iPad For Dummies, 8th Edition (2016)
Part VI. The Part of Tens
Enjoy an additional iPad Part of Tens article at www.dummies.com/extras/ipad.
In this part …
Explore our ten favorite free apps in the iPad App Store. You’ll find clever apps that serve as a superb way to enjoy digital comics, settle disputes over any movie, ever, and even help you identify the name of an unfamiliar song.
Peruse our ten favorite not-for-free apps for the iPad, including one very addictive game and apps that let you create and mail picture postcards, make your own movies with Hollywood-style special effects, and control your Mac or PC remotely from your iPad.
Chapter 18. Ten Appetizing and Free Apps
In This Chapter
Movies by Flixster
IMDb Movies & TV
Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List
Killer app is familiar jargon to anyone who has spent any time around computers. The term refers to an application so sweet or so useful that just about everybody wants or must have it.
You could make the argument that the most compelling killer app on the iPad is the very App Store we expound on in Chapter 11. This online emporium has an abundance of splendid programs — dare we say killer apps in their own right? — many of which are free. These cover everything from food (hey, you gotta eat) to showbiz. Okay, so some rotten apples (aren’t we clever) are in the bunch, too. But we’re here to accentuate the positive.
With that in mind, in this chapter, we offer ten of our favorite free iPad apps. In Chapter 19, we tell you about our favorite iPad apps that aren’t free but are worth every penny.
We show you ours, and we encourage you to show us yours. If you discover your own killer iPad apps, by all means, let us know — our email addresses are at the end of the Introduction to this book — so that we can check them out.
We both travel more than most people and are somewhat set in our ways. Before a trip, we use our computers to print boarding passes, hotel and rental car details, and any other info we might need while in transit. The printouts are strictly analog, so they don’t notify us (or anyone else) of gate changes or flight delays or cancellations. And, of course, they can’t remind us to check in. Still, the system works reliably unless we lose our printed documents.
It may be old school, but it’s the best we could do until recently. What we wished and hoped for was a single intelligent repository for travel-related information, one that was smart enough to alert us of gate changes, weather delays, flight cancellations, and the like, and one that was easy to configure, convenient to use, and free.
What we found is TripCase, which is all that and more. It’s a free app (and website) that organizes details of each trip in one place, with reminders and flight alerts delivered directly to your iPad.
TripCase has a lot to like, but one thing we like best is that it’s drop-dead simple to add your travel events — without copying and pasting or even typing. We merely forward our confirmation emails — for flights, hotels, rental cars, and other travel-related services — firstname.lastname@example.org. TripCase parses the details, creates an itinerary, and sends us an email to confirm that our trip is ready to view in TripCase. We’ve forwarded confirmations from at least a half dozen travel providers, and TripCase has never failed to interpret them correctly. (And you can always enter details the old-fashioned way — by copying and pasting or typing.)
After TripCase has your info, you can view it in the TripCase app or in any web browser. The app is well-organized, with a timeline view of the itinerary (as shown in Figure 18-1), and details are but a tap away (as shown in Figure 18-2). TripCase also includes an action view with flight alerts, reminders, and other messages. Any way you look at it, TripCase does most of the work for you.
Figure 18-1: The timeline view shows you everything you need in the order you’re likely to need it.
Figure 18-2: Tap any item in the timeline to see its details.
TripCase can even help you locate an alternate flight based on your original reservation should your flight be cancelled or delayed. And it reminds you to check in and print boarding passes 24 hours before each flight. Sweet!
TripCase’s motto is “stress-free travel.” Although it may not make travel stress free — or increase the legroom in and around a cramped airline seat — it definitely makes travel less stressful.
Ever heard a song on the radio or television, in a store, or at a club and wondered what it was called or who was singing it? With the Shazam app, you may never wonder again. Just launch Shazam and point your iPad’s microphone at the source of the music. In a few seconds, the song title and artist’s name magically appear on your iPad screen, as shown in Figure 18-3.
Figure 18-3: Shazam can often identify obscure songs like this one by Todd Rundgren.
In Shazam parlance, that song has been tagged. Now, if tagging were all Shazam could do, that would surely be enough. But wait, there’s more. After Shazam tags a song, you can
· Buy the song at the iTunes Store
· Watch related videos on YouTube
· Tweet the song on Twitter if you set up Twitter in Settings
· Read a biography, a discography, or lyrics
· Take a photo and attach it to the tagged item in Shazam
· Email a tag to a friend
Shazam isn’t great at identifying classical music, jazz, show tunes, or opera, nor is it adept at identifying obscure indie bands. But if you use it primarily to identify popular music, it rocks (pun intended). It has worked for us in noisy airport terminals, crowded shopping malls, and even once at a wedding ceremony.
Oh, and one more thing: You can have Siri (with Shazam’s assistance) identify a song for you even if you don’t have the Shazam app installed.
If imitation is (as the cliché goes) a form of flattery, Apple reaped high praise on Flipboard when it unleased a new News app as part of iOS 9. Apple’s News seems to share much in common with Flipboard, the latter being a socially oriented personal magazine app that we’re confident news and information junkies will like a lot.
To get started with Flipboard, tap the topics you’re interested in: business, technology, sports, arts & culture, wine tasting, music, cute animals, and a lot more — over 30,000 topics in fact.
Flipboard then delivers articles based on your selections, all presented in a handsome, intuitive interface. Swipe left and right to move from page to page. Tap on the articles you want to read. Fine-tune the articles that Flipboard delivers by tapping a thumbs-up icon (more like this) icon or a thumbs-down one (less like this).
By choosing “weird” as one of his topics, Ed was able to read articles he was unlikely to stumble upon otherwise, including a story out of the Daily Mail in the UK that revealed “The weirdest things dentists have found in patients’ mouths.”
Trust us, you’ll find articles in Flipboard that are a lot more appetizing than that one. As a bonus, you can link Flipboard to various social media accounts.
Movies by Flixster
We like movies, so we both use the Flixster app a lot. Feed it your zip code and then browse local theaters by movie, showtimes, rating, or distance from your current location. Or browse to find a movie you like and then tap to find theaters, showtimes, and other info, as shown in Figure 18-4. Another nice feature is the capability to buy tickets to most movies from your iPad with just a few additional taps.
Figure 18-4: Find out showtimes, watch the trailer, or get more info on the director or cast with a single tap.
We appreciate that we can read reviews, play movie trailers, and email movie listings to others with a single tap. We also enjoy the movie trailers for soon-to-be-released films and DVDs. Other free movie showtime apps are out there, but we like Flixster the most.
IMDb Movies & TV
While we’re on the subject of the silver screen, we couldn’t resist opening IMDb, shorthand for Internet Movie Database (owned by Amazon). And what a database it is, especially for the avid filmgoer. This vast and delightful repository of all things cinema is the place to go for complete cast/crew listings, actor/filmmaker bios, plot summaries, movie trailers, critics’ reviews, user ratings, parental guidance, famous quotations, and all kinds of trivia.
You can always search for movies, TV shows, actors, and so on by typing a name in the search field at the top of the screen. You can also browse various menu choices to find current movies by showtimes, what’s coming soon, or what’s popular. You can browse TV recaps, too, or find people born on the day you happen to be looking and poking around the app. It’s also fun to check out the Trending Celebrities on IMDb. The recent roster included Jaimie Alexander, Tom Hardy, Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra, Emilia Clarke, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Natalie Dormer, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, among many others.
One piece of advice to movie buffs: Avoid IMDb if you have a lot of work to do. You’ll have a hard time closing the curtain on this marvelous app.
Flixster, IMDb, and now Netflix. You’ve no doubt detected a real trend by now, and that trend is indeed our affection for movies and TV shows. If you love TV and movies, too, you’re sure to be a fan of the Netflix app. Over time, Netflix, the company that built its reputation by sending DVDs to subscribers through the mail, started streaming movies and TV shows over the Internet to computers, TVs, and other consumer electronics gear. You can now add the iPad to that list.
From the iPad, you have more or less instant access to thousands of movies on demand. And although these titles aren’t exactly current blockbusters, we know you’ll find plenty of films worth seeing. You can search by genre (classics, comedy, drama, and so on) and subgenre (courtroom dramas, political dramas, romantic dramas, and so on).
What’s more, Netflix has started producing its own popular shows, including House of Cards, featuring Kevin Spacey, which Ed binged on, and Orange Is The New Black.
Although the app is free, as are the movies you choose to watch on the fly, you have to pay Netflix streaming subscription fees that start at $7.99 a month. You also need an Internet connection, preferably through Wi-Fi, although Netflix works on 3G and 4G models as well.
Remember what we’ve told you about streaming movies over 3G or 4G and be mindful of your data plan.
The Comixology app is a fantastic way to read comic books on a 9.7-inch touchscreen. Its online store features thousands of comics and comic series from dozens of publishers, including Arcana, Archie, Marvel, Devil’s Due, Digital Webbing, Red 5, DC Comics, and Zenescope, as well as hundreds of free comics.
Furthermore, many titles are classics, like issue #1 of The Amazing Spider-Man. Released in 1963 for $0.12, a copy in excellent condition goes for at least $25,000 today! We’re enjoying this out-of-print classic in pristine condition on our iPads, as shown in Figure 18-5, for a mere $1.99.
Figure 18-5: Comixology is the best way to read comics on your iPad.
Other comics are priced from $0.99 per issue, though many issues of many series are available for free as a teaser.
Finally, this app provides a great way to organize the comics you own on your iPad so that you can find the one you want quickly and easily.
New releases are available every Wednesday, so visit the web store often to check out the latest and greatest offerings. Both the store and your personal comic collection are well organized and easy to use. And reading comics in Comixology is a pleasure you won’t want to miss if you’re a fan of comics or graphic novels.
Amazon bought this app (and its eponymous maker, Comixology) in 2013, and it’s not as good as it used to be. The current version requires you to visit the Comixology website to buy comics, which you then download to the Comixology app. Before Amazon bought the Comixology app, it had its own built-in comic bookstore, which made buying a comic more convenient and straightforward. We hope Amazon will reconsider and bring back the in-app store someday. However, even with the convoluted buying process, we still don’t know of anything that offers a better reading experience for comics and graphic novels.
Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List
We love to eat. But we’re writers, not gourmet chefs, so we’ll take all the help we can get when it comes to preparing a great meal. And we get a lot of that culinary assistance from Epicurious, which easily lives up to its billing as the “Cook’s Companion.” This tasty recipe app comes courtesy of Condé Nast Digital.
With more than 33,000 recipes to choose from, we’re confident you’ll find a yummy one in no time. From the Home screen, you can browse categories, often timed to the season. Around the time we were writing this book, recipe collection categories included Halloween Treats, Vegetarian Thanksgiving, Lunches Kids Love, and Cozy Brunch. To which we say, “Yum.” Some recipes carry reviews.
If you tap Search in the instead, you can fine-tune your search for a recipe by food or drink, by main ingredient (for example, banana, chicken, pasta), by cuisine type, and by dietary consideration (low-carb, vegan, kosher, and so on), among other parameters.
When you discover a recipe you like, you can add it to a collection of favorites, email it to a friend, pass along the ingredients to your shopping list, summon nutritional information, or share it on Facebook and Twitter.
If you want to sync favorite recipes on your iPhone and iPad through a personal recipe box on Epicurious.com, you can now do so for free.
Before we even talk about the Evernote iPad app, let’s take a quick look at the problem Evernote resolves for us: storing our little bits of digital information — text, pictures, screen shots, scanned images, receipts, bills, email messages, web pages, and other info we might want to recall someday — and synchronizing all the data among all our devices and the cloud.
Evernote (www.evernote.com) is all that and more, with excellent free apps for iOS, Mac OS X, Android, and Windows, plus a killer web interface that works in most browsers.
You can create notes of any length on your iPad by typing, dictating, or photographing. You can add unlimited tags to a note, and create unlimited notebooks to organize your rapidly growing collection of notes.
You can even annotate images and PDFs in Evernote notes, using another free app from Evernote called Skitch, which we also recommend without hesitation.
Getting words and images into Evernote couldn’t be much easier, but the info will be useless if you can’t find it when you need it. Evernote won’t let you down, with myriad options for finding and working with your stored data. In addition to the aforementioned tags and notebooks, Evernote offers searching and filtering (Tags and Notebooks) options to help you find the note you need, as shown in Figure 18-6.
Figure 18-6: Evernote’s main screen only hints at how easy it is to create and find notes.
Two other nice touches are worth noting:
· Notes are automatically tagged with your current location (as long as you create them on your iPad or other location-enabled device), so you can filter by Places.
· You can attach reminders to notes and receive notifications on the date and time you chose. Best of all, you’ll be notified on your iPad as well as on your other iDevices, Macs, PCs, and on the Evernote website!
Our two favorite features are that Evernote syncs notes with all your devices and the cloud automatically and that everything we’ve mentioned so far — creating, organizing, and syncing notes — is free.
Bob likes Evernote so much that he recently upgraded to the premium plan ($5/month or $45/year), primarily to increase his monthly upload limit from 60MB to 1GB and to get the capability to search for text in PDFs.
We’ve long been fans of Pandora on other computers and mobile devices, so we’re practically delirious that this custom Internet radio service is available gratis on the iPad. And you can play Pandora music in the background while doing other stuff.
Pandora works on the iPad in much the same way that it does on a Mac or PC. In the box at the upper left, tap + Create Station and type the name of a favorite artist, song title, or composer via the iPad keyboard, and Pandora creates an instant personalized radio station with selections that exemplify the style you chose. Pandora will also suggest some stations you might like based on the stations you’ve already established, and you can browse genre stations.
Along the left panel of Figure 18-7, you see some of the eclectic stations Ed created. Tapping Shuffle at the top of the list plays musical selections across all your stations.
Figure 18-7: Have we told you lately how much we like Pandora?
Suppose that you type Beatles. Pandora’s instant Beatles station includes performances from John, Paul, George, and Ringo, as well as tunes from other acts.
And say that you type a song title, such as Have I Told You Lately. Pandora constructs a station with similar music after you tell it whether to base tunes on the Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, or another rendition.
Pandora comes out of the Music Genome Project, an organization of musicians and technologists who analyze music according to hundreds of attributes (such as melody, harmony, and vocal performances).
You can help fine-tune the music Pandora plays by tapping the thumbs-up or thumbs-down icon at the bottom of the screen associated with the music you’ve been listening to during the current session.
Pandora also takes advantage of the generous screen real estate of the iPad to deliver artist profiles, lyrics, and more. (Refer to Figure 18-7.) You may see ads, too, unless you opt for Pandora One, a $4.99 a month premium upgrade that eliminates them. Pandora One adds other benefits as well, such as permitting you to more often skip music you don’t like.
If you tap the share icon below an album cover of the currently playing song, you can write a message about the song, and then share it on Facebook or Twitter or email it. Other options in Pandora let you bookmark the song or artist that’s playing or head to iTunes to purchase the song or other material from the artist directly on the iPad (if available). You can instantly create stations from artists or tracks or also indicate when you’re tired of a track.
Before we leave the realm of the free apps, we’d like to remind you of an 11th freebie — a free app so wonderful that we wrote an entire chapter (Chapter 10) about it. The app is iBooks.