National Geographic Magazine

National Geographic Does the iPhone Right

I have to start with a confession. I think the iPhone display (yes even the 4 inch iPhone 5 display) is too small for graphically rich magazines. With that said, I was curious about all the fuss my colleagues were making over the newly released National Geographic Magazine for both iPad AND iPhone. I decided to take a look and buy one issue (you download the App for free and either buy single issues or a subscription if you don’t already have one). I must say that I found that they really did a good job making it easy to enjoy the text of the articles as well as the photos. They didn’t fall into the common “design hole”! In stead of trying to take a large magazine page and size it down to a smaller iPhone size, they redesigned the experience completely. When I tapped to read the “Sailing the Dunes” article, there was ONE picture at the top and the rest was simply the text of the article. However, this is after all National Geographic. They are known for beautiful imagery. At this point I noticed at the very top right of the interface and there are two buttons “READ” and “LOOK”. When you’re ready to look at all the pretty sand dune pics you tap “LOOK” and you get several slideshows to choose from. Brilliant! Don’t try to squeeze a normal size magazine page down and make a pinching, zooming, scrolling nightmare. Instead rethink the experience and medium in hand. Also keep in mind that this is a Universal App. So if you do have an iPad, you’ll enjoy it in all the iPad’s display size glory.

Great, but not perfect

The one thing that I do have to ding National Geographic on was that this App is not sized for the 4″ iPhone 5 screen yet. It would be even nicer if it filled my screen from top to bottom. The only other thing I’d like to see is at least one “free” issue. Get people hooked with the free sample!
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Flow Free

Flow Free

I enjoy games, but I just don’t have a ton of time to play them. However, every now and then I get addicted to a game and that has happened once again. One of my iPhone buddies turned me on to Flow Free and I find myself launching it every time I get a minute or I’m standing in a line. The Game is basically a maze puzzle where you use your finger to connect the two like color dots. As you progress through the levels the paths to success aren’t as clear and you really have to think your way through the entire board. You also don’t have an indefinite amount of time to play. So you have to think fast as the game gets harder. While the game is free to download there is an in-app purchase available to turn off the ads. Rather than continue to talk about it, I recorded the video below to show you how it works. Check it out:

Shortcut Sumo

Shortcut Sumo Puts Adobe Shortcuts at Your Fingertips

 

I’m a heavy Creative suite user. On any given day I easily spend multiple hours in Lightroom, and equally as many in Photoshop. I’m not as well versed in Indesign or Illustrator but I’m getting there. This week Kelby Media announced the release of it’s latest App entitled Shortcut Sumo and I can’t tell you how excited I’ve been for this App to become available! This App not only teaches you ALL of the keyboard shortcuts for EVERY piece of the Creative Suite, but it also provides you with a quick point of reference to jog your memory when you forget one! I’m extremely excited and you should be too! Finally with the tap of your finger on your iPad screen you have access to every keyboard shortcut that the pros use to streamline their workflow and stay profitable. So you can stop right here, right now and go buy it. You don’t have to read this review as to why it’s amazing, just take my word for it and head over to the App store. If however you want to see all of the awesome features contained within, read on…

 

Done Right

We all know that every learning tool coming from Kelby media is top notch. If you’ve ever read any of the books, taken any of the online courses, or attended any of the seminars then you know that Kelby media is full of some of the best instructors of Photography, and the Creative suite the industry has to offer. I say that to say this, when they release an App like this, we all expect that it will be done right and they didn’t disappoint with Shortcut Sumo! From the extremely well thought out categories, to the extremely (sometimes too) powerful search function, you have every keyboard shortcut that you could want. On top of the ability to search, they have included the ability to bookmark your favorite or most used sections as well as add notes. They’ve really thought this App through.

 

Getting Started

The first thing you’re bound to notice when you search the App in iTunes is that it’s FREE! Like Light It Magazine (also from Kelby Media) the App itself is free to download and comes with the ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) “module” for free! That in itself is enough to download the App. There are tons of keyboard shortcuts to learn just in ACR which (again) they give you for the low price of nothing! Once you finish up with ACR you are more than likely going to want to download the rest of the modules for all of the products you use. (As of this writing Photoshop is the only other module available for download but the rest are coming shortly) For me Photoshop was the obvious choice of places to start. I’m in Photoshop non stop and it’s the place where I truly stand to save the most amount of time. To access the desired module you have to be connected to data (either wifi or over your cellular network) and you simply tap on the desired module on the “bookshelf” Once you have them downloaded however, they’re local; meaning they are on your device to read no matter if you have a data connection or not. Once downloaded you launch the module exactly as you would expect by simply tapping the desired title. When you do you are presenting with a home screen asking if you would like your shortcuts in Mac or Pc. This is awesome for anyone that hasn’t made the inevitable jump to Mac and still uses the Windows platform (kidding).  This will ensure that you are reading the shortcuts for your machine as some of the buttons very from Windows to Mac.  Like I said, Photoshop was where I was headed first because that’s where I will save the most amount of time with my shortcuts.

 

A Little Something Extra

Inside of every module there is a “bonus tips” video accessible by tapping the play button on the main screen. The video for Photoshop happens to feature my buddy RC from “The Photoshop Guys”. He’s doing his best impression as a sumo wrestler but anyone that knows him, knows that he’s a pretty in shape guy, and the absolute last person I’d expect to see throwing a punch but it’s funny all the same seeing him dressed like that!

 

 

Using the App

Once inside you either search or use the menu hierarchy to select the topic you are looking for shortcut wise. When you do find your desired topic LAYERS for example, you will see sub menus below the main topic. Selecting a sub menu will bring up that particular shortcut. In the screen shot above you see the shortcut for NEW LAYER. Below the dialog box that would pop up within Photoshop you see a virtual keyboard showing the key combination. This is to ensure that you know exactly what keys to push.

In the upper right corner of the screen you will find the “search” option. This is where you will type in the topic that you’re trying to find info on. This is also where you’re going to find the only flaw with this App (if you want to call it that). When you search a topic, the search results bring back both Mac and PC (hey at least it’s thorough!), and you can’t determine which is which until you click into the shortcut. Once you click into the shortcut you have to open the search bar again (it saves your previous search results so it’s easy to switch selections) and tap on a different shortcut until you find your platform. So far this is the only flaw I’ve found with the App and I look at is more as search being thorough.

Next to the search bar you will notice the three small icons and the browse button. The tag pencil icon (closest to the search button) is a search for sections that you have bookmarked or left notes on. This is where you would quickly access your favorite shortcuts and/or notes. The next small icon (the one in between the two tags) is the notes button. This is where you tap if you want to add a note for the particular section that you’re in. The third icon (tag furthest away from the search button) is used to bookmark the page. This is extremely helpful if you want to mark a section for quick access later. The browse button is exactly what you would think it is. You can use this to browse the sections.

The Bottom Line

There isn’t a better way to easily keep All of the Creative Suite keyboard shortcuts in one place and have them be so readily accessible. Again, I showed you, and talked about Photoshop shortcuts, but they have ACR available now, and will have the other parts of the Creative Suite available shortly. With a cheap price (the App is free and each module is $2.99) this is a must have for anyone, new or seasoned pro that uses Lightroom, Adobe ACR, Photoshop, Indesign, or Illustrator.

 

Get Shortcut Sumo from the iTunes store for your iPad for free here: iTunes

 

Worldictionary - Instant Translation & Search

Worldictionary – Instant Translation & Search

As a frequent international traveler I depend on my iPhone at times to help with translations. I’ve reviewed a few here including ones that can translate in real-time. Worldictionary is one of those kinds of apps. It uses the camera on your iOS device as a live scanner to look at and translate words in real-time as you point at them. However, unlike other Apps I’ve tried, this one gives you the choice of live translations one word at a time or the ability recognize sentences/paragraphs in batch by taking a picture or using a picture on your Camera Roll. You can also choose between different translation engines and different languages (most at no additional cost). As with all translators someone that speaks the native language would be quick to point out that the translation may not be quite how they would say it. However, if I had a native translator standing next to me then I wouldn’t need the App :-)

There is a potential problem though with the Sentence mode and that is not only does it have to do translation, but it first has to do OCR (optical character recognition) this means that it has to be able to read all the characters and if you have a bad, dark picture, the translation will suffer as a result. Of course this is true for the Live translation too, but at least with the live translation you’re seeing it in real-time and therefore can adjust the angle or the postion of the camera to get better results. Another nice benefit is that this App can pronounce the word/sentence for you.

Great, but it could be better

The first area for potential improvement is by making this App native to the iPhone 5 screen. This is going to be an ongoing ding for any reviews of NEW or updated Apps I do from here on out. The most recent update (as of this review) had bug fixes for iOS 6, but not updated for the iPhone 5/4 inch display size. The other thing I’d like to see is a native iPad version. It would be great to see this on the bigger screen of an iPad. Lastly it would be nice to be able to translate a line at a time in addition to a word at a time.

If you travel or work with text in other languages, this App would make a nice addition to your arsenal.

iTunes

AMC Theatres

AMC Adds Passbook Support

I go to the movies when there’s a movie that I really want to see and don’t want to wait for it to come out on Blu-ray or streaming. Here in Michigan I usually go to an AMC theater. AMC has a rewards program called Stubs and of course this means carrying a Stubs Rewards Card with your barcode on it. I had already stopped carrying the card and just put the number in my Cardstar App. However, last night they released an update to their App to support Passbook. I decided to give it a shot since Passbook offers the advantage of being able to bring up your card when you’re near the business that supports it. Sure enough the AMC App let me add the card for my “favorite theater”. The App let’s you do all the things you would expect. You can find your closest theater, see show times, and buy tickets. You can also check your purchase history and Stubs balances. Lastly you can view cast info and trailers as well as share your movie choices via social media such Facebook and Twitter. This update also supports the iPhone 5 screen size.

Sounds good! What’s not to like?

This App works as advertised, but there is room for improvement. First off the text is on the small side throughout the app. It’s like they tried to cram a lot of stuff on each screen. This also means that the buttons are small and sometimes hard to tap. My next complaint actually has more to do with AMC theaters in general. The fact that I can purchase tickets online or via the App is great, but it seems kinda silly that I have to go to a kiosk and print my ticket when I arrive. Why do we need paper tickets in 2012? Next up is the electronic Stubs card now in Passbook. If I walk into my local AMC and want to buy a ticket via the kiosk, there is no way for me to manually put in my Stubs number or scan it. The kiosks only work with the physical card. In other words the kiosks need to go! I should be able to buy my tickets via the App and have those tickets show up in Passbook along with the Stubs card. When I get to the theater the guy/girl ticket taker scans my phone and away I go. The irony is that the concession stand actually gets this right. If you make a food purchase they can scan your Stubs card right off your phone.

The Bottom Line

I’m very happy to see AMC move forward with their App and support Passbook in iOS 6. However, they need to move faster towards eliminating the need for paper tickets at the actual theaters themselves. If you’re an AMC movie goer, then there is no reason not to have this App.
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