Tagged: app

Ambient sounds from Elsewhere for Mac

I’m the type of person that can’t work without some sort of sound. I mean I absolutely hate quiet – it’s maddening to me. But there are times when I’m trying to concentrate on a project or simply read an article on a website, and a podcast or my favorite iTunes playlist is just too distracting. This is where a little ambient sound comes in handy.

Ambient sounds from ElsewhereElsewhere is a new app from Eltima Software, makers of the popular Folx downloader and Elmedia Player apps. Elsewhere’s purpose is simply to provide ambient sounds on your Mac to help you relax or concentrate.

The app looks absolutely gorgeous, and is simple to use. You invoke Elsewhere’s interface by clicking the icon in the menubar. You simply choose which type of ambient sounds you wish to hear – forest, beach or city, and whether you want to hear day or night sounds. You can also adjust the volume in the window, as well as pause the sounds if you need to.

The preferences are simple, you can set Elsewhere to launch at login time, and switch between day and night ambient sounds automatically.

The beauty of Elsewhere, besides its simple interface, is that you don’t notice any audible looping of the sounds. They appear to go on forever as if you were sitting in the location the sounds are coming from.

I’m not much for one-trick ponies, but this app could only be made better by adding the peaceful sounds of a mountain stream.

Elsewhere is normally $4.99 on the Mac App Store, but is on sale for 99¢ at the time of this review. Because the Mac App Store doesn’t offer demo versions, you can visit the Elsewhere web page for a working preview of the sounds.

Easily open emails containing “winmail.dat” attachments in Mac OS X

If you’ve ever received an email that is nothing more than an email with an attachment named winmail.dat, you’ve no doubt been frustrated. Thankfully, there are two utilities you can download for free that can help you read these files.

If you’re not familiar with winmail.dat files, they are simply emails sent from Windows users running Microsoft Outlook via an Exchange server who composed the email using RichText.


MailRaider can extract the text and images in that winmail.dat email attachment

MailRaider from 45 RPM Software, and TNEF’s Enough by Josh Jacob are both stand-alone utilities you can use to easily extract the RichText file and any images they may contain.

Both utilities worked perfectly for me running under Mac OS X Lion, as well as Snow Leopard.

Simple screenshots with Captur

Captur iconThe ability to capture screenshots in Mac OS X has been built-in from day one. But as is the case with most built-in features, third-part developers often find simpler/better ways of doing things. Users who create screenshots generally fall into two categories; those who have simple screen capture needs, and those who need more than just a full-screen, or Finder window capture.

If you fall into the first category, Apple’s built-in screen capture app (Grab) and the associated keyboard shortcuts are often all you need. There are a few shortcomings with using Grab, and that’s where Captur comes in.

Redesign your home or office with Sweet Home 3D

I recently had the need to produce a generic looking floorplan for a project I was working on, but surprisingly couldn’t find an appropriate piece of freely-available artwork on the web. That’s when I came across Sweet Home 3D.

Sweet Home 3D

Sweet Home 3D makes interior design simple

Sweet Home 3D is a free interior design application that helps you place your furniture on a 2D house floorplan, with a 3D preview. It’s relatively simple to get started using, and since it’s free it’s worth checking out if you’re considering redesigning your office or home.

Along with the app itself, you can download plenty of 3D extras to use in your floorplans.

Iconfactory to release Astronut for iPhone

Normally I wouldn’t post about upcoming software for the iPhone, but this is a special case. Iconfactory, makers of Twitterrific and CandyBar for the Mac, and two wildly popular iPhone games, Frenzic and RampChamp, have announced a new iPhone game arriving just in time for the holidays.

Astronut for iPhone

Astronut for iPhone blasts off just in time for the holidays

Not much is known about Astronut, but if Iconfactory’s previous apps are any indication, it’s going to be addictive, and a huge hit!

The easiest way to rip DVDs to your Mac

RipItI recently had the overwhelming desire to rip a DVD to my Macbook for watching on the road. It’s not something I had done before, so I was shocked at how incredibly complicated it can be. Everything I read told me to get Handbrake because it was so simple. After giving it a try, I nearly gave up on the entire project. I sat there after hours of unsuccessful attempts thinking “there has to be an easier way.”

Handbrake couldn’t be more complex. Not only are you required to know what terms like bitrate, anamorphic, codec, and framerates are, but you also have to download VLC; another ugly and unnecessarily complex app to actually finish the job.

As it turns out, there is a much easier way to simply make a copy of your commercial DVD. It’s called RipIt from The Little App Factory, and it actually lived-up to it’s claim of being easy – a fact which earned it a Macworld 2009 Editor’s Choice award.

Ok, so it’s not dead simple. You do have to have some knowledge of your Mac to rip a DVD with RipIt. To make it easy, I’ve created an illustrated set of instructions below.


Step 1: Insert DVD. Step 2: Click Rip button. Step 3: Wait. Step 4: Watch your movie.

I would love to give a lengthy review of this app, but quite honestly it simply isn’t necessary. The app does one thing, and works perfectly. You can choose how you want to receive the resulting file(s), a single file viewable with Quicktime, or the required folders to burn a viewable DVD using Toast or other DVD burning app, a few simple quality settings, and a small handful of eye-candy preferences. That’s it. It really couldn’t be any easier than RipIt makes it.

RipIt can be purchased from The Little App Factory for $19.95, and a demo download is available. The developer claims that the app works with over 250,000 commercial DVDs – and even guarantees that if you find one that doesn’t work, they’ll buy the DVD and fix the app. I wish every shareware app I downloaded delivered on their promises like RipIt does.

iPod: It’s faster to talk than it is to type

Dragon DictationIt doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s faster to talk than it is to type. But after decades of tried and failed attempts by several software vendors, Mac OS X is still left without a viable solution in the speech-to-text arena.

If you own an iPhone or iPod Touch though, you’re no longer left out in the cold. And better yet, it won’t cost you a dime!

Nuance has a version of Dragon Dictation for both devices that works superbly. I dictated this article on my iPod Touch using Dragon Dictation with only one minor error.

The only major complaint is that the app has a time limit of 20-seconds on the length of the recording that gets converted into text, making it cumbersome for lengthy speech-to-text conversions.

The app requires a second or third-generation iPod Touch or iPhone with a microphone (Apple’s built-in headphone/mic combo works fine), and an Internet connection (WiFi or 3G works more than adequately, though Edge is a bit slower, obviously). The Internet connection is necessary because the app actually uploads the data to the Nuance servers for the translation.

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation is easy to use, requiring only a tap of a button to do its job

Using Dragon Dictation is easy. You simply hit the Record button and speak. When the recording hits the 20-second mark, or you stop speaking, the app converts the recording to text. If you have a long email or message to dictate, you’ll have to hit the record button again to continue adding to the text. When you’re finished, you can copy the text to the clipboard, send it as a text message or email it.

Dragon Dictation is free, and is available from the iTunes store.

Pantone Turns iPhone into Color Studio on the Go

Pantone iPhone appmyPANTONE, an iPhone application, offers graphic, digital, multimedia, fashion, interior and industrial designers the freedom to capture, create and share PANTONE Color Palettes – wherever they go and whenever they find inspiration. With myPANTONE, designers have access to all the PANTONE Color Libraries, including the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM for coated, uncoated and matte stock; the PANTONE Goe System for coated and uncoated stock; PANTONE PASTELS for coated and uncoated stock; and the PANTONE FASHION + HOME SMART Color System. The application also enables designers to easily create harmonious color palettes by finding complementary, analogous and triadic combinations for selected colors. myPANTONE takes advantage of the iPhone’s built-in camera to let designers capture whatever inspires them – from architecture and street scenes to fashion and nature. Colors can be extracted from any photo on the iPhone and then matched to the closest PANTONE Colors. Color palettes can be emailed to colleagues and clients as color patches, or as application-ready swatch files for use in design applications including Adobe Creative Suite (.ase), CorelDraw and QuarkXPress. You can purchase the myPANTONE application for $9.99 from Apple’s iPhone App Store, for use on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

Getting things done with a little Anxiety

Getting things done (GTD) is all the rage these days. It’s all over the Web, with entire sites dedicated to helping you achieve a “honey-do”-free life. There are plenty of applications out there to help you as well.

Omni recently released OmniPlan at a cost of $149, and iGTD is another popular offering, especially since it’s free. The problem I have with the whole GTD movement is that I feel like you spend more time organizing and categorizing and less time doing. Most of the applications I’ve looked at require a lot of time to enter tasks, place them in proper categories, customize the interface to your needs and simply living in the app to actually get any use out of them. You spend more time trying to help yourself be productive than actually accomplishing your goal of getting things done. (more…)