Distracted When Doing Paperwork? Try Distraction-Free Ommwriter & CreaWriter

It’s the holidays.  You swore by your upcoming 2011 patient load that you will and shall finish your overdue reports this holiday break.  You sit in front of your computer, evaluation reports and notes at hand, fingers poised at the keyboard and hand on the mouse.

One hour later you guiltily realize you’ve been on Facebook, on YouTube, had been firing up one tweet after another on Twitter, and had uploaded your mom’s high school reunion pictures in her Shutterfly account.  Basically, you’ve done almost everything you needed to do in front of the computer BUT your reports.

There just might be a way to salvage what’s left of your holiday break and put the remaining days into good use as you had originally intended.  Enter Ommwriter for Mac and CreaWriter for Windows.

Both the Ommwriter and CreaWriter are plain word processors stripped down to their bare essentials.  No, they don’t do magic like zapping away all that can distract you or grab your eyeballs and after slapping a pair of blinders on them make you focus on the screen.  Fire up either one (depending on what OS and computer you are using), and your screen is reduced to a neutral, Zen-like, simple wallpaper on which you can type your text.

Swipe your mouse on specific areas and you can perform basic tweaks:
  • change fonts
  • change font size
  • change wallpaper
  • change background music
  • change keyboard tones
  • save document
I wrote this blog using Ommwriter and simply cut-pasted the text onto WordPress.  For an even better writing experience I slapped on a couple of buds and had the app’s ambient music play into my head.  Click on each image to play a demo video.

Both apps’s basic versions are free to download.  Both too have paid versions, which offer more customizable features such as changing font styles, autosave times, additional audio and visual experiences, etc.  (Ommwriter Dana starts at US$4.11, CreaWriter welcomes donations of any amount).

Surprisingly, the app does help one concentrate and get into the report-writing zone.  Remember though, a few things are necessary when you do use either app:
  • you must be very resolute in wanting to finish your paperwork
  • consciously reduce visual and auditory distractions
  • be awake: maintain alertness levels in any way you see fit but stay in front of the screen!
  • save your document…often!
Download and enjoy Ommwriter and CreaWriter, everyone =)  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

Swype (beta) Now Available for Android Phones

Android welcomes one of its most awaited apps:  Swype.  The app may just introduce the slow phase-out of tap-tap-typing and make typing on your Android-capable phone faster the Swype way.

It’s hard to not appreciate how awesome Swype is and what it can do to revolutionize text messaging and emailing.  Imagine using this app on, say, a Nokia C7 or a Samsung Galaxy Tab.  Sure, you may want to type your message the classic way, but if you feel like tracing and composing with one finger, it’ll feel like you’re waving a baton on your phone’s touchscreen.

That was for Swyping the word “quick,” by the way.

How to get it? First, check and see if your Android baby meets Swype’s requirements.  Then click your way to Swype’s website, register for a beta version, and open the emailed link via your Android device to download the app.

Swype’s memory footprint, a little under 1 mb, shouldn’t hog much of your phone’s storage.  The site also claims there is almost no learning curve as the movements needed takes on a supremely natural feel.  And while typing on a computer keyboard should take 50-60 wpm, Swype said using the swypey method can make your fingers spew out 40 wpm (versus the classic tap-tap’s 35 wpm).

Among the (present) compatible Android phones are Motorola i1, Motorola CliqXT, Motorola Droid X, Samsung Omnia II, myTouch 3G, myTouch 4G, HTC HD2, Huawei Comet, Nokia C7, Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy Tab.  To check if your Android phone is happy and ready to receive Swype, check out their website.  And if you think you’re happy and ready to download Swype, check out their tutorial video on how to use it.

(Literally) Shoot Around You with 360 Panorama

It took the sudden rise of the Philippine football team Azkals in the sport and TJ Manotoc’s–@tjmanotoc on Twitter–impeccable sports reporting to bring to our attention the app 360 Panorama.  He uploaded on Twitter beautiful 360degree views of the football stadium (and the roaring fans) and it felt quite right to check this app out.

The current price alone was encouraging: $0.99 3.1 launch sale (for a limited time only), 66% off from the regular price.   Startup screen brings you directly to a curved grid which prompts you to point your iPhone’s camera to the starting point of your (future) panoramic masterpiece and click Start Capture start shooting automatically.  Point your iPhone’s camera to parts of the panorama you want completed (it would be an excellent idea if you stand/sit in one fixed point and just rotate your own self around until you complete your desired panorama range).

On the Settings page one can opt to view the panorama on a 360 view or stereographic view.  Tinker with the background andchoose whether you want it white or black.  I personally prefer black.  Better viewing experience.

What I like about this app:

  • automatic shooting: no need to click a shutter button each time you want to take the next picture. Point your device to another part of the scene and it ‘reveals’ on the screen that scene
  • automatic stitching: the most painful part of panoramic shooting is the stitching part… and this app saves you all that trouble
  • 360-degree photo review: swipe your results left to right and you see your panorama come to life near-3D
  • sharing options: one can choose to send the photo via email or upload on Twitter

What this app could benefit from:

  • $0.99 forever!

360 Panorama is simple, intuitive, and fun to use for every shooting project.  Gives one reason (and leaves one with absolutely no excuse) to go on several vacations and do panorama-tripping.

And since it was so unfortunate for me to have only discovered this recently after doing several trips, below is a panoramic shot of my workplace.  Not much.  Halong Bay in Vietnam would have been a better sample shot.

Price: $0.99
Weight: 1.1 MB
Updated: 18 December 2010
Version: 3.1
Compatible with: iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch (4th Gen), iPhone 4.  Needs iOS 4.0 up

Customer Ratings (iTunes): 4 out of 5 smileys

iSPeak App says: 4 out of 5 smileys

Fraction Time Pocket: A Dead-Simple Way to Practice Your Fractions

I don’t know about you, but fractions stumped me back in school.  Apparently they stump me until now.  Your kids may not need to be just as baffled by fractions as I was, and Fraction Time Pocket may give them the means to practice on these.

A very very simple and light app, Fraction Time Pocket lets one practice adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions.  It doesn’t teach how to work on fractions, it just gives problems to answer.  On the left side of the screen, select whether you want your problems in addition, subtraction etc., and on the right are two buttons: move forward (to the next problem), and check your answer (marked by a check mark).  As for settings, there is only one option:  set your largest denominator for the fraction problems.

What I like about this app:

  • dead-simple interface
  • big numbers (should be bigger on the iPad)

What this app could have included:

  • option to select how many items are to be presented
  • option to summarize performance in the form of scores
  • option for the app to show the correct answer

Dead-simple, we reiterate.  Not much, except for one:  FREE for a limited time only.  Download if you believe your school-age kids can use this to practice on.

Price: FREE
Weight: 0.2 MB
Released: 1 May 2010
Version: 1.1
Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad.  Needs iOS 3.1.3 up
Seller: Eric Danley (C) x19 Studios

Target Population: grade-school kids (depending on their school’s math curriculum)

Awesome if you want to work on:
  • understanding fractions
  • solving fraction problems

Customer Ratings (iTunes): 4 out of 5 smileys

iSPeak App says: 3.5 out of 5 smileys

We’re Back… as iSPeak App!

A few weeks ago, SPeak App decided to go out on a limb and bought its own domain and web hosting service.  Since then, countless hours have been logged in to migrate past entries from Blogger to Weebly and finally to WordPress.  The entire process was full of hits and misses, uninstalling and reinstalling, messing up root folders… basically learning as we went along.

So what happened to SPeak App? In short:  domain purchase issues.  GoDaddy.com apparently wouldn’t intercede properly for us to buy the first domain.  One little letter solved the problem:  “i.”

We are now www.ispeakapp.com!

Keep checking back in for more app reviews and recommendations, iDevice feedback, and gadget news.  Add us as a friend in Facebook (Ispeak App), and add us as well in Twitter (@ispeakapp) !

Please comment on our new webpage.  We welcome all comments (and encouragements)!  Nothing like a bit of rah-rah to keep iSPeak App going 😉

Model Appropriate Behavior with the Going Places App

Most of us, if not all, work with children with autism and other related disabilities.  We all know that these children have difficulty managing their own behavior in certain life situations.  We teach these children social skills via social stories.  Social stories give our the needed information about specific life situations and help them understand and learn crucial social behavior, and what reactions or events that another person may have in a given situation.  Social stories are geared towards making an individual more at ease in a life situation and help him/her generate more appropriate responses for it.

While we all have several books and picture plates that contain excellent social stories in our own individual workplaces, not all of them read the words (or describe the action in the picture) out loud.  SPeak App found a rare gem in the app Going Places by Model Me Kids.

For an app that has a number of good pictures and sound clips, it is pretty light at 7.9 MB.  The main screen has six options / places:

  • hairdresser
  • mall
  • doctor
  • playground
  • grocery store
  • restaurant

Select a “place,” say, at the hairdresser’s.  Each picture has the main scene, a short sentence description of what the child is going to do / is doing or what others are doing, how he felt at that moment, and the appropriate responses he made in each situation.  A voice plays and reads out each scene’s sentence. In each scene are 4 buttons:

  • home button
  • scroll back button
  • scroll forward button
  • play button (to let the entire story play by itself)

Each story has a little over 10 pictures.  Crucial social behavior are constantly pointed out in each place:  walking calmly, staying close to one’s parents, keeping one’s hands to himself, waiting for one’s turn, saying thank you and good bye, etc.

What I love about this app:

  • easy-to-use interface
  • straightforward main screen, making choosing situations easy
  • pictures appropriate for each situation, depicts good social behavior
  • with option to flip page as needed or to have scenes play automatically

What this app could have also included:

  • option to tap character to hear socially-appropriate utterances
  • additional situations such as how to behave in school or in places of worship

Price: FREE
Weight: 7.9 MB
Updated: 13 January 2010
Version: 2.1
Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad.  Needs iOS 3.0 up

Target Population: kids across ages

Awesome if you want to work on:

  • pragmatics and social behavior
  • answering wh- questions
  • narratives
  • problem-solving

Customer Ratings (iTunes): 4 out of 5 smileys
SPeak App says: 4 out of 5 smileys