Monica (free) is a fun personal assistant that not only gives you voice control but also speaks. You can ask Monica to read aloud your email, news articles, horoscope, or Google Docs, or to access Facebook. You can also ask Monica questions, but you do have to enter text. Monica will, however, read the answer to you. A nice feature is that you don’t need to tap any buttons or anything; you get Monica’s attention by simply saying, “Monica,” and then Monica responds by giving you menu of options, from which you speak your choice.
I enjoy using my iPad to read the latest news, and I'm excited about the free app Hitpad, which I just learned about. It has a gorgeous interface and, as the press release says, It distills the news about the most important topics of the day. Very similar to Google News, it presents trending topics and aggregates a wide assortment of content related to them: news, videos, tweets, web, and photos. It has trending topics in these categories: Top Stories, Entertainment, Business, Sports, Technology, and U.S. New.
The Week is a weekly print news magazine as well as a popular news destination online that offers a digest of news and commentary from magazines, newspapers, and websites. The publisher says that the magazine is the "fastest growing news and opinion magazine in America." Now there's a free iPhone app, The Week U.S., that gives you access to their content. I love news apps, especially when they're free.
I've been looking at the wide range of speech recognition apps for an article I'm working on for the magazine. Bing (free) is one that I haven't yet mentioned. As you likely know, Bing is Microsoft's powerful search engine. Microsoft calls it a “decision engine” that you can use to find information, restaurants and other businesses, images, show times, travel deals, flight information, weather forecasts, and walking or driving directions.
The free Dictionary.com app has nearly 1 million words and definitions, and it can be used offline. Like the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (also free), it now also lets you simply speak the word that you want to look up. It's powered by Nuance's highly accurate speech recognition technology. To use the speech feature, you'll need to have an Internet connection.
Vimeo has long been a top site for sharing videos, and was one of the first to offer a lot of high-definition content. Two days ago Vimeo launched their Vimeo app that includes much of the functionality of the website, such that you can use your iPhone to upload, manage, edit, and view video. The app lets you capture video, combine and edit clips, and add transitions, titles, and special effects. You can add music and recordings, and set the volume level.
I had the opportunity to see a demo of Phatware's Writepad at Macworld and was very impressed. It lets you simply write on the screen using your finger or a stylus pen rather than using the onscreen keyboard, and translates your writing into typed characters. You can then edit that text — copy, paste, insert characters, etc. — via simple gestures. The app has a ton of features, such as shorthand, which lets you enter just two characters to evoke frequently used words or phrases.
Infinite Skills Video Based Software Training is a free app for the iPad that gives you access to over 250 short videos that help you learn software such as Adobe Creative Suite 5, Microsoft Office, and AutoCAD. Each video is a few minutes long and shows you how to accomplish a specific task, such as correcting color casts in PhotoShop. The app requires an Internet connection, either WiFi or 3G.
These new accessories certainly caught my attention when I received a press release a number of days ago. They're made out of bamboo: cases for the iPhone and iPad, as well as earbuds. And for a desktop computer, there's a bamboo keyboard and mouse. Not only is it attractive, but they say it's better for the environment. Read more on Vivitar's site. These bamboo accessories are expected to be available the beginning of April from a variety of vendors. The earbuds will be priced at $19.99 and the cases at $29.99.
Speed.Dial ($0.99) is a simple app that lets you add contacts to your home screen. It puts an app-like icon on your home screen that includes the contact's picture and name. If you want to call the person, you just tap the icon. The app makes it quick and simple to add a contact.