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The Lowdown on App Bundles

The Lowdown on App Bundles
    Respect your money -- inspect app bundles before buying

    In a time of economic downturn, people are not only looking for ways to save their hard-earned dollars but how to best spend them as well. Not to mention keep their levels of productivity high enough to withstand the pitfalls of a recession so that it’s easier to climb out of it – or stay afloat during it. Along with daily deal sites like Groupon, “app bundles” are becoming increasingly popular for both users and third party developers alike.

    App bundles generally consist of a number of apps that can be bought as a packaged deal. They are usually theme-based, where the purchaser gets software that can be used to enhance a specific area of their computing life. Freelance bundles, productivity bundles and even web app bundles are commonplace on the Internet these days. But just like daily deal sites, this category is becoming very saturated – very quickly.

    App Bundle Fatigue

    One of the biggest problem with over-saturation of anything is how fatigue can set in, which hurts the category on multiple levels. First, the app developers view a bundled approach as a less than ideal business move and users begin to have so many options to choose from that they either overspend or avoid spending altogether. While the savings on the bundles is often the greatest draw, it’s also the apps that are part of the bundle that appeal to customers, which is also part of the problem. We’re starting to see the same apps appear in different bundles, and if a user has already bought a bundle containing the one or two apps they really wanted, they’re not likely to buy a bundle containing those apps again – even if there are other apps in there that they’d like. The value of the bundle is diminished by this, and if you’re not saving as much money then you’re less likely to pony up the cash for an app bundle.

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    Those who are selling app bundles are starting to combat this fatigue by offering unique ways of promoting their bundles. MacHeist was one of the first to do this, essentially creating a quest to get the apps at an increased savings. This unique approach has served them well as pioneers in the category, but it takes a lot of work to put these “heists” together and the time between bundle offerings is greater as a result.

    StackSocial has taken a different approach. As one of the newer players in the game, they’re developing a community around their bundles, offering reviews of apps they’ve offered on their blog and partnering up with well-known and trusted sites like Cult of Mac in order to gain traction in the space.

    “We had a number of Apple bloggers and publishers telling us they were struggling to find ways to maximize revenues yet keep their site’s user experience high,” explains Josh Payne, co-founder of StackSocial. “We believe we’ve solved that challenge by building a unique, social shopping experience that is purely focused on the needs of Mac enthusiasts which enables sites, such as Cult of Mac, the ability to offer a very select group of products and services that their audience is already interested in and appreciates.”

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    Other bundle offerings, which seemingly apply most often to those using Apple devices, are plentiful and that makes it hard for users to hone in on which bundles to buy.

    How to Shop for App Bundles

    The savings offered on these bundles are compelling – and tempting – but before you open up your wallet and spend your money on any of them, make sure you’re well-informed and prepared. Here are some suggestions on how to avoid buyer’s remorse when buying app bundles:

    Look at what you need, not what you want. Apps like Keyboard Maestro and TextExpander can be huge time-savers, but if you’re not willing and able to put in the time to make them work for you then they shouldn’t be a primary factor in your purchasing decision. Not everyone will need to speed up their workflow to the levels that those apps can allow, but an app like 1Password is something that all users could use because of its overall utility. You already have a text editor on your computer, so do you really need another like WriteRoom? Maybe you do, but make sure you look at your “needs” versus your “wants” and you’ll find that the app bundles don’t become app blunders.

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    Explore smaller bundles. Some app bundles aren’t really bundles at all – htey’re merely apps on sale. Isolate your needs and then look for apps that meet them. If one or two of them happen to be in a bundle on their own, buying that smaller bundle would be wiser than buying a larger bundle that include apps among those that you’ll never even open. Less is more, and having less on your machine so that you can find things easier, learn new apps that you’ll actually use without having clutter in your way and being more productive as a result is always better than saving more money.

    Find out what your mentors are using and stick with those apps. If you’re aspiring to achieve levels of productivity and workflow that those you admire and mentor you, find out what apps they use and where they looked to find them. For example. I’m a big fan of Patrick Rhone’s work and “what he believes in”, so I’m always on the lookout for apps that he has in his arsenal. If I find one of them in a bundle or at a savings, I grab it (after reviewing my first suggestion above, of course). It’s almost as if I’ve let him put the app through its paces before I give it a shot, because he’s usually written about his use cases on his website or his podcast. Take a good look at what those people are using and it’ll help you save time and money when hunting down app bundles for your own usage.

    A Final Word on App Bundles

    Shopping for apps is essentially the same as shopping for anything else: you go where the best options for your particular set of circumstances is. When you buy groceries, you have a set of criteria in place such as price, quality, location of the store and customer service, among others. When you buy clothing, a similar set of standards that you have set applies as well. You should adopt a set of standards when you go shopping for apps, even if it is new to you. Do it from the onset and you’ll be setting yourself for a pleasant shopping experience time and time again.

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    Pick the right apps, the right vendor and the right timing and you’ll find that every minute you spend shopping is both a penny saved and a penny earned.

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on July 4, 2019

    25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

    25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

    Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless.

    Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent free online education awaits on the following 25 sites.

    1. Coursera

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      Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

      Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education, and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

      Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups.

      2. Khan Academy

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        Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

        Among the more well known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly useable, which may make it easier to keep learning goals.

        3. Open Culture Online Courses

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          If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos and podcasts from universities around the world. The site features a lot of material found only on universities private sites, all in easy to browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses, without having to visit and search each university’s own site.

          Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales and many state universities around the United States. A very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

          4. Udemy 

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            Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

            Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top quality content. This is another site however, that mixes free and paid content.

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            5. Academic Earth

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              Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources, and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

              Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

              6. edX

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                Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics.

                7. Alison

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                  Unlike the previous sites on this lists, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                  It’s a great option if users need certification for their learning as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                  8. iTunesU Free Courses

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                    A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod, or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

                    Desktop users can access  iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                    Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos, and paid content.

                    ITunesU does include courses on a pretty wide scope of topics, but does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                    9. Stanford Online

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                      Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

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                      Stanford Online is a great site for high quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school.

                      10. Harvard Extension

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                        Like Stanford Online, Harvard Extension features free online education courses from Harvard only. This is another excellent source for top notch course material, though the course variety is less rich than multi-school sites.

                        Additionally, Harvard Extension allows you to search for courses by professional certificate. This makes it much easier if your online education goal includes certification.

                        11. Open Yale Courses

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                          Open Yale Courses echoes Harvard Extension and Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading.

                          12. UC Berkeley Class Central

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                            Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                            13. MIT OpenCourseWare

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                              Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, plus includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                              14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

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                                Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list, however, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics. But for the topics that are covered impressive, in-depth material is available.

                                15. Codecademy

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                                  Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

                                  The courses at Codecademy are well written and easy to follow and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

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                                  16. Code

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                                    Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                                    In addition to kid friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics and Javascript.

                                    Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                                    17. University of London Podcasts

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                                      The podcast page on the University of London website is another great source for free education. While the courses are limited to podcasts, the site features podcasts from it’s own campus, as well as eleven universities in and around London. This gives learners a wide base of topics and lectures, but still ensures in-depth material.

                                      18. University of Oxford Podcasts

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                                        Similar to the University of London, the University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                                        The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. Another good site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                                        19. BBC Podcasts

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                                          For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly, and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                                          Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                                          20. TED-Ed

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                                            Another great destination for more general learning is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all encompassing, motivational web series, comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                                            Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                                            21. LessonPaths

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                                              LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                                              22. Memrise

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                                                Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                                                Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                                                23. National Geographic Kids

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                                                  The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keeps kids interested on this site.

                                                  National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                                                  24. Fun Brain

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                                                    Fun Brain is another good option for kids who want to learn online, but focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                                                    Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                                                    25. Whyville

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                                                      Similar to the sites for kids free online education is Whyville a destination for preteen online learning. The site includes a variety of social features, with a focus on learning materials geared for young teens.

                                                      Whyville also mixes in educational games, to make the site a well rounded option for kids too old for simple games, but too young for heavy reading based material.

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                                                      Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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