Featured Review – Voila Screen Capture for Mac

Capture screen shots and video clips with this much needed Mac utility

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I’ve been a freelance writer for over 20 years.  I’m also a software QA guy.  I’ve always had a need for a screen capturing tool.  I either want to take screen shots of the programs I’m reviewing or of the errors in the software that I’m testing.  I’m actually a bit of a screen shot-aholic. Most everything that I do either for my writing gig here at Soft32 or during the day for my software testing job requires me to take screen shots of something.  This is why I really like Voila Screen Capture for Mac.  It’s a really cool utility for your Mac.

Voila is an ‘all-in-one’ screen capture solution that can capture, edit and share anything on your computer’s screen. Users can also video record the screens of their iOS device, like an iPhone or iPad in full resolution. After a screenshot is captured or recorded, the user can then share them on popular websites, send via e-mail or print using the buttons located on the UI. A complete set of tools including different capture methods, full webpage recording as well as easy sharing options make for a comprehensive and complete application that saves time and is easy to use.

Voila captures video with audio in high quality. You can capture the whole screen, or simply a user defined section. You can also capture video on your connected iDevice as well.

Voila captures full and partial screen stills as well.  Voila has a flexible capture option that allows you to grab full or user defined areas of your screen. If needed, you can also capture entire web pages along with important metadata like page title, menus and other page elements.

Once you get your screen grabs, you can also annotate them using different fonts, shapes, blur options and speech bubbles, or callouts. Once you have everything set, Voila can also help you manage your screen shot collections.  You can group similar images and videos together using custom labels.  You can add titles, tags and descriptions so you can catalog and search for just the media object you need.

Voila Screen Capture for Mac is a decent application.  It starts when you start your Mac and sits in the Menu Bar until its needed.  You’re supposed to be able to activate it via a set of user-definable hot keys, but these didn’t work consistently for me.  More often than not, pressing the hot key combinations didn’t do anything at all on my El Capitan powered 15″ MacBook Pro.

Download

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Prediction – Windows Phone has about Two Years of Life Left

Boy it kills me to say this…

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I’ve been a Windows Mobile guy since 1990-blah-blah-blah. I started using Microsoft mobile devices back in 1997 or so with the Casio Cassiopeia E-10/E-11 and haven’t looked back. I became a big WindowsCE and PocketPC guy and helped at least three or four sites get off the ground as either a guest reviewer or as a regular contributor. At least two of those sites are still around today (The Gadgeteer and pocketnow. I got into customizing extended ROM’s and into working with custom distributions of PocketPC and Windows Mobile builds. I was nominated as a Microsoft Mobile Devices MVP twice (that I know of) but came just shy of actually receiving the award (program politics…). Microsoft mobile devices and I have a pretty well defined history.

So, you have to believe me when I say this – and it kills me to actually vocalize it and write it down – I’d be very surprised if Windows Phone lived much beyond 2017. In fact, I really think its gonna die and disappear entirely before 2018.

The reasons for this are four fold

1. Ballmer Does Play into this
Whether you like him or not is irrelevant. Unfortunately for everyone that was a fan of the original Windows Mobile, Ballmer NEVER understood mobile computing and his ouster from the company can be traced to the fact that he NEVER got behind it.

EVER.

Windows Mobile should have taken over the mobile market place when both Apple and Google adopted Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) as the synch engine for both iOS and Android respectively. It should have swung for the fence at that point, knowing that during that time (roughly late 2007 to late 2009) it controlled MDM (mobile device management) for three of the four major mobile platforms on the market (iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile)

Ballmer never stepped on the gas or green lighted any kind of mobile acceleration, and unfortunately, Windows Mobile died. At that time, Windows Mobile 6.5.x was out in beta and as such, never saw the light of day. Microsoft killed it, back peddled, and instead released Windows Phone 7 in response to the iPhone.

2. Windows Phone Development History (both OS and Apps)
Windows Phone has a huge history of – pardon my language… – screwing over its developer partners. Windows Phone 7 wasn’t compatible with any version of Windows Mobile and developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch. Windows Phone wasn’t compatible with Windows Phone 7 and again, developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch.

Developers entered a wait and see mode on submitting new and recreated apps to the Windows Phone Store Many of the new devices at the time weren’t very popular and the new OS wasn’t attracting new users over other devices like the iPhone or the Droid and Droid X. Developing for Windows Phone 7.x and Windows Phone 8 also wasn’t as easy as it was to develop for iOS or Android; and the user bases there were better established.

At this time, Microsoft also didn’t enter any kind of marketing push to really try to compete with the iPhone or with Android (partially due to Ballmer not getting it, partially due to their own arrogance in thinking that Apple and Google would always use EAS to power their mail servers and mobile apps). Because they didn’t push their advantage appropriately and because both Apple and Google ended up dropping any and ALL support for EAS, they lost their strategic position on the backend of things.

Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 never took off with developers because they didn’t want to have to spend all of the time, money and resources to win their users back, who had, with them, moved on to other platforms.

The thought and hope with Windows 10 Mobile is that because of the architecture of Windows 10 Universal Apps, you develop once, and can have a single app on phones, tablets and desktop. That however, still has to be proven out, and I don’t know how willing many mobile developers are to give Microsoft a third try on a mobile platform that still doesn’t have any (real) users to speak of.

Speaking of which…

3. Low Market Share is still Declining
This is pathetic. According to the IDC, Windows Phone has a worldwide market share of only about 3%. iOS has about 14% global share and Android dominates the market with about 83%. Everyone I know of, including some major Windows industry pundits, say that’s a hole that Microsoft just isn’t going to be able to crawl out of. At best, Microsoft should be happy to hit 5% and hold that. If they can ever get it that high or that far…

Compounding the problem, Microsoft recently wrote down their entire Nokia acquisition, declaring all of the assets they actually retained, effectively worthless.

Microsoft also hasn’t released a flagship class Windows Phone since late 2013. Yes, they are supposed to have two others announced on 2015-10-06, currently code named Talk Man and City Man; but there are further considerations. For example, when will they release flagships AFTER that?

I don’t think they will.

Life is breathed into a platform by the hype and excitement generated by the best of the best. Both Apple and most of Google’s major hardware partners are releasing flagship class devices at least on an annual basis, with many Android hardware partners staggering and coordinating their flagship releases so that new devices are announced and released every 4-6 months.

Microsoft and Windows Phone doesn’t have that. The one major hardware partner that Microsoft DOES have – HTC – recently had their stock declared worthless, and they also haven’t released an M9 version of the HTC One for Windows Phone. I’d be very surprised if they did, too.

Microsoft has spent their engineering efforts introducing either low end or mid-range devices and has, unfortunately, saturated the market with them. The devices they do have are virtually indistinguishable from one another and no one knows why they should pick one over another, let a one over an Android devices that has a huge developer and accessory support base.

So… Microsoft doesn’t have the market share, and they don’t have the hardware releases to support a growth in market share. Worldwide, Microsoft seems to be fighting a losing battle.

4. Windows 10 Mobile Build Issues
Oh my Lord, what a train wreck this has been. This is almost as bad as the old Keystone Cops silent movie skits back in the day (and nearly just as pathetic…). Sorry, Gabe Aul… it just is, especially from the outside.

I’ve been a Windows Insider since the program was originally announced in October 2014, AND I’ve been active too. I submit feedback as often and as consistently as I can, on nearly every PC build I install on the Fast Ring. It can be a very labor intensive activity, but as software quality professional, I know I can give them the detailed information they want and need.

I also went and purchased a Windows Phone in anticipation of testing Windows 10 Mobile builds. I bought a BLU (Bold Like Us) Win HD LTE. it’s a very affordable, unlocked, upper mid-range dual SIM device that supports US carriers. However, there are issues here with this Windows Phone and Windows 10.

First and foremost, Windows 10 isn’t supported on it yet; and this is a HUGE problem.

Microsoft is only supporting their own Lumia devices and the HTC One M8 so far with Windows 10 Mobile Beta Builds.

Can someone – anyone really… I’d accept a logical explanation from anyone at this point – please explain to me WHY Microsoft isn’t supporting beta builds for any and ALL Windows 10 Mobile devices right now. With its release looming in the two and a half months left in 2015, you would think that Microsoft would be pushing this thing out to any and ALL devices on their platform… but they aren’t.

Worse yet, Gabe Aul (again… sorry for calling you out, Gabe) won’t answer any of my tweets questioning when other devices will support Insider Builds on either the Fast or Slow Rings. I also can’t get him to answer WHY other devices aren’t supported, either.

Worse than that, what the public has been able to see of the release and internal testing cycles for Windows 10 Mobile are effectively a huge cluster-bump. Earlier this week (the week of 2015-09-14) I got a notification from my Windows Phone that a Windows 10 update was available for it.

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I got very excited. I even waited a few days and didn’t actually attempt to download or install the update until I had some time to spend paying attention to the update, the update process, and how things transitioned from one Mobile OS to the other.

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After it downloaded, I did an internet search to see if anyone had experienced any problems. When I couldn’t find anything, I pulled the trigger.

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The device restarted and I got the spinning gears screen. However, thankfully, as it turns out, the OS did not install. I got an error message from my device after about 20 minutes into the flash that the OS couldn’t be installed on my device. The screen flashed, and then it restarted on its own.

The next day, I saw on Neowin that a number of different devices got the same notice that I got and that it was a mistake, and Microsoft would need to push out an update to fix those devices that were now unstable and functioning inappropriately.

if you could physically see me as I’m writing this, you’d see that I’m shaking my head.

What the hell??

This isn’t the first time that this kind of problem has happened with the Windows 10 Insider program. If you remember, a similar problem happened on the desktop OS where users were seeing updates they weren’t supposed to see and couldn’t download or could partially download and the download would fail. MS had to shoot out an update to fix that.

Then there was an issue where some users installed an update that prevented them from seeing updates they were supposed to see. Microsoft had to shoot out an update to fix that. It’s clear that Microsoft is having a number of technical issues with their release management process. In appropriate updates are going out and needed updates are not.

Then, there’s an issue with build quality in Windows 10 Mobile. Most of the Fast Ring Builds are totally unusable, or have major flaws that make using the OS on a supported device very difficult. I only remember one build being released to Slow Ring Insiders a number of months ago. The testing process MS has in place for Mobile is the same that it has for Desktop – if a build passes specific testing miles stones on both their internal Fast and Slow Rings, then it is released to the Insider Fast Ring. If it passes testing mile stones there, its released to the Insider Slow Ring.

Not much is getting past the Insider Fast Ring. Windows 10 Mobile has the same (if not worse) instability problems that Windows 10 for desktop is currently rumored to be having.

This clearly doesn’t look good for Windows Mobile. It has a history of little to no internal support from either Management or Marketing. The Windows Phone development community doesn’t like it, because there isn’t a lot of money to be made selling software for it. The platform itself is having issues getting users to jump on and its market share has steadily declined over the past 2 – 3 years. Finally, it’s got release management and build quality issues.

When you look at all of this, you have to ask yourself – Why is Microsoft continuing to do this to themselves AND to their users? It isn’t reasonable to think that Microsoft is going to be able to generate enough market share to continue support for the platform. When you couple that with the cluster-bump that has been their release and QA processes for Mobile (and Desktop) over the past few months, you’re left with one REALLY huge question:

Why is Microsoft, one of the biggest and best software companies in the WORLD, having trouble getting this right? I have the answer to that (it’s a methodology and process problem…you can’t cut corners) but I don’t have the time nor space to go into that. I’d lose most everyone in the problem to TLDR (too long, didn’t read). So, I’ll have to save that for another time.

BUT..!

What do you think of this? Is Windows 10 Mobile going to make it? Will it be worth the wait? Will it provide any value to anyone in the mobile market? Will it live beyond 2018 or have all of the issues I’ve outlined bring about its demise (sooner rather than later…)??

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole thing. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the whole issue?

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Create cool collages and digital scrapbooks with Picture Collage Maker

Create cool collages and digital scrapbooks with this cool Mac tool.

picturecollagemaker-iconOver the past couple of years or so I’ve gained not only a son-in-law, but a granddaughter as well. As each major life event has occurred, I’ve been there…with my DSLR… to capture the moments. This creates a great deal of volume in your photo library. The biggest problem that I have is that I never really get to do much with the photos after retouching and posting to a social network site, that’s about it. Which is why I really like Picture Collage Maker when it comes to making something a bit special with the special images I have.

Picture Collage Maker is a fun and easy desktop app that helps you create photo collages and scrapbooks from your digital photos to share with friends and family. With just a few clicks, you can create posters, invitations, calendars, and greeting cards plus a number of other cool pieces of collateral. Whether you’re into digital photography, scrapbooking or some other cool hobby that involves pictures, Picture Collage Maker can help you transform your priceless pictures into precious memories.

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The app has over 140 professional templates. If that isn’t enough for you, you can download another 130+ extra templates in the Store for free. PCM’s templates cover all categories of greeting cards, scrapbooks, photo albums, calendars, disk covers, comic collages, posters and magazine covers, etc. The app incorporates themes for various occasions and holidays – Travelling, Birthday, Wedding, Family Tree, Yearbook, Anniversary, Christmas, etc. It also has over 180 different backgrounds, over 730 pieces of clipart, and more than 140 frames, and 80 different masks.

  • Export and Share Your Photo Collage Anywhere
  • Save collage as image formats – JPG, TIFF, BMP, PNG, GIF, PSD.
  • Save collage as PDF file.
  • Export collage to iPhoto directly.
  • Set collage as desktop wallpaper.
  • Share collage via Facebook and E-mail. For Mac OS X 10.8 or later, you can also directly share the collage to Message, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr within Picture Collage Maker.
  • Print collage directly.

Picture Collage Maker is an app that anyone and everyone can enjoy. You’re limited only by your own creativity and cache of digital photos. One of the great things about scrapbooking is that you create each page separately, by hand to fulfill or satisfy a specific theme. The process here is no different, however this is both a pro and a con.

When you’re scrapbooking by hand, its easy to get lost in the crafting as you draw, cut out, paint and construct each 2D and 3D element on its own. In many cases, depending on how fast you worked, you could work on a single page for days. With PCM, that’s reduced to hours. You work so quickly with PCM, that it might be a really good idea that when you chose a theme or a template, you could apply those choices to an unlimited number of pages, without having to create each page individually. Its just a thought…

When you are ready to commit this to paper or some other media, you can export and share your work in any number of different image formats or to a PDF. However, you need to be aware that any work you create with the app during the trial period is going to be marred by a huge unmistakable watermark in the middle of it. If you want to save any of your work, you’re going to need to buy the full version.

In all, this is a nice app, albeit a bit pricey at $40USD in today’s app market. However, I really like what it does and I’m glad that I found Picture Collage Maker…and I think you will be, too.

download Picture Collage Maker

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Convert audio and video to any format you need with iDealshare VideoGo

Convert audio and video to any format you need with this multi-platform tool.

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If there’s one thing that I know, its that more and more of what people are doing on the internet today involves video. More than anything else (for most people… I’m a still-photo nut as I have an elaborate DSLR rig), people are taking video on their cellphones and posting it to Facebook, YouTube, Picasa and other social network sites.

Unfortunately, not every video is created equally and getting the video – or even audio – you want in the format you need it in, isn’t always easy. Its for this reason that tools like iDealshare VideoGo are so important. The app is a cross-platform tool and if you don’t have it, you really should give it a long hard look.

iDealshare VideoGo is an easy to use professional video converter. It helps you convert all kinds of audio and video formats with little to no loss in quality. You can use it to covert HD, 3D or SD video in any number of formats, including, but not limited to, WMV, ASF, ASX, AVI, DV, DivX, MKV, FLV, F4V, SWF, MXF, MVI, and OGM. It also supports mobile formats such as 3GP, 3G2, 3GPP, 3GPP2 and MP4. It also supports standard formats such as MPG, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MJPEG, MJPG, H.263, H.264, MOV, M4V, QT as well as many others. The app also supports conversion of audio formats such as MP3, WAV, WMA, M4A, Apple Lossless OGG, AAC, AC3, as well as many, many others.

If downloading video from any website is what does it for you, then you’re going to love iDealshare VideoGo. The app is an all-in-one video downloader and converter. It enables you to download videos instantly in HD 720p, HD 1080p, HD 2k, including ultra high definition (4K) and 3D video with a single click from popular video sharing websites like YouTube, Facebook, Google Videos, Metacafe, eHow, Vimeo, MTV, BBC, and Dailymotion. You can also convert the downloaded videos to almost all popular video or audio formats.

Conclusion: iDealshare VideoGo is a cool app. I really like that it converts both audio and video, and that it allows you to download video from popular video sharing sites. It also allows you to convert that downloaded video to the supported format you need it in. The only thing that you really have to worry about is copy protection on the source video. The app may be able to download it, but it won’t be able to convert that video to any other format you might need.

Download

 

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Manage your photo collection with JPhotoTagger

downloadWith the Holiday Season upon us, its important to have the right digital photo utilities in your tool box. You’re going to want to find your stuff and get it together quickly so that you can share them with family and friends. This is why I really like tools like JPhotoTagger. It’s a digital photo utility for Windows and it can help you keep track of all of your digital photos.

JPhotoTagger is a platform independent Photo Manager, that has a native installer for Windows. You can use it to manage and find your photos quickly through the application of keywords, descriptions and other tags. It uses autocomplete to help speed up adding or editing tags, making it easy to apply them, and then eventually, search for them. All tags are written into XMP sidecar files and JPhotoTagger’s database. Your photos aren’t modified.

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One of JPhotoTagger’s best features is its ability to work with other applications like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. JPhotoTagger automatically reads tags from new and changed sidecar files and updates it’s own database. You can tag your photos with Lightroom and JPhotoTagger, even on different operating systems, and JPhotoTagger can work with and use those tags. The app runs on any system where Java is installed.

Depending on how you have your photos organized, using utilities like JPhotoTagger can be a huge help. If your photo library is large, like mine, having some way to quickly organize and add metadata to it that will help you find what you’re looking for so you can add photos to the right folders; or to find what you want to share with friends and family can be important.

The biggest problem that I see with JPhotoTagger is that it uses and needs Java to run. Aside from the security issues, which are numerous and enough to make you not want to install it on your machine, getting Java is problematic enough, in that there are a number of different suspicious apps that really want to install when you try to go and find the install file for your platform at Java.com.  

download JPhotoTagger

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Corel Painter Essentials – Enhance Your Photos!

Screen-Shot-2011-07-08-at-9.13.09-PMEnhance Photos and create art with this professional graphics package.

I am a big photography nut. If there’s one thing that I like to do is take pictures. However, in many cases, after the picture is taken and the shot enhanced, or retouched, that’s often it. That is unless you have Corel Painter Essentials. It’s a really cool graphics app for Windows.

With Corel Painter Essentials – now called Painter X3 – you can do a great deal with your photos. You can create digital photo art. Painter X3 has power full cloning and painting features that allow you to transform your photos into something beyond a simple photo. With the right effects, the results can be stunning.

If photography isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Painter X3 has you covered there, too. You can of course create traditional art from a blank, digital canvas. The cool think here is that Painter X3 can actually mimic traditional media. With it oils look and behave like oils, water colors like water colors, pastels or chalk like pastels or chalk, etc. The effects are pretty cool to watch and work with; but you’ll need to see and experience that for yourself.

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If you’re new to art as well, don’t worry. PX3 has you covered as well. It has tools that are easy to use and understand. It even has a training app called Painter Lite that can teach you to master the basics. You’ll be creating cool pictures in no time.

Ok… I was suitably impressed. There’s a reason why this is one of my favorite apps and has been for many years.

There’s a lot more that you can do with Corel Painter Essentials than I’ve listed here. Its one of the most interesting graphics apps that I’ve ever seen; but I’ve known that for quite a while. In fact, its always been one of my favorites. The only bad thing about it is that is somewhat expensive. However, if you want to do more with your pictures than simple enhancements, this is the app for you.

download Corel Painter Essentials

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Create professional greeting cards with Ashampoo Photo Card

ytzwIf there’s one thing that I really don’t like buying, its greeting cards. They’re usually expensive, and don’t get much attention past the initial reading by the recipient. Its too bad, but an unfortunate reality. However, personalized cards, ones made from family photos I think have a better chance of meaning something to friends and loved ones. This is why I really like apps like Ashampoo’s Photo Card. It’s a cool app for Windows.

Ashampoo Photo Card is a fun way to turn your photos into professional looking greeting cards complete with borders and texts in a few clicks. Anyone can do it, really. All you have to do is choose an existing photo, select a theme, edit text on the card and send it.

If needed, you can fine tune and tweak the results. You can adjust the size and brightness of your photos, edit contrast and saturation settings or even mirror and flip your images. Ashampoo Photo Card’s built in tools allow you to do all this and more.

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One of the coolest of the app’s features is its webcam support. You can take live pictures and use them to make cards with. This is a great feature when you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for in your existing cache of photos.

Ashampoo Photo Card, like many of the apps from Ashampoo, is a cool application. Once you have your card created, the app gives you several options to share your work with friends and family. Photo Card supports sharing via Facebook and Picasa; or you can simply email them.

download Ashampoo Photo Card

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Share photos with your friends and loved ones with Ashampoo Photo Mailer

photomailerOf all the things that I do on my computer, sharing pictures is perhaps the one thing that I do most often. I also think it’s the thing that most people do most often on their computers.  While sites like a Flickr, and Picasa and Facebook are great, but if the person you want to share with doesn’t do social networking, or if all you really want to do is shoot someone a couple of quick easy shots, then Ashampoo Photo Mailer is probably the app for you. It’s a cool photo utility for Windows.

Today, there are numerous ways to share your images online. However, what should be the simplest way still remains a pain in the rump – sharing images via email. Images have to be manually resized, trimmed and often split up into several mails to meet email provider constraints. Many times, you have to send, tweak, and resend in order to get everything sent.

Ashampoo Photo Mailer handles all of these tasks – the trimming and resizing, and turns photo sharing through email into a joyful experience. You can use any number of images.  Image splitting between emails occurs automatically, and then only when required.  You can send pictures to any number of recipients.  Ashampoo Photo Mailer has simple and efficient contact management built in.  You can send images at any quality level.  Trimming and resizing occurs automatically, and again, and only when required.

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The nice thing about Ashampoo Photo Mailer, is that it’s built around a rapid, step-by-step process.  You pick your images and adding recipients to dispatching your emails. The approach is highly intuitive and self-explanatory and requires no lengthy learning process.

Setting up existing email accounts is easy.  All you need is your name, email address and account password. Ashampoo Photo Mailer automatically recognizes different email providers and adds the required server settings.

At $20 bucks, the app seems a bit over priced for an app that optimizes photos for easy sharing via email, though its photo optimization slider is pretty cool.  What would be nice, is if this integrated with Gmail, Yahoo mail Outlook.com on the web and Outlook on the desktop, allowing you to call the app directly from your mail app or from within your open browser. It would also be nice if this allowed you to share photos via Flickr, Facebook and other social network sites.

download Ashampoo Photo Mailer

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