This has been a busy week or so for the App Store, so I thought I'd chime in with my observations, as a user and developer.
First, Apple took a major step forward toward enhancing the structure of the App Store, by adding Keywords. Now, when developers submit apps, they must include 100 characters of keywords that will be part of the approval process. Before, Digital Chocolate, a game developer, had the word "ea." as in the abbreviation of 'each', repeated several times in their descriptions. The result was, searches for "EA" as in EA Sports, returned only Digital Chocolate apps! EA complained, and Apple listened.
With some 65,000 apps, it's hard sometimes to find the ones that will meet your needs the best. And it's sometimes hard to sort through the App Store reviews to determine whether the app is worth your time and/or money. Two resources can help. One is the website 148Apps, which has just been selected by PC magazine as one of the top 100 websites, and will appear in the Undiscovered Tech category. This site has great reviews of apps, but also five very helpful Top 148 Apps lists: All time Top Apps, Free iPhone Apps, Free iPhone Games, Top Paid Apps, and Top Paid Games.
This one is a dictionary app with spelling and definitions for more than 275,000 words and a thesaurus with 80,000 synonyms. No Internet connection is required for the dictionary and thesaurus content, all of which is installed on your iPhone or iPod touch. However, all that content occupies a big chunk of memory. After I installed it on my iPhone, my free memory was reduced by about 240 MB. The app includes audio pronunciations, similarly spelled words, and Word of the Day. Note that you do need to be connected to the Internet to use these last three features.
Years ago, when I got my first PDA, I imagined a day when I could speak to any person on the planet using a personal language translator. Future Apps, Inc. has nearly fulfilled that dream with its series of iSpeak language translation references, including iSpeak Spanish shown here. The user still has to peck away on the onscreen keyboard to enter the word or phrase, but iSpeak will display the translation and “speak” it accurately. Translations work in either direction (English to Spanish or Spanish to English). The output is very accurate. This is a self-contained app.
This application is the first in a series from Atrium Strategies designed to prepare a person for the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exams. The program contains 150 electronic flashcards that can be clicked through or advanced by shaking the iPhone. PMP-iPrep can also use the iPhone 3G’s GPS to locate the closest Prometric Testing Center in your area. It also includes a timer that can be set to count down the number of days before the big test. The developer plans on releasing more certified exam prep references. This is a self-contained app.
I was never a frequent user of Craigslist until this application came along. CraigsHarvest makes navigating and finding Craigslist postings a snap. It allows you to quickly locate and save preferred searches, and it has an excellent query filter that gives you very specific results. I am still not a big fan of the Craigslist.com Web site because of its minimalist design and unintentional word clutter. But CraigsHarvest makes it much easier to search, which I now do almost every day. CraigsHarvest requires an Internet connection to do the search.
Since I discovered Quotationary, I’ve retired my copy of The Great Quotations by George Seldes. Whether you want to provoke thought, entertain, or inspire, Quotationary is a great resource. It allows you to quickly search for quotations by the author’s name, the subject discussed, or a specific phrase. You can also use the Trivia option to display random quotations. I did notice a few grammatical errors in the quotations. Also, I would have preferred that it included the date of the quotation. Otherwise, Quotationary is a useful portable reference program. The developer informed me that the next version of the program will “read” the quotation back to you.
A lot of facts, figures, and formulas are associated with chemistry, and even experts have to access a reference book now and then. This app not only gives you nearly instantaneous access to all the pertinent details about any element, it also lets you doublecheck manual calculations with its built-in calculator. The full Periodic Table is displayed in landscape view, as shown above. Unfortunately, selecting the correct element from this screen can be a little trying because the squares that represent them are tiny. Fortunately, elements can also be searched for by name, symbol, and atomic number.
HippoDict is an English/Chinese dictionary that lets you explore the Chinese language and the beauty of its symbols. My daughter and I spent an enjoyable evening together looking up various words and marveling at the characters that created the words. HippoDict includes a vast reference of symbols and a clean, attractive user interface. The Pinyin reference helps with the pronunciation, but even the slightest inflection can dramatically alter the meaning of a word. The program could be improved by including audio clips to help with pronunciation.
ExamBusters has been around for some time, offering study cards for a variety of subjects, in printed or electronic formats for Windows PCs. They have ported 25 of their popular CD-ROM-based products to the iPhone, including AA+ Geometry Study Cards shown here. The Study Card templates are nearly the same for each subject matter, and the interface is very easy to use. I did get annoyed after a while by the slow flipping of the cards. Still, these collections of inexpensive electronic flashcards are great as tutorials or a quick course refresher.