I’ve used Mailplane as my stand-alone mail client on the Mac for years. I used it since my main account is Gmail based and all my other domain-based account are funneled through the Gmail account to take advantage of the spam filter. Mailplane did everything I needed it to do. An adjustable toolbar that allows [...]
I was fortunate enough to record a new “ChitChat Across the Pond” segment with my dear friend Allison Sheridan from for the NosillaCast podcast last night. The live show will be recorded on Sunday, and, unless I’m mistaken, it will Allison’s 400th episode. Congrats to her and may she record many, many more. We talked [...]
The Omni Group, a developer of productivity applications for Mac and iOS, today announced the release of OmniPlan for iPad, completing its commitment to bring its five premium apps to the popular mobile computing platform. The iPad version of the company’s organization and planning tool, OmniPlan, offers many of the popular features included in the [...]
OrganiDoc HD from Wenjoy is a great addition to your iPad’s utility folder. OrganiDoc HD is a single app that allows you to share files from your Dropbox, Google Docs, iDisk, iCloud, or Box.net accounts. It makes the transfer easy and fast, almost as if you had an external drive connected to your iPad. But [...]
The last week I’ve been testing a business card scanning and cataloging app called WorldCard Mobile. The app is part of the entire WorldCard family of business card scanners and software including, WorldCard Pro, WorldCard Color, WorldCard Office, and the software, WorldCard License. WorldCard also makes document scanners and the iPhone app, Snap2PDF. The idea [...]
Last week I sang the praises of a new application in development for searching your Mac and your cloud called Found. The problem is that Found is still in a beta stage and to even use the application you have to get on a waiting list. I was contacted by another developer that told me [...]
I’ve been playing with the beta of a new Mac app called Found. I first found out about it on Twitter a few weeks ago and placed my name on the waiting list as soon as I could. Now that I have it on my Macs, I can say it wasn’t soon enough. Let me explain.
First, Found is in beta and not all the features are working yet, but the feedback I received from my first bug report impressed me and told me that this was an application that had a solid team behind it.
In case you have not heard about the application, let me do a quick explanation of what it does. It lives in the background of your desktop and with a double control key tap it pops out from the left side of your screen. You can set up your Google Docs and your Gmail accounts to be searches along with your Mac and your Dropbox folder. As of this beta, the Mac search is only setup for the main folders, or primary folders such as applications, documents, photos, music, movies, desktop and downloads. The edit button is already in place and ready for you to add more folders for searching in the later beta stages. In other words, you get search results from all four places at one time, broken down into categories so you know where the results are coming from and you can launch any of the results rights from the application and you can preview the results in a preview window if you desire.
I’ve been a Path Finder user and fan for many years now. It’s the most powerful finder replacement on the Mac. There is very little that Path Finder cannot do with your files. I use their dual browser window to easily move, copy, delete, collect, compress, burn and preview all my files. I am now [...]
This is the second in my series on Learning OmniFocus. In my first blog post I blamed all this OmniFocus love in the Mac community on people like David Sparks that have been preaching the benefits of an OmniFocus workflow for over the last year. I finally relented and decided to jump in with both [...]
Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast podcast here, hosted at podfeet.com. Every once in a while you find a software developer who consistently creates outstanding products. There’s a lot of great developers out there, don’t get me wrong, but one hit wonders are far more frequent than companies that relentlessly create quality products. One of those [...]
It’s no secret that I’ve used and have been a big fan of BBEdit from day one of my move to the Mac. Text editors have always occupied a lot of my hard drive space, to this day I have at least 6 different text edit apps installed at any time. You can find my [...]
It wouldn’t be a review if we didn’t start with the problem to be solved. Let’s say you’re on vacation in a foreign country, and you hope to be able to talk to the local people, but as it turns out you don’t know any other languages than your own. There’s a lot of options for you.
You could buy a book of phrases and look like an idiot thumbing through it while the person you were hoping to talk to wanders off impatiently. You could drag your Mac around under your arm so you could launch the dashboard app from Systran that will translate what you type into it – but we know how Tim feels about dashboard apps.
How about something on your iPhone? That would seem quite a bit more modern and efficient. Enter SpeechTrans, created by the Nuance folks, well known for their amazing speech dictation software Dragon. I had great fun testing this out with friends of mine, and it’s got the real idea of the Star Trek Universal Translator.
When you open SpeechTrans, you’re prompted to choose what language you want to translate from and to. SpeechTrans supports 15 languages including German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Dutch and Arabic. Once you choose your languages, you get a split screen. the top half is where you’ll be entering your words in your own language, the bottom half will be for the person with whom you’re trying to communicate. On the top half, you can either type in a phrase, or simply touch the record button and record your own voice. A spinning gear comes up for a few seconds, and then SpeechTrans types into the top half what you said. A second later, two things happen – SpeechTrans types in the 2nd language what you said, AND it speaks out loud what you said.
Now your coconspirator simply taps the record button on the bottom half and answers your question in their own language, and it translates back to yours in text and in voice. it’s really really cool. But. I’m afraid the accuracy wasn’t anywhere near the high 99% speech accuracy that Nuance promises. I tested it with two native Mandarin speakers, a woman who learned Spanish in South America, a Chinese man who said he spoke Japanese, and a Belgian who speaks both French and German fluently.
I asked each of them a question regarding how long they’d worked in their current company, and sadly it often got the number completely wrong. Sometimes it was more subtle in its errors, where the other person told me they totally would have gotten the point of what I was trying to ask them. One of the oddest errors happened when SpeechTrans correctly interpreted the voice input and typed out the Chinese perfectly, but then when it translated that now typed text to English it was incorrect. That surprised me because it would seem the speech recognition is the really hard part, isn’t it? You’d think typed text translation would have been the easy part.
One very unique feature of SpeechTrans is that you can post to your Facebook wall in a language you don’t even know. I had to try it a couple of times to get the English correct, I can’t swear the Dutch I posted was correct. When you post, it puts up the input and output language on your wall. You can also send to Facebook chat, Bump it to someone, or post to Twitter with SpeechTrans, might be hard to keep track of how many characters you’re typing though – how does that work with Asian language characters?
I posted to my Facebook wall in Dutch hoping that Knightwise from Belgium would respond, and he did. Here’s what he wrote: “it sounds ABOUT right … the translation factor adds some “demented factor” to it .. but we get the idea. I would not make any international peace agreements with this though .. things might get lost in translation”
SpeechTrans is on special right now for $20, and there’s also a version for those with hearing impairments for $50.
But wait, isn’t there another alternative? How about Google Translate – free on the iPhone? I decided to give Google Translate a whirl, assuming it would be a really poor alternative and would help me realize how powerful SpeechTrans is. First of all Google Translate doesn’t allow you to share with Facebook or any other social network, doesn’t bump, and doesn’t have the two pane window for the conversation to occur.
However, Google Translate has an interface that I actually like better. You have a much vaster choice of languages, 15 of which are available through voice, the rest must be used by typing into the phone. That’s the same number of voices, except that Google Translate gives you 3 kinds of Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin or Mandarin/Taiwan), and 4 for Spanish (Spain, Latin America, Mexico and Argentina). I had wondered that with SpeechTrans, my limited amount of understanding about language was that the dialects especially in Chinese were pretty extensive, and my roommate in college from Argentina would CONSTANTLY argue with her boyfriend from Cuba about how he mispronounced things in Spanish.
Google Translate is more intuitive in how it lets you speak to it than SpeechTrans. In SpeechTrans you have the two red record buttons, but when you touch them, you get a spinning gear for a while, which causes most people to start talking right away. They’re supposed to wait until this weird red symbol that actually means stop comes up on screen, and then you click the stop button when they’re done. In contrast, Google Translate simply puts “speak now” on screen when you hit the microphone button, and then when you stop talking for any length of time it assumes you’re done. I vastly prefer the way Google Translate does this part of the job.
When you’ve translated your voice or text, there’s a button that allows you to enlarge just the text so you can show it to the person you’re trying to communicate with. When you’re ready for them to speak back, you simply click the button to reverse the languages.
As far as accuracy, my more limited tests with Google Translate were not any more successful than SpeechTrans. While people could understand the basic gist of what I was trying to say to them, there were frequent errors that caused confusion at the least, and insult at the worst.
Bottom line time. If you need a translation device for travel, I think either of these products would get you by, but please don’t make business deals or ask for your girlfriend’s hand in marriage with either of them. I’m not sure SpeechTrans is worth the $20, when a free alternative from Google is available. If SpeechTrans had much higher accuracy, more languages, a better interface, it would be worth it, but it doesn’t win on any of those points. Go with Google Translate.