From Books to Comics, Reading on iOS: The Super Roundup of eBooks & Readers

Welcome to the Mother’s Day roundup of reading, apps, and eBooks. Happy Mother’s Day mom!

eBook Readers

Get definitions, take notes, highlight text in iBooks

The big 3 in eBook readers are all free and universal (they work on all devices): iBooks, the Nook, and the Kindle.

iBooks

iBooks shelving

Let’s start with iBooks. It doesn’t come with an iOS device, but it should. It’s the first thing the App Store recommends that you download when you enter it for the first time.

iBooks is a complete eReader that looks as good as a real book. I know it doesn’t smell like a real book or whatever, but in 20 years, “real” libraries will belong to private collectors and the government and will be kept locked up. Whether you like it or not, eBooks are the future of publishing and therefore reading.

I never thought I would be saying those words. I used to be one of the “I like the way books smell” people. I worked in libraries all through college. Then, I got my Nook. And, then the iPad. You start expecting to be able to read and shop for any book, at any time, anywhere.

Okay, I’m done ranting. On with the reviews. One of the great things about an iPad is that it doesn’t matter which store you buy from. You can have any eReader on an iPad.

iBooks allows you so much flexibility in the way that you read and in what you read. Choose from three color options: classic black on white, night reading (the reverse of classic), and septia tone (pictured in the top picture). Pick from 6 fonts and choose the size of the text to further adjust to your tastes and style. Look up words and phrases in an in-app dictionary, highlight text, take notes, and place bookmarks. These things can sync between devices so that you can start reading on your iPad at home and read some more on your iPhone during lunch at work.

iBooks Store is much like the App Store

Search the iBooks store just the way you search the App Store. Check out featured books, categories of books, even the New York Times Bestselllers list. Purchase books using the same iTunes password you use in the App Store. Get samples of any book for free.

In fact, there are many free books. And, you can add your own ePub books to the mix. Organize everything (including PDFs, because iBooks is also a PDF reader) on beautiful bookshelves. If you have a lot of books, you can search for them (you can also search individual books for words and phrases), and you can organize them into Collections.

Go through books with a tap, or swipe to see the beautiful page turn animation. Swipe left or right on your bookshelf to see all of your Collections of books and PDFs. Also, organize your books and samples any way you want on the bookshelves. By title, author, color (joking).

eTextbooks have been added to the U.S. iBooks Store. They are filled with interactive elements like videos, diagrams, photos, and animation. I have yet to see one, but I can’t wait.

Wow, that is a lot of features!

The Nook features many color themes.

The Nook

My first eBook affair. I have more eBooks on the Nook than any other eBook reader. As lovely as iBooks is to use, the iBooks Store can sometimes be lacking in what you are looking for or can be overpriced.

The Nook "shelving" is not quite as pretty.

Barnes & Noble’s baby has many of the same wonderful iBooks app has. You can look up words using Merriam-Webster’s Pocket Dictionary, highlight sections, and take notes. Jump to any point in the book using the slider at the bottom of the screen. Adjust brightness levels. And, tap or swipe through the book (although, no turning page animation).

In addition, the Nook also has many color themes and settings to make your book look just the way you want (except, it looks less like a “real” book than the iBooks books do). You can even create your own theme with fonts, colors, margins, and type size.

Shop for thousands of free books (among their 2 million books) and samples from any book at Barnes & Noble’s website (which will not, for some reason, embed as a link on the text): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/NOOK-Book-eBook-store/ You can also read many different magazines and newspapers in the Nook app.

The picture above shows the Nook’s library system. It is easy to search, but hard to organize. Also, there last few app updates have been big and have required you to download any book you want to read. Again. And, again. It’s been a pain in the … well, you know.

Other than that, the Nook is a very good eReader. Oh, and if you have kids, check out my Nook for Kids app review later today.

The Kindle's in-app dictionary.

The Kindle

Okay, so I don’t have a Kindle, and I just downloaded the app again so that I could check it out for you (I’m very dedicated :)). I wanted to be honest. I have read that the Kindle app is quite good. It is often rated above the Nook app. And, it certainly is a great device. But, although I buy everything but dog food from Amazon, I have never bought a Kindle book and so haven’t needed the app.

The free book that I downloaded to check into the app looks very nice. The picture above is just how it was when I opened it up. Oh, but I did set it to sepia tone, because too bright of white hurts my eyes. To me, it looks almost identical to the Nook app. The highlighting, note-taking, and in-app dictionary are all here, although you do have to download the dictionary. Many settings for adjusting the size of the font and the like exist. The three color combos in iBooks are all here. You can also search the insides of books for character, phrase, or subject. To navigate through books, just tap on either side of the screen to go in that direction.

That’s about as far as I got. The library would look much like the Nook’s, except that it’s black instead of white. To purchase a Kindle book, just go to your country’s Amazon Store. In the U.S., that is Amazon.com. You can also buy many magazines and newspapers to view in the Kindle app. It by far has the largest collection of books available. More than 1 million books (varies by country) can be had through Amazon. Free samples of books are available.

The Kindle app does sync page position, bookmarks, notes, and highlights across all devices, including your iOS devices. When you register your app on your device, it will give you an email address that allows you to send PDFs and other documents to the device.

One thing I forgot to mention is that all of the devices allow you to jump from the table of contents in a book to the chapter you want to read through links.

For the iPhone

Reading for the iPhone can be just as fun as on the iPad with the following two apps.

Ether

Ether offerings can be shared.

Ether for the iPhone is a free app with bite-sized stories. There are thousands of short stories, articles, poems, and serial stories through Ether. Hundreds are available for free. And, most are from contemporary authors. New stories are released every day.

It was nominated for the Mobile Entertainment Award in the Best Mobile Book Company category. Currently, I noticed that the App Store has it at two stars, but that is based on one review. I have found the app to be quite useful and entertaining. All of the stories seen in the picture were free.

Read a blurb and the first page of any story before buying. Make personal collections that are available for offline reading. Add bookmarks and notes to the pages. A white background is the only choice, but pick any color for the text. In addition, adjust the line spacing and margins, and pick size and font of the text.

The icons in the picture above let you share your activity and reading details via social media or email. You can also connect with authors via their websites or social media.

3D Classic Literature

Tom Sawyer opens up in 3D Classic Literature

You won’t find any contemporary works in this wonderful little app, but you will find a whole lot of style. Currently, you can have 3D Classic Literature for 99 cents in the U.S. I have seen it available for free.

Apple picked this app for “iTunes Rewind 2010″ as a top 10 Paid Book app in the U.S. and U.K. It has been chosen as “New & Noteworthy,” “What’s Hot,” and is featured in the “Back to School” collection in the U.S./U.K. App Store.

The developers packed a whole lot into a very small space with 3D Classic Literature. The 3D effects are amazing. You have to see them to fully appreciate what I’m talking about. The app uses the world’s first fully 3D eBook engine and features unabridged editions of every book it contains.

3D Portrait of Dorian Gray

The bookshelf to the left gives you a little idea of what I’m talking about. When books open, there is a full animation sequence to it that is jaw-dropping the first time you see it. It’s pretty amazing every time after that.

All of the eReaders work on an iPhone, but 3D Classic Literature really works an iPhone. It has full 3D page turning, which is not even equal to what iBooks does. The movement has to be seen. It really feels like you are turning a page.

As you may have noticed from my reviews, I like fonts. It’s a newspaper editor thing I think. The fonts in 3D Classic Literature are really something to see. I’d have to say that the crispness with which the pages are rendered is better than a real book could ever be.

Auto-bookmarking, atmospheric sounds, navigation buttons or slider (swipe up), and Reading Desk Mode (swipe up twice) round out this remarkable app.

Check out the full list of books in the App Store.

Comic Book Readers

Most comic book readers run on comiXology. I’m reviewing one app that does and one that doesn’t. Both apps are free.

Doctor Who on IDW Comics

IDW Comics

This universal iOS app features the complete IDW digital comic library. With more than 1000 comics, it has some of the most diverse reading to be had in comic books. From TV hits like Doctor Who and True Blood, to game-based titles like Dead Space and Dungeons & Dragons. There’s something for everyone who reads comics among the IDW library. I’m partial to the Doctor obviously. Classics from the 70s, 80s, and 90s are all there too (Danger Girl, GrimJack).

The cool thing about comiXology, which now powers IDW Comics, is that you can choose between full pages and their patented Guided View. This lets you read comics the way that your eye would naturally move through the page. You have the option of not reading this way and reading full page instead, but the type can be too small even on the iPad for that to work with all comics.

Buffy sale!

Dark Horse Comics

I have to have my Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, which means that I have to have Dark Horse Comics.

More Buffy!

Luckily, by avoiding comiXology and building their own app, Dark Horse saved me and itself some money along the way. And the patented Guided View? It’s called Panel Zoom in this app :) It works exactly the same way. I’m sure that caused or is causing some not-so-great relationships.

Dark Horse Comics features free digital comics and hundreds of paid titles starting at 99 cents. Buffy Season 8 comics are all on sale for 99 cents each right now! If you watched the show, you will love the continuation of it via comic book. It started a little over a year ago. Season 9 has already started, and Season 8 spawned a new Angel & Faith spin-off.

Don’t like Buffy? Get off my blog.

Kidding, sort of. Other titles include Angel, Conan, Emily the Strange, Joss Whedon’s Fray, The Guild, Serenity, Frank Miller’s Sin City, Star Wars, Terminator, The Umbrella Academy, and many more. More titles are added every week, and yes I did list every Joss Whedon show in that list of titles.

Let’s move on. I said this was a Super Roundup.

Library eBooks

Literally check out books from the library with Overdrive.

OverDrive Media Console

Did you know you can check eBooks out from your local library? Did you know your local library probably has eBooks? You do now.

OverDrive hooks up to more than 18,000 pulic, school, and college libraries worldwide and lets you download eBooks and audiobooks directly to your device. This free, universal app lets you borrow books from your library in the same way that you borrow them in person. Use “Get Books” (pictured above) to find and add your library. Browse what your library has online, and check out the books you want. You do need a valid library card.

eBooks (in ePub format) and audio books (in mp3 format) each have a lending period. When the the time is up, the title automatically leaves your app. There’s even a countdown timer built into the app so you know how much time you have left. If you want something that is already checked out, you can add your name to a waiting list. Libraries have to pay for eBooks the same way that they pay for physical books, so there are limited quantities of each title.

One feature you’ll find in OverDrive that isn’t available with physical books is that there are free ePub books that can be yours to keep. This list includes many classic titles that are a little older.

You’ll never need to leave the house again.

Stand-Alone eBooks

Learn Shakespeare easily.

Shakespeare Made Easy, iPad Edition

iPhone users can download this title, too (click here). Both books go for $1.99 currently.

I chose this title because it is a Vook. What’s a Vook? A combination of video and text that re-tells a classic texts and makes them understandable. Like Cliffs Notes but classier.

This particluar title is pretty self explanatory. You get 16 of Shakespeare’s plays shortened into easy-to-read stories. The stories are accompanied by video that helps you add context to what you are reading when you read Shakespeare.

Other Vooks include titles like Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and America: A Brief History. Just search the App Store for “Vook” to find all of the titles.

Forgotten Colours tells a story about lifting depression for iPad readers.

Forgotten Colours

This iPad title is really representative of how good stand-alone eBooks can be. This collection of short stories begins with the signature story about a world where colors have left and everything is gray and sad. That is, until a little girl is born with blue eyes. I don’t want to give away the ending, but it is very uplifting.

Forgotten Colours interactive pages are marked with a cat paw.

There are 14 other short stories in this collection and a gallery of artwork at the end.

The great thing about books like this is the ability for them to be original, interactive, and fully immerse you in their world. For instance, in Forgotten Colours, a cat paw print signifies a page with which you can interact. On the page pictured, you can click on the drawings the little girl is making to see bigger pictures of them.

Later today (hopefully), I will look at Nook’s eReader for children and a host of other stand-alone eBooks for kids.

That’s it for me. I hope you enjoyed this Super Roundup of eBooks and readers. Until later …

Zinio: The Better Way to Read Magazines in Style

Juxtapoz magazine layout

There are a few ways to read real magazines on an iOS device. The one that we’ll look at today is Zinio.

Zinio

Zinio edition

Zinio is a free, universal app for all of your iOS devices. This gorgeous app is completely enjoyable to use, whether you want to buy a single magazine, subscribe to a certain title, or just explore what’s out there. There is certainly more than a little to interest any reader.

There are three sections upon opening the app. You can Explore, Read, and Shop. On the iPhone, there is no Explore section (sorry).

Explore Zinio without even buying anything.

Explore lets you see what articles will look like. I have spent a great deal of time just using the Explore section of Zinio. Read articles from magazines around the globe, like Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Elle. The National Geographic Interactive articles are particularly interesting. National Geographic and about a dozen or so other magazines have special digital editions that reel you in through an immersive experience unlike any other.

The picture above is under Explore and features an article from National Geographic Traveler Interactive.

I have actually spent more time reading the articles in the Explore section than I have shopping or reading magazines that I have bought. You needn’t spend a great deal of money to enjoy what Zinio has to offer. You can even click on specific categories in Explore to read pertinent articles.

Let’s skip Read for a minute and look at the Shop area of Zinio. This is where I have spent the next biggest block of time.

Zinio shopping

You can search for specific titles from among Zinio’s collection of thousands of magazines. Or, you can look around based on subjects that are then broken down (at least on the iPad) into more specific areas. For instance, check out Science & Tech to find Electronics, Gaming, Photography, Nature, and more.

You can also check Featured magazines, Top Sellers, New Arrivals, Under $10 (for subscriptions), Trending, Interactive, and Staff Picks to view magazines that fall under those categores.

Buy single issues or subscriptions that will be available in the Read category either immediately (for single issues) or as they are released (for subscriptions). Buying magazines this way is so simple. You just enter your iTunes password and the price is added to your Apple credit card on file.

Zinio online

If you have a gift card or promo code to use, make sure that you purchase your magazine or subscription at Zinio’s website instead: http://gb.zinio.com/. It is simple enough. Sign in to your account, shop for what you want, go to your cart and there will be a code or gift card entry area at the bottom. After you have purchased your item, you will receive an email, or you can go straight to the app and download your magazine.

This is what your library will look like under Read.

Your library can be found under the Read section of Zinio and will look like mine at right. When you have purchased a magazine either online or through the app, this is the section where they show up to be downloaded, stored, and organized.

Search your magazines either by date of the when they came out or by title name. Click Edit to delete any titles you are through with or just want to delete.

Each title will need to be downloaded. A process that takes just a minute or two. I did notice another difference between the iPhone and iPad versions of Zinio. The Juxtapoz magazine was not available to download on the iPhone.

High-fidelity view of a Juxtapoz article

Now the really fun part. Navigate your magazine from front to back, jump to specific articles through links in the table of contents, flip through the mini pages at the bottom of the screen (like in the very top picture), or look at all the pages in the tiled view. You can bookmark and share articles, photos, and pages that you like, and click on Web links to see what’s up in the in-app browser. Read articles in high fidelity (like the photo above), check out interactive contents and video, and switch to enhanced text pages and resize the text to make it easier to read. Pick up reading where you left off, or organize all of your bookmarks by date or title. Finally, sync all your libraries across your devices.

Shopping for titles

Enjoy your magazine reading any way you please with Zinio.

Come back tomorrow for a look at reading books on all your devices. Until then …

Help for Students in Funny Places

I’m still looking at apps that help students, just all different kinds of students today. A little something for everyone, no matter what their interest. Interested?

General Studies

The Design Museum Collection is inspiring.

The Design Museum Collection App for iPad

Get some free inspiration (no matter what you study) with this gorgeous iPad app. The Design Museum Collection App is a fascinating look at 59 objects that reside at London’s Design Museum (and in your iPad).

The app explores each object through the use of film, audio, text, and photos. Click on an item that interests you just based on look, filter through them based on time, material, color, location, manufacturer, and designer. I went with random. Or, there is a button to line them up and go through the list from beginning to end.

Items include the Kindle, Obama’s campaign poster, the British telephone box (paging Dr. Who), and many others. The museum is devoted to architecture and industrial design, but anyone can find something interesting within. The collection at the museum celebrates the “history of design in mass production and includes furniture, lighting, domestic appliances, and communication technology.”

Step right in …

Photography Major

Magic Hour camera app with unlimited filters

Magic Hour – Camera & Unlimited Filter

This iPhone camera app has been featured as “New and Noteworthy,” “What’s Hot,” and “Staff Favorites” in many App Stores across the globe. The feature that makes this app so special is user-generated filters in the app’s Free Filter Market (where you can create your own filters, as well).

The camera functions featured in every iPhonography app you love are all in Magic Hour. Plus, high resolution photo saving option and customizable tilt-shift effect are a go.

40 filters are included in the base app. Enter the Free Filter Market for endless others. Create, edit, and share your own filters, too. Use curves, saturation, brightness, contrast, 8 vignette types, 23 texture types, 12 frame selections. Shake and serve however you like them. Even I have created a filter. Post your original image and then the comparison shot after using your custom filter.

Share your shots on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous, Dropbox, by email, AirPrint, Evernote, Camera+, and the list goes on.

Majors Involving Numbers

Numbers majors can use this :)

Calculator Pro (11 in 1) for iPad

It would have come out one way or another, so you should know that I am appallingly bad at and abhor numerals (especially the kind with whiskers). And, I have absolutely no idea what I entered in the photo above, but the scientific calculator does.

Calculator Pro (12 in 1) for iPad, or a similar iPhone version, both by HiCalc may feature a scientific, currency converter, unit convertor, date-time, world clock, constants, tip, equation solver, statistics, base conversion, graph, and finance calculators, and a partridge in a pear tree.

I don’t even know how this thing got on my iPad.

The Art Major *

Art majors who need to learn how to draw can use this app.

How to Draw-Full Version

* For the art student who has nothing.

The universal app How to Draw (limited, free version here) is another App Store “New and Noteworthy”ist. It takes kids ages 4 to 7 step-by-step through the process of creating everything from a cat (simplest) to a skeleton (most difficult). There are 12 total “episodes,” including a princess and the Statue of Liberty.

With fun, soft background music playing, a child’s voice describes and then draws each step, followed by the user. You can choose to have the very simple menu be line drawing only or color in, as well.

And, even the developer is being frank here, this is a tough app for anyone on an iPhone. Just an FYI.

The Universe Drop-out

Shiny!

Cussifly – The Gorram Firefly Translator

This shiny iPhone app is a little piece of Firefly universe right here. From the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers, Firefly brought you the sci-fi Western and it’s colorful language. This app aims to represent it. Dictionary style.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can learn to insult people in Chinese. If you do know what I’m talking about, you are frelling SHINY (I may be mixing jargon here. Been watching Farscape, too)!

Cussifly – The Gorram Firefly Translator unites Browncoat and Browncoat once again. Search for phrases from the show by the index, by character, or by episode. Select a phrase and you get what is pictured above: the English and Chinese versions and how to say the word as it sounds, the episode, character, and even context. Want more? Click “more,” and get the actual dialogue surrounding the use of the phrase.

If you are a Joss Whedon fan of any kind, this app is absolutely a necessity!

The Firefly crew

Thank you for joining my zany day, and come back tomorrow when I’ll try to be as serious as I can and review some more apps!

Students Get an App Assist When it Comes to Reading & Writing

Today and tomorrow, I’m going to talk about apps and tips to help students. I am talking about high school and college-age students, but some of these apps could be useful to kids younger than that. Many people say that the iPad can’t be used to replace a laptop for “serious” work. It’s for entertainment, mainly. But, my laptop and I have been on the outs for a year and a half now. I do all but a fraction of my work on an iPad. Both, for the blog, and for grad school. And, I’m going to tell you how.

Today, let’s focus on apps to help you write and read better. I usually don’t include prices with app reviews (see my Pricing page), but since most of today’s apps are on the pricey side of the app world, I included them.

iAnnotate makes marking up pages easy.

The first app that made me want an iPad in the first place is iAnnotate. I was tired of printing out several hundred pages of articles for each class that I’m taking. Besides being bad for trees, it cost a lot in ink, and I always ruined my copies with stains and ripping them when I took them places. iAnnotate saves me from those headaches.

iAnnotate has multiple, collapsable, customizable toolbars.

iAnnotate PDF for iPad ($9.99) is absolutely the best PDF reader and annotator available. Besides the traditional annotations (underline, custom highlighters, handwriting, strike out, post-it notes), iAnnotate lets you do the untraditional annotations not even possible with paper copies (typing in multiple fonts and colors, photos, voice, stamps). You can even add blank pages to take notes on before and after other pages.

A new tool makes signing documents a breeze. I saved my signature as a stamp. You can save pretty much anything as a stamp: dates, shapes, words, etc.

Search the entire library with key words and phrases.

Reading documents is easy too with a number of navigational tools, including bookmarks and every kind of tool to make a page move up and down that you can think of (and a few that you can’t). Read several documents at a time with tabbed reading just like your web browser. Rotate pages with charts on them so that they’re easier to read, or delete irrelevant pages.

All of these tools are neatly organized in as many customizable, adjustable, collapsable toolbars as you want. Set them up how you need them to work, and you’re ready to go. You just drag and drop the tools you want to make up new toolbars. A slide-out tray from the left side of the screen also allows you to naviage a document, search annotations, and see your bookmarks and document outlines.

Organize your entire library of documents in folders, search the entire library with key words and phrases. Back up everything to Dropbox, Box.net, and WebDAV using the connectivity tab. Email flattened annotated copies of documents from the app, get PDFs from an in-app browser, or open them up through email or Safari using the “open in” button.

And, watch for updates from these developers. They’re full of surprises. As soon as I think the app is perfect, they improve it with things I hadn’t even imagined but soon find indispensable.

Look here for an in-depth review of iAnnotate.

Outline Pro helps give papers direction.

I never used outlines for papers in undergrad, but in grad school it has either become required or is needed to write better papers. A relatively new app, called Outline Pro for iPad ($4.99), helps you do just that.

Essentially, Outline Pro has you write out your topic and thesis sentences, and then you add beginning and ending sentences for each body paragraph, including your intro and conclusion. This process really ends with half the work being done, and the second half isn’t so bad. You can even flesh out paragraphs with bulleted lists to support your arguments.

When finished, you can open your outline up in Pages or other writing apps to finish writing and editing. There are also options to AirPrint and export your outline as a PDF or plain text document or email the outlines. It is really the only app of its kind in the App Store.

Magical Pad makes mind mapping easy.

As an alternative to or alternate way of outlining, more visual students may want to try mind mapping. Magical Pad for iPad ($4.99) makes mind mapping (and note-taking) easy and kind of fun.

Magical Pad app example

Take notes, brainstorm ideas, build outlines, and make mind maps using Magical Pad. Plan out your papers using structured lists that prioritize your actions. The workspace is unlimited. It extends endlessly in every direction.

Use lists with indenting/outdenting and notes, and add connecting arrows and links to organize your thoughts into something bigger. Export the final product, or even import information in multiple formats. Google Docs, Evernote, and Dropbox are integrated.

Grammar App HD makes learning grammar simple.

Need to strengthen your grammar skills a little (or a lot)? Try the Grammar App HD for iPad (99 cents, or the free iPhone version) for an interactive chance to improve your skills through lessons, videos, and games, and to put those skills to the test. You even get a progress report.

More than 200 tutorials will help with choosing better words, vocabulary, and use of English grammar from the basics through the intricacies of punctuation. An initial assessment will let you know where you are starting from, and further tests will let you know how far you’ve come.

Templates for Pages gives you a LOT of templates.

For APA and MLA style papers and general types of reports (plus a lot more), try Templates for Pages (99 cents). This universal app will give you 150 practical and easy-to-use templates for everything from reports and papers to resumes and business cards, and a whole lot in between. And, if Templates doen’t have the template you need, request it and they may in the future.

Lesson #1 in reading? Read the title of this app. You MUST have the Pages for iOS app to do anything with Templates for Pages!

Pages for iOS is a word processor similar to Microsoft Word.

That brings us to Pages for iOS. The holy grail of word processing for Apple’s devices.

Some useful tools in Pages.

Pages ($9.99) is to iOS what Word is to Microsoft. It is one of the three apps that makes up the iWork suite. Pages works on any iOS device, and you can sync your work using iCloud across all your devices. All of your work stays up to date.

I have just about every type of writing and word processing app available, but I always come back to Pages.

Create and edit documents on the go (or sitting at home, in my case). There are 16 templates included with Pages, but they tend to be more on the side of letters and image-dominant documents. Speaking of which, making charts and graphics on an iPad is so much fun (I’m being serious. Look at the media browser below). To write posts for school, I just use the blank template.

Charts and graphics are a breeze in Pages.

Pages isn’t just for Pages either. Pages can view and edit Microsoft Word and plain text documents, and it can export documents in Pages, PDF, or Word format. You can bring things into Pages through opening up documents in your email, on the Internet, through WebDAV, or by using iTunes File Sharing.

Pages is so simple to use, so attractive, and so all around useful that you just must have it for writing proper papers for school. It does all the normal word processing stuff (adjusting text, creating footnotes and endnotes, gives word counts, undo button, searches and replaces words/phrases), and the not so normal. Pages saves your documents as you work (well, pretty much everything saves on its own, on an iOS device). You can even use the undo button after you have closed and reopened a document. So, give Pages a try. You will not regret it.

Everything is organized neatly in folders in the same way that you make folders using different apps. Hold down on a page and drop it on top of another page you want in the same folder.

Pages menu to adjust fonts, etc.

For heavy duty typing, a Bluetooth keyboard is a necessity. Apple sells them, but I get mine from Zagg instead. I think Zagg’s keyboards are sturdier and better made than Apple’s (Sorry Apple). Zagg also has cases that integrate an iPad and one of their keyboards. If you have a new iPad though, I’d see if you can hold out for the newer Bluetooth 4.0 keyboards. For more on that, read the information at this link.

That’s it for today! You made it! By the way, I use a lot of exclamation points because, as a rule, we were never to use them while I was at the newspaper :) Come back tomorrow for more serious and not-so=serious apps for students.

Coming to Stores Near You

High Street Store Locator categories

The High Street Store Locator is a a brand new iPhone app. Unfortunately, it is not showing up in any search of the Internet. The best I can do is give you the AppShopper link that can take you to the app itself. Click here to find High Street Store Locator in AppShopper.

High Street Store Locator directions

This app is really quite clever and accurate. It was able to find even the smallest of local art stores that I am already familiar with, and a few that I am not. High Street Store Locator is powered by Foursquare, and it features more than 40 shop categories. The app allows you to check in with Foursquare when you visit any shop. By signing in, you can share on social sites and leave tips and advice for other shoppers.

Search for stores by name, or just look at what it finds near your current location. Read reviews, advice, and tips by other shoppers. This kind of reminds me of Yelp. Except, it is just for shopping.

To get the most out of this app (which is normally going to be $2), you really need a Foursquare account. I don’t have a Foursquare account because I kind of find it a little creepy and 1984ish. But, this app is very helpful in finding independent stores and giving you directions. Instead of just finding the big box stores, High Street Store Locator found all the little local shops that I am familiar with and that I like to support.

When I was searching around the Internet to find the link to this app for you, I found this article instead: Apple Stores to Visit Before You Die. It is a slide show of beautiful Apple Retail Stores around the world, featured by PC Magazine (ironic). Below is a picture of Apple’s Covenant Garden store in London. Click on the slideshow link to see the other stores. They are all quite exceptional.

Covenant Garden Apple Retail Store in London

Cool Phone App Free for 3 Days

Swipe+Speed Dialer keypads

An iPhone app called Swipe+Speed Dialer is FREE for three days in the App Store. I’ve been playing with it for like an hour now. It is very cool.

Swipe+Speed Dialer features

Some of the features include an assortment of keypads (two are seen above), use of swipe gesture to dial or send text, quick dialing, up to 99 speed dial numbers, ability to change the font and size of font, assign sound of the keypad (mine is like a xylophone), ability to create and manage groups (you can send a whole group a message), contact management, contact sharing, favorites list, recent calls list, name search, and number search.

Basically, what makes this app so unique is that it almost exactly replicates the look and feel of the built-in, native iPhone app. The difference comes in the way that you use it and how it behaves. You use gestures to do most actions.

The interface is amazing. I love the details as well. The font, color of keypad, sound of keypad, and favorites list are a few of my favorite things about this app. I haven’t set up any speed dial numbers yet, but set up of everything has been so easy it’s just nuts. Very friendly user interface.

Fall in love with using your iPhone as a phone again, instead of as just a place to keep apps (or am I the only one who does that?)! Grab Swipe+Speed Dialer now while it’s free!

The Photo Basics: iOS Essentials

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Yesterday we covered the basics of getting to know your iOS device (better late than never). Today, we’re going to cover photo basics. The essential photo apps for every iPhonographer. This topic is part of Hodgepodge Week, and part of my endless obsession with and hoarding of photo apps.

Essential Shooting

For the uninitiated, there is no simpler camera app to use than Camera+. Camera+ for the iPhone is not only a great camera, it has a great built-in editor as well. And, the most coveted feature in Camera+? That’s easy. It’s called Clarity, and it will make you an instant photo rock star (or at least expert), with the touch of one button.

There are many name imitators in the App Store, but the real Camera+ is currently on sale for 99 cents and features 16 different scene modes, including Clarity. The scene modes are similar to the ones on your digitial point-and-shoots. If the light is coming from behind, try Backlit. If you need Flash but didn’t use it, add it afterward. And so on, and so on.

You can even load photos shot with another camera into Camera+’s Lightbox and edit them from there.

There are simply too many features to list here. But, no matter what type of photographer you are (or are not), and no matter what type of photo you are taking, Camera+ will improve that photo. Crop your photo into many popular shapes (including the Golden Ratio), add amazing filter effects, stabilize against blurry photos, line them up so they’re not crooked. I could go on and on. For 99 cents, you will have no better camera friend than Camera+.

Pro HDR is an art.

The next app takes HDR (high dynamic range) and elevates it to the art it really is. And, it makes it easy to do, too. Pro HDR, a universal app, is the only HDR photo app you’ll ever need.

True HDR photos are made up of three separate photos taken to capture the highlights, the shadows, and then an alignment shot (that’s my tenuous grasp on this, so please correct me if I’m wrong). Pro HDR does all of this automatically, which is a first for HDR apps. Most HDR settings that you see are “fakes.” They take one picture and process it to look HDRy, but they are not actually HDR.

Pro HDR does have an assisted manual mode for people who really know what they’re doing, but the automatic mode is pure genius and absolutely perfect for the rest of us.

In addition to taking beautiful HDR photos, Pro HDR lets you take normal photos quickly (true HDR does take a little longer), supports both cameras, digitally zooms, crops, has a self-timer, a flash, many editing features, and a grid overlay (so you can follow the Rule of Thirds). There are also some very beautiful filters to make your amazing HDR photos astonishing. Add a frame and text caption if you wish, and you’re finished.

And, just so we’re clear. Neither of these apps will load on an original iPad. They do need a camera (I hate that I have to say that).

Essential Editing

Snapseed makes editing a snap.

Two apps spring to mind. The first and by far the easiest photo editor for non-editing types is Snapseed. I see some of you nodding your heads yes. And some others are asking why not iPhoto. I’m not including iPhoto because, as great as it is, it takes forever to update my library because I have so many photos. Until that speeds up, It doesn’t become essential.

So, Snapseed actually was the iPad App of the Year last year. And, Apple chose well with this app. This is my go-to app for every type of cropping, tweaking, and more and more so, all around editing. Whether you just want to press one button and have your photo autoadjusted, or the photo needs a full tune-up, Snapseed is the gesture-based app to do it.

The reason Snapseed is so great for non-photo type people is because of its elegant simplicity. There is no jargon here. No curves or lines or anything else that will confuse you. There is just absolutely nothing flawed in this app. Especially since they added sharpening, and more and more creative enhancements, like tilt-shift.

You will not go wrong with this universal app. It’s fabulous on the iPad, but it’s just as great on the iPhone, too.

PhotoForge2 is a little more advanced.

If you need something more advanced, the only logical app assumption to make is PhotoForge2. When my photos really need some work, PhotoForge2 is where I head. This universal app is absolutely the best app to do any heavy lifting. It can do the simple jobs too, but I usually use Snapseed for that because it is quicker.

PhotoForge2 may be a little too much for the casual editor, but it is just what any iPhotographer on the go needs to fully edit their photos. Whether you want full resolution editing, layers, curves, levels, a channel mixer, etc., or you just want some really cool filters and effects, PhotoForge2 has it all. I highly recommend getting the Pop! Cam in-app addition to add even more cool filters and effects! Add a frame, and you’re finished.

The classic menu set-ups are there when you need them and enough out of the way so as to not hamper your editing abilities. PhotoForge2 is the little black dress of photo editing apps. Everyone needs one.

I just want to add a note here again to tell everyone who is suspicious of photo apps for needing location services information, just cool down. This is Apple policiy. None of the apps listed give a crap about what happened at your birthday party or where it all took place. Location Services must be enabled for photo apps to access your Photo app. I repeat, it is just Apple policy. So, cool your conspircacy jets.

Essential Filters

Pixlr-o-matic PLUS is awesome!

My absolute favorite way to add pizazz to my photos using filters is through Pixlr-o-matic PLUS (there is a free version that is called Pixlr-o-matic that has many fewer options). You can upgrade to PLUS through the free version.

What makes Pixlr-o-matic PLUS so special is the fact that it has more than 2 MILLION different combinations, when you factor in all of the filters. I can just sit and hit the shuffle button on the top, right-hand corner all day and never get bored.

You can take a photo, load a photo already taken, or even try one of their sample photos (as I did in this picture), with this wonderful universal app.

This darkroom app lets you add effects, overlays, and borders, which when combined, can create photos that are retro, grunge, clean, stylish, or out of this world (literally, with the Space overlays). Add them one at a time, or hit shuffle and see what happens.

Stunning photos are just a click away. And, the catalogues for each of the three categories are ever growing. Right now, Pixlr-o-matic PLUS is only 99 cents. I’d grab it if I were you!

Lumiè is my newest "essential."

The next app is new to me, but I can already tell it will become an essential in my book. Lumiè uses the Bokeh effect (which means “blur” or “unfocused” in Japanese) to create some simply splendid shots on the iPhone. I, of course, am also using it on my iPad.

The story goes that the Bokeh effect was an accident that occured because an out of focus lens captured the light of a candle, making a blurry image with octagonal-shaped diamond dots. But, I have heard many Bokeh origin stories, and they’re all a little different.

Whatever the origin, the Bokeh effect can create some really cool images, and Lumiè has 27 different formats of this effect. Once you select the one you want, you can move it around the photo you have either taken or loaded until you’re satisfied with its location. You can also alter each effect to make it shinier or darker than the normal effect.

There are the normal diamond shaped dots, stars, hearts, and even space and cityscapes.

You can share your final images on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, or open it in other apps, like Instagram.

Essential Instant Photo Albums

Souvenir album

There are possibly more ways to store the photos you take than there are ways to take them (this statement is not backed up by any actual facts or numbers). However, most of the albums you can make take a little to a LOT of time to create. They take even more time to add any amount of style.

Souvenir album menu

That’s where Souvenir comes in. This iPad app came out in late March and makes the act of creating photo albums as simple as can be. It lacks a certain amount of finesse (and is a little cheesy in parts), but it is very young and I am certain that it will get better with time.

Souvenir opens on a “room” with bookshelf of photo albums. The albums are exact replicas of the albums you have created in your Photo app. This room also has a few frames on the wall, a working lightswitch (you can look at things by candle light), and a music box.

When you open a Souvenir album, you see something akin to the bigger photo above. The colors and photo corners are dependent on the theme you choose for each album. There are currently only eight themes (seen in the other photo), but they are quite smart. Not only can you flip through your already put together photo album, but you can pick different music that plays when you open each individual album. There is a very limited built-in library, or you can choose music from your Music app.

You can add captions and/or dates to photos, or you can just leave them as they are. Either way, it is by far the easiest and neatest solution I have seen to view your photo albums.

My wishlist for this app includes different styles of rooms, or at least bookshelves for the main view, additional themes for the albums (even if I have to pay extra), and the ability to set a photo as the cover of the album.

But, for 99 cents (the theme price for this post), you won’t find a better bargain than Souvenir.

So, that’s it for my version of iOS photo essentials. What are your essential photo apps?

Come back tomorrow, or later today, and see what else I’ve cooked up in the Hodgepodge Week extravaganza (I feel like Bob Barker). Until then, push more buttons …

Let Us Start at the Beginning

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Now, this may have been where I should have begun the blog at, but I didn’t. Let’s forgive and forget and get to learning. Plus, I tell you about a lot of freebies today!

Today’s Hodgepodge Week lesson is going to be useful for iPad/iPhone beginners and advanced users alike. I guarantee no matter how much you know about your devices, you will pick up at least a point or two from some of these reference apps and guides.

iPad Guides

AppStart for iPad by AppAdvice

The first reference guide we’re going to take a look at is AppStart for iPad (2012 Edition), developed by the very famous AppAdvice.com. I learned more from reading the original AppStart for iPad a year and a half ago than I have from any other single source. It took me an entire day to make it through the app. That is how comprehensive it is.

AppStart for iPad article

As you can see from the picture above, this app is a mixture of device advice, user guide, tips, and app lists and reviews. The entire app works just the way an iPad app should, through gestures and taps. You tap on the section you want to look at, swipe right to return to the main menu, and swipe up and down to get from page to page.

There are four menu pages full of articles and app lists and reviews. The beginning of the top article can be seen to the right above.

AppAdvice did a great job of updating for 2012. I read the entire app again for all of my dear readers (and gained quite a bit of knowledge and a few apps myself) before I began writing this blog. As I got to the final page, I noticed more typos and things like that, but that’s just something I can’t turn off. Once a newspaper editor, always an editor.

There will be a few things out of date. Like both Flipboard and Zite have released iPhone versions this year. But, like anything else, things can be a little dated about two minutes after they’ve been released.

My biggest problem with AppStart for iPad though is that parts, especially near the end again, seem to be written by totally different people (which they probably were). The cohesiveness kind of falls apart from section to section at times.

But, overall, there isn’t a better app available, in my opinion, to get you up to speed on using your new iPad. I even learned a few new tricks in rereading the app! And, I definitely discovered some apps I wasn’t aware of before reading the new edition.

So, if you just bought an iPad (or are thinking about it), make AppStart for iPad one of your first downloads. And, if you are already experienced with your iPad, download it anyway, because it’s FREE right now. You may surprise yourself and learn something new.

The next app is for true beginners. SCOtutor for iPad is among a line of apps that provides video guides to teach you everything from the basics to advanced features. There is over two hours of video on 20 subjects and 70 topics. This is a universal app, so you can watch on your iPhone and try to follow along on your iPad.

This very complete guide makes absolutely no assumptions about prior knowledge of computers (PC or Macs), iOS, etc. It teaches you everything you need to know to use your iPad. It is based on the iPad 2, but much of the information is applicable to any version of iPad you may have.

When watching the video, you can hit the button that I have highlighted in the photo above to access the chapter guide and jump to any part of the video. The app also remembers where you were at in the video if you need to take a break. So, when you reopen it, it starts from where you were in your last session. As an aside, I really like the voice of whoever is narrating this app.

And, surprise of surprises, this 1Gb large app is also FREE right now. Download it while you can.

First tip in Top 100 Tips - for iPad

The last iPad guide is called Top 100 Tips – for iPad. I had to redownload this app, because it’s been awhile since I looked at it. And, I’m going to have to peruse it again, because it too has been updated to cover the new iPad.

There is nothing simpler than swiping through this easy-to-read app. The tips are bite sized. The pictures help enlighten each tip. And, if you need to refer back to a certain tip, you can look at thumbnails of all 100 tips and you can bookmark tips you really want to remember.

This is by the same author of Top 100 Tips for iPhone, which works very similarly. Each of the apps is only 99 cents.

Many of the user reviews say that 100 tips take you from “playing” with the iPad to “using” the iPad.

iPhone Guides

Tips for iPhone 4S main menu

This is as good a place as any to transition over into iPhone app guides. The app pictured above is Tips for iPhone 4S, and it is on sale right now for 99 cents. Now, I don’t even have an iPhone 4S. That’s how dedicated I am to bringing you good app reviews :)

This universal app was picked by the App Store as “New and Noteworthy” recently. And, since it is universal, you can learn on your iPad while practicing on your iPhone 4S. Tips for iPhone 4S is a HD video tutorial that is Retina Display ready. It gives you more than 150 tips, tricks, and hidden features so that you can better get to know your new iPhone.

This app does have ads between tips and slightly annoying-to-me music that accompanies each tip, but I’ll let you be the judge on whether those are make or break items for downloading an app decisions.

AppStart for iPhone by AppAdvice.com

The next app will be familiar to you. That’s because it’s AppStart for iPhone!

This gem of an app is absolutely the first app you should download on your new iPhone, no matter which iPhone it is. This app is similarly laid out to the iPad version. I don’t know how they take tips and reviews and make them so pretty! Sorry to say it’s not free right now though. But, it’s only 99 cents and it’s so worth it!

Also similar to AppStart for iPad, AppStart for iPhone makes learning fun. That’s because instead of reading like a manual, it reads like a magazine.

And, after they get you up to speed on using your iPhone, they get you set on downloading the right apps for you. The best apps for each situation, topic, and types of user are grouped together, reviewed, rated, and there are links with each app to the App Store. No more searching the App Store blindly for what you need.

This is a fun app by the experts at AppAdvice.com. AppAdvice is an app that is updated with daily news and reviews and a great bunch of lists. You can check them out online as well.

Shortcuts - the iPhone guide main menu

The last app on this list is Shortcuts – the iPhone guide, and it too is FREE right now. It looks like a spiral-bound notebook and reads like a manual, but it does have some handy tips for beginners and experts alike.

I didn’t count, but the developer’s description says that there are hundreds of how-to guides, tips, and tricks in Shortcuts. The main menu can be seen in the picture. Click on what you want to read about and then swipe or press arrows to navigate through the topic.

I do like that besides covering iPhone basics and beyond, Shortcuts talks about iOS 5, battery life, and many other things that are relevant to any user of any iOS device.

Well, it’s time for me to say goodbye for the day. Come back tomorrow for another surprise topic brought to you by Hodgepodge Week! Until then, keep pressing buttons …

Infographics: An App That Visually Informs

In reference to my review earlier today on eWallet, I wanted to share this cool infographic I found in the very cool free universal app Infographics by Column Five. The app gives you interesting and current news in a completely visual way. Notice the suggestion for The Techie is to try an eWallet. Can you identify with any of the profiles? If you’re having a hard time reading the graphic, click on it to make it larger.

Sample from Infographics app by Column Five

Infographics is a unique and fun way to get your news. Whether you want to know how much coal the Titanic used a day or how your ground water may be contaminated, Infographics has plenty of news to interest just about everyone.

 

3 Essential Apps I Use: Budgets, Dictionaries & eWallets, Oh My

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Hodgepodge Week begins.

Leaving aside Blogsy (which I’ve reviewed), the Safari web browser, and AppShopper/The App Store (tie), the following are the three apps I most use and most depend on every single day. These are my essentials:

Picture taken from Terminology for the iPad

Terminology Ph for the iPhone (although the photo above is from Terminology for iPad): If you’re waiting for me to do a dictionary roundup, you can stop. It is absolutely pointless to own any other dictionary aside from Terminology in either form. These are not free apps, but this is a clear case of you get what you pay for.

Terminology is an über dictionary. In searching for a word in Terminology, you have the possibility of linking to 11 other apps and searching 12 web resources. This is in addition to the definition that you get lightning fast from Terminology itself. For instance, I also search Bing, an etymology site, a reverse dictionary, Panlexicon, the Urban Dictionary, and Wordnik. You could also search sites like Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster, but why would you?

In addition to getting a definition in Terminology, you also can get words that are synonyms, antonyms, less specific, and more specific than the word you searched. The little star in the upper, right-hand corner is to add a word to a list of your favorite words. Make no mistake about it. Terminology is an app for word lovers. But, it should be required of everybody who uses a dictionary.

You can even search phrases. Not there? Press a link to one of your resources, like Bing or Google, and look it up in-app with that resource without re-entering the term.

As a bonus for some of us, you can choose the app font, searching is available off-line, and you can learn more about how the word you looked up relates to the words around it. Plus, a history of terms browsed is kept for as long as you want. Just scroll down instead of typing the same word in again. This is the app that some other apps actually use as their in-app dictionary.

Give it a chance, and it will become your best reference app.

eWallet screenshot

The next app has the longest official name (and review): eWallet – Password Manager and Secure Storage Database Wallet: I enter my one password to this universal app more times a day than I care to count.

I hemmed and hawed over the buying of a password app for the longest time. Do I? Don’t I? Which one? I wanted something I could use on both devices (although 9 times out of 10, I use it on my iPhone). I wanted something secure, of course. I wanted something that allowed me to copy and paste long passwords to things like my bank. But, I didn’t want or need a log-me in ignition app like some others. I wanted customization and not cookie-cuttter. I wanted to be able to do multiple types of accounts.

eWallet fit all my qualifications. It just made the most sense to me. It’s pricey ($10 for the universal app and another $20 for a laptop/desktop backup edition, if you want it). But, I just love it. It’s not the prettiest of apps, but style means a little less than substance in this category. It is easy to use. The proof is that I do use it as often as I do.

You can read all the specifics in the screenshot above, but in short (which I don’t do well :)), eWallet is much more than a password manager. Most of the time, I pull out my app before I pull out my actual wallet when shopping online. I pull it out every time I get a new password. And, I’ve finally put an end to using the same password for a billion things.

Sample card

A real benefit that the developer just added this week is iCloud integration (with iOS 5+). Before this, you needed the desktop version to sync devices (or you could email yourself the whole wallet and …). Now, every time you make a change with one device, it syncs with the other.

Bank accounts, financial info, health info, credit cards, insurance, membership cards, driver’s license, and pretty much anything else you can think of can fit into one of eWallet’s templates, or you can use a general template you set up yourself. It even makes little cards for everything you enter. All your info fits conveniently on the front (and sometimes back) of the very real looking card (like the sample one above). You can even round the corners and take the shine off the front. Customization runs rampant! And that’s a good thing for me.

Besides the iCloud syncing and password copying/pasting ability, the best thing for me with eWallet is that it locks itself. I don’t have to remember to log out. This may seem simple, but it is crucial for security. Live links complete the package. Which means that when you type in a web address, it turns into a link that you can press to launch the website in Safari. A phone number can dial your iPhone. And, email addresses work.

I promise this last review will be shorter :)

Budgee screenshot

Budgee – Budgeting Made Simple: This is the little app that can. I am missing the math gene. Can’t do it to save my life. Budgee does it for me.

I’ve tried endless budgeting, checkbook, finance, etc. apps, but Budgee is the only one I have ever stuck with. This iPhone app does only two things really. It budgets how much you want to spend on something, and then it tracks what you actually spent. It’s really that simple.

Budgee is not a fully functioning money management system, and that’s just the way they intended it. No pie charts, no bar graphs, no multi-account/stock portfolio tracking. It’s as simple as carrying cash, without the hassle of carrying cash.

Based on the envelope system, you put a certain amount of money into a specific budget (like Utilities, pictured above). When you pay for something that fits that category, you enter it into the budget. Budgee subtracts the money and tells you what you have left or how much in the hole you are.

To be honest, I do my entire month in one budget. But, you can split it up into as many categories as you wish, over any time period you wish. All with a very small amount of memory used on your iPhone.

It does have some high-tech features: support for regional currency based on your settings, export of data in CSV format, and that’s about it.

Bonus Bonus: It’s free right now!

That rounds out my three essential apps that I use frighteningly often. Until later (or maybe even tomorrow) …