Finally, after months of waiting, Dropbox has officially released an iPhone app. The wait was worth it.
For those who are unaware, Dropbox is the wildly popular software that lets you sync, store, and share files online, between computers, and mobile phones. Previously, the only way to access Dropbox on the iPhone was via a mobile website.
Dropbox is not slow like iDisk. Deleting files off the free Dropbox iPhone App (iTunes link) instantaneously removed them from my MacBook. It was unbelievable how fast it occurred. Adding or deleting files from my MacBook did not change any files in the Dropbox app unless I closed the app and opened it again or switched between windows within the app. Again, the changes happened very fast.
Any files marked as “Favorite” in the app are downloaded for offline viewing. This is great because my carrier coverage can sometimes be spotty and I may need my critical files at anytime.
Pictures can be shot from within the app or selected from your iPhone Photo library and uploaded to Dropbox. These photos will be put into a folder if you are in the “Pictures” folder when uploading the picture. It would have been nice to have any photos automatically put into the “Pictures” folder.
There are a few downsides to the Dropbox iPhone app. Folders cannot be added to organize files unless you are on your computer. Also, files cannot be reordered unless they are in the “Favorites” window. This is a 1.0 release, so presumably these shortcomings will be fixed.
Dropbox is a great iPhone app and has set a high bar for competing syncing software to measure up to. The iPhone app and the Dropbox service itself are both free. The free Dropbox account includes 2GB of storage. For $9.99 or $19.99 USD a month, you can upgrade to get 50GB or 100GB of Dropbox storage.
My need to go to the library has decreased over the years because of the Internet, though I still go there frequently. When I do go to the library, a freeware application by Harold Chu called LIbrary Books makes managing my account easy.
Library Books is a application that resides in the menu bar and provides quick, helpful knowledge without making me go to my library’s web site. After entering in login credentials, the menu bar icon changes color depending on if books are due or holds have come in. It also shows the number of books currently checked out. Libraries from around the world are compatible with Library Books.
Library Books can be set to automatically update every few hours. It also supports multiple library accounts and can go directly go to my account page on the library’s web site. Library Books can also add due dates that are automatically synced into iCal. Optional alarms serve as due date reminders.
There is one issue to be aware of for MobileMe subscribers. iPhone OS 3.1 syncs subscription calendars to the iPhone and iPod touch. The calendar will not sync any events through MobileMe. The Library Books’ subscribed calendar will show events on the iPhone or iPod touch when syncing through iTunes.
Currently on version 2.5, Library Books 3.0 promises to show Growl notifications when holds have arrived. The only Growl notifications currently in 2.5 are for due dates. The minimum OS requirements are 10.4, but I can verify it works with 10.5 and the beta is compatible with 10.6. There is also a plan to bring a version to the App Store for iPhone and iPod touch users.
In the past year I’ve really began to utilize Google Docs. It’s a great way to write content on any computer and have it accessible from anywhere. Google Docs also allows for easy document creation and sharing across any platform, all you need is a browser! There is even an iPhone optimized website for viewing your Google Docs when you visit via Mobile Safari.
The other day I ran across a cool little Mac application that integrates Google Docs with Spotlight. The application, called Precipitate, is a System Preference pane used to tell Spotlight what to index from your Google account. In addition to Spotlight searching your Google Docs, it can also search your Google Bookmarks and Picasa Web Albums.
After downloading the application, just unzip the file and double click the preference pane file. It will ask if you want to install the preference pane for just you or all accounts. Chose your preference pane installation option and then open System Preferences and open the Precipitate preference pane.
Fill in your Google Account information and select the items you want to be searchable with Spotlight. Click the button in the lower right corner and wait for Precipitate to sync your selected content with your computer. The sync process only took a few minutes for me but I don’t store a ton of information in Google Docs. Precipitate stores a copy of the items on your computer along with a link to the file online.
Now just do a Spotlight search for your content and it will show up in the results! Selecting the item in Sportlight will launch your default web browser and take you right to the file online.
Precipitate is free and requires OS X 10.4 or later. If you frequently use Google Docs, this is a must have on your Mac.
Update: I forgot to mention one thing in my original post. Precipitate will sync your Google content every hour after setting up the software. One improvement I hope the developer makes is the addition of different sync time settings (e.g. once every 2, 4, 8 hours).
I was out of town this weekend so I’m a little late on this news, but it’s important and I wanted to share it with everyone. On March 1st, David Watanabe made NewsFire, his popular RSS reader, freeware. So why would he make this program free? David said, “Call it an experiment to draw people into the fold. Call it temporary insanity. Call it good will. Call it stupidity. I’m never really sure what my motivations are, but this one feels right in my gut.”
You’ll remember that it wasn’t that long ago when NetNewWire became free too. In that article I said, “This really makes it hard for any other Mac developer to sell an RSS client.” It looks like that statement is looking a little more true today. My hunch on why NewsFire became freeware is that sales were slowing due to NetNewsWire becoming freeware. Rather than kill the project, giving it away is a great way for people to experience your software and increase the likely hood of a return customer. David sells two other products so giving away NewsFire is a way to promote those pieces of software.
I’ve never used NewsFire but it is often recommend on various forums as a great RSS reader. If you don’t like your current method of reading feeds, you should give it a try.
Anyone using a Mac knows that the Mac development community is producing some amazing applications right now. With Mac sales at an all time high, those new to the Mac often don’t know about some of the great applications available. While there are a multitude of fantastic shareware applications available, the Mac community also has a number of great freeware and donationware applications to choose from.
I enjoy dabbling in a little web development and have purchased a number of fantastic tools. Despite owning a number of great shareware web development applications, I wanted to focus this article on some applications for those who don’t want to spend the money for shareware applications or just don’t have the money to spend. I’ll breakdown the best freeware applications into various web development categories.
Web Server and Languages
MAMP – MAMP stands for Mac Apache MySQL PHP. MAMP is a stand alone web development environment. Just install MAMP and you’re basically ready to go. MANP includes a desktop widget to easily start and stop Apache and MySQL. If you’re looking for the easiest way to setup your web server, database, and php then MAMP is your application. You can be up and coding in less than a few minutes.
Seashore – Seashore is a Cocoa based open source image editor. Seashore features gradients, textures, multiple layers, and alpha channel editing. Seashore is based around the GIMP‘s technology and uses the same file format. While you could just download the GIMP instead, Seashore does not use the X11 windowing system that some OS X users don’t care for.
The cornerstone of my Mac backup plan now works in Leopard. That’s right, SuperDuper has been updated to work with OS X 10.5. Perhaps one of the last major shareware applications to be updated for Leopard, the delay drew a lot of criticism from users. Some users had switched to using Carbon Copy Cloner due to the delays with SuperDuper. Many power users have implemented a backup plan and SuperDuper has become vital to so many users of its users. I actually delayed upgrading to Leopard because SuperDuper wasn’t yet Leopard compatible. I upgraded a little more than a week ago so this update comes at a perfect time for me.
Other than full Leopard compatibility, what else is new? SuperDuper 2.5 brings the ability to store bootable backups alongside Time Machine backups. You can also run scheduled copies on demand. A revision history can be found by selecting Help > Revision History from the SuperDuper menu. When I get home I’ll update this post with more information about the changes made in 2.5.
It appears like the traffic from the 2.5 release is crushing the Shirt Pocket servers as their forum and blog are both down. If you can hold off downloading the new version for a few hours you might want to wait for the traffic to die down.
SuperDuper will make bootable copies of your Mac hard drive and it won’t cost you a dime. For $28 you can purchase the software and it will unlock additional features likes scheduling, Smart Update, scripting, and more. The Smart Update feature saves hours of time backing up and if you are serious about backing up then $28 will be money well spent. As an alternative, you can also try Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) from Bombich Software. CCC is donationware and if you find it indispensable I highly suggest donating to the developer.
If you’re like me, you really enjoy the holiday season. The time between Thanksgiving and New Years is full of family and friend get-togethers, Christmas lights, fantastic dinners, presents, and more. Giving is also a very important theme of the holiday season. This holiday season I’m going to extend the giving to Mac developers.
In honor of the holiday giving spirit, I challenge the Apple Mac HQ readers to give a little money to some of the Mac freeware/donationware developers who write software that make your life easier. If you have a little money tucked away in your Paypal account, think about giving some money to those developers that give their software away. Do you have a few favorite applications that are free? If so, drop a little money in their virtual piggy bank.
As someone who donates time to a community effort (a local adventure racing club), I know what it feels like to volunteer my time and energy. Volunteering can be a very tiring effort, and while you feel great when you get compliments, there are always some who make you feel less than valuable. It’s impossible to make everyone happy.