Check Your 2011 Email Habits With ToutApp

Interesting. ToutApp lets you pull a report on your 2011 email habits and insights from a scan of your inbox. Tout’s main biz is email management software that assists businesses in making the most of their email efforts, by offering Email shortcuts, View/Click tracking, Scheduling and Analytics for those emails. The app requires permissions to scan your emails, calculate a set of metrics and generate the report. It purports to only look at your email headers and not content or file attachments. Once the report is generated, the data is discarded. While the report is only accessible to you, you can choose to share it with others via a secured link. Tout does advise that, while your report is secure, it may use data to create its own reports on generalized geographic trends, albeit in a completely anonymous manner. Right now, the app only works with Gmail – and you need to make sure that IMAP is enabled and that the Language setting is set to “English.” Apparently, the app will extend to other providers soon, so stay tuned.

If this interests you, then check out the explanatory video below.

Best Wishes for the Holidays – From The Studio

 

In this uncharacteristically quiet moment between managing day job, second job, household, interesting side projects and personal life, I felt it quite necessary to express my wishes to everyone who visits my humble virtual soap box a very happy holiday season. When I reflect back, as I usually do at this time of the year, I recall a great twelve months chock full of all sorts of interesting tech and professional developments – more than enough to keep me writing and, as it appears, to keep you reading. No doubt, there will be plenty more in 2012 and I am very much looking forward to reading, writing and learning.

I hope everyone has a wonderful season and I wish everyone health, happiness, companionship, prosperity, peace, hope, and good cheer in the upcoming year. Farewell 2011 and hello 2012! Fa, la, la, la, la, … la, la, la, laaaaaa. 🙂

Echosign Goes Mobile – Legally Binding Contracts on Your iPad / iPhone

 

Adobe teamed up with Echosign, an electronic signature service, a while back and now its hitting up the iPad and iPhone with all of the legally binding digital goodness in Echosign’s universal iOS app. Echosign allows you to send instant fax and e-signatures, track changes to contracts in real time, auto store and manage signed agreements, all with enterprise-grade security. Echosign has a number of different integrations, but this new iDevice option is pretty sweet. Download the iOS app for free and Echosign subscribers can attach their electronic signatures to any document within the app, along with the great sending and tracking features found in the full-service version. Echosign is no fly-by-night either – a lot of big names you might recognize rely on it for the contract execution and tracking efforts (Twitter, Google, Facebook, VMware, Dell, and Groupon, to name a few). So what are you waiting for? Get signing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Tech Gadget Holiday List For 2011

I’m a little worried. My husband has been silent about Christmas gifts this year. In other words, he hasn’t asked for any guidance at all. Which could mean something really good. Or really not.

Everyone can benefit from a little advice now and then, and maybe he might take a peek over here in the Studio, so I thought I would give him the subtle clue of a list of awesome tech toys I wouldn’t mind seeing under my little Christmas / Hanukkah shrub. Here goes:

1. Wacom Inkling

I love art-related gadgets and this one promises to be the best combination of tech and craft – simply clip the receiver to your regular paper or sketchbook, use the special pen and record your every stroke so that you can upload into your computer for storage or further refinement. While I love my Wacom tablets, the Inkling promises greater freedom of movement akin to actual sketching, so that you are less hampered by the medium and able to better express the art. Stores hundreds of images in the receiver before you have to upload to your computer. Export your sketches with layers directly from the Inkling Sketch Manager software into Adobe® Photoshop, Illustrator(CS3+), Autodesk Sketchbook Pro (2011+) or Autodesk Sketchbook Designer. Or save your artwork in PG, BMP, TIFF, PNG, SVG & PDF. At $199, its almost affordable. Can’t wait to sketch up some caricatures with this baby.

2. Sonos Wireless HiFi

An oldie, but a goodie that I have been eyeing for a few years. The Sonos system allows you to wireless stream music all over your home. The system is zoned, so that you can play different music in different zones or spaces. With the Zoneplayers and Controllers, you can set up your music any way you want, attaching the player to traditional speakers and amps as a replacement to your traditional audio media players or serving as a standalone media / speaker system. With the wireless, remote Controller, you can then walk around your home and make changes to the music in any space in which you have access to a Zoneplayer. Stream your stored music or access one of the streaming music services like Spotify, Pandora, Napster, Rhapsody, or MOG. Endless music. So cool! Now my kids can listen to Bruno Mars downstairs while I rock some Charlie Parker upstairs. Prices range, depending on your set up. But you can get Zoneplayers starting below $300 and controllers starting below $200.

3. Kindle Fire

Yes, I know it’s the poor cousin to the noble iPad, but I have to admit, I’m intrigued. At 7 inches, it is easy to grab and store, but big enough to make your media look good. And that is what Fire’s all about – media. Read your Kindle books, watch Amazon Prime Movies, browse through digital magazines, and listen to your Amazon Music library. Plus, it has a snappy Amazon-crafted Silk browser and a neat UI based loosely on Android. Grab email and load up some apps – while you can’t easily get access to the entire Android Market, you can get a nice selection via the Amazon App Store. Full color, touchscreen, fast dual core processor, games, free cloud storage, document management and a book lending library. That’s a lot for $199 – a VERY competitive price. Think of it as 8 hardcover books – same price, much lighter and able to carry a whole lot more than that! Yup. The Fire would make a lovely stocking stuffer indeed.

4. Livescribe Echo Smartpen

This is also not such a new product, but a great update on a old standby. And, as you can tell, I have a fondness for digital writing implements. The Echo smartpen is more about note taking than scribbling. The uber-cool pen records both audio and handwritten notes in real-time and can link the two together so that you can easily retrieve the audio at a particular point in the written notes. You have to use Livescribe’s proprietary notebooks, but you also get a 3.5mm headphone jack for listening in, password protection for security, and an OLED display to show name of the Smartpen and definitions of the hand written words via built in applications. USB connector, built in microphone and speaker, and up to 4 or 8 GB of built in memory. That’s a lot of notes. You also get the Livescribe software, a digital text conversion program, and online storage space for notes. Customize your pen with a horde of apps, running the gamut of games to productivity. Prices start at $150.

5. Fuji Finepix X100

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to shoot film, first and foremost. With the declining supply of decent film cameras and places to develop the stuff, I have had to migrate over to digital, defaulting to the camera that is always with me – my iPhone. But I seriously drool over this gorgeous, retro-looking but advanced-feature laden beauty, the Fuji Finepix X100. Perhaps it is because it looks and feels so much like the film cameras of yore, perhaps it is its unique dual viewfinder (both optical and electronic), its crystal clear lens and manual and automatic shooting modes, or the clear quality of feel when you heft it. Or maybe it is the stunning image quality this beauty reproduces. There is no doubt that the X100 is for me – classic film camera style with modern cutting edge results. Can be had for under $1,200.

6. Asus EEE Pad Transformer TF101

It’s a tablet, no, it’s a laptop, no it’s a tablet! When you can’t decide whether you want the efficiency of a tablet or the functionality of a laptop’s full keyboard, check out the EEE Pad Transformer. It’s two gadgets in one. More of a high end Android-powered offering, this pad has a great feature set and excellent flexibility. Big Tegra 2 1.0GHz dual-core CPU and Android 3.2 Honeycomb O.S. with 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich upgradability. And, for you iPad haters, Adobe Flash 10.2 support. Here’s the gimmick – a full QWERTY keyboard as well as touchpad input with Polaris Office. Extra long 16 hours of battery life, web storage, two USB ports, SD and Micro SD card readers and 3D stereo. Dock your mobile keyboard and it looks and feels just like a laptop. Or drop the keyboard and go tablet-style. Why choose? The Transformer looks and feels great. It knocks a Benjamin off the basic iPad as well – more money for apps. Starting at under $400 for the 16GB model.

7. Galaxy Nexus Smartphone

I really can’t complain. I have a couple of great smartphones already – the iPhone 4 and the LG G2x. But I have to admit, the recently released Galaxy Nexus is more than a little tempting. With the cleanest, purest version of Google’s latest mobile operating system, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and a sleek hardware package care of Samsung, this phone is a beauty. The Galaxy Nexus has an HD Contour display, Super AMOLED 4.6 inch 720p screen, a 1.3MP front camera, a 5MP low-light optimized rear camera with flash. A 1.2 GHz dual core processor keeps things moving along. I admit, as a user of two fantastic phones, the Nexus’ greatest appeal is the pure Ice Cream Sandwich experience. If you are similarly interested, you can pick up a Galaxy Nexus from Verizon for $300.

8. VuPoint Magic Wand Portable Scanner

Moving into the realm of practical, I love the idea of paperless and a nifty gadget like the Magic Wand scanner can get you there. This portable bar allows you to scan by simply passing the reader over the desired paper and to store the image on the onboard Micro SD card. Format is JPEG and interface is USB 2.0. Selectable scan widths up to 8.5″ and color or B&W selectable. Available in small, regular size and Bluetooth-enabled. The little display shows your settings, number of stored scans, capacity of your card, battery life, and resolution. There are scan and error lights as well. There is also a Microsoft file stitching program on board for larger documents. And, best of all, it comes in colors! Make mine red. All that and under $100. Hard to beat – it fits nicely in that stocking.

9. B&W C5 In-Ear Headphones

My wish list would not be complete without something from my favorite speaker makers, Bowers & Wilkins. This year, they released these gorgeous C5 earbuds and I wouldn’t mind a pair of my own. Noise-isolating, comfortable and sonically awesome. Hands-free on your iPhone. These are the phones for critical listening – I wouldn’t recommend them to the heavy rap or processed pop crowd. Balanced and beautiful. Feel good and sound good, the B&W way. Consider these a replacement for those diamond studs – they will set you back around $200.


10. AppleMacBook Air (and throw in an iPad 2 while you’re at it)

Hey, it’s a wish list, right? Why can’t I have my aluminum and glass cake and eat it too? I love my first gen iPad and year+ old MacBook Pro, but who wouldn’t want the latest and greatest the finest consumer gadget design firm ever has to offer? Sign me up for a 13.3 inch MacBook air and a 32 GB WiFi / 3G iPad 2, please? I promise I will be good for the next 12 months!

Well, that’s it. Not too bad, right? It could have been worse. I could have asked for my own private island, a Premier League football team or a pony. It’s all about the perspective. Happy holidays from the Studio – hope your season is filled with happiness, joy, light and fellowship. And a few shiny new gadgets. Peace out!

Flavors.me. Redux.

 

A fantastic tool for creating a quick, gorgeous Web presence – a hub for your spokes, as it were, just got better. I wrote about Flavors.me a while back, raving about how easy it is to whip up a site with links to your other internet hangouts that looks and acts professional for the whopping sum of free. Per an email I received from the fine folks at Flavors.me today, this awesome tool just got even better. The email invited me to check out the new Flavors.me and upgrade my site to take advantage of it. So I did.

 

 

Create your free account at Flavors.me and start building your site. The interface works just about the same as the prior site editor – it is very visual and selecting colors, backgrounds, layouts and fonts will show the changes right away as you edit.

 

 

There are new services, like Instagram and Soundcloud, that you can add to your page. There are tons of new fonts (I LOVE FONTS) and color schemes to choose from. While I find there to be plenty of great layout options, a premium membership ($20 per year) will give you more, as well as the ability to use your own custom domain, contact information, the ability to review stats, mobile-optimize you site (also new) and a ticket to join the Flavors.me community, presumably to promote your Flavors.me presence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is difficult to find fault with a free service such as Flavors.me, particularly if you need to throw up a professional looking site fast. I have recommended Flavors.me to clients who wish to get a web presence without a huge investment, and they are always happy with the results. Take a look at what 10 minutes of Web design got me on Flavors.me and you be the judge.

 

 

The most striking new feature is the new social piece – you can now follow the streams of others who use Flavors.me. You can follow and be followed back by other Flavors.me users, and filter who and what you want to see in your social stream.

 

 

There is a lot to digest, and sometimes it helps to get it in a visual so check out the video below for a quick montage about the new service and what it can do for you. Since it’s free, why not throw up a page that serves as another place to link your Web and gain some social traction?

OneNote To Be Microsoft's First Foray On To iPad!

I HEART ONENOTE! I have said it before here on the Studio and it is time to crow about it again. Why? Because OneNote will be the first of Microsoft’s Office products to hit the iPad and I think that is just perfect.

If you aren’t familiar with this fantastic note taking / note book application often found bundled in the Office suite, then check out my quick post about OneNote here. About a year ago, I was jumping for joy when OneNote first made it onto the iPhone, making OneNote all the more convenient and accessible. Now, just in time for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, OneNote becomes the newest note taking and organizing tool on the ubiquitous iPad.

Like the iPhone version, OneNote for iPad is not as full featured as the desktop. You can sync and view your desktop notes on your iPad while on the go. You can also create and mail notes while out and about. You will need to activate a Windows Live account to get the syncing feature – well worth the effort as it offers a few other cool goodies, like SkyDrive. 

In Case Facebook Timeline Is Giving You Agita

I am seeing all sorts of grumbling in and out of Facebook and across the Web about the new Timeline view. I opted into the view a few months back because, well, why not? I like to try out new things. Although it was a bit confusing for me at first, I have grown to love the look of it and the improved organization it brings to your Facebook life.

Since billions and billions of people use Facebook, making a major interface tweak like Timeline is no small step. It will dramatically affect how you interact vis a vis your Profile. But, if you step back and take a few deep breaths, and do a little reading, you can get the basics down enough to manage your information flow effectively and maybe even show off some slickness.

I find it very nice to be able to scroll up and down to see my Facebook “life” in a visual, chronological order. You can easily navigate all the way back to when you joined Facebook and chuckle at your newbie ways. This seems a far more intuitive way to view the information, once you get used to it.

If you don’t already have Timeline, you will see a prompt when you view your Facebook Profile to check Timeline out. Follow the instructions to enable. If you don’t like it, you can go back to the old style, but remember that Facebook is going to foreclose that option very soon, so it makes sense to get comfortable with the new layout sooner rather than later.

Now, for the slickness. Look toward the top of your profile page and you will see a button that says “add a cover.” This “cover” is a nearly page wide image that can serve as a static visual for your page. Click on it, then select an image from your Facebook photos or load up a new one, make any adjustments you might want and you are good to go. If you are unhappy with your image, never fear. Simply hover over the right side and a button will appear offering you the ability to change that cover. Click on it and follow the same process as above. Looking good!

 

Change the covers of albums by hovering over the album and clicking the pencil to edit by selecting the “change primary photo” option. Or you can even highlight a particular post on your page – just click on the star at the upper right and it will give you the option to increase the post’s size vis a vis other posts.

You can mess around with your Favorites boxes too. These are the little images with titles just below you Cover photo. Friends and Photos have to stay where they are, but the remaining boxes can be shuffled around for maximum effect. Hover over them, click on the pencil and adjust accordingly.

 

 

If privacy is important to you and you are interested in hiding unwanted information / posts from your timeline, you can do so by clicking the Pencil icon at the top right of the post, right next to the star icon showing above. That will give you the option to hide from the timeline. But maybe you still want to be able to see everything – that can be done too. Simply click on the Activity Log button just to the lower right of your cover photo. Then you will see a complete action history broken down by date. This log is only visible to you and it will show stuff you chose to hide from your Timeline view. Filter from the “all” drop down menu at the top right – you can limit activity to certain types for a better look. You can adjust the visibility of individual posts from within the Timeline as well.

Click that little cog to the right of Activity Log and you can switch your view of your own timeline to that of someone else – so you can make sure that you are truly hiding / showing what you want others to not see or see. Maybe you want to share something directly into your Timeline other than the usual stuff of status, photos, etc. There is a way now to insert important or interesting information directly into your Timeline to flesh it out, as it were. You may have notice a line with dots running down the center of your profile page. Simple hover over that line, click on the plus sign that appears at any point in time and up will pop a box allowing you to enter a Status, Photo, Place or Life Event. It’s like going back and editing your past with the stuff you forgot to include the first time around. Not a bad idea if you want to point out some significant achievement or cool happening that you were too busy to post about while you were actually experiencing it.

Dislike ads as much as I do? Then you might like the ability to “x” out an ad you don’t like. It won’t remove ads entirely, but it will get rid of the particularly annoying ones. Just hover over the ad and click the “x” and say Sayonara. If you want to tailor the content you are seeing from friends, head on over to their profile, click on the Subscribe button and select just what you want to see from them.

This should get you well on your way to a Timeline experience you can live with. I daresay you may even enjoy it eventually. It really offers a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate view of your activity on the most popular social network in the world. Spend a few moments learning the ins and outs, tweaking it and kicking the tires, and you will be a Timeline pro in no time.

Quick Guide to Online Interaction

With my crazy day-job and travel schedule these past few weeks, I haven’t been able to post my usual volume of quality content. Here is a quickie until I can get some more fully featured posts up. Nice simple infographic about what sites on the Web are designed for certain business- related tasks. Enjoy.

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Taking Tasks to the Next Step with IFTTT

To do lists are fine, but for me, they mostly serve as reminders of all the things I haven’t done yet (and probably won’t get to for some time). What if you could automate some of your tasks – set up a simple chain of events that you put in motion once and then never really have to think about again? If this idea appeals, then If This Then That (“IFTTT”) might be just what you are looking for.

The application is conceived and executed by setting up triggers and actions in channels. Channels are essentially the web services that you may manually use every day, but with this app you can define certain triggers (the “if”) and then assign an action to the trigger (the “that”). The “if” can be something like “I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook” or “someone mentions me on Twitter.” The “that” can be “send me a text message” or  “create a status update on Facebook.” Your triggers and actions are limited to the channels available on ifft, but there are more than enough to choose from to make the set up worth your time.

You can have up to 20 active tasks set up and running at any given time.

You select the channel for the trigger, define the trigger, then set the channel for the action and define the action. For example, see below:

You get the “picture.”  When you pick a channel, you are given a limited number of options for triggers and tasks, such as “add in” language for tweets, but there are many combinations. Follow the steps, define or describe your task and you are all set up. There is a date and time trigger as well that will allow you to initiate tasks at a certain time and date. Tasks can be turned on or off and when they are resumed they pick up right where they left off. Tasks poll for new trigger information every 15 minutes or so, so the results are relatively current.

Another very cool aspect of ifttt is the community involvement in task creation. Task “recipes” can be created and shared with other users on the site. So, while you are certainly free to create your own little cause and effect loops from scratch, you can also forego the heavy lifting and check out some of the other great recipes put together by clever ifttt users.

I believe ifttt is simply brilliant. Set tasks up and watch them go, with no further interaction from you. While it might not be appropriate for all of your online actions and interactions, there are plenty of tasks that simply do not need oversight. Save yourself some time and effort with this fantastic tool.

New Google Navigation Bar Looks Sharp

The black bar wasn’t really so awful. But Google apparently is still in the throes of its massive remodel and unification of services, and has announced plans to ditch the black bar in favor of a nested services arrangement under the Google logo itself. Services are linked in a drop-down menu that pops out when you click on the Google logo, showing links to services such as search, Gmail, +, Maps and News.

The bar is split into three regions – the Logo and drop-down menu on left, the familiar search box in the middle and a share box and Google+ notifications on the right side, which are visible on any Google page.

Google believes the redesign makes navigation and sharing “super simple.” I would argue that frequent changes to the set up actually make matters a bit more complicated, at least in the short run.

If the new set up hasn’t yet been rolled out to you, you can check it out in the video below. Hope you like the new digs.