Monthly Archives: April 2015

App of the Week – Skitch

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

logoSince Evernote consistently delivers helpful apps that help us work smarter, we decided to try out Skitch, an Evernote-owned annotation tool with the tagline: “Snap. Mark up. Send.” It really is that easy. It could be called Snapchat for productivity, except that you (and/or your recipient) get to keep the photo.

Skitch allows you to annotate/draw on/mark-up any website, photo, map, or PDF of your choosing. You can also draw and annotate an idea from scratch. Skitch aims to facilitate visual communication (marking up a photo or map to highlight points for others), but it also allows you to simply make better use of your own notes. Need to study for anatomy? Just use the text and arrows to label a photo you snapped from your textbook. Want to screencap or scan your notes and highlight them for use on your iPad? The possibilities are endless.

USMASite

Most Helpful Features:

  • Simple, easy-to-use interface.
  • Each document choice (photo, maps, etc.) provides the same mark-up tools – you can add text, colorful arrows, shapes, stamps, and even emoticons. You can even use the pixelation feature to blur out information you don’t want to share (or distract others with).
  • Allows you to export your items to Evernote, email, Facebook, Twitter, and many other compatible apps.
  • You can configure your settings to automatically upload shared photos to your Camera Roll.

Downsides:

One of the more helpful features of the app–PDF mark-up–is only provided as a one-time in-app purchase of $1.99. However, if you read a lot of PDFs on your iPad and plan to take notes on them, it will be worth it to pay for this feature. It costs less than your morning coffee, and will save your printing allowance (and the environment).

EmailSkitch

Bottom Line:

Skitch is a simple mark-up tool that allows you to visually communicate with others quickly and easily. As always, if you try it out, please feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

Review: Skitch lets you visually highlight images to help your point

Staff Picks: Sketch a little here and there with Skitch

Skitch is a multi-purpose editing tool for doodling on any document

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – Lingua.ly

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

maxresdefaultWhile learning a new language, you can never have too many resources at your disposal. If you’ve started using an app like Duolingo to get familiar with another language’s vocabulary, you’ll be looking for ways to test your new skills in the real world. The Lingua.ly app provides an immersive language experience by allowing you to read online articles–generally recent headline news–in the language of your choice, on a topic of your choice.

While it may be helpful to have a little vocabulary knowledge of the language you’re trying to read in, the app still works well for beginners because it lets you “select” every word you don’t understand. The app then translates the word and pronounces it for you. It also remembers all the words you select, and these become your ongoing vocabulary words. You can practice these words at any time, or keep reading through articles – the app adapts the articles it shows you to what you’re learning!

GermanSports

Most Helpful Features:

  • Completely free – and it’s also ad free.
  • No set lessons, so essentially, you’re deciding what you learn by choosing specific articles to read.
  • The app only suggests articles for you that are on your level (which it guesses based on your vocabulary and quizzes).
  • You can learn multiple languages at a time.
  • It tracks your progress with points earned and words learned.
  • It encourages short intervals of learning by letting you choose how many words you want to review at a time.
  • Lingua.ly began as a browser extension in Google Chrome, so if you’d like an additional dimension to your learning, add it to save vocabulary from websites and turn them into automatic flashcards.

Downsides:

  • The app doesn’t teach you the grammar behind the sentences – it just immerses you in the language experience.
  • Can have trouble with idiomatic phrases, and may translate very literally.
  • Sometimes, there are no articles available for the language and topic you want at the time (example – Arabic + science articles), but I just try a different combination and find other interesting things to read.
  • Only 10 languages are supported on the iOS app right now, but more will be supported soon. More languages are already supported on the web and Android versions. FrenchTravel

Bottom Line:

Lingua.ly provides a fun, enriching language-learning experience by guiding you through current world happenings in the language of your choice. It is an excellent tool to add to your language acquisition arsenal. As always, if you try it out, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

Lingua.ly, Which Turns The Internet Into A Language Learning Tool, Launches Its First App

EdTech Startup Lingua.ly Raises $1M for its Immersive Language Platform

Finally, a Language Learning App That Works

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – HabitRPG

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

Have you evelogor wished real life was more like a video game, where you could get rewards for completing everyday tasks? Would earning experience points or leveling up your character for doing your research or finishing a paper motivate you to get started earlier or work a little harder? If so, HabitRPG might be just be your alternative to a more traditional to-do list.

HabitRPG is based on a role-playing game, where one creates a character and undertakes a quest, faces obstacles, gains experience, and levels-up along the way. You sign up for an account either through the website or app (you can use email or a Facebook login); Habit RPG then allows you to design your character and immediately start adding and completing tasks. While getting set-up is fairly straightforward, the game aspect is in-depth enough to truly be considered an RPG, so you may want to check out the site FAQ and the rest of the HabitRPG wiki for all of your quest and character possibilities (as well as how to level up and avoid death!).

On the surface, though, it’s a fairly straightforward concept. There are 4 categories of action: Habits, Dailies, To-Dos, and Rewards. You add good habits that you want to maintain, but you can also include bad habits that you want to break. Checking off Dailies and To-dos offer instant gratification in the form of gold, and the more gold you have, the better rewards you can “buy.”

Most Helpful Features:

  • Unlike some other RPG apps and websites, this one is totally free.
  • The interface is reminiscent of Minecraft and Legend of Zelda, which gives it more of a game feel than simply a habit/task app.
  • In addition to being rewarded for your good habits, you are penalized for your lack of action (or continuing bad habits), from gradually losing health to the death of your character – so you can’t afford to ignore your tasks!
  • Allows you to rank your habits as Easy, Medium, or Difficult, and you can make daily tasks recurring.
  • Keeps a chart of your progress for each habit.
  • Rewards can be anything you want — there are several in-game tools you can earn, or you can give yourself an hour of Netflix time.
  • On the website, you can join a guild (some of them have thousands of other players), join challenges and compete against other players to win gems, and create a party of friends to go on a quest with.
  • If you want to get really into the game and also keep yourself on track, you can download a Google Chrome browser extension for the website version that will actually hurt your character if you waste time on specific websites (such as Facebook or Reddit – you can choose the worst offenders).

HabitWeb

Downsides:

Unfortunately, the app itself does not contain the full game capacity of the web version of HabitRPG, but when you’re logged into your account, the app and the site work together. You are able to edit your character, control all of the basic habits and tasks, maintain inventory, and chat socially with others in the app. If you are looking for an app-only experience and don’t want to deal with the website, the app works fine as a stand-alone resource, and is still fun and addictive.

Bottom Line:

HabitRPG helps you establish good habits and set goals while literally leveling up in life. If you enjoy gaming and need some extra motivation, give it a try. As always, if you check it out, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

HabitRPG Makes Improving Yourself Actually Addictive

Life Is A Game: Level Up Life and HabitRPG

HabitRPG Turns Better Behavior into a Game of Survival

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – 30/30

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

30-30logopngTask management is a crucial part of being a student, and good time management will benefit you throughout life. These skills do not always come naturally, though – so there’s an app for that.

In fact, there are many task management apps out there, and many utilize the Pomodoro Technique of tackling work in blocks while taking short breaks in between. 30/30 is an established Pomodoro-esque timer app that allows you to create a daily timed task list. The name implies you’ll work in a 30 minute block and take a 30 minute break, but the app offers much more flexibility. You simply add new tasks (using gesture controls like dragging your fingers apart vertically), choose a time frame for them, and put them in order. The app will let you know when time is up on one task, and automatically starts the next in line. You can add or subtract time as necessary, easily move tasks around, or pause a task when you’re interrupted.

SOSHpaper

30/30 seems to work best when you need to accomplish a task (or several) and use it to keep you on track and focused. For example, while working on an assignment, you can schedule 30 minutes of writing, a 10 minute break, 30 more minutes of writing, 20 minutes of Netflix, a 6 minute coffee run, 30 more minutes of writing, and so on.

This app can also help you figure out how you work – do you need 20 minutes of writing with a 20 minutes break? Is a task taking longer than you anticipated, forcing you to schedule more blocks? Is it helpful to work on another assignment for 30 minutes and come back to your paper with fresh eyes? 30/30 can teach you how to use your time more efficiently.

SampleTaskList

Most helpful features:

  • Attractive, easy-to-use interface.
  • Instructions for using the app are built into the format as a sample task list, so you can try and test out all of the features before starting your own list.
  • Uses gesture controls (swiping right to delete, tapping with two fingers, etc.) that are easy to learn.
  • You can schedule tasks from a few seconds up to 9 hours each (though that would slightly defeat the purpose of the app!).
  • You can turn on reminder notifications for when you leave the app, but want to stay on track.
  • It doesn’t force you to assign a task to a time of day, so you can start and stop tasks as your time allows, or rearrange the order of tasks with a swipe of the finger.

Downsides:

It may take you a few minutes to figure out the gesture controls, but after that the app is easy to navigate. Overall, I found the app incredibly helpful.

Bottom Line:

30/30 is an easy-to-use task management resource that can help you work smarter and avoid the procrastination trap. As always, if you try it out, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

Schedule your day with free task manager 30/30

30/30 is a Productivity App for the Procrastinator in All of Us

30/30: A Timer with a Sleek Design

Review: 30/30 Simple Task Manager for iPad

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian