Review: iStudiez Pro for Mac and iOS

March 24, 2011

Okay, after a very long wait, here’s my first review.  I must say in the interests of full disclosure that I actually bought the apps in question myself, thankfully they weren’t that expensive.  You can check out the app I’m reviewing below here.

iStudiez Pro (iPhone/iPad/Mac), $2.99 on the iOS App Store, Universal to iOS devices; $9.99 on the Mac App Store:

I’ve looked at several organizational apps over the years, but the one thing that all of them lacked was keeping things in sync across any and all devices that I owned.  iStudiez Pro is the very first one I’ve seen that has really transformed how organized I am, and really makes me feel good about using the app on a daily basis.

However, I always like to know what problem that product solves in a review of said product.  The problem that this solves for me personally is that I used to be perpetually off target with assignment due dates, etc.  (You wonder, then, why I have been a college student for so long?)  iStudiez Pro not only solves that particular problem, but it also solves the issue of keeping track of grades, grade weights, session GPAs, etc.  So, it really is perfect for a college student like myself.

I have not gotten the chance to play with the iPad version yet, but that is because I do not have an iPad of my own, but my guess is the interface is eerily similar to that of the Mac OS X version.

So, let’s go through each of the interfaces of the versions I do have, and I will describe them in a text-based form, but nothing is better than looking at screenshots, which you can find at their website, which I linked above.

Firstly, the iPhone interface: On the bottom, you have four categorical tabs that you can tap (from left-to-right): Today, Calendar, Assignments, and Planner.

On the Today tab, you can keep track of when you have to be in class, any assignments that are due, and some other things.  On the Calendar tab, you can take a look see at a monthly view of your schedule or your assignments, and if you color-code your classes (as I did), your class schedule will show up as multi-colored dots.

On the Assignments tab, you can see what’s coming up in the near-term as well as the long term, and you can also see all your completed assignments and the grades therein, and you can also edit the grades that you receive as you receive your completed assignments back.

And finally, on the Planner tab, you can drill down into your classes, add new semesters, add previous semesters if you like, and also look at your holidays and instructors.  You can also look at your overall GPA, but there is a slight problem with this that I’ll explain in a minute.

Also, you can change your settings on the Today tab with an i (for “Info”) button on the top left hand corner.  Tapping it reveals 4 large buttons in the middle of the screen, 1 smaller button on the upper right, and several bits of information.  First is the name of the app, iStudiez Pro, and the version number; in my case, it’s Version 1.5 (343).  Then, you get 4 large buttons in the middle of the screen, Settings, Data Managing, Technical Support, and Tell A Friend.  Then on the bottom, there’s the credits and copyrights involved with creating the application.

The Settings button is pretty self-explanatory, as you can change the application settings here.  When you tap Settings, you get Today, Calendar, and Planner (as you do on the main screen of the app), but then you also get 4 other options you can change: App Icon Badge, Grades, Notifications, and Sync.  More on the syncing part later.

Tapping Today shows that you can actually change the Today Icon that shows up in the Today tab on the main app screen, as well as the phrases that show up when there are either a) no more classes today, b) a day off, such as a weekend, or c) a vacation day.

Tapping Calendar says that you can manage iOS’s built-in Calendar app events from within iStudiez Pro, and you can see the different views and change whether or not you can have week numbers show up in the Week view as well as whether or not you can have multiple dots, colored dots, assignment icons, and exam icons show up in the Month view.

Tapping Planner allows you to have a time interval of either 1 or 5 minutes, and you can also modify the standard class duration as well, which is quite nice.

Tapping App Icon Badge allows you to either show or hide the badge and show how many days in advance you want to show tasks within the App Icon badge, whether all tasks, all overdue tasks, or even intervals of 1-6 days, 1-3 weeks, or one month.  That is very nice, believe me.  Keeps me much, MUCH more organized as a result!

Tapping Grades shows a toggle switch for whether you want to keep track of grades or not, what grading scale you need to have, whether it’s Percents, Points, or different kinds of letter grades, from A-F, some Chinese or Japanese characters I don’t know (I guess those are for the Asian schools), HD-F, and A-F (+/-), the last one of them I actually use for my own grades.  You can also see the GPA scale, as well as toggle overall GPA on/off (again, more on this later), and whether or not you want the Smart Keypad turned on once you get your assignments back (TRUST ME, it is that much easier to use the smart keypad, so keep it on, PLEASE!).

Tapping Notifications shows a Notifications toggle switch for classes as well as assignments, along with some minor tweaking on how you get notified about your classes or assignments.  For classes, you can get notified at a certain time before your class (depending upon your time interval), and what sound you want to be notified with (quite nice of them to do that).  For assignments, you can set a default time that you can get notified that certain assignments are due, as well as the sound you want to be notified with (again, quite nice of them to do that).

Data Management is basically how you can back up your data in case of emergency, yada yada yada.  Technical Support and Tell a Friend are also equally self-explanatory.

For the Mac OS X version, the main window is as follows: Along the top of the application window, you have 6 clickable icons (other than the standard Mac OS X icons), from left to right: Instructors, Holidays, Overview, Assignments, Planner, and Sync Now (if you have the Cloud Sync function enabled, which I do).  The Overview shows you your calendar view, it’s much like the Today and Calendar views on the iPhone version rolled into one.  The Assignments and Planner are pretty self-explanatory, although the Instructors and Holidays are essentially split off from their places in the Planner on the iOS version.

Also, there is NO Lite version on the Mac, but there is a free Lite version on the iOS so you can try it out.

So, after looking over all of the pieces and facets of the app, what’s the bottom line?

Pros:

  • Allows for really nice organization of your schoolwork, and the Cloud Sync is a really nice feature.
  • The ability to keep track of current semesters is a lifesaver for me.
  • The customizability of the way that the app notifies you of your class times and assignments is a really neat bonus.

Cons:

  • Cloud Sync, while being a really nice feature, is exceptionally wonky, where some things don’t sync from iOS to Mac, and most things don’t sync from Mac to iOS.
  • Keeping track of previous semesters as well as the GPAs therein to keep track of your Overall GPA is a really badly implemented feature, because it does not take into account grade replacements, or anything that affects overall GPA.
  • Color-coding and keeping track of each and every assignment actually has to be done manually before you can keep track of it in the app, but the manual labor required to keep yourself organized is worth it in the end.

Rating (out of 10): 9.7

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iPad 2 Event Wrap-Up

March 2, 2011

Yep, today was the day of iPad 2.  And 2011 will be the year of iPad 2 as well.  So, let’s go over all the highlights.

Steve Jobs was onstage!!  Yep, he didn’t want to miss this one.

Random House is now on the iBookStore.  Yes, Virginia (and all my PassPorter buddies), that means books from The Da Vinci Code to The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest (and the remainder of the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, huzzah) are now available to buy and/or download from the iBookStore!!  Hip hip HOORAY!!

Then came the main event: iPad 2.  It is NOT a spec-bump, as a few of us bloggers were quick to say.  It is NOT a first-gen iPad with marginal improvements, again as us bloggers were pretty quick to say.  The 1st-gen iPad will hereafter be called the iPad Prime.

There’s a new processor in it, called the Apple A5, which is a dual-core processor, meaning a 2x faster CPU and 9x faster graphics, with the same low power as the A4 seen in the iPad Prime.  It’s got front- and rear-facing cameras (ehh), BUT the front-facing camera CAN do FaceTime HD in 720p, so I guess that’d work out okay, but until I get my dirty paws on one at the Apple Store, I cannot make a judgement on the cameras.

It’s 33% thinner than the iPad Prime (will fit nicely into my Scottevest I am guessing).  Also, the iPad 2 is 0.2 pounds lighter than the iPad Prime.  Surprisingly, the iPad 2 comes in not one, but two colors: Black as well as (!!) white.

Both colors will be shipping from day one (also very surprising).  There will be 3G models for both AT&T and Verizon from day one (nice job Apple), and the battery life is unchanged from its 10-hour lifespan on the iPad Prime.  Same price points (AAAARGH), at $499/599/699 for the Wi-Fi only models and $529/629/729 for the Wi-Fi + 3G models, and the iPad 2 launches March 11th here in the States, with 26 more countries getting it on the 25th (which is my birthday… and I don’t get the presents this time. sad face).

But, that wasn’t all the new products Apple decided to announce today.

First, they announced an HDMI mirrored video out adaptor for $39.  My guess is that if you have a Mac Pro and a Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro HDMI capture card (only $200 at the Apple Store!), you will be able to screencast your app demonstration, and then be able to place it up online.  Maybe my friends at PassPorter were waiting for exactly that sort of thing to put out an iPad app??  I at least know the hosts of iPad Today on the TWiT network, Leo Laporte and Sarah Lane, will be thrilled, as they’ve had to focus cameras onto iPads and show their hands demoing the iPad apps that they feature!

Second, they announced a Smart Cover that will work with the iPad 2.  It’ll wake up your iPad when you remove the cover, you can set up your Smart Cover however you like, and when you want to stop playing with the iPad 2, you can put the Smart Cover back on.  However, full disclosure for the accident-prone: this thing DOES have magnets in it to keep it all fastened together, so it might be smart to keep this thing away from your hard drive.

Third, they talked about and demoed iOS 4.3, which not only includes features like this and this, but also faster Safari browsing, using your mute/rotation lock switch how YOU choose, Home Sharing, Photo Booth for iPad (uhh… I don’t even use it on my Mac, that’s how excited I am about it on the iPad), and more, available for download March 11th.

Finally, Steve Jobs brought two software engineers up onstage to raise the bar even higher for iPad apps.  First, they showed off iMovie for iPad, which WILL be a universal update (thank goodness), and showcased all that iMovie for iPad can do.  Second, they showed off (IMO one of the coolest apps) Garageband for iPad.  You can make music on the iPad version with touch-based instruments, as well as plug in your own instruments.  Me likey.  Both the iMovie universal update and Garageband for iPad will launch March 11th, so March 11th should be a red letter day for a number of you US Apple fanatics out there.

So, the iPad 2.  I’m impressed with what I saw.  How about you?


iPad 2 Possibilities and An Update

February 27, 2011

Before I get into the meat of this post, I have an announcement to make: If you are friends with me on Facebook, or are following me on Twitter, you will now get notifications in your respective feeds on those sites thanks to the WordPress Publicize feature, which came at just the right time for this blogger.  Can’t wait to do more blogging now!

So, the meat of this post will be the iPad 2… a mythical device, but not for much longer.  Wednesday will bring us those glorious details of the next iPad, but I’ve been trying to make sense of the rumors and misinformation floating around the blogosphere, and am coming up empty.

First, the obvious one: The thinness.  I was unsure of this one at first, but now that I think of it, (and now that I have an iPad-sized pocket on my relatively new ScotteVest I got for Christmas), the thinness of the new device, especially if the rumors are true of a thinner iPad, will probably prove to be easier to take in the long run.  Plus, the thinner iPad might have an easier time coming into and out of said pocket, but since I have no iPad 1 to test this theory, I dunno.

Second, the cameras.  I’m really not sure why everybody and their brother is screaming about how they *need* cameras on the iPad. With the iPad’s current form factor, a 10-inch tablet, there is absolutely no way that cameras would work on the iPad (especially rear-facing cameras).  However, if the iPad were to have a somewhat smaller brother that sacrificed none of the screen resolution of the iPad 10-inch, then I think that makes sense.  Also, I would like to see that Apple learned their lesson from using less-than-ideal cameras on the iPod touch 4 to completely blow out the camera resolution on the iPad 2, especially if it could take exceptionally good photos as well as take some majorly good videos.  And can we please have an LED flash?  Thanks!

Third, the internals.  Everybody and their brother screams about specifications (“specs” for short), but really, all I care about is how those internals combine to create a special experience for all iPad 2 owners.  Hopefully they include a few features that have been implemented in the iPhone 4, but not the iPad as yet, such as the gyroscope and the dual-band 3G chips from Qualcomm found in the Verizon iPhone 4.

Finally, the price tag.  The text of Apple’s invitation to Wednesday’s event was pretty much an open invitation to speculate wildly: “Come see what 2011 will be the year of.”  This week is GDC (Game Developers Conference) in San Francisco, and then Apple has their event this week.  Uncanny timing, Apple.  But I digress.  I personally think 2011 will be the year of the cloud, the year of the cheaper iPads, and the year of iPhones being free on contract starting with the iPhone 5.  But what price should the iPad 2 come in at?  Apple has started to make serious inroads into business and education markets with the iPad, but those inroads could very easily be magnified by a power of 10 by making the iPad $200-$300 cheaper.  Yes, their price targets were extremely aggressive the last time around, but they could do better.  They priced a great many e-reading-curious customers out of the market in my opinion, and the Kindle is actually a better deal if you just buy Kindle stuff off Amazon.