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Top Android App: Thinking Space

Posted on Feb 4, 2011 in Productivity, Top Rated Apps | comment

Thinking Space is an elegant “mind mapping” application for Android.

  • Version: 2.2
  • Size: 1.66MB (apps2SD enabled)
  • Category: Productivity
  • Price: Free (Full version ~$4.79)



“Mind mapping” is the name applied to “an intuitive and visual technique of organizing ideas.” Open Thinking Space and select “New Map.” Then, enter the name of the title node which is the overarching idea of your mind map. Next, tap on the node to activate the bottom toolbar by which you can create additional nodes or sub-nodes. Double-tap an existing node to edit it.

The support for gestures increases the speed at which you can create mind maps, but does require a decent amount of time to utilize it efficiently. Press the yellow star button to open the adjustable “Gesture Panel” where you can use this feature. The dark purple spot allows you minimize or resize the gesture panel. To completely close the gesture panel, tap it in the center.

This Android app is packed with features and customizations that make it incredibly useful, albeit a little intimidating at first. There is an extensive help section available by accessing the menu from within the app.

Pros:

  • Powerful organizational tool for an endless number of applications
  • Clear, easy-to-use interface (including gesture support) for “mind mapping”
  • Export in a variety of file types including images, text, or to the “cloud”



Areas for Improvement:

  • Ability to set tasks/reminders/alarms for specific nodes



Conclusion: Organize and visualize your ideas, notes, etc. with the elegance and power of this “mind mapping” Android app.

[AppBrain Link]

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Top Android App: History Eraser

Posted on Jan 26, 2011 in Productivity, Top Rated Apps | 1 comment

History Eraser is a convenient tool enabling you to clear stored call log, search, and browser related histories.

  • Version: 0.9
  • Size: 75.96KB (apps2SD enabled)
  • Category: Productivity
  • Price: Free



This History Eraser Android app is rather self-explanatory. The functionality that it provides is something you’d expect to be included stock with Android. Specifically,you can quickly erase your browser history, call log, market search history, Google map search history, Gmail search history, clipboard data, YouTube search history, and Google search history.

The interface of this app is as simplistic as its functionality. Check the histories that you’d like to clear and tap the “clean selected” button. Voila, you’re all done!

Pros:

  • Create a clean slate by purging search histories all at once
  • An app that does one thing and does it well



Areas for improvement:

  • Needs a widget with one-click erasing



Conclusion: If you’re worried about any of your search histories, or just want to start afresh, this app is a time-saving tool.

[AppBrain Link]

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Top Android App: SwipePad

Posted on Jan 19, 2011 in Productivity, Top Rated Apps | 1 comment

SwipePad is a quick launcher panel which responds to a swipe on the edge of your Android device’s screen.

  • Version: beta 0.7.2
  • Size: 82.21KB
  • Category: Productivity
  • Price: Free



The SwipePad Android app will increase the speed at which you switch between applications and tasks. It enables you to setup shortcuts that can be accessed regardless of the app or screen you currently are in. To use, touch the bottom edge of the screen (until you feel the haptic feedback), then move your finger towards the center of the screen. This will bring up the pad with all 12 slots available. Release your finger on a specific slot to select/assign an action.

You can assign an application, shortcut (e.g. bookmark, contact, direct dial, etc.), or tasking option (task-killer add-on is separate). If you don’t want to use all 12 slots you can choose to hide the remaining slots so you don’t accidentally select them later (and for aesthetic appeal). If you wish to change the assignment of a slot, continue to hold your finger over the slot until the selector turns orange, then release.

In the app’s settings, you can choose to change the region used to initiate the pad. Options include bottom left/right corners, bottom edge, left edge, right edge, left edge (top half), right edge (top half). I personally found the right edge the best since it didn’t interfere with other actions or features, and was easiest to initiate. In the settings is also where you can find the “undo hide” button as well as a link to the task-killer add-on.

Pros:

  • Increased efficiency in switching between important apps or shortcuts
  • Multiple activation region options to fit how you use your Android device
  • Since this is the beta version, updates with improved functionality are sure to come



Areas for improvement:

  • Some difficulty in getting the activation region to register, may be alleviated with slightly increased region sizes



Conclusion: One of the best quick launchers for Android that will surely increase your Android productivity.

[AppBrain Link]

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8 Top Android Keyboard Apps

Posted on Dec 7, 2010 in Productivity, Tools, Top Rated Apps | 15 comments

Back when smartphones were just beginning to emerge, I remember telling myself that I’d never like an on-screen keyboard. I was convinced that they’d never be as efficient as a physical keyboard. Obviously, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Android’s openness supports and encourages end-user customization, which has thankfully resulted in many great options for Android keyboards. Really, there’s something for everyone.

Check out the 8 Top Android Keyboard Apps listed below:

Swiftkey

Employs advanced AI (Artificial Intelligence) to make typing “smart, fast, and personal.” Next word prediction, which auto-learns the more you use it, can save you a tremendous number of keystrokes. You can even allow SwiftKey to learn from your text messages, to make its predictions that much more accurate. As an example, I can now type, “I will be home around 5” in 7 keystrokes. Invaluable time-savings. Price: $2.99

Swype

Enables text input by tracing the word with a single continuous finger motion. Even better, the built-in intelligence allows you to correctly generate the intended word without exactly hitting each letter. Swype  is extremely easy to learn because it utilizes a standard QWERTY keyboard. Many newer Android phones like the Galaxy S and MyTouch 4G have Swype pre-installed. Swype is currently in Beta (still, which is closed), so if you haven’t downloaded it already, you’ll have to be patient. Price: Free (Beta closed)

SlideIt

Utilizes similar text input method as Swype; slide along letters to form words. The great benefit to this Android keyboard app is its extensive support for other languages (available for free download from the Android Market). Additionally, you can quickly switch between language keyboards for efficient communication with multiple parties. The suggestion bar above the keyboard is also more convenient and accessible than the popup utilized by Swype, although it does occupy more screen real-estate. Price: ~$8.15

ThickButtons

An innovative keyboard which adjusts the size of certain letters depending on what you’ve already entered. This enlarges/highlights the letters you are likely to type next, while shrinking those you aren’t. It employs the predictive technology you’ve come to expect, but in a unique fashion. While it aides textual input by making the desired keys easier to find, it can also take some adjusting to as letters may seem to “move” from the accustomed location. Price: Free

Smart Keyboard

A fully-featured “standard” Android keyboard with a clean interface. Supports a large number of custom skins and languages that enable extensive personalization. Bottom line, the true value in this app manifests itself in the great number of options. Price: ~$2.65

Better Keyboard

Very similar to Smart Keyboard in that it offers support for many languages and a huge list of available fonts and themes. Predictions, smooth input, and full customizations. This Android keyboard has been around for quite some time and has quite a large support base. Price: $2.99

Ultra Keyboard

A fancy take on the Android keyboard, with multiple layout options, tracing support like in Swype and SlideIt, and within-app translation support. It’s surprisingly easy to use all of the features that are packed into this app. If you can’t decide whether you like typing or tracing letters to input text, Ultra Keyboard is a convenient compromise that’ll efficiently let you perform both.

8pen

A gratuitous addition to this list of top Android keyboard apps, 8pen is an innovative, imaginative method for on-screen text input. In essence, think of a modern-day version of the rotary dial phone. You start at the center, enter a quadrant, then “rotate” to select the letter you want, and return to the center. Repeat this for each letter. Conveniently, an additional display is shown above the input area, so that you can see what letter is currently selected. This display serves as an excellent learning tool. Eventually, you’ll be able to enter text without looking, although the learning curve is very steep (and this will deter many new users). Price: Free

Conclusion:

Presented above are 8 of the best options for Android keyboard apps, although there are undoubtedly more options. Each offers its own interface, set of features, variation on text-input, etc. In order to narrow this list down further, it’ll depend on how you use your on-screen keyboard, as well as personal preference. Do you use the Android keyboard most in landscape or portrait mode? With one or two-hands? Some of these options will be best in one format but not the other. Test each out and let us know what Android keyboard you decide on!

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Top Android App: VocaNote

Posted on Nov 23, 2010 in Productivity, Top Rated Apps | 2 comments

VocaNote enables single-click conversion of recorded voice instantly into email and SMS.

  • Version: 0.60
  • Size: 427KB
  • Category: Productivity
  • Price: Free



VocaNote provides power in its simplicity. It’s ideal for capturing spur of the moment thoughts while you’re on the go, or as a reminder tool for something you don’t want to forget to do.

Before getting started with this Android app, you’ll want to setup a few important preferences (tap your Menu button from within the app). First, in the “SpeedDial” settings, enter in the default email address (or phone number for SMS) you’d like your recorded messages to be sent to. You can also setup additional recipients by assigning them a particular voice tag. For example, if I want a recorded message sent to my work email, I’d start my message with the corresponding voice tag, in this case, “alpha”. For efficient use of this app, enable “AutoStart” and “AutoClose” in the settings, which will start recording immediately when the app opens and close the app when you end your message.

There are a few voice commands you may find useful as well; “cancel” – cancels current message, “exit” – exits app, “time” – gives you the current time and date, “help” – displays the help text.

Pros:

  • Streamlined method for instantly recording and documenting a message/memo
  • Ability to setup multiple recipients
  • Simple, simple, simple!



Areas for improvement:

  • Voice tags would be useful as an absolute “start” and “end” functions of a recording (I had some issues of messages getting cut-off before I was done).



Conclusion: An incredibly efficient way to record (and share) ideas/thoughts/to-do lists that you’re sure to forget later!

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