Archive Reviews

Review: Labels & Addresses from Belight Soft - Best Label Program on the Mac

Labels addresses icon

Printing labels on the Mac isn't as easy as it should be. This became extremely apparent to me when my wife suddenly had the need to process postcards at an alarming rate for a project she was working on. I tried a few different applications, but none other than Belight's Labels & Addresses even came close to meeting my needs. Instead of a catch all program most people use, like MS Word or Apple's Pages, this is a SPECIFIC application that does precise labels, envelopes, mail merges, etc… and does it exactly right.

Setting up your first printing is extremely easy - they even have an assistant to get you started. Each one can customized to your own granular needs. The basic assistant offers you pre-defined designs, labels, addresses, and postcards. Most of them are good looking and well thought out, and can easily be customized to meet your needs. This is really for people that don't have an idea, but can use these as baselines and then go in and customize them.

Labels 1

It supports hundreds of  popular pre-defined media types and they are easily searchable. If you need an Avery - 10 Video Tape label, no problem -- they've got it.  If they don't most pre-packaged labels tell you the dimensions, so you can input those into a custom label set.

Labels 3

Labels and Addresses offers importing and placement of everything you could possibly need for creating the perfect printouts. Not only does it already come with a plethora of built-in clip art, but you can import images from your current libraries, create images with Belight's Art Text (if you own it), pre-defined handling labels, and even barcodes. I was impressed by the sheer amount of flexibility this application offers. For example, alignment tools are key for making your labels, cards, envelopes look great. Whenever you move something, the alignment bars pop up showing you exactly how everything aligns with the other.

Labels 2

Merge printing is excellent, offering the ability to create specific lists from your addresses (it pulls your addresses from Apple Address Book, Microsoft Entourage, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, Now Contact and File Maker Pro). Additionally, during the printing process, you can also specify whether you want the country name surprised, cut marks, what label to start from ( we all have sheets around with just a few labels left on them).

Labels 4

The flexibility of the program is perfect for the home user as well as a small business. If you want to increase the clip-art, they have an add-on pack that adds 40,000+ high quality images, and one that includes an additional 100 fonts. During my testing I shipped out 100 postcards, 200 mailing labels, and printed off some labels for my binders. Each one was done with ease - which really makes me appreciate this application.

Conclusion

With the level of sophistication and flexibility this product offers, I could never go back to using the cumbersome Pages or Word to create labels. By far, this is absolutely the definitive Labels, Addresses, Envelopes application for your Mac. In fact, it's the best I've used on ANY platform. As hard as I tried to find something wrong with it, I couldn't. Highly recommended.

Product: Labels & Addresses

Company: Belight Software

Price: $24.99 in the Mac App Store -- or from their Web site, where you can get a Free Trial.

5 apples

 

Review: AddressBookSync - Facebook Pictures in your Address Book

Addressbooksync icon

Have a Facebook account? How would you like to sync up your contacts pictures with their corresponding pictures from their Facebook profile. It's easy to do -- with AddressBookSync.

To use this app, you simply launch it, authorize it to look at your Facebook account and then select the contacts you want to sync. There are two tabs to choose from. Matched (contacts that seem to be a proper match) and Unmatched (contacts that you may not be Facebook friends of, or for some reason it couldn't detect them as a match).

Remove a checkmark from any contact you don't want synced and then choose 'Sync to Address Book'.

It does it's syncing and now you can open Address Book and you should see pictures with your matched contacts.  Pretty cool.

According tot he developer, Facebook doesn't allow syncing of email addresses or phone numbers, so you will need to add these manually.

Excellent little app,  it's free, and it works with OS X Lion. Unfortunately it's not available in the app store, but you can download it here.

Tmr4 75

Review: Live Interior 3D by BeLight Software

The folks at BeLight Software are a hard working crew, constantly working to improve their products. I am taking a look at this new version of Live Interior 3D (Stnadard Edition). I’m a bit familiar with this application, but there are enough changes that I’m going to pretend I’ve never seen Live Interior before.

What Does It Do?

Let’s talk about what Live Interior can do. This application is designed to help any layperson or professional build a house, decorate a room and even rearrange the furniture. It looks a lot like any Mac Software. Menu and Tool bar at the top of the window; there’s a column on the left, in this case, full of items to populate your rooms. In the center of the screen, you have a main window and off to the right, an Inspector window. This is all probably comfortable to anyone who uses iWork, iLife or various design products. It’s mostly self-explanatory once you know what a few of the icons mean.

Along the top you see icons to control the left column; these included architectural listings, furniture listings and a project tree. The project tree lists all your objects for the project you have open, which makes finding or selecting stuff easier. At the bottom of the column is a 3D preview. Above the main window are tools for wall and floor additions, measurements, cameras, zooming and the page grab tool. The tool bar will give you 3D icons, such as lighting and navigation, when in 3D viewing mode. The tool bar is customizable. Finally on the right we have the ‘view toggling’ icons (2D/3D or both), an inspector icon and the ‘Google Warehouse’ button.

The Inspector window, like any inspector in Mac software, gives you details of whatever object you’re looking at, be it furniture, wall etc. This includes measurements, materials (when applicable) and specific lighting and orientation. The Inspector also groups the selected object among similar objects, which makes it easy to find like objects, with subtle differences, in case you need to change objects. Any interior designer will tell you there is a world built on 50 shades of white, all similar but distinctly different.


When setting up a new project, it would be smart o set up your preferences for measurements, scale, graphic settings and autosaving. There is also a separate ‘environment panel’ (in the ‘window’ menu) that will set your overall lighting, which can be guided by your compass and latitude orientation.

To begin the building of rooms, storeys and houses you simply drag and drop walls or objects. You can check out the lists of walls and start drawing from scratch, then add various features like windows, doors, furniture, lighting by dragging and dropping objects. The default set up of the application includes some ‘snap to’ settings to help you line things up on a wall. You can also add a series of objects and distribute and align them from the ‘arrange’ menu. Floors and ceilings are added automatically, but are customizable. You can also use the ‘edit’ menus to add storeys, roofs and your own images. In the ‘view’ menu, you can change the type of lighting for different times of day.

More Useful Details

Let’s take a closer look at the toggle view icons found in the tool bar and commands found in the menu. First, you can switch between 2D and 3D or have both. BeLight recommends you do your initial building in 2D, since it’s easier to see your project lay out this way. 3D view is recommended for the furnishing and materials stage of your project.

When you open LiveInterior, you are greeted with the opening of the room assistant. You can choose what kind of room/building you are decorating to easily load up a pre-existing floor plan. Another window that opens for your perusal is the video tutorial window. BeLight has worked on a series of easy and useful videos to explain the basic features and use of Live Interior.



The available objects/materials library comes as a separate installation and is extensive. There is also direct access to the Google Warehouse library, which contains a huge, shared resource of buildings, objects, furniture as well as things you wouldn’t use, like cars. You can download, for example, the Vatican’s library of objects, building materials or architectural plans.
 
When you’re done building you can place cameras in the room/building and then toggle into 3D view and take a more realistic look at your building. This includes your own pictures, textures and furniture. You can set up a walking tour, via the movie tracks and movie recording, to see how you might feel walking into a room. The great thing about this feature is that you can save all these views, including the movie and export them to be viewed in other applications like Preview or SketchUp. Export options include several 2D and 3D options such as JPG, PNG, PDF, SKP, X3D and QTVR.

How Easy Is It To Use?

Let’s take a look at what it’s like to use this application. A lot of this is probably intuitive to anyone familiar with iWork. You can pick and choose from libraries, drag and drop objects onto your workspace. Most of your tools are readily at your disposal, though you may need a brief time to familiarize yourself with the icons. When you are in the 2D planning mode, adding walls and features is easy. There are ‘snap-to’ features, as well as pop up alignment guides. Keyboard shortcuts like, the shift key help to keep things at straight right angles.

The help menu is extensive, so it is easy to look up things you may not know. There is also a suggested list in the help menu that gives you a good guide of the basic steps to take to build your project. There are definitely a couple of spots to use the help menu. For instance, understanding and setting up storeys and foundations is easier when you’ve perused the help library.  There are a few ‘assistant’ windows to help you choose various objects, such as the roof, environment or detailing objects. I would certainly suggest spending time poking around the inspector when trying objects out for the first time. I didn’t even notice that you could build loft style walls, until taking a thorough look. You’ll also find that objects are impressively customizable; add moulding to walls, add your own objects and materials, resize windows to fit your dimensions. The ‘materials picker’ will let you duplicate anything you’ve done, though it can be awkward, to get used to.

It’s easy to drag and drop cameras, to help you with your 3D viewing. You can  use the navigation arrow controls to view your 3D plans or just mouse around. This may actually be one of the harder aspects to get used to, moving around your 3D space to see how everything looks, feels unusual at first. In 2D viewing, you can set several types of viewing, that may include multiple storeys, roofs etc. Or you may view these all separately. There is a ‘collision’ detector, that will point out possible problem areas. There is a very easy annotation tool, that will drop a text note where ever you point to, so you may add more details to a plan. The measurement tool, will add measurements to anything you select.

You can set up new work from templates, including ones you have made yourself. There are preferences in the main menu where you may change measurement units, tweak viewing details, change start up features and the like.

Finishing Up

Is this an application you need? For beginners, you should know, there is a bit of a learning curve for this application. BeLight is helping you out with a great series of videos and a well organized help library. It does take a bit of practice to get used to the navigation tools. Still, considering the ease of the object library use, the dragging and dropping building ability and the vast resource of Google Warehouse, I think this would be a very useful application to have. If you are a non-professional, it is priced low enough that it could make planning a house or a roomful of decorating easier. If you are a professional, there is a version, slightly more expensive, with additional features available. Most of those features are technical tools such as: in application use of SketchUp for editing 3D objects, more specific lighting design (including multiple lights in one area), unique wall detail (niches, etc) design, and a higher resolution of movies, shared files and plans.



BeLight has worked very hard to make this application user friendly, which considering that is a basic CAD-like application, is impressive. It does feel like you can dive right in and that there is a good library of information to help you along. As a person who has done some building, I did wonder about things like chair-rail and door moulding, crawlspace foundations, attic or bifold doors. Though, since this application is designed to help the layperson with layout and decision making, that’s probably over thinking it. I recently watched some friends and their architect design a new home from scratch and it’s an impressive feat. If my friends had been able to spend a few hours, throwing together ideas for their new home in Live Interior and taken the project to their architect, they may have subtracted a year from the construction. BeLight’s Live Interior 3D has given it’s users a great foundation for their architectural projects.


Live Interior 3D by BeLight Software $49.95 for the Standard Edition, $129.95 for the Pro Edition

iOS4 Preview - Quick Hit Overview

I've been testing iOS 4 for the last week or so. So far, so good. Initially I thought my battery life went in the trash, but after I stopped playing with the phone so much, it soon went back to normal after I started using the phone like I regularly do, and stopped playing with it. I've been testing on a 3GS, so some features won't be available on non-supported hardware. Let's get to it. 

Some highlights:

Multi-tasking

If you have an app that takes advantage of the background processing APIs, you can now have tasks running in the background. As of this writing, only a handful of apps that I currently own can take advantage of this. Evernote offers this feature, ESPN Scorecenter, Dropbox (offers saved states), and a couple of others. In the coming days, I expect to see many apps updating, so be sure you check the app store frequently looking for them.

To switch tasks you simply double click on the home button and up pops a list of apps running. You can slide left to right to scroll through them. If you want to kill them, you simply hold down on an icon until they go into the jiggle mode and then press the '-' button on them.  

At this same screen, if you scroll all the way to the left, you will see your iPod controls (or whatever app is controlling the audio). This section also offers a software lock to keep the screen orientation locked into portrait mode.

Spotlight

 Spotlight search now offers to search for items on the web, including WikiPedia and Google. So, star typing 'Periodic Table' and you will see any items referring to 'Periodic Table', as well as options for 'Search Web' or 'Search WikiPedia'.

Folders

  Application management is so much easier now. Previously you could have 11 pages of apps, but no way to sort them. Instead of flipping through pages each time, I would just use Spotlight instead. However, I found myself forgetting what apps I had installed.

With the new addition of 'folders', you can now organize your apps anyway you like. To create a folder, simply touch an icon until it starts to jiggle, and then drag it onto another and it creates a folder with both apps. This folder will automatically be named with a generic category; Drop 'Twitter' onto 'Facebook' and it creates a 'Social' folder. You can easily change these names at any time, or drag apps out of the folder and back onto the home screen. I have gone from eleven pages of apps to three. Occasionally I find I have actually added a click here and there to launch, but overall, it's a wonderful improvement and I'm using my long lost apps.

Mail & Exchcange

Mail now offers a unified inbox. If you have more than one email account, you will immediately appreciate this. On the Mail screen it will show all of your inboxes, but is also has one option that says 'All Inboxes'. When you select this option, it shows mail from all of your inboxes sorted by the date/time of arrival.

On the Exchange front, the iPhone now is no longer limited to one single Microsoft Exchange account. This was always a problem to me, since I have a work email account that uses Exchange, but wanted to use the 'Exchange' configuration that Google's GMAIL offers. Before iOS4, I had to choose one or the other, but now they can co-exist quite well.

Spell Check

If you have an iPad, you've already gotten used to this wonderful add-on. No surprises on how it works, it's spell check after all. If you mistype a word it uses the red underlining and if you touch it, it offers suggestions that you can touch to replace it with. So far, it seems to work in all of the applications I have tested, even if they aren't 'iOS4' certified.

Cut, Copy, Paste, and REPLACE

This is also an iPad feature, and now instead of just the 'Cut, Copy, Paste' options, you now have an option for 'Replace'. Simply select a word and if it can find 'like' words, it will offer the option of replacement. For example, select 'that' and it will offer to replace it with 'than, that, or ghat'.

 

Bluetooth Keyboards

Although I haven't tested this feature, I have received reports that this does in fact work. I suspect we will see a case with slide out mini bluetooth keyboard now. That would be cool. 

Calculator

It received a new fancy icon.

Photos & Video

If you use iPhoto, you will be quite familiar with the 'Places' and 'Albums'. Now you can see all of the geotagged places that you have taken photos. It shows a google map with push pins and you can clicking on one of the pins shows an icon preview and how many photos are in this place. If you haven't chosen 'Faces', 'Events', or 'Places' to sync in iTunes, you will not see these options on your iPhone.

Maps

Google Maps has changed just a couple of cosmetic things. Now insteaed of crosshairs, you get the NorthEast facing icon in the bottom right hand of the app. Additionally, it matches what is in the titlebar, showing an app is using the GPS and is aware of your location.

 Summary

There are too many feature for me to hit on in a quick hit overview, but there is still plenty more new stuff to discover in iOS4. Check the settings menus to discover much more. Wallpapers, Search engines, SMS options, location services, etc. Tons of stuff to still discover. 

I've been using it for awhile now and seems very stable and I don't think you will have any problems with the upgrade. Remember, backup your phone before you do anything. These are computers and things CAN (and usually do) go wrong. Better to err on he side of caution. 

iOS 4 is released to the public today, so be sure to connect to iTunes with your iPhone/iPod and check for an update.  You will need to be running the latest iTunes 9.2, released last week.  Also, remember, depending on how much data is on your phone it could take awhile. My 16GB 3GS took approximately 2 hours to update and restore all of my apps. Be sure you have the time to do this, as your phone will be out of commission during the whole process. Good luck, and enjoy!.

Review: Radio Gaga - Fill your iTunes library for free


If you told there was software that not only allowed you to listen to radio stations from all over the world but also allowed you to not only just record the audio but also schedule recordings (DRM free I may add), would you be interested? I certainly was. I jumped at the chance to review this one. Not being a native to the USA I sometimes miss radio stations and particular shows from the homeland and thought this was going to be the perfect solution to getting my hands on some home content. You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl, right?


Radio Gaga is developed by GaGa Factory (www.gagafactory.com) and from reading about the application on their website is claims as well as the 10,000 plus stations, the ability to; multi-record dozens of radio stations simultaneously, schedule recordings when you're away, adding your own radio stations and exporting your recorded audio to your iTunes library. 


Using Radio Gaga
The user interface of Radio Gaga is easy to use, I found it uncomplicated and easy to navigate. There are two
 main sections to the screen. On the left is a library where links can be found to the Radio Stations, Tracks Recorded, Schedules, and Recordings. Then there's a Recent Section for finding most and last listened to items. A Radio Section where you can save your own lists of stations and lastly a Tracks section where recordings can be found. The Library is customizable as in that you can add folders and create playlists of songs that you've recorded. Anyone familiar with iTunes will have no problem using this part of Radio Gaga. 


To the right are the stations which are set out by genre, 90's, Country, Classical, Rock, etc. and can be viewed either as buttons or as an album cover style similar to iTunes. To see a list of radio stations within any genre double click on a button. Here again there are two styles of viewing the radio station names. As a list or as badges. Both views allow for a rating system which is a nice feature as there are so many stations in each section it can be hard to keep track of them all so when you come across one you like it's a good idea to mark it for future reference. 

 



Recording music couldn't be easier, the music controls sit in the bottom left corner of the screen and to record simply press the button with the red dot in it. Radio Gaga also works closely with Growl so you get a few second notice of what song is coming up next. If you forget to press stop at the end of the song it will continue to record but, and this is the best part, it will automatically stop the recording at the end of one song edit out any talking in between and start again at the beginning of the next track. How cool is that? Every now and then there will be some DJ chat mixed in with the audio but remember you are recording a radio station and if you're really picky you can always bring it into Garage Band and edit that out yourself.

Mini Player


Scheduling to record a show to record was just as seamless. It was as easy as choosing the station, date, and time. That's it. But one thing to keep in mind is that you must keep software running in order for it work.



Cool Features
Another feature which sets Radio Gaga apart is Filters. Filters is where you can set alerts on a radio station for a particular Artist or Song and when ever those parameters are met Radio Gaga will automatically start recording. Multiple filters can be set on each station but the developers do warn that this does use a lot of bandwidth so it's something to watch. It took me a while to get these filters to work. At first I was just recording everything but eventually I got them working and let me tell you when they did, wow. I had Radio Gaga working in the background with filters setup on three stations and every now and then I'd notice that it would be recording. After an hour or so I went into 'My Tracks' section and sure enough there were songs from my Filter list all nicely trimmed and ready to send it iTunes.


iTunes
And yes, sending to iTunes was just as easy as everything else, the 'Send to iTunes' button lives in the bottom right corner of the screen and with one click of that button all selected music wings it way to your iTunes Library along with tags if available. I noticed some stations are better than others for providing information with the audio.


Alas,
I found this program to be a little buggy. At times the audio I tried to record would not appear in the Track Library needing a quit and relaunch to solve the program. I later discovered that it didn't like it if I tried to record from more than two stations at once which goes again the 'multi-record dozens of radio stations simultaneously' claim that the developers make on their website.

Filters that are set up on stations cannot be saved and are lost once the program is closed. The ability to save filters would be a nice addition in a future update.

I found adding my own stations impossible and it wasn't it wasn't until a recent update that added drag and drop stations from iTunes into Radio Gaga which has really made this feature possible.

Also Radio Gaga does not currently support internet stations that broadcast in Windows Media or Real Audio formats. At this time, the software only supports MP3 and AAC streams. This is something to keep in mind if you like me are thinking of getting this program for use with particular stations. Unfortunately the Irish stations that I was so excited about being able to schedule and record are broadcast in Real Player so I was out of luck on that one.

The software has some great features and I certainly wouldn't let the odd bug or two which I'm sure will be sorted out in the next update put me off. If you like variety when it comes to your radio choices then the world is at your finger tips with Radio Gaga, quite literally.

Pros: Record live radio and send to iTunes. Quality is very good.

Cons: A little buggy. Cannot record stations that broadcast in Windows Media or Real Audio formats.


Developer: GaGa Factory

Cost $34.04 for 2 Mac License

by Annette Q. Benkie - LearnMacsOnline.com