Version: 1.1.1
Compatible: iPad - iOS 3.2
Price: Free

With all the magazines on the newsstands making their own digital Apps available for the iPad with in-app subscriptions, it’s easy to be intimidated by the sheer amount of digital content that’s available at a price. Although there’s internet access where you can access your favourite blogs and news sites there’s a longing for articles just for you that you can thumb through without going through Safari. Absolutely there are RSS feed apps that can update you but if you’re not 100% organized or tech savvy there are alternatives.

Enter Zite, a personal magazine that learns your tastes and offers the news you want automatically through a beautiful and easygoing interface. When you first start it up, you have a bit of setting up (selecting topics you’re interested in, e.g. arts and culture, gaming, travel, etc.) After that it’s all a matter of absorbing the content it delivers. The home page selects the best of the articles, if you want only a certain topic it’s conveniently located on the right side. Tap on a headline that takes your interest brings up the full article to read.

You can share articles you read through e-mail, Facebook, twitter or save the bookmarks onto your InstaPaper or Delicious accounts for later reading. I can’t say anything bad about this App truly except that I couldn’t find any articles I read previously again but that was more due to lack of foresight. It’s free and really brings some good news to the table. It expanded my internet horizons by showing me new sites that were providing some really in depth articles for absolutely no cost. Hell even if it cost me initially, I probably would have been sucked in because its an exemplary example for other magazines.

Absolutely essential if you have a pad. Sit back, kick your feet up and get lost in the world.


Version: 1.0.0
Compatible: iPad - iOS 4.0
Price: Free

When the iPad was first shown peoples first reaction was 'it's an iPod Touch XL,' an opinion which has its truths and fallacies. After having one, I don't know how I'd cope without because it introduced many new aspects to my tech setup. One of the functions I had it set up as was my back up iPod if my iPhone were to run out of batteries and for this it worked quite well. I would have it stashed in the bag and have the headphones (w/remote) plugged in.

I didn't find the interface necessary as I'd just use the iPod App as a background function and that's pretty much the end of the story. When I first acquired it, it was the majority shareholder of the hard drive space but it gradually lost real estate as time went on especially after I acquired my own iPod Nano and the TuneIn Radio App.

Then came the release of Planetary. A free visual delight only available on the iPad which brings life to those who require music on their iPads. I've been surprised by the graphical punch the iPad delivers but never was I so impressed when I got my hands on this little number. Imagine sifting through your music in the form of galaxies, planets and moons. First menu is choosing a letter from the alphabet and from there you choose your artist. Each artist comes in the form of a solar system (as their own sun.) The Albums come in the form of planets while each song is an individual moon.

The experience is breathtaking despite being nothing more than a beautiful interactive App for music. I couldn't find a use for it other than to show off but I would imagine it would be impeccable at parties as a visualizer on display for music (attached to a TV.) Visually it's not the graphics but the overwhelming grandeur of the universe. It's used in a way that cleverly uses the mind to grasp how wide and expansive the universe is and puts in use with something everyone can relate to.

If it cost money, I would second guess its worth however. There's no playlist access nor play all so you're stuck with the selected album. It's a fantastic visualizer and nothing more. However I do say it's worth a look.


Version: 1.7
Compatible: iPad, iPod, iPhone - iOS 4.2

Price: $2

Continuing my search for art Apps for my tech repertoire brought me to ASketch. The small price and simplistic icon were irresistible for even a laugh but I was pleasantly surprised by how versatile and approachable it is. It’s not the most complex art App but it is this aspect which is the main selling point. Don’t expect much in the way of colours or layers or anything fancy.

Blank white sheet, two fingers pressed gives you your menu. All you have are simple sketching or vectored sketching (which connects your strokes with lines giving it a more, pleasant sketchy look.) You have your undo/redo, eraser and a small gallery of previous works. With the menu open you can zoom in and out when you pinch to zoom. Outside of the menu, pinching increases and decreases the pens nib size.

That was my only gripe and it took getting used to. However the simplistic and charming look as well as the vector sketching gave my hand a new and exciting look. I was enthralled and captivated by such a simple App and even wished I could start off with something like this for the price then go right to SketchBook Pro because it gives many interesting options and somewhere to go.

By itself at first I got a bit of use from it. I used it casually and because it had no layers or anything fancy I didn’t really care if I could export it as a pdf (since all you can do is export it to the photos album and from there is up to a large number of options.) However I found that some other Apps with the features of SketchBook Pro could do the same things that this one promised. But for the price and a starter, it’s an encouraged option among a sea of sketching Apps. And as always, updates can always make it better than it already is.


Version: 1.0.0
Compatible: iPhone, iPod, iPad - iOS 3.0
Price: $1 (On Sale as of this posting)

Bejewelled is one of those games that feels meant for the iOS platform and after playing Pac-Chomp! it's difficult to think how to play it any other way. With the App Store full of potential and releases in the Game category, the number of Bejewelled clones is adamantly clear. It's not necessarily a bad thing (all the time.) Pac-Chomp! falls into the same category of it's like Bejewelled but... It's like Bejewelled but has the Pac-Man theme attached.

If you've never played Bejewelled (which is hard to avoid seeing as it's been on every single mobile platform since the Game Gear) here's the basics. You have a board of coloured pieces and you have to shift any one one square to the top, bottom, left or right to match 3, 4 or 5. Keep the combos going to keep the game going to get the highest score possible. That's the story here except for one twist, there's a Pac-man piece on the playing field. By itself it doesn't do much, however when you match 4 or 5 pieces in a row, you create one of several pieces that has numerous effects.

Twister eliminates all 8 pieces surrounding it, Colour Bomb takes out all colours similar to itself, Rainbow Cross destroys everything vertically and horizontally and finally the power pellet is like a bonus round that lets you eat across the board to your hearts content and earn bonus points. Another thing to note is that there are buttons on the bottom that lets you rotate the corners for strategic purposes.

I originally got it for the iPad (and it works fine) but this was meant for the iPhone and Touch. One handed control and ease of access makes this an irresistible addition to the portable repertoire. Addictive, simple and thoroughly satisfying once you get into it. Racking up combos and nailing power up after power up that leaves a sweet aftertaste. It’s the type of puzzle game thats easy to learn but tricky to master.


Version: 1.4.1
Compatible: iPhone, iPod, iPad - iOS 3.0
Price: Free

It's difficult for me to review the Dropbox App without going over the value of Dropbox in general. Its the cloud service that reaches out towards desktops and Apps over the spectrum of devices today to bring accessibility and seamless communication to new heights. To me it's an integral part to my tech setup especially for these reviews and articles I write. A main selling point for me is Dropbox integration into Apps because it allows me to pick up files and progress through my Dropbox folder on my MacBook with the smallest effort.

Let me give an example of it's awesomeness. As me and my fiancee were leaving the house, we realized we forgot some pictures we had to show to an associate and didn't want to bring the MacBook. I quickly copied them into my Dropbox folder and synced my iPad up. Three minutes later (at most) they were conveniently located on my Dropbox App. The best thing about it is that it doesn't need Internet access, it downloads directly to your App and you can view these pictures without 3G or wifi.

The same works in reverse as it makes a fantastic photo syncing App that's free of charge. Pics you take on your iDevice can be uploaded with the Dropbox App and picked up on the Computer Application. The only feasible issue with this is that it takes up bandwidth and requires an Internet connection but these days those aren't terribly difficult to obtain.

Another big plus is the ease of access for documents that you may be working on carry with you over the air with little difficulty. Let me demonstrate with my writing setup over iPad and MacBook. On the Mac I have the ByWord App which is a fantastic word processor that saves in a simple word format. I save into my Dropbox folder and which I have synced with my AiWriter App on my iPad. With a simple Internet connection (at a cafe is usually my venue of choice) I can pick up where I left off without messy doubles or dragging and dropping.

This system isn't without it's flaws however. I lost about a dozen files I wrote in the AiWriter App that when synced somehow destroyed a lot of progress with my ByWord files. Prepared however, I backed it up beforehand luckily. This probably was the AiWriters fault and not Dropbox but therein lies the problem that with multiple sources linking to the Dropbox, one problem might wipe everything clean. Not to mention the service also does go down from time to time for maintenance leaving you out of touch with your own documents.

It's a sign of the times with cloud services quickly becoming the norm. Dropbox is a great, free introduction into what's possible with options for expansion with a monthly subscription. I have yet to take the plunge seeing as I don't use it for massive files. However this might change if I decide to upload graphic designs I have for ease of access (although at this moment I quite prefer syncing it through iTunes for now.)

Also to note, Dropbox is the best free way currently to actually have a free file management system on your iDevice at this moment unless Apple creates one in the foreseeable future (which I can't possibly imagine.)


Version: 3.0.1
Compatible: iPad 3.2 or later
Price: $1

Penultimate was low on my App purchase priority list but once it went on sale, I took it up for a dollar and thought it would be worth a shot. At first I was greatly impressed with the whole thing seeing as it's a really useful App to have on the iPad. What we have here is a notebook App for those who prefer the handwritten touch. If you're going to use your fingers however this App isn't recommendable off the bat as a word of warning. A stylus is required unless you finger paint your handwriting and if that's the case what the heck is wrong with you, weirdo?

There's not much to say in the way of features. You're given a notepad where you select the background (blank, graph or lined), different sized pen nibs with limited colour options and the pages go as far as you want. You can have as many notepads as you like depending on the subjects you require and there are a good amount of exporting options. You can choose to e-mail them as PDFs, retrieve them from iTunes, export individual or all pages into the photo library.

Useful for a dollar and good to have but not without it's problem. With the nature of the page and lack of zoom, content per page is equal to that of a handheld notes that fit in your pants pocket. Seriously my handwriting looks massive and clumsy when I started and I don't know whether it has a learning curve or not. I still can't get my notes to fit onto the page without taking a lot of time to slowly write each word and make them legible.

But as far as complaints go that's my only one. When I played about with it at first I had a lot of fun because it made my handwriting look amazing when I practiced my signature with it despite each try took up a third of the page. Doodling on the sidelines of my notes was also amusing and this is the point which makes it feel like a legitimate notepad. It isn't a pen and paper unless I'm wasting time piddling about with doodles around actual work. Do I recommend it? Absolutely if it's still a dollar, you have a stylus and you don't take it horrendously seriously (but if you write small then I think you're good.) If an update is released to add zooming capabilities (and these software updates sometimes render prior reviews completely useless to me sometimes) then I think it's above average for what it does.

But as these apps go there are several others who do the exact same thing with exceptions. This is the one that lays the foundation for me and so I say, there'll be more notepad Apps for me to review.

SketchBook Pro (Updated)

SketchBook Pro (Updated)
Version: 2.0
Compatible: iPad iOS 4.0
Price: $8

Unfortunate timing for the day before my review went up I didn’t know there was an update for SketchBook Pro. For the most part it’s still the same albeit with some new features (Dropbox support finally) however it’s not without the same problems I had before. One of the main things I didn’t touch upon in my original review however has now become one of its stronger points. I don’t know the specific name for it so I’ll call it Quick Brush.

In the bottom centre of whatever side you worship as up (I for one like to lock the rotation when I paint) is a circle. When you tap it, a new set of menu options go on screen and you can scroll to change the opacity and brush size via scrolling the large circle in the middle. I for one didn’t like this before because if you wanted to change only the size and not the opacity you had to be very, very specific with swiping to the point of begging and pleading only to have the thing go whatever way it pleases.

All that’s changed now with the Quick Brush button being improved upon in every single way. Now it brings up your brush options on the left and colour options to the right. Not that big a deal since it’s either the top or bottom that’d bring up brush options now however the big circle in the middle is now no longer a spoiled little brat. If you scroll to the left or right it won’t care anymore if you stray up or down slightly (and vice versa for the other directions.) This is a step in the right direction seeing as I’m a big fan of changing up brush options in a flash and want my way now without any of the interface getting in the way.

Still this doesn’t change the fact that I still have to go through just as many menus to get to the eraser as before, albeit it’s slightly more convenient now.

One other thing to note that they added (and I theorize they’ll expand upon in the future) is a brush downloads menu. A few brush packs are currently there (all free at the moment), some new, some old that were lost with the update such as the wacky brushes at the end which won’t be missed by me. I can see this as being an interesting development or something very tedious but for now it has a high amount of promise for me.

Finally, I can’t say this without smiling... Dropbox support. This is a big feature I’m thankful for because I was very tired of backing up in the old methods. In case you’re curious, let me elaborate. I had to go to each and every project or sketch I started and go to the export options menu while in the gallery. I then had to select ‘export to iTunes’ for each and every one in order to back it up otherwise it wouldn’t exist to iTunes when I synced it up. Then I had to add it to my back up folder on my Mac through iTunes. Overwrite each and every one of them with the new ones. Even the names of the sketches were just dates and I don’t remember my sketches by the time I started doodling them.

I gave it a whirl and I’m a little disappointed by it’s upload speed (maybe because it was in .psd I’m unsure.) But the option to name it as I upload it and the interface blending with the other menus made my heart warm up. I can pick up my work on my computer with little to no effort and I for one think this was the biggest plus of the new update. I have yet to test whether or not I can pull sketches through Dropbox yet and if I cannot, it’d be a huge shame since any changes I make on the computer will then have to be looped through iTunes again.

It’s good to know that the update it pushing Sketchbook into a better direction. However another sketching App that’s constantly being updated has stolen my heart and will be reviewed very shortly. It’s been through 3 updates since I bought it two months ago and I kid you not, I say ‘it’d be better if...’ and then the next update delivers. If you can guess which one it is, I’ll give you a cookie. Not a real one mind you, a virtual one... Which is just a jpeg... That I drew... On my iPad...

Sketchbook Pro

Version 1.3.3
Compatible: iPad
Price: $8

Before I review this App, let me give some background information. For the past seven years I’ve been sketching away in sketchbook after sketchbook in the days before anyone knew what an iPad was. After graduating High School it became more than doodling for me and I wanted to take it to the next level. However no matter how much I tried using paints (acrylic, watercolour or even pastels) or pencil colours, I couldn’t ever take my sketches to a finished state. I tried scanning them in and photoshopping them but would lose the organic connection to my work. So it remained as nothing more than a hobby and a dream to take it further. I wanted a tablet but the flat base without a screen took getting used to or they were out of my price range.

One of my main motivations for getting the iPad was ridding myself of physical notebooks and taking my art to the next level. Obviously the iPad was pricey but all I had was a Netbook at the time so I was planning on getting a computer in the future anyway. And it was more than capable of going the extra mile so well worth it if you ask me. At first I used free Apps and finger swipes, nothing that wowed me. But when I got my hands on the Pogo Sketch Stylus and this App did I turn a corner.

For the record, I love this App. It’s beautiful, professional, accessible and easy to get into. This is the painting App I believe that others should measure themselves against and I say this because it’s not without its flaws.

First the good. As the name of the App says, it’s a Sketchbook that you can take around with you everywhere. To me now, the best companion I have. Sketching in the traditional sense meant taking a pencil case with several pencils, erasers and sharpeners and dealing with this mess in a cafe killed the creative flow. Sketching on the iPad has all the tools at fingers length and is a joy to just envelope yourself in absolute creativity. It has layers, a wide array of brushes and pen tips as well as a plethora of options such as opacity, colour, spacing and size.

As well as those are exporting options for your pieces to go to the Photo Library, iTunes (to be picked up when synced as PDF or flattened image,) Flickr, Facebook or e-mailed (same options as iTunes.) It’s interface is simple and works well I found (at first.) Within the first week of getting the App I was able to take my art to new levels. That being said I cannot go back and know now what I can do with the iPad.

But that’s just the problem. This App is quite basic I realize. It does the most standard of things and it does it well. It has the exporting options and I can take it to the Mac and continue from there. I realize it can be better because I have several problems with it.

It has no auto-save function. In fact, saving in itself is a massive chore. On a handful of occasions I lost an hours worth of progress after finally getting things the way I want because it would crash out or by pressing the wrong button. There is a menu bar on the top at all times (which you have the option of hiding) and you must press ‘Gallery’ in the corner to save. Not very clear if you ask me. And doing this will bring up the option to save or not save. Selecting save, you are then sent away from your sketch to the gallery of sketches you have (you reenter your current work in order to continue working on it.)

My next problem was how troublesome it became over time to change brushes. I’ve seen on cheaper or free apps how you can switch between paintbrush and eraser with one push. Here you have to go into the brushes menu, sift through the options, select and then press on the open canvas to return. I’m a little finicky so I go back and forth all the time and this became a headache.

Sketchbook Pro was my first introduction to painting apps of a higher caliber and I aim to keep searching. Keep a look out for my reviews on graphic Apps where I’ll compare them to each other but mostly to Sketchbook Pro. I agree I’m hard on it but it’s because I know it can be better. If there is a significant software update, I will return and give it another kick up the ass if it doesn’t play nice.


Version: 1.4.1
Compatibility: iOS 3.0 iPad / iPod / iPhone
Price: Free / Ads Free $5

Word processing on the iPad is a new experience. Writing on my iPhone was only purely for texts, notes and short forms of writing. Not to mention the touch screen is legendary for ridiculous flubs with words. 'Never in my life' I proclaimed. That was a year ago and here I am typing out reviews for a word processing app on a touch screen device.

Plaintext was my first introduction into word processing on the iPad. I wanted something cheap (it's free) and to give me the experience of typing, I never expected it to be a reliable pain in my ass. Think of a blank page to write on that syncs up to your Dropbox or gives you the option to send via email or pull when synced to iTunes.

I walked into PlainText expecting a writing experience however I couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't more than just a glorified notetaker. Still as a welcome to the platform it does it's job, you write on it and it takes up your words and saves them, nothing much to spout on about. Long notes and short notes, it accepts all. The file organization is neat and tidy but relies heavily on your ability to organize it and to know exactly what your documents contain. There's no document searching or tags to label them to find your information.

It's a user experience and if you intend to use it as a word processor, let it be the written draft of anything you're doing. Editing your words and sentences will ultimately be a battle between your patience and an ant that never dies. You'll be pressing your finger against the screen and lean it to either side to get it exactly where you want, smooshing it's invincible guts all over the screen until you give up and type the word or sentence from scratch.

In the end my struggles with it is just complaining about the text input system of the iPad. Trying it with the keyboard is a major difference with the cursor keys to help with navigation but still there's not a whole lot of punch to it.

On the iphone you get the exact same experience just minimized for the small screen. However when it messed up my Dropbox documents by creating doubles, I deleted it because it looks like they don't get on well with each other.

I started off wanting to use it for my writing projects and documents and in the end it turned into my online note and outline database. In itself that isn't so bad and it has the potential to be more if you can put up with what it is. A blank page.