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Archive for the 'notes' Category

Geotagged Audio Stories And Tours With Broadcastr

Application Name: Broadcastr

Description: Geotagged audio file creator

Publisher’s website: Broadcastr

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0  /  4-25-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


Broadcastr is a social website that lets you create, share and view audio files tagged to geographic locations; it’s free to browse, but free registration is required to create your own audio files. The iPhone app has been out for a while, and an Android app has just come out.

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The website lets you search by keyword, by categories, or by featured sources (UNICEF here).

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Search results are plotted in a Google Maps interface; clicking on a blue icon brings up the story in an in-browser player.

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In the Android app, the GPS will fire up to get your current location, and then the view will zoom out until the closest available geotagged audio story appears, also marked with a blue dot.

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Tap on the blue dot, and a pop-up will show you the title of this audio note.

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Another tap will bring up even more info; tapping on the Play icon will play the associated audio file.

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Zoom out in the Google Maps view to see more distant audio files.

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The Menu button brings up more options, like a list view of all audio files currently visible in the map view …

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… and the option to record your own note/story, pin it to a geolocation, and have it viewable at the Broadcastr site.

Other issues: Not sure how practical creating audio stories will be on Android, as they’re likely to include distracting noise and ambient sounds. Viewing local notes is easy now, as there aren’t a huge number yet, but I wonder how that will scale as the number of available stories for an area increases.

Final thoughts: Great app for creating audio tours, and personal stories about locations; I hope to use it to create interpretive tours for a number of local trails.




Geographic Data Recording On Android With Memento

Application Name: Memento

Description: Database app with custom form design, GPS geolocation input

Publisher’s website: Memento

Cost: Free ad-supported version; $9.95 Pro version removes ads, removes limits on number of databases that can be synced with Google Docs

Version/date reviewed: v.1.8.3  /  4-24-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


Memento is generally regarded as the best consumer-level database app for Android. You can select from 11 standard data templates (Tasks, CDs, DVDs, Purchases, etc.), browse an online catalog where others have shared their templates, or create your own Custom data template, choosing from 19 different data types:

  • Text
  • Integer
  • Real number
  • Boolean
  • Calculation
  • Date
  • Time
  • Date/Time
  • Contact
  • Image
  • String values
  • Multiselect values
  • Audio
  • Currency
  • Rating
  • Hyperlink
  • Barcode
  • Link to entry
  • Link to file
  • Password
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Google Maps coordinates

Of particular interest here is the last one; you can save geographic coordinate data using a Google Maps interface in conjunction with GPS.

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Here, I’ve created a simple database, with a text field and location field.

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Tapping the Location field brings up a Google Maps view, and fires up the GPS; your current location will be marked by the blue dot.

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Ideally, the default would be for your current location to be the desired location for recording. However, Memento requires you to select a location by tapping on the map view; the selected location is marked with a pushpin icon. Accurate placement requires you to zoom in to the maximum zoom level, and even then it may take you some practice to get it right. You can also zoom out to a different location, and position the pushpin there.

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Clicking on OK enters that location in to the appropriate field; clicking on Create saves the record.

Databases can be exported in CSV format, although some data types like images cannot be exported to this format; you can also import data in CSV format to a data template, if you follow the directions to make sure the data fields in the CSV match the data fields in the template correctly.

Even more usefully, you can sync your database automatically to a Google Docs spreadsheet. Syncing is done manually, so that you can record data while offline, then sync it up later with Google Docs. Syncing works both ways, so you can add data in Google Docs, and have it synced to your Android unit. Once in Google Docs, you can analyze the data, manipulate it, and export it in a variety of formats (e.g. CSV, XLS). It’s usually best to do this on a copy of the data, as modifying the original spreadsheet may result in sync problems later on.

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One quirk of the geographic coordinate recording is that the latitude and longitude are combined into a single entry, separated by a colon, as seen above in a screen capture from Google Docs. However, it’s pretty easy to convert that into split Latitude/Longitude columns:

1. Make a copy of the synced spreadsheet to avoid sync issues later on.

2. In the copy, create a new C column, and label it Latitude.

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3. Use the Split command to split the data in the B column (Location) into two separate data fields. You need to specify the spreadsheet location you want to modify (B2 here), and the delimiter (a colon), so you would enter =Split(B2,”:”) into the C2 column. Hitting the Enter key will now split the B column data into two data entries, the first half going into the C column, the second going into a new D column:

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4. You can now copy and paste the C2 data into all the other rows in the C column, and have all that data split as well; the D column is the Longitude, so you can label it as such:

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If you export this modified spreadsheet as a CSV or XLS file, some mapping/GIS programs can open it directly. Otherwise, you can use a program like MapWindow to convert the CSV file into a GIS-friendly shapefile format, or a program like DNRGarmin to convert it to a GPS-friendly GPX format.

Other issues: The free version limits the number of databases you can sync with Google Docs, but I couldn’t find out anywhere what that limit was. The in-app help is terrific, maybe the best I’ve seen, and it’s available even when you’re offline.

Final thoughts: The free version is a no-brainer must-have; this is the best basic database app for Android, especially with the geographic capabilities and Google Docs sync. If you need to sync lots of databases to Google Docs, the Pro version is expensive (for an Android app), but may be worth it.




Location-Tagged Notes With SpotPad

Application Name: SpotPad

Description: Create simple location-tagged notes, show their location in Google Maps

Publisher’s website: SpotPad

Cost: Free (ad-supported)

Version/date reviewed: v.0.0.1  /  4-15-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


SpotPad lets you create a simple text note, and tag it with your current GPS location.

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From the initial program screen, press your unit’s Menu buttton, and select Add note; the screen above will appear. Type in the text you want to save. In order to tag the note with your current location, you need to press the Update Location button; SpotPad will not automatically add that data. But if you like, you can save a note without location data. When done, choose Save from the menu options, or just use the back button. Your GPS only fires up when you’re in note editing mode, and turns off when you save the note – a nice touch that saves on battery life.

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Available notes will be listed here; notes tagged with coordinate data will have a “pin” icon next to them, untagged notes will lack the pin. To open a note for editing, just tap on its listing here. The default note title is the first 25-odd characters of the note, but you can modify that when editing the note, using the Edit title option in the menu during editing.

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But you can also bring up multiple options by doing a long-press on a note listing. Open just brings up a full view of the note, with the option to edit it. Delete removes the note (no recovery possible). Edit title lets you modify the title (which doesn’t affect the note text). Show location plots the location where the note was taken in Google Maps:

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A tap on the “pin” icon brings up its title and coordinates:

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Unfortunately, tapping on this information pop-up doesn’t take you to the note text directly; hope this is added in a future version.

 

Other issues: None; worked fine.

Final thoughts: Other apps, like Evernote, Catch Notes, and Springpad offer note geotagging with extra features like pictures, but with a somewhat more complicated interface, and no titles for plotted points. If all you want is just a quick and easy geotagged note app, SpotPad does the job.




Annotate A Google Maps View With DrawMap

Application Name: DrawMap

Description: Capture a view in Google Maps, then draw markers/lines/shapes on it.

Publisher’s website: Young Hoon Park

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.01  /  3-1-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


DrawMap lets you annotate a Google Maps view by drawing on it.

 

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Scroll/zoom the Google Maps view to your desired area, then tap capture to save that view as a bitmap image.

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The editing screen will pop up. Select the type of annotation you want to create at top; from left to right, they are:

marker

Marker (e.g. like a standard placemark): Tap and hold on the screen, then drag the placemark to your desired location.

segments

Line segments: Tap on multiple locations, and have straight lines drawn between those points.

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Freehand line: Drag your finger on the screen to draw a freehand line.

circle

Shapes: Draw a circle, square or line on the map.

You may have noticed that the buttons at the bottom change, depending on what kind of feature you’re drawing.

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For markers, choose between three different types.

linesize

For line segments, freehand lines and shapes, you can choose the size of the line with the Width control (the three dots of increasing size). To change the size, tap and hold on the box, then drag left/right to decrease/increase size).

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All annotation types also let you set the color by tapping on the color wheel button at the bottom.

Two of the annotation types also have toggle switches:

  • Freehand: Toggle between drawing and erase mode. Erase wipes out any drawn features of any type, including markers.
  • Shapes: Toggle between circles, rectangles and lines.

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Once you’re done, tap on the disk icon to save the image; you’ll see the name of the file and the save location at top. You’ll also have the option to share it immediately with other locations/services like email, Facebook, Dropbox, etc..

Other issues: An undo button would be an enormous help; as is, your only option to undo a feature is to erase it manually. A text box option would also be a really useful feature; handwriting text on the map is a pain. It would also be nice to have additional map options (terrain, satellite view).

Final thoughts: If it had a text option, it would be almost perfect, and hopefully that will be added soon. As is, it’s still the best Android map annotation program I’ve seen.




Insert Geographical Data Into An Android Text Field With Inserty

Application Name: Inserty

Description: Inserts user-definable text snippets into Android text fields; these text snippets can include GPS-derived data.

Publisher’s website: Room.404

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v. 1.3.10  /  10-18-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)


Inserty lets you create a list of pre-defined text snippets that you can insert into any text field. These snippets can be simple, unchanging bits of text, but you can also include geographically-related data in the snippets updated automatically from your GPS position:

  • Address
  • Street
  • Postal Code
  • State
  • City
  • Country
  • Position Coordinates
  • Latitude
  • Longitude
  • Accuracy
  • Time
  • Date
  • Google Maps link
  • Altitude
  • Current clipboard contents

Inserty can be used in two different modes: As a stand-alone app that can send snippets to other Android apps, or as an alternate text entry option (like an alternate keyboard option). You’ll likely use the stand-alone app at least occasionally, since that’s where you can delete current snippet options, and create your own.

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Figure 1: In app mode, it will open with a list of available snippets; the view at left shows the default ones that come with the app. You can delete any of these, move them up or down in the list, and perform other operations with a long tap on any of them. A short tap will bring up the option to send the text snippet to another app (notepad, Facebook, email, etc.).

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Figure 2: From the main menu, you can add a text snippet of your own definition. Type unchanging text into the text box; use the “Insert tag” button to select variable text blocks (location, time, date, etc.) as “tags” that will be inserted in the snippet on the fly.

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Figure 3: You can also use Inserty by invoking it as an alternate input method; to use it this way, you’ll have to enable it as an alternate keyboard in the Settings section of your Android unit. Once enabled, you can pull it up by a long press in a text field, selecting “Input method”, then choosing “Inserty” from the box shown at left. You’ll get a “Quick Inserty” selection …

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Figure 4: … with your options listed. Select one, the text will be inserted into the text field, and you’ll be prompted to switch back to the keyboard method you normally use.
Other issues:

The first time you use Inserty after a long period of time without a GPS fix, it may take a couple of minutes to get a location fix that will allow Inserty to update the position-related tags. You can speed this up by getting a good position fix before starting to take notes. I also wish that Inserty were available as a service you could access from the Android status bar; having to start up the app, or going through multiple steps to use it in “Input method” mode, can be inconvenient at times. I also wish it had the option to display your current compass or GPS heading direction.

Final thoughts:

Not always as convenient to use as I’d like, but Inserty is a useful utility to have for note-taking apps that don’t have the option to include position data; not bad as a “boilerplate” utility, either. Recommended.




Snaptic Compass: Direction With Data Export

Application Name: Compass

Description: Digital compass with geodata export to Catch Notes.

Publisher’s website: Snaptic

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.2.0  /  10-1-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android market link (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


Snaptic’s Compass app is no secret – from the download stats, it appears to be the most popular compass app on the Android Marketplace. And there’s a reason for that – if I could have one only compass on my Android phone, this would be the one.

 

AnalogAnalog Antique
Antique
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Digital
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Night
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Simple Digital

Figure 1: With all models except the Simple Digital, you can click and drag on the outer degree ring to get it to line up with the arrow. Simple Digital rotates the ring automatically so that the direction you’re facing is always at the top; this is my preferred compass, though I wish they’d add a North arrow indicator to it as well.

GPS There’s also a “GPS” compass that shows additional info. Additional data includes GPS data like accuracy, elevation and number of visible satellites.

There’s a Settings page accessible using the Menu button. In addition to True/Magnetic North, Settings lets you:

  • Adjust the noise filter to damp out variations in the reading
  • Choose the orientation sensor
  • Set the update rate
  • Whether to display your GPS location and address at top
  • Set units for distance, location and speed
simpledigital All these features by themselves would make Compass a great app to have. But what puts it over the top is the small “Note This Location” tab at the top, below the address/location info. If you have the notetaking app Catch Notes installed on your unit, it will take basic location info and automatically …
compass_note … insert it into a Catch Note. The Settings menu lets you choose up to five different parameters to export: altitude, direction, address, geographic coordinates, and speed; in this example, I’m only doing altitude, direction and coordinates.

This note-export feature is awesome, especially combined with Catch Note’s ability to add a photo to the note. For example, you could determine a direction you want to take a photo in, export that data to a note, then take the photo and have all that data associated with it. If you have photo geotagging turned off for security reasons, this lets you save geo-information for a photo in a more secure way. And all this info, especially location and direction, makes creating a Google Earth PhotoOverlay a snap.

Issues/Wishlist:

Nothing major.

  • “Magnetic” indicator on the GPS compass display doesn’t change even the compass is set to True North.
  • Additional coordinate systems available as an option would be great (UTM, MGRS, OSGB, etc.)
  • Additional note data export parameters desired: Date/time, GPS accuracy.
  • Calibrate menu listing should start up compass calibration, instead of just showing the pattern you should move the unit in during calibration. Seems to be working now. Given its limited movement pattern, I’d recommend using the unit’s standard calibration procedure, usually found in the Settings menu under location.

Final thoughts:

This is a no-brainer; if you’re using your Android as a geography tool, you have to have both Compass and Catch Notes installed. They’d be a bargain even if you had to pay for them; free, they’re a steal.

Revisions:
10/1/10 – Updated to reflect change of 3banana notes app to Catch Notes.




Catch Notes: Augmented Notepad With Geotagging Options

Application Name: Catch Notes

Description: Notepad with geotagging, picture embedding; online sync.

Publisher’s website: Snaptic

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.2.0.1  /  10-1-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android market link (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


Catch Notes is a terrific free note-taking application for the Android platform from Snaptic.

 

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Figure 1: From the main screen, tap on the “Enter A Private Note” to start up a note; tapping on the picture icon takes you automatically to your camera app to snap a shot. Here, I’ll just start out with a note …

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Figure 2: Type whatever text you want into the box at top. You also can use the buttons at the bottom to:

– Take a single photo and attach it to the note (more below)
– Attach a single photo from your gallery to the note; this didn’t work for me on my Droid X, YMMV
– Scan a barcode and enter the data into your note. For regular 2D UPC codes, this enters the UPC number into your note; you’ll have to look up the product data separately. For QR codes, whatever data is embedded in the QR code will be entered into the note.

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Figure 3: If I choose to take a picture, my camera app will start up, letting me shoot the photo. After the picture is taken, the menu at left shows up onscreen; I can choose to reshoot the photo, abort the photo, or click “Done” to accept the photo and go back to the note page.

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Figure 4: A thumbnail of the photo shows up at the bottom of the screen. But the full-resolution photo is also saved on your unit, and can be downloaded to your computer later on. Add whatever additional notes you want, and save the note. Putting a hash tag (#) in front of a word marks it as a label for help in organizing/categorizing/sorting your notes.

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Figure 5: A listing for the new note shows up on your main screen, along with picture thumbnail; tapping on the note listing will bring it up a full view of it for reading/editing. You can also share a note publicly via email or social network sites, or send it to other compatible apps on your unit (e.g. Evernote).

The little teardrop icon at lower left in the note listing indicates that I’ve turned on “Location tagging” and “Location pin” from the Settings menu; this embeds the latitude/longitude into the note info, and shows that the note is geotagged. However, the app seems to automatically reverse-geocode the lat/long and displays an address at the bottom of the note if one is nearby; seems you can’t choose to just display latitude/longitude. I hope they offer that option in the future, as well as the option to remove the geotagging data if you don’t want it. But tomorrow’s post will show a way to get around that limitation.

If a note is geotagged, you’ll have the option to “Show on Map” appear in the menu settings; this will display a placemark icon in Google Maps indicating where the note was created.

You have the option of signing up for a free account with Snaptic; if you do, notes can be synced onto your online account for viewing/editing/sharing:

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If you’re not online, no problem – notes are saved locally, and can be synced later. You have the option of automatic syncing whenever there’s a connection, or manually starting the sync process whenever you like. Snaptic syncing also works with their AK Notepad app, which is a fine plain-vanilla note app by itself (but Catch Notes is better).

Final thoughts:

IMO, Catch Notes is the best basic note-taking app available for Android; it has just enough features to be useful, but not so many to make it difficult to learn. And online data sync is bonus. As-is, its geotagging capabilities are limited, but still useful. But there’s another app that significantly augments the geotagging of Catch Notes, and takes it to another level. That’s tomorrow’s post.

Revisions:
10/1/10 to reflect change of app’s name to “Catch Notes” from “3banana”