iPad mini For Dummies, 3rd Edition (2015)
Part VI. The Part of Tens
Enjoy an additional iPad mini Part of Tens chapter 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 mini.
· Discover hints, tips, and shortcuts that make life with your iPad mini even better, such as sharing web pages, and pick up another trick or two on using iPad's virtual keyboard.
Chapter 18. Ten Appetizing and Free Apps
In This Chapter
Words with Friends
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 mini 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 mini.
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 — to 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.
One last thing: TripCase is an iPhone app but one that's so good and works so well on an iPad mini that we just couldn't omit it for not being a native iPad app (yet).
Words with Friends
This brings us to perhaps the only time in this entire book that your authors had a disagreement. Both of us love word games and puzzles, but Bob loves Words with Friends HD, whereas Ed prefers the real thing: namely, Scrabble.
Social media is all the rage these days, but most multiplayer iPad games are either boring or not particularly social. Words with Friends HD ($2.99), on the other hand, is the most social game Bob has found — and a ton of fun, too. It's kind of like playing Scrabble with a friend, but because it's turn-based, you can make a move and then quit the app and do other stuff. When your friend makes his next move, you can choose to be notified that it's your turn by sound, on-screen alert, and/or a number on the Words with Friends icon on your Home screen.
Bob says: “Try it and I'm sure you'll be hooked. Then challenge me if you like; my username is boblevitus (although I often have the maximum 20 games going, so keep trying if I don't accept your challenge right away).”
Ed is an avid football fan who routinely peeks at his iPad mini while watching games on TV, to follow his favorite team (the New York Giants), to follow his fantasy team, and to stay on top of the latest scoops and scores. The digital arm of the National Football League designed its NFL Mobile app to appeal to the legions of folks who live and breathe the sport.
You can watch highlights of games or check out other featured videos, organized under themes such as Top 5 Catches, Drive of the Week, and Can't Miss Plays. You can also listen to audio broadcasts of games (in English or Spanish). And you can exchange tickets, purchase team apparel, or buy other NFL paraphernalia — hey, in case you haven't noticed, football is big business. During an actual game, you can chart the action inside an animated graphic of an NFL stadium, as shown in Figure 18-3.
Figure 18-3: Charting the action during an NFL game.
Although the app is free, Verizon customers who shell out $5 per month can watch Thursday Night Football (via NFL Network), Monday Night Football (ESPN), and Sunday Night Football (NBC). You can also watch NFL Network at all times, and NFL RedZone on Sunday afternoons, which shows action across the league when teams enter scoring territory.
The league has also unleashed a couple of companion apps, NFL Now, which supplies personalized video streams of your favorite teams and players and (through a premium offering) access to the rich NFL Films video archive, and NFL Fantasy Football, in which you can manage and follow your fantasy roster.
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 mini 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 box in the upper-right corner of the screen. Or tap Browse at the lower left to find current movies by showtimes, what's coming soon, or box office results. 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 Shailene Woodley, Dylan O’Brien, James Spader, Aaron Paul, Scarlett Johansson, Bryan Cranston, Charlie Hunnam, Jennifer Lawrence, Amber Heard, Chris Pratt, and on and on.
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 over the Internet to computers, TVs, and other consumer electronics gear. You can now add the iPad and iPad mini to that list.
From the mini, 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 shows, including House of Cards featuring Kevin Spacey, which Ed binged on.
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.
DVD Netflix subscribers might quibble about the fact that you can't manage your DVD queue inside the app.
The Comics app is a fantastic way to read comic books on a 7.9-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: Comics is the best way to read comics on your iPad mini.
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 mini 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 Comics 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 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 Comics app. Before Amazon bought the Comics 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.
Tap the Control Panel button in the upper-left corner of the screen to get started, and you can find a yummy recipe in no time. Tap Featured in the Control Panel (if it's not already highlighted) to find recipes that have been lumped into categories, often timed to the season. Around the time wewere writing this book, recipe collection categories included Vegetarian Thanksgiving, Holiday Sides, Kid-Friendly Mains, Cozy Winter Meals, and more. To which we say, “Yum.” Some recipes carry reviews.
If you tap Search in the Control Panel 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 mini through a personal recipe box on Epicurious.com, that'll cost you $1.99 as an in-app purchase.
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 mini 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 notification 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 mini in much the same way that it does on a Mac or PC. In the box at the upper left, type the name of a favorite artist, song title, or composer via the iPad mini keyboard, and Pandora creates an instant personalized radio station with selections that exemplify the style you chose. Along the left panel of Figure 18-7, you see some of the eclectic stations Ed created. Tapping QuickMix 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 The Beatles and 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 top of the screen above the album covers 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 mini to deliver artist profiles, lyrics, and more. (Refer to Figure 18-7.) You may see ads, too.
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.