Mac

Learn Japanese the Easy Way With Human Japanese

Although not entirely necessary, I'd highly recommend reading the introduction as it gives you a great background to the Japanese language.

Japanese is notorious for being one of the hardest foreign languages to learn as an English speaker (alongside Arabic, Chinese and Korean). Not only it is radically different to English, with very little similarities to our own mother tongue, but the entirely different writing system can make it a real nightmare to learn. Yet the question, “how do I learn a foreign language?”, has, unfortunately, a multitude of different answers and there isn’t one simple way of learning a tongue from far-away lands. You could, of course, by just a textbook and learn it yourself, but in this day and age, with our modern technology, there must surely be a more effective and exciting way of learning some conversational Spanish before your trip to the Costa del Sol or, in this case, some Japanese before that big business trip to Japan.

Human Japanese, which has been featured on the front of the App Store, believes that it can help you learn Japanese in a new and intuitive way. At a mere $9.99, it’s certainly less expensive than the options out there (such as Rosetta Stone, which starts at $179 a level) but does a bargain price equate to quality?

 

First Thoughts

Upon launching Human Japanese, you are presented with an introduction to the language, giving you a gist of the grammar (which, apparently, is much easier to learn than English grammar), the syntax of Japanese and the various sounds. Although it’s not vital to learn everything in the introduction, I’d highly recommend taking a read of it as it gives you a great background to this fascinating language.

Although not entirely necessary, I’d highly recommend reading the introduction as it gives you a great background to the Japanese language.

Wherever any Japanese text comes up, you can click on it to hear it spoken by a native Japanese speaker. Unfortunately there’s no way to slow down the text as it’s spoken and as of the latest version, Human Japanese does not highlight the syllables as they’re pronounced. It’s a minor issue, but one that I would have liked to have seen, as being able to match the sound to the individual character would, in my opinion, have helped me learn it a bit quicker.

You can click on any Japanese writing within the app to hear it spoken by a native speaker.

You can click on any Japanese writing within the app to hear it spoken by a native speaker.

Human Japanese is divided up into a number of different chapters (there’s 40 in total) which cover almost every aspect of the Japanese language and way of life. The first two, which we’re going to look at in a bit more detail, cover the fundamentals of Japanese pronunciation and learning the writing system.

Pronunciation and Learning Hiragana

The Pronunciation section of Human Japanese aims to help you replicate the sounds of Japanese by equating them to their closest English equivalent. There are audio recordings by both native Japanese speakers and, to show you how not to pronounce a word, by the app’s developer himself.

The pronunciation section is designed for native English speakers.

The pronunciation section is designed for native English speakers.

However, it is the section on the writing system where Human Japanese really comes alive. This was a section that I was interested in looking at — as the writing system makes Japanese a difficult language to learn — and especially how the app deals with teaching you all the different characters. Fortunately, the results impressed.

The writing system is boiled down into 3 different chapters and works off a drip approach — you are gradually introduced to new characters, rather than having to learn them all at once, which I believe from my own personal experience is a far better method.

Human Japanese focuses first on the simpler Japanese characters before moving onto the more advanced ones.

Human Japanese focuses first on the simpler Japanese characters before moving onto the more advanced ones.

You can click on any character within Human Japanese to be shown an animation on how the character is written on paper, which helps you memorise it even more. In my example, we start off with the basic vowel sounds, a, e, i, o and u before progressing onto other sounds, such as ka, ke, ki, ko and ku.

The guides help you when it comes to writing the characters, which can be quite tricky.

The guides help you when it comes to writing the characters, which can be quite tricky.

Besides the animations, there are also more detailed guides on writing characters, including some tips from the app’s developer himself, which I feel is a really nice touch.

Quizzes at the end of each chapter are designed to help test your knowledge.

Quizzes at the end of each chapter are designed to help test your knowledge.

At the end of each chapter, there are self-quizzes that are designed to help you test your progress and whether you can remember what you have learnt so far.

Course Content

The rest of the chapters are dedicated to areas of the language that you would expect to learn from any language court, such as greetings, food, directions and so on. The author intersperses cultural background knowledge into the lessons — in the Food chapter, for example, he explains about all the different kinds of Japanese delicacy (interesting side note here: the term sushi actually refers to the rice, not the fish!). Again, within all the different chapters, you can click on the Japanese to …read more

Deal Alert: Find the Best Deals Online Automatically

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We all love finding great deals, but it’s easy to waste more time trying to find good deals than it’s worth. Then, it’s easy to get tempted to get things that you don’t really need right now, just because they’re a good deal.

What if you could spend $2 and let your Mac find the deals you’d like to know about automatically? That’s exactly what LittleFin’s new app, Deal Alert, is.

 

Don’t Waste Time Searching for Deals

Deal Alert is a simple menubar app that brings the best deals from Woot!, That Daily Deal, One Sale a Day, Yugster, and Daily Steals to your Mac, with more deals sites coming soon. For now, at least, it’s not bringing you deals on apps, like you might expect at first from the popularity of tools to find free apps of the day on iOS. It’s also not an app to track changes in prices on Amazon, something you can do with popular apps like Price Drop Monitor or PriceWatcher. Instead, Deal Alert is curating the deals from the top deals sites online, with tools to surface the deals from those sites that’ll interest you.

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You’ll be able to quickly see what today’s deals are right from your menubar, and can jump to the deal site directly from the link in the menu. Better yet, you can add keywords for things you’d like to buy in the near future, and Deal Alert will send you a push notification when it finds a deal containing that keyword. That way, if you’re looking for (say) a new set of speakers but aren’t in any hurry about getting them, you can add the keyword speakers and then just forget about it. When a deal on speakers comes up, though, Deal Alert will notice and let you know, and you can jump right to the site to buy them straight from the notification. It’ll save you the time and frustration of checking every day, and hopefully save you some money on stuff you were already looking to buy.

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Rounding off the simple app are settings to customize your notifications and set which sites (from the ones it has included) to monitor. The on/off switches can be a tad hard to use, and you’ll have to click on the button itself to set it (say, if something’s on, the slider will be on the off side. Click the Off to turn it off.). And, unfortunately, there’s no way to add sites to monitor, though the LittleFin team says they’ll be adding more deals sits going forward.

A Simple Way to Save Money

Deal Alert likely won’t be an app you’ll use everyday, but if you love saving money but want to cut out the time of checking deals sites all the time, it’s an app you’ll be glad to have around. It’ll help you find the deals you really need without having to wade through every deal on the ‘net.

Update: The latest version of Deal Alert now can also find Mac app deals from MacUpdate, Two Dollar Tuesday, StackSocial, and Paddle, but this version isn’t available on the App Store due to Apple’s rules. You’ll need to grab your copy from the Deal Alert website, instead.

…read more

Win a Copy of iFunia DVD Creator from AppStorm!

ifuniadvdcreator

Our giveaway is now closed; congrats to everyone who won a copy!

Macs haven’t come with iDVD years, after not getting any updates in Apple’s iLife ’11. You can still burn data DVDs from Finder and audio CDs from iTunes, but if you want to make a movie DVD with a menu, scene selection and more, you’ll need to find another app. And even if most of us just upload our videos to YouTube and Vimeo these days, it’s still nice sometimes to have a home video on DVD to share with family and friends.

That’s where iFunia DVD Creator comes in. It’s a full-featured app that helps you create the movie DVDs you want. You can import all of your videos, add subtitles to your tracks, create a menu using the included professional menu designs, and burn them to disk. It’ll even help you add basic touchups to your videos before you burn them if you’d like.

iFunia DVD Creator usually costs $39.95, but it’s on sale this week for just $6.99. But even better, we’ve got 10 copies to giveaway to our readers for free! Just leave a comment below and let us know what you’ll be using iFunia DVD Creator for to enter our giveaway. You can also share our giveaway on your favorite social network and add a second comment here with a link to your post for an extra entry.

Hurry and get your entry in: we’re closing our giveaway on Wednesday, June 26th!

Envato staff or those who have written more than two articles or tutorials for AppStorm are ineligible to enter.

…read more

Manage Your Business in One Place With Daylite

Daylite Server Admin, which helps you customise one of your Macs as a server for your Daylite database.

Way back in 2009, when Mac.AppStorm was in its infancy, we reviewed Daylite, a really easy way to manage your business using just one app — and it impressed us. We really loved the range of features, different business areas present within the app and the tight e-mail integration.

Since then, though, a lot has changed with Daylite so let’s take a look at the fourth version to see if it is still as good as we remember it to be.

 

Getting Started

As Daylite is designed to be run across multiple computers, you’ll need to set up one of your Macs as a server so that others can access the company database easily. But don’t worry: Daylite includes a server administration program in the package, so all you need to do is install it and get it up and running (which takes no time at all).

Daylite Server Admin, which helps you customise one of your Macs as a server for your Daylite database.

You can create as many different databases as you like (though it’s best to keep one per company, in my opinion) and through the Server Admin panel (as you can see in the screenshot above), you can manage all the devices accessing your database (including iOS devices, which we’ll come onto in a minute) as well as configure the backup schedule. Your database is normally backed up once a week (in the example above, my database backs up every Sunday at 2 AM) though this can be altered to suit your individual preferences.

As I currently only have one Mac, I’m going to set up Daylite to access my database locally (rather than over a local or wide-area network) however setting it up over a network is really simple — all you have to do is enable server access over the internet by clicking on the relevant option in the Server Admin panel.

Features

Daylite is designed to replace your existing content management system (CMS) in your business through integrating your company’s calendars, contacts, objectives, tasks, notes and so on. Individual features can be accessed via the menu which runs down the left-hand side of the screen and the Home panel gives you a quick overview of what’s going on for the day, including a list of any events planned, tasks due and any upcoming events in the next week.

The main screen of Daylite.

The main screen of Daylite.

The app features an in-built notifications system (which also show up as a badge icon) that alerts you to any important upcoming events, tasks and so on. You can click on Dismiss to get rid of them or More to be taken to that particular notification within Daylite.

Daylite's in-built notifications system alerts you to any tasks or notes that require your attention.

Daylite’s in-built notifications system alerts you to any tasks or notes that require your attention.

You can quickly add an item to any section of Daylite by clicking on the plus button, meaning that you don’t have to navigate to that particular section of the app. I personally found this quick-access toolbar highly useful — Daylite is a complicated app with plenty of features and this made it easy to add something really quickly, rather than flicking to the relevant section.

Calendars and Contacts

The Calendar and Contacts section of Daylite throws back no surprises to the novice user and there’s pretty much everything you’d expect in there from a business-orientated app.

Calendars within Daylite can be shared and any changes are automatically pushed across to all users.

Calendars within Daylite can be shared and any changes are automatically pushed across to all users.

Daylite focuses on collaboration, so with individual appointments, for example, you can see all the tasks assigned to that particular event. In my example above, for my client approval meeting, I have to plan and execute the DVD release event (which is due on July 11th). You can also create multiple calendars and assign them to various staff members (for example, I’ve created a calendar especially for the sales team).

Your business contacts within Daylite.

Your business contacts within Daylite.

Your contacts within Daylite can be sorted into individual groups (I’ve got groups for my clients, my potential sales leads, my suppliers and so on). Just like with calendar events, clicking on an individual contact brings up a list of any activity associated with him or her, allowing you to keep track of everything really easily.

Projects

Project management is a really powerful feature within Daylite. Not only can you add tasks, notes and appointments to individual projects but Daylite will also help you keep track of each stage through the Progress view (shown in the screenshot below).

Managing the progress of a particular project.

Managing the progress of a particular project.

And of course, as everything in Daylite is accessed from one database, any changes made will automatically be pushed to every single user, ensuring that your team (or entire company) stays up to date with all the latest changes. There are plenty of other features within Daylite that come in useful when it comes to managing projects, such as the ability to define individual objectives and tasks and support for sales opportunities. It really does seem that whatever business you’re in, Daylite will work for you in some way or another!

Reports

Of course, accurate reporting is vital to any business and Daylite features this built-in — there’s no external software to use (and no messing around with complicated Excel spreadsheets!) at all. There are a number of …read more

YourtTrip: The App to Organize Your Trips

YourtTrip Interface

If you’re an avid traveler, and especially if you’ve ever been in charge of planning a trip for multiple persons — your family’s summer vacation, perhaps — you know how important it is to have all the related information, such as your planned itinerary, handy at all times and neatly organized.

Today we’re going to be reviewing an app that can help you do just that. Keep your itinerary, contact information, documents, packing list, budget, expenses, photos, and anything else you might need, all in one place. It’s called YourtTrip. Let’s get to it!

You can think of YourtTrip as your personal assistant in remembering and planning anything you might need on a trip. Seriously, anything. It can store your photos, plan your budget, compare it to your expenses, and give you a to-bring list for making packing easier.

YourtTrip Interface

All of these awesome features come at a hefty price tag, though, and the Mac version of YourtTrip goes on the Mac App Store for $19.99. An iOS version is said to be in the works, but as of now it doesn’t have a release date.

What Can It Do?

To get started planning your next adventure the first thing you have to do is set a new trip in the app. Just so you can test it out, YourtTrip already comes with a custom trip already filled out with example itineraries, packing lists, and more. But why not start with the planning of your own trip? Here’s a rundown of everything you can plan for using the app.

Itinerary

The Itinerary is where you can keep a timeline of every single event in your trip, and have it all neatly arranged for easy reading. Whether it’s a flight, dinner reservation, hotel arrival or any other kind of thing you can come up, it can all be stored here. Best of all, each event can have its own custom contact, budget, location and corresponding attachments.

Itinerary

Itinerary

Packing

YourtTrip has a custom premade list of anything you might need to pack up for your travels, but if you can make your own or complement theirs with any other items you consider necessary. Once you’ve got your list set up, it doubles as a to-do list, giving you the option of checking off items as they are already packed up or accounted for.

Packing

Packing List

Budget and Expenses

These two features work together, and resemble a spreadsheet of your monetary management. The budget gives you the option of setting an expected spending amount for every part of your itinerary. You can then compare this expected budgets with the real expenses you had in your trip in those same activities.

Budgets & Expenses

Budgets

Both of these features are quite useful, as they can give you some  convenient information such as a pie chart of which category (shopping, dining, etc.) you’re spending most of your money on, and they also have support for different currencies even giving you automatic conversion between them.

Photos

Perhaps the most unnecessary part of this app is the “Photos” feature. It’s a very basic feature that only allows you to upload your trip photos, where they’ll be arranged by date. Having a few photos allows you to set a thumbnail in your trip for easy identification, but that’s about it.

Photo Viewer

Photo Viewer

In Depth

At its forefront, YourtTrip tries to provide a place where you keep a collection of information on every single trip you’ve had. That’s why in its main menu where you can create a new trip or browse your old ones, there’s a timeline that showcasts every existing individual trip with a thumbnail and some other information.

Exported Itinerary

Exported Itinerary

However, the most useful thing I’ve found in the app is exporting all the information from your trips via Twitter, Email or PDFs. Exporting will give you a clean, organized and useful view of your itinerary, budget, and all the other information you might need while you’re on the road, including a map of the location of every single place in your itinerary.

Worth the Money?

If you are planning a trip for multiple people and are obsessive about the amount of money needed, complete itinerary and planning of every single moment of your trip, then this might be of use to you. I would say most travelers won’t use every single feature this app has. It’s a nice way of putting everything together, but every individual feature that this app has is done better and cheaper by other apps.

At $20, pricing is likely the biggest problem this app faces, especially since there are free alternatives that can help you accomplish similar results. For storing your information and itinerary, there’s Evernote. For pictures, there’s iPhoto. For budgets, there are tons of personal finance apps out there. The thing about YourtTrip is that it incorporates all those features into one single package, but with only decent results.

Conclusion

My first impressions of YourtTrip were that it lacks focus and it’s a bit pricy. In terms of features, it’s all over the place: it tries to do a little bit of everything but it doesn’t really excel at much. Its functionality is a little shallow and could be done better by other apps.

However, if simplicity is your thing and you’d prefer having everything in one single place, YourtTrip might not be a bad option for keeping all your information organized. Perhaps with a companion iOS app and a more accessible price, it’d be a much more …read more

Weekly Poll: What do You Think of the New Mac Pro?

We all were expecting iOS 7 and OS X 10.9 to be announced at WWDC, and perhaps were hoping to see some new hardware, but no one predicted that the Mac Pro would get such a radical overhaul this year. Sure, Cook promised us that Apple hadn’t forgotten pro users, and the old Mac Pro was the most outdated Mac Apple was still selling, but many of Apple’s biggest fans and most popular developers had already given up on Apple doing anything interesting with the Mac Pro. The 27″ iMac is beautiful and powerful anyhow, and Apple had already killed off the Xserve, so it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to think that the Pro was next on the chopping block.

Boy, were we wrong. Apple absolutely had not forgotten Pro users, but instead was quietly building a fully redesigned Mac Pro that looked like nothing before (well, other than perhaps R2D2 with a bit of Darth Vader’s style. Or a trash can. Or a Cray, if you squint.). With up to 12 cores on its CPU and two GPUs built in and designed to be used directly for computing power, the Mac Pro new in the way it works internally, as well. It’s built to let you, as Apple says, edit 4k resolution video while live-rendering effects in the background. It can take up to 128Gb of Ram — or at least may, based on Apple’s OS X Mavericks documentation.

Its only drawback for pros is that its not designed to be upgraded and expanded internally, relying instead on Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3 port for expansion. That, and the lack of dual CPUs, has some pros wringing their hands, wishing Apple had kept the upgradable design of the former Mac Pro.

What do you think? Is the new Mac Pro the True Mac Pro Successor that John Siracusa wished for, one that’s for the computer industry what halo cars are for the automobile industry? Or is a computer that’s already irrelevant, either by its lack of expandability or its inherent tie to the past of desktop computing?

…read more

Can LaunchBar Snippets replace TextExpander?

Screenshot of the option added by SymbolicLinker to the Finder contextual menu.

A few weeks ago, LaunchBar 5.5 update brought — among other interesting things — a new feature called Snippets, which actually is a complete overhaul of its previous “Text Clippings” feature. As the devs advertised Snippets as “a serious text expansion tool”, I was curious to see how this compares to one of the references in text substitution on the Mac: TextExpander.

So, for one week, I did a little experiment: I closed TextExpander and acted as if it was never installed on my Mac, and chose to use only LaunchBar instead. Read on to find out how all of this turned out.

 

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Before you read on, I must warn you: if you use TextExpander to perform scripts and so on, the Snippets feature of LaunchBar can’t do that. But if you’re just using TextExpander to, well, expand text as I do, or occasionally add dates/times and grab something from the clipboard, then LaunchBar Snippets and TextExpander play in the same field.

Setting up LaunchBar for text expansion

In this little tutorial, I’ll guide you through how to create snippets and how to use them. Also, one of the welcome features of TextExpander is the ability to synchronize your snippets between machines using Dropbox. LaunchBar does not offer this out of the box, but it’s not that difficult to achieve it. I’ll show you first how to do this, so your newly created snippets will instantly be available everywhere (except on iOS of course, we’re talking about LaunchBar here).

Synchronization

To synchronize all of your LaunchBar snippets between machines, follow these simple steps:

  1. First, quit LaunchBar, just to make sure you don’t mess up with anything in progress.
  2. LaunchBar snippets are stored in ~/Library/Application Support/LaunchBar/Snippets. Copy this folder to Dropbox. I chose put this Snippets folder within a newly created folder /Dropbox/Applications/LaunchBar.
  3. Create a symbolic link for this folder you’ve just put in Dropbox. You can do this either the simple GUI way by downloading SymbolicLinker, which will give you a contextual menu within the Finder to make symbolic links.
  4. You now have a ‘Snippets symlink’ folder. Move it back to /Users/[yourusername]/Library/Application Support/LaunchBar/Snippets
  5. Delete the old Snippets folder in ~/Library/Application Support/LaunchBar.
  6. Rename ‘Snippets symlink’ to simply ‘Snippets’.
  7. Restart LaunchBar.

SymbolicLinker makes it a cinch to create a symbolic link, if you’re not familiar enough with UNIX commands and Terminal.

That’s all! Now every snippet you create on one machine will be available on other Mac too.

Creating new snippets

There are many ways of creating new Snippets in LaunchBar.

Create a new snippet from scratch with the ‘Add Snippet’ action

If you want to create a new snippet from scratch, just press your general keyboard shortcut to activate LaunchBar (Cmd-Space in my case) then:

  1. Start typing Add Snippet (remember: never type spaces in LaunchBar commands, these will activate Quick Look — typing “addsnip” without the quotes should be enough to highlight the corresponding action). Once the Add Snippet action is selected, press Enter.
  2. In the field right next to “Add Snippet”: type the text you want to store as a snippet.
  3. Press Enter: You’ve just created a new snippet in LaunchBar!
Screenshot showing the Add Snippet action.

Writing some text to be stored as a snippet in LaunchBar is easy.

Overtime, due to the learning algorithm of LaunchBar, you will have to type less and less. After a few uses, I just need to type ‘as’ and ‘Add Snippet’ is the first match in the list.

Instant Send then ‘Add Snippet’

If you’ve already typed something in, say, your favorite text editor, or if there is some text within a document or a web page that you want to store as a snippet, then perform the following steps:

  1. Select the text.
  2. Use the Instant Send of LaunchBar (you can simply use your keyboard shortcut to activate LaunchBar and hold the last key a bit longer to do this; as I use case Cmd-Space for LaunchBar, I just press Cmd and hold Space for one second to achieve this).
  3. Press Tab.
  4. Start typing ‘Add Snippet’ (without the quotes and without space) to make LaunchBar match this action name. Once the ‘Add Snippet’ action is highlighted, press Enter.
Screenshot showing the result of an Instant Send selection.

Here, I’ve selected the “Select some text” words from the previous paragraph and passed it to LaunchBar via Instant Send: the orange icon on the right indicates you’ve successfully gotten your selection into the app.

Create a snippet from items stored in the Clipboard history

If you have some text stored in your Clipboard history that you’d like to store as a snippet:

  1. Make LaunchBar show your Clipboard History (see the “Show clipboard history:” field in the “Keyboard Shortcuts” list from the Clipboard tab in LaunchBar preferences to define your own shortcut for this)
  2. Select (with Up or Down arrow) the desired text
  3. Press Tab and type “Add Snippet” (without quotes and without space, as usual)
  4. Once you’ve pressed Enter, a new snippet is created based on this item from your clipboard history

Playing with placeholders

As you might expect from “a serious text expansion tool”, you can use some placeholders in your snippets. The most common ones are:

For dates, you can specify a format by using different “YYYY MM dd” combinations or simply use the shorthands , , and . The shorthands will reflect what you’ve set in the Formats tab of the “Language & Text” category in OS X System Preferences. Same thing with the various placeholders.

If you don’t want to try and guess which combination of letters to use to craft …read more