Category Archives: Software

Which software is right for you?

Kar2ouche Composer

Kar2ouche Composer is the core application for the Kar2ouche range of educational software titles. Each title addresses a particular school curriculum area and may even address a particular focus within a broader curriculum subject.

Within the general category of “History” titles, therefore, there are specific titles for “The Romans”, “The Greeks”, “The Vikings” and “The First World War”. However, there are also titles appropriate to religious education, Science, Math and so on. The individual titles provide a rich set of characters backgrounds and props and come with a dossier of teacher’s notes and other resources such as sound clips appropriate to the theme. The composer application provides the basic interface and all the tools that the user deploys in order to organize these resources on or across a series of “scenes”. These scenes are very loosely comparable to the slides in a PowerPoint presentation and, as in PowerPoint presentations, the transitions between the slides can be programmed to create simple animations that can be ultimately exported as QuickTime presentations. The real power of this application lies in its usability, however, for it is extremely well designed and benefits from an extremely accessible interface that owes little to windows oriented principle that characterizes many software applications. Children as young as six or seven years of age can quickly learn to import elements into scenes, manipulate and compose these elements in a variety of ways and even create soundtracks from the files provided by the titles or that they have recorded themselves.

Bueno Bento

The new Bento program from Filemaker makes it easy for Mac users to create and manage personal databases.

Simply select one of the pre-formatted templates and begin entering data for projects, contacts, events, home inventory, items for sale, and more. Bento templates are already designed and include the fields the programmers think you’re likely to use. Some fields link to iCal so that you can enter events and tasks in Bento and later see them in iCal. The templates are also easy to customize. You can change the “theme” to pick a new color and/or type style, add data fields, select number of columns, or completely rearrange your layout. By adding fields and customizing your layout, you can get much of the power of a more traditional (and expensive) database program for a fraction of the time and cost. Bento is just $49.

OpenCanvas

OpenCanvas – A diamond in the rough? Artists looking for a simple, yet powerful illustration program need to look no further!

OpenCanvas is an amazing program that, though doesn’t have the artillery of Photoshop or Painter, does what it’s supposed to and does it well — drawing. It has very smooth, precise lines that will get as small as .1 while still retaining an elegant line. It gives amazing support for tablet users, allowing them to work as if they were using real media. Its simple user interface is inviting to even fairly beginning users, beckoning for anyone to come in and play around with the variety of options available.

It has very simple filters, so if you’re looking for the “big guns” that Photoshop has to offer, this isn’t your program. However, if you’re looking for a simple way to create beautiful, smooth pieces, OpenCanvas will deliver. However, the program isn’t quite as readily available as Photoshop or Painter. It’s originated from Japan, and though the website has English support, it can sometimes be poorly translated and hard to understand. However, if you can get your hands on this little powerhouse, I assure you that you will not be disappointed.

Adium

Adium is a free IM client for Mac OS X. It supports AIM, MSN, Jabber, ICQ and Yahoo protocols and has a very Mac friendly interface.

So far everything has worked well for me with the exception of a ICQ password hiccup from Keychain. After having tried Fire, Adium is simply easier to understand and get started with. Since Adium is based on LibGaim, don’t expect any video / audio chat features to be implemented soon. This is the problem with all “unofficial” clients. Why can’t MSN just make an iSight compatible Messenger client already? Final word: good stuff, easy to use, free!

You Need A Budget

The economy has a lot of us looking at our finances much more closely. Personal budgeting software is one way to keep a firm grip on your cash. While some just keep a simple list in Excel, or use a larger finance package like Quicken, there is some great software geared towards individual budgets.

You Need A Budget Pro (YNAB) is one of the more popular solutions. YNAB costs $50 and claims it will help anyone stop living from check to check. YNAB is very simple. The software is based on the premise that an effective budget looks forward, instead of just simply tallying past expenses. The software has 3 major modes – the “budget” mode, where you plan individual categories for monthly expenses, the “register” mode, where you write down what you actually spent, and the “reports” mode, that shows graphs of your spending. What sets YNAB apart from other budgeting software is its built-in emphasis on good budgeting practice. You are heavily encouraged to budget your income for the coming month, instead of blowing it all in the present. It also encourages you to budget down to $0 – so you assign all of your money to a purpose. As a personal solution, YNAB does what is does very well. If you expect a more in-depth finance package (say, something to help you balance your checkbook) YNAB won’t help. But if you’re looking to write a solid budget, and actually stick to it, YNAB is a great purchase.

Endnote X

I’ve been using Endnote X recently which has some new features that make this version better than previous ones.

For those of you who are new to the Endnote software, this a program that can organize references and automatically link them to be inserted in whichever format you choose to appear in your Microsoft Word document. Once you have created a library, it is very easy to important citations and create a reference list. New features of EndnoteX include the ability to organize your own pdf files in an Endnote library which is an innovative way to store pdfs, because I never quite new how best to do this before. It’s an easy drag and drop feature and then can be compressed and backed up all together. With some new search options, this new version of Endnote is a good improvement on the old classic and one that I can’t do any of my research work without!