Insync: the Dropbox for Google Docs

For many of us, we never know what apps we need until we are told or are shown what we truly need. Sometimes we wish out loud for an app that, say, can do our evaluation reports for us (we’re sure an app like that is out there somewhere), sometimes we read about an app that surprises us with its usefulness.

When Google Docs came out, we started using it when our friends and colleagues did.  When Dropbox came out, a lot of us signed up and started benefiting from its features, including sending out invites to boost our cloud storage capacities.  But Google Docs has its own allotted 1GB for all uploaded files within your Gmail account, AND you have your files in your Dropbox, too.  That’s two clouds in an otherwise clear, blue sky.  Insync made life easier for us and merged Google Docs and Dropbox.

We’ll try and make you understand what we’re talking about via sentence completion:

  • Insync is… a file syncing and sharing platform.
  • Insync is perfect for… anyone who uses Google Docs yet wants the functionality of Dropbox.
  • In essence, Insync makes it possible to… sync, update, manage, and share files saved in Google Docs on your computer (using either Windows Explorer or Mac OS’s Finder).

We went to Insync’s website and signed in to access its core service which went FREE a few days ago.  We downloaded and installed the app in a Mac, hooked up two of our Google accounts easily, and out popped two folders ala-Dropbox in our Finder.  All our files that were saved in our Gmail were automatically synced into the Mac.  After spending some time exploring Insync and reading about its features, we decided that we’re definitely keeping this one.

Insync simplified yet beefed up cloud storage functions via…

  • unified user account/s: sign in using your Google account.  No need for a separate Insync account.
  • a very strong GDocs support:  integrates seamlessly with GDocs, even has a similar interface as Google’s.
  • using Google’s storage system:  if you’re a paying Google storage user, you have a strong advantage here ($5/20gb per year). And even if you aren’t but you have multiple Google accounts, Insync gathers these together and syncs it for you in one centralized system.
  • bumping up sharing options (unlike Dropbox!): this one’s a definite plus because it has options for
    • specify what kind of access you’ll allow: read and write, or read-only sharing
    • nested sharing: you can restrict access to specific files within a folder
    • individual file sharing: unlike Dropbox wherein you need to share a folder
    • re-sharing permissions:  allow or prevent re-sharing of files
  • keeping your storage quota safe:  if you’re a share recipient, you don’t get charged against your allotted storage quota.
  • allowing syncing of other files types:  share and sync PDFs, MP3s, etc.

Insync’s been around since 2008 and all this time they’ve definitely been working on streamlining its clients’ cloud storage and collaboration experience.  Right now, it’s not yet possible to delete files via your browser.  Deleting a file from your computer, however, deletes it from the cloud.  Nonetheless, we can look forward to their upcoming upgrades:

  • Facebook-style streamline:  shows you all the documents and changes made in your Insync account
  • iOS and Android app versions of Insync
  • Linux version to add to is now-available Windows and Mac OS versions
  • search filtering via tags 
Anybody who uses Google Docs regularly may find Insync incredibly useful.  In fact, we’re giving our friends and students at the university a shout-out about this one.  Our thanks to CEO and co-founder Terence Pua and the Insync team for showing us what we need to make our workflows simpler.
Visit their site at www.insynchq.com (make sure you add the ‘hq’ after Insync).  For a quick overview of its features, visit Insync’s blog.

 

 

 

 

Productivity Apps for the SLP

Earlier today we met another colleague who has fallen head over heels in love with her new iPad 2.  She was so in love with it that she gave it a name and talked about the possibility of it having a playdate with our iPad 2.  She asked us what productivity apps we’d recommend that she get.  We realized that not all speech-language therapists need therapy apps… but most (if not all) need productivity apps.  So, this post is dedicated to our good friend at the university, J.S.  We hope our applist today will help many of you who, like J.S., have been looking for really good apps that are worth spending a bit for OR are actually useful and free:

Awesome Note HD (+ To-Do / Diary) by BRID:  This note-taking app was awarded the Apple Store Hall of Fame 2011 and Apple iTunes Rewind 2009 and 2010.  Awesome Note is so beautifully designed for the iPad, taking advantage of the screen and displays any folder you’ve created on the left side.  One can create quick notes and later arrange them into folders that can be customized according to one’s desired colors, labels, or order of arrangement.  Choose paper backgrounds, enlarge/shrink fonts, snap a picture and create a scrapbook, create to-do lists and arrange them according to date or priority, email notes, upload a map and draw on it, and set alarms for urgent notes.  One can even set passcodes for a private folder. One of the better features of this app is its ability to sync or transfer to Google Docs or Evernote.  Also available for the iPhone / iPod Touch.  ( $ 4.99 )

iBooks by Apple:  iBooks lets you read ebooks almost literally off the shelf.  It displays ebooks (in *.epub format) in a virtual bookshelf that one can browse through.  Buy more ebooks from the iBookstore, or upload ebooks via iTunes on your computer.  Have more than one iDevice but using one iTunes account?  iBooks syncs content across devices.  This app lets you read ebooks with virtual page-turning, make bookmarks, and find specific pages via the page navigator at the bottom of each page.  Upload PDFs and read them via iBooks.  Find a specific word or phrase by typing in the search bar.  Adjust brightness and font size (for ebooks).  Made a bookmark in your iPad and want to continue reading in your iPhone?  iBooks syncs that for you and you can pick up where you left off.   ( FREE )

Quickoffice Pro HD by QuickOffice Inc:  this app lets one create and edit Microsoft Office Word, Powerpoint and Excel files on the iPad.  It even supports file formats from 1997-2008 versions.  Quickoffice obviously loves cloud services:  one can grab files from Dropbox, Box.net, Huddle, MobileMe, SugarSync, Evernote and Catch.  It offers social networks sharing options as well (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc.)  Bring your slideshows / Powerpoint presentations with you and using an iPad-to-VGA adapter, hook up the iPad to a projector.  Choose whether to print a document from Quickoffice via AirPrint, or print it in PDF format.  ( $ 19.99 )  Word has it (pun intended) that Microsoft is going to release their official MS Office for the iPad app soon.  Erstwhile, other options to bring MS Office / Mac OS documents with you are:

Dropbox by Dropbox:  take your documents, videos and pictures with you everywhere you go (as long as you have an internet connection).  Save your files in Dropbox, and it syncs in all your computers that has Dropbox installed in them.  Think you’ll be losing your connection in a few minutes?  Favorite a document for offline viewing.  Share photos, videos, almost any file with family, friends and colleagues.       ( FREE )  Other options for cloud storage and retrieval on the iPad are:  

Noteshelf by Ramki:  One of the most beautiful handwriting apps ever designed for the iPad, Noteshelf is the handwriting note taker that features super natural digital ink, a stunning UI and a comprehensive toolset that will increase the benefits of owning an iPad by leaps and bounds.  Zoom in on what you’re writing with your stylus.  Move the slider up and down to designate the ‘safe’ space where you want your wrist to rest on without messing up your writing space.  ( $ 4.99 )  Other beautifully-designed handwriting apps are:

enso Writer by knowtilus:  Want to write continuously without getting distracted by cluttered interfaces and the presence of formatting buttons?  This app gives you the space, literally, to just create and write.  Upload or import documents from Dropbox, Evernote, and Tumblr.  Draw using your finger.  Also compatible with Siri on the iPhone 4S and allows composition via dictation.  ( $ 1.99 )  

DocuSign Ink by DocuSign:  A rare app that lets you sign documents on your iPad.  Create an account, then create and tweak your signature and save it.  Drag and drop your signature onto PDFs, MS Office files, even text and image files.  The app can also convert PDF form fields, letting you fill them out, sign then send or simply store.  Also comes with Ink, a feature that lets you shoot and import a document for you to sign.  ( FREE )

pdfNotes by AMuseTec Co., Ltd:  iBooks is awesome, but it doesn’t let you write on your PDFs.  Enter pdfNotes.  Use your finger or stylus to write notes, highlight or underline onto PDFs.  Takes a bit of time to convert PDFs to a format that’s writing-friendly, but the wait’s worth it.  Can import documents from Dropbox, email or Safari.  Useful not just in letting kids color on PDF worksheets, but also indispensable when editing article drafts by hand, writing notes on PDF’d handouts, or writing comments on thesis drafts.  ( FREE )

Bamboo Paper – Notebook by Wacom:  Possibly one of our most favorite and most used apps, Bamboo Paper has literally made us ditch our whiteboard and migrate all our drawing needs to it.  Very intuitive drawing strokes whether made by finger or stylus.  Six pen colors to choose from and three thickness options.  Jump from one page to another using the page indicator on the bottom.  Create more notebooks by purchasing a notebook pack.  This app has numerous uses during therapy, but if you have an iPad-to-VGA adapter, hook this up to the projector and draw your ideas live during a meeting or drive your point in hard during a seminar using the iPad 2’s live mirroring feature.  ( FREE )

SimpleMind+ by xpt Software & Consulting B.V:  During therapy sessions, this app is an indispensable tool for divergent and convergent naming.  In the academic setting, this app is awesome to use during meetings, when making notes, or simply when trying to discuss to students the process of accomplishing a specific activity or project.            ( FREE )  Other mindmapping apps out there include:


Snapseed by Nik Software, Inc.  Recently tagged as the iPad App of the Year, Snapseed is a strong rival of Photoshop Express.  Tweak, edit, enhance, transform and share your photos with a few finger touches.  Auto-correct with a tap of a button.    Get a bit more creative by transforming pictures into Vintage, Grunge, Drama or Tilt-Shift.  Show off your creations by sharing these on Facebook, Flickr or Twitter.  ( $ 4.99 )

There you have it!  If you have apps that you think should be part of this list, let us know by shooting us an email.

Ditch your whiteboard for Bamboo Paper by Wacom, FREE until end of June

We used to hoard scratch paper for writing visual / written cues for our kid and adult clients.  Then we went green and shifted to folder-sized whiteboards and a bunch of whiteboard markers. Sure, they were light and were easy to erase.  These boards were our original, low-cost, unbreakable iPads!  But there was always the danger of decorating your own clothes with the marker, or accidentally erasing what you’ve just written on the whiteboard (if your kid client hasn’t done so yet).  Oh yes, we love our whiteboards so much, we’re letting them go on leave now that Bamboo Paper by Wacom has finally made its way to the iPad.

We are SO pushing this app to you iPad owners.  We’ve tried out several drawing and doodling apps, but so far we haven’t come across anything that was as responsive and as intuitive as Bamboo Paper.  We’ve seen Bamboo Tablets used by graphic artists (and many of them attest to its ease of use).  That was why we were tickled pink when its iPad version came out.  Start the app, and you are greeted by a sketchbook cover.  Change the title of the notebook if you so wish.  You can customize your sketchbook by

  • changing the cover’s color:  blue, green, yellow, purple
  • changing the ‘paper’s’ design:  plain, lined, or graphed

Tap on the cover and it flips open.  Your Bamboo Paper sketchbook can accommodate several pages (we suppose that for as long as you keep swiping for a new page, you’ll get a new page).  The screen’s upper border contains minimalist icons for:

  • closing your sketchbook and returning you to the cover
  • exporting your page via email, saving it to your iPad’s Photo Library, or by printing it
  • undoing an action
  • redoing an action
  • drawing pen:  with
    • three options for stroke thickness
    • six color options
  • eraser
  • clear page
  • bookmark

Look hard enough at the lower right and left corners of the screen and you’ll see faint arrow icons that allows you to flip through your three allotted pages.  We’ve tried to turn the pages by swiping at them, resulting to drawn strokes on the paper instead.

If you want to send the entire sketchbook off to someone, you can always tap on the upper left button to return to the sketchbook cover, tap on the Export button at the bottom of the sketchbook, and decide whether to email the sketchbook as a PDF, or print it out.

For serious graphic artists, they may find the Bamboo Paper seriously lacking in color, stroke, and drawing options.  But for basic drawing needs such as drawing a basic map when giving someone directions, sketching out an idea, or for instances when one is put on voice rest following the removal of vocal fold nodules, this app is a very indispensable tool.  We even use this as a tally board for our competitive young clients, as a drawing tool for Pictionary, or even as a simple reward for a job well done at therapy.

Use the Bamboo Paper with your fingers or with a Bamboo Stylus for iPad.  We weren’t able to find a Bamboo Stylus in the shops here, so we used a Targus iPad Stylus and it worked just as well.

FREE until the end of June! Grab this one now.  Usefulness guaranteed.


Skill Game: You versus your cognitive and fine motor skills

Warning:  game is insanely addictive!

We downloaded Skill Game and Skill Game Arcade into the iPad 2 hoping it may be used as an app for cognitive rehabilitation.  We’ll talk about its (possible) usability in the work setting.  Right now, let us tell you what this app is all about.

Up front, Skill Game may look like your ordinary connect-the-dots app.  Play it and you see that the rules makes this game difficulty and frustrating (in a funny sort of way).  Just four rules to adhere to while you’re using your finger to connect the dots:

  • connect the dots in the correct order (makes a lot of sense of course)
  • you can’t draw across or cross any lines, whether pre-drawn lines or lines you have already drawn.  No can do.
  • you can’t go off the page’s edge
  • you may, however, go through the numbers you have already connected

It’s the no-crossing-lines that makes the game challenging and frustrating.  We put this to a test with our own colleagues at the clinic.  It highly depends on how one copes with the challenges Skill Game presents.  It appeared like the (frustrated) worst in us were brought out by the game.  One of our occupational therapists was positively growling in utter exasperation. But we had to give her credit for her frustration tolerance.  She stuck to the game until she finished a few pages.

Great pluses for Skill Game:

  • on the iPad 2 (no, we haven’t tested this on the iPhone nor iPod Touch), the nice big screen gives a fair amount of maneuverability (until you fail to plan ahead and find yourself drawing very very carefully to avoid touching other lines
  • beautiful paper patterns: does not wash out the numbers nor the lines
  • varying challenges:  your skill meter rises for each challenge you managed to finish.  It dips when you decide to skip a page, merely because it assumes you cannot (or would not) finish that particular challenge
  • the app adjusts itself to your skill level:  that way, if you can’t finish a challenge, it makes the next challenge slightly easier for you (thus making the app addictive)
  • magnifying glass on the upper left corner for extremely hard drawing:  this is where one’s visual perceptual skills are put to a test:  you want to cross a number but that number is bordered by two ominous lines.  You need to carefully maneuver your finger between those lines, draw carefully, and cross the target number safely so you can reach your next number
  • comes with a Magic Pen option:  if you’re stuck, tap on the Magic Pen and it allows you to cross lines only once.  You have to buy an add-on to refill the Magic Pen
  • unlimited, random levels! The challenges stretch on and on.

Of course, you CAN use this app for therapy, either as a game or as a way of working at your client’s cognitive skills.  One thing’s for sure, using Skill Game will inadvertently work on (and test) anybody’s frustration tolerance.

It is apparent, though, that Skill Game was not designed with the challenged population in mind.  As we mentioned earlier, we hoped to use this with our clients for cognitive rehabilitation, particularly our dementia clients.  Here’s hoping that the app developers may be able to come up with a stripped down version (without the no-crossing-lines rule).

Price: FREE (Skill Game Arcade is $0.99)
Weight: 18.5 MB
Updated: 13 May 2011
Version: 1.4
Compatible with: universal! Compatible with both the iPhone / iPod Touch and iPad
Seller: Good Apps UG
Target Population: clients and clinicians with good fine-motor skills and a lot of patience
Awesome if you want to work on:
  • fine motor skills
  • visual perceptual skills
  • visual attention skills
  • eye-hand coordination
Customer Ratings (iTunes): 4 out of 5 smileys
iSPeak App says: 4 out of 5 smileys

Free-Time: An app for the busy SLP

There are several apps out there that tweak your iDevice’s calendar one way or another.  And while it usually takes only one look at your carefully updated Calendar to see what available time you can squeeze out of an otherwise busy day, the app Free-Time makes this search easier for you.

What Free-Time does is that it pulls out information from your Calendar and tags your blank hours with the “free time” label.  Of course, just so the app understands that many of us (and not just therapists) work weird hours, it is necessary to customize the app before properly making it work.  Before using it for the first time, the app lets you:

  • specify what time you wake up and what time you go to bed
  • what and how long are your mealtimes
  • length of blocks you prefer for your free times (whole, 1-hour, 2-hour)
  • put in your name, email address, phone number (optional, but might be needed if you want to share info with others)

Free-Time has also thrown in a few more nice features, such as letting you:

  • filter days in which you are free
    • by meal:  breakfast, lunch, dinner
    • by time block: 30mins, 1 hour, 2 hours
    • by time range: adjustable using a slide
    • by day: select which days in a week
  • send information as a text message as to what day  and time blocks you are free
  • bump phones to a fellow Free-Time user to exchange information

An optional upgrade (for $0.99) allows the user to get Free-Time Premium in order to send unlimited emails and texts, make unlimited bumpings, and get rid of ads.  The upgrade does not seem to be available on iTunes but can be accessed from the Free-Time app itself.

The app itself uses muted blues and grays in most of the screens, and in the calendar other pale pastel colors with white font. The big fonts on the active week definitely work, but the white fonts on grays and greens may be a challenge to some discerning eyes.

There are some important tweakings that the app should have included (and hopefully will, in the future), most particularly:

  • customizing what day each week starts:  the app by default starts on a Monday, and many people, I included, would prefer if the week starts on a Sunday
  • a more flexible way of specifying work hours and sleep hours:  a lot of professionals out there work night shifts, and many too sleep during the day
  • options to customize font and time block colors:  if one is used to the colors in Calendar, it would be nice to associate specific colors to work versus free time.  The white font on washed-out block colors is less readable than if it were a darker color

It still is a worthwhile app to check out =)

Price: FREE (with optional upgrade for $0.99)
Weight: 9.2 MB
Updated: 3 June 2011
Version: 1.02
Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad (Needs iOS 4.0 up)
Seller: Ben Johnson @ Two Fourteen Software LLC
Target Population: clinicians, professionals
Awesome if you want to work on:
  • time management
Customer Ratings (iTunes): 3 out of 5 smileys
iSPeak App says: 4 out of 5 smileys