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Hands On: Nisus Writer Pro 2.1 (OS X)

03/28, 10:37am

The beloved word processor is still a contender

The very name Nisus may bring you back to the 1990s and if it doesn't, then one look at the software possibly will. That's cruel: it is nothing less than fantastic that Nisus has survived where so many other word processors have died, crushed under the force of Microsoft Word. So this version, Nisus Writer Pro 2.1 should be celebrated. It's just that there is something a tiny bit old about how it looks and feels.

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Hands On: Carbon Copy Cloner 4.0.6 (OS X)

03/28, 9:10am

Solid, well-made app backs up and copies your hard drives

Nothing digital really exists unless it exists twice. For all that we have these great interconnected cloud services, there is still a hard drive holding on to our data somewhere and all hard drives fail eventually. They're like politicians in that respect: they go on until they fail. Carbon Copy Cloner is a way to make failures annoying rather than fatal to your work. It backs up any or all of your files and it also optionally creates a separate and bootable hard drive.

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Hands On: Zoidtrip 1.3 (iOS, Android)

03/27, 5:16pm

What if Blooper from Super Mario Bros had its own game?

Zoidtrip by Arthur Guibert is a game about a squid-like sentient kite ... or something. It's a simple arcade-style scrolling game of avoiding walls for as long as you possibly can. It's free-to-play with advertisements, though an in-app purchase unlocks all the possible Zoids and removes the ads. Long story short, we found it to be a cheerful time-waster with a boppy soundtrack, and we're really bad at it.

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Hands On: Blink 1.0 (iOS)

03/27, 2:32pm

Quickly create affiliate links for your website

There is an argument that Blink is a single-use app for a very specific and therefore limited market: it helps you quickly make App Store links with a code in to get you some money. If you don't happen to know how affiliate links work, you just sat up. If you do, you didn't. It is not a road to making a lot of money but when it's done in a way that benefits your website audience then then it is a good thing all round.

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Hands On: Trial of the Clone 1.3 (iOS, Android, Paper)

03/27, 12:35pm

E pluribus shoot'em

Trial of the Clone by Tin Man Games is an iOS-based Gamebook adventure of the book by the same name by Zach Weinersmith of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal fame. Much like the other Gamebook adventure we recently covered, Ryan North's To Be Or Not To Be, the story is presented by the app in a choose-your-own-adventure like format. However Trial of the Clone makes better use of the Gamebook engine with inventory items, stats, and random number generators. On top of all that, it's read to you by Wil Wheaton, so if you don't like reading you're covered. Don't like Wil Wheaton? That's okay, you can turn him off in the settings. If you dislike both reading and Wil Wheaton at the same time, turn to page 7.

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Hands On: Flic 1.63 (iOS)

03/27, 7:20am

It's like Tinder for your camera roll!

The app's full name in iTunes is "Flic – Delete & Manage Camera Roll and Easily Delete Photos to Increase Disk Space", but we're just going to call it "Flic" from here on out. Lifehack Labs says it's like Tinder for your camera roll (or Grindr, or whatever "swipe right for yes, left for no" dating app you prefer). In spite of it having a very simple function and interface, the developers -- Lifehack Labs -- put a lot of thought into Flic.

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Hands On: Vietnam...'65 1.0 (iPad, Steam)

03/26, 5:13pm

Turn-based strategy war game about winning hearts and minds as well as battle set in the Drang Valle

Vietnam… '65 by Slitherine is a turn-based strategy war game set in, you guessed it, Vietnam in 1965. Specifically the Ia Drang Valley, right near the Cambodian border, where the player is in charge of a counterinsurgency effort. The enemy is sneaking in across the border, and the job gets more difficult when the player visits local villages to win hearts and minds, and constructs bases in the area.

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Hands On: Ticklefluff 1.0 (iOS)

03/26, 1:35pm

Look out Hypnotoad Look out Glow Cloud ALL HAIL TICKLEFLUFF

Attempting to describe Ticklefluff by Liger Games so as to properly prepare a person for what they're about to experience is a daunting task. It's a game where the player is given commands by an adorable tuft of fur. When we described it as that, and handed off our iPhone 5 or iPad Mini 2 with the game to other people, the reaction was usually the same. It would start with confusion. The chin tucked back, the eyebrows furrowed, and the lips pursed into a thin line. Then, like the sun coming through parting clouds, a smile begins to spread across the face. Then the giggling starts. Finally, they make their first mistake, displeasing Ticklefluff, and they pout.

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Hands On: TouchTone 1.2 (iOS)

03/26, 10:58am

A puzzler with a narrative that's either hilarious or chilling depending on your point of view

TouchTone by Mikengreg is a cloak-and-dagger themed puzzler where the player "hacks" into communication streams to spy on your fellow citizens for an organization that recruited you. Presumably, this organization is part of the government in some way, but they never really say. The data streams are represented by various colored waving lines and corresponding receptors. The player slides shapes around on a grid to redirect the lines and make connections.

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Hands On: To Be Or Not To Be 0.1.3275 (iOS, Android, Steam, Paper)

03/26, 7:58am

Follow a funny retelling of Shakespeare's masterpiece of tragically awkward family conflict or go co

Ryan North's To Be Or Not To Be by Tin Man Games is a quirky presentation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet ... or at least that story as presented by Ryan North, and illustrated by a veritable who's who of web comics. The app is one of Tin Man Games' Gamebook Adventures, a platform for stories told in a choose your own adventure style, or "find your own fate" if you had the Indiana Jones versions of those kinds of books. Choices that more-or-less match up with Shakespeare's version of how things shook out are marked with an adorable little Yorrik skull.

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Hands On: Alpha Omega 1.1 (iOS)

03/25, 4:49pm

Unscramble letters on a beautiful game board and a relaxing soundtrack

Alpha Omega by BorderLeap is a puzzle game where all the letters in a series of intersecting words are mixed up, except for the first and the last -- hence the name. We enjoyed the clean style of the game boards and tiles, as well as the "relaxing soundscapes" vibe of the accompanying music. We tried it out on an iPhone and an iPad Mini, and it looked great on both -- and provided a lot of entertainment.

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Hands On: Fantastical 2 (OS X)

03/25, 9:30am

Powerful and, frankly, beautiful calendar app for Mac

This was worth the wait. The Mac version of calendar app Fantastical has lagged behind its iOS counterparts for quite some time, but now they're the ones that need to catch up. Fantastical 2 for OS X is fast, very easy, very powerful, and hands down the best-looking calendar on the Mac. Other than that, it's fine.

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Hands On: Paper Dungeons 1.0 (iOS, Android, Mac, PC, Linux)

03/25, 7:19am

A single player boardgame with tabletop RPG style flair

Paper Dungeons by Valverde Stephane is a board game in the time-honored fantasy tradition of rolling dice to kill monsters and take their stuff. The app provides adorable art, nice sound design, and lots of board game action using a pay-once-and-play model. The look and feel of the game invokes the graph-paper mapping of table top RPGs. Everything about the art style is ... we're pretty sure the word is "adorkable." It's cute without being cutesy. Well, except for the female warrior death screen, that's pretty cutesy, but we think it's okay in that case.

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Hands On: Breaking 1.0 (iOS, Mac)

03/24, 4:13pm

Your favorite RSS feeds in the iOS Today widget

Breaking by Robocat adds your RSS feeds to the iOS Today widget. The user can have between two and five of the most recent stories from any number of RSS feeds available with a simple downward swipe. There's a bit more to the app than just that actually, and we'll talk about that. The app doesn't give you a full run-down of all the stories in the feeds you have listed; it's only for breaking information, as the name implies. We tested Breaking for iOS on an iPhone 5, and an iPad Mini 2.

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Hands On: Mr. Jump 1.0 (iOS)

03/23, 2:00pm

Devilish platform promises to challenge

We love games across every genre. We like tactical games, shooters, survival games, and puzzle games. Sandbox games? Sure, we're in! But if there's one game that we love the most, perhaps even more than open-world RPGs, it's probably platformers. Yes, your basic, run-of-the-mill platformer, capable of invoking nostalgic feelings from our childhood. That's why we checked out Mr. Jump, as we were expecting a fun trip down memory lane, but instead we found a surprisingly brutal foray into the world of digital free-running.

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Hands On: Hell: Fight for Gilrand 1.1 (iOS)

03/23, 7:35am

Battle for the land of Gilrand in this complex, immersive tactical wargame

It seems odd, considering how the hobby started, but fantasy war gaming is a welcome addition nowadays to the world of an overload of World War II-based games. There's something familiar, almost cozy, about being able to rally the troops to defeat the dragon. We took a look at Hell: Fight for Gilrand, a tactical war game by Slitherine, to see how it stacks up to other war games we've played.

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Hands On: Pimp Your Screen 2.95 (iOS)

03/22, 6:21pm

Customize your phone to be every bit as unique as you are

Phones are personal, which is probably why we spend such a large amount of time fussing over them. When it comes to personalization, we take our phone cases, our styluses, and our screen protectors very seriously, so it only makes sense that we'd think just as much about our wallpapers. That's where
Pimp Your Screen
comes in, an app that offers hundreds of high-quality wallpapers to help you make a statement with your iPhone.

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Hands On: Carrot Weather (iOS)

03/21, 8:58am

Our favorite robot overlord rises up again in well designed weather app

Ah, Carrot. She's our favorite of a wide array of choices for robot overlords, and the mascot for the Carrot series of apps. If you weren't aware, we had checked out Carrot To-Do a while back, which is a productivity app that keeps you productive with a strange mix of death threats and achievements. Currently, there are quite a few Carrot apps, and they're planning to add more to their collection, but today we'll take a look at Carrot Weather, because maybe your meteorologist should be a murderous robot.

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Hands on: Swing Tail 1.0 (iOS)

03/20, 1:11pm

A cute little puzzle-adventure-platformer involving eyeballs and tentacles

Swing Tale by FDG Entertainment is 100 levels of adventure for an unnamed cyclopean creature from whom tentacles suddenly sprout to grab onto things and swing its bouncy spherical body around the world. That may sound terrifying, but it's actually all quite adorable. We enjoyed the personality of the game, and playing around with the physics inherent in the use of tentacles as a means of transportation.

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Hands On: Downcast 2.8.28 (iOS)

03/20, 10:42am

Easily download, find, manage, and play back podcasts

Devices come and go, generally every two years when your cellular plan comes up for renewal, but a good utility app transcends hardware. Downcast by Jamawkinaw Enterprises is one such app for this reviewer. We first downloaded it back when Apple spun Podcasts off into a separate app, which we didn't find very intuitive at the time. Downcast is very intuitive, and we've never looked back.

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Hands On: Fitastic 1.1 (iOS)

03/19, 2:30pm

This paired down attractive fitness app is perfect for minimalists

Fitness apps are a great invention for anyone interested in keeping an exercise routine. They help us keep track of our endeavors as we strive to accomplish our goals. Some apps are so full of features that they're practically bursting; for a lot of users, that can be intimidating. If you're looking for a streamlined app that isn't going to bog you down, we might have just the app for you: Fitastic.

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Hands On: Launcher 1.1 (iOS)

03/19, 1:13pm

Notification Centre app launcher returns

When is an app not an app? When it's really there primarily to make a Notification Center widget work. Also, when is an update not really an update? When there are bug fixes, but the only true update is that the app is back in the App Store after a long gap. That's what has happened with Launcher, a widget that gives you quick app-launching direct from the Notification Center on your iOS devices. It's a simple and smart app that should never have been at the center of controversy, and it's good that you can finally get it again.

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Hands On: Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager 1.4.16 (iPad, PC, Mac)

03/19, 9:22am

Learn about the history of the space race, or create your own history

Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager by Slitherine depicts the Cold War space race from the perspective of those on one of the front lines. While populated with soldiers and military, this time, we're talking about NASA and the Soviet Space Agency. This game isn't about artillery barrages or submarines lurking about, but one of managing departments, selecting and training personnel, and balancing budgets.

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Hands On: Moneygrabber! 1.3 (iOS)

03/19, 8:01am

Embrace your inner consumer with this rapid-reflex game

Twitch-based games are games that require players to make quick decisive movements in order to complete objectives. The array of games found within this genre are fairly broad -- most shooters are twitch-based, and a lot of classic arcade games are known to employ similar rapid-reflex strategies as well. We checked out Moneygrabber, a twitch-based arcade game with a weird, consumerism-driven spin, just because it seemed so quirky.

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Hands On: Vesper 2.005 (iOS)

03/18, 10:30am

Minimalist and speedy note-taking app now also on iPad

We have come such a long way from the original iPhone's yellow Notes app with its very yellow pages and Comic Sans font. Did we mention yellow? Today's Vesper, from Q Branch, does the same job -- yet comes from the opposite end of the design spectrum with a plain, tasteful look and typography control. It's also much faster than Notes ever was, and its syncing of individual notes is quicker than Evernote's.

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Hands On: Citymapper 5.01 (iPhone)

03/17, 3:13pm

Updated travel app is very impressive if it covers your city

The best way to see any city is on foot. The cheapest way to see it is by public transport. The most expensive way to check out the sights is by taxi. Travel app Citymapper, now updated to version 5.01, shows you the best routes for all three, and does so very well. Mind you, it's useless if you aren't going to one of the cities it includes.

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Hands On: Rop (iOS)

03/17, 9:50am

Meet the new, fendishly simple lateral thinking puzzle ready to test your skill.

Sometimes the best games are the most simple. There's a lot to be said for games like Solitaire, classics that have clearly-defined rules and a simple win condition. We enjoy simple games, especially ones that are so simple that they seem to have emergent complex properties. We found one such puzzle game, Rop -- a game that will challenge your ability to recreate what you see.

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Hands On: Zuki's Quest (iOS)

03/17, 7:40am

Puzzle combines turn-based action with platformer in this treasure hunting game!

We check out a lot of puzzle games here, and one quick glance at the App Store will tell you why. The sheer amount of puzzle games that are out there is staggering, and we feel a lot of them get lost in the crowd. However, every so often we stumble across a little gem of a game that we're genuinely glad we found. Today, that game is Zuki's Quest, by Arnold Rauers, who also made Card Crawl, another game we've recently enjoyed.

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Hands On: WeekWeather 1.0.1 (iOS)

03/16, 4:23pm

Showing a week's worth of weather in bar graph form

Week Weather by Wolfgang Augustin shows a seven-day forecast in a series of columns set to show what the weather will be like on each day, for a 12- or 24-hour stretch. The layout is very clean and easy to understand, though we think it works best on devices with a larger screen. We spent a week with WeekWeather's most recent update, v1.0.1, using it on an iPhone 5 and an iPad Mini 2.

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Hands On: Kitsound Boombar 2

03/16, 1:26pm

Loud and light portable Bluetooth speaker

When we looked at the Kitsound Pocket Hive speaker, we said it was loud and clear. This larger Kitsound Bomber 2 speaker from the same company is louder and clearer -- and it comes with a carrying case.

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Hands On: Black + White Camera HD (iOS)

03/16, 11:14am

Pared-down app offers stunning black and white results

There's something about black and white photography that we really admire. Maybe it's the boldness, maybe it's the implied vintage feel, or maybe we're just photography snobs at heart. Whatever the reason, we decided that we'd check out Black + White Camera HD by SixAxis, which is an app solely devoted to taking only black and white pictures.

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Hands On: Bookends 12.5.2 (OS X)

03/16, 8:20am

Powerful academic search and citation manager

Bookends is a professional research tool for finding information online, and then presenting it to you in a useful way. That means making it easy to find what you want, keep what you want, and then refer to it all correctly in your own writing. This application, designed for academics and students, has a bewildering, overwhelming rage of options, yet also a very clear and simple core search: enter what you're looking for -- from a vague overall topic to a specific page number in a book -- and choose from dozens of places to search.

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Hands On: OutlineEdit 1.3.2 (OS X)

03/15, 4:00pm

Easy to use outlining software with interesting features

OutlineEdit consciously slots in to the middle of the pack for outlining software. On the one hand, it is more powerful than the tools built in to word processors like Microsoft Word. On the other, it's more affordable than what is effectively the industry leader in this field, OmniOutliner.

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Hands On: Duolingo (iOS)

03/15, 12:03pm

Learn a second language easily with this smartly-designed app

Have you ever been suckered in to some sort of "learn language quickly" scheme? Audio tapes that you listen to in your sleep, expensive software that requires hours of use in a single setting, classes that require a large amount of physical effort? Don't worry, most bilingual-curious folk have. We caught ourselves using a demo of a big-name software -- and while it worked, it would have cost hundreds of dollars and still required 45-minute sessions multiple times a week. Enter Duolingo, a slick little app that aims to help you make quick work of picking up a second (or third, or fourth...) language -- for free.

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Hands On: Elmedia Player Go 5.1.482 (OS X, iOS)

03/14, 9:47am

Play videos and download online ones to your Mac

Since we were all living in caves, mankind has faced the same age-old problem: how to download and keep video we've watched online. Also, since the days of the first lawyers living in caves, we've faced the issue of copyright. Elmedia Player Go for OS X aims to get, and to show us, web videos easily and legally.

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Hands On: Circuit Mouse (iOS, Android)

03/13, 6:19pm

Is your device plugged in or is it not?

Circuit Mouse is a cheeky little app that answers a very simple question. "Is your device plugged in, or isn't it?" That might seem like a silly question -- devices tend to make a noise when plugged into, or removed from, a power source. Plus, there's usually a little lightning bolt on the battery indicator to show if it's charging, for example. Nevertheless, there are some clever ways to use that information, and Circuit Mouse provides several methods of showing it.

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Hands On: Ulysses (OS X, iOS)

03/13, 2:56pm

The writing app beats Scrivener to the iPad

It's not as if this were Mac versus PC, not Word versus WordPerfect, not even Aperture versus Lightroom. Still, Ulysses vs Scrivener, a war of word processors, is a thing -- and Ulysses just took a big step ahead. These two applications give writers a complete and single package of tools for writing, research, and then publishing. What they have not given writers before was the ability to pick up an iPad and carry on where you were.

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Hands On: Nokia Here 1.0.59 (iOS)

03/13, 7:28am

Nokia's map app is back on iOS

Not to be rude about this, but did you notice that the Nokia Here maps app for iOS was gone? That, in fact, it wasn't Here? The company pulled it in December 2013, and said this was all the fault of Apple because certain features of iOS 7 "harm the user experience." Nokia never said which features, and you didn't really expect it to, but then you didn't expect it to come back with a new app 15 months later, either, and yet here it is.

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Hands On: Red Herring (iOS)

03/12, 5:16pm

A simple brain teaser of grouping words together can be devilishly challenging

A person can spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting in line, waiting on hold, waiting until the plane has come to a complete stop -- it's times like those that quick casual brain teasers can make time speed up. Red Herring by Blue Ox Technologies is a game where the player guesses which words go together in several categories, and which are red herrings that don't have anything to do with anything.

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Hands On: Google Calendar 1.0.2 (iOS)

03/12, 2:23pm

At last it's on iOS – though it could be better

Be grateful for -- well, if not exactly small things, then things that could be bigger than they are. Google Calendar has finally landed on iOS, and if you use this calendar online, you should be running off to download this new app right now. For everyone else, it has promise. The key, killer feature of Google Calendar for iOS is that it is Google Calendar and it is on iOS: its very presence on the platform is a great thing. Beyond that, it is a good-looking app and it's quick to set up with your Google account.

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Hands On: Air PDF (iOS)

03/12, 11:06am

Easily convert webpages to PDF to read later with this PDF converter tool

PDF creation apps have been exploding onto the App Store for quite some time, so we're pretty used to them by now. We've had some that we've loved, and some that we've loved a little less, than others. We've found that we tend to think higher of the ones that offer more features that are closely related to their desktop counterparts, though we've been pleasantly surprised by many of these pared-down programs. Today, we sat down with Air PDF, by the same creators of Power DOS, to check out how this one stacks up to the others.

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Hands On: Foodgram (iOS)

03/12, 9:13am

Photo-centric food journaling app is a good idea, but didn't excite us

The suggestion to keep a food journal is often given to people who, for whatever reason, want to be mindful about what they put into their body through their piehole. Taking a picture of something just before you eat it is also popular, which can also be helpful. As Tim Ferriss said in The 4-Hour Body, "Who wants to take a picture of a one pound bag of M&Ms?" Foodgram, by Sugoi Software, is a food journal that allows the user to see at a glance what they've been eating, because each entry is accompanied by a picture. This is a great idea, but unfortunately the app left us wanting more.

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Hands On: Card Crawl (iOS)

03/12, 7:24am

Unique game combines solitaire with dungeon crawler

Playing cards have existed since Imperial China, and could be found as early as the ninth century, where they were first referenced as "the leaf game." Since their humble origins as the leaf game, playing cards have branched out into all manner of different games. Poker, Old Maid, Solitaire -- wildly diverse games for sure -- and today they're making an appearance as a digital dungeon crawler. Card Crawl is a new spin on a Solitaire-style game, one that pits players against a deck of bloodthirsty monsters.

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Hands On: Impecca Bamboo Bluetooth Keyboard

03/11, 9:30pm

A handy tablet or spare wireless keyboard made from natural materials

Sometimes, you need to do a lot of typing on a mobile device. While spiffy keyboard apps like Swiftkey and Hero Keyboard make it faster and easier using the on-screen keyboard, it isn't always enough. Or perhaps that deadline for a paper you were supposed to write is nigh, and your notebook or desktop computer with a keyboard is not handy. In each of these cases, a Bluetooth keyboard is a life saver. The Bamboo Bluetooth keyboard from Impecca is one such keyboard, and we quite liked using it.

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Hands On: Seabeard (iOS)

03/11, 9:37am

Rebuild your grandfather's pirate town to its former glory!

Freemium games usually get a bad rap, and for good reason. Generally, there's a lot of "pay to win" games that require you to actually pay if you want to win. However, in the realm of freemium games, there are a few gems that exist out there. Seabeard, by Backflip Studios, is one such game, largely because it's freemium structure is slight at best.

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Hands On: Transloader 2.1 (OS X, iOS)

03/10, 11:15am

Use your iPhone to start downloads on your Mac

This is a bit like the Flash or no Flash business: either the fact that you can't download files to your iOS device enrages you or you're now trying to remember ever noticing. If you need a file, though, you need it (likely right now and Transloader is a good and clever workaround. It won't make your iPhone download anything, but it will get you that file.

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Hands On: Defender of the Wood (iOS)

03/10, 9:10am

Pick off goblins with your bow and arrow in a retro-inspired arcade title!

Arcade games are fairly straight-forward, and that's the big draw for most players. More often than not, they contain a few core mechanics -- such as a point-based system in which you try to continually top your, or other players', best scores. Arcade games have been a staple of the gaming world since the very beginning, from Pong to modern titles like Angry Birds. We tried out Defender of the Wood, a stylized little arcade title that matches the player against Nasty Little Goblin-Things in a fight for their mythical realm.

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Hands On: BusyCal 2.6.5 (OS X)

03/09, 6:00pm

BusyContacts' stablemate is a powerful calendar

It takes a lot to get anyone to switch away from Apple's free apps to paid-for alternatives, yet BusyCal has for years been persuading people to do just that. If you've resisted even looking at it, though, the recent release of its companion address book app BusyContacts makes the move compelling.

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Hands On: Gmail 4.0 (iOS)

03/09, 8:49am

The official Gmail app gets iOS 8 update, but still needs more

Google has released an update to its universal iOS email app, Gmail 4.0, and it adds good new features that exploit iOS 8. The new features are welcome, and the app is a must-have update if you're a Gmail user.

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Hands On: Up Next (iOS) [U]

03/07, 12:54pm

Organize your events and tasks from one place

Updated with troubleshooting information for a flaw found in the app] Up Next by Illuminated Bits takes all of your calendar events and reminders to organize them in an easier-to-digest format. We spent about a week with Up Next, and we quite liked how easy it made reviewing and managing our schedule from one place.

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