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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Mac App Store

January 10, 2011

The Mac App Store is finally (FINALLY, I say) here!  And I’M finally back from my week or so hiatus!  Hooray!!  How have I spent the last week or so, you ask?  Well, I hate to tease, but that will be the subject of my Weird Wednesday for this week!  It’s going to be a goodie, so tune in then.

Also, before I get into what I’ve already gotten in the MAS, I’d just like to say that I’m currently snowed in at my dorm room at school, as there was a major snowstorm that dumped 9+ inches of snow here in NC, and unfortunately, two days of classes (today AND tomorrow) were summarily cancelled as a result.  I know, I should be happy and celebratory that I’m not having to do any schoolwork right now, but I just want this semester to get started already!!!

Anyhow, here’s what I’ve picked up on the Mac App Store so far:

  • Twitter for Mac (Free).  This was one of the very first apps I got, and as such, it ensconced itself immediately in my Dock and supplanted Tweetie for Mac as my Twitter client of choice.
  • Evernote (Free).  This will help me in my endeavors in school this semester no end, so I picked it up and have started to get everything set up for this semester of school, which SHOULD ideally have started today.
  • Stuffit Expander (Free).  This replaced my previous install of Stuffit Expander, and I have it because I tend to like having things such as 7Zip, RAR, and SIT files strewn about my computer (the SIT files are actually for the Aleph One software to run the Marathon games from Bungie).
  • MindNode for Mac (Free as of this writing).  Mind-mapping software, also should help me with my schoolwork this time.
  • Caffeine (Free). Replacing my previous install of Caffeine, this menu bar tool is ESSENTIAL for me as I tend to use my computer A LOT and I also do not tend to use mice very much, especially when it comes to having to jiggle my computer out of sleep when I’m watching a movie or TV show, say.
  • Solitaire Greatest Hits (Free).  How can you NOT have a version (or five) of Solitaire on your Mac?  Mac OS X doesn’t have one installed automatically (Chess is the bundled “free game” of choice), but the Mac App Store fixes that in a hurry, especially for switchers.
  • Decked Builder Lite (Free).  Since I dabble a bit in Magic: The Gathering (a really expensive CCG, or collectible card game, hobby), I would like to have this because I don’t build decks very well on my own.
  • iPhoto 11 ($15).  The only paid app I have picked up thus far, I picked up iPhoto 11 in order to start upgrading all of my iLife apps individually.  And at $15 a pop, it makes buying boxed copies seem ancient.

The Mac App Store Cometh

December 20, 2010

While I am on the road, I will probably just write in short bursts like this, especially since I will be in a place with little to no service till Wednesday when the possibility will be there for my writing in the airport on my way to my Christmas celebrations. Please forgive my brevity in today’s and tomorrow’s posts.

I’ve been saying it for several years now: Apple should have a Mac App Store. And luckily, come January 6th, we will. Soon, no one with a Mac, an iPhone, or an iPad will escape the allure of convenient 1-stop app shopping.

Yes, there will be some overlap as there are a few similar stores now, such as Valve’s Steam for Mac, but for any kind of app, whether they be productivity apps, or fun apps, or even the ultra-addictive Angry Birds, the Mac App store may not be the only place to buy Mac apps, but they will be the most convenient by far.