Archive Reviews

Review: Funtastic Photos by Ohanaware

 

Funtastic Photos by Ohanaware is both a photo wrangler and simple photo editor. The photo manager feels like iPhoto, while the editing features are like Picassa. Well actually Funtastic goes a bit deeper than both of those. Let’s take a closer look.

First Up: Photo Browser

The first thing you notice is that Ohanaware has smartly used Apple’s photo system. Funtastic can read the usual JPEG, PNG and GIF as well as PSD and RAW. There are ‘Quick Look’ and ‘Get Info’ buttons right on the browser window. The top bar of the browser window also has save, print and edit buttons. Along the left side of the window, the familiar list of places, including drives, folders and desktop are there for easy viewing. Highlighting one puts all the available photos and photo folders in the large viewing window. You can take a quick snap with the iSight right in the app. Funtastic Photos has included iPhoto in it’s picture indexing process. In fact in the share menu, you can export to iPhoto libraries. More about that later. The browser window is very easy to navigate, with a useful photo interface. There is even a favorites button if you need to track an often used photo. The print features are impressive. You can shoose from many scrapbook like layouts, photomosaic (using your full library), photocubes, cards and calendars.

 

Closer Look: Photo Editor

The biggest news of this app is that the photo editing is non destructive. That means Funtastic Photos keeps a version of your original photo, while you edit and after you’ve saved! Once you chosen a photo and clicked on the ‘Photo Edit’ button, you’re shifted into the edit window. A quick glance along the top toolbar shows us print, share, rewind, save, copy, undo, crop and rotate. With the ‘1-Click’ tab on, along the bottom, you’ll see loads of preset edit choices. If you click the ‘Advanced Options’ tab, a column pops up on the right, giving you control over some of the preset edit qualities. Funtastic lets you take a look at your photo full-screen, using Apple’s Quick Look feature.
When you’re done editing, you can save, print or share. The share choices are extensive, ranging from iPhoto, to Flickr and e-mail to Bluetooth connections.


More Details

Let’s have a quick look at some of the edit presets and general abilities of Funtastic Photos. There are the ‘Vintage Camera’ choices such as sepia tone and hand tinted. There are ‘Artistic’ choices such as pop art or colored pencils. You can do ‘Quick Fixes’ for overexposed, faded colors and such. In the ‘Romantic’ section you can add heart borders, give a dreamy or out of focus look. The ‘Ohana Favorites’ include ASCII art, old video game and ‘grumpy monkey’. There’s a ‘My Styles’ category, where you can save your styles made by editing in the Advance Options column. The copy button gives you a choice of copying the whole picture or copying the style you’ve created.

If you’re tampering with the advance options, you’ll see a list of blending options; these change the way your edits blend with the colors on the original photo. By using the advance options you can pile up the 1-click type of edits to get great combinations. You also are given access to advance features like sharpen, contrast etc. After choosing the edit feature there, you’ll see sliders, checkboxes and menu choices pop up to give you control over the individual edits. You can also toggle between the top and bottom layers to change the order in which some features take place. There are other add ons such as text, frames, textures and reflections.

 

 

The Review Part

I have to say this is a great photo editor. It has useful features for a beginner, it’s easy to learn the more advance features and it has some nice hidden gems. I love the sharing features, as well as the copy and save styles feature. Did I mention the View menu includes a ‘Before & After’ toggle, so you can compare and contrast? I think it has great Mac integration, making use of the deep Apple programming to it’s advantage. It has a good range of 1-Click styles, add ons and adjustments. Occasionally the style my seem a little cheesy at first, but after some adjust, most look pretty good.

I did find the top/bottom layer feature a bit pointless, though that may be due to my Adobe experience. When I checked out Help menu, there was a tutorial that uses the layers as part of a ‘first project’, though with little in depth explanation of various features. Still it’s easy enough to play around and see what happens. Like many smaller photo editors, you can only work on one photo at a time. Being able to save styles alleviates some of the pain of that though. If you are looking for a photo editor that kids will like, this may not be the one, as there are no warp or paint effects. This editor however caters to folks who would like to create scrapbooks or edit and catalog old family photos.

PROS:

Easy, Full of Options, Non-Destructive Editing

CONS:

One Photo At A Time Editing Only, Weak Help Menu

 

 

Currently Funtastic Photos is on sale for $34.99 (regularly $49.99) at Ohana's page.

Review: AT&T Family Map - Locate Wireless Phones

I've been waiting for a location based system that will work on the phones I have on my AT&T plan. Not to spy on anyone, but just for piece of mind. My original thoughts were to use it to find out where my kid is when he's out playing soccer in the neighborhood or finding out where my wife is when she hasn't made it home from a long dinner with friends.

Enter AT&T Family Map. I saw they are now offering this feature for a free 30 day trial, and it sounded just like what I wanted. I signed up online and chose a plan. I went with the $9.99/mo plan that allows you to locate up to 2 phones, and that's all that I needed.

After signup, I proceeded to configure the phones I wanted to locate. You enter in the numbers and assign them a name. Once you've done this, each phone gets a text message stating that they can now be located. In this initial text, it sends them a confirmation code that you have to enter into the config screen online before you can actually locate them. This keeps you from spying on someone without them knowing about it.

Once you've done this, voila', you can now locate your phone.

Locating Phones

I'll give AT&T credit, it's a very easy to use interface for even the non-techies. It looks great and seems to have detailed maps. To use it, Click on locate, and it will attempt to locate a specific phone. If you have a mobile device, they even offer a web interface formatted for that too. Nice!

It will start churning and looking for your selected device.

It will either find the device or tell you that it cannot locate it. For AT&T to find the device, it must be turned on and in a coverage area. Additionally, if this device is indoors, this may make it more imprecise. If A-GPS (assisted GPS) cannot be used, it uses triangulation from the cell towers surrounding it. Most phones today have a-gps, but check yours to be sure. 

Disappointment

I had high hopes for this service. Over the last month I have tried locating my phones and it routinely cannot locate them or it is so far off it's not even useful. If I want to know where my son is in our neighborhood, a message saying he was last seen within 1 mile of this area doesn't help me. He could be anywhere! I would even settle for the street that he is on, not even tied to an address. However, the most accurate it ever was was at least the next neighborhood over. Usually I could get it to within 500 yards.

 

As you can see from this example, this was typical over the 30 days I tried it. My sons phone has A-GPS, and my wifes iPhone doesn't. Ironically, it could locate her iPhone better with triangulation than my sons phone. 

Assignments, Schedules, and History

A nice peace of mind feature is the ability to make the service automatically notify you at a particular time during the day. For example, want to know if your kid made it to practice at 3PM. Family Map can send you a notification.  You can also setup places on the map. You can put in 'Larry's house', or 'Basketball Practice'. and mark those locations.  Want to know where your phone has been the last few times you checked, you can even browse the history.

Unfortunately I didn't even try the places feature or the schedule. I found this service to be so unreliable with the phones on my AT&T plan it was not even worth the trouble.  

Conclusion 

On paper, Family Map is a great service. In my test drive, it was horrible. If you think you are going to get a precise address, think again. For the life of me I can't figure out why it cannot precisely locate the phone. Run AT&T navigator on my phone and it can give you turn by turn directions within a few feet.  

With Apple's MobileMe service, they just announced that you can have the same location services for iPhones only, but it appears to be precise. 

I have high hopes for this service and might try it again in the future. For now, it's not precise enough to meet my needs, or the needs of most parents that want to keep track of their beloved family. If you want to use it to be able to locate your lost or stolen phone, good luck finding it.  

 

AT&T Family Map

30 Day free trial, $9.99/ mo  (2 Phones)


 

Review: Action Gear- Task Management by Gear Square Software

action gear iconaction gear icon Action Gear by Gear Square bills itself as a task manager. While I find Action Gear very easy to use, helpful in some ways, I also found myself wondering how to make it a part of my life. It is one of those programs, you have to run a while and start using, to see how it best works for you. This program is a very robust version one program. Gear Square has already thought of a lot of important things to have in a task manager. The most important being, it runs in the background, on your desktop or menu bar and is easily accessible. When needed, the Action Gear window will pop up, ready to take in whatever task you have to add at that moment. A First Look: Here’s what you see when you open the application with an Option + Space Bar keyboard shortcut. There is a two panel window with your Inbox, a list of folders and Smart folders on the left. In the larger right side of the window is your task list. Along the bottom of the window is a ‘New” pull down menu, which will serve up a new Action (task), group folder, reference item and so on. Next to that is a pull down menu with adjustments for your new Action; from here you can add details, tags, flags and attachments. You can hit ‘Schedule Today’, Delete and Clean Up. In the top Menu bar, where the Action Gear icon sits, you can access your preferences and use capture. A Bit More: The capture bit is pretty brilliant. You have the screen shot option and an iSight capture option. When you hit either of those, it pops into your task list as screenshot or picture and it leaves the picture open for review. It also gives you the option of adding the photo to iPhoto. These pictures are pretty static in the list. With a right-click you can see them in ‘Quick Look'. They are all labeled with a generic label, so you need to rename them as you make them. You have to right-click to see them again. You can tag, flag and add details to them. Your list of Actions has some useful features. It has on the left side of each item, a check box. On the right side of each item is a tag or multiple tags. If you flagged an item, you’ll see a similar red flag as in Mail. If you hit the ‘schedule for today’ option, your item will be posted in red. If you right-click an item the pop up menu gives you ‘item details’, ‘flag item’, 'schedule today' and 'delete' item. Opening item details gives you a box where you can type in notes. There is also a ‘schedule’ box, where you can add a date. It takes ordinary language as well as numeric dates. When I added ‘day after tomorrow’ if changed it to a date, then in 2 days, highlighted my item in red to remind me I had it scheduled for that day. When tagging items, you can get them sorted into the Smart folders on the left, according to how you’ve set those up. You can use the reference feature to create permanent items on your list. Those references can also be tagged. You can add 'attachments' into your list as well. When you’ve checked off items, they grey out with a line drawn through them. At the end of the week you can go back to the ‘clean up’ function and have those items removed. Finally you can set up ‘Growl’ integration with sticky notes. A new note will pop up, when an item comes due today. You can even limit the number of notes. You must be running Growl for this feature, of course. Growl does also include Mail, iCal and other supports for this reminder system. There are separate preferences for Growl support. Pro and Con Wrap Up: All in all this is a pretty clever Task app. Here are a few pros and cons I found. Under pros: I love the iSight and screen capture. I love the tagging and the Smart folders. It’s a sharply laid out program that is pretty easy to use. It’s also easy to let run in the background. It has a very robust keyboard shortcut set up. There’s a quick video on the website that gives a nice overview of the app. It has a very reasonable price tag for a task manager. Now for possible cons: This app works better if you are keyboard shortcut savvy. It becomes cumbersome if you are just using a mouse or trackpad. I know, I know, but I do consider this a con for users like my mom. So it takes some getting used to. Unless you have Growl installed, this program doesn’t babysit you. Growl itself could be considered a con, since a few of us remember the Growl/Tiger mess, though those issues are long since cleared up. I would also like to see a bit of Drag and Drop support. It would be great if I could go through my download folder and drop docs into a Smart folder I have set up in my Action Gear window.

Conclusion: Overall, for a task manager, Action Gear, hits all the right nails on the head. It is simple, manageable and unobtrusive until needed. With Growl integration, there are great reminder add ons. It integrates those Mac OS X gems, like iSight, we Mac users appreciate and Windows users say, “You can just do that?” The good news is that this is a version one application and Gear Square is still hard at work. I understand that an iPhone app is being developed to match the Mac version for a February release. I also suspect that improvements will be added as time goes by. So I may not give it a full five stars now, but the future holds that possibility.

by sheala

Review: FotoMagico 2 from Boinx! - Mac Slideshow Creation

foto.pngCreating slideshows on your Mac is relatively easy. All Macs come with iLife when you purchase them new. Between iPhoto and iDVD, you can come up with some pretty impressive stuff. While you can create some impressive looking shows to non-mac people, sometimes you want something more to add that 'wow' effect. This is where Boinx Software's FotoMagico 2 comes in. It offers an array of features to create give your slideshow the edge that it needs. Creation When you start the program you are offered to choose your primary display device (Monitor, Television, or Projector). Each option offers different optimal setting and FotoMagico adjusts for optimal quality depending on your settings. For the highest quality you would want to choose 'Monitor' and then select the appropriate screen size. This uses all of the pixels available on your Mac. For my test setup, I chose to use a Television Widescreen TV (16:9) ratio. fotomag_0.jpg The first step is to add your photos. FotoMagico automatically recognizes your iPhoto, Aperture, etc. From there you can start selecting photos that you want to use. You simply find your photo, then drag and drop it onto the blank canvas. Once you do this, it then changes from one single pane to two. They both show the same image, but the left pane is how the image will start on the screen and other pane is your finished look. fotomag_5.jpg You can Zoom in/out, rotate, drag your picture around to different corners, resize it and more. This is extremely powerful. During testing, I started with a close up image of a statue's eye and panned out to show the whole thing. This is much more powerful than the standard Ken Burns effect. fotomag2_1.jpg Additionally you can create titles from all of the built-in fonts on your Mac, along with the same powerful zoom and rotational controls unique to your slide. To add extra power to this, you have additional options to control the opacity and animation of the text. I normally don't find myself titling each slide, but if you need granular control, FotoMagico 2 offers it. fotomag2_2.jpg Audio Addition What's a slideshow without audio? Boring. Luckily this app offers integration with your iTunes library as well as any iLife audio you may have on your Mac. You can use any non-drm file to add to your slideshow. It offers some basic looping and fade/in options. You simply drag the track you want to use to the selected slide/slides and it will play during that portion of your show. Easy enough. For the pro user out there, it also offers a timecode option, but that is beyond the scope of what most of us will do with it. Transitions The real key to a slick slideshow is the transitions you have available. FotoMagico offers 16 built-in options. Cube, push, wipe, and thumb through are all there. Being a program with this much power, I would prefer to see a greater quantity of transitions available. However, with what they do offer, you can do a great many things with them. Each one has it's own set of options. For example, the Angular Wipe transition offers settings for the duration and the direction it moves. I guess in effect, they do provide you with some customization on each one, so in theory you can have quite a few variations. My one annoyance is the lack of a randomize button. I would like to add 200 photos and then have random transitions on the ones I don't customize. I would definitely like to see this feature added. fotomag2_3.jpg Exporting & Sharing Why have a slideshow if you can't share it? This app offers a plethora of options for sharing your work. You can create a standalone player, DVD, web movie, iPod movie, Quicktime movie, HD movie, and even a screen saver. Clicking on each option gives you explicit instructions on how it can be shared with others. For example, if you choose Web Movie, it tells you that it will produce an H.264 Quicktime movie that can be embedded in webpages and played back with Quicktime 7 or later. It also provides you info on how the resolution and overall quality will be effected. Exporting time will vary according to the settings you choose and how powerful your Macintosh it. If you own the Elgato Turbo H.264 encoder your time will be sped up significantly since FotoMagico 2 makes use of it. fotomag2_4.jpg Once it's complete, it will then offer the option to send it to the specified device. For example, if you do the web video, it can upload it directly to your server. Want to send it to You Tube? No problem! It will ask for your account info and place it online for you. This makes sharing quite easy, and you can tell they have put a lot of time into making this important feature work. Summary If you are looking to take your slideshows to the next level, then FotoMagico 2 is a must. No other program on the Mac offers so much control of how your photo slideshows can be presented and shared with others. Conclusion: If you are looking to take your slideshows to the next level, then FotoMagico 2 is a must. No other program on the Mac offers so much control of how your photo slideshows can be presented and shared with others. To create great looking slideshows on the Mac, FotoMagico 2 is a must.