The Download Blog

TechSmith's screencast service Jing goes pro

On Tuesday, TechSmith released Jing Pro, a paid premium version of its free screen capture and casting software. The new service, which runs $14.95 a year, upgrades videos to H.264 encoding, takes off the Jing watermark in the bottom corner of recorded clips, and gives users the option to upload directly to several popular video hosting sites including Facebook, YouTube, Viddler, and Vimeo.

Of the news, one of the biggest changes is the move to the MPEG-4 AVC video format. It's the go-to format for iPods and iPhones, as well as set-top boxes like the Apple TV … Read more

Skype 2.8 for Mac to launch Tuesday

Skype 2.8 for Mac will ship on Tuesday, with new features including screen sharing and an integrated Wi-Fi hot spot connector.

Available only for Mac OS X at first, the new version will add screen-sharing capabilities to the app's voice, video, and chat communications features. Skype spokespeople told me that users will be able to run all four channels at once with acceptable performance.

Screen sharing is useful in business settings (I get a lot of demos over apps like Webex, for example), but it has personal applications as well: People could share photographs, and presumably videos as … Read more

Google to release Picasa beta for Mac

Google plans to release on Monday a beta version of Picasa for Mac OS X, helping Apple fans catch up to Windows and Linux users already employing the free tool for editing, cataloging, and uploading photos.

The Mac version largely matches the features in Picasa 3 for Windows, said Jason Cook, Picasa's marketing manager. Though the company has been scrambling to include some secondary features such as geotagging and the ability to get photos printed, the core abilities of Picasa are present, he said.

Picasa lets people edit and print photos, create collages and movies, and add labels, star ratings, and tags. More significantly, given Google's cloud-computing focus, it also lets people upload their images to the company's online Picasa Web Albums site where images can be shared. Google acquired Picasa in 2004.

"We have many Mac users," Cook said, though declining to offer any estimates, "and we think they'll be excited about this. It makes the Picasa Web Albums experience better." … Read more

Soonr launches killer document sync for iPhone

Soonr, a Webware 100 winner in 2007, has a fresh new look and a killer iPhone application.

Soonr's free service and accompanying App Store download allows users to store up to 500MB of files, which they can access on the go, from the iPhone or a standard Web browser.

New users create their account on their iPhone and then download a desktop application (available for PC or Mac) which handles the synchronization of files. In the same form of other desktop-syncing applications, the user only has to choose the directories that they want to keep updated, and any changes … Read more

New Firefox themes for a new year

Tonight you're probably going to make some hefty New Year's resolutions, which statistically you're never going to keep. Why not at least make a change you know will make a difference immediately? A Firefox theme can change the feel of your browser and all it takes is a simple download. You can't just waltz into a new year without making a few changes, right?

We've put together a nice slide show of downloadable Firefox themes so you can improve your browsing experience in the New Year.

Futzing with features: Firefox add-ons in 2008

As performance reasserts its prominence and features become less of the driving force behind browsers, I find myself looking at the list of inactive extensions in Firefox with jaundiced eyes. It's been months since I've added a new extension, but the ones I still have I use regularly, and several are actually new to me for this year.

Part of the problem with add-ons is that they're such a personal, subjective thing. What do you need? Why do you need it? One of my favorites is a minor, tiny thing, but it saves me so much time … Read more

Mac Starter Kit

Now that your new Mac is set up and you have the Internet hooked up, how about some software? Out of the box, your Mac is loaded with cool apps to get you started on stuff like uploading and organizing your digital images, creating a music library, making your own movies, and surfing the Web. But it doesn't come with everything.

New Macs come with a ton of goodies already, but there are several cool apps Mac users count on every day that aren't included in the initial setup. To get you started, we've rounded up our … Read more

Best in iPhone entertainment 2008

If you've read my iPhone Apps of the Week posts, you know that I mostly download games and entertainment applications. I also like to check out music apps, because I play a few instruments and am continually interested in what developers are able to come up with musically for the iPhone. Since my coworker, Jessica Dolcourt, wrote the iPhone Starter Kit based around must-have apps of the practical variety, I can really get down to business--the business of fun iPhone apps!

So, what makes a great game or music app? Certainly graphics and sound are important for games, but with a platform as unique as the iPhone or iPod Touch, it's important to consider how it utilizes the accelerometer, touch screen, and other aspects of the device. For musical instruments and drum machines, it's important to note whether the sounds are realistic and how intuitive it is to play the instrument. Finally, it's important to note whether a game or instrument is a good fit for the medium. You probably wouldn't want to spend hours playing an MMO on a tiny device that needs recharging, and, similarly, you're probably not going to be writing concertos on your iPhone. The point is that it should be a good app by itself in addition to being a good app for the iPhone.

Some of the apps I'm including for this end-of-the-year roundup have been in previous posts, but several are new apps to my iPhone. I'm including both free apps and apps for purchase, and sometimes I have a good free version of a genre you can try if you don't want to spend the money. Without further ado, read on to see my favorite fun apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.… Read more

Puzzle extension turns any Web image into a game

Here's a fun extension from the experimental section of Mozilla's Firefox add-ons site. It's called Puzzle, and once installed lets you turn any image from a page you're on into a sectional puzzle with pieces that can be moved around. Upon completion you have the option to ramp up the difficulty, which goes all the way up to a 15x15 grid. It's also able to resize larger images into smaller, laptop-friendly versions.

To toggle it on you simply right click on an image and select which difficulty you want. It then opens up the image (… Read more

Mint.com brings personal finance to the iPhone

Mint.com released a new and free iPhone application early Monday. Similar to PageOnce's mobile efforts, Mint's lets you monitor your credit card and bank accounts from your phone. It also throws in things like your monthly budget, incoming cash flow and expenses, along with any investment accounts you have synced up to Mint.com.

For security, Mint seems to have taken a page from PageOnce in letting you enable or disable mobile access from Mint.com. If your phone gets lost or stolen, you can simply cut off its access to your account, keeping any would-be identity … Read more