iOS eCookbook App ‘Mind Watering’ Will Have Your Mouth Watering

mind watering

I’m not the 1 who does the cooking in my family. I used to cook, though, & can fully appreciate how easy the iPad app Mind Watering makes it look, with step-by-step instructions, to create amazing meals that can easily be classified as food porn due to the presentation of the dishes alone. 

Tip: Mind Watering, which usually costs $4.99, is on sale for FREE until Wednesday. If you want to check out this inimitable app, grab it in the App Store NOW! It’s a big app with lots to download, but totally worth it for what it can give you or even just to browse.

mind watering

The stunning photos of each creation in Mind Watering, combined with the choice of dishes featured, make the Mind Watering eCookbook app food porn all on its own. Mind Watering is an outstanding eCookbook app with some absolutely amazing dishes to choose from that will have you drooling before you can say Vanilla Lavendar Creme Brûle (featured in the photo above from Mind Watering).  

However, Mind Watering is more than just a basic eCookbook. It includes visuals with absolutely everything, innovative ways to show you how to complete just 1 step in their step-by-step instructions, subtle video that shows you how some of the food looks as it is being prepared or as it cooks, & it is fully gesture-driven. 

Tip: Make sure to check out all of the photos I couldn’t fit into this review. They will be displayed in a gallery at the end of this post in all their beauty. 

Let’s dive right in & take a look at what makes Mind Watering 1 of the best examples of an eCookbook app available for iOS. 

mind watering

Upon opening the app, you are presented with a cover that says Look & Cook, which is a phrase that holds real meaning in Mind Watering. If you swipe to the right, you can read about the 2 chefs who are the minds behind Mind Watering. 

Swipe to the left from the cover when you’re ready to begin & you’ll be greeted with a black screen with red writing that introduces the 1st chapter or collection of recipes: Everyday. These are recipes that were chosen for people who need to make a quick dinner that is also unique & delicious. You can see some of the recipes from that chapter along the bottom of the photo above. 

Tip: The left/right scrolling bar (in the photo above) at the bottom of the black screen won’t be there automatically. Just pull up from the bottom of the screen to access this feature that acts both as a table of contents & a speedy navigator through the whole book. 

mind watering

Just like the recipes in the rest of the book, the recipes chosen for Everyday are not the same one’s that you’d find in your average cookbook. Especially a cookbook on quick dinners. Nothing is made in a crockpot & everything is extraordinary, in the true sense of that word (strange & wonderful). 

On the black page, you can tap the centered + button to see an overview of all the recipes in the Everyday collection (photo above). The red title-text of the recipe is also a link to jump right to that recipe. When you choose another chapter, using the scrollable bar I mentioned above the photo in the “tip,” you can also press the + button for an overview of that collection of recipes. 

Before you stop reading & decide that this app is filled with strange things you’d never eat, I ask you to give the app a try. Sure, I’m a foodie & I’ll try just about any food. The more different, the better. If you’re not a foodie, though, I guarantee that you will still get something out of Mind Watering. 

Even if you can’t find 1 recipe you’d like to try (which I find hard to believe), Mind Watering is filled with tips for cooking, step-by-step directions on how to do everything (some steps have steps), & it is simply beautiful. That alone should be enough for a download. Beautiful food, even if we won’t cook it ourselves, can inspire us to stretch our food boundaries the way beautiful art inspires our lives. So, read on.

mind watering

Using the scrollable bar I told you about (in the last “tip,” before I started ranting about giving things a try), just swipe your way through the whole listing of what’s included (50+ recipes) or select a chapter by tapping a word above to jump right to that section in the scroll-bar. Find something you want to take a look at? Tap it & an image will pop up before your very eyes. 

What you will see is a full-screen presentation of the finished & divine-looking recipe (even more divine on a Retina screen iPad). 

Not what you’re looking for? You can either open the bottom scroller up again, or you can just start swiping right & left to flip through the book of title images that are just like the 1 in the photo above. 

Exactly what you’re looking for? Then, tap the circular Look & Cook button in the lower, right-hand corner to enter the exciting & interactive world of that recipe. 

mind watering

mind watering

The world of each recipe begins with the Look part of Look & Cook. The 1st image you’ll see is a bird’s eye view of a table covered in all the ingredients to make that recipe (photos above). Who knew a collection of ingredients arranged in such ways could be so artful. 

In the bottom, left of the tabletop image is a little box that gives you some useful information about that recipe. It tells you how many people it will serve, how much time it will take to prepare, & how much time it will take to cook. That way you know before you dive in if this recipe is even going to work for you.

Tip: If at any time in either the Look or Cook section of a recipe you’d like to get out of it & look for something else, just tap the Back arrow in the upper, left corner of the screen.

mind watering

mind watering

For some recipes, the tabletop is the only Look image. Other recipes include more images of the finished products (check out the Truffles, seriously). Some recipes pair a glimpse at part of the finished product with cooking tips or a quote (top photo), & others have just a page of text to give you information you need to know before you start cooking. 

You can just keep swiping left through the Look section until you come upon the Cook section or you can tap the word Cook in the top, right corner of the screen. That will take you directly to the 1st page of the Cook section, which starts with the recipe page. 

mind watering

The recipe page (example in photo above) is what you’d expect, although it’s minimalistic use of color & the clean fonts make even this look just perfect. I love how they made the text part of the page resemble the shape an old-fashioned recipe card. They made good use of the framing around the recipe card to give you navigational control & to always remind you of the name of what you’re cooking. 

Tip: Don’t worry overly much about reading the whole recipe. Make sure you have all the ingredients. The rest of the pages in the Cook section will walk you through all of it. 

From the recipe page, you can email the recipe to someone either from the top, left corner, or the bottom, right corner where it is accompanied by social networks Facebook & Twitter for more ways to share what you’re cooking or ogling. 

You can also turn on the voice activation from this page, or any of the Cook pages. Just tap it & from then on, you can turn the pages to go through each step in the recipe just by giving voice commands. You say “Next” to go to the next page & “Back” to go to the previous page. This gives you total hands-free control of the app so you don’t need to worry about getting your iPad dirty while you’re cooking. 

You can alternatively navigate to the rest of the steps in the Cook section either by swiping left or by tapping the number of the step at the very bottom of the card. 

mind watering

mind watering

mind watering

However you navigated, here’s what comes next. Each of the numbered steps is on a page of its own with a photo that illustrates what that step looks like. There are 3 other types of illustrative devices used often to better help you understand what you should be doing & what it should look like. 

  • Video photos (top photo): Some photos will have a little video camera in the top, right corner. There’s nothing you have to push to watch. It just means that that photo is on a video loop. It will show you, in the top photo’s example, what your rising bread looks like as it’s baking, so you know just how brown it should be when it’s time to take it out. There are several examples of this throughout the recipes.
  • Grouped photos (middle photo): Photos are sometimes grouped together to further break down a task that you do in 1 step. They are numbered to let you know what you should do 1st, 2nd, etc. Again, this shows you exactly what you should be doing, which is useful with complicated techniques or tasks you have never done before. 
  • Stacked photos (bottom photo): This time there is also more than 1 photo being used to illustrate a broken down task, but with this example, the photos are all as large as the 1 you 1st see. To see the next step illustrated, you must press the next letter on the photo. This is useful when small, grouped photos might be too small, but when a task really needs to be broken done illustratively. 

There may be other examples that I missed because I didn’t look at absolutely every recipe, but these 3 seemed to be the most common tools used. 

mind watering

A note for people who find the text too small to read: If you just tap anywhere on the text in 1 of the steps, you will then see a page like the 1 in the photo above. The picture gets smaller & the text gets bigger making it easier to read. To go back to the bigger picture option, just tap the photo. 

Do you notice the oddly raised look to the time measurement for how long something should bake in the instructions above? I did too. And, you know me. If there’s a button, I will push it. 

mind watering

When you press a number that is an increment of time, a timer pops up (photo above). This handy integrated feature lets you set a timer for the length given in the recipe, start it, & then you can take your iPad with you while you take a well-deserved break. That way, you never have to worry about not hearing the oven timer, because the timer has come with you in the form of your easy to tote iPad. 

I think that concludes our tour of Mind Watering. Hope you enjoyed the ride & are planning to visit on your own. With the feature-set included in this app, you’d be silly not to try it all out on your own. 

Whether you are a foodie like me who will try any of these recipes, or a reluctant trier of new things who could use some inspiration, or just a food porn enjoyer, Mind Watering is an app to meet all of those needs. 

The flawless development of every feature in the app make using Mind Watering a delight to use & never a frustration. The intuitive gesture-based navigation will get you where you want to go in no time & also no frustration. And, the gorgeous, mouth-watering photos on almost every page of Mind Watering is the icing on the torte (cake sounded too mundane after looking at this app). 

If those 3 reasons alone are not enough to get you racing to the App Store to download Mind Watering, I don’t know what else to say. You’ve got me at a loss for words, which you know never happens. 

With that, I end. Oh, but stay tuned after my sign-off for the gallery of photos I couldn’t fit into today’s review. 

That’s it for me today. Until later, … 

Mind Watering Gallery

mind watering

Let’s start with the overviews of each collection/chapter. 

mind watering

mind watering

mind watering

mind watering

mind watering

mind watering

Now, Just Random Yummy Photos

mind watering

mind watering

mind watering

mind watering

mind watering

Wow! VideoFilters Is Camera+ For Videos

VideoFilters

A universal app released in the App Store yesterday called VideoFilters has absolutely amazed me with a set of features similar to Camera+. Except, as the name suggests, it’s for videos. 

VideoFilters has attributes that will make both pros & amateurs alike very happy. 

  • Amateurs are going to LOVE the 100 real-time filters you use while you’re shooting, the ability to import videos you’ve already taken with other cameras & being able to snap still photos while you’re shooting a video. 
  • Pros will like the fact that with VideoFilters they can adjust the frames per second (FPS), shoot with STEREO Audio & do some actual editing (contrast, saturation, gamma & brightness). 

What I loved is how easy VideoFilters was to figure out. It literally took me all of 10 minutes to be ready to write this review. 

I was a little disappointed at 1st by the fact that the filters are not quite as dramatic as say the filters in Camera+, but that disappointment was soon replaced with awe at just how many features the developers were able to fit into 1 app without making it feel cluttered or confusing. 

There is no tutorial, but it isn’t needed anyway. 

VideoFilters

I also realized that, although I’d like to see some more dramatic filters in the future, the filters that exist are actually quite good. You can see a complete listing of all 100 filters in the app description in the App Store. 

What really made me realize how impressive the filters are is rapidly switching between filters & no filter by tapping the on/off button in the very corner on the bottom left.  

VideoFilters

To choose a filter, you just tap the line along the bottom (which it says). You can browse the filters divided into 14 categories as little photos or tiled for easier viewing (photo above). 

And, you won’t see a stock photo as you’re looking through the filters. You’ll see whatever your device’s camera is pointed at, or if you’ve imported a video, you’ll see whatever image the video is paused on. That means, you’ll see how the filter is reacting with your environment & your actual video. 

I really liked that 1 of the groupings of filters is made to address common issues people have with their videos or environments like: 

  • Clarity to crisp up fuzzy photos
  • Fluorescent for videos shot under this type of light
  • Cloudy & Shade for shooting while it’s, well, you can figure this 1 out
  • Flash to add light to dark photos 
  • & several more 

VideoFilters

Another nifty feature I discovered how to access by accident. I had skipped the instructions for this in the app description (oops). 

If you do a long tap on the screen & then slide up/down, you get to the pop-up menu (photo above) to adjust the saturation, contrast, gamma & brightness. Then, you slide left/right to increase/decrease the amount. It works just like Snapseed, so you should have no difficulty doing it. 

Minor editing of those features really changes the filters, too.

VideoFilters

I am definitely in the amateur photographer category, so I really appreciate some of the features like the smooth zoom buttons, the grid overlay & being able to take a photo while I’m shooting a video. 

  • The smooth zoom buttons (the +/- above & below the zoom bar) slowly & steadily zooms in or out. I can never do that without jerking around like I’m having a seizure, so this is highly appreciated. 
  • Grid overlay (read why this is a useful tool here) is turned on & off in the settings menu (the gear in the upper, left corner). 
  • All you have to do to take an HD-quality photo while shooting a video is tap the camera button to the right of the record button. This only shows while you’re shooting (duh). When you’re not, it’s the render button to finish & save your video.  

For the pros out there, the settings menu is where you’ll probably head to 1st. That’s where you can adjust the FPS, aspect ratio, sound quality & other things I don’t understand much (although I’m happy to see there is a stabilize button there). 

You can adjust the speed of the video right from the shooting screen. 

With the speed settings button in the upper, right corner, you can do slow motion & fast motion videos. I haven’t tried this yet, but it looks easy & sounds like it could be fun to play with. 

I did import a video from my Camera Roll with the + button that is right next to the record button. VideoFilters didn’t make me search through all my photos for the videos either. It quickly found all my videos & only showed me those to choose from. Importing & working with the video worked like a charm, too!

The other features I couldn’t cram into this review but that should be mentioned include:

  • You can take videos in either portrait or landscape mode!
  • Layer filters by adding additional filters after a video is done. 
  • Use the front or back camera!
  • Manually set the exposure, focus & white balance with a triple-tap. 
  • Pause while shooting video & then start right back up again. 

I wanted to mention again that all this video goodness is universal. That means that you can enjoy VideoFilters using your iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch! The price is just $3.99. 

So, go check it out!

That’s it for me today. Until later, … 

Instagram on the iPad: Gramatica Rocks the Gallery

Instagram is iconic to the iPhone, but sometimes iPad users want a little more space to browse photos. You get used to more space when using the iPad. You come to expect it.

Gramatica

The app we’re going to look at is famous enough in its own right, having garnered rave reviews from all of the top review sites. It’s called Gramatica for Instagram. Although Gramatica is a universal app (you can use it on the iPhone, too), we’re going to look at how it works mostly on the iPad, today.

Gramatica calls itself an Instagram gallery app in part because of the art gallery-like way photos are presented & in part because it is not Instagram. You can’t shoot & upload photos using Gramatica. For that, you’ll have to go back to Instagram. 

Gramatica

What Gramatica does do, though, is amazing. For the most part, everything in Gramatica is gesture controlled. Like a photo? Tap it twice to heart it. Want to see who else likes it? Tap the heart & the photos slides away to reveal the list of people who have liked it (photo above). Want to see the comments on a photo? Tap the comment bubble & the photo slides away revealing the comments & gives you space to leave a comment of your own. Tap a city or address to have the photo reveal a map locating where it was taken. 

Just tap the arrow to slide the photo back over the photo when you’re done. & if you want to see the photo bigger, just tap it once for an up-close look at it & even pinch to zoom in on it. All of this is done without leaving the photo gallery!

Gramatica is just a streamlined, stunning way to look at Instagram photos on the iPad (or iPhone). 

Gramatica

One of the coolest things about Gramatica is the fact that you can curate the photos you look at using filtering. You can choose tags that you don’t want to see in your feed or searches, hide photos, & hide users so that when you’re trying to look at beautiful photos, you aren’t interrupted with things you don’t want to see. 

You can flip the filter on & off by tapping the blue funnel-looking icon in the lower, left corner. Tap the gear icon to change your filter options & manage your filters. This is where you would come to change, add to, or delete some of your filters. 

Gramatica

Another cool feature in Gramatica is the ability to make simple lists of users & hashtags. Instead of searching for the same hashtag every single time you want to look at photos in that topic, just open up the list you’ve created & click the hashtag instead, which will take you straight there. 

To create a list, just search for the hashtag or user you want & choose the “Add tag to list” button to open up a pop-up window. In the pop-up, you can give that tag a name of your own & choose whether you just want it to search your own feed or if you want it to search within another tag or just leave it alone to have it find all photos with that tag. 

Gramatica

You can also get to the same pop-up box/list creator by clicking the list icon along the left side of the screen (under the home icon). When you click on the icon, you are give the choice of seeing your photos, photos you’ve liked, & if you’ve created some lists, they will be listed there, too. 

To create a new list this way, just click the + button & you’re good to go. 

The list icon is where you go back to when you want to go to your list again. Just press the name of your list & off you go. 

Gramatica

Other cool features of Gramatica include:

  • The ability to quickly switch between multiple accounts. 
  • Use the Last Viewed Photo Indicator to quickly see where you left off last time you used Gramatica. 
  • Use the Unread Comments Indicator to find new comments on comments strings you are following. 
  • Tap on URLs & follow where they go. 
  • Use iCloud to sync all your filters, lists, & indicators between devices. 

Just a note. You MUST have an Instagram account to use Gramatica! This is not an app for viewing Instagram that can be used by anyone. It is for Instagram users only! Please don’t download it & rate it badly because you didn’t read this.

That’s it for me today. Until later, … 

Related Link on iOS Affairs:

Dr. Seussisms That Rock

Okay, this is in no way a technology infographic. That said, I'm running it anyway, because it is foundational to how I live my life & how this blog gets run. I'm sure if we get creative, we can even apply some of these to iOS & iDevices, if not apps. But, suffice it to say, these are some must-reads & I'd feel just crappy if I didn't run it.

Mosaic Creator Only Way To Go Mosaic

Mosaic Creator

Close-up shows all the photos that make up this fox.

I see just a ton of apps in the App Store for creating mosaics out of your photos. Most are just pieces of crap (excuse my language). But, they are.

Most mosaic creators use stock photos or just colored tiles to create really bad mosaics of a photo of your choice.

Mosaic Creator is not like that. You won't get that from the reviews of this app, which are very poor. But, when I want to create an amazing mosaic (a real one, made up of all my photos), Mosaic Creator is the only way I do it.

Mosaic Creator

Set the tile size with a slider.

I've used Mosaic Creator with both my iPad's (1 & 3) & with both my iPhone's (4 & 5). I've NEVER had any crashing issues despite the fact that the app warns that it is an issue if you have too many photos or you try to create too detailed a mosaic. I always create the most detailed mosaic & use all my photos (about 5,000).

When you open the app, the instructions for use are right there. No guessing on how to use this app! You can open the Options menu up to set a few preferences & choose how big or small you want your tiles to be using a slider. The smaller the tiles, the smaller the tiles.

You can also choose whether the app adapts colors to make the main photo look more realistic (which means your little tile photos will be toned a certain color, but it makes the overall effect better). There are also options to let the app use photos multiple times & to prioritize high-contrast areas. Play around & see what you like best.

Mosaic Creator

Choosing your photos ...

There is a little trick with Mosaic Creator. If you just choose a photo and click Start, the app often tells you that you have not chosen any photos as a source (the Tiles), even though every album can be selected. I just go through my albums in the Photo Library section & unclick most of them, unclick the Camera Roll & click it again. This seems to work to make the app recognize that I have selected photos as a source for the big photo that I choose.

You cannot select individual pictures to use as tiles, but you could make an album of the photos you want to use & then just choose that album as the source of the tiles.

The next task is to select which photo you want made into a mosaic. Just click the Photo button to see your Photo Library & choose which photo you want. Then, click Start.

Mosaic Creator

Watch Mosaic Creator in action.

You can then close the app & let everything happen in the background. Mosaic Creator will notify you when your mosaic is done. It can take a few minutes if you choose small tiles &/or if you choose a lot of photos as source tiles.

But, I think you're missing a lot of the fun if you close the app during the process. Half the fun is watching your image materialize before your eyes. Each & every tile that makes up the big photo in the mosaic is a little piece of your Photo Library. A little piece of your life.

Mosaic Creator

The final outcome ...

When Mosaic Creator's done, you get a really cool image made up of all the pieces of your life that you selected from your Photo Library. You can zoom in on the image & see each & every little photo that is making up the whole image (like in the very top photo of this post).

I think there's a metaphor in there, but it's very early & I can't quite grasp it :)

Mosaic Creator is a great example of learning how to read App Store reviews. Sometimes they can be very helpful & warn you away from a bad app. But, sometimes they are just full of people who can't figure out how to use the app or don't know how to use their device. Mosaic Creator reviewers, I think, are for the most part in the latter category.

Learning to read App Store reviews is an art, not a science.

So, if you want to create a mosaic, you can trust Mosaic Creator to make you a memorable one that will stand the tests of time.

That's it for me today. Until later, …

Lettrs Makes Snail Mail Sexy

Lettrs

This is where you can explore what other letter-writers are sharing with the world.

An app by a company that has been working out of the Cloud for the past year made the leap to app by releasing Lettrs – take time to write for the iPhone.

Anyone who ever had a pen pal or who truly misses the lost art of letter-writing is going to LOVE Lettrs! It is a dream come true for those of us who remember waiting at the mailbox for a letter from a friend or loved one.

Lettrs

This incredibly intuitive app has many places letter-writers will instantly recognize to store and display letters.

If you swipe to the right or click on the button in the top, right, you get a screen like the 1 in the photo.

From there, you can Explore letters shared by other Lettrs users (like in the top photo). You can comment on letters & really have a conversation.

The Fridge is where you put letters you want to share publicly.

Drafts is where all your works in progress live.

The Kitchen Counter is where letters you've just received will be placed.

The Shoebox is where you can privately store letters.

The Desk Drawer is where you can go to see all of the letters you've written.

It's like the developers thought of all the comfortable places letter-writers use & utilized them in this app, which is smart.

Preserve a letter

One very cool feature I should mention before we move on to how to write a letter is that you can also archive real letters or cards that you have received by snail mail.

Just click on Preserve a Letter, & you are given the option of taking a photo of the letter or choosing a photo you've already taken. I chose to scan my letters in using Scanner Pro by Readdle, because it really is the best & it can identify the edges of documents & change their look easily. Editing in Scanner Pro is a snap.

But, you can just take a snapshot of the letter or card & preserve it that way, too.

Once you add a photo, the Tell The Story form pops up. Using this form, you can add the original date the letter or card was sent or received, list the author & recipient, & you can tell the story behind the letter or card in as few or as many words as you choose.

Clicking on the + sign in the upper, right corner allows you to add additional photos of pages of the letter.

Lettrs

When you hit Next, you are given the option of sharing on the Public Fridge where everyone can see it, Preserving it in your Private Shoebox, or Saving it as a Draft that you could work on later.

Now, this is really a side deal to what Lettrs is all about, what it is for. But, look how amazing just this 1 feature is & what level of detail is put into it. This is 1 of the most highly polished apps I've had the pleasure to review in a long time!

I'm planning on preserving my favorite letters from my childhood pen pal from New Zealand & letters I exchanged with girls I went to Girl Scout camp with. They are just sitting up in the attic right now. Lettrs gives them purpose again & gives me a whole new way to enjoy them.

Let's take a look at the primary reason Lettrs exists. To write, send & receive letters. To correspond with another human being using more than 140 characters.

You must have an account to use Lettrs. The sign-up process is easy & painless. The reason for the account is so you can receive email letters in your inbox (Kitchen Counter) or see them in Lettrs Cloud-based system.

If you send an email letter to someone who does not have the app, they will have to register with Lettrs online & create an account, too. The reason is so they also have a Cloud mailbox to recieve their letters. No conspiracies here. So, just sign up.

Once you have registered, you have access to all the areas I have previously shown to you. You can read letters in the Explore section & comment on them, you can preserve letters of your own & last but best, you can write letters that can be sent not only by email, but also by snail mail.

The snail mail option is pretty sweet. Not only is the letter printed on gorgeous stationary that you choose when you're writing the letter, but it is also wax-sealed & scented. This piece of nostalgia is then hand-delivered to the person you choose.

Lettrs stationary

As a special, the developers are offering a deal where you can send 5 FREE hand-delivered letters before Mother's Day, which is coming up fast (May 12). The app itself is currently $2.99, but you can send as many email letters in 1 of 20 different styles as you want. I'm not sure what the pricing is on sending letters by snail mail usually, but I'm going to find out, because I have more than 5 people I'm writing to for Mother's Day.

I expect the service won't cost more than a few dollars. Comparable to Sincerely Ink or Apple's Cards.

You can see the stationary selection (in photo) if you swipe right to left on the letter-writing screen or click on the 2nd button on the letter-writing screen.

There are 20 different styles of opulent stationary with a great variety of styles. Each style you pick comes with a matching font that works with the look of that stationary.

Try them all out. I did. The hardest part of using Lettrs is trying to choose which stationary to use.

That said, I do hope they continue to grow their stationary selection, even if it is via in-app purchases.

Lettrs

The main stage: Where the magic of letter-writing happens.

Now, let's take a look at the main stage: The letter-writing screen.

Lettrs - adding pictures

You can see that it is a wide-open space that focuses on your words & not on a lot of useless clutter. There is a date-stamp, which you can change by clicking on it, but I have not found a way to just get rid of it. I need to look harder.

There are no buttons to control font, bold, adjust the size, etc. This is not a word processor. These are carefully chosen themes of stationary & font that are perfect just the way they are. All you need to do is add your words.

Adding your words can happen 1 of 2 ways:

  • You can type, using the iPhone keyboard
  • You can dictate the words (if you're using a newer device with iOS 6)

Personally, I like to type. I like to type on my Zagg Flex keyboard for the iPad, though. So, despite the fact that this is an iPhone only app, I have installed it on my iPad and blown it up to twice its size so that I can type my letters on a bigger screen. This isn't a problem for me, but I would love to see an iPad app with landscape navigation in the future.

If you like to talk, just dictate. You will be using 1 of the best voice recognizers of any device. I have found it to be extremely accurate if you talk slowly, deliberately & clearly.

One last thing you can add to your letter in Lettrs is photos. Just click the paperclip above the keyboard & you can choose whether you want to take a photo or choose an already taken photo. The photo shows up small at the bottom of the letter like attachments (like in the photo above, left).

Lettrs delivery options

Decisions, decisions

When you're done with your letter, you just press the red button on the upper, right to get the menu seen above.

You can choose to send by email, postal mail, post as an open letter in the Explore section, save as a draft, discard the letter, or cancel & go back to writing. If you choose email, all you need to know is the recipient's email address. You can even choose from your contacts by clicking the blue + button.

Lettrs

Your recipient will get an email inviting them to join Lettrs to view their letter. You may want to tell them this & explain how the whole thing works so they don't just delete the email.

If you choose to send by postal mail, a form pops up like the 1 in the photo. You just fill out all the information about the person, hit deliver, & wait for the intended to get a beautiful surprise in the mail.

Check out some of the beautiful stationary styles at the bottom of this post.

Lettrs is just an outstanding example of someone who came up with an idea that solved a modern problem (an abscence of meaningful communication) & put it into action. We still have letters in us waiting to be written, but we don't want to take the time to do them. Plus, it's almost impossible to find good stationary.

With Lettrs, everything you need to be a letter-writing guru is in 1 spot. There are places for everything & everything has a place. Lettrs is a writers dream come true & a letter writer's ultimate win.

That's it for me today. Until later, …

Stationary Showcase

Lettrs

An open, public letter

Puppet Workshop For iPad On Sale & So Much Fun

Puppet Workshop

Puppet Workshop is a safe & creative environment for children of all ages.

Puppet Workshop – Creativity App for Kids (iPad) is currently on sale for $1.99 (usually $2.99). There is also a completely FREE Lite version that you can try before you buy.

There has been a lot of news lately about in-app purchases & the problems they can cause for parents due to children inadvertantly using them. Parents can turn off in-app purchases in the Settings app or set it up so that a password is needed immediately after pressing any in-app purchase link. But, apps like Puppet Workshop make even those steps unnecessary.

Puppet Workshop contains no in-app purchases, no ads, no social media links, no data collection & the links to more apps is accessible only in 1 spot using a press & hold gesture.

Because of this, Puppet Workshop can be given to children to play with & parents do not have to worry about enormous bills coming in the future or their kids being exposed to websites without their consent.

Puppet Workshop

Puppets are saved right in the app & can be named by tapping on the name.

Besides that benefit for parents, Puppet Workshop is loads of fun, even for adults!

There are 20 socks and gloves you can choose from to make your puppets out of & puppets are stored right in the app. So, after your puppet is done, you just close the window & you can see it in the same window you chose the sock or glove from (see mine up above). You can even name the puppet by tapping on the name and typing it in.

There is some very kid-themed music that plays throughout the entire use of the app. But, it can be turned off from anywhere just by tapping the speaker button (top, left). All the buttons in the entire app are big & the navigation throughout is super kid-friendly.

Puppet Workshop

There are about 200 items in 5 categories that can be used to make your puppet. Each item can be rotated, reversed & made bigger or smaller using buttons that pop up briefly above the puppet after you place the item. If you put an item on & don’t like it, just drag it to the edge of the page & it disappears.

There are button of all sizes and shapes (above, top button),

Puppet Workshop

strings balled up, strings in lines, strings in curves (2nd button),

Puppet Workshop

zippers, buckles, chains, clothespins (3rd button),

Puppet Workshop

shapes made out of felt, streamers of all colors in all sorts of shapes (4th button),

Puppet Workshop

& feathers, felt, odd buttons, pipecleaners & assorted whatnots!

You can use these materials to make the simplest or most outlandish puppet you desire. Buttons can be stacked to make cool 3Dish eyes & anything can be rotated or resized to fit just about any purpose.

The best part of all these materials is that they are in an app where there is absolutely no cleanup necessary. Kids can make as many puppets as they want & all you have to do is close the app. No cleaning required.

Puppet Workshop

Use 1 of the preset backgrounds or draw or photograph your own background.

After you (or your kids) finish making a puppet, you can place it on 1 of about 20 different backgrounds. You can even draw your own background or use a photo from your iPad library to place behind the puppet. The last thing to do is snap a photo of your puppet that is saved to your Photos app where you can print it out & hang it on the refrigerator.

Puppet Workshop is a creativity-enhancing app for all to enjoy. Kids will have fun while learning & growing.

With art classes in schools being cut & budgets tight everywhere, Puppet Workshop is a great way to give your kids the opportunity to develop their creative sides. And right now, it’s only $1.99. Less than the price of a pack of pipecleaners.

That’s it for me today. Until later, …

3 Camera Apps That Will Drive Boredom Away

3D Photo play

3D Photo helps me imitate a Picasso painting.

Playing with 3 apps

The day is starting out dull and drizzling after a night full of thunderstorms. That has made me a little stir crazy and bored, so I turned to 3 camera apps I often turn to when I’m feeling this way: Kaleidomatic, KaleidaCam, and 3D Photo.

All 3 apps are primarily cameras, not editors, and are mostly for the iPhone. Kaleidomatic is universal, so you can use it on your iPad, too. And, all 3 cost less than $2. Not a bad price for driving the dull away.

The focus of all 3 apps, for me, is Play (with a capital p). The only thing serious about these apps is the art that you can create if you let yourself really play and experiment.

Finally, all 3 are well thought of by other reviewers, and 2 of them by App Store reviewers, as well. The only dissent comes from App Store reviewers of 3D Photo. The bad reviews seem to be a mix of people experiencing crashing (which in my long run using 3D Photo, has never happened) and people who don’t understand the point of the app. I’ll be nice and just ignore them.

So, let’s take a walk through these 3 lovely apps and see if we can’t drive away the morning doldrums.

Kaleidomatic

Kaleidomatic

Paintings on wall behind me.

Kaleidomatic can take photos with both the front and rear-facing cameras. It reads what it is seeing through the lens and turns it into something hypnotic: an interactive kaleidoscope with many options to change 1 look into anything.

When you open the app, the camera pops on and immediately starts turning what it sees into a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns, literally.

Along the bottom of the app is the viewfinder. Whatever you see in the viewfinder is what is being turned into kaleido-art.

The viewfinder is also how you switch between the front and rear cameras. Just swipe across the viewfinder to switch between each camera.

The last thing the viewfinder does is pause what is happening on the screen. If you see a pattern that you just love and want to work with in the editing phase or save as it is, tap the eye on the viewfinder to close it and thus stop the app from interpreting anymore outside data.

If you need any tips or instructions, pull up further on the viewfinder to get a set of swipe-able instructions throughout the app.

Kaleidomatic

Another view of the paintings and a light.

That doesn’t mean the fun has ended, though.

Even while paused, you can still switch the form the kaleidoscope is taking by picking a new choice on the wheel under the viewfinder. There are 12 kaleidoscope patterns to choose from, like Star, Butterfly, Meadow, and Honeycomb.

Also while paused (or while running), you can use the pinch gesture to change the look of what you are seeing. Use 2 fingers to make the pattern bigger or smaller or rotate it. Using 2 fingers to rotate the image really can change it tremendously!

Use 1 finger to slide the pattern around so you can see the whole thing, and use 1 finger to stop it in place by pressing down.

You can also bring a photo you’ve already taken into the app using the arrow button on the far left. Once you bring a photo in, you can switch between all 12 kaleidoscope patterns and use the 2-finger rotating to stir things up.

Once you have an image you’re happy with, press the arrow button on the far right to go to the editing stage (which you can skip and just save what you have). There is no camera shutter button in Kaleidomatic.

Kaleidomatic

Kaleidomatic also features 20 different filters that can take your image from pale to crazy to on acid (according to the filter names).

You also can change your image from full screen to square (good for exporting to Instagram) or tiled (excellent for producing high-res images and patterns for printing).

Stuck on anything at this stage? The in-app help pages continue here. Just pull up on the bottom bar and the help screen emerges with useful tips.

When you’re done editing, tap the arrow at the far right to go to the saving/sharing screen, where you can share your image on multiple social networks, and by email, text, etc.

If you just want to quickly save your image, hold down on the far right arrow for a few seconds, and instead of going to the save/share screen, the app will save your image to the Camera Roll instead.

KaleidaCam

KaleidaCam

My living room.

KaleidaCam is both different and similar to Kaleidomatic. The similarities obviously come from the fact that both cameras simulate interactive kaleidoscopes. And, both apps are capable of turning the everyday into extraordinary art.

The user interface in KaleidaCam is totally different. It looks much more like a camera the average user might have experience with.

Along the bottom of the screen is the big camera shutter button to take a photo. To the left is the gallery of photos you’ve already taken. To the right is the button that pops up the styles you can use for your kaleidoscope.

Along the top of the screen, there is a switch to go between a full screen image and a square image (from left), buttons to switch between taking a live photo and pulling in a photo from your Photos app, the button to turn the camera around to face you, and the settings button.

KaleidaCam

Picture of Jasper and his toy.

There are 4 styles you can use to change the look of your image in KaleidaCam, with another 2 available for an in-app purchase of 99 cents. Each style is further adjustable using the slider above it. The slider effectively adds additional mirrors to make the design more complex.

You can use the 2 finger pinch gesture to make a design bigger or smaller and 1 finger to move it around and turn it, but the effects are not as pronounced as they are in Kaleidomatic. It is actually easier to get cool reactions in KaleidaCam using just 1 finger, though.

Make sure you set up in the settings section what you want to happen when you click the shutter button. You can choose to have photos just remain in the app until you save them or share them, or you can have them save immediately to the Camera Roll (or both).

There is no editing feature in KaleidaCam, the fun just keeps going as you snap pictures and make alterations.

Obviously, I feel the need to have both kaleidoscope camera apps. Which should you buy?

The choice is ultimately yours. Weigh the features against each other, and see which is most important to you. If you want a classic-looking camera, KaleidaCam may be your app. But, in my opinion, you get more bang (features) for your buck with Kaleidomatic. It is also universal and a dollar cheaper.

3D Photo

3D Photo

Now, we turn our attention to a different type of app, but 1 no less capable of boggling the brain and making unique art that the developers call “digital cubism.”

3D Photo really hates being dull. That’s why they give you 15 different cubist templates to take dull and ordinary, and throw it away.

Lots of folk agree with the 3D Photo take on things. The app has been listed as 1 of Apple’s New & Noteworthy in Photography, and has been praised highly by the likes of Gizmodo, among others.

What makes it so special is that it breaks away from the traditional canvas on which a photo sits, and has replaced it with a diverse set of templates that are tactile and transcendent.

Plus, 3D Photo is dead easy to use. Just open the app, point, and flick through the 15 templates using the arrows along the sides of the app. If you want to take a photo of yourself, just flip the camera around and see you cubed.

Each template can be manipulated even more before you snap a photo. You can twist it and turn it until you find an angle that is screaming for a photo to be taken. That’s when you snap a shot.

3D Photo

Of course, you can also bring a photo into the app and apply it to the templates in the same way. Just click the arrow in the bottom, right of the screen and select Choose from Photo Album.

All of your shots are saved to the app’s 3D Gallery (bottom, left), where you can further manipulate and arrange an image for a whole new look. You can also have photos saved immediately to your Camera Roll through the settings (lower, right arrow).

Not every photo is going to work out using 3D Photo. It may not be the app you want to take your family photos with (or it may?). But, that’s where the fun is. That’s where experimentation and risk take hold. And ultimately, that’s where you’re going to get some of your best shots.

The only thing I’d like to see changed in 3D Photo is an update to make it fit the iPhone 5 screen. It’s a shame that it hasn’t been done yet.

At 99 cents, 3D Photo is a steal and should be an app every iPhoneographer has in their arsenal, if only to freshen up their skills when they’re feeling bored and stale.

I don’t know about you, but I feel those dark doldrums leaving now.

That’s it for me today. Until later, …

Your Instagram Filter Choices Say A Lot About You!

This infographic purports to tell you who you are based on what filter you use, among other things. I am personally amazed that almost half of all Instagram users don't use any filter at all (which still says something). I find it impossible not to use a filter.

How about you? Which filter do you use most on Instagram? Do you think the descriptions about you are accurate?

Creative Design Tools for Non-Designers

Tracy:

This post is not about apps in the traditional sense that I usually write about. It's about web apps, mostly.

I especially liked the web app Clue that lets you set up a test for your website. Others are able to take the test and let you know what they remember about your website. Amazing!

Originally posted on Digital Media Arts:

creative-tools-image

Face it; you’re not a Web designer. You may try your digital best, but hey, you’ve never been trained in the art of virtual aesthetics. But that’s okay, because we can’t all be Web Van Gogh’s. 

However, for those of us that run websites and don’t have a dedicated design team to allocate work to, it’s still necessary to participate in the design process, from wireframing to reviewing, and all those little tweaks along the way.

Luckily, there are plenty of great creative design tools available on the Web that are easy enough that any non-designer can use them. Check out the list below to see if there’s something that can help you look like you play a designer on the Web.

deviantART muro

muro, by deviantART, is a browser-based HTML5 drawing application for the site’s members that allows them to create images from scratch, featuring over 20 brushes, multiple…

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