Apps you didn’t know you needed: midterms (or exams) edition

It’s midterm season, and while some students have already taken their tests, many are preparing for — maybe even dreading — days of studying.

But students needn’t worry too much because there are several apps available that can facilitate efficient studying, help calm nerves and aid in concentration. For example, studies have shown ambient noise can aid in concentration and stress relief.

Here are some recommendations that could help ease midterm stress.

Flashy cards

app1For those who are visual learners and love using flashcards, Brainscape is a solid choice in studying software. The app lets users create their own flashcards by creating a subject — i.e. Biology, English, etc. — then making a deck. Inside the deck, the user can type in both the questions and answers to what they’re studying and make as many cards as they wish.

As a student goes through each flash card, they can choose from one of five colors indicating how comfortable they feel about their knowledge of a particular card, ranging from red (not at all) to blue (perfectly). Based on what color they chose, the app determines how soon a card will show up again.

Brainscape keeps track of the user’s progress with a percentage of overall mastery of their chosen subject along with a “confidence breakdown,” a pie chart that indicates the user’s confidence level in each individual subject, as well as the entire library of flashcards.

If a student chooses, they can create an account that lets them sync their flash cards with other iOS devices.

Users can buy other pre-made flashcards by visiting the “Brainscape marketplace” within the app, where additional subject flashcards are available for purchase.

Brainscape is free, with additional content starting at 99 cents. It is only available for the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers.

Take the coffee shop with you

app2Coffitivity attempts to recreate the ambience of a coffee shop, a frequent studying spot for students. Users can choose from three pre-recorded soundtracks named “Morning Murmur,” “Lunchtime Lounge” and “University Undertones.”

Users are also able to send in audio of their own favorite coffee shop sounds for possible inclusion to the app’s website and mobile app.

A feature that may be appealing to students is the ability to play music from iTunes while listening to the recordings on the app. A user can balance volume levels and decide how loud they want their music or the ambient sounds.

Coffitivity’s website can be accessed for free. For on-the-go users, the Coffitivity app costs $1.99 and is available for iPod, iPad and Mac computers.

‘Tis the season for studying

app3Relax Melodies Seasons is another application that provides ambient sounds.

The difference: users can put themselves in the sounds of summer or the ambience of autumn with time-of-the-year-specific recordings.

The app features a total of 32 ambient sounds, with 24 corresponding to the four seasons in a year. Some examples of non-melodic choices are “Fireplace” or “Family at the Beach,” while others such as “Aurora” and “Dream” feel more like an instrumental song.

Two of the sounds which are not season-centric are “Concentration” and “Pre-Sleep,” recordings designed to have positive effects on brainwaves.

Lending credence to the “seasons” part of the app’s name, Relax Melodies Seasons offers eight classic Christmas songs such as “Carol of the Bells,” “Deck the Halls” and “Jingle Bells.”

Users can mix and match any of the 32 sounds, giving them the freedom to create their own ambience and can choose from five pre-made combinations of sounds in its “Favorite” section.

There is a free and paid version of Relax Melodies Seasons which is available for iPod, iPad and Mac computers. Other Relax Melodies apps are available for Android devices.

Sounds to study to

app4Study is an app designed to increase a user’s productivity. It involves a 45-minute track that includes nature sounds — mainly birds — and slow, short melodic phrases.

According to the app’s iTunes page, it is generally recommended to take a break after 45 minutes, hence the track’s length. The ambient sounds can be put on repeat with a simple swipe of a button.

The app’s “Info” page says the user is meant to experience a “body-relaxed, mind-alert state that’s ideal for studying.”

Study is free and is available for any iOS device.

Namaste

app5For students who are looking for to relax or relieve stress before or after a big test, yoga can be the perfect solution.

Simply Yoga is a beginner’s yoga app with three workouts of 20, 40 or 60 minutes and includes over 30 poses and three pre-made routines. The app offers instructional videos for each pose.

Simply Yoga has both a free and paid version — which allows users to create their own routines and is ad-free  —  and is available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

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A look into the new iOS 7 system from Apple

Now that the new iPhones 5S and 5C have been released, it’s time to talk about the operating system which comes installed out of the box.

iOS 7, which debuted two days before the latest Apple devices hit stores, boasts many improvements to the previous operating system, iOS 6.

First, the look of the OS is completely overhauled. Icons are more two-dimensional and flat, colors more vibrant, and many apps have changed face, which could cause early-adopters to search for their Photos, Game Center or Newsstand apps unsuccessfully at first. Other app icons look fairly similar to their iOS 6 counterparts and will be easier to find.

Another major update is Siri, which can now understand and execute more commands such as checking the score of your favorite sports team’s game, searching the web for photos of a particular subject, and more. Apple’s personal assistant also includes a new male voice, which can be toggled through the phone’s settings.

Native apps received new features as well, most notably the camera. Video, photo and panorama modes are accessed by a simple swipe to the left or right. Debuting with this update is a square mode, which makes it easier to take Instagram-ready photos. Nine filters were also added to the app.

While iOS 7 brings major updates to other pre-installed apps such as Messages, Voice Memos, Phone, Calendar, Safari and others, it also is introducing new features.

Apple is debuting Control Center, which can be accessed by swiping upwards from just above the home button. Here, users will find icons for their Bluetooth, Wifi, Camera, Calendar, Calculator, Airplane Mode, and a native flashlight, which is another new addition. Gone are the cumbersome days of having to go through the Settings apps of an iPhone or iPad to locate these heavily-used functions.

Music lovers now have a new option for discovering new artists in iTunes Radio. The feature lets users pick from radio stations based on popular artists or decades, or they can create their own, mimicking what can be done on Pandora.

The Notification Center is also receiving a new view called Today. The feature gives a summary of the weather, what is on a person’s calendar, the day’s stocks, and any reminders that a user has set. Viewing other notifications can be accessed by pressing the All option, which is right next to the Today and Missed options.

Not all iDevices are eligible for this new operating system. The iPhone 5S, 5C and 5 all have full iOS 7 functionality, as well as the third generation, fourth generation and mini iPads. Older devices, like the iPhone 4 or iPad 2, will be shorted certain features, such as the camera’s new features or Airdrop, which allows users to send files over the air to other nearby devices.

iOS can be downloaded by going to the iPhone or iPad’s settings, choosing Software Update, and following the steps. At least three gigabytes of space is needed for the OS to download and install.

The latest iPhones come with iOS version 7.0.1. All other devices that upgrade to the new iOS will receive version 7.0.

Apps you didn’t know you needed: know when to run and pee

RunPeeAPPIn a movie theater, it is expected to ignore a phone call while the film is playing. But when nature dials your body’s number, that’s a call that may not be possible to leave unanswered.

The problem is a trip to the bathroom could mean missing key plot points, resulting in the tricky decision of “hold or go.”

Luckily, there’s an app for that.

RunPee lets the viewer know, down to the minute, when and for how long to get up and use the facilities during a movie. The app gives an overview of what occurred during a trip to the loo.

A timer can be set within the app to let movie-goers keep track of how long they’ve been gone.

There are 636 movies in the app’s database. They can be sorted in order of release date in time intervals of six, 12 or 24 months. Films can also be sorted alphabetically.

The app also provides a synopsis of a movie’s first three minutes in case of a late arrival.

An additional feature is the app shows whether or not there is more movie after the end credits.

RunPee costs 99 cents and is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices as well as Windows phones.

Brief: Hackers unite for app development

On Friday and Saturday, amateur, professional and student app developers can show their stuff at the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon.

The two-day competition will consist of an interactive networking session where developers will group into teams and begin brainstorming app ideas.

Afterwards, sessions will include non-stop coding, computing and designing. Developers will get the chance to pitch their completed apps on Saturday evening for a chance to win prizes.

Speakers for the Hackathon include Alex Donn, senior marketing manager at AT&T; Lucien Vattel, CEO of GameDesk; and others.

The event, which kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday, will be at Real Office Centers Santa Monica, located at 604 Arizona Ave. The 44,260-square-foot location was last occupied by Google. It features more than 200 socially-conscious, shared workspaces with enough room for 150 companies, according to the company’s website.

The space is geared toward the high-tech and entertainment industries, which make up a significant portion of Santa Monica’s business community, helping it earn the moniker Silicon Beach.

For more information on the Hackathon, visit realofficecenters.com/events.