Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

App reviews

Finally, an Edge browser extension worth a look – flick that mouse

Store logo for Mouse Gestures extension for Edge browserAlthough the offerings for Edge browser extensions are sparse at the moment, there are a couple worth looking at. One to consider is Mouse Gestures.  It enables a series of right click actions that make speeding about web pages and tabs easier. The extension loads 16 preset flicks that allow you to move forward and back between webpages, hop from one tab to another and improve scrolling on longer pages.

Once installed and enabled, all you need to do is hold the right mouse button down and move the mouse in a specific motion. To go back to a previous web page, hold the right mouse button and flick to the left. Go forward, right mouse and flick right.  If you are a Surface Pro user, Mouse Gestures supports pen gestures. My favourite gestures are the ability to hop from one tab to another or closing a tab when you’re done with it and refreshing the page with a quick flick of the mouse:

Screen view of some advanced mouse gestureAnother feature worth noting is the ability to scroll to the top or bottom of an article quickly. Using a combined down and up gesture will move you to the top instantly. A quick up and down gesture moves you to the bottom of the page. It doesn’t work that well on those endless scroll pages though.  Something about them confuses the gesture. It’s okay flicking down, you go about a page length at a time, but if you try to scroll to the top of the page, you end up further down the page or somewhere random. This didn’t happen on all sites, but the majority I tried behaved a bit funky.

There isn’t a lot of customisation available, but you can turn off features you don’t want such as the visible mouse trail as you flick. You can also deactivate gestures you don’t use. Hold the right button down and start gesturing slowly will pop up a handy tool tip window to remind you of what gestures are available. Once you’ve memorized the gestures you need, you can shut tips off and not be bothered by them.

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Extensions for Microsoft Edge at last .... whoops not so fast

Microsoft's anniversary edition includes an update to the Edge browser that allows the installation of extensions. Omitting them was one of the more irritating "features" of the original Windows 10 release. Pickings are incredibly slim with only 13 offered. Kind of .... maybe .... confused? So am I. In the Extensions category, there are 13 listed. However, some aren't categorised correctly and are available instore. Microsoft's Personal Shopping Assistant is available, but doesn't show up under extensions, nor does a search specifically for extensions produce any results. Sigh ...  

How do you install them? Look up at the top right corner and click on the 3 dots:

Image of the more button for Microsoft Edge browser

Slide your mouse down the list and click once on Extensions -> Get Extensions from the Store. Wait a few seconds and the Microsoft Store will open to the extensions page.  Or open the store app, click on Collections and scroll down to Extensions. Click on the one you want and it will install automatically.

To view, change or delete an extension, return to the Extensions menu. Right clicking on the extension will allow you to delete or change the options.  Pretty straight forward, but we'll have to sit around twiddling our thumbs waiting for the category to fill up. I'll add extension reviews here on the App Reviews section when they start showing up.

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App Review: Starbucks app – just what I need, another way to feed my mobile caffeine addiction

Windows 10 Starbucks App screen - courtesy Starbucks CorporationStarbucks Mobile payment app for Windows 10 Phone Download from Windows Store

Works with Win10 phones. Also available on Android and iPhone platforms ☕☕☕☕ /☕☕☕☕☕

Windows mobile users are used to being ignored or palmed off with substandard light versions of apps developed for other platforms. But things have begun to improve out there with a gradual trickle of apps that have long been standards on the ubiquitous iPhone and Android. After months of promising a mobile pay app for Win10 phones, Starbucks finally released one last month.

It has most of the expected features and missing one crucial one. First the good: it works. I know, I know, my expectations have dropped shockingly low lately in the app department. But seriously, it does – flawlessly. It’s also very fast to pay with. I was a bit surprised at how seamless using the app proved to be. Pull out your phone, tap the app, tap pay, scan and off you go. No fuss, no hassles.

You can top up your balance directly from the app or use a browser. If you use a credit card, just tap the reload button on the app itself, choose the amount and the payment is processed immediately. You can also use the “reload automatically” option if you add a credit card to the app. If you don’t like the idea of attaching a credit card to your account, you can log into via a browser which allows you to use Paypal instead. Unfortunately, the Paypal option is missing from the in- app payment options. Here’s a tip: if you decide to top up using your browser, wait until you get home or to a secure network. Don’t use an open network.

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Win App review – a little something to block out the gawd awful noise

Icon for White Noise Machine Win 10 app White Noise Generator by Idea MK (Store page:

Works on Windows Mobile devices ☕☕☕☕ /☕☕☕☕☕

I move about the city a lot which means I’m often blasted with the most awful noise imaginable. Everything from music piped in at ear splitting levels, constant construction, people yelling into their phones or jackasses who haven’t figured out the sounds from their Candy Crush game were designed to push the average person into a raging fury of Hulkitude.

It’s difficult to block out the noise and a pair of earphones really doesn’t do a lot, other than to muffle the sound a little. If the music isn’t too loud, I’ll pop my headphones on and hope for the best. However, this doesn’t always work. Short of investing in a pair of high end noise cancelling headphones, you have to either suffer or download a white noise generator. Enter apps designed to keep you and me sane – the white noise generator.

I tested a number of white noise generators, some were meh… others crap on a cracker and then I found this simple, modest little app, White Noise Machine

This is the type of app I like – no unnecessary features, simple, clean and intuitive. Tap it on, choose the type of ambient sound you want to hear and hit play. I use the wind feature a lot, but the storm and rain are quite good as well. The wind varies just enough to distract from the incredible cacophony around and allows me to concentrate or relax.  

The app comes with a handy timer if you want to set it to shut off on it’s own. When the screen turns off, the app continues working (unlike a couple I tried). All in all very sound. I gave it nearly full marks because it was the one app that stopped me from turning into one of those people who stand in the middle of the sidewalk shaking their fist at everyone. They can have their noise, I can have my quiet.

It’s a free app that relies on ads for revenue. The ads in no way detracts from the software’s usefulness. They pop up occasionally and are easily dismissed. Because the ads are non-intrusive, I’ve actually taken to tapping them once in a while to support the developer. I’d pay for this app – happily. It would be money well spent.

I have a tiny little observation that makes me chuckle. The app offers a variety of sounds including hairdryers and vacuums.. to each their own white noise. But the airplane? Sorry guys, that isn’t the sound of a jet, it’s a prop plane. You really need to change the photo.

My only real complaint is the looping is a bit sloppy. When the end of the sound comes, the app abruptly cuts out and starts over. I can be a bit disconcerting and I wish they’d fix it.

It’s specifically designed for Windows mobile devices, anything from 8 up. So laptop users are out of luck. Hopefully the developer will extend the app to laptops and tablets.


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App Review of Screenshot – it does what it says it’ll do … kind of

Store screen for Screen Shot app for win 10Screenshot - screen capture app for Win10 devices

App Review   -- Screenshot    ☕☕☕ /☕☕☕☕☕
Works on: Win10 devices
Developer: Cundhi

This is a fairly decent little app. It does what it says it will do, mostly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do a lot. Screenshot acts as a holding pen for your screen captures. Fire it up and you can rapidly scroll through your screen captures without having to wade through all the photos stored on your phone. The store page says it provides “some processing after the shot” but I was hard put to see any difference.

I’ve struggled a bit trying to justify Screenshot. Unless you take a ton of screen captures, there isn’t much this app can offer the average user. You can’t edit/share directly from screenshot so it’s easier to open the photos app that comes with Windows 10 and work directly from there. The app’s promised “Screenshot guide, explains how to capture” is so spartan, it’s almost none existent. This is all I could find:

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#@!% app. Why isn't it working?

- Catpaw, 2016

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