpander is supported.
Cons: Text only.

Full Flexibility Notepad Apps

Pencil and paper replacements allowing the most flexibility in notetaking with text and graphics placed anywhere on a page. All these apps allow sketching, audio recording, pdf annotation and provide password protection. All have fixed page lengths which can be awkward when a page gets full. They have the most features but require some patience to learn.

Noterize v3.02 - Price: $2.99
Good implementation with and good in-app manual. This app has two text functions. The first is background text similar to a straight text writing app, the second allows text boxes to be created, rotated, formatted and placed anywhere on the page as notes or stickies. Includes bookmarks to help organize notes. Also supports Powerpoint annotation.
Pros: Includes VGA out. Can export pages directly to other apps on the iPad as pdf. Interfaces with many externals services.
Cons: No formatting available for background text. No way to backup and recover notes. Primary export is pdf.
smartNote v1.42 - Price: $2.99, Free
This app hosts a large number of features. Can import and export notebooks to Mac/PC for backup & recovery. Includes handwriting recognition (beta). Can sync notebooks to other iPads with free smartSync cloud service. Download the User Guide and import as pdf. Each page element (other than sketching) must be selected from a menu for placement which can be awkward to use without some serious practice. A fully functional free version exists with ads and watermarked pdfs and images.
Pros: Dozens of widgets for various business/scientific/fun/etc. use. Multipage notes, bookmarks and tagging make help organize notes.
Cons: Can’t move text once it’s placed on the page. Limited text formatting.
Sundry Notes Pro v1.9 - Price: $2.99, Free
This app has one of the richest feature set of apps discussed in this article. If your need is to create notes ready for distribution containing pictures, bulleted text, drawings, and lots more, this may be your app. A fully functional free version is also available which watermarks pdfs and images upon export. Syncs with a custom cloud service accessible on-line so you won’t lose your work.
Pros: Many sync and import/export options. Includes bulleted text & indentation. Notes are easily organized through separate notebooks with multi-paged text and bookmarks. VGA output.
Cons: Features can be awkward to manage without practice. Text to be placed in separate boxes.
WhiteNote v2.2 - Price: $3.99
Best user interface of these full flexibility apps. Great in-app user guide. Text/sketches can be easily entered and moved anywhere on the page at anytime. Text entry supports bullets and indentation.
Pros: Straightforward text and sketching. Peer to peer note sharing. Access to your contacts, tImestamps and a special handwriting box.
Cons: Backup & recovery only through iTunes manual file copy. Large numbers of notes are difficult to organize.

Audio Text

Several apps have been designed for specific notetaking functions such as syncing audio to text entry, journalling, classroom work and task planning/organization. Here are a few good ones. For example, one of the really cool tools to hit the market a few years ago was LiveScribe, a pen that both records audio and syncs it in time to handwritten notes on special paper. Just tap the pen on a word, and the point in the recording where the word was written is instantly recalled for playback. AudioNote, SoundNote, and Class Organizer provide similar functionality with just the iPad.

AudioNote – Notepad and Voice Recorder v1.16 - Price: $4.99, Free
AudioNote is a very capable universal app that marks text entries with timestamps in the margins. Sketching is possible in b&w and audio is also synced to the pen strokes. Words and pen strokes are highlighted during playback (very cool) corresponding to the point during the audio when they were written and can be entered anywhere on the page. A great app to take to lectures.
Pros: Universal app with free Lite version available. Backup & recovery of text, sketches and audio notes are possible through manual iTunes file copy. Can export to pdf.
Cons: Text is limited to one font/size. Notes are all separate with no organization.
Audiotorium Notes v1.7 - Price: $5.99
Audio focused app with good text support and audio bookmarks to identify key points in recordings. Nice layout with separate categories and individual notes marked by date/time and audio recording (if one exists) with unlimited page length. Text can optionally be auto-synced and edited on Dropbox. Supports TextExpander (available separately) for text shortcuts. Audio backup can be done via iTunes or WiFi.
Pros: Good text formatting and TextExpander support. Backup and recovery of text through Dropbox sync.
Cons: Can’t add titles to bookmark and there is no easy way to associate specific text with a point in a recording.
Moe’s Notepad v1.1 - Price: $4.99
A fascinating app with lots of knobs and sliders to integrate text, audio, and pictures in 3 separate panes. Notes can be tagged, geo-tagged and emailed within the app and filtered by date, location, or tag. It also hosts tools to remove silence and resize/crop images. This would be a great app for capturing the audio, visual (if the iPad had a camera) and textual mood or experience of an event. It has a complex user interface, but provides plenty of help with just a press of a button.
Pros: Clearly separates different media within a note (text, pictures, audio). Extensive filtering can organize notes. Password protection.
Cons: No backup & recovery. Export only via e-mail.
SoundNote (formerly SoundPaper) v1.6 - Price: $4.99
SoundNote syncs text entry and sketching with audio as it’s being recorded. Sketching is in b&w with audio synced to the pen strokes. Can export via e-mail and store audio on DropBox. Text and graphics can be entered anywhere on the page. This is a good choice for notetaking during lectures.
Pros: Text and graphics sync. Can export notes as pdf and store audio on Dropbox.
Cons: Text entry is limited to a single font and size. Notes can’t be organized. No means to recover from backups.

Specialized Apps

Several apps have been designed for specific notetaking functions such a classroom work and task planning/organization and even Wikis. Here are a few good ones.

Complete Class Organizer v1.1.3 - Price: $4.99
This is an impressive school class organizer, assignment tracker, calendar and note taker. It supports audio recording, sketching, tasks (to-do) and separate sessions per class. Notes are organized by class and session (date). It even has a grade calculator! This app is closely tied to school work though it could be creatively adapted for use in some regular business meeting too.
Pros: Audio sync to text entry. Can save sketches to photo library. Contains Google search, dictionary (Wordnik) and wikipedia popup reference windows.
Cons: No backup & restore (coming in next version). Missing text search.
CourseNotes v2.0.1 - Price: $4.99
A schoolwork organizer that collects individual notes, sketches, and to-dos  by subject and session (date). A good layout and easy to use note taker that can be easiy adapted to non-classroom related notetaking. Contains a user-defined list of terms by subject with Wikipedia lookup. Notes can be shared with other Coursenotes users.
Pros: Backup & recovery through iTunes.  Regular backup reminders. Can import and markup photos. Bullets and ident/outdent available for text entry.
Cons: Unlike other apps designed for schoolwork, this lacks audio recording capability and pdf import.
Notes n More v1.5 - Price: $0.99
This is a task-based universal app with a focus on attaching notes to dates. Notes, sketches, web clips, photos and audio recordings are separate entries in collections. A sync service (paid) through AT&T Synaptic Storage is available for backup and sharing.
Pros: Backup & recovery through sync service. Universal app.
Cons: Limited note organizational ability. Text font/size/color can only be changed globally in iPad settings. Can’t undo mistakes when sketching.
Trunk Notes v2.3.54 - Price: $3.99
Very powerful text formatting and information linking app based on John Gruber’s Markdown text to html syntax. It allows notes to be taken and efficiently formatted using its simple syntax. In addition it allows pages to be linked into a personal Wiki. Text formats can be created by defining style sheets.
Pros: Great formatting (including style sheets). Backup & recovery through WiFi. Universal app that works like a personal Wiki. Tags and Geo-tags
Cons: To get the benefit of this app, you must learn Markdown and understand the concept of a Wiki.

In summary there are a wealth of note taking apps in the app store. Those listed comprise only a sample of what is available. Your notetaking needs my not be handled by a single app and I recommend finding one or two that do most of what you want and see if the developers are open to adding the features you need. I use WhiteNote for taking notes at business meetings, AudioNote during lectures, myMemoir for personal journalling, and I’m seriously looking at Trunk Notes for organizing my information. Your needs of course will be different so I put together the aforementioned Feature Matrix [PDF File] based on my evaluation of these apps. Warning: lots of features often mean a complex user interface that you’ll have to learn and remember. Sometimes simple is best.

If you have a favorite note taking app I didn’t mention, please leave a comment.

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Pulse News Reader Review: News for the Laid-Back Fri, 20 Aug 2010 16:27:05 +0000 I can’t live without my news. But you know what? Not everyone is like me. In fact, some very well-adjusted people can be quite happy with a casual approach to newsfeeds and just subscribe to a handful of sources that interest them. Pulse News Reader and its iPhone cousin, Pulse News Mini were designed for … Read more]]>

I can’t live without my news. But you know what? Not everyone is like me. In fact, some very well-adjusted people can be quite happy with a casual approach to newsfeeds and just subscribe to a handful of sources that interest them. Pulse News Reader and its iPhone cousin, Pulse News Mini were designed for such people. I didn’t think I’d find much value in it, but I was wrong, Pulse is surprisingly fun!

I think the words of the developer captures the Pulse experience perfectly, ”While a traditional RSS reader is usually about consuming as much content as possible, Pulse is all about leisurely enjoying your daily news with a cup of coffee.”

As I pointed out in my recent TMA article about Reeder, one needs a good user interface to rapidly sort through the glut of news that pours through an over-subscribed newsreader. If the goal, however, is to enjoy most of the articles presented in a feed, rather than just screening out the choice bits, then a different user interface may be more appropriate. Pulse provides a great example of such a UI.

Pulse can host a maximum of 20 feeds and displays the last 25 articles per feed. This isn’t many, but plenty for low traffic feeds and for those who want to limit the number of feeds they read. One big plus is that is’s easy to add a new feed. To subscribe, just enter key words in the search box or a URL and Pulse will scan the net for up to 10 feeds that contain articles that match. Pulse can also access your Google Reader account to add your favourite feeds, and if you have a friend who uses Pulse, there’s a “Bump” option that lets you exchange feeds too.

I have a close friend who recently bought an iPad and I was dismayed to learn that he didn’t have the time or interest to get sucked into the abyss of newsreaders. Well being a good friend, I felt compelled to change that and thought, ‘Pulse might be the answer!’ With his birthday on the horizon I thought I could gift it to him and get him hooked.

My friend, let’s call him Tom for the purposes of this article, is an avid (to put it lightly) bird watcher. One of the first apps he bought was Birdtunes which he loves and that gave me an idea. I was sure there are lots of feeds about birding, I just needed to find some good ones to show as examples.

With a little trial and error using different search terms, I found 3 interesting feeds. If I knew some popular birding sites, I could’ve copied their RSS feed URLs and added them too.

Great picture of this Ross’s Goose, huh?

If you have the iPad version, Pulse makes it easy to directly post links of good articles onto your Facebook, Twitter or e-mail as well as save the entire article on Instapaper (TMA Review). In addition, Pulse recently partnered with Posterous to let you create your own custom newsfeed called My Pulse by selecting individual articles you find and then share them with others by touching the “heart” icon. This is really awesome! Once you’ve signed up for this free service, your feed shows up at and you get 5 bonus Pulse feeds for a total of 25.

Pulse on the iPad is fully orientation aware and provides a large canvas to read your news. Articles scroll vertically and swiping horizontally will take you to the previous or next one in the feed. The full article can also be read in the in-app browser or in Safari. Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, my friend Tom isn’t Owen Wilson (above); I mean really, he would never wear a hat like that!

Facebook and Twitter users can display articles referenced by links posted to their accounts as a feed in Pulse (currently iPad only). This sounds good in principle, but I didn’t find it very useful because I get so many of them.

One awkward thing I ran into is that Pulse is unable to display video links embedded in feeds. You can switch to Safari, but there is no way to show them within the app itself. Hopefully this will be resolved in a future update.

As can be seen in the pictures, the iPhone version has a similar interface, but as mentioned, it’s missing some of the functionality of its bigger cousin. There is also no synchronization between devices (other than bumping) or with Google Reader. Articles are not marked as read, which for most newsreaders would be unacceptable. Given the focus of Pulse on a more relaxed approach to consuming news, however, this didn’t seem to be a big problem.

All things considered, I like Pulse a lot. I’ll move my low traffic feeds over to it from Reeder and use both. Now it’s time to see if Tom likes it.

App Summary
Title: Pulse News Reader
Pulse News Mini
Developer: Alphonso Labs Inc
Reviewed Ver: 1.2 (iPad), 1.0.2 (iPhone) Min OS Req: 3.2, 3.1.3
Price: $3.99
App Size: 2.0 MB
1.7 MB
  • Great casual news reading experience
  • Adding new feeds is simple and fun
  • Can connect to Google Reader
  • Good integration with Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and Instapaper
  • My Pulse rocks!
  • Limited feeds and articles per feed
  • iPhone app is missing functionality
  • Video can’t be displayed within the app
  • No means to identify or sync already read articles


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Things and Things for iPad in Review – Task Management Maestros Wed, 18 Aug 2010 12:19:02 +0000 Back in late 2007 I ran across a free public alpha of a Mac program called Things from a small German company called Cultured Code. People were raving about it because unlike most To-Do list productivity apps at the time, which were complex and tedious to use, Things was designed to provide an intuitive interface … Read more]]>

Back in late 2007 I ran across a free public alpha of a Mac program called Things from a small German company called Cultured Code. People were raving about it because unlike most To-Do list productivity apps at the time, which were complex and tedious to use, Things was designed to provide an intuitive interface for quickly entering and managing tasks such that the process did not get in the way of getting work done.

During the summer of 2008, Things for iPhone ($9.99) was among the first apps in the App Store and it quickly became one of its most successful productivity apps. When the iPad was released last April, Cultured Code was ready with Things for iPad ($19.99) from day one. The developers at Cultured Code should be applauded for not straying from their original design goals as they’ve moved Things into the mobile world.

Things is a To-Do list manager with easily grasped functionality to assist users in organising their tasks. Active tasks show up in the “Next” list, inactive tasks are put in the “Someday” list and tasks that aren’t assigned yet are entered into an “Inbox” for later assignment. All tasks can be dated, tagged, made repeatable (Mac only) and given notes. In addition, tasks with due dates on or before the current date show up by default in a special list called “Today,” which for me, is the place I work out of the most. Tasks can be moved into and out of the Today list to help me focus on those things I want to accomplish on the current day without affecting underlying task data. When a task has been completed, a tap checks it off and it gets dated and saved for posterity in the Logbook.

Things also has two useful task organisational constructs called Projects and Areas. Projects range from small to huge collections of tasks that are used to contain all the separate tasks required to complete a major effort (i.e., a project). Tasks are added to a Project by entering them directly or moving them from one of the task lists.

Areas might seem similar to Projects, but the difference is that Areas aren’t typically completed. Areas are organizational buckets for both individual tasks and Projects that follow a similar activity theme such as Gardening, Home Repairs, Church Activities, etc. Choosing Areas that correspond to your primary values and interests can provide a good measurement of where you spend your time — and whether your activities are in line with what’s most important to you.

Things has remained very popular due to its incredibly loyal Mac following and because it is so easy to get started and use. Limitations do exist on the iPhone and iPad versions, so if you don’t have a Mac to drive them, you may have to be a little patient until Cultured Code evolves them to meet their full potential.

The extra screen area available to Things for iPad combines the list view, details and editing all on the same screen with a user interface designed for a touch. Managing and updating tasks is a breeze and I highly prefer it to the Mac’s mouse driven UI.

Things on the iPad  and iPhone have the potential to become exceptional standalone task managers, but for now, they miss a few key features that limit their ability to provide the necessary functionality to compete with desktop solutions. If you have a Mac that’s also running Things, however, then your mobile experience will be fabulous.

For example, tasks in Things can be positioned within lists by dragging and dropping into any desired order on the Mac (this is useful for ordering project tasks), however, there is no way at this time to move a task within a list on the iPhone or iPad.

Support for creating recurring tasks is also available on the Mac, but is still a work in progress on the iPhone and iPad.

For this reason, bi-directional syncing between devices is essential and it works great with Things. Once paired with a Mac, Things maintains task ordering and changes across devices. Unfortunately, sync does not function via a 3G connection and must be done over WiFi. Expanding OTA (over the air) syncing options between devices is perhaps the most requested feature and Cultured Code is intensively working on a cloud-based solution.

There are cheaper task managers on the App Store, but Things still stands out as a frontrunner. It’s pricey, but I guess you get what you pay for with a solid app backed by a motivated company that consistently evolves and improves its products. You can keep up with Cultured Code’s plans by watching updates on their Development Status Page.

App Summary
Title: Things
Things for iPad
Developer: Werner Jainek
Reviewed Ver: 1.6 (iPhone), 1.2 (iPad) Min OS Req: 3.0, 3.2
Price: Things – $9.99
Things for iPad – $19.99
App Size: 6.4 MB
5.0 MB
  • Straightforward task creation and management becomes an asset to getting things done
  • Projects and areas allow tasks to be organized quickly and intuitively
  • Simple bi-directonal sync with a Mac running Things keeps changes current across all devices
  • WiFi sync to Mac only
  • List ordering and recurring task creation only supported on Mac


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Reeder in Review – One Newsreader to Rule Them All Mon, 09 Aug 2010 16:36:18 +0000 I don’t know if you are as addicted to news as I am, but if you have an iPad or iPhone and find yourself checking your RSS feeds several times a day – AND you’re not using Reeder to read these words, then stop right now, go buy Reeder (for iPhone) or Reeder for iPad (or … Read more]]>

I don’t know if you are as addicted to news as I am, but if you have an iPad or iPhone and find yourself checking your RSS feeds several times a day – AND you’re not using Reeder to read these words, then stop right now, go buy Reeder (for iPhone) or Reeder for iPad (or both) and finish reading this article on the app.

OK, good (whew)! I expect you’re now on Reeder and are about as delighted as you can be about using a newsreader. While you’re at it, I recommend you pick up a copy of Instapaper (paid or free) too, so you can store things indefinitely that pique your interest.

Reeder is a must-have app for anybody reading RSS and it’s ideally suited to power users who typically scan dozens of stories at a time looking for choice bits to examine in more detail. If your newsreader requirements demand:

  • fast loading and refresh
  • simple and intuitive user interface
  • efficient navigation through multiple feeds
  • crisp text and clear visuals

Reeder excels on all counts. More so, if you’re a news junkie who isn’t afraid to master and rule the glut of information you crave, then read on…

Newsreaders typically scan XML (text) files on content web sites and display what they find. When an author wants to post new information, this file or “RSS feed” is updated with the changes. You “subscribe” to a feed by adding its web address to your newsreader’s list of feeds (a task which is often automated by your web browser when you click on an orange and white RSS icon). Newsreaders remember and mark items you’ve already viewed in a manner similar to how e-mail clients handle read and unread e-mail. Most newsreaders also give you the ability to flag (or star) news items so you can reference them later.

Reeder, like many modern newsreaders, makes use of a service from Google called Google Reader which keeps track of all your feeds plus it monitors the feed items you’ve already looked at. The advantage of this service is that new and previously read items are independent of the device you use, so news items you’ve already reviewed on your laptop, smartphone or iPad are synced when you switch to another device – e.g., if you’re using Reeder on your iPhone and iPad, you won’t see the same items marked “unread” on your iPad if you looked at them earlier on your iPhone.

Reeder for iPhone

Reading all one’s newsfeeds can be tedious. This is where Reeder’s user interface makes a big difference. Typically I check my feeds for any new/unread items that Reeder finds on Goodle Reader (I can also choose to display all items or just my starred items). Folders of feeds can be expanded or contracted with a simple pinch gesture. Swiping up or down scrolls the list with a nice bounce at the beginning or end.

Tapping a feed takes me to a list of its news items displayed with both a title and the first line of each article. Again scrolling the list up or down is done with a finger drag or flick. By quickly scanning these items, I can pick out anything that seems interesting, and with just a tap I get an expanded summary and a graphic or video if available. Finally if I want more, I can read the entire article through Reeder’s in-app web browser.

Running through feeds becomes very efficient because I get enough information at each level to know if I want to go deeper. Once I’ve finished, all it takes is a couple taps to mark the rest of the items as read and I can move on to the next feed.

Reeder on the iPad is similar to its iPhone cousin, but the iPad’s additional screen area is put to good use. The item list contains more text than on the iPhone and in landscape mode, the iPad displays both the feed items in one column and the selected summary in another (see above). In addition, a pinch gesture on a graphic will expand it to full screen.

To be clear, even though Reeder is great for navigating efficiently through all your feeds, it does not skimp on presentation. The attention to detail throughout this app includes making reading your content a real joy. In addition and as you can see below, Reeder integrates with a wealth of 3rd party services that let you share your favorite articles with others or save them for offline viewing.

The only real trouble I’ve had with Reeder is its in-app support for YouTube videos. With earlier releases, viewing YouTube would occasionally crash the app. The developer has been very active making stability improvements, however, and I rarely have this problem anymore.

To set up Reeder, you’ll need a (free) Google Reader account synced with the newsfeeds you’re reading. Reeder currently doesn’t have the capability of subscribing and adding feeds to Google Reader itself, but that’s promised in a future upgrade. Until then, most PC/Mac newsreaders will do this one-time task for you.

Reeder (for iPhone – $2.99) and Reeder for iPad ($4.99) are both must buys if you’re heavily into your newsfeeds and/or prefer a no nonsense efficient user interface. They are easily some of the best you’ll find on the App Store for staying on top of your feeds and I can’t recommend them too highly!


App Summary
Title: Reeder
Reeder for iPad
Developer: Silvio Rizzi
Reviewed Ver: 2.1 (iPhone) 1.1 (iPad) Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: Reeder -$2.99
Reeder for iPad -$4.99
App Size: 2.2 MB
  • Polished and intuitive user interface
  • Great Google Reader integration
  • Services support (Twitter, Instapaper, etc.)
  • No in-app ability to subscribe to newsfeeds



Some of my favorite feeds:

  • Order of the Stick – hilarious RPG comic
  • Daring Fireball – insightful, fun and timely commentary on Apple
  • Lifehacker – interesting and useful tips and ideas about everything
  • TMA – of course
  • Fantasy Flight Games – Arkham Horror and other great boardgames
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