Archive for the ‘Reference’ Category

Curtin University has recently implementing the Blackboard Mobile Learn application which will allow students to access their online learning materials via a range of mobile devices, including Android and Blackberry phones and iOS powered devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad).

Read all about it via our newsletter: Issue 21 – Blackboard: isn’t there an app for that?

Moodboard Icon

Moodboard

Price: $8.99 (Lite version is free) – Available through iTunes

Official App Description/Marketing spiel: “ Moodboard is an amazing design tool built exclusively for the iPad that helps designers, decorators, artists, writers, photographers, and other creatives produce better work in less time. There has never been an easier or more enjoyable way to organize the things that inspire you.”

General comments and thoughts:

I found this app quite versatile and useful, especially the ability to jump to the web browser, look for inspirational images and references, crop what I liked, then jump back into moodboard and place it on my “board” with a reference back to the site it was found.

Also love the colour palette builder with the ability to select colours from my images or make my own with the colour wheel.

Adding text is a bit limiting as you are unable to write multiple lines but I have been assured by the developer this will be addressed in their next update. I would also have liked to duplicate my “board” or copy elements from one to another. Hopefully this will be a future update as well.

Ease of Use:

Your first screen is the launch pad for all of your boards. You can also group your boards into collections here which is a very handy tool for organising ideas within projects.

Home page

There are no tutorials with this app but there is a sample Moodboard that has tips and pointers that you can play with, and this is accessible through the home page (see below):

Tutorial moodboard

To create a new Moodboard tap the + button in the All Boards section, choose your background (don’t worry, you can change it later), and type your board name then tap “Done”. Your board will open with your background and a tool bar at the bottom of the screen:

Tool bar

Start by building your images and typing your notes etc. Once you have an item on the board you can double tap it to open up editing options.

The menus are pretty intuitive and once you work out to double tap an image to edit it; it’s pretty versatile too. Use the 2 finger pinch method to rotate and resize items and one finger to drag and move things around.

Most graphic and web designers are familiar with the concept of layers and this app uses layers to allow you to order your objects from top-most to bottom. You can also lock your objects so that you don’t inadvertently move them by mistake once positioned correctly. There also seems to be no limit on layers and thus, objects.

I really like the website browser functionality – allowing you to jump between Moodboard and its inbuilt web browser to search for images and inspiration. You have the ability to “capture” the images you like with the crop tool and place them on your Moodboard, and it’s clever enough to remember where the image came from and reference the link if you double tap the image and click on the link icon.

Crop from browser

Another great tool is the palette builder which can be found in the Toolbox menu. You can pick colours from a colour wheel or you can click on the magnifying glass and choose colours from your images by passing a circle over them, the edges of the circle displaying the colour selection. You can pick up to 5 colours per strip but add as many strips as you like.

palette picker

Once you have finished adding colours to your palette it appears as a strip on your board. You can double tap any time to edit or check the RGB or hex colour number.

The text editor only allows one line of text which is a bit of a problem but as I mentioned it is being fixed in the next upgrade. There is a limited number of fonts (12 different types) included in the app but it is varied enough for this purpose.

Font choices

When completed you can save your Moodboard to your photo album, email it as a jpeg, or upload it to twitter or facebook, all from the one menu item on the bottom right of the screen.

Pros and Cons:

It can be a bit time consuming to put together your images and move things around, but on the flipside it’s also very easy and is a great tool for rapidly pulling together ideas and for brainstorming with a group, with a wide range of tools and editing options available.

The ability to group your boards into Collections is a very useful feature for organising your projects, styles, items or however you like to organise yourself!

I would like to be able to duplicate boards or items so that you don’t have to start from scratch if you want to modify a board but can keep a copy of the previous one.

As I have mentioned before, the text tool only allowing one line of text at a time is the biggest downfall of the app, and hopefully will be fixed.

Potential uses in Higher Education:

This app would obviously be great for Arts students to put together inspiration and reference for whatever they are involved in. But any student that is working on projects individually or in a group can use this tool to gel their initial ideas.

From a design point of view its useful to go through the process with a client as they can see for themselves how different colour palettes and ideas work with their product. For example, if the client has provided you with some images you could expand on them by adding examples of styles, textures, images and a colour palette, then refining the details with the client before starting the next phase of the project, making sure you are both “on the same page” so to speak.

Overall the ease of use and the speed in which you can pull together ideas is very useful, and though the text tool is a problem, the rest of the functionality of this app is great.

 

GoodReader

 

Price: $1.19 (AUD)

App size = 9.1 MB

[Click here to download from iTunes]

One of the key strengths of the iPad is the ability to take a large collection of documents with you in one small device.  I’ve installed a range of readers on the iPad and the one that’s surfacing as most useful is Goodreader.

Given that the majority of documents that come my way at work are either .pdf or .doc the issue I have is making sure I have the right documents with me in class, in meetings, in training sessions and generally when not at my desk.  This is where Goodreader  comes into its own.

Features:

Beyond simply displaying a document, Goodreader has the following functions:

  • Preview file
  • Find Files – search by file name; filter by name, date added, date read, or starred.
  • Manage files – copy, zip, protect/unprotect, mark read/unread, star/unstar, email, rename, link, add to PDF portfolio, open in another application… and more
  • Web downloads – this function is one of my favourites – it allows me to download a file into the application directly by entering a URL or web browsing.
  • Connect to Servers – really useful in an enterprise environment where shared folders are still used.

File transfer

You can load files in and out of GoodReader in a variety of ways.  GoodReader can be launched from a document preview in Safari or Mail but also allows:

  • direct URL entry,
  • search the WWW,
  • WiFi File Transfer – a little tricky but there are good instructions on the vendor’s website – [Goodiware WiFi Transfer instructions]
  • USB File Transfer – via  iTunes Apps interface – or using the GoodReaderUSB tool provided as a free download from the vendor website. [GoodReaderUSB download page]

From the website:

GoodReader supports massive PDF and TXT files, but it can also handle all of the most popular file types. Have a look for yourself:

  • MS Office – .doc, .ppt, .xls and more
  • iWork’08/’09
  • HTML and Safari webarchives
  • High resolution images
  • It even does audio and video! [http://www.goodreader.net/goodreader.html]

Ease of Use:

GoodReader has quite a few features that take a little time to discover.  The more files you start accessing with GoodReader the more obvious the features become.  It’s ready to use as a simple reader from the moment its installed, but GoodReader really does become something of a Swiss Army knife as you push it further.  (At this point you also need to keep in mind the price point we’re talking about – GoodReader is $1.19 and does far more than the free readers that are often limited to proprietary site access and have poor file management features.)

Pros and Cons:

The only Con I’ve experienced is the text flow option seemed to lose its controls – but I suspect that was more related to the fact that my iPad hadn’t been restarted in more than a week.  After a restart GoodReader has been working perfectly.

Potential uses in Higher Education:

GoodReader is proving very useful in a range of contexts.  I’m teaching in a dance studio and I can have all my readings and course documents with me in the one device without worrying about losing or disrupting papers.  I can search for the exact items I want to use at the instant I need them.  Yesterday I was able to have my lesson plan open on the reader and refer to it as the class progressed.  In a WiFi environment I can quickly distribute digital copies of documents to my students via email (or WiFi if they have iPod/iPad/iPhone).

I can quickly access documents shared by colleagues via local (or remote) servers.  The ability to have all my minutes and action lists for meetings in one location is a boon.  I’m often more than a kilometre from my desk and shifting from one colleague’s office to the next – so the portability of the iPad and reliability of this app is really appreciated.

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Atomic Web

Price: FREE  (lite version) or $1.19 (Full screen browser w/desktop tabs & Ad block)

App size = 1.2 MB

[Click here to download LITE version from iTunes]
[Click here to download FULL version from iTunes]

Official App Description/Marketing spiel:

Atomic Web Browser is the most advanced and customizable full screen web browser to date. Experience desktop features including Adblock, Tabs, MultiTouch Gestures, user Agent Switcher, Passcode Lock, Facebook/Twitter integration, Save Page, and much more.

General comments and thoughts:

I’m not afraid to admit that I can’t do without tabbed browsing in a web browser.  I use tabs all the time and although the iPad’s inbuilt browser, Safari, is fast and easy to use… I’m not a huge fan of having to go back to a page of thumbnails where you have to select the page from a list. I miss being able to load up multiple tabs within the same web page.

This is the main reason why I splashed out (not that I’d really call $1.19 a huge expense!:)) and bought the full version of Atomic Web – the promise of tabbed browsing. And what a relief it is too. Using this browser to navigate web sites just seems FASTER in general, with the ability to load up tabs and switch between tabs being extremely quick (once your page has loaded).

When you are presented with a link on a page, you can click and hold and a contextual menu will appear where you can choose to open the link, open the link in a new tab or in a background tab.

Ease of Use:

First impressions of Atomic Web are great – the interface is clear and simple to use and you have the ability to view web pages in Full Screen mode. This essentially just gets rid of your tabs and your search and location bar, but it does give you an extra 5 cm’s of space on screen. Similar to viewing web pages using Safari, if you rotate the iPad, the interface will rotate, and you can double tap on an image of a column of text to zoom into it.

There is of course the usual bookmarking facilities, plus an inbuilt search bar which you can customise with your favourite search engines under Settings.

When viewing pages, you also have the ability to save web pages or share the URLs via Facebook or Twitter.

Atomic Web has also incorporated multi touch gesture support into the browser which is a useful feature (once you remember what each gesture does). The default settings are below however you can modify these to suit yourself.

Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • Tabbed browsing (obviously). Plus if you open up multiple tabs at once, they load in the background.
  • Through the Settings you can set what browser you wish to use (Safari, MSIE,  Netscape, Firefox).  I’m not sure exactly how reliable this is but it could come in useful if you need to test on multiple browsers. You also have the ability to add your own custom search engines.
  • There is the function to launch the ‘last session, home page or last page viewed’, which is also very handy given I often find I’m searching the web and need to refer back to an email and switch apps half way through a task.  This means that if I open up an appointment reminder, in the middle of browsing a site, when I switch back to Atomic web, my last page viewed is still there.

Cons:

  • As with all web browsers on the iPad (or iPod), Flash elements do not display due to the fisticuffs between Apple and Adobe.
  • There is no ability to set Atomic as your default web browser.  If you click on a web link from within your email or another application, by default the iPad opens up Safari, which is a bit of a pain, but something I’ve learnt to live with.

Potential uses in Higher Education:

I think that this app is probably the one I use the most frequently (so far) on the iPad. As it is essentially just another web browser, I use it all the time to catch up on news, search for web sites, information and images while away from my desktop computer.

General web browsing appears to be a lot faster with this app than with Safari and the integration with social media allows quick and easy sharing of links and resources. You can opt to turn your images on and off which would also result in the faster download speed of pages.

All in all, a bargain app which I would highly recommend.