There’s loads happening in technology this week. Google IO is happening in a few days and then Microsoft will reveal the next Xbox. There’s no better way to spend a Sunday than getting a fresh serving of The Platter.
You probably already know that Google Reader is shutting down on July 1st and everyone is looking for a replacement or moving on to something else. New services have been popping up almost daily with promises of filling Reader’s void and such. Fireplug is a very interesting service that looks to fill that void. It lets you arrange and compile playlists of news to read later and rewards you for doing so. The app looks stunning with a lovely sunburnt theme and works great with gestures. You create an account for free and you're ready to start compiling stuff for your stream. Fireplug also claims to get better as you use the app more. Now Fireplug isn't just an iOS app. It is a service that shows you what you read and what you achieved from it unlike other services that just show you the news. There's a Chrome extension as well and just like most new mobile games, Fireplug takes the experience social. You can compete with friends and share achievements. The extension is available on the website. Fireplug for iPhone is available for Free on the App Store.
Libretto is a great little app to monitor your progress and keep track of your grades. You can enter your exam results and view statistics presented beautifully within the app. You can see your GPA, credits left and even analyze your progress. The app has a great colour scheme and the icon is excellent. We love the subtleness of the app. There’s really not much to talk about the app till you actually try it out. Libretto is available for iPhone on the App Store for $0.99.
Ever since the introduction of smart, predictive software keyboards on smartphones and then on tablets, the reluctance to hammer away on the glass of a touchscreen is fading away. A decade ago, I wouldn’t imagine writing anything more than short text messages or one-liner notes on a phone. Today, I write multi-para emails without the slightest tendency to fall back to a computer hardware keyboard. With the increase in typing on touch-screens, many text editor apps have surfaced over the years. Today we take a look at Write for Dropbox — a powerful Note Taking app for iPhone and iPad, that is filled to the brim with features to the delight power users.
Fire it up, and the first time it takes you through an intro, letting you know the many awesome features of the app. As your notes are synced to Dropbox, you’ll need to connect the app to a Dropbox account before you can start writing. The app essentially is dressed in a simple black-and-white colour scheme, with the use of intuitive colours on action buttons. Once your Dropbox account is connected, you’re taken straight to a new file which is automatically named as per the date and time of creation. Changing the file name is as simple as tapping on it in the title bar. A hamburger button to the top-left shows you a list of your files, and this menu can be accessed faster by simply swiping from the left edge of the screen. Here, you can create folders to organise your notes, view files that you have favourited etc. A press-and-hold on the file pops up a preview bubble.
The number of Mac apps that get showcased here on Beautiful Pixels is very low compared to all the iPhone, iPad and (now) Android apps that we write about here every day. Ever since the launch of the iOS App Store in 2008, we have seen some remarkable apps come out for Apple’s mobile platform and they have only continued to get better with every passing year. Yet, there are a few Mac developers who continue to churn out beautiful & powerful Mac apps for the masses. Once such Mac app that has been consistently blowing our minds with each release, has been Pixelmator.
Today, the Pixelmator Team released version 2.2 of the powerful image-editing app for Mac, codenamed Blueberry. With this release, Pixelmator brings over 100 new features & improvements to the platform, including some very notable features that the audience had been waiting for. One of the most awaited features has been the Shapes tools — Smart Shapes, Shapes Palette that includes some readymade shapes & Shape Style pallette that allows you to create more polished and advanced shapes. Blueberry also now lets you convert your Text into Shape, so you can edit the text as you wish. Other interesting features bundled with this release include the Paint Selection Tool, which enables you to select an area based on the same color & the Light Leak effect tool, useful for photographers to spice up & create stunning photos.
Pixelmator continues to boast of a super polished UI that is very fluid and fast to work with. It makes use of some advanced features of Mac OS X and has long been considered to be a better replacement for Adobe Photoshop by many Mac users. Pixelmator 2.2 is now available on the Mac App Store for just $14.99 and is Free for existing users. A trial is available too.
Here’s a quick video that demoes the Convert Text to Shape feature.
I’m usually not into games. Word games excite me, may be a couple of FPSs, but that’s about it. That’s why it’s always Mikhail who talks about beautiful games here on Beautiful Pixels. Last week, he happened to demo a particularly interesting looking game to me, called Circulets. I was intrigued. And it was really good.
When Mikhail first showed the game to me, he pitched it as an Indie game completely “forged and crafted in India”. Conceptualized, designed & developed by Hashstash Studios, Circulets is a brilliantly simple game that involves two players going head-to-head on the same device. There’s no single-player mode here. The goal is to pull tiny circles or “circulets” towards you within the set time. Pulling the circulet of same color as your side into your zone gets you one point, pulling the other player’s circulet by mistake takes away a point. There’s a bonus circulet that gives you 2 points instead and either player can grab it. The gameplay is simple, but the skill is in winning as many circulets while not letting the other player win any. I’ve been playing with friends and it has been a lot of fun. They get used to the game very quickly and start enjoying it even sooner.
Circulets comes with 7 different themes to choose from — 6 very colorful ones and 1 dark one that doesn’t differentiate between two sides, so there’s no indication which side a circulet belongs to. I prefer the ‘reason’ theme myself. There’s some nice background music playing one the menu and the in-game sounds are really well done too. Circulets is a brilliantly simple game that’s well executed by the Hashstash team. The game releases for both iOS & Android devices today for just 99 cents. You can download the game via the App Store or Google Play.
Note: The game is still propagating though the iOS App Store, so it’ll be a while before it shows up for you, especially on the US Store.
One of our awesome readers, Pete, sent us a link to this amazing app by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Making great use of the iPad’s real estate, the WWF Together app introduces you to the world’s most amazing animals in a fun and interactive way. Beautifully designed, the iPad app tells the audience some fascinating facts about the animals and makes us aware about the problems faced by them.
The app follows an Origami theme for each of the animals and takes you through specially put together story streams for each animal. The stories are available for Giant Pandas, Marine Turtles, Elephants, Tiger, Bison, Snow Leopards, Polar Bears, Whales, Rhinos, Gorillas, Sharks & Jaguars. Each animal is also assigned a trait that you can see when you tap on an animal and enter its story, which is a 3×3 grid that you can swipe horizontally or veritcally. Each screen in the grid tells you something about the animal or WWF in general, about their efforts in savin the endangered species. It’s a absolutely fascinating look at all these animals and not only thoroughly enjoyable but also a great deal of learning can be done through it. At the end of the story, you learn to create the animal via the art of Origami.
The designers & developers have done a remarkable job with the app. It reminds me a lot of the Al Gore — Our Choice app. There are some stunning photos, videos & other interactive elements that you can play with and thoroughly enjoy. The soothing music that plays in the background adds to the experience as well. The app can be downloaded Free from the App Store.
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Our thanks to Mad Mimi for sponsoring our RSS feed this week.
Mad Mimi is an email marketing service that’s designed to be simple with a very beautiful user interface. It offers the easiest way to create & send newsletters via email and then offers advanced tracking tools with statistics. The service is extremely simple to use and both novice & advanced users can navigate through the various features offered by Mad Mimi very easily.
It’s very simple to begin using the service — Mad Mimi offers a Free plan that lets you send 12,500 emails to up to 2,500 contacts stored by you. If you outgrow it or just want to sign up for Paid plans directly, Mad Mimi offers varying plans that suit your needs perfectly.
We at Beautiful Pixels decided to check out the service for an upcoming announcement in the next couple of weeks. We loved the beautiful & elegant design of the website and its easy to use layout. We have an eye for great design and you can tell the designers and developers at Mad Mimi share the same ideology. Everything looks shiny & sweet, making the overall experience very enjoyable.
Mad Mimi offers an insanely simple way to compose newsletters that you want to send out to your audience. With drag & drop tools for images & text, Mad Mimi makes sending out newsletters a child’s play. You have to try it to believe it. Of course, if you want to take over control of the HTML/CSS and go fully custom, you have that option too.
Mad Mimi is an insanely great email marketing service. It’s built by designers for anyone & everyone so that even your grandma could send out newsletters or you can build your own custom design for your newsletter. We’ve been toying with the idea of having a fortnightly newsletter here on Beautiful Pixels and looks like we won’t have to look elsewhere.