Sunday, June 23, 2013

Software Review: Mailplane for Gmail

I’m a huge Mailplane fan and was using the beta for quite a while and fell in love. Mailplane simply put is a dedicated Gmail browser. Why do you need one? Many reasons.

The most obvious one is the fact it allows you to log into multiple Gmail accounts at once on different pages. Sure you can do this with two different browsers or use some of Gmail’s built in capabilities, but this does it all for you automatically in a dedicated fashion. Open it up and you have distinct pages for each Gmail account as well as optionally ones for the calendars. The menu bar icon indicates how many emails are in each account and color codes the different account.

In daily usage, I absolutely rely on Gmail and using it in Safari has caused me problems. Safari slows down, plugins such as Flash crash, and I often have to restart Safari. Even when Safari is acting flaky Mailplane allows me to keep on working while Safari is being annoying. Yes, I could use an alternate browser and have less problems than Safari has, but I love my dedicated email system has a dedicated program for it.

Mailplane just doesn’t deliver up multiple Gmail accounts but allows you to customize the toolbar to dedicate key functions to it such as easily adding attachments, screenshots and clippings to evernote. Opening your Gmail in the browser misses this functionality and each browser handles such situations differently. This is a unified experience independent how your Gmail or browser is setup. Operations such as marking items as trash, starred or spam work regardless of what Gmail view you are in because they are in the Mailplane toolbar.

To increase reliability of Gmail, Mailplane allows you to block ads as well as Gmail chat so that way your Gmail is quick and efficient while operating. Ultimately it uses the same engine as Safari, so it does tend to lock up about as much as Safari, but since it’s focused exclusively on Gmail this happens much less frequently and the program loads your email quickly after restarting it.

Serious Gmail users need to get this program and those of us that use multiple Gmail accounts absolutely need to get this quality program. I simply can’t imagine using Gmail without and when I’m forced to use something else Gmail simply loses something for me.

Pros: Perfect program for Gmail users
Cons: Can be as unreliable as Safari

Five out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: Windows 8 The Missing Manual

Like many users I was initially very skeptical of Windows 8.  The changes were not intuitive and the removal of the Start menu in exchange for the Start screen is downright confusing.  However this book does an excellent job of explaining the interface for desktop users. Windows 8 the missing manual is a great companion for any Windows 8 user.
Typical of the Missing Manual series this includes an in depth analysis of the 20% of the features you’ll use 80% of the time while still introducing the list of features you’ll use that extra 20% of the time.  No stone is left unturned, but the presentation is straightforward and easy to understand without being overwhelming.
When presenting functions, both the “Tile World” (Start Screen) and traditional desktop interfaces are covered.  While the basics are reviewed, missing from the book are the detailed troubleshooting steps I’ve seen in previous versions, but ideally Windows 8 should have less problems.  In particular, the appendix translating XP/Vista/7 functions into Windows 8 is a must have guide for anyone who is a bit perplexed by what changed in Windows 8.
If Microsoft issued this with every Windows 8 machine, people might actually start enjoying the new operating system.  I sure did!

Pros: Excellent support for Windows 8 key features
Cons: None!

Five out of Five Dogcows

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Software Review: Camtasia Screen Recording software

Camtasia is a program for recording and annotating audio and video captured from your Mac commonly known as screencasting. I’ve used other programs in the past to do raw captures from my Mac and then did the painful editing in iMovie and GarageBand but Camtasia does everything with an intuitive and easy to use Mac interface.

I’m an extreme novice when it comes to audio and video editing and still was able to get the functionality I needed from this program. It treats audio and video like Pages treats words. SImple and easy editing. The help screen combined with online tutorials (screencasts in and of themselves) gave me the skills I needed to get up to speed. After I got down these basics, the hardest part wasn’t using the Camtasia tool but the direct aspects of my presentation such as timing and my script. When a tool gets out of the way and let’s you do the work that’s a win in my book.

Besides audio and video editing, Camtasia provides tools for highlighting and annotating the screen with features like greying out passwords or dimming part of the screen as well as a huge list of features I’ve only scratched the surface on. Getting down the basics of a presentation is easy and the toolbox provides transitions and effects that are designed to be used with scalpel like precision rather than strewn about the video-similar to Keynote or Powerpoint.

After you’ve tweaked the screencast just right, Camtasia makes it easy to export it depending on what device you are showing the screencast on and directly exporting it to youtube.

Nicely priced at $99.00 this is an ideal program for anyone that has to train or market towards others. User groups will love this program being able to walk their members through a short training session. Ironically while the PC version has few more features than the Mac version, it’s 3 times the price at $299.

Pros: Easy to learn, nicely priced.
Cons: Really none that I can see.

Five out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right.