Tag Archives: App Directory

The Best System Monitor for iPhone

The Best System Monitor for iPhone

At a glance, system monitors might not seem as useful on your iPhone as they are on a desktop computer, but they can pack in a lot of good data. This includes detailed battery life breakdowns, storage space, data speeds, and more. For the average user, our favorite system monitor for the iPhone is Omnistat.

Omnistat

Platform: iPhone (and iPad)
Price: $1.99
Download Page

Features

  • Customizable Notification Center widgets let you decide what data is shown and where it shows up
  • Universal app for iPad and iPhone. Also includes Apple Watch support
  • Shows activity and stats for: device name, device model, current OS version, current OS build number, device uptime, Wi-Fi details, mobile carrier data usage, download and upload speed, storage information, CPU usage, battery details, and more
  • Choose when your data plan resets so you can always track mobile data usage accurately
  • Estimates remaining battery time

Where It Excels

Omnistat’s biggest strength are the Notification Center widgets. A system monitor is something you want quick access to, and Notification Center widgets are a clever way of doing that. With Omnistat, you can customize which stats appear as widgets, and any time you want to take a glance at them, just pull down on the Notification Center. Omnistat gives each activity its own widget, so you can customize the layout in Notification Center easily.

Beyond that, Omnistat provides the details most people want. This includes battery life, including estimations for remaining talk, text, and data time. You can also easily track Wi-Fi and cell data usage. For data usage, Omnistat supports creating an automated reset date for cell data so it’s always in time with your data plan. If you’re running on a 16GB iPhone or you’re just always against the wall with remaining space, the storage widget is extremely helpful for keeping your remaining storage space in check. Omnistat has plenty of other widgets, from network details to device CPU usage, so it should have the data you need access to the most.

Where It Falls Short

Omnistat excels because of the inclusion of Notification Center widgets. However, Omnistat is not the most extensive system monitor available. While it does track most activities the average user wants, it’s missing a lot of data for anyone looking for a more granular approach. Likewise, Omnistat gives a lot of overview data, but you can’t focus on more specific information, like what hours you tend to use more data, a history of Wi-Fi networks, or anything else like that.

The Competition

Omnistat is great for the average person looking to glance at a few broad bits of information, but if you want to dig really deep into data, it’s not the app you want. Thankfully, the system monitor space is pretty packed full of solid apps.

For those who love massive amounts of system details, System Monitor Ultimate (Free) is worth a look. System Monitor Ultimate displays a ton of data about your CPU, GPU, network, active connections, and plenty more. System Monitor Ultimate is not exactly the best looking system monitor around nor is it packed with features, but it’s free and displays just about every bit of data you can track on an iPhone. There’s no Notification Center widget support, but if widgets aren’t your thing, System Monitor Ultimate is the app you want.

If you’re looking for the same amount of data as System Monitor Ultimate with more interactive features, then System Status ($2.99) fits the bill. On top of monitoring a number of data points, network information, battery, and memory, System Status also shows you file statistics, detailed page statistics, tracks three minutes of background activity, and allows you to export all those charts over email. If you love to look at and save activity monitor data, but don’t care about the widgets, System Status does the job.

Finally, Omnistat isn’t the only system monitor with widgets, Usage Widget (Free/99¢) and SnapStats (Free) both include Notification Center widgets alongside basic system monitors. Unlike Omnistat, both apps display all the stats in a single widget, so you can’t move them around or customize them quite as much. That’s a preference thing though, so if you don’t mind all your data being jammed into one spot, both apps are worth a look.


Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.

The Best File Management App for Android

The Best File Management App for Android

File managers may be a dime a dozen on Android, but Solid Explorer stands out from the pack. With advanced features for managing and browsing your files, both on your phone and remotely, it’s our new favorite file manager.

Update: Recently, our previous pick ES File Explorer has started adding some shady adware to its free version. The paid version ($2.99) is reportedly still safe, but we’ve decided to update our top pick to reflect this new development.

Solid Explorer

Platform: Android
Price: $1.99 after 14-day free trial
Download Page

Features

  • Basic file management functions: copy, paste, cut, create, delete, rename, share and send files stored on your SD card or internal memory
  • Select multiple files at once
  • Browse Collections of photos, music, and videos in one place
  • Manage, install, and uninstall apps, plus explore file structure within apps
  • Open, read, extract, and decrypt ZIP, 7ZIP, RAR and TAR files
  • Manage cloud files on Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Google Drive, Sugarsync, Copy, Mediafire, Owncloud, and Yandex
  • Add more storage options with plugins for Amazo, Mega, and more
  • Lock access to network locations with password
  • Use root access to perform root-only actions
  • Batch rename large groups of files at once with regular expressions or variables
  • Remotely access files with FTP, SFTP, WebDav, and SMB/CIFS clients
  • Bookmark folders for quick access later
  • View images and listen to audio with built-in media player
  • Cast media to your Chromecast
  • Customize primary and accent color scheme
  • Choose between light, dark, and black background themes
  • Material Design interface

Where It Excels

Solid Explorer covers almost all of the beats you’d expect from a file manager nearly flawlessly. Collections allow you to view all of your photos, music, and videos in one place. You can connect your cloud storage accounts like Dropbox to manage your files remotely. It also has support for remote access protocols like FTP and you can even use it as a root file manager. Even for advanced users, it packs a punch.

On top of all this, it’s also gorgeous. While most file managers have a design stuck somewhere between 2009 and the stone age, Solid Explorer makes it a priority to adhere to Google’s Material Design spec. You can also customize your themes and colors and even choose between light and dark themes, because there’s really no reason a file manager should blind you.

Where It Falls Short

While we prefer to choose a free app when we can, Solid Explorer doesn’t fall into that camp. You can try it for free for two weeks, but after that, you’ll have to shell out $2 to keep using it. On top of that, the company also charges for some plugins like Mega, and even offers additional icon packs for more money. This is annoying, but most of the add-ons are either free or optional. The upside is that you at least know where Solid Explorer is getting its money from. Since our last pick was pulled for adding sketchy adware, we’ll call this a mixed blessing, rather than an outright negative.

The Competition

The free version of ES File Explorer may have lost our recommendation, but if you don’t want to say goodbye, you should at least check out ES File Explorer Pro. For $2.99, all of the embedded app “suggestions” and junkware are removed, and there are no ads. It still has all the bells and whistles we used to like, including remote file access, ZIP support, and an app manager. Of course, most of those same features are in Solid Explorer for $1 less.

FX File Explorer is also a great option for users who like ES File Explorer’s design but don’t want the junk. The free version covers the basics of local file management, while you can pay $2.99 to unlock advanced features like cloud or networked storage and an app manager. For basic users, the free version gives an edge over Solid Explorer, but advanced users will end up paying slightly more for the big guns. Though, at the time of this writing, FX File Explorer is running a sale, bringing the price down to $1.99, specifically aiming to court users of ES File Explorer.

It’s also worth pointing out that if you don’t need much from your file manager, Android N will have you covered as well. Google has started building a basic file manager into the system itself. You can copy and move files, rename files and folders, and create new folders all within the system itself. It’s a far cry from the advanced features of other apps on this list, and Android N isn’t even released yet, but if you’re one of the few running the N Preview or are reading this in the future from an Android N device, you might not need a full file manager app.

The Best Calendar App for iPhone

The Best Calendar App for iPhone

You have tons of options for calendars on iPhone, many that are free, but when it comes to the best, we recommend Fantastical 2, even if you have to shell out $5 to use it.

Fantastical 2

Platform: iPhone (and iPad)
Price: $4.99
Download Page

Features

  • Compatible with Google Calendar, iCloud, and Exchange
  • Quickly add new events with natural language (“Lunch with Alan tomorrow”)
  • Notification Center support
  • Map view for event locations
  • Week view in landscape mode
  • Integration with Facebook events
  • Widget support
  • Quick Actions on iPhone 6s
  • Light and dark themes
  • Reminders integration with notifications

Where It Excels

A lot of things are great about Fantastical 2, but what separates it from the pack the most comes down to its design. Fantastical 2 is incredibly easy to use, fast, and it’s powerful enough for most people. As a basic calendar, you can view your events on a calendar and they’re visualized in a readable and easy to understand way. You can add new events without a lot of taps and the natural language entry means you can type out an event just like you’d say it out loud.

Fantastical also offers up just enough options for viewing your calendar to make it useful for a variety of people. You can check out a list view in portrait mode that offers both a week ticker and a month calendar at the top, or flip your phone to landscape view to see a more detailed look at your week. These three views make it pretty easy to glance at your calendar to get a gist of your schedule at any given moment.

Fantastical 2 is updated consistently with new features, but more importantly it’s always kept up to date for new versions of iOS and any new features that might come along with a new iPhone (like Quick Actions on the iPhone 6s) or in the operating system itself (like widget support). Finally, Fantastical 2 is just as reliable as Apple’s built-in options, which, when it boils down to it, is one of the most important aspects of a calendar. Syncing always works, crashes are very rare, and notifications always happen when they’re supposed to.

Where It Falls Short

The most obvious downside of Fantastical is the $5 price tag. While paying for the app means you’ll get continued support and you don’t have to worry as much about the app getting acquired by another company (which are oddly common in calendar apps), not everyone wants to shell out cash for a calendar app. We do cover some free options below though.

Beyond that, Fantastical is missing some of the social or third-party integrations that you’ll find in other calendar apps. While it does support Facebook events, that’s pretty much it. You won’t find detailed views of your weather, Evernote reminders, or anything else here. On one end, that means Fantastical is a solid calendar app on its own, but on another, it means you can’t auto populate your calendar using other services.

The Competition

You have a lot of good competition in the calendar space on the iPhone, so if you don’t feel like shelling out the $5 for Fantastical, don’t worry.

Let’s start with Sunrise Calendar (Free). Sunrise Calendar was our previous pick for the best calendar on iPhone. It’s free, supports the big three calendar services, integrates weather forecasts, and links up with tons of other services. The problem is the app’s now dead after Microsoft acquired the team who made it. A lot of the Sunrise features are now being integrated into Microsoft’s Outlook app, but the iOS app for Sunrise will never get updated again.

Any.Do Cal (Free) is another decent free option, but it hasn’t seen an update in a year. Cal is a little more fun and playful then Fantastical, integrating a lot of images into its design as well as working well with the Any.do to-do list app. As a calendar, it does everything it needs to, but doesn’t go too far out of its way to do anything new.

Finally, as far as free options go, it’s worth mentioning Google Calendar (Free). If you’re deep into Google’s ecosystem, the Google Calendar app is great. It shows you events from Gmail, to-dos, and even gives you little added features like flight information. The problem, of course, is that most of the usefulness relies on other Google services, so if you’re not using any of them, Google Calendar is far less useful.

In the paid space, the biggest competitor to Fantastical is Calendars 5 ($6.99). Calendars 5 is a very capable app that includes natural language input, a task manager, and a variety of view options to glance at your calendar. The week view in Calendars 5 is good, better than Fantastical’s in some ways, but the rest of the interface is a bit lacking. Calendars 5 is also a universal app, so if you use your iPad a lot, it’s great to just purchase one app instead of two.

Week Calendar ($1.99) is another app that once sat in our App Directory. It’s packed with a ton of features, including multiple views, your choice of navigation app integration, templates, widgets, and more. It’s also quite possibly the ugliest option available, but that hasn’t prevented it from being one of the most popular calendar apps out there.


Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.

The Best App Launcher for iPhone

The Best App Launcher for iPhone

The iPhone doesn’t support app launchers in the same way as OS X, but that doesn’t mean app developers haven’t come up with clever workarounds. Case in point, our pick for the best launcher, Launch Center Pro lets you launch not only apps, but specific actions within apps.

Launch Center Pro

Platform: iPhone (and iPad)
Price: $4.99
Download Page

Features

  • Provides shortcuts to thousands of apps
  • Notification Center support
  • 3D Touch support with customizable quick actions
  • Simple launch creation tool
  • Support for organizational groups
  • IFTTT support
  • Automation settings for launching at specific times or locations
  • Light and dark themes
  • Dropbox backups

Where It Excels

Launch Center Pro is one of the first apps to get the idea of being a launcher on iOS right. Instead of simply linking you to various apps on your iPhone (which your home screen already does), Launch Center Pro links you to what it calls actions. An action is what you do inside an app. For example, from Launch Center Pro, you can instantly jump into Facebook’s new photo page, start a text message to a specific person, compose an email to a group, or countless other things. Launch Center Pro essentially gives you access to a specific place inside an app without you having to tap around a bunch to get there. It’s incredibly useful once you get the hang of how it works.

Launch Center Pro does an admirable job of toeing the line between the average user and the power user. When you open up the app, you’re greeted by a number of tutorials to help you get started creating your own actions. Within a few minutes you can instantly create launchers for simple stuff, like texting a close friend or searching for coffee near your current location using Yelp.

If you want, you can stop right there and still enjoy Launch Center Pro. However, if you want to take it further, Launch Center Pro is filled with power-user features. If you’re willing to dig into it, you can set up Launch Center Pro to do some crazy stuff, including sending a specific set of text to a specific person at a certain time of day, or chain together a bunch of actions based on your location. You can even link up Launch Center Pro with IFTTT to chain things together even further. It’s intense how much you can do with Launch Center Pro if you’re willing to spend the time with it, but it’s also impressive how useful it is even if you’re just scraping the surface.

http://lifehacker.com/learn-the-basi…

Where It Falls Short

While Launch Center Pro certainly does its best to make creating actions easy, it’s still a little complex for the average iOS user. Still, if you’re willing to invest just a little bit of time in it, you’ll eventually grasp how it works. Once you do get over that hump, the usefulness jumps up quite a bit as you start experimenting with different types of actions, triggers, and more. All that said, because of the complexity of the app, it would be nice if there was a free, trial version for people to check out first.

The Competition

The most direct competition to Launch Center Pro is Launcher (free/$2.99 in-app purchase). Launcher works similar to Launch Center Pro, where you create a set of actions that launch directly into specific parts of an app. Launcher isn’t nearly as intuitive to use as Launch Center Pro, but the fact there’s a free ad-supported version means it’s a good choice if you’re looking to test the waters.

Less directly, Workflow ($2.99) sort of falls under the same category of apps as Launch Center Pro and Launcher. Workflow is an incredibly powerful app that allows you to create your own set of actions that function like micro-apps. Workflow differs a bit because it doesn’t always require a third-party app to complete those actions. While Workflow is powerful and does a lot of what Launch Center Pro does, it’s not exactly a launcher. Workflow lacks some of the base functionality needed in a launcher app, especially when it comes to a breadth of app support. Still, Workflow can be manipulated to work as a launcher if you spend some time with it, so it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for something a little different.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-create-…


The Best Movie Showtimes App for iPhone

The Best Movie Showtimes App for iPhone

In a world where multiple apps help you watch flicks on the big screen, there’s one app that rises above the rest. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it’s the best way to buy movie tickets on the go. Coming to an iPhone near you: Fandango.

Fandango

Platform: iOS (iPhone and iPad)
Price: Free
Download Page

Features

  • Lookup showtimes by movie, theater, or time frame.
  • “Go Now” feature finds you the next movie showtimes at theaters close by.
  • Add specific theaters to a list of favorites.
  • Add movies to your favorites to create a watchlist of upcoming movies you want to see, or movies you’ve already seen and want to rate/review.
  • Receive notifications when tickets for upcoming movies on your favorites list go on sale.
  • Receive reminder notifications when a movie you’ve purchased tickets for is going to start soon.
  • Watch trailers for upcoming movies.
  • Research cast, crew, and synopsis information about movies.
  • See what movie tickets are selling like hot cakes in real time with “The Pulse” on iPad

Where It Excels

The Fandango app has all the basics like searching movie showtimes by movie, theater, GPS location, or time frame, but it’s also the best way to buy movie tickets with your phone. Fandango’s movie ticket-buying system (including the paperless, scannable mobile movie ticket), is used by several other movie showtime apps and services, so why not cut out the middleman apps and go right for the source? You can save your credit card information in the app, and purchase movie tickets for your entire family all at once with only a few taps.

The “Go Now” feature lets you turn a boring evening into a spontaneous movie night on the fly. You’ll see every theater near you, and what movies will be playing soon so you don’t have to do any more research. Just pick the movie, buy your tickets in the app, and go. You can get directions to the movie theater too, and Fandango lets you choose between using Google Maps or Apple Maps. If you have notifications enabled, you’ll receive a reminder that your movie is going start in half an hour. That way, if you’re out and about, you won’t get sidetracked doing something else and miss out on getting snacks before the show starts.

Fandango’s favorites system is also simple and straightforward. You can designate certain theaters as your preferred destinations, and you can keep an eye on movies that aren’t out yet. Just select a theater or movie within the app and tap the heart in the upper right. Any theaters you favorite will be the first ones that show up in the list when you’re looking for showtimes, which is nice if you frequent the same theaters most of the time. When you favorite a movie, the movie gets added to your “My Movies” list. Once there, you’ll receive news updates, exclusive offers, and notifications when tickets go on sale so you don’t miss out on opening weekend.

Where It Falls Short

Fandango isn’t perfect, though. There are two things that keep Fandango from that title: ads and review scores. No matter what tab you’re on in the Fandango app, there’s usually a small banner ad along the top or bottom of the screen. Occasionally you’ll get full-screen ads as you change tabs as well. There’s no “premium” fee or membership or app version to get rid of them, so they might be frustrating for some.

When it comes to Fandango’s review scores, they aren’t as helpful as the scores you’d find in some competing apps like Flixster and the IMDb app. Fandango’s user review scores are based on a five-star system which is harder to glean anything from when compared to a percentage-based aggregate system like Rotten Tomatoes. Furthermore, Fandango’s fan review scores are questionable because movies never seem to get less than three stars, according to a recent analysis from FiveThirthyEight. Fortunately, Fandango does show professional movie critic review scores (and a Metascore based on all of the linked critic scores), as well as links to each complete review for you to read.

The Competition

Fandango just bought one of its biggest competitors, Flixster (our previous pick), and the movie review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Both Fandango and Flixster will still operate as separate entities for now, but the best features of Flixster will probably come to Fandango shortly, and vice versa. A better review score system may well be on the way for Fandango (hopefully), and Flixster, the only movie showtimes app that wasn’t using Fandango’s ticket-buying system, will likely start using it.

IMDb (Free) is definitely a solid alternative (as well as our pick on Android) if you’re a serious movie buff who wants more behind-the-scenes information. In addition to all of the stuff IMDb is known for, you can lookup showtimes for any movie by theater or within a certain time range, and watch trailers for upcoming films. You can even buy tickets through the app, but the service is powered by Fandango.

http://lifehacker.com/5889566/the-be…

Movies by Moviefone (Free) is another alternative, but the app’s features are sparse and the ticket-buying system is powered by Fandango. Moviefone doesn’t have any ads, however, and uses Metacritic for its movie review scores, so it might be worth it for some folks. In the same ballpark, Showtimes (Free) is pretty barebones when it comes to features. The app has banner ads, ticket sales are powered by Fandango, and Showtimes’ movie review scores are simply an average of the scores found in the Flixster app.


The Best Antivirus App for Windows

The Best Antivirus App for Windows

Windows has more antivirus programs than we can count, and none of them are quite perfect. Right now, we recommend BitDefender Free for the best balance between protection, ease of use, and cost.

Update: Our former pick, Avast!, has scored lower in antivirus testing according to both AV Comparatives and AV-Test than it has in previous years. It’s also added annoying pop-ups, added itself to email signatures without asking, and the company’s SafeZone browser has come under fire for security vulnerabilities. So, we’ve decided to update our pick.

BitDefender Free

Platform: Windows
Price: Free
Download Page

Features

  • Dead simple interface
  • Automatic virus scans occur at regular intervals
  • Start full system scans on demand
  • Virus definitions update automatically in the background
  • Virus Shields monitors activity on your computer to identify threats in real time
  • Top-rated protection according to AV-Comparatives

Where It Excels

The Best Antivirus App for Windows

BitDefender has topped AV-Comparatives’ rigorous testing for the last two years in a row. It won Product of the Year in 2014 and tied with Kaspersky for the same top slot this year (though AV Comparatives won’t award the Product of the Year to a product that has won before). It also distinguished itself in the areas of file detection, proactive protection, and malware removal. In other words, if you want solid protection from as many threats as possible, BitDefender is your app.

BitDefender has also performed well in AV-Test’s analysis. In 2015, it received the award for best performance, and in 2014 it was in the top three for protection, performance, and usability.

BitDefender Free is also the simplest, no-worry antivirus aroundThe app is aggressively hands-off. When you first install it, BitDefender will perform an initial scan. After that, it automatically schedules periodic scans. It also continuously monitors the files you use in real-time to protect against any threats as they happen.

Where It Falls Short

It’s a good thing BitDefender wins so many awards, because you have to trust it a lot. The app has almost no customization settings at all. You can’t schedule scans on your own schedule. You can’t choose how aggressive it is in isolating threats. You can restore folders that are mistakenly isolated, but you can’t exclude files and folders before they’re flagged. BitDefender Free is deliberately and relentlessly anti-customization.

We’ve decided to make it our top pick because it’s consistently one of the highest rated scanners around. Also, the average person doesn’t need to set schedules or exclude folders. In fact, the argument could be made that the typical non-techie person shouldn’t be fiddling with these settings. If you need customization options, BitDefender probably isn’t for you. For everyone else, it’s the most competent package you can get without having to tweak your setup.

The Competition

Avira was very close to claiming the top spot in our assessment. AV Comparatives rates it a top product, and it won silver awards for real world protection, file detection, overall performance, and malware removal. Avira ranked slightly lower than BitDefender in AV-Test’s ratings for 2014 in the categories of protection and performance, but it topped the score for usability with as close to a perfect 6 as any product could get. It maintained that same distinction in 2015, winning the AV-Test award for usability. It has more customization options than BitDefender, so if you want the same high level of protection that BitDefender offers, but you need a few more options to tweak it to your needs, you should check out Avira.

If you don’t mind spending a little money, Kaspersky is another fine option. It took home AV Comparatives Product of the Year award, which places it right next to BitDefender in terms of protection. It also tied with Bitdefender for performance and with Avira for usability in AV-Test’s 2015 awards. You can download a free trial of Kaspersky Anti-Virus here, however the full version will cost $60 after 30 days.

Avast still remains one of AV Comparatives leading products overall (though it doesn’t top BitDefender or Kaspersky), but its scores have dropped over the last couple years. It ranked seventh overall in AV-Comparative’s testing, and it’s won no awards from AV-Test. As we mentioned at the start of this article, it’s started adding many annoying features. That’s enough to bump it down from our recommendation. However, there are countless antivirus programs out there and Avast is still better than most of them. If you can handle the annoyances and really don’t like any of the other options on this list, it’s worth a look.

Among the other top-rated programs according to AV Comparatives, ESET was very low on false positives and excelled at proactive protection, and Emisoft won distinctions for file detection and overall performance. Neither managed to score high marks in as many areas as the previous recommendations, but they’re solid alternatives if the others in this list don’t work for you.

Most of all, remember that no antivirus solution is a replacement for good browsing habits. Make sure you trust an application before you install it and test it in a safe environment if you need to. Learn how to spot a scam and don’t click on everything you see. The more you can spot malicious software before it ends up on your computer, the less your antivirus programs have to clean up.

The Best SNES Emulator for Windows

The Best SNES Emulator for Windows

It may be 25 years old, but the Super Nintendo still boasts some of the best video games of all time. If you want to SNES on your Windows machine, we think the best emulator for the job is RetroArch with a bsnes core.

RetroArch (with bsnes-mercury Core)

Platform: Windows/Mac/Linux
Price: Free
Download Page

Features

  • Plays games from the Super Nintendo Nintendo Entertainment System in the form of ROMs
  • Play games with nearly any USB gamepad and customize the button layout
  • Save and load your state anywhere in the game
  • Rewind the game in real time
  • Adjust a myriad of video settings, including shaders that add old-school effects or smoothing to your graphics
  • Record a video of your playthroughs, or record your button presses to a BSV file
  • Play online with friends using Netplay

How to Set It Up

The Best SNES Emulator for Windows

RetroArch is a little more complicated than “Install, File > Open”. We have an entire guide to using RetroArch, but here’s a quick primer on how to set it up with bsnes:

  1. Download the latest version of RetroArch from its download page. It comes as a 7z file so you’ll need 7-Zip installed to extract it.
  2. Open the 7z archive and extract the files wherever you want (I recommend C:\Program Files\RetroArch).
  3. Double-click on the RetroArch exe to start it up. You can navigate the interface with the arrow keys, press X to select, or Z to go back. It also supports a number of USB gamepads out of the box.
  4. To load an emulator in RetroArch, you’ll need to install that emulator’s “core”. Head to Online Updater > Core Updater and scroll down until you see the bsnes-mercury cores. If you have a seriously powerful computer (with a higher-than-3GHz CPU), try bsnes-mercury-accuracy. If your computer is more low-powered, go with bsnes-mercury-balanced or bsnes-mercury-performance instead.
  5. Return to the main menu, and to go Load Content > Select File and Detect Core. Select a ROM file from your hard drive to start playing.

You can also tweak numerous video, audio, and gamepad settings, but this will get you up and running.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-set-up-…

Where It Excels

RetroArch’s biggest advantage is its sheer number of settings. This can be overwhelming for some users, but it allows you to create as good an emulation experience as possible, by enabling GPU Sync for lower input lag, or adding shaders for that classic CRT look.

The bsnes core is the most accurate SNES emulator out there, which means there should be little to no bugs or glitches in any game. If you have the resources to run it, it should be nearly perfect.

Also, while RetroArch can be complicated, it’s a bit simpler to set up than Higan, the desktop version of the bsnes emulator.

Where It Falls Short

As we mentioned above, RetroArch can be quite complicated. Installing cores and tweaking settings is really confusing if you aren’t familiar with RetroArch, and since there aren’t a lot of guides on it, you’ll do a lot of googling to figure it out, especially if you use it for more than one emulator. But it’s less work than trying to set up Higan (especially if you’re already familiar with RetroArch from other emulators).

Secondly, the bsnes cores require a fairly powerful computer to run—the cost of accuracy, unfortunately—so if you’re on a particularly weak machine, it may not even be able to run bsnes-mercury-performance very well. In that case, you may need to settle for Snes9x.

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2011/08…

The Competition

Snes9x is arguably the most popular SNES emulator, and with good reason. It’s solid, feature-filled, and very easy to use. It has a much simpler interface and setup than RetroArch, though it isn’t quite as accurate as the bsnes core RetroArch provides. If you have a computer that can’t handle bsnes, or if you just want to start playing right now without fiddling for perfect accuracy, Snes9x is a great choice. (RetroArch also has an Snes9x core available, if you want all your emulators in one place.)

ZSNES is the other big SNES emulator out there, and once upon a time was the go-to. These days, though, it’s considered old, outdated, and inaccurate—though it’s also said to have the lowest input lag of the bunch. Unfortunately, that comes with crackling sound issues, and significant bugs in some games. ZMZ is an emulator based on ZSNES’ interface that can use RetroArch’s libreto cores. With it, you can play games with higher accuracy than ZSNES, but with lower input lag than other emulators. However, it comes with the same sound crackling issues that ZSNES does, so most people would be better served with Snes9x.


Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.

The Best Email Client for Android

The Best Email Client for Android

The Gmail app isn’t just for Gmail anymore. After adding support for IMAP, POP, and Exchange, plus a ton of features to manage and control your email, we recommend Gmail to manage all your email accounts—even non-Google-y ones—on Android.

Gmail

Platform: Android
Price: Free
Download Page

Features

  • Supports IMAP, POP, Exchange/Outlook, Yahoo Mail
  • Unified inbox
  • Archive, star, and label messages
  • Block and unsubscribe from email addresses
  • Mute threads
  • Archive, delete, or reply to emails from notifications
  • Sort messages by importance
  • Set vacation responder
  • Only allow attachment downloads over Wi-Fi to save mobile data

Where It Excels

In the early days of Android, Google had a separate email app for all of your non-Gmail email. Now, however, the Gmail app supports IMAP, POP, and Exchange, so you can add nearly every email account to your device. You can even view all of your inboxes in one place.

Of course, this is Google, so it also comes with a few handy bonus tools. You can block a sender if you’re getting harassed by a person, or unsubscribe from a mailing list if you’re getting harassed by a company. Both are available as regular menu buttons, so they’re easier to access than creating a filter or digging for an unsubscribe button in tiny text at the bottom of the email.

You can also mute threads so you’ll still receive emails, but you won’t have to get notified every time. Gmail also allows you to reply or archive/delete (you can choose which in the app’s settings) from the notification.

Where It Falls Short

Gmail became popular for a reason, but it’s still not perfect. You still can’t remind yourself about an email later like you can with Boomerang (which unfortunately doesn’t support POP or IMAP). There’s also a lack of integration with calendar or to-do list apps. While Gmail can do some intelligent things like add events to your calendar when you receive hotel or travel info, this seems limited to Gmail accounts.

The Competition

Oh man. Is there ever competition in the area of email clients. How you deal with email is going to be largely up to preference. Boomerang is a top alternative choice, if you can live with just Gmail and Exchange accounts. It allows you to quickly set reminders to check an email again at a certain time or place. You can also customize swipe gestures to get through your inbox more quickly.

Boxer was a close contender for the top spot. It has a built-in to-do list, support for most common email types, plus more notification actions than Google has. Unfortunately, Exchange support isn’t free, and you need to pay extra for some basic features like custom quick replies or signatures.

Mailbox from Dropbox is another attractive option. You can snooze emails until later, mute conversations, and a built-in to-do list. It can even learn over time what actions you take from certain senders, so you can always swipe to snooze an email from your boss, but archive one from a retailer. The one downside, yet again, is that it’s only available for Gmail and iCloud accounts. POP, IMAP, and Exchange aren’t available.

Microsoft has also entered the arena with Outlook. The app supports most Outlook, Exchange, Yahoo, iCloud, Gmail, and IMAP, plus you can integrate storage from OneDrive, Dropbox, and Box, which is pretty impressive. You can schedule emails to return later, and integrate with your calendar. Provided your calendar is Outlook, of course. If you’re more partial to Microsoft’s services, Outlook may be the best way to go.


Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.

The Best Live Streaming App for Android

The Best Live Streaming App for Android

Sharing great moments (or just snippets of your life) with friends or loved ones has never been easier, and a new class of live streaming app makes it possible for them to join you in real time. Of those apps, we think Periscope is the best today, and has the most potential for the near future.

Periscope

Platform: Android (and iOS)
Price: Free
Download Page

Features

  • Makes live streaming a simple, one-touch operation.
  • Supports streaming in both portrait and landscape formats
  • Allows you to live stream to the public at large, or privately to specific invitees
  • Can connect to Twitter (which makes sense, since the service is owned by Twitter) to share your stream with your friends and followers
  • Allows streams to be replayed through your profile if your friends miss the live event
  • Supports YouTube auto-upload, so after your broadcast is finished, you can save it and share it with a wider audience
  • Allows you to follow Twitter contacts using the app as well, browse available live streams by geographic location, and see which of your friends is streaming live at any given time

Where It Excels

Periscope was one of the first apps to really make live streaming events simple and easy enough that people wanted to do it. Combined with light social aspects that make it fun to find other streams, watch, and perhaps more importantly, share your own streams with friends and upload them to YouTube for safe keeping after your stream is over, it’s a far cry from some of the older live streaming apps that were clunky to use and wanted to be YouTube competitors instead of live along side it.

That speaks to Periscope’s biggest feature—the fact that it’s dead simple to start a stream, share a stream, and interact with the people watching. From install to stream, it’s only a couple of steps, and from there on starting a stream is pretty much a one-tap affair. Share it over to Twitter and watch people tune in, leave you messages in real time, shower you with “hearts,” and you have a tool people actually use to share interesting moments in their lives—or newsworthy ones.

It’s that ease of use and simplicity that’s made Periscope the tool of choice for people who want to do awesome things like share their kids’ games with family members who live across the world or protesters who want to stream a march to an eager and engaged community on social media or live on television. However, it’s also the same ease of use that makes it easy to stream and record things like the newest episode of Game of Thrones or a pay-per-view boxing match. That said, I’ve seen it used by our colleagues at Kotaku to cover E3 from the show floor, and by some of my favorite YouTubers to do live unboxings with their fans instead of making them wait for an official video—both great uses of the service.

Periscope says it wants to help you “see the world through someone else’s eyes,” and it certainly succeeds at that. Perhaps most notably though, it excels at giving us a social tool that brings us all a little closer and is super easy to use at the same time.

Where It Falls Short

Periscope is simple and elegant, but it’s not totally perfect. Its integration with Twitter is tight (which makes sense) but it could integrate better with other networks as well, and saving videos and uploading them to YouTube later is great, but other video services would be a nice perk as well. Granted, none of this is game breaking, and to add a ton of bells and whistles might change the balance of simplicity-to-features that Periscope has going for it in droves.

A while ago, we would have complained that Periscope was portrait-only, because you know how we all feel about portrait videos, but that’s no longer an issue since the latest update lets you shoot in landscape. As it stands today, we’ve seen more than a few streams with spotty connections and stuttering streams, but it’s always difficult to tell if that’s the app, the user’s connection, the user’s device, or the viewer’s connection.

It’s also worth noting that Periscope is Android 4.4 and higher, so if you’re still running an older version of Android or on an older device, you’re out of luck.

The Competition

Meerkat (Free) is Periscope’s biggest competition, and to be fair, came first. While the two used to be fierce competitors, they’re a bit different now. Meerkat only does public, live events, it’s more notification-heavy than Periscope is. The UI is a little more cluttered, and it’s certainly less elegant and a bit trickier to use. Starting a stream is a one-touch affair, but it kind of comes as a surprise, and there are virtually no settings. Signing up is a bit easier though (just your phone number, a profile photo, and a username are all you need,) and you don’t have to link your Twitter account until you want to—you can also link the app with Facebook as well if you prefer. In any case, it’s a good option if you’re already using it, or if you know people using it, but we definitely prefer Periscope.

Livestream (Free) is one of the old guard of live streaming apps. Livestream the web service has been around for ages, and its mobile apps have always made streaming live events from your phone—regardless of the camera you use or how big your community is—relatively easy. The app has come a long way in the post-Meerkat and post-Periscope days too, and is much easier to use now. Partnerships with TV networks and sports leagues also mean that any event being streamed via Livestream on the web is an event you can watch on your phone, and you can replay events after they’ve ended, save your own streams to share elsewhere, connect with Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and interact with other streamers. Again, not as simple or easy as some of the others here, but useful if you’re looking for an alternative, or more live events to watch.

UStream (Free) is another of the old guard, but it’s tough to recommend. HD streaming is only available on specific devices, not even just specific versions of Android, and its focus is squarely on viewing streams currently taking place at UStream.com, not necessarily on streaming from your device. You can stream from your device, it’s just obviously not what the app is really designed for. If you have a favorite stream at Ustream though (like this live HD view from the International Space Station) and want to check it out on your phone or tablet—or if you’re streaming and want to see how you look on another device, then it’s worth checking out.

YouNow (Free) is a little less focused on the whole “stream events” and “see through someone else’s perspective” angle and intended more for people who want to “stream myself to my friends and chat with them,” if that makes sense. Where Periscope and Meerkat feel a little more mature, YouNow uses a significant part of the screen for live chat and recommended broadcasts, depending on whether you’re the one doing the streaming or watching (respectively.) To keep users engaged, the service has a points and in-app currency system that awards you points for certain activities that you use to then “level up,” and in-app “coins” and “bars” that can be used to purchase gifts for your profile or your favorite streamer, some of which cost real money. YouNow seems like it’d be fun as a community if that’s the kind of environment you’re into (and have money to toss into it), but the reviews at Google Play aren’t too encouraging as far as the functionality of the app is concerned.

Those are the big players. There are a few others, like TwitCasting Live (Free) and Stre.am (Free), both of which are promising feature-wise and seem to work pretty well, but are both smaller players with smaller communities and userbases. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check them out, but it does mean that if you’re looking for community, or for people to sign up and watch your stream or interact with you, you might be better off with something a little bigger. TwitCasting walks the line between Periscope and Hangouts, allowing you to invite other people into your stream, but its UI is a super cluttered and it tries a little too hard to focus on chat. Stre.am on the other hand is light and elegant, just empty.


Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.

The Best Weather App for iPhone

The Best Weather App for iPhone

The iPhone has a remarkable number of weather app options, and you’ll find a ton that suit different needs depending on what you want. That said, one shines brighter than the rest, and Dark Sky is one of the best full-featured weather apps in the App Store.

Dark Sky

Platform: iPhone
Price: $3.99
Download Page

Features

  • Available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch
  • Hyperlocal weather forecasts based on your exact location
  • Minute-to-minute, hour-by-hour, and weekly predictions
  • Full radar views with smooth animations
  • Completely customizable push notifications
  • Today widget to quickly check the weather

Where It Excels

It’s a little hard to justify paying for something as simple as a weather app, but Dark Sky is really worth it. Dark Sky once suffered from a lack of features, but recent updates make it a full-featured weather app that still manages to be simple to use. Open up the app, and your immediately see what matters: current weather and the forecast for the next hour. You can then dig a little deeper to find hourly and weekly forecasts, as well as take a look at the radar for your area. You can set up custom notifications too, so you get alerts when precipitation is likely in the next hour, a daily summary, severe weather alerts, or your own customizable alerts for things like if it’ll drop below freezing or if you’ll need sunscreen.

Where It Falls Short

There’s not much to complain about with Dark Sky. Sure, it costs $4, but you get a solid weather app that’s consistently updated and has a bunch of features. Since it does use your exact location, forecasts do get a little wonky sometimes, but it doesn’t happen anymore than any other forecasting tool. It’s also only available in the U.S., U.K., and Ireland, which leaves a lot of potential users out of the loop.

The Competition

There are a ton of excellent weather apps on the iPhone that suit different needs. Want a full doppler radar? Sure, that’s doable. Prefer something minimal? You have options. Want one that only notifies you about bad weather? Yep, that exists too. All of these are worth checking out to see if they fit your specific needs.

If Dark Sky isn’t your thing, Yahoo Weather, our previous pick, is a worthy contender. It has a gorgeous design, large photos that are easy to read, and the basics of radar, satellite, and heat maps. Sadly though, it now has large, annoying ads, which can really get in the way. Likewise, the four big free apps, Accuweather, The Weather Channel, WeatherBug, and Weather Underground are all similar alternatives. All have the same basic feature set as Yahoo Weather, but offer slightly different experiences in terms of interface and coverage. The fact is, different apps might have more accurate forecasts than others for your area, so it’s worth playing around with a few to see which works best for you.

Today Weather (1.99¢) may very well be one of the best weather apps around, but it doesn’t get updated as frequently as we’d like. That said, if you like the features of Accuweather, Weather Underground, or the Weather Channel, but hate the ads, then Today Weather is worth a look.

Perfect Weather ($2.99) is another fantastic weather app that features a ton of information if you’re willing to pay for it. Perfect Weather’s big strength is that it loads up fast, gives you a five day forecast, and then provides with all the additional details you could possibly need at a glance. This includes a full satellite image, hour-by-hour temperature, and plenty more. It’s all fast too, so you can get in and out of the app quickly.

If you’re more a fan of minimalist weather apps, you have a few solid options. Blue is a great little app that shows you the forecast for the next day or so in a handy color coded index. Sun is actually a free webapp designed specifically for the iPhone and uses gestures for control. Weather Neue (free) shows simplified current weather and a four-day forecast in a lovely package. Finally, Partly Cloudy might be the prettiest of the bunch by using the visualization of a clock to show you the weather forecast in a surprisingly intuitive way.


Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.