One of the great things about the Internet is the ability to get work done and communicate with each other faster and over greater differences than ever before. If you’re working with a team on a project, whether it be developing your own app, a new business plan, or a school project, you may need an app for those times when you can’t meet your teammates face to face. Kickoff wants to help your team get work done.
After you make a free account with Kickoff, you sign into the app and start making teams. You create different teams for different project. For example, I’m working on a podcast with Reagan on one team, while I have another team for learning to code something, etc. Then the team maker can invite other users to their team.
Kickoff looks like a modified version of the Messages app introduced with OS 10.8 Mountain Lion. This is actually a good thing as it’s very clean and straightforward. On the left is a sidebar that serves as your chat window, with the default chat open being the Meeting Room; this is where you talk to all of your team. You’ll notice just above the chat window is a tabbed section where you can choose to chat with individual team members. This is especially useful when you need to talk about something private with them, but also so you don’t bother your other teammates with unnecessary chatter. You can also tag someone in the Meeting Room chat, so that when you use their name, the chat bubble turns yellow for them to see (and only them). You cannot delete messages in a chat though.
On the right hand side is the tasks and lists view. Tasks are assigned to a list made by the team for things that need to be accomplished. A task maker can assign these tasks as general or to individuals in each list. Each user then has the option of viewing all task the team needs to complete, or limiting it only their tasks than need to be complete. Once a task is done, the team member(s) can check it off the list and the task fades away. The nice thing about this setup is that you’ll only see the tasks for that team and not the other teams. It would be cool to have an integrated view of tasks, where you could see all of your own open tasks at once sorted by team. You can, however, drag lists up to the favorites bar next to the “All Tasks” button, so that you have quick access to the ones that are most important to you for that team. Scheduled tasks are also not available in Kickoff, meaning you can’t assign a teammate a task and a specific due date all within the app.
Kickoff only communicates via chat, though you can drag and drop pictures, videos, documents, and links into the chat window for all to see and access. Other collaboration tools, such as Citrix Go-To Meeting have video and audio chat built in, as well as screen sharing built in, and Skype has the features of Kickoff built in except for the task manager and assignment features. I think if the developers can add these features in the future, Kickoff really stand out even more as a collaboration tool. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t do an excellent job as it stands now. Kickoff isn’t trying to be a Skype competitor and be solely a communication tool, rather it wants to be a tool for teams to quickly and effectively communicate with each other and get things done.
Currently, the app is free for the Mac while in beta (OS 10.6 and higher), but the developers say it will be a one time pay app and released in the Mac App Store once it is complete. An iOS client is also in the works, but as of this writing it has not been released. We will hopefully give another review of this app when it has been released as a final version, and its iOS companion app. You can download the free beta in the meantime from http://kickoffapp.com/.
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Cloud management apps are a new category of programs that are really gaining steam. These apps are made to help users sort through the many cloud services they use to find files they need. People who use these services, which include Dropbox, Google Docs, Microsoft Office Live, Evernote, and more, don’t like spending long hours searching for that one paper or picture they remember saving but can’t remember where they put it. Recently, the app Found has garnered a lot of attention on the Mac for its abilities.
Found is a very light and fast app that helps you search through your Mac’s hard drive and various cloud services to find any files you are looking for. When you first launch Found, you will need to login to the cloud services that you want it to look through. After logging in, Found runs through a quick indexing process so it can see what is in these accounts and bring you speedier results. It went through my Dropbox account rather speedily. From here, you can click on the app’s menubar icon (which can be switched from colored to a more traditional Mac theme) or tap the “Control” button twice to bring up the Found sidebar. You’ll be presented with a large search bar at the top of the window, and your connected services just below it. Just type the name of the file you’re looking for, and Found will show you all files with that name, word, or tag in a simple list. It even sorts the files it find by service, name, and type. When you select that file, Found will allow you to get a preview of the document or picture you’re looking at, or listen to the song or video file. The only file type that it didn’t preview for me was a Flash video file I had, but since that is not a common file type on computer hard drives, I wasn’t bothered by it. You can either launch a file, or drag and drop the files into other apps like Finder or Mail. And it works when you have another app in full-screen mode as well.
Having Found search through your Mac’s hard drive as well as your cloud services is wonderful feature, preventing me from having to switch between Found and Spotlight for searches. Further encouraging this is Found’s ability to launch apps; since Found indexes your Mac’s Application folder, it can launch any app in that folder.
The app’s preference interface is great in more ways than one. It’s very straight forward and easy to use, but also provides you the ability to learn about the app. From the preference pane, you can launch the demo video to explain how the app works, as well as access the FAQ’s concerning the security of Found’s connection to the cloud services you use. I do find it misleading that they have a tab called security for this, but no actual security settings. The FAQ does clear up concerns about security, but it would be nice to actually see some form of security settings. Also, the Preference pane at this time does not yet let you set custom folders to search through on your Mac’s hard drive or any of the cloud services. This is a feature that will be included in the future based on the notes, so I await its arrival.
Currently the service only works with Dropbox, Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Docs for cloud services, so it could use some expansion. Based off some of the website info, more services will be added soon, such as Evernote and LinkedIn. Found has started off with some great and popular services, and it handles them very well, but I would use this app more once some other services are integrated (Evernote is probably first on my list).
Everything considered, Found needs some expansion but has a great start and is something I look forward to be developed further. Found is a free app for OS 10.6.8 and higher (Snow Leopard and later) and is available in the Mac App Store. You can find out more about the app at foundapp.com.
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There have been several times where I have looked at my Macbook’s screen and thought, “OS X would look pretty cool on a tablet,”. Tim Cook, however, recently shot down that idea.
Tim Cook was asked about a Macbook/iPad hybrid. He said, “Anything can be forced to converge, but the problem is that products are about tradeoffs, and you begin to make tradeoffs to the point where what you have left doesn’t please anyone,”. Steve Jobs mentioned that when designing the new Macbook Air, Apple had explored touch screens on their Macs. Compared to a mouse/trackpad and keyboard combo, however, the touchscreen on a laptop or desktop just doesn’t flow. Touch screens don’t want to be vertical. After using a propped iPad to watch YouTube videos, I can understand why; without some sort of backing, the device gets pushed back by your fingers when propped vertically, risking be knocked over. And when you have to do it constantly, it begins to feel tenuous. Pausing a video by tapping a vertical screen or switching to your email doesn’t feel the same as it does with a keyboard and mouse. I can’t imagine serious photo and video editors trying to manipulate precise cuts and effects with their fingers, no matter how much they would look like Minority Report.
But all of this been the talk of a touchscreen laptop, much like the current wrap-around laptops, or what Microsoft has been planning with Windows 8. But what about a pure tablet? What about a Mac-Pad?
Reasons for the Mac-Pad:
When Apple released the updated Macbook Airs, they said they had been experimenting with touch screen Macs. They said, however, that it was a hassle to constantly have to reach up toward the screen to move stuff around. But the example picture they used showed a standard Macbook
Pro, not a tablet. I agree that a laptop with a touchscreen could cause problems, though a touch screen iMac might be cool. But we could apply the same thing to iOS at the moment. Many cool iOS appsand features would seem a lot more trouble with a mouse than on a touchscreen. While the trackpad can mimic many of these, it just doesn’t feel as immersive as a touchscreen. If a touchscreen Mac could succeed, the best would be in an iMac (or subsequently an Apple Display) or an iPad-like touchscreen only Macbook (hence the name Mac-Pad).
Even with the speed and functionality of the iPad, there are still things that iOS struggles with. The office suites on iOS still leave much to be desired, as well as photo and video editing. Likewise, there are still a few websites that are using Flash or have yet to be optimized for a mobile device and don’t function properly. My father was applying for a job online with his iPad, but he couldn’t bring up the job application because the pop up window was oversized and could be zoomed out to fit on the screen. Internal company websites are also not optimized generally for mobile devices, and likely will take time to move in that direction. Having a laptop is nice for this, but some can be bulky to carry around and opening them just to wait on the OS to load can be a hassle, especially in very mobile professions, such as construction, medicine, etc. Having a tablet with a full-blown desktop OS would alleviate many of these problems. We’ve already seen it in Windows and Linux in the past and present. Likewise, both Ubuntu and Microsoft have already talked about tablet optimizing their operating systems (see Windows 8). Having the full power of OS X at your disposal in the convenience of an iPad.
Reasons Against the Mac-Pad:
The Mac-Pad already has some drawbacks. First is the screen. A 10-inch screen looks great on iOS, but OS X would begin to feel cramped. One only has to look at the 11-inch Macbook Air to see that. Likewise, if a Mac-Pad wanted to keep the same specs as the 11 inch base model of the Macbook Air, it would likely be as thick, if not thicker than the iPad. For a 13 inch screen, and better specs, it might have to go bigger, especially given the heat it would have to disperse. If a user had to render a large video or picture file, or try some high end gaming, the Mac-Pad could overheat faster than an Air or Pro.
All this jacks up the price noticeably and could hurt the chances of it coming to market. But let’s pretend Apple did succeed in making a Mac-Pad and solved the heat dispersion issue, the thickness, and how to keep the price down. Let’s pretend it replaced the 11-inch Air with the Mac-Pad, and kept it at the base price of $999. I imagine that while some Apple fans would buy it, and a couple of mobile professionals might buy it, but I have trouble believing that the public might buy it. What would prevent them from spending a few bucks more and buying a better, full blown Macbook Air, or even a Pro? Or they could save a few bucks and buy an iPad, which for the average user can serve many of their needs just as well as a Mac. Even buying the most expensive iPad from Apple is still cheaper than the cheapest Macbook.
Likewise, some of the design flaws would be inherited from the iPad and have to somehow be accommodated. The iPad has (that could be moved over to the Mac with little trouble) the power button, a volume rocker, and the mute/screen rotation switch, as well as the charging port. Even
though Apple can be known for being radical and taking items out of their computer before the mainstream does, even they wouldn’t be crazy enough to sell a Mac without a USB port (at least, not yet). They would have to integrate it into the Mac-Pad, which would add to the thickness and weight, as well as potentially hurt the clean-cut design of a Mac-Pad. They could go with external dongles, but while dongles are not essential for an iPad to really function, doing the same with a Mac doesn’t sound ideal in the least.
One last reason is the touchscreen integration itself. For this, I only have to turn to iOS and Android to prove this point. When iOS was created, it was built to be a touchscreen from the ground up. Almost every facet was designed to use the touchscreen, which is why iOS has been very good at giving fluid motions and quick responses to the touch of your fingers. Compare this to Android: Android was built on a keyboard and mouse interface originally to compete with its original competitor, Blackberry. When iOS came out, the game changed, and Android had to gain touchscreen abilities. Unfortunately, to integrate touch the same way iOS does, a good portion of Android would have to be rewritten. And as time has gone by, and Android has become more ubiquitous and more apps have been brought to the platform, that has become harder to do. So Android had to add touch capabilities on top of the OS as it already existed. While this gave it the ability to use a trackpad in things like the Asus Transformer, it meant that touch responsiveness has been an issue. Bringing this back to OS X, trying to get the same fluidity of touch from iOS to OS X would only be the same play on a different stage.
Do I expect a Mac-Pad? No, certainly not any time soon. More realistic is some hybrid between iOS and OS X. Is the idea still cool? Yes. But then again, maybe I missed something. Maybe there’s a better reason for a Mac-Pad that I missed. Do you have a better reason that it could or could not exist. Let me know below. Leave a comment and tell us what you think. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen. And be sure to check out my Google Plus. Thanks!