Archive for the ‘ Productivity ’ Category

Go Launcher EX – “We Are Go For Launch”

 Go Launcher EX

Take a look at your Android phone. Try flicking through a few home screens, bring up the app tray, now put it away again.

The choice of transitions are plentiful, you'll spend a good few minutes trying them all out.

All that stuff you’re looking at, it’s called the Launcher. In very basic terms it’s the interface that lives between your fingers and the inner workings of your Android handset.

If you have a HTC handset you may be familiar with the term HTC Sense, that’s the default launcher that ships on their phones.
If you get bored with how your Android phone looks you can easily change your Launcher and it’s all thanks to the tweakability of Android. All you need to do is look for a third party Launcher on the Marketplace and install it. It’s as easy as installing any other app and can dramatically change (and sometimes improve) how your phone behaves. It’s almost like software modding your phone but nowhere near as scary and the process can be easily undone.
There are a number of great Launcher apps on the Marketplace, a great round up of them can be found here but the one that has caught my attention is Go Launcher EX by the Go Launcher Dev Team.
Bought to you by the same group behind ‘Go SMS Pro’, Go Launcher EX is an extensively customisable home screen app that includes theme support, a scrolling dock bar, fluid transitions and a fully tooled up app tray.

See those tabs at the top of the app tray there? Handy stuff indeed.

Once you’ve installed the app you’ll need to start setting up your home screens all over again, it can be a slight pain if you’ve already set things up exactly how you like it but this is the same with any Launcher app that you install. Don’t worry, your original home screens will be safely stored away and Go Launcher EX includes a settings backup tool so once you’ve got your icons & widgets where you want you can save it.

Go Launcher EX runs excellently, the home screens transitions are smooth (there’s also plenty to choose from) and there are a plethora of ‘easy-install’ themes to sift through. The app tray also houses some very nifty tweaks for everyday use. You can order your apps alphabetically or via the date order of when they were installed. There’s also a history tab that’s capable of listing many more recently used apps than the your average Launcher and finally there’s a task killer available if you’re that way inclined.
Once you’ve installed Go Launcher EX you can also install any of the free widgets made by the Go Team. My personal recommendation is the excellent calendar widget, it’s the first quality free scrolling calendar widget that I’ve come across.
For anyone who’s owned their Android phone for a while and feels the need to freshen it up Go Launcher EX is a great way to go about it.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 2.30
  • Requires Android : 2.0 and up
  • Category : Productivity
  • Size : 2.7M
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Android handset modding without all the scary warranty breaking fuss. Give it a try, it could make you feel like you have a new phone all over again.

Super Box 10 Tools In 1 – Is it a bird?.. a plane?.. No, it’s Super Box!

 Super Box – 10 Tools In 1

I have to say I was slightly dubious about ‘Super Box 10 Tools in 1’ when I first laid eyes on it. On the one hand I thought it had a whiff of ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ about it but mainly my doubts centred around the fact that I really didn’t like the app icon. I know, shallow.
Thankfully, despite my ridiculous first impressions, Super Box performs it’s 10 functions very well and does a pretty good job of making similar ‘one task’ apps redundant in the process.
So what tools do you get for your initial down payment of FREE?

It may not be uber-flash on the eyes but it's quick & simple and that's what counts.

Memory/Cpu : This tool gives you an overview of how much memory and cpu your handset is using. There’s also a rundown on storage space with regards to your sd card and internal storage. A ‘Free Memory’ button is also included although I usually avoid these as (in my personal opinion) Android seems to do a pretty good job of handling memory.
Battery : Selecting this gives you full details on your battery, it’s health and how it has been used.
APK Installer : If you have any APK (Android App Files) on your phone, this tool will sniff ‘em out and give you the option to install them.
Uninstaller : This allows you easy access to your apps list so you can remove them quickly if needs be. You can also perform batch-job uninstalls as well as backup apps in case you lose them, bonus points for adding these features.
Apps2SD : This tool will show you what is installed and where. From here you can choose what apps should be installed in which locations. It’s a very well thought out interface which makes the process far easier than the standard Android apps menus.

Oooh TweetDeck. I love you but you can be such an utterly bloated cache cow.

Cache : Despite rooting my phone and having my apps runs from a separate partition on my SD card, I still have issues with apps eating up my handset’s limited internal memory by building up huge caches of data over time. The Cache tool lists all those data hungry apps so you can blitz them all or individually with just a few presses. On my first go my total used cache went from over 28MB to less than 3MB. Excellent!
TaskKiller : I’ve never been an advocate of Android Task Killers (due to their supposed lack of requirement) so I can’t really comment on the effectiveness of this tool. Despite my limited knowledge it seems to tick the required boxes.
Settings : This tool gives you quick access to a selection of toggle buttons that control a whole manner of power related tom-foolery on your mobile. You can quickly switch on/off your wi/fi, bluetooth, mobile data, GPS and lots more. It’s a lot like Quick Settings which I highly recommend.

Safe Guard is an excellent tool for keeping those sneakier apps in check.

File Manager : A functional file explorer tool. I’m not entirely sold on the folder view but the auto scan function is very useful giving you easy access to all the music, videos, pics and APKs stored on your handset and SD card.
Safe Guard : This is a very good tool that checks the permissions of your installed apps. With this you can find out if apps are helping themselves to permissions they shouldn’t be dealing with (i.e. permissions to make calls/texts and costing money without you knowing).

Seeing as it’s a free app there are ads built-in but they only reside at the bottom of the screen and never get in the way of what you’re trying to do. At a modest 2MB install footprint, Super Box is a worthwhile app to download if you want to tweak your handset to it’s fullest potential. Personally speaking the ‘Cache’ tool is worth the install alone.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 2.1
  • Requires Android : 1.6 and up
  • Category : Productivity
  • Size : 980k
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Jack of all trades, and great at all of them. Super Box – 10 Tools In 1 confidently fills the shoes of other apps that can only perform one of it’s many tricks. Recommended.

Webroot Mobile Security (Beta) – Get to the Webroot of the problem.

Webroot Mobile Security (Beta)

Somewhat foolishly, I’ve never really given a thought about Anti-Virus software for my Android handset. Just the other day, a recommendation by bestandraoidppsreview.com suggested I should give Webroot Security a try and so I did. I hadn’t really planned on reviewing it it but given this worrying post (read it here) that turned up on Android Police today I figured I’d write a blog post about it.

Webroot Mobile Security (Beta) claims to bring to Webroot’s powerful online security tools to your Android device. It comes with the expected Anti-Virus suite but for a free app it also generously includes Secure Web Browsing, Lost Device Protection and Call/SMS Blocking.

My Chomp is virus free. That is good to know.

The Anti-Virus component is lightweight in appearance but effective. Whenever you download a new app or file the anti-virus silently kicks in and scans it for you, if anything dodgy is found it is instantly blocked. System wide scans and virus definition updates can be performed on a scheduled basis or whenever you fancy. Scanning is quick and thorough with every app and your SD card contents getting the once over.

The Secure Web Browsing feature will silently scan where you’re going whilst you browse the web. Should you stumble across any malicious sites Webroot will step in and block it.

The Lost Device Protection is the most impressive sounding addition especially for a free app. You simply create a ‘buddy list’ (a list of trusted friends’ mobile numbers) and a password. When you text your Android phone from a ‘buddy’ with your password you can order it to follow a specific command. Should your phone go missing you can order it via text to lock itself and wipe all the data stored on it. You can also make it scream out an alarm sound and even command it to send you a Google Maps link that shows you exactly where it is. To be honest I haven’t tried the remote locking/wipe/alarm aspect yet (I’d rather not have to) but Webroot have a lot of confidence in their product so I’m willing to go on a little faith here.

I have to confess that this isn't my screenshot. I decided that deliberately searching out malware on the net is not my idea of fun.

For anyone plagued by endless calls or text from people trying to sell them stuff (in my experience it’s always people claiming to be from ‘3’ trying to sell me a new contract) you can activate the Call/Sms Blocker. Whenever you receive a call or text from someone who’s not in your contacts they will not get through to you. Webroot keeps a log of all the failed attempt so you can see who tried to call/sms you. It’s a great feature the only downside is that you have to block both calls and sms. There doesn’t seem to be an option to block just one.

In summary Webroot Mobile Security offers a hefty amount of decent handset protection for the excellent price of £zero. It’s a small install, it hasn’t slowed down my handset at all and unlike other Anti-Virus apps (some of which like to make a big song and dance about how they’re protecting your phone) I’ve barely even noticed it’s there and that’s what I like about it. . It just gets on with the task in hand.

There’s a few other Anti-Virus alternatives out there from the likes of Norton and McAfee which are worth a look (although some comments suggest they are not totally free) but for now I’m sticking with Webroot.

ABOUT THIS APP : CURRENT VERSION: 1.4.10.260 ,
REQUIRES ANDROID: 2.1 and up , SIZE: 2.5M , PRICE: Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain, Official Page

Bottom Line : An effective, and free, mobile phone protection package. Go get it.

CamScanner – Phone to Scanner – So Good Your Head May Explode

CamScanner – Phone To Scanner

 

Let’s have a quick look at what handy functions my Android phone fulfills…

Phone, CHECK. Texts & emails, CHECK. Twitter/Facebook, CHECK. MP3 Player, CHECK. Camera, CHECK. Sat Nav, CHECK. Portable Scanner, CHECK. Wait what? A scanner. Yes that’s right, your Android phone is now a portable document scanner.

The crop selection screen is ace. There's even a zoom for where your finger is.

Using CamScanner you can scan and manage your documents simply by taking pictures of them with the camera on your phone. The app boasts a smart image cropping and enhancement algorithm to ensure the scanned images are clear and recognizable. The app comes with a PDF based tutorial that you can view in the app itself, this is worth a quick look so you can get to grips with how everything works. The app seems slightly daunting at first but after a small amount of use it soon becomes second nature.
Cam Scanner can be used with pictures taken on your camera or any pictures you already have saved in your gallery. The camera scanning side of things is very impressive, the cropping tools are intuitive and helpful so you’ll always get the exact image that you want. The built-in image enhancer does an excellent job of beefing up your scanned pictures so they look their best when viewed on a PC. Once your images are taken you can arrange what order they need to go in and then combine them into a PDF file that you can share with Dropbox, Gmail, Evernote, Google Docs or any other client that will support it. Just a quick heads up on the free version, it’s described as “limited docs/pages for trial version” but there’s nothing specific in just how limited it is.
Cam Scanner is a genius idea that works really well on a mobile phone. It may not be a tool that everyone needs but it does what it does very well.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : The excellent picture cropping and enhancement features make this scanning app a great tool for sharing or archiving documents.

Evernote – Forever ever, Forever ever?

Evernote

You’d think that seeing as Android is a Google creation that it would seemlessly integrate with the many Google services that can be used on a desktop computer and yet despite my love for Android it’s utterly baffling how it’s impossible to effectively use Google Documents on my HTC desire. I can view my online documents through my mobile web browser (although it takes a few steps to get there) but there is no way to create or edit documents, it truly is a missed opportunity of palm-meets-face proportions. For me, Evernote has been the alternative choice to Google Documents but it’s never been quite the fully featured app that I wanted it to be. For the uninitiated, Evernote is a free service that allows you enter any info you like, be it a note, a picture or a voice recording and have it sync with your online account that you can access from any computer with an internet connection, it’s essentially an online notebook.

A few weeks ago the latest version of Evernote for Android was released and pretty much everything about the original app has been improved including the highly requested ability to be able to create notes when not online. Evernote has become a pretty essential download for anyone who needs to take down and sync notes whilst on the move

Helpfully the Evernote team have taken the time to produce an informative video that demonstrates how Evernote works it’s magic (plus it saves me churning out 500 words on how to use it).

The video doesn’t oversell it, Evernote really is as good as it looks. The intuitive UI has a pleasing look to it and using the app is quick and easy. A detailed review of the latest features can also be found on Evernote’s blog. It’s worth noting that Evernote is a pretty flexible service, whether it’s making a to-do list, drafting posts for your blog (ahem!) or one of the many other possibilities as mentioned in this excellent list by Andrew Maxwell. If there’s one complaint I have to make its the fact that it doesn’t seem possible to create new notebooks from within the app, that can only be done on the website. This aside, the Evernote team have pulled this one out of the bag. Kudos. It looks like Google is playing catch-up on this one.

Bottom Line : A much improved app that fills a gap missed by Google. Very useful and very well made. Great stuff.

Update : Less than ten minutes after publishing this post I read the news that Google are rolling out online Google Docs editing for Froyo users (link in the comments section). I’m certain this is a direct response to my blog post rather than something they were going to do all along. Yup, totally that. Ahem!

Homepipe – The Internet is a series of… Pipes?

HomePipe Free

It didn’t work. The End.

What? You want more?

Fine, let’s dive in then.

HomePipe allows you to stream your media from your home storage direct to your Android handset. Wherever you are you can access videos, music, view photos and all for free. There’s a few steps involved with setting it all up but they are very simple. All you need do is download the Homepipe client for your ‘storage’ computer and sync with the Homepipe app on your Android handset and then you are all geared up to stream. It all sounds brilliant except for one problem…
I couldn’t get it to work.
Browsing files works just fine, everything processes at the speed you expect and there’s something nerdishly exciting about having access to all of your media wherever you are. For my first go, seeing as I was on a 3G signal, I decided to stick with streaming mp3’s; no point taxing my connection with bandwidth heavy videos that it couldn’t handle. I picked a song, it started to buffer and so I waited, and waited… and waited some more. In the end I gave up. I tried another mp3 but this time one of a lower bitrate, still the same. This happened with every file I tried and I initially put it down to poor performance over 3G.
Later that day when I had access to a wi-fi network I gave it another go only to continue having the same problem. I could browse through my media perfectly fine but every file I tried to play ended in buffer flavoured fail. There’s a support thread over at getsatisfaction.com which I posted in and it would seem that this is an issue that has been around for at least 3 months. I can appreciate that when you create something like this it’s not easy keeping up with various support issues but leaving a crucial one like this hanging for a quarter of a year isn’t going to inspire confidence in your product. As it stands there seems to be no immediate solution to this and I’ve since found an alternative app that does work (review coming up after this one). I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who get on fine with Homepipe (let us know in the comments if you do) and I wish I was one of them but sadly, I am not.

Links : Install via AppBrain, Official Page

Bottom Line : An app that could have ruled them all, had it actually worked.

Searchify – Seek, and it shall be yours.

Searchify

Searchify is a ‘do-it-all’ approach to using the search box on your Android handset. With simple text input Searchify claims to be a unit converter, calculator, calendar editor/searcher, word translator and a wikipedia / twitter / imdb / metacritic / urban dictionary search engine. Wow, that’s a lot going on right there but can it really deliver on what it promises?

 

Sadly, Searchify won't improve your taste in movies.

 

Setting up the app is simple enough, there’s a nicely presented welcome screen that instructs you on activating Searchify within your handset’s search settings. There’s also some clearly explained examples that show you the potential uses of the app. Just from reading this you can get a clear idea of how essential this app could become.

In terms of operation, less is definitely more, simply press the search button and start typing. Depending on what you type Searchify springs into action with the information you’re looking for. Type in a unit of measurement, 50 miles for example, Searchify immediately lists 50 miles in terms of metres, furlongs, inches, yards and so on. Type in a sum (easier than you would think via the normal keyboard layout), Searchify will bring up the answer straight away. A definite time saver compared to searching for the calculator app and opening it up.

 

Converting units is a cinch, good news for The Proclaimers then

 

Naturally, searching is what Searchify excels at, simply preface your search term with one of the default keywords and which search that particular site for you. If for example you wanted to search on Twitter for William Shatner type “twt William Shatner”. Searchify will then find you all the current tweets about ‘The Shat’. There are also keywords you can use to search on IMDB, Wikipedia, Metacritic and Urban Dictionary. You don’t have to stick to the default keywords either, you can make up your own should you wish.

Translating words is a cinch, type in the keyword “translate” followed by the word you wish to have translated, Searchify will list translations in the languages you have chosen in the settings.

Searchify’s ace up its sleeve is in its calendar management functions. Enter a date, time and event directly into the search box and Searchify will offer to add that to your calendar which will then sync to your online Google calendar, smart stuff. The only problem is that you have to get used to using the American style of month/date/year when entering calendar dates.

 

Organise the important things in your life via a single line of text

 

Using the program couldn’t be any easier, it runs as quick as hell and settings are kept to a minimum so you don’t get tangled down with endless tweaking. For a free app and a reasonable install size (less than 500kb) this is a highly recommended install.

Bottom Line : A time saving app that places all kinds of useful information just a few key presses away.

Links : Main Site, Install via AppBrain

%d bloggers like this: