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Android 30|30 - Link Shrink Pro

Android 30|30 is a new series on Tech & Coffee that aims to highlight 30 awesomely useful Android apps in just 30 days. Just click the app name in the heading below to be taken to the Android Market.

Link Shrink Pro by Jake Basile

Having your own custom short URL used to be a far reaching goal for the standard closet geek. Then bitly went and made the process both free and relatively pain-free. I signed up for a free bitly account and purchased the 'ldlw.me' domain name from Hover (great domain registrar, by the way). Once I went through the step by step setup process, I had a custom URL shortener.

I noticed that I was often sharing links to news articles, blog posts, tweets, etc. from my phone. I found the original version of Link Shrink, which then did a major revamp under the new name Link Shrink Pro. Link Shrink Pro is great because of how simple it makes to both shorten and share links using your own custom URL. You open the app, add your bitly credentials (username and API key), and then you really never have to open the Link Shrink Pro app again. The magic happens when you call up the Share options via any other app on Android for things like links, pictures and pretty much anything else. Two new options appear in the 'Share via' list; Link Shrink + Copy and Link Shrink + Share. The first option is great if you want to shorten a link within the same app you plan to use the custom short URL. The second is intended for shortening the URL, and then re-displaying the 'Share via' menu choices so that you can then send the shortened link to another app for sharing. A work flow example where this comes in extremely handy goes something like this. I'm reading a great blog post in the Browser app that I want to send to my followers on Twitter. I long-press the URL in the Browser, choose Share via, select 'Link Shrink + Share', , choose Plume (or Twitter app of choice) from the new Share via menu that has automatically popped up after the magic and finally my custom shortened URL is ready to be tweeted out in the Plume app with whatever text I'd like to add to the body of the tweet.

You can also use Link Shrink Pro to simply shorten URLs with the standard bit.ly link format, or the Google short URL (goo.gl). It is a special kind of pride that comes with sending someone a link that looks like an abbreviated version of my last name, but it is pride nonetheless. Grab Link Shrink Pro from the Android Market and start making those URLs fit into smaller and smaller bits and bytes all over the web.

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Android 30|30 - DoggCatcher & Presto Sound Library

Android 30|30 is a new series on Tech & Coffee that aims to highlight 30 awesomely useful Android apps in just 30 days. Just click the app name in the heading below to be taken to the Android Market.

DoggCatcher Podcast Player by DoggCatcher and Presto Sound Library by Aocate, Inc.

This post covers two apps that not only both handle audio files, but do so in such a complimentary fashion that it can only be accurately described as a marriage. Podcasts are a wonderful way to consume content. I became a podcast fanatic when I started a new career that required a long daily commute. I love music, but over time, that 2+ hours per day on the interstate started to feel like a wasted opportunity. I desired to utilize that time to enrich my mind in a way that music was just not satisfying. That void was filled by podcasts.

I started off using an iPod Touch to listen to podcasts. I would sync podcasts via iTunes each night, occasionally forgetting to sync and needing to pull over at a Starbucks to download a new episode. I enjoyed the player on the iPod Touch because it allowed me to increase the speed of the playback without the voices sounding like Alvin and The Chipmunks host This Week in Tech. When I got my Nexus One, I wanted to move to using a single device vs. carrying both a BlackBerry and an iPod. I searched the Android Market and found several options, but after comparing the feature list, I chose DoggCatcher and shortly thereafter also downloaded Presto Sound Library.

DoggCatcher has too many features to list, so I will simply describe what my my life has been like with these apps. I no longer have to remember to sync my device, because every night at 10pm (configurable, of course) DoggCatcher starts up, checks all of my always growing list of feeds for updates and proceeds to download them. I get into my car in the morning, open the app, and all the newest content is ready for listening. Presto is what I will call the silent assassin. It isn't an app that gets launched very often, because it's value lies in what it can do for OTHER apps. The developer of DoggCatcher made the very smart decision to integrate Presto support. Presto's function is simple; it provides the awesome feature I mentioned earlier of being able to increase the playback speed of the audio with pitch correction to have it still sound clear and understandable.

If you are into podcasts, or just want to listen to some content that will expand your horizons a bit, definitely check out these two great examples of why having the power of choice on the Android platform is more powerful than most people realize.

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Android 30|30 - Textspansion

Android 30|30 is a new series on Tech & Coffee that aims to highlight 30 awesomely useful Android apps in just 30 days. Just click the app name in the heading below to be taken to the Android Market.

Textspansion by 1393 Designs


Most present-day smartphone users tend to treat their phone like an extension of their computer. Copy and paste functionality make crafting documents, long emails or even short messages more efficient on computers. While the major smartphone platforms have added cut/copy/paste functions, they are not as easy to use frequently as their computer analogs. Having to type the same phrases, complicated text entries (i.e. bit.ly API key) or even something as basic as repetitive typing of the current date as part of creating a document on an Android device doesn't need to be painful. This is where Textspansion swoops in to save the day.

The process is simple. You start by setting up text entries with associated 'short name' values in the Textspansion app. Once you've gotten your initial catalog created, the sky is the limit. While typing in any text entry field, simply long-press the Search key on your device and Textspansion is instantly there with your list of short name values from which to choose. Tap a short name and the stored long entry gets pasted into the field where the text was being entered when you held down the Search key. There are other ways to call Textspansion, if you'd prefer to keep the long-press assigned to another function (Google Voice Actions for example). Another option is to keep a Textspansion shortcut running in the Notification Panel, so that it is only ever a swipe away.

Another great feature of Textspansion is the ability to easily add new entries to your catalog by monitoring your standard copy/paste clipboard on the device. You can even setup the app so that if you copy something to the standard clipboard, and then open Textspansion, the snippet is automatically added to your catalog and you are prompted to set a 'short name' value for it. If you do a lot of text entry on your Android device, or even if you are just looking for a super simple way to create some canned replies for SMS messages you want to respond to quickly, check out Textspansion.

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Android 30|30 - Voice Plus

Android 30|30 is a new series on Tech & Coffee that aims to highlight 30 awesomely useful Android apps in just 30 days. Just click the app name in the heading below to be taken to the Android Market.

Voice Plus by Smart Mobile


With my move to Android, I was able to fully embrace the wonderful world of Google Voice (GV). I had already been a GV user, but coming from a BlackBerry, the mobile experience was extremely limited. I used the web version to text message from my computer and started giving the digits out as my "store this and you'll never have to store another number" of choice. Part of my decision to migrate to Android was based on the seamless integration it offered for GV. I chose to have all outgoing calls placed using Google Voice, and I moved to using only the GV app for all my text messaging. This was beneficial for many reasons, but most of all because it freed me from having to ever worry about carrier text messaging plans again.

What I did NOT realize, until almost two full months of bliss, was that by having all my calls route via Google Voice, I completely depleted my wife's anytime and "rollover" minutes. When I received a much higher than normal bill for her plan, it became immediately obvious that even though I was using my Nexus One with an AT&T SIM card, having the outgoing caller ID reflect my GV number caused those calls to not be treated as "mobile-to-mobile" on AT&T's network. After a bit of searching, I found the Voice Plus app. The premise is simple. Some calls need to be placed via your carrier number, while others you'd like to have come from your Google Voice number. Voice Plus makes this extremely easy by letting you use the groups that are already part of Google Contacts. I simply made a group called "NO GV" and added any contacts that I wanted to call using my carrier assigned number. I used the Voice Plus settings to set my Google Voice as the default, but use my carrier number for my "NO GV" group. Rules can also be setup for specific area codes (which is extremely useful if you use Google Voice for it's international calling features).

This app isn't one that you'll tap on often, but it's benefit is present each time you place a call. Other apps have come along that do something similar, but the simplicity and stability of Voice Plus is why this app is highlighted in our Android 30/30 series.

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