Thursday, June 6, 2013

[Mobile Cellphone Info] Hands on: Instacast for OS X beta is a good listener

Mobile Cellphone Info has posted a new item, 'Hands on: Instacast for OS X beta
is a good listener'

If you love to listen to podcasts on your iPhone or iPad, youre probably
familiar with Vemedios Instacast, a $5 app that lets you consume your favorite
shows through an elegant and well-thought-out user interface.

Despite all its great features, Instacast was an iOS-only affairuntil now. The
folks behind it have now released a public beta of Instacast for OS X, and weve
taken the Mac version for a spin to see how it holds up.

Podcasts a-go-go
Like its mobile cousin, Instacast for Mac revolves around a simple and intuitive
user interface that emphasizes your content, organized according to your tastes.

Instacast is all about the content. The interface features Mails familiar
three-pane configuration, with subscriptions, shows, and show notes readily
available.When you first launch the app, youll probably start by building your
own library of podcasts; Instacast offers a convenient panel for this purpose,
letting you pick favorites from a large catalog thats divided up by podcast
typeaudio, video, enhanced content, and so forthas well as by genre and
language. You can also search for a specific title, or enter a feed URL directly
if you so choose.

The subscription panel only lets you add one title at a time; this can be a bit
annoying if youre just starting out and want to add a large number of podcasts
to your library in one go. Fortunately, youll probably only be adding that many
podcasts once.

Once added, podcasts end up in your subscription list, which employs a Mail-like
three-panel layout: podcasts on the far left, episodes in the middle, and show
notes in a large panel on the right. By default, the app downloads the latest
episode of each podcast, making it available for listening offline; the others
can be played on demand through streaming, or downloaded on an individual basis.

Instacast offers a number of options for managing your subscriptions and playing
back your content.Play it back, Sam
If a podcast is downloaded but never listened to, does it make a sound? Given
that listening is the task youll most often use Instacast for, the developers
have spent a lot of time making sure that it works smoothly.

Double-clicking on an episode starts it playing immediately, interrupting any
previously-running recording. Alternatively, you can queue an episode for later
playback, either right after the current episode or at the end of the apps Play
Next list.

The playback interface resides on the title bar of Instacasts main window, where
its readily accessible without ever being in the way. The controls give you
quick access to the usual playback controls, as well as a chapter and Play Next
popover, and an AirPlay selection panel that allows you to pipe sound to an
external set of speakers.

As in the iOS app, the interface gives you a few options to control how each
podcast is played back. In addition to determining how far the app skips back
and forth when you hit the backwards and forwards buttons in the interface, you
can also change at what speed the show is played back, ranging from half-speed
to three times the normal rate, at which everybody sounds like theyve just left
a particularly well-stocked party from the Eighties.

Lists make managing your content easier, either by manually grouping your
favourite episodes, or letting the app do it for you with Smart
Lists.Organization is everything
In addition to managing your subscriptions, Instacast allows you to organize
your episodes in a number of lists, either manually or automatically according
to a number of predefined criteria.

The latter functionality is provided through Smart Lists, three of
whichFavorites, Unplayed, and Downloadedappear by default in the Lists screen,
while three more (Partially Played, Recently Played, and Most Recent) can be
added as needed.

You can also add any number of manual lists, which you can use to collect
individual episodes in any way you like. Each list gets its own name, and can be
sorted alongside the others according to your preferences.

Sync, please
One of Instacast for iOSs most useful features is the ability to sync your
podcast data between different devicesa capability that has been ported to the
OS X version as well.

Rather than relying on Apples iCloud, which has its share of problems, Instacast
relies on a custom solution called Instacast Cloud, which the company claims is
faster and less prone to hiccups. This sync system, which is available free of
charge to all users, also supports local file sharing, so if you download a
podcast episode to your Mac, your mobile devices will be able to grab it via
Wi-Fi, rather than having to retrieve it over the Internet again.

During my quick test, the sync functionality worked wellalthough I did have a
moment of panic when my entire subscription list disappeared during the sync,
only to return, unscathed, at the end of the operation. In addition to keeping
tabs on your subscription, the app also synchronizes several metadata points,
like which episodes you have listened to, and how far youve gotten in episodes
that you havent finished playing back yet.

Syncing is easy, thanks to Instacasts cloud offering.As good as it gets
Instacast does have a few minor flaws here and thereit is, after all, a beta,
and it does crash on occasionbut it promises to be as good a product as its
mobile counterpart. Rather than being flashy, it feels like a solid classic Mac
app that foregoes skeuomorphic design and glitzy animations in favor of a user
interface that emphasizes simplicity and ease of use.

Instacast for Mac, which requires OS X 10.8, will be available in public beta
until May 31, at which point it will presumably turn into a paid product.
Speaking of which, you can already purchase a license directly from within the
app at an early-bird price of $15.

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Mobile Cellphone Info