Tag Archives: Product Review

Review of “Zonebox”

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Product Reviews – I read about Zonebox in Bob Levis’ book “Working Smarter for Mac Users“. This is a simple little productivity App that lets you define tasks (by clicking on the “+” button at the bottom right of the App interface) with an estimated completion time (default is 15 minutes, but you can assign a custom time by double clicking on the entry in the list), then when you activte one of the tasks, you get a countdown timer for the remaining time. In the image above you see that I have 14:03 remaining of my allocated 30 minutes for writing this review.

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The countdown also appears in the menubar when active. The developer has been proactive with this App already converting it to a 64-bit App, so there is no need to worry about the upcoming macOS 32-bit to 64-bit transition.

I find this useful when I start writing posts for my Blog. I am less likely to be distracted by other tasks when I know the timer is counting down. The App is free and is available on the Mac App Store.

 

Pros

  1. Free
  2. Simple to use user interface
  3. 64-bit

 

Cons

  1. Not many options
  2. Only ‘running’ tasks can be marked at ‘Done’

 


See my other macOS articles


 

Product Review – Textor iOS App

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Product Reviews – I heard about Textor on one of the podcasts that I listen to, though now I don’t remember which one it was. I think it maybe was “Mac Power User“. This is a free App for iOS devices for creating and editing plain text files. It currently has a 4.6/5 rating with 178 reviews in the App Store.

For what it is this app works well. Before Notes was cross-platform between Mac and iOS devices, this would have been a great App. Now though, I don’t see much advantage to using it over Notes. I guess if you have a text file you have created on your Mac and need to make some quick updates it might be useful. I will certainly keep the App on my iPad, but I doubt I will use it very often.

 

Pros

  • Free
  • Works well on plain text files
  • Access files using iCloud Drive or similar cloud services
  • Share access to file with Mac

 

Cons

  • Will not do RTF
  • It is far short of TextEdit

See my other iOS articles


 

Product Review – Grammarly Extension for Safari

Product Review – I read about Grammarly in a recent “Working Smarter for Mac Users” newsletter. This is written and distributed by Bob “Dr Mac” Levitus from The Mac Observer. As you might expect from the product name, Grammarly is an extension for Safari on your Mac. As described on the extension website:

Grammarly – Will help you communicate more effectively. As you type, Grammarly flags mistakes and helps you make sure your messages, documents, and social media posts are clear, mistake-free, and impactful.

The free version does a nice job. Below are three examples of what it will catch. Text that it has a recommendation for is underlined in red. Move your cursor over the underlined word or phrase and the pop-up will appear. You can then click on the ‘green’ recommendation (if you agree with it) in the pop-up box and it will be implemented in the text you are writing:

  • misspelling
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  • unnecessary comma
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  • wrong word
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While I have not tried the Premium paid version, the level of writing I do just doesn’t, in my mind, justify the cost of the paid service. I will continue to use the Safari extension as I do like how it reports recommended changes.

 

My recommendation: Install the free version and pass on the paid Premium version

 

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Easy to install
  • Base service is free
  • Works with any writing you do within a Safari window

 

Cons

  • You do have to create an account
  • You must be connected to the internet for Grammarly to work
  • Paid (Premium) version is expensive ($29.95/month, $59.95 for 3 months, or $139.95 for a year)

See my other macOS articles


 

Product Review – Weather Now iOS App

Product Review – The iOS App “Weather Now” has both a free and a paid tier of operation. I have only been using the free tier. I have been using this App for several weeks and am very pleased with it for the most part.

The App is very visually pleasing as you can see from the images above. Those screen shots are from a phone running the App and are taken from the Weather Now website. The App seems to be at least as accurate in forecasting as any of the other Apps I have tried. I would be inclined to pay the $3 to upgrade the App, but I don’t feel that the additional information would be better than I am getting from other free Apps.

 

Pros

  • Free tier of operation
  • Visually pleasing
  • 30 minute refresh of data
  • 48 hour and 15 day forecasts
  • Easy selection of location
  • $2.99 to unlock all features and remove ads

 

Cons

  • Pop up advertisements on start up
  • Difficult to have more than six locations defined in the free tier because of ads in the “Cities” tab
  • $2.99 to unlock all features and remove ads

 


See my other iOS articles


 

Product Review of “Duet Display”

Updated 8/31/18

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Product Review – I have read about Duet Display and other software solutions that turn an iPad/iPhone into a second display for your MacBook. I finally made the decision and bought and installed Duet Display this past January. I haven’t regretted it in the least.

Now I don’t generally use this second screen solution at home as I am working mostly on my dual screen Mac Mini there. This is, for me, a travel productivity aid, giving me a second screen for my MacBook. Having that additional screen space has been very useful as I work on articles for my Blog.

I attach my iPad and start Duet Display on it and my MacBook, then set my iPad to the left side of my MacBook propped up with my ANKER Multi-Angle Stand. I can then drag windows from the MacBook main screen over to my iPad for reference while I am writing on the main screen.

I certainly like Duet Display and this product has been well received by users as it has over 2700 reviews in the App Store and a 4.4/5 rating. The iOS part of the App is currently $9.99 in the iTunes App Store. I now consider this a part of my required MacOS Toolkit for any MacBook I may have.

 

Pros

  • Free software for the Mac/PC
  • Low cost (~$10) software for the iPad/iPhone
  • Works with Mac and Windows
  • Little to no lag time
  • Add Touch Bar access to Apps running in the iPad window
  • iPad is powered by Mac while in use as a second display

 

Cons

  • Sadly, Apple has broken Duet Display as of macOS 10.13.4 and beyond
  • Requires a Lightning cable connection between MacBook and iPad

 


See my other Mac and iOS articles


 

Product Review of the “ANKER Multi-Angle Stand”

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Product Review – I bought the ANKER Multi-Angle Stand just a few days ago for use with my iPad. There are times when I want to use it as my primary writing device and having a stand that will prop the screen up at a comfortable angle makes a big difference.

I have been using it and I am very happy with it. Event though it is not very large, it easily props up my iPad on a table of lap desk. The fact that it is only $8.99 on Amazon is a real plus in my mind.

It has six preset positions from nearly vertical to nearly flat. A button on the top left allows you to change the angle of the stand and each position is locked in place with a clear ‘snap’ of the stand. It has pads on the bottom edges to reduce the chance of sliding. There are also similar pads to both hold and protect your electronic device. Though the unit is very light, it is of strong construction. I have no fear of it being bent or broken in the bottom of my computer bag.

This little accessory will be in my electronics travel kit from now on.

Pros

  • Will work with almost any phone or tablet
  • Six different angles for devices
  • Low cost ($9)
  • Light weight (less than 4 oz)
  • Small size (3.15 x 4.72 x 1.06 inches)
  • Will hold devices weighing up to 11 lbs.

 

Cons

  • Stand only has fixed positions
  • Non-slide pads on the bottom could have more ‘grip’

Review of the Anker USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter

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Product Review – A few months ago my home suffered a lightening strike that. among other things, broke the ethernet port on my Mac Mini. While I have been able to use the built in IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi) connection, I prefer a hard wired network connection.

A few days ago I found the Anker USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter on Amazon and thought it would be just the accessory to put my Mac Mini back on the wired network. I ordered it and it arrived yesterday. I was able to install it easily: connect a RJ-45 cable from my Ethernet switch, then just insert the adapter into a free USB port on my Mac Mini.

The new connection was immediately recognized by macOS and I was back to using the wired connection. While I have only been using if for just about 24 hours it has worked perfectly so far.

PROS

  • Easy to install
  • Low cost ($13.99 as I write this review)
  • USB 3.0 compatibility, backwards compatible with 2.0/1.1
  • Gigabit Ethernet support
  • Portable if needed
  • Compatible with macOS and Windows
  • Powered by the USB port

 

CONS

  • Does require committed use of a USB port

 

CONCLUSION

This is a product that I would recommend to anyone who needed to add a wired Ethernet connection to your Mac or PC. You could also use this to add a higher speed or second Ethernet connection to your computer.


See my other Mac and OS X articles


 

Tech Tip – Private Browsing with StartPage

Product ReviewmacOS Toolkit – I don’t recall where I first saw StartPage, but I installed the extension into Safari a few weeks ago and have been using it on a regular basis.

So, what is StartPage? StartPage is a search engine company based in the Netherlands. The potential benefits of StartPage include:

  • it is outside the reach of US law enforcement agencies
  • it uses secure connections over HTTPS
  • it does not collect search information
  • it provides private click-throughs using a proxy

The basis of the search engine results is Google, so the results of the searches are as good as any when using StartPage. StartPage is provided by Ixquick “the world’s most private search engine. Ixquick has been third-party certified by EuroPriSe, a European Union privacy initiative.” If you visit the StartPage website, you will see the very prominent statement that “StartPage does not collect or share any personal information!“. Many have become concerned with this as some ISPs have begun to ‘harvest’ search history information from their clients.

Beyond the search anonymity, sites listed in the StartPage search results are accessed through a proxy service that “allows users to surf the web with complete privacy. The proxy lets users browse websites safely and anonymously, without passing on any private, personally identifiable information to the websites they view.

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A portion of a search using StartPage is shown above. In the list of search results will be links very similar to those seen in a Google search. If you click on a link there, you leave the protection of StartPage and are browsing just as if you had been using Google. There is a “proxy” button besides each link in the search list. If you click that link then the page is retrieved through a StartPage proxy making your website visit invisible. You will encounter slower page loading when going through the proxy. StartPage provides a full description of how their proxy works here.

I think that this will become a standard part of my macOS Toolbox. While I am using StartPage with Safari, it is compatible with most browsers. There is also a Ixquick Search App that provides anonymous searching on mobile (iOS and Android) devices.  If you are concerned with your web browsing privacy, this may be an option you want to look into.


See my other macOS articles


 

macOS App Review – AppDelete

Product Review – I posted a Product Announcement a few days back on AppDelete. After hearing good feedback from a couple of people I know at CapMac and needing a way to thoroughly clean out some of the Apps I have installed for testing and review, I went ahead and purchased a copy for myself.

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Installation was straight forward as was its use. When run it opens up a window on your desktop into which you drag any App you want deleted. Among the features of the product are:

  • Search filters to find items for deletion fast (including old PPC apps)
  • Finds associated items that are invisible or hidden
  •  Trash monitoring so that simply throwing an app in the trash triggers AppDelete
  • Archive/Install from Archive feature for safekeeping and transferring items to another Mac
  • Password requested only once if needed instead of multiple requests
  • Keeps a Log of all activities and has the ability to Undo a deletion
  • Moves items into an organized deleted package in your trash
  • Force Empty Trash for stubborn to remove items

Having used AppDelete today to clean out my Applications folder, I am very pleased with the $8 I spent on the product. Knowing that I will be installing many Apps in the future and wanting to remove most afterward, I think that this has been a good investment. It will certainly be included in my recommendations for anyone’s macOS Toolbox.

PROS

  • intuitive interface
  • reasonable price
  • ability to archive as well as delete Apps
  • ability to ‘undo’ a delete

 

CONS

  • It isn’t FOSS

Read my other macOS articles


 

Review of the Go Travel Worldwide Adapter

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Product Review – As I mentioned in my “checklist”  article, on my most recent trip, I forgot to take along a power adapter. After finding that our hotel was only wired for European power, my wife and I set out to find one for the remainder of our trip.

We were lucky to come across the Go Travel Worldwide Adapter, costing about $25 US. I have some other power adapters somewhere at home, but this is the first I have seen that is multiple adapters in one device.

We bought this and used it throughout our trip. It easily worked with my electric razor as well as our multi-port USB charger. Between using this adapter and the charger, we were able to keep our iPhones, Apple Watches and iPads charged throughout the trip.

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Compact
  • Works with power in over 150 countries

 

Cons

  • Selected plug gives way sometimes when trying to plug the adapter in
  • Only one 120VAC outlet
  • No USB charging ports

 

I would strongly suggest buying your power adapter before you leave on your trip instead of searching for it after you arrive at your destination like we did. This adapter can be ordered through the Go Travel Products website.