All posts by George Monroy

George J Monroy is a freelance blogger in the Los Angeles area. George produces sports, entertainment and technology content for various internet sites. He is also a technology aficionado and consumes the topic on a daily basis.

iOS app review: Tie Assistant its great way to learn how to knot a tie

tie assistant 3Knotting a tie can be as difficult. All those twists and turns, and knots and pulleys can get a man dizzy by just trying. How does Tim Cook do it every morning? Well, he probably has Siri do it, or his team of iPhone designers because we all know they haven’t been putting in any effort on that project since the 3G. I’m kidding, I’m kidding (no, I’m not).

If you are a tech geek that couldn’t knot a tie to save your hard drive from crashing, or just someone who loves to combine a great looking tie with any outfit, dressy or casual, then do we have the app for you: Tie Assistant. If you are new to the underground world of ties, or simply need a fresher on all the various types of knots to use, Tie Assistant is the perfect place to start.

The app, which is available for all Apple iOS devices, is a free download in the Lifestyle category, and will give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to knot virtually any type of tie that you please. It also may become the new favorite app for tie aficionados everywhere.

Tie Assistant is great for tie experts or beginners alike. The free version of the app has tutorials on six different types of knots, ranging from the simple ‘Kent’, all the way to the exotic, and, not for beginners, ‘Hannover’ knot. The charm of the app is its extensive list of knot types that tie beginners, or even experts, might not have known about if they were simply searching for instructional videos on the internet.

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Tie Assistant also has a paid version of the app for $0.99 that will give you access to 22 different tutorials on how to knot your tie. Yes, 22 different ways. I am not kidding. The paid version of the app will teach you the Double Windsor, the Half Windsor, the Kelvin, and the Cavendish — and, no, I am not making up any of these names. And, that’s not even the half of it either, because there are over 80 ways to knot a tie, and the Tie Assistant app continues to add more and more tutorials into its system.

The tutorials themselves are simple and easy to follow. They are pictures of a shirt and tie that will walk you through each turn of the tie step-by-step. I tried tying a few different knots that I was not familiar with, and was able to get the process down quickly and without any major issues. The high-resolution pictures were a big help and easy to understand. But, of course, I only tried the simple knots. I don’t know that I am ready for the crazy eight-step knots like the ‘Hannover’—the force is weak with me.

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Tie Assistant is an excellent app to have stored in one of your Apple device. It is available for both the iPad and iPhone, and could be a life saver during one of those James Bond 007 moments where you need to tie an exotic knot before you have a martini—shaken, not stirred. Or a Heineken… I’m not entirely sure what James Bond is drinking nowadays.

Overall, Tie Assistant is a stylish and easy to use app that could really come in handy when you need to knot a tie. With over 22 different ways to do so, it is definitely worth the price at only $0.99. I would recommend that you try out the free version of the app first, and if it turns out to be something that you like, then go ahead and splurge on the full version (you can upgrade at any time while using the app). Your ties may just thank you for it later.

I rate Tie Assistant an 8 out of 10 and it is definitely an above-average iOS app.

Astrid is a near perfect to-do list for both iOS and Android

Logo_Astrid-320Calendars for 2013 are still fresh off the printing presses, and even though we are only a few weeks into January, I suspect that most people’s New Year’s resolutions are being broken by the minute. I started with six, but unfortunately they are being picked off faster than zombies on the Walking Dead. So, in order to keep the three resolutions I have left, I needed to do something drastic.

Get. A. To. Do. List.

Yes, an actual to-do-list. I’ve avoided them for years – but in order to stay productive during the year it was my only option.

In my despair I download Astrid, a to-do-list app available for iPhone, iPad and Android. And to my surprise, the app was fantastic and the best thing to ever happen to my productivity.

Astrid has a smooth and efficient design, and is easy to use as well. The app is a free download, but also offers a premium service for $4.99 a month or $39.99 a year, which offers file storage, voice recording, and document backups.

But don’t worry; it’s not essential that you fork over your hard-earned cash for the premium service, because Astrid is still a fantastic app even if you only use the basics.

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The app has a simple and sleek design that lets you compile a standard to-do-list with the traditional boxes to check mark a completed task. You can also input tasks with specific dates and times, in order to remind you what needs to be done. One great feature about the app is that Astrid will categorize your tasks into four separate lists: tasks that are late, due today, due this week, and tasks that have no due date. You can also categorize your tasks under home, personal, shopping and work, or even customize the categories to fit your needs.

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Another fantastic feature offered by Astrid is the ability to connect with friends or family on Facebook and share or assign tasks via the app. My wife and I use a shared to-do list, which makes running our busy household so much easier, and, to be honest, fun. I went from despising to-do lists to actually enjoying using them, and now consider Astrid to be an indispensable app on my iOS devices.

One area where Astrid has come in handy is during my workouts (which, by the way, were one of my New Years resolutions). The app sends push notification reminders when it’s time for me to workout – but where it really comes in handy is by sitting in my ‘late’ box if I do not complete it on time. It irks me to no end to see a workout that I have skipped sitting in the ‘late’ box.

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There are so many features on the app that I might have missed a few, so here’s a quick list of all the features that Astrid offers.

  • Cloud sync with push notifications
  • Voice recognition
  • Share tasks and list over e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter
  • See friends’ public tasks and give them encouragement
  • One-time or repeating reminders
  • Add notes and set priorities
  • Calendar integration
  • available for both iOS and Android devices

Overall I love Astrid, and have become completely addicted to using to-do lists. It may also be the best productivity app I have used in a while. If I had to rate the app I would give it a 10/10, and call it a must have for anyone looking to increase their productivity and get their lives more organized. It’s also a great way to keep your New Years resolutions on track. Astrid is a great app and I highly recommend it.

How to: How to set an alarm using any song in your iTunes library

When iOS 6 was released in September it boasted over 200 new features. I am sure you are well aware of the major ones like Apple Maps and Facebook and Twitter integration, but if you haven’t had the time to thoroughly go through all the cool new things your new operating system can do, you may have missed a few things.

One of the best, yet surprisingly simple new iOS features is the ability to set an alarm using any song in your music library. It makes waking up in the morning a more enjoyable experience. So if you are tired of waking up to standard instrumental alarm music and would prefer a little Metallica or Rihanna to wake you up in the morning, here is a quick walk though on how to set an alarm using a specific song.

To get to your alarm open up your clock app, which will probably be in your ‘Utilities’ folder (if you are having trouble finding it, it’s just an app that looks like a clock).

Add an Alarm by hitting the ‘+’ button that will be on the top right corner of the app. After you have set up the alarm time, tap ‘Sound’. In this section you will see a few song options, but if you do not see the specific song that you were looking for tap ‘Pick a Song’ and you will be taken to your iTunes library where you can choose any song that you please.

If you are enrolled in iTunes Music Match you can choose any song you have stored in the iCloud as well. But be warned, if you choose a song from the iCloud and lose internet connectivity or reception, your alarm will go off but a song will not play. So your best bet is to choose a song that you already have downloaded onto your device just to be safe. When the alarm goes off it will play the entire song if you let it and will not stop until you shut off or snooze it.

This alarm feature is available on all of your Apple devices that are running on iOS 6. It is easy and pain-free to set up, and is a great new and convenient feature to have for your iPhone or iPad.

App review: Calmighty is a well-designed iOS calendar app that integrates with Facebook

Calendar apps have become a must-have download in today’s fast paced digital society. Making the move from a paper calendar to a digital one might seem like a daunting task if you are unsure of which calendar app to choose. There are millions of productivity apps in the Apple app store but if you are looking for a download that will help manage your events in an efficient and stylish way then Calmighty may be the iOS app for you.

Calmighty is a gorgeous calendar app that is well designed, easy to use and integrates with Facebook. The app has a clock interface that offers its users a new and unique way to view your daily calendar of events. The interface is set up like a traditional clock with an hour hand moving from one to twelve, and as you drag the hand through each hour of the day it will show you what events you have scheduled.

Calmighty will also show your scheduled events the old-fashioned way in the monthly calendar view or even as a daily or monthly list—choose whichever view is best for you.

The app connects your built-in iOS calendar to Calmighty for a seamless integration between both your calendars. The app also integrates with Facebook and will automatically sync your events from the social media site straight to your calendar. The Facebook integration is an excellent feature to have and makes managing your digital schedule so much easier. For those readers who use social media as a way to manage events, Calmighty will be a welcomed new app.

The design on the app is one of the best features. It is simply beautiful and stunning. Calmighty is easy to use and makes inputting events a quick and simple process – unlike other calendar apps that make the process difficult and complicated. This is an app where the user can immediately see that the developers put extra thought in the design of the interface. I have never been a fan of digital calendars as I have found them too complicated and cumbersome at times, but Calmighty has converted me to the digital calendar team, and quite frankly I don’t know how I ever survived without one.

Overall, I thought Calmighty was an excellent calendar app that bridges the gap between your digital events that may be spread across multiple calendars. There are probably many fantastic calendar downloads in the Apple app store but Calmighty does such an efficient job of organizing your digital events that there is no need to look further in your calendar app search.

Cost: Free download

Rating: 8/10

Microsoft Office for iOS and Android has finally been confirmed for a March 2013 release

Microsoft Office is finally coming to an iOS and Android operating system near you.

Mobile phone and tablet users have patiently waited and hoped for Microsoft to release an app version of their pervasive software. There have been rumors and stories claiming Microsoft Office was coming to mobile/tablet devices for years, but the wait is finally over.

According to a press release obtained by The Verge from the Microsoft’s Czech Republic representatives, the company is set to launch mobile versions of their Office software in March of 2013.

In addition to Windows, Office will also be available on other operating systems, Windows Phone, Windows RT, Mac OS, Android, IOS and Symbian” says the Microsoft press release.

The press release also mentions that Microsoft Office 2013 will be available for businesses as early as December of this year, and the app versions of the software will be made available to the general public at the end of February/early March of 2013.

There was no mention of what the app would cost iOS and Android users. The most expensive apps in the Apple apps store can cost well into the $100s of dollar range. While it is probably too early to speculate on price, expect the Microsoft Office 2013 app to be a premium download that will cost well above the average price of a standard app.

March Release Date: Coincidence or Perfect Marketing?

One of the first things to stand out about the Czech press release is the March 2013 release date. March has traditionally been reserved for Apple’s launch of its new iPad. Over the last two years Apple has announced the specs for its new iPad in early march and sold the device a few weeks later. Knowing how savvy both Microsoft and Apple are with their marketing, it would not be a stretch to assume both companies strike a deal to incorporate the Microsoft Office app into the new versions of the iPad.

While Microsoft Office may still be the gold standard for office productivity software many iOS users have found other apps to replace Office on their devices. There are a plethora of third-party productivity apps that fill in the gap that not having Microsoft Office leaves.

Microsoft would be wise to use the release of a new iPad to promote its Office app in order to help it again a foothold on a productivity market that has found ways to replicate Microsoft Office on mobile phones and tablets.

Flipboard is a beautiful magazine app that may change the way you consume media

Every once in a while an app will be introduced that so thoroughly captures the essence of what a smart phone or tablet can achieve, that it will immediately change the way you use your device. Flipboard, the magazine style app, available on both iOS and Android systems, will so thoroughly revolutionize the way you receive the news that it will leave you wondering how you ever lived without it.

Flipboard is a news app that gathers your social media and news feeds and converts them into a personalized magazine. The app will take your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, along with any news category you choose and present them in a gorgeous magazine style layout.

The Flipboard app allows you to choose from your favorite news categories, such as sports, technology, business, film, science or virtually any other topic of interest. The app will then gather the top stories from various sites regarding each topic and present them in a magazine style layout.

Flipboard is wonderfully designed, easy to navigate, and simply beautiful to look at. The app is available for both smart phones and tablets, but Flipboard is best experienced using a larger device. The whole purpose of a magazine style app is to have it feel like a magazine, and using a tablet will give you that experience. One of my favorite elements of the app is the ability to swipe your device to change the page.

When the iPad was released a few years ago, there was talk that it would change the way we consumed magazines. Unfortunately, up until now, that has not been the case. Most magazines are just a scanned copy of the print version. But Flipboard has found a way to turn your simple news feed into a beautifully designed and engaging experience. The app will show you news stories in medium-sized thumbnails, and will then enlarge once you click on them. Flipboard will even allow you to go straight to the original website the article was published on.

Overall, Flipboard is an engaging and well designed app and will completely change the way you receive your social media and news. It will probably find a permanent home on your smart phone or tablet and become indispensable for viewing news stories or social media updates. Flipboard is simply one of the best apps I have ever used. I cannot recommend it more highly. I would rate this app a 10/10.

Flipboard Image Gallery

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