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Archive for April, 2010

Software review: Shelfster

April 26th, 2010 No comments

Recently, I was invited to review a new web application: Shelfster that helps you manage notes and clippings on the web, similarly to Evernote, which app I wrote about back in September, 2008 and have been using since. I am an avid fan of Evernote, but Shelfster does deserve some attention.

Shelfster

Shelfster

After spending some time with Shelfster that it is meant to serve as a facility for a collection of notes, I conclude that it is meant to be competitor to Evernote. If you don’t have an online storage facility for your notes and web clippings, this might be a good option for you. Shelfster is in private beta as of now, but I have received 10 accounts to give away to my readers. See the end of this post for details on how to get one.

Shelfster is a free web-based application that allows you to collect notes from your computer, as well as the web and has some great sharing options and community building features.

To get you started there is a video on the home page giving you a brief introduction, there is a quick-guide, FAQ page, as well as you can contact them to ask them more questions. I have spent some time with it, created some notes, and wanted to give you a quick overview of the app, therefore I have outlined some pros and cons for you:

Likes

Easy on the eyes, clean interface
The interface is simple and easy to navigate. You even have a “Dashboard” to see latest community items, community tag cloud and add other panels. I found, however, that you cannot add your own latest items.
Large storage
The initial storage you’re getting with the free account is 80 MBs, which is the double the amount Evernote gives you.
Fast and sleek picture upload
This seems to beat a lot of other services out there.
Source URL
It’s important to know where you took that note from, and be able to go back and check for updates.
Image capture
This seemed to work when I selected the whole page on wsj.com, but not when pasting previously copied text.
Tagging/Searching
This is a well-known feature by now, we use tags on blog posts, in databases and they just make it easier to find something quickly or find matching items. You can tag multiple items at once. You can search by tags, filter your search and even save your search for later. You can share a bunch of tagged notes by providing the user and tag in the URL: http://shelfster.com/tag/user/review?user=ariley.
Sharing options
You can share your notes with community members, your friends by email or evenĀ  Facebook and Twitter (email sharing is not very sophisticated, Twitter and Facebook connection does not use API, rather you have to be logged in to post). or you can just make your notes private.
Community building features
You can search other people’s notes/tags, share notes with other members and and even follow and be followed so you can get/give the latest updates of your favorite topic automatically. It also allows you to filter tags, so you only get what you really want. You can also comment on other people’s notes.
Desktop tool for Windows only (Mac and iPhone coming)
This allows you to clip notes from applications, and web site and add them automatically to your Shelfster account. The tool does a decent job, however the window cannot be adjusted, which I personally find a drag.)
Messaging feature
Members can contact us within the community.

Dislikes

No desktop application for offline browsing
I don’t think this needs an explanation
No mobile application
No iPhone/iPad or Droid apps
No web capture from browser “add-ons” (Windows users can install desktop tool, which allows clipping)
Evernote does a really good job at this with the integrated clippers both on Windows and Mac. Also, when clipping, it captured a lot of code (you can see that in one of my public notes.)
No image capture from copied document
No document upload
You can only upload images form a web URL or your computer.
Sharing
When sharing a note, it does not create a PDF of your note and include it in the email, rather you get a link that you will have to go to to see the shared item.

All-in-all it is a very nice application that has room for improvement. Then again, it is in private beta and they are inviting people to test and review, so hopefully they will take things to heart.

If you’d like to get an account, follow these steps to be entered into a drawing:

  1. Follow me on twitter
  2. Send out the following tweet: “RT @agir for a chance to win a #shelfster account to collect and organize notes from the web and your computer”

The drawing will be held on May 4th, winners will be announced May 5th.

The many uses of Dropbox – syncing 1Password and Things data between Macs

April 15th, 2010 7 comments

A couple of weeks ago a lot of my friends (and acquaintances) got spammed by me on purpose: I sent them an invite for Dropbox. The intention was two-fold: 1. to increase my backup space; 1. to get them using a free backup solution. Several people signed up and I hope they are enjoying Dropbox by now.

Thanks to Dropbox, my two all-time favorite applications (1Password for login and general secret management and Things, a neat to-do list manager) have just gotten better. They both have iPhone and now iPad apps, as well and let me tell you, they are wonderful. One of the issues I had was the lack of proper syncing between my Mac Pro and my MacBook Pro. 1Password actually synced properly through the iPhone, but Things items got duplicated and this actually caused me to stop using Things. Then the iPad came out and Things looked beautiful on it, plus now I can enter last-minute items before falling asleep. About a week or two ago I learned that you can sync 1Password to many Macs using Dropbox. Thanks to Twitter I learned today that, indeed you can do the same for Things. So, here’s how this works.

  1. Create a Dropbox account, if you haven’t yet.
  2. Get 1Password, if you haven’t yet (Click on the banner on my site)
  3. Get Things, if you haven’t yet.
  4. Move your Things Library to Dropbox:
    1. Make sure Things is not running
    2. Move ~/Library/Application Support/Cultured Code folder to your Dropbox.
    3. Hold down the OPTION key while starting up Things then point to the Database.xml file at the newly created location.
  5. Move your 1Password keychain to Dropbox:
    1. In 1Password go to /Preferences/General click MOVE
    2. Choose Dropbox as the destination

That’s all. This is how simple it is to have your Things and 1Password libraries stored online in a safe place and have the ability to use them from several Macs. One caveat, however is that you CANNOT have Things or 1Password run on two different computers at the same time, because you’d be reading from/writing to the same data source, which, all my developer friends wold tell you it’s a BIG no-no.

* If you click on the Dropbox links on this page, you WILL generate me extra space. If you are against it, simply go to www.dropbox.com and bypass me.
** I am an affiliate partner for 1Password.
*** CulturedCode I am not affiliated with by any means.

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Quick and Dirty iPad Review

April 5th, 2010 3 comments

I wasn’t the first in line to get an iPad, but I did drive to Staten Island to avoid lines, and got one as soon as it was released. It is a pleasure to have it. I have demoed it to fellow former Apple coworkers over the weekend and they were unilaterally amazed and they all want one. There is no such thing as a perfect product, but the iPad surely comes very near.

Here’s a little breakdown of my first findings of the iPad:

  • Speed: It is super-fast. I mean unbelievably responsive. I open up Mail and instantly it loads my 13 unread items that weren’t there a nanosecond ago. I click on an email, it loads instantly, then I click on link in it and takes me to Safari in nanoseconds. Every app is responsive and it’s not something I expected after owning an iPhone and iPod Touch for awhile. The iPad is much-much faster.
  • Weight: it seems light at first lift up, but it really is 1.5 pounds, so reading on your back is not very comfortable. Holding it in your lap, though is.
  • Form factor: It is large. It’s mean to be large, so you can read your magazines with glasses in bed, but it fits in my Tumi handbag, which is quite small. It is beautiful in every way. The screen is incredible, the back is aluminum (hasn’t gotten hot yet, but I heard it might), the speaker is mono, but the sound comes out deep and rich.
  • Keyboard: Fairly comfortable to write on it in both portrait and landscape modes. The only problem I’ve been having so far is tapping to the beginning or a middle of any word; it will just simply not happen. I can however tap to the end of a word. Selecting full words happens sometimes. I have not been able to have the CAPS lock on; maybe it cannot do it (yet).*
  • Browser: Safari can display PDFs beautifully, on top of bringing your websites to you. Have experienced some issues while trying to view some Hungarian websites, which partially loaded in a frame but most of the screen remained empty. Viewing a website and clicking on an article or zooming in on something is all done in nanoseconds. I’m not joking, sites load faster than in my Mac Pro with it’s 10,000 RPM HD.
  • Apps: there are a lot of good apps out there already such as WordPress that I’m using at the moment to type up this review. I have downloaded and can recommend most of the following apps:
    1. TweetDeck: Comfortable Twitter client with columns. I use it on my Desktop, so it was an obvious choice for the iPad.cannot display Facebook feeds, nor can you open a link that’s in the tweet. I’m assuming updates will fix it.
    2. GoodReader: A full-featured PDF editor. You can send PDFs over WIFi or download them from a link within the app. You can view the PDFs in their original form or view them as text. If you choose to view them as text you can choose the background and text colors, both in day and night modes.
    3. NYT Editor’s Choice: Not a full paper or a full web site, but certainly enough articles to read. It does crash fairly frequently, though, but that’s nothing new after using their app on the iPhone.
    4. WeatherBug Elite: A very nice weather app. Haven’t figured out how to change to Celsius, but I’m assuming most of you won’t consider this an issue. **
    5. gogoDocs: Google Docs reader, exactly as it sounds. Supposedly, there will be an update, where it’ll introduce editing capabilities.
    6. Netflix: Need I say more? It works. Not as intuitive as the web interface, but still very nice.
    7. ABC Player: Plays ABC TV shows just like the web site.
    8. Wikipanion:Fast, logical and you can even create bookmarks.
    9. 1Password: A beautiful application to keep track of your passwords, web site log-ins and other secrets. If you don’t have it for your Mac, I’d highly recommend getting it, since you can sync your data wirelessly to your iPod/iPhone/iPad.
    10. Things: A very simple yet pretty task management app I started using on my Mac, then iPhone, now iPad. Awaiting automatic syncing through a server, but I know the developer are working hard to bring that to us.
    11. Scrabble: Have not used it, but I’m assuming it’s similar to the iPhone version, which I loved.
    12. WordPress: I started writing this blog on it, but since I cannot tap into words properly, plus this app is buggy, I switched to my Mac. I closed the app without saving and it saved and recevered my post. Next time I saved the draft, closed the app, restarted and half of my post was gone. So use this one with caution.

So, all-in all: I love it and it’s only day 3. I cannot wait for my 3G version so I can use it anywhere. This one already has a new mommy.

* Go to Settings/General/Keyboard and enable Caps Lock

** Go to Settings/WeatherBug to change units

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