6 Android Ebook Reader Apps With Great Annotation Features

android-reading-apps

Reading is not a dialogue between you and the author, but rather an expression from the text to your brain. When you annotate, your mind develops a contextual relationship with the document. This includes facts, criticisms, links to related documents or web links, better navigational cues, and more. You can annotate your ebooks with a highlighter tool, comment tool, underlines, callout arrows, and much more. We’ll show you six EPUB readers for Android that let you annotate ebooks and export notes in different formats. 1. Amazon Kindle Amazon Kindle is a multi-platform ebook reader featuring marketplace, reader, and library management…

Read the full article: 6 Android Ebook Reader Apps With Great Annotation Features

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Reading is not a dialogue between you and the author, but rather an expression from the text to your brain. When you annotate, your mind develops a contextual relationship with the document. This includes facts, criticisms, links to related documents or web links, better navigational cues, and more.

You can annotate your ebooks with a highlighter tool, comment tool, underlines, callout arrows, and much more. We’ll show you six EPUB readers for Android that let you annotate ebooks and export notes in different formats.

1. Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle is a multi-platform ebook reader featuring marketplace, reader, and library management features. The Kindle app gives you many options to set up the reading environment according to your needs. You can adjust the screen brightness, set your preferred screen orientation, switch to night mode, customize the font, and much more.

Annotate and View Notes

Touch and hold a word, then drag the highlighter to the end of the sentence or paragraph. The highlighting tools will pop up as you lift your finger from the screen. From the color picker box, choose the color you want to use. To add a note, select the highlighted text and tap Note. When the note window appears, type in your notes and tap Save.

The Kindle app doesn’t let you export notes directly to your device. Instead, you can view the saved highlights organized under the titles located in your Amazon Kindle highlights. The most recently updated books occupy a column on the left, with annotations on the right panel.

Export Notes With Third-Party Apps

Bookcision is a Javascript bookmarklet that lets you easily extracts highlights and notes from ebooks. The bookmarklet produces a single page of clearly styled highlights and notes. You can either copy it to the clipboard or download the annotations as TXT, JSON, or XML.

Clippings.io is another web app to manage annotations. Install the extension from the Chrome Web Store. Then go to the Amazon Kindle Highlights page and click on the extension. The web app lets you edit, search, tag, and annotate your clippings. It also enables you to search book notes by title, author, content, and type.

Download: Amazon Kindle (Free)

2. Google Play Books

Google Play Books is an all-in-one app to buy and read books across all the devices you own. The interface is simple and customizable to give you a smooth reading experience. You can change the font, font size, screen brightness, switch to sepia or black themes, and much more.

Annotate and Export Notes

Open your ebook and long-press the words you want to highlight. With your finger, drag the blue marker to the end of the sentence or paragraph. In the popup that appears, tap Highlight. To add a note, select the highlighted text and tap Note.

After you’re satisfied with your markup, tap the center of the page, followed by Contents at the top-right of the screen. Here, you can browse the table of contents, bookmarks, and notes you’ve written. Play Books doesn’t let you directly export notes. Instead, it saves them in a Google Docs file.

To keep your notes handy, enter the Hamburger menu > Settings and turn on Save notes, highlights, and bookmarks in Google Drive. By default, the file gets saved in a folder named Play Books Notes. But you can rename the folder through Settings. Now go to Google Drive and you can save the file as TXT, HTML, or PDF.

Add-on Features

Play Books distinguishes itself from other bookstores by allowing you to upload your collection of ebooks. When you do this, you can download those books to any device and sync annotations as well.

If you’re learning a new language, then Play Books also lets you learn new words. Select the entire text that you’ve highlighted, then tap Translate. The translation feature uses Google Translate in the background.

Download: Google Play Books (Free)

3. Moon+ Reader

Moon+ Reader is an innovative ebook reader designed to give you complete control over your reading experience. You can fine-tune the screen brightness and simply tap the screen to switch between day and night modes.

In Control options, you can change the controls for short press, long press, and multi-touch gestures to your liking. In Visual options, you can set the font type, size, alignment, spacing, and more.

Annotate and Export Notes

To create a highlight, drag the blue marker with your finger to the end of a sentence or paragraph. In the popup that appears, tap Highlight. From the color picker box, choose the color you want to highlight with. You can also underline or strikethrough text with different colors. Tap Note to add more information on the selected text.

When you tap Save, a transparent sticky note will appear on the text. After marking up a whole chapter, tap the Bookmarks button, then Share, and choose to export notes and highlights as TXT or HTML. If you like, you can then make a section in OneNote and start taking better notes.

The app also lets you sync reading positions and annotations (in the MRPO file format) with Google Drive. Tap Miscellaneous, then check Sync reading positions via Google Drive. When you tap Backup or Restore, it lets you sync and restore reading positions on other devices.

Download: Moon+ Reader (Free) | Moon+ Reader Pro ($5)

4. eLibrary Manager

If you manage hundreds of ebooks on your device, then it’s frustrating to deal with metadata and book information. You likely have books with incomplete information such as title, genre, and author. eLibrary manager solves this problem by letting you edit, extract, and manage metadata property in bulk.

eLibrary manager also lets you manage your ebook library with Calibre. You can set a content server, and the app will automatically import books along with their metadata. The free edition of the app lets you organize a library; you must buy the premium version to get annotation-related features.

Annotate and Export Notes

To create a highlight, long-press your finger over some text and choose Highlight from the context menu. The highlight toolbar contains the color palette box—select the color of your choice and tap Save. If you marked the wrong text, select the highlighted text again and tap Delete.

eLibrary manager also lets you mark specific locations in a book you’re reading as bookmarks and optionally add notes with more information. To create a bookmark, long-press your finger over text and choose Bookmark/Notes. You can write a note and attach it to your bookmark or highlighted text.

The app also lets you see an overview of all highlights and bookmarks. Tap More > Annotations to look at the entries with page number, summary, and the color of the highlight. To export the annotations, tap Export option from the book list. The exported data file (JSON) gets saved to a folder on your device.

Download: eLibrary Manager Basic (Free) | eLibrary Manager ($1.50)

5. FullReader

FullReader is a multifunctional reader that lets you read ebooks, comics, text files, and audiobooks. When you launch the app for the first time, it’ll scan your device for books and read their metadata. Based on this metadata, it classifies books according to genre, series, title, and author.

The app uses several options to optimize the display of ebooks. To optimize the display of ebook annotations, open Hamburger menu > Settings. Then tap Optimizing and check Annotations in file system. To highlight the text, drag your finger to the end of the sentence and tap Note on the popup. From the color picker box, choose the color of the note from either ready-made tints or the palette.

You can also create bookmarks to save your reading position and switch between pages. To create a bookmark, tap the Bookmark icon the bottom panel. After you’re done marking up, tap Bookmarks and notes to see a list of everything you’ve saved. Then tap the More menu to export your notes as a TXT file.

Download: FullReader (Free)

6. eBoox

eBoox is a well-designed and intuitive reader that lets you read ebooks, comics, Word documents, and magazines. By default, the app comes with optimal reading settings. You can load books from folders on your device and even import books from free ebook libraries.

To highlight text, drag your finger to the end of a sentence and tap Quote on the popup. If the phrase you’re highlighting is on the next page, the page will turn, and you’ll be able to continue highlighting the text. To add a note to your highlighted text, tap Write a note to a quote.

It’s also possible to sync your reading position with Google Drive. Sign in with your Google account, then any highlights and notes (and even books) you create get synced with other devices. You can also export your notes and directly share them with a note-taking app. Tap Export all quotes, then choose OneNote, for instance.

Download: eBoox (Free)

Learn More About Annotations

It’s difficult to think critically when you only passively consume information, especially online. If you find it hard to think beyond the simple context, creating annotations can help. When you do this, you think hard about how ideas connect with each other.

The reader apps discussed here will help you become a better reader and thinker. But annotations go beyond ebooks; they’re a part of the whole web. If this interests you, we have a complete guide on how and why to use annotations.

Read the full article: 6 Android Ebook Reader Apps With Great Annotation Features

6 Easy Ways to Reduce Mac Backup Sizes and Save Space

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When you take regular backups of your Mac (which you hopefully do), you’ll eventually run into storage-related problems. After some time, you’ll run out of space on the external drive that holds your data. Or you might find that you’re paying too much for a cloud because it charges by the gigabyte. Meanwhile, a slow internet speed can make large backups slow and painful. One approach to these problems is to reduce the total amount of data you’re backing up. We’ll show you several easy steps to cut the backup size and make sure you backup only important files on…

Read the full article: 6 Easy Ways to Reduce Mac Backup Sizes and Save Space

reduce-mac-backup

When you take regular backups of your Mac (which you hopefully do), you’ll eventually run into storage-related problems. After some time, you’ll run out of space on the external drive that holds your data. Or you might find that you’re paying too much for a cloud because it charges by the gigabyte. Meanwhile, a slow internet speed can make large backups slow and painful.

One approach to these problems is to reduce the total amount of data you’re backing up. We’ll show you several easy steps to cut the backup size and make sure you backup only important files on your Mac.

1. Use Optimized Storage

In macOS Sierra and later, the iCloud Optimized Storage feature lets you save space. It does this by storing files you seldom use in iCloud and makes them available on demand. To get started, open Apple menu > About This Mac > Storage and click Manage.

open the system information window

In the list on the left panel, click Recommendations and explore the four options on the right panel. We cover three of them below.

optimized storage window Mac

Store in iCloud

Click the Store in iCloud button to store all files, photos, and messages in iCloud and save space on your Mac automatically when needed. Check Desktop and Documents to move the data from these locations to iCloud Drive and make them available on all your devices.

Similarly, check Photos to keep full-resolution photos in iCloud Photo Library and optimized versions of those items on your Mac. Keep a note of space the items in those folders occupy to avoid any surprised with the impact on your iCloud storage space and internet data caps.

store files in iCloud

Optimize Storage

Click the Optimize button and follow the prompts to have macOS remove movies and television shows that you’ve watched. You can also tell Apple Mail to Download only recent attachments or no attachments at all. Later on, if you need those items, you can download them on demand.

optimize storage option to remove huge files

Once you enable these features, macOS will perform the necessary tasks in the background. You’ll be less likely to run out of disk space and thus significantly reduce your backup size.

Empty Trash Automatically

The Trash is just another folder residing on your Mac. Moving files or folders to the Trash doesn’t delete them. Its contents continue to take up space and could result in longer backups. Right-click on the Trash icon and choose Empty Trash to clean it out manually.

To do this automatically, enable the option here to erase items that have been in the Trash for more than 30 days.

empty trash from optimized storage window

2. Uninstall Apps You Don’t Need

If you’ve installed dozens of apps, then your backups might take longer to complete. With so many apps, it’s also hard to remember the apps you last opened. Thankfully, there’s a way to tackle this problem.

Click the Applications shortcut located on Finder’s sidebar. Right-click on the column header and check Date Last Opened. You’ll then see a date and time next to all the apps.

In list view, click View and choose Arrange By > Date Last Opened. As you do this, the apps will arrange in descending order from today backwards.

sort the apps by date last opened

Then decide on apps you use frequently and which ones you can remove. While here, we recommend you make a list of apps installed on your Mac and keep it safe.

When you delete Mac apps by simply dragging them to the Trash, some files remain on your Mac. They consume disk space and thus affect backups. Consider using AppCleaner to remove extra files while uninstalling an app.

3. Split the Photo Library

The Photos app lets you create multiple photo libraries. You can keep separate photo libraries for independent personal and work photos, saving iCloud space, reducing backup size, and more.

To get started, quit the Photos app. Then press and hold the Option key while relaunching the app. In the Choose Library dialog, click the Create New button. Enter a library name and choose the location—preferably an external hard drive.

create a new photos library

A fresh copy of Photos app will launch. Import old archives, screenshots, and photos you don’t want to keep in the main collection. To switch between libraries, quit the Photos app and hold Option while restarting it again. When you see the Choose Library dialog, select the library you just created and click the Choose Library button.

switch between photo libraries

While you do get the benefit of reduced backup size, remember that Photos only lets you choose one System Photo Library. Only this library can sync with iCloud and your iOS devices. If you care about the other photo library, then consider Google Photos to back up that library.

4. Remove Duplicate Files

If you have two or more identical copies of a file on your Mac, all but one of them is a waste. With the right tools, you can quickly find and delete duplicate files that bloat your backup size.

PhotoSweeper

remove duplicate photos with photosweeper

PhotoSweeper is a fast, precise, and efficient tool to remove similar or duplicate photos from your photo collection. It works with Photos, Lightroom, and even photos scattered across your hard drive. Click the Media Browser on the toolbar to add your Photos library.

Then photos from your Photos library get added to the Photo List. Now click the Compare button and select Similar Photos mode. Adjust Time Gap and Matching Level to your needs.

Download: PhotoSweeper (Free trial, $10)

Gemini 2

gemini2-duplicate-files-scan

Gemini 2 helps you find duplicate and similar files on your Mac, including those on Photos, iTunes, and external drives. Its easy-to-use interface and smart selection algorithm lets you clean files in no time.

To get started, drag and drop a folder onto the window. Once the scan is complete, review the results and click Smart Cleanup. Gemini will move duplicates to the Trash.

Download: Gemini 2 (Free, $20 premium version available)

5. Clean Your Desktop and Downloads Folder

Your Desktop and Downloads folders likely contain a bunch of files. These folders quickly become unmanageable and clogs up backups slower. You’ll save space on your disk and make backups faster with these tricks and built-in tools to clean up folders.

Ask Where to Download Files

change the downloads folder location in safari

Instead of downloading files to a set location, you can set the browser to ask you where to download files every time. In Safari, go to Preferences > General > File download location and change it to Ask for each download.

While it’s a hassle to select folder every time, you can altogether avoid the navigation and save files easily with Default Folder X. This app lets you save a file to any directory with the press of a hotkey.

Keep Downloads Folder Clean

Most files stick around in your Downloads folder for some time. You can use Automator to automatically move any files older than, say, 90 days to the Trash.

Open Automator and create a new document. Choose Folder Action.

choose folder action in automator

Using the Choose Folder picker, find your Downloads folder.

In the left pane, click Files and Folders, then drag the Find Finder Items action into the right pane. Click the Options tab and check Ignore this action’s input. Otherwise, the file that you just downloaded will get deleted too.

setting up the rule in automator

Change the Search folder to Downloads and choose a Date Last Modified range that suits you. Click back to the Results tab and click Run to ensure you see the files you want.

In the last step, drag the Move Finder Items to Trash action to the workflow. Then save the Automator action you just created and you’re all set.

final setup of rule in automator

Hazel: Sort and Delete Files Automatically

hazel automation app

Hazel is an automation app for Mac that monitors changes in a folder, based on rules you set, and then performs a particular action. The app lets you set complex rules to sort and delete files in a single workflow.

Download: Hazel (Free trial, $32)

6. Archive Files With Cloud Storage Services

Backup and archiving serve different functions, yet you’ll often hear these words used interchangeably. Archiving lets you move files you rarely use but want to keep into secondary storage. Backup is for saving a copy of files you regularly use and don’t want to lose.

Unfortunately, most people don’t decide which files to archive instead of backing up. As a result, their backups increase in size.

If you have files suitable for archiving, you can subscribe to a service that gives you tons of storage space at a fraction of typical costs.

Backblaze B2

backblaze b2 cloud storage service

Backblaze B2 is a “cold storage” cloud service for storing files. The cost for B2 is variable based on the amount of data, bandwidth used, and transactions performed. The baseline cost of storage is $0.005 per GB per month, with the first 10GB free.

To get started, sign up for a Backblaze account. Once you enable B2 for your account, you’ll get access to Account ID and Application keys in your account settings. B2 does not include any client apps, but you can use various third-party apps that integrate with its API to upload and download data.

Amazon Glacier

Amazon Glacier is a secure, durable, and low-cost cloud storage service for data archiving and long-term backup. The baseline cost for storing data is $0.004 per gigabyte per month, with the first 10GB free. Amazon Glacier provides three options for access to archives, from a few minutes to several hours.

To get started, set up and log into your Amazon AWS account. Get the Application Keys and create a vault in Amazon Glacier. Regardless of whether you use S3 or Glacier, there are excellent third-party apps available to upload and download data through it. Some choices are CloudBerry Backup, Arq Backup, and Duplicati.

Slimmer Mac Backups, Happier Drives

Doing regular backups keeps your data safe. But if you’re not careful, you’ll run of disk space in no time. Going through these steps will keep you from having to buy a new external drive or pay for more cloud storage so soon. Plus, backups will be much faster.

And remember, you don’t have to stick with Time Machine. Check out our favorite alternate tools for backing up your Mac.

Read the full article: 6 Easy Ways to Reduce Mac Backup Sizes and Save Space

How to Track the Movies and TV Shows You Watch Using Trakt

track-movies-shows

There are lots of television shows and movies available to stream online. With so much content, it is difficult to track it all. Trakt is a platform that keeps track of the shows and movies you watch. It includes almost every film and streaming show along with their schedule and source in a single place. Like Netflix, it keeps a log of everything you watch (including likes and dislikes) and makes recommendations. You can save a show to a watchlist, create a personal list, build your watched history, and much more. In this article, we’ll show you how to keep…

Read the full article: How to Track the Movies and TV Shows You Watch Using Trakt

There are lots of television shows and movies available to stream online. With so much content, it is difficult to track it all. Trakt is a platform that keeps track of the shows and movies you watch. It includes almost every film and streaming show along with their schedule and source in a single place.

Like Netflix, it keeps a log of everything you watch (including likes and dislikes) and makes recommendations. You can save a show to a watchlist, create a personal list, build your watched history, and much more.

In this article, we’ll show you how to keep track of everything you watch using Trakt.

Using the Trakt Website

dashboard of the trakt account

To get started, navigate to the Trakt website and click the Join Trakt For Free button. Once you sign in, select your favorite genres, and add a few movies and TV shows you’ve watched. Click the Continue to Dashboard button to finish the setup process.

The dashboard gives you the total summary of your Trakt account. It includes what to watch next, an upcoming schedule of shows, episodes you have watched recently, and a summary of your activity over the last 30 days. This section is interactive. It highlights the monthly viewing statistics and visualizations of your viewing habits with color-coded graphs and pointers.

Do More With Lists

Your watchlist is the built-in list to keep track of everything you want to watch. Click the TV or Movies link at the top of the page. To add a TV show or movie, click the Blue list icon just below the show’s banner image. If you don’t have any other lists, then the show will get added to your watchlist instantly.

click the blue list icon under the show banner image

You’ll see these blue lists on every summary page of a particular show. Click the Add to List button and check the Watchlist box. The built-in calendar and progress level stays up-to-date with what you’re watching.

add a show to watchlist in the summary page

Create Your Personal List

When you make a new account on the Trakt website, it consists of a single Watchlist. But you can create a custom personal list to track your favorite actors or directors, movies in a particular genre, and much more.

Click the Add to new list (+) button to add your first personal list. Type in the Name and Description, and choose a display rank to add a small number above each poster. Then, select the default sorting of the list. You can sort them by recently added, release date, popularity, and more. Finally, click the Save List button.

create your own personal list

Manage Your Watchlist

Trakt helps you manage all your lists to track what you want to watch and your favorites. Click your Profile name at the top of the page and choose Lists. When viewing your lists page, you can sort them by using the dropdown menu in the top right. Click the Reorder button by dragging the items around or click a number and type in a specific position. You can also add, edit, or delete lists from this page.

manage your trakt watchlist

Get Information on Shows and Movies

Trakt makes it easy to find where to watch TV shows and movies on multiple streaming services. Just beneath the show’s image, click the Watch Now button to open a popup window. For streaming services, Trakt will let you know if it’s free, requires a subscription, or an account from a particular cable TV provider.

availiability of the streaming tv show

To see when new episodes will air, click the Calendar link at the top of the page. You can personalize the calendar to change the look and even optimize the layout. Click the Profile name at the top of the page and choose Settings. There are dozens of combinations to make the calendars useful for your workflow. You can change the views from a week to a month, starting date, image artwork, and more.

customize the look and layout of calendar

Build and Manage Your Watched History

Trakt helps you to keep a complete history of every TV show and movies you’ve watched. If you’re watching something right now, you can check in via the website. Click the red Check In button from any movie or episode page, type in the message, and share it on social media.

Add a Show to Your Watched History

To add the episode of any season and movie to your watched history, click the Purple check mark icon just below the show’s banner image. If you’re on the summary page click the Add to History button. When you click the check mark icon, the item gets added to your watched history with the present date and time.

build your watched history in trakt

If you want to be more specific, choose the release date to use the original date and time when the episode aired. Or else choose right now to use the present date and time. If these options don’t work, choose other date and specify the exact date.

Manage Your Watched History

As you add items to your watched history, the buttons will dynamically update to give you stats and progress information on the summary page. You’ll see the play count and the recent date and time you watched the item.

Click your Profile name and choose History to see the in-depth results of shows and movies you’ve watched. If you want to remove plays from watched history, click the Purple check mark again and confirm the prompt that you want to remove all plays for that item.

Set Up Scrobbling for Automatic Tracking

Scrobbling simply means automatically tracking what you’re watching. Instead of checking in from your phone, the plugin runs in the background and automatically scribbles back to Trakt while you enjoy watching your favorite show. It works with services like Netflix, Plex, Kodi, Emby, Infuse, and more.

To get started, click the Apps link at the top of the page. Under Choose your media center text, click the link and follow the instructions. Most of these tools come from the third-party developers using the Trakt API. If your use is pretty basic, then you won’t run into any problems. Plugins for Kodi and Plex require more complex integration and troubleshooting.

apps for setting up scrobbling in trakt

Trakt Apps for Android and iOS

Trakt doesn’t have an official mobile app. However, it’s possible to use every feature discussed in this article in a mobile web browser. There are also lots of great third-party apps for Android and iOS that use Trakt. If you want a different experience with built-in Trakt integration, then try these apps.

1. CineTrak

With CineTrak, you can check reviews and ratings from multiple sources such as Trakt, IMDb, Metacritic, and Rotten Tomatoes in a single place. It also has a section of Curated Lists and Staff Picks to show you the best movies from many categories such as best picture, most Oscar wins, top grossing films, and regularly updated categories.

You can also discover TV shows and movies in your region with built-in filters such as trending, popularity, most played, and more. Just like the watched history, its History section shows you the movies and shows you’ve watched.

Download: CineTrak for Android (Free, premium version available)

2. SeriesGuide

This app lets you track watched episodes, keep tabs on new releases, and manage your media collection. You can connect with Trakt to check-in, comment, and sync between other devices and media centers. The app works offline too and has built-in integration with the DashClock widget. The premium version unlocks the SeriesGuide Cloud to backup and sync your shows, lists, and movies.

Download: SeriesGuide for Android (Free) | SeriesGuide X Pass ($2)

3. Watcht

watcht trakt app for ios

Watcht a simple and intuitive app for iPhone and iPad. The app mimics the features of Trakt and sticks to the basics. The dashboard gives you the summary of your Trakt account and recommendations. The watchlist consists of all TV shows and movies you want to watch. The summary page has all the details of the show, episodes, actors, and comments.

Download: Watcht for iOS (Free)

4. TV Show Tracker

If you want a cross-platform Trakt app for both Android and iOS, then this should be your first choice. Although the interface is plain, the app is usable, and offers you many customization options. You can change the theme, fonts, background color, image artwork, and more. It gives you notification for upcoming shows in local time, and even lets you hide spoilers.

Download: TV Show Tracker for iOS | Android (Free, premium version available)

Let Trakt Help You Track Movies and TV Shows

Trakt is a fantastic web app to track TV shows and movies. You can use Trakt for free and get lots done with it. If you choose to subscribe to Trakt, it unlocks the whole range of features. You get to enable a complete dark mode, get custom iCal and RSS feeds of shows, advanced filtering option, integration with IFTTT, and a lot more besides.

There are various methods to save streaming shows for later. Which means you never need forget all those new releases you haven’t yet had time to watch. If this interests you, here are some other ways to save streaming shows to watch later.

Read the full article: How to Track the Movies and TV Shows You Watch Using Trakt

The 8 Best Mobile Apps for Learning and Improving English

learn-improve-english

Being proficient in English writing and speaking skills is necessary to achieve success in your professional career. But most people struggle to learn the English language and vocabulary effectively. You might face problems in acquiring new words, recalling words you just learned, or worse—forget to use them often. If you’re unable to enroll in a class or find it difficult to dedicate time for learning, these Android and iPhone apps can help you learn English and strengthen vocabulary. And even if you speak English, there’s something for you here. Many of these apps will help native speakers build vocabulary, plus…

Read the full article: The 8 Best Mobile Apps for Learning and Improving English

learn-improve-english

Being proficient in English writing and speaking skills is necessary to achieve success in your professional career. But most people struggle to learn the English language and vocabulary effectively. You might face problems in acquiring new words, recalling words you just learned, or worse—forget to use them often.

If you’re unable to enroll in a class or find it difficult to dedicate time for learning, these Android and iPhone apps can help you learn English and strengthen vocabulary.

And even if you speak English, there’s something for you here. Many of these apps will help native speakers build vocabulary, plus some of them will let you learn other languages.

The Best Apps for Learning English

There are many ways to learn or improve your skills in a particular language. You can enroll in an online course or class. But if that doesn’t work, you can also use mobile apps for learning a language. They make learning fun, accessible, and intuitive.

1. Duolingo: Learn Languages for Free

If you want to learn a language from the beginning, then Duolingo should be your first choice. Choose the target language and your native language to start. Pick your daily goal and choose whether you want to start at the beginning or take a placement test to assess your language skills. Each lesson in Duolingo consists of several modules.

You must move through the material sequentially and unlock sections to progress. Fully completed modules turn gold and sections you’ve just started appear in color with a progress bar beneath them. Each module has different types of exercises. Most lessons feature questions with pictures, translation exercises, listen-and-write exercises, and multiple choice questions.

In some lessons, you must listen to a sentence and write in the target language. Others ask you to translate a written sentence to the target language and vice-versa. Duolingo also shows you a module of your weakest words. You can strengthen those words and revise them anytime.

Download: Duolingo for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

2. Hello English: Comprehensive Way to Learn English

Hello English is an all-in-one package for learning the English language and improving your skills. It covers all aspects of language learning including grammar, spelling, vocabulary, spoken skills, and reading skills. In the beginning, choose your native language and take a short test to assess your English proficiency. The app will then recommend a lesson that works best for you.

There are 475 interactive lessons with increasing difficulty level. The beginner lessons are free. As you progress with each level, you’ll start earning coins. Use these coins to unlock more lessons. In areas with a poor internet connection, you can download lessons for offline use.

The Practice tab features interactive games. You can practice with news, articles, audio, videos, and more. Every successful completion of a game rewards you with coins. If you subscribe to this app, you get to learn all the lessons, unlock a memory map to revise the words you’ve learned, and have a one-on-one discussion with teachers.

Download: Hello English for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

3. Beelinguapp: Learn Language With Audiobooks

Beelinguapp uses audiobooks to help you learn different languages. The app is simple to use. Select a novel in the language you want to learn and read text in your language side-by-side. To aid in language learning, you can also add words to your glossary, read news in your native language and translate it into the target language, and more.

You can even learn the language by following the narrator of the audiobook with a karaoke-style animation to know precisely what they’re saying. The premium version of the app offers offline audiobooks, new texts every week, and can translate individual words from the glossary.

Download: Beelinguapp for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

4. Flowlingo: Learn Language With News, Books, and Videos

Flowlingo uses the immersion technique to help you learn a language. You’ll find individual tabs for websites, videos, music, books, and one for words you’re learning. Once you select a target language, a lot of content will appear in that language. For example, it includes links to popular websites from BuzzFeed, CNN, Wikipedia, and more.

When reading a book, select a difficulty level from Basic to Max. On Basic, every word will include a translation, with none in Max. When watching a video, you can listen and read along as the video progresses. You can also tap words to add them to your flashcards to save and review later. When reviewing words, the app shows you pictures to help you recall the words.

Download: Flowlingo for Android | iOS (Free)

The Best Apps for Expanding English Vocabulary

Improving English vocabulary is crucial for clearing exams like GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS, plus general academic development. Mobile apps offer various approaches to language learning with study materials, control learning progress, and let you review what you’ve learned.

5. Knudge.me: Improve Vocabulary in a Scientific Way

Knudge.me helps you learn and improve English vocabulary in an effective and scientific way. The app leverages artificial intelligence and gamification to simplify the learning process. It offers you different types of courses, multimedia aids, and word games to help you excel in vocabulary. There are courses like common English phrasal verbs, difference between confusing words, and a vocabulary builder of various levels.

Based on your selection, bite-sized content gets unlocked through notifications every few hours. Through a flashcard, it teaches you the meaning of words with pictures and specific examples. The app will shuffle the words you’ve learned with new ones, so you don’t get bored.

Questions repeat to check whether you’ve learned the words or not. For every correctly answered question, you earn a credit. Knudge.me also offers twelve different word games focused on enhancing vocabulary, reading, and writing speed. You can even create a challenge to play those games with your friends.

Download: Knudge.me for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

6. Vocabulary Builder: Designed for Competitive Exams

Vocabulary builder from Magoosh helps you learn exam-level words for various competitive exams. The app consists of three sections: general words for GRE and GMAT, high school words for ACT and SAT, and English learner words for TOEFL and IELTS.

Once you choose a section, the app features multiple categories (Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced) and levels within each category. On each level, the app asks you multiple choice questions. All you have to do is choose a correct meaning. Don’t worry if you answer any question incorrectly—it’s part of the learning process.

The app uses spaced repetition technique, which means that it’ll ask you the same questions periodically until you master them. You can also engage with a random user to play a turn-by-turn game where Vocabulary Builder randomly chooses 20-25 difficult words. Your goal is to answer those questions correctly before time runs out.

Download: Vocabulary Builder by Magoosh for Android | iOS (Free)

7. Vocabulary Word: Learn the English Vocabulary You Want

You most likely consult a dictionary to find the meaning of a word. But this is not the best method to learn new words. Dictionary apps don’t let you memorize the word, and they lack context or multimedia aids to help you recall a word. That’s where this app can be useful.

You can add words to your vocabulary list from any app. Select any word, press the three-dot menu, and tap Vocabulary List. Or you can share a word through the Share menu. The word gets added to the My List tab. When you tap that word, you’ll see details including definition, wiki link, synonyms, example sentences, and a searchable note or tag.

The Discover tab consists of both easy and difficult words. You can add a word from the discover tab to your list. Once you start filling your words on the My List tab, you’ll see periodic notifications to help you memorize that word. The app also lets you take a quiz with a quick word game. If you’re an avid book reader, this app is great for learning targeted vocabulary.

Download: Vocabulary Word: Vocabula lexicon for Android (Free, subscription available)

8. AnkiDroid Flashcards: Old-School Word Learning

Anki is an excellent app to make remembering anything easy. Download the Anki apps for every device you use and log in to your AnkiWeb account. Click the Import File button to import your own set of words. You can also choose from the vast library of shared flashcard decks. Anki’s Vocabulary.com and 4000 essential English words are popular ones to begin with.

AnkiDroid is a companion Android app for Anki. Tap the blue plus button to create new flashcards. The deck list is the screen you’ll see when you launch the app. It displays a list of your decks, which contain all your flashcards. To work on the cards in a deck, tap the Study button to switch to study mode. As you learn and review the material, the app will sync your progress with the desktop.

Once you’re familiar with Anki’s flashcards, try creating your custom vocabulary list. The review system of Anki’s flashcards is superior to other learning methods. Anki supports both active recall and spaced repetition techniques to ensure that whatever you’re learning goes into your long-term memory.

Download: AnkiDroid Flashcards for Android (Free) | AnkiMobile Flashcards for iOS ($25)

The Secret to Language Learning

There are many advantages to learning a new language. It expands your professional options, improves your perception, and strengthens your all-around academic development. With so many easy-to-use apps, there’s no reason to skip vocabulary and English language learning.

However, there are no hard-and-fast rules for learning a new language. The more you surround yourself with the language you’re learning, the more of it you’ll retain. If this interests you, then read these techniques to learn a new language.

Read the full article: The 8 Best Mobile Apps for Learning and Improving English

5 Easy Ways to Remove Backgrounds From Images Without Specialized Software

Users might want to remove the background from an image for different reasons. If you’re selling things online, creating presentations, or even making collages, you can remove the background to highlight the object of the photo or to remove the distracting details. Instead of trying to accurately enclose a region with the Lasso or Magic Wand tools in Photoshop, you can easily remove the background with these web apps. The bonus being they’re either free or affordable for most people. 1. ClippingMagic ClippingMagic is a simple web app to remove the background from any image. When you navigate to the…

Read the full article: 5 Easy Ways to Remove Backgrounds From Images Without Specialized Software

Users might want to remove the background from an image for different reasons. If you’re selling things online, creating presentations, or even making collages, you can remove the background to highlight the object of the photo or to remove the distracting details.

Instead of trying to accurately enclose a region with the Lasso or Magic Wand tools in Photoshop, you can easily remove the background with these web apps. The bonus being they’re either free or affordable for most people.

1. ClippingMagic

clippingmagic-online-background-remover

ClippingMagic is a simple web app to remove the background from any image. When you navigate to the homepage, you’re immediately presented with the upload options. Click the Upload Image button to upload the photo from your computer. When it’s done, you’ll see two adjacent panels with your image on the left and a blank panel on the right.

Procedure

Use the green tool (+) to mark the object and red tool (-) to mark the background of the image. You don’t have to precisely mark every edge of the object, show the app what you want to keep, and the tool will do the rest. As you mark the object and the background, the right panel shows you the results in real time.

In areas where the edges are too faint or noisy for the algorithm, click the scalpel tool to manually adjust the clips. Then, click the Review button to inspect the image in detail and apply touch up marks if needed. You can always undo edits or choose Edit > Clear all marks to start from the beginning.

ClippingMagic also offers several tools to let you further refine the image. You can add drop shadows, adjust the color, change the background color, fine-tune the edges, and much more.

Pros and Cons

If you want to sell things online, then ClippingMagic lets you upload a large number of images and clip them in rapid succession. Be sure to set up the default settings, resolution, and crop settings before starting a bulk job. You can upload and edit any number of images, but to download you’ll need to subscribe. Check out the pricing page for further details.

Since the uploading and processing of images takes a bit of time, you always need a constant internet connection to work with the app.

2. FotoFuze

fotofuze-online-background-remover

FotoFuze is a specialized photography tool that removes the poor quality background from a photo with the white background in just a few steps. Click the new album button, type in the name, and start uploading your images.

Procedure

Once you upload the image, click the magic highlighter tool to highlight the object. As you finish highlighting, FotoFuze will show you a mini live preview of the image. If your fuze didn’t come out as expected, then check the useful error overlay box. Areas marked in red often suggests that there were problems while fuzing the photo.

FotoFuze also lets you color correct the image, fix exposure related problems, auto-crop the picture, and more. If the photo still doesn’t meet your expectations, try changing the background clarity, brightness, and sensitivity. Click the Finish button to fuze the picture.

Pros and Cons

FotoFuze has built-in support for the Etsy platform. In addition to the image cleanup, you can create, update, draft, and copy your listing directly from the FotoFuze. You can fuze multiple photos without any delay, download high resolution photos, and much more with an affordable FotoFuze subscription.

FotoFuze does not work correctly with textured or uneven backgrounds. It needs a gray, black, or texture-free background.

3. PhotoScissors Online

photoscissors-online-background-remover

PhotoScissors online is a free web app to remove the background from any image with just a few steps. Right away, you’ll see an Upload Image button to upload the image. The web canvas has two adjacent panels, with your picture on the left and a blank panel on the right. The app also guides you with a quick interactive tutorial for newbies.

Procedure

PhotoScissors uses the same selection mechanism as ClippingMagic. Use the green tool (+) to mark the object and red tool (-) to mark the background of the image. You do not have to carefully select the area, just ensure to put the green marker within the lines of the object you want to cut out. Once you mark the image, let the algorithm take care of the details.

If you think you made a mistake, click the Undo button and repeat the procedure. The app also gives you the option to smooth and offset the boundary. You can swap the background with an alternate image or solid color, move the object, and add shadow effects.

Pros and Cons

With just a few mouse clicks, PhotoScissors gives you reasonably accurate cut-out images. But where it lacks is precision. The online image editor lacks sophisticated tools to refine the image. Consider using these free web apps to edit photos.

There’s also a limit on the image size and resolution. You cannot upload a photo bigger than 5MB or with a resolution of greater than 2.1 megapixels. To remove these restrictions and get more features, purchase the desktop app for Mac or PC.

4. Background Burner

background-burner-advanced-editing-tools

Background Burner is a free and intuitive web app to remove the background from any image. As usual, you start by uploading your photo to the app. It’ll then try to remove the background from your image automatically. Once finished, it outputs 3–4 copies of the processed images. Out of these, you choose the best picture.

Procedure

If the photo you uploaded isn’t complex, you’ll most likely find the perfect image. Click the Select button to download the image. The app also gives the option to touch up a nearly perfect image. Click the Touchup button to open the new editing window. Behind the scene, the app uses the ClippingMagic mechanism.

You can choose from three brush sizes, undo the steps, and zoom images to mark them with precision. Then, click the Pixel Tools button to manually erase the background (or restore the foreground), or use the polygon shaped tools to fine-tune the edges.

Pros and Cons

Background Burner does pretty much all the heavy lifting itself. Since the app is free to use, you can save both time and money. If you’re planning to remove the background from several pictures, then this app should be your first choice.

When it comes to images that are a bit more complex, the automatic results are not as good in comparison to other apps. Background Burner lacks complex editing tools to fine-tune the images, bulk clipping mode, and custom settings.

5. Microsoft Office

microsoft-office-offline-background-remover

If you have Microsoft Office 2016 installed, you have another easy method to remove the backgrounds from images. The process is identical for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Procedure

To get started, insert the picture into a document. Now choose Picture Format > Remove Background (in case of Mac). The app will then try to figure out the background, and mark them in purple. If the image is simple, it’ll easily cut out the background. For more complex images, use the Mark Areas to Keep and Mark Areas to Remove button to fine-tune the selection.

The marker is not intuitive to use. It just lets you draw straight lines around the object you want to keep or get rid off. Once you’re done, click the Keep Changes button to save the image.

Pros and Cons

If you’re looking for a quick way to remove the background from photos and that too offline, then Microsoft Office is the best choice. But you shouldn’t buy or subscribe to Microsoft Office just for this purpose. Also, the marking tools are a little hard to use, so they may not give you the best result on your first try.

Learn to Take Better Photos

Removing background from photos is not an impossible task. Using one of the tools mentioned above, you too can remove the background from any picture without learning how to use Photoshop. These tools cover only one part of the process.

If you fail to take good photos in the first place, then removing backgrounds might be more difficult. See our top photography tips for beginners and our guide to digital photography to learn the fundamentals of good photography.

Read the full article: 5 Easy Ways to Remove Backgrounds From Images Without Specialized Software

The 7 Best Lightweight Android Browsers for Speedy Performance

lightweight-android-browsers

If you own an older Android phone, then popular browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Edge can seriously affect the performance of the device. These browsers tend to consume more storage space, processing power, and memory. Fortunately, there are lightweight alternatives that have a much smaller footprint and focus on speed. We’ll guide you through the best lightweight browsers available for old Android devices. 1. Via Browser: Small in Size, Rich in Features APK size: ~821KB App size after installation: 2MB The Via Browser is built on top of the Chromium WebView. Its main highlight is the simplicity. The browser doesn’t…

Read the full article: The 7 Best Lightweight Android Browsers for Speedy Performance

lightweight-android-browsers

If you own an older Android phone, then popular browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Edge can seriously affect the performance of the device. These browsers tend to consume more storage space, processing power, and memory.

Fortunately, there are lightweight alternatives that have a much smaller footprint and focus on speed. We’ll guide you through the best lightweight browsers available for old Android devices.

1. Via Browser: Small in Size, Rich in Features

  • APK size: ~821KB
  • App size after installation: 2MB

The Via Browser is built on top of the Chromium WebView. Its main highlight is the simplicity. The browser doesn’t compromise on any features and offers you many customization options. From look, to feel, to how you interact with it, every aspect of the browser puts you in control.

Tap the Hamburger Menu, then tap the Settings button to open the Settings screen. You can customize the homepage by changing the background picture and style, enable or replace the browser logo with your image, and adjust the opacity of the background.

It also includes Incognito Mode for private browsing, or you can set the app to let automatically clear your browsing history on exit. You can even set the navigation button to perform a particular function on long-press. For example, you might set Scroll to top for the Back button and Scroll to bottom for the Forward button.

Via Browser also offers some advanced features. You can change the browser user agent, block images when using mobile data, save a web page for offline use, and more. With a small footprint of 2MB, Via browser does an excellent job on an old Android device.

Download: Via Browser (Free)

2. Monument Browser: Designed for Readers

  • APK size: ~2MB
  • App size after installation: ~9MB

Monument Browser is also made possible thanks to Chromium WebView. It is a fast, secure, and intuitive web browser designed to give you the best possible experience while surfing and reading. Tap the Overflow Menu, then the Settings button to open its Settings. You can choose to move the search bar from top to bottom, change the user agent, and swap search engines.

It gives you some interesting options as you start surfing the web. Tap the Overflow Menu, then Extras to take a look at these. You can switch on the night mode, or try the reading mode which has the ability to change fonts and listen to the article. While you’re on a page, you can take a screenshot of an entire article or save it as a PDF.

The app has built-in support for downloading audio, video, and entire web pages for offline viewing. Tap the Overflow Menu > Download Medias to activate the media inspector. Then while watching a video, it will automatically enable picture-in-picture mode.

If you’re looking for a lightweight browser focused on surfing and reading, then monument browser should be your choice.

Download: Monument Browser (Free, premium version available)

3. FOSS Browser: Open Source and Full of Features

  • APK size: ~2.5MB
  • App size after installation: ~8.6MB

FOSS Browser is an open source browser also based on WebView. Its main goal is to give you a browsing experience that puts you in control. The search bar, tab preview, and entire navigation controls live at the bottom of the screen, making it optimized for one-handed browsing.

The homepage includes links to your saved sites, bookmarks, history, and saved login data. While you’re on the page, tap the Overflow Menu, then the Share button to share a link, screenshot, or PDF with a single tap. You can save them to your device as well.

Since the browser puts you in control, it has some interesting security options. Long-press on the Overflow Menu button to open the Fast Toggle dialog menu. Here you can enable or disable JavaScript, cookies, location, images, and more on a per-site basis. You can even save the login data of your favorite web apps in a separate encrypted database.

Apart from the usual theme and UI customization, you can create a whitelist of selected sites that have access to your location, JavaScript, cookies, and more. You can even export data for backup.

With a small footprint of 9MB and built-in security controls, FOSS browser is an excellent option for an old Android device.

Download: FOSS Browser (Free)

4. Phoenix Browser: Download Videos With Zero Effort

  • APK size: ~5.5MB
  • App size after installation: 27.5MB

Phoenix Browser uses a WebView component built on top of Chromium. It’s a lightweight browser with a built-in download manager to grab online videos and play them without the need of a third-party video player.

When you install the app, you’ll see the homepage cluttered with news based on your location, games, and most visited pages. There’s a bit of an issue with notification ads too. If this bothers you, tap Manage Homepage and toggle off all the options. Also, you might want to disable notifications for this app.

Apart from the usual browsing-related features, there are some interesting tricks too. Access them by tapping the Hamburger Menu, then Toolbox. Turn on the Private Space to keep the browsing history and downloaded videos in a separate database. Other users will not be to able to view what sites you visit and videos you download.

Overall, there are both pros and cons for this app. But if you travel frequently and like to watch videos offline, Phoenix browser should be on your device.

Download: Phoenix Browser (Free)

5. Hermit: Lite Apps Browser

  • APK size: ~3.7MB
  • App size after installation: ~10MB

Hermit is essentially a browser that lets you create lite apps from websites you visit frequently. It comes with a rich library of ready-made lite apps, complete with pre-configured settings. Tap an app icon to install that app instantly. If you don’t find a particular lite app, type in the URL of a site and Hermit will turn it into an app on the home screen.

When you create a shortcut to a website with Chrome, it functions as a browser tab. In Hermit, the lite apps operate as actual apps in its browser. You can customize those apps with different settings for each.

For example, you can set one lite app to desktop mode, but others in default mobile mode. It also lets you block images for specific lite apps and set custom themes. Hermit also supports notifications for RSS feeds, lets you bookmark a particular section of a site, supports night mode and reading mode, and much more. Visit the Hermit website to see how it’s different from other browsers.

If you own an old Android device, then you should try this app. It helps reduce battery consumption, free up storage space, does not use background resources, and reduces the permission requests required by native apps.

Download: Hermit (Free) | Hermit Unlocker Pro ($5)

6. Lynket Browser: Multitask While Surfing the Web

  • APK size: ~3.8MB
  • App size after installation: ~9MB

When you open a link from any Android app, it either opens in your default browser or the app’s integrated web browser. While the integrated browser suffers from the older implementation of WebView, the external browser might take a while to load the website. This results in loss of focus and prevents you from multitasking.

Lynket is a unique browser build on the top of the Chrome Custom Tabs protocol. So when you open a link, the web page will slide over the app you are using. This lets you you multitask or stack multiple links in floating bubbles in the background, so you don’t lose them if you accidentally swipe them away.

Lynket also offers unique customization options. You can choose the toolbar color dynamically, read articles without any distraction, utilize Google AMP support, and much more. If you own an old Android device, this browser helps you have the best customized browsing experience without slowing down your phone.

Download: Lynket Browser (Free)

7. Opera Mini: Browser With Data-Saving Features

  • APK size: ~8MB
  • App size after installation: ~20.5MB

Opera Mini is a lightweight and powerful web browser designed to work with devices that have fewer resources. Out of the box, it comes with incognito mode, a smart download feature with intelligent mobile data detection, a night theme, the ability to change search engines, data sync across your devices, and more.

Its data saving feature is unique among browsers and supports multiple modes. Tap the Opera Mini button on the bottom toolbar, followed by Settings > Data Savings. You’ll see a graph of the data you’ve saved over the last week. You can let Opera do the magic for saving data, or choose between Extreme and High compression modes.

In the High Compression mode, the browser will crunch the web page through a server and push a lighter version to your phone. In contrast, the Extreme Compression is too aggressive and might break a page. Use it only when you’re really low on data, or in a location where internet connectivity is poor.

Download: Opera Mini (Free)

More Tweaks to Make Android Faster

The Play Store has a variety of lightweight browser apps with different sets of features and abilities. It doesn’t make sense to use Chrome or Firefox for your old Android device. In the long run, with a more streamlined browser you’ll save battery and resources, plus get more life out of your phone.

Installing a lightweight browser isn’t the only way to keep Android speedy. Read up on tips to speed up Android, and try installing other tiny apps too.

Read the full article: The 7 Best Lightweight Android Browsers for Speedy Performance

Write Better on Your Mac With These 9 Apps and Tricks

mac-writing-apps

Writing is an enjoyable activity, but you can really hamper yourself if you don’t have the proper tools. Whether you can’t find the motivation to write, have trouble collecting your ideas, or struggle with grammar, the right apps can really help. We’ll show you some of the best apps and tricks you can use to help you write more on your Mac. 1. Choose a Writing App Most writers will choose a standard word processor without a second thought. But there are many issues with this. When you type in a word processor, the text is continuously typeset as you…

Read the full article: Write Better on Your Mac With These 9 Apps and Tricks

mac-writing-apps

Writing is an enjoyable activity, but you can really hamper yourself if you don’t have the proper tools. Whether you can’t find the motivation to write, have trouble collecting your ideas, or struggle with grammar, the right apps can really help.

We’ll show you some of the best apps and tricks you can use to help you write more on your Mac.

1. Choose a Writing App

choose a proper writing app

Most writers will choose a standard word processor without a second thought. But there are many issues with this.

When you type in a word processor, the text is continuously typeset as you key it in. It’s easy to lose sight of the logical structure in favor of the typographical elements, which results in a loss of momentum while writing and subsequent distractions.

It also forces you to decide on a specific appearance of the heading with strict formatting options. A writer can’t focus on creating words, and may instead fiddle with fonts and menus as a way of procrastinating. A writing app should help writers to write; not get in the way to add unneeded friction.

And when you need a particular feature, it should be easy to discover. Word processors often obfuscate features in complex menus. You can work around this by writing in Markdown. Its syntax is simple to learn, lets you focus on the writing, and even let you create complex documents with all formatting options.

Take a look at these two Mac writing apps:

Download: iA Writer ($30)
Download: Typora (Free)

2. Outline Your Ideas With Scapple

outline your ideas with scapple

When you take time to draft an outline, you can work out if the ideas connect to each other, what order works best, identify gaps in your thinking, and confirm your thoughts with proven facts. Scapple is an intuitive app for jotting your ideas down by developing connections between them. It’s the software equivalent of pen and paper.

Unlike typical mind-mapping software, Scapple doesn’t force you to make connections, nor do you have to begin with a central idea. It’s a freeform writing app with an expandable canvas to fit all your notes. You can move notes around to make room for new connections, create stacks from notes, edit and resize them, or even link to files on your Mac.

Download: Scapple (Free trial, $15)

3. Manage a Notebook With OneNote

manage a notebook with onenote

Every writer should keep a notebook to store all their ideas and notes. OneNote is a personal digital notebook to write and manage all sorts of notes.

Try creating a Writing Projects notebook, and start adding few sections. You might have Ideas for new article ideas, Articles and Finished Articles for articles in progress and completed articles, and Track as a place to check your writing progress and improvements.

In the Ideas section, you can create a page for all ideas, another page as a simple Kanban board, and a page to keep web links. In the Articles section, create a new page for each article you want to write. Install the OneNote web clipper extension and start bookmarking or clipping articles from the web.

You can even embed a video, record audio, and take notes from the media. If necessary, create a subpage to keep your notes, bookmarks, and outline separately in a parent/child format. Develop your workflow and start using OneNote to manage resources and improve your productivity.

Download: Microsoft OneNote (Free)

4. Use SearchLink to Generate Links

use searchlink to generate links

Many writers spend a lot of time pasting links from the web. When you do it manually, you not only waste time, but also lose momentum while writing—or worse, get lost following all those links.

SearchLink is a system service for macOS that handles searching multiple sources and automatically generate links for text. Start with an exclamation point (!). Then type the argument you want to use. For example:

  • !mas: search Mac App Store
  • !itu: search iTunes App Store
  • !s: software search using Google
  • !@t: link text as Twitter username

Check the SearchLink website for more arguments.

Now let’s say you want to link an app from the Mac App Store. Type in !mas Pixelmator. Right-click and choose Services > SearchLink. Within seconds, it’ll run a search in the background and replace it with a full Markdown link.

You can use specific modifiers to customize the way you want to link with text. Put !! at the end of the text to only return the URL without any link formatting. Similarly, put ^ at the end to output the result to the clipboard, leaving the text in place.

For example, !s Pixelmator!! will run a software search for Pixelmator and output only a link. Then, if you bind this service with a hotkey, you can link the text just with the keyboard.

Download: SearchLink (Free)

5. Customize the Dictionary to Improve Vocabulary

customize the dictionary to improve vocabulary

The built-in Dictionary app is a powerful tool to search for definitions, plus thesaurus and Wikipedia entries. You can search for the words manually, or point to a word and press Ctrl + Cmd + D to open the dictionary panel with the definition right in front of you.

To make the Dictionary app more useful, install Terminology. It is based on the WordNet project, a large lexical database of English. It joins not just word forms, but specific senses of the word. Also, it labels the semantic relations among words, making it more powerful than a thesaurus.

Open Dictionary > Preferences and check the Terminology box. It’ll now appear as one of your search options in the Dictionary app.

Download: Terminology (Free)

6. Cut Off the Distractions

move the window from desktop1 to desktop2

Writing requires a clean working environment. Too many files and windows on the desktop act as clutter on the screen. It’s wise to develop good habits by making proper use of the workspace.

You can organize your workspace with Mission Control. The virtual desktop feature, called Spaces, lets you easily organize app windows across multiple desktops.

You can even use third-party apps to automate the window management operations. Hocus Focus is a menu bar utility that keeps your desktop clean by hiding the inactive windows automatically. If you have a problem with focus, use the HazeOver app to highlight the foremost app window and mask the windows in the background that distract you.

Download: Hocus Focus (Free)
Download: HazeOver (Free trial, $5)

7. Store Temporary Items With Clipboard Utility

store temporary items with alfred clipboard feature

It’s not necessary to store every piece of text, images, and link in a notebook. Some items are temporary, so you’ll discard them later on. That’s where a clipboard utility app might be of help.

Alfred‘s clipboard history feature (part of the Powerpack) is unique. Go to Alfred’s Preferences, and under Features > Clipboard, enable Clipboard History. Check the box next to the relevant types, and choose how long you want to remember your clips.

Now, press the Alt + Cmd + C hotkey to bring up the Clipboard History panel. Alfred will show you the clips you’ve copied. Type any word or phrase in the search bar to filter your results.

You can even merge multiple clips onto your clipboard. Go to Features > Clipboard > Merging and enable the box next to merging. To append a clip onto the previously copied text, hold Cmd and double-tap C quickly. Then paste the clip you copied onto any app.

Download: Alfred (Free, $25 Powerpack available)

8. Use a Text Expander Utility

using atext textexpander utility

Even if you’ve learned to type quickly, certain forms of writing can require you to type repetitive text. You can avoid RSI and other injuries by cutting down on your keystrokes. Using a text expansion tool can save your hands and hours of your time.

aText accelerates your typing by offering shortcuts for the characters you write. When you open the app for the first time, you’ll see boilerplate snippets for typing in the date and time, symbol substitution macros, and more. To create a new snippet, type the keyword in the Abbreviation field, and content you want to expand in the Content field.

Download: aText (Free trial, $5)

9. Correct Grammar and Get Writing Suggestions

get writing suggestions with writefull app

When you write a first draft, you’re just putting your ideas together. Spelling errors and poorly written sentences are common in first drafts, so it’s important to revise and improve it. You can use some tools to help you improve your final product.

At times, you’ll want writing suggestions. These can tell whether you’ve written a correct sentence, compare confusing words, which adjective or preposition is appropriate for a particular phrase, or get synonyms in context. Writefull is an app that gives feedback on your writing by checking your text against databases, like Google Scholar, Books, and more.

You might also want to use Grammarly for proofreading your articles. It checks your spelling, grammar, suggests synonyms in context, and more. And if you subscribe to Grammarly Pro, it’ll detect if you use words in a wrong way, subject-verb agreement, pronoun use, and punctuation usage.

Download: Writefull (Free)
Download: Grammarly (Free, subscription available)

Read Books to Become a Better Writer

To become a better writer, you need the best tools to help you realize your dreams. macOS is a creative environment to work with, and there are many third-party tools at its disposal—even more than ones discussed here.

Writing is a complicated skill, and these tools cover only half the job. You need to read more to become a better writer. If this inspires you, you might want to know how to read more books this year.

Read the full article: Write Better on Your Mac With These 9 Apps and Tricks

8 Sites to Find Discounts on Mac Apps Outside the App Store

mac-apps-discounts

Mac app developers often put their software on sale through the Mac App Store. But all sorts of great apps aren’t offered on the App Store. Although you may occasionally notice a deal on Facebook or Twitter, there are dedicated sites to help you find Mac apps on sale. We’ll show you eight ways to find discounts on Mac apps not available on the App Store. 1. MakeUseOf Deals MakeUseOf Deals offer a broad selection of deals on electronic gears and gadgets, apps, subscription-based web services, online courses, and design assets. Go to the Deals page, and choose Categories >…

Read the full article: 8 Sites to Find Discounts on Mac Apps Outside the App Store

Mac app developers often put their software on sale through the Mac App Store. But all sorts of great apps aren’t offered on the App Store.

Although you may occasionally notice a deal on Facebook or Twitter, there are dedicated sites to help you find Mac apps on sale. We’ll show you eight ways to find discounts on Mac apps not available on the App Store.

1. MakeUseOf Deals

makeuseof deals section

MakeUseOf Deals offer a broad selection of deals on electronic gears and gadgets, apps, subscription-based web services, online courses, and design assets. Go to the Deals page, and choose Categories > Apps + Software. You’ll see all the apps, including web apps, running on sale.

You can arrange those deals in different ways. Click the Filter By dropdown menu to narrow the selection choice, or use the Sort By dropdown menu to sort them by best sellers, newest apps, or sales ending soon.

There’s another unique feature, called the Pay What You Want bundle. If you enter an amount less than the average price, you’ll only get a few items from the bundle. Choose the average price to buy the entire bundle.

First-time MUO Deals users can also get an extra 10 percent discount on their first purchase.

2. BundleHunt

bundlehunt app bundle website

Sometimes you find yourself buying a bundle only to get few particular apps. This means you’re stuck with apps you’ll never use.

BundleHunt is a bundle site that offers a large selection of Mac apps, with an option to curate app selection yourself to avoid unwanted downloads. You can get those apps at a fixed price. Some apps are as low as $1, with a maximum price of $5.

Start adding the apps you like by clicking the Plus button below each app. In addition to the cost of the individual apps, you’ll have to pay $5 to “unlock” your bundle. Upon your purchase, you’ll get instant access to the license keys for apps you brought. You can even add multiple license keys (limit of three) for any app you like.

BundleHunt also lets you export registration keys as a CSV file. Go to Account > Downloads & License Keys, select your bundle, and click Export License Keys. Then import that file in the password manager of your choice to keep the details safe.

All the apps included in the bundle are directly available from the developer websites. You’ll also get the latest version of every app. You can follow BundleHunt on Twitter or sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates.

3. Two Dollar Tuesday

twodollartues deals website

Two Dollar Tuesday helps you discover Mac Apps at significant discounts. Every Tuesday, it features a few apps at a discount ranging from 50-90 percent. It promotes apps both from developer websites and the App Store.

If you find any app useful, click the Get This Deal button to buy that app before the deal expires. You can follow Two Dollar Tuesday on Twitter or subscribe to the newsletter so you never miss a deal.

4. BitsDuJour

bitsdujour deals website

BitsDuJour is an all-in-one deals website to bring you exclusive deals on Mac apps. It uses the coupon code system to process all the discounts. Click the Get This Deal button to purchase the app directly from the developer website. The discount is available only through this link, and since you’re buying the app directly from the developer, it’s a legal purchase.

The promotions typically last for 24 hours, although this may extend based on demand. Click the app name, and you’ll find every detail about it. You can go through the app description, see screenshots, ask the developer questions about the app or offer, review fine print about the deal, and more.

What makes BitsDuJour unique is the community involvement. You can browse forums, vote for the apps you’d like to see discounted, and check upcoming app discounts. To keep up with the latest updates, follow BitsDuJour on Twitter or add the BitsDuJour RSS feed to your feed reader.

5. OnTheHub

onthehub student deals website

OnTheHub is a premier website for productivity and academic software. It gives discounted or even free software to students and faculties. The discounts range from 50-90 percent.

Software titles include Microsoft Windows 10 for Education (one of the lesser-known Windows 10 versions), Microsoft Office 2016 Professional Edition, IBM SPSS Statistics, Parallels Desktop for Mac, VMware Fusion 8, EndNote X9, Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, Setapp, and more. Use OnTheHub School Search to find out if your school or college is eligible.

Alternatively, visit the OnTheHub eStore, submit valid proof of academic affiliation, and purchase your apps. Your account holds all the information (including registration details) about apps you purchase. OnTheHub regularly posts new articles on its blog; follow OnTheHub on Twitter and contact them if you have any questions.

6. Studentappcentre

studentappcentre deals website for students

The idea behind this service is that every student can get a discount on quality Mac apps without hunting though dozens of developer websites. You’ll see all kinds of options, including productivity, utilities, backup, calendar, academic apps, and more. The discounts range from anywhere between 20-50 percent.

The website has five categories: Organize, Enhance, Inspire, Develop, and Achieve. Within each group, you’ll find a dozen apps. Students can claim their discount by sending any one of the following forms of evidence: course acceptance letter, student ID card, or course bill.

An academic email address given by your institution is also required. To keep up with the latest updates, visit the FAQ section and follow Studentappcentre on Twitter.

7. Humble Bundle

humble bundle deals website

Humble Bundle is a distribution platform for selling games, software, ebooks, and other digital assets. Most bundles you see here offer a Pay What You Want system. You’ll need to pay more than the average price to unlock all rewards.

It also offers you great deals on games for both PC and Mac. You can still have a great gaming experience on Mac if you choose the right games and follow specific settings. Check the platform icon and system requirements for information about game compatibility.

If a particular game is not compatible with Mac, you’ll see a Not Available message in red text next to the platform icon. Apart from these bundles, Humble Bundle also offers smaller weekly bundles and daily discounts in the Humble Store. Follow Humble Bundle on Twitter to get the latest updates on deals.

8. MacBundles

macbundle one stop website for app bundles

Searching and keeping up-to-date with deals is not easy. To make it more simple and save time, MacBundles offers you a one-stop website to find and consolidate app bundles from many sites in a single place. It features bundles from BundleHunt, Creatable, Parallels, MacUpdate, and many more. Subscribe to the newsletter and get all the latest updates.

Get Premium Mac Apps for One Low Price

While getting apps from app bundles is a great way to save money, they may not always include quality software. You often end up buying a bundle to get one or two apps you want.

If you’re willing to spend $10 per month, you can have access to growing collection of quality Mac apps from different developers through Setapp.

Setapp is a new service from MacPaw that adopts a subscription model for Mac apps. As long as you’re a subscriber, you’ll get periodic updates and new apps. If you find this idea interesting, check out our overview of Setapp. We’ve also covered how to find Mac and iOS App Store discounts.

Read the full article: 8 Sites to Find Discounts on Mac Apps Outside the App Store

5 macOS Folders You Should Never Touch (And Why)

mac-folders-not-touch

macOS has a deep and nested folder structure, and a default macOS installation has many unfamiliar-sounding directories. The majority of users don’t ever need to touch these files. Apple keeps certain folders hidden for a reason. Messing with these directories could result in an unstable system, loss of data, or worse—prevent your Mac from booting up. We’ll show you the places that most users shouldn’t touch in the macOS file system. 1. Language Files and Folders Mac apps come with language files for every language they support. When you switch your Mac’s system language, the app will change to that…

Read the full article: 5 macOS Folders You Should Never Touch (And Why)

mac-folders-not-touch

macOS has a deep and nested folder structure, and a default macOS installation has many unfamiliar-sounding directories. The majority of users don’t ever need to touch these files.

Apple keeps certain folders hidden for a reason. Messing with these directories could result in an unstable system, loss of data, or worse—prevent your Mac from booting up. We’ll show you the places that most users shouldn’t touch in the macOS file system.

1. Language Files and Folders

Mac apps come with language files for every language they support. When you switch your Mac’s system language, the app will change to that language immediately.

To see the language files of an app, right-click it and choose Show Package Contents from the context menu. The path will look like this:

AppName.app/Contents/Resources/Lang.lproj

show package contents of an app

Removing the language files for third-party apps is easy through Terminal. But for the default macOS apps, you need to disable System Integrity Protection which we don’t recommend at all. Although there is a lot of advice on the internet recommending that you delete language files to gain disk space, the amount of space you earn is not significant enough for the risks involved.

A quick scan with CleanMyMac shows that my Mac will gain about 520MB of disk space by deleting these files. The result might be different in your case, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll gain more than a few gigabytes. Also, you must redo these steps after every major macOS upgrade.

quick scan with cleanmymac app

When you remove language files, you can’t predict which apps will crash or freeze. In the worst case, you’ll have to reinstall the app. Plus, old versions of programs like Microsoft Office and Adobe apps may not work properly or update. Therefore, it’s best to ignore the language files and folders.

Check out our tips for freeing up space on your Mac for better ways to do this.

2. Hidden /private/var Folder

macOS creates several user and system-related cache files to speed up the system. The cache and temporary data located in /Library/Caches is under your control. You can manually delete this cache without any third-party tools.

But the ones in the system folder are entirely managed by macOS. They’re not even visible to you. Sometimes items in these directories can take up vast amounts of disk space. Thus, you might wonder whether it’s safe to delete the contents of /private/var/folders or not.

Location of /private/var/folders

The simplest way to find the /private/var folder is through the Finder Go to Folder menu. Press Cmd + Shift + G to bring up the Go to Folder box and enter /private/var/folders. A new Finder tab will open immediately.

To open the location of system cached and temporary files, launch a Terminal window and type the following:

open $TMPDIR

You’ll see a two-character folder name with long, seemingly random subfolders. As you navigate the folder tree, explore these three folders. The C folder represents Cache, while T is for Temporary files. User files live in the 0 folder.

location of private var folder

Issues With /private/var/folders

A quick scan with OmniDiskSweeper shows that the size of /private/var/folders is 1GB and that of /private/var is about 4GB. The size of these folders can vary between system, but shouldn’t be too large. If these directories take up more than 10GB, then they’re a concern.

results from omnidisksweeper app

You should not attempt to manually delete files from any of the /private/var directories even if they’re large. Doing so might damage core macOS files, corrupt document data, and prevent your Mac from booting or behaving as expected. You’d then be stuck reinstalling macOS from scratch.

To safely remove these files, quit all apps, and choose Apple Menu > Shut Down. When you reboot your Mac, you trigger the built-in cache clearing mechanisms. This deletes the unnecessary contents, caches, and temporary items in /tmp, /private/var, and /private/var/folders.

If for some reasons these files don’t clear, then reboot your Mac in Safe Mode. macOS deploys additional built-in mechanisms to get rid of caches and temporary files in this mode. Then reboot into normal mode as usual and recheck your available disk space.

Other Important Folders in /private/var

Concerning disk space, there are few more folders which you should not touch:

  • /private/var/db: Includes a bunch of macOS configuration and data files. They include Spotlight database, network configuration files, and more.
  • /private/var/VM: Contains swap and sleep image files. If you hibernate your Mac, this directory will occupy more than 5GB of disk space.
  • /private/var/tmp: Another temporary file directory.

3. System Library Folder

The macOS filesystem contains multiple Library folders. This is by design, and while many similarities exist between the contents of the Library folders, each folder has a different role to play in the macOS filesystem. You’ll find three Library folders:

  • /Library
  • /System/Library
  • ~/Library

The main and System Library folder have a global scope. Their contents support every aspect of the system. The System Library folder contains the files that macOS needs to operate. Only the OS has the right to modify its data, and only system-level events should affect them. There’s no reason for you to touch anything in this folder.

system library folder

4. User Library Folder

The Library folder inside the home directory is your account’s personal Library. Here, macOS stores system, third-party support files, and preferences. It also includes Mail settings, Safari bookmarks, history, calendar data, and much more. The Library folder also include folders that need occasional cleaning. However, not all folders are safe to touch.

~/Library/Application Support

In this folder, both system and third-party apps store support files, usually in a subfolder named after the application. They contain registration data and even store saved app data used in a particular session. Do not delete contents of the Application Support files directly. Instead, use an app called AppCleaner to delete support files along with the app.

library application support folder

~/Library/Preferences

This folder contains all the preference data for default and third-party apps. Again, don’t delete the contents of the Preferences folder; otherwise an app will revert to its default state or might crash. AppCleaner will take care of preferences while uninstalling an app.

library preferences folder

~/Library/Mobile Documents

This is the actual location of the iCloud folder. Documents, application preference files, iOS app data, and more lives in this folder. You should not move, rename, or delete it. It’s also a folder that takes up lot of disk space if you use iCloud. Delete the files you don’t need from iCloud Drive to reduce its size.

library mobile documents folder

~/Library/Containers

This contains support files, cached data, and temporary files for apps you’ve download from the Mac App Store. Since apps on the App Store are sandboxed, they cannot write data anywhere on the system. Again, don’t delete the contents of this folder. If the Containers folder takes up lot of disk space, reinstall the affected app.

library containers folder

5. Hidden Folders in the Home Folder

hidden folders in the home directory

When you press the Cmd + Shift + Period keys in the Finder, you’ll see plenty of files and folders in the Home directory which are typically hidden from view. Different macOS technologies and apps store their data in these folders for the smooth working of your Mac. You should not modify or delete any of these folders:

  • .Spotlight-V100: Spotlight metadata for each mounted volume. The mdworker processes use this metadata to update Spotlight search.
  • .fseventsd: A log file of FSEvents logged by the fseventsd launchdaemon process. It monitors file system events, such as file creation, modification, deletion, and more. Time Machine uses this data to process backup in the background.
  • .DocumentRevisions-V100: macOS versioning database used by apps to save and retrieve different versions of a document.
  • .PKInstallSandboxManager: Used for software updates and sandboxing.
  • .PKInstallSandboxManager-SystemSoftware: Used for system software updates.
  • .Trashes: Trash folder in each mounted volume.

You Must Take a Backup

Messing with these folders is risky, as doing so might corrupt your apps, documents, and macOS. While most Mac users don’t have to worry about these folders, you might be tempted to start exploring these folders when disk space becomes an issue.

Having a backup is essential. If you lose any data, you can recover it relatively easily. If you don’t know how to back up, learn how to use Time Machine or check out some great alternatives to Time Machine.

Read the full article: 5 macOS Folders You Should Never Touch (And Why)