Five Apps I Like

Last weekend I reviewed some iPhone games. Here are some other apps I use, sans haikus. I am not including built-in apps such as Safari or Mail, nor am I listing every third-party app I’ve installed; presented here are just a few of my favorites. Title links go to the App Store.


Stanza screenshot

Stanza is a free ebook reader application by Lexcycle. I use Stanza mainly for reading the ePub editions of online short fiction magazines such as Lightspeed. Pictured above is the glossy “jukebox” view of cover art, but I typically browse my library in list view. You can group the listing by author or by user-defined collection, and you can sort each listing in various ways. The reading view is highly customizable (fonts, colors, margins – you name it) and the interface is fairly intuitive (tap left or right side to go back or forward, pinch to change size, press and hold to annotate or look up a definition). Somewhat to my surprise, I have become accustomed to reading white text on a black background – perhaps because it feels more comfortable when the iPhone is the only source of light. Turning on the “Display Styles” option under Layout settings helps preserve some importing formatting (such as distinct typefaces for questions and answers in interview transcripts).

Stanza plays nicely with Dropbox, also available for the iPhone, which makes it easy to keep your files in sync.

I would like if it was possible to perform a text search across the whole library, not just the current book.


This is a useful plain text editor by Hog Bay Software. You can title notes and organize them in folders. It is tightly integrated with Dropbox, so any notes you take on the go are immediately available on your computer, too (and vice versa). It works without Dropbox, too (useful even if you do have account, because you still take and save notes without an active connection – syncing is just deferred until it gets a chance). Free; you can pay a couple bucks to remove the unobtrusive ads.


Susquehanna and Chenango Confluence

There are a number of panoramic photo apps available. This is the one I have, and it’s great. Take a bunch of overlapping photos, select ’em, and “boom” – panorama. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s fun.

Poke around the company website – the people behind the program have some other interesting image processing projects, too.


Kinetic screenshot

The built-in Maps app is great, but Kinetic by Mothership is a nifty GPS logger for those occasions when you wonder “just how far is that ride” or “I wonder how fast I can bomb down that hill with a bike full of groceries”. You can customize the display with everything from signal strength to pace, but in my typical usage I just turn it on and pocket the phone (screen off) before hopping on my bike.

It’s fun to examine the logs. As you drag the progress marker along the bottom of the screen, corresponding markers on the map and speed/elevation graph show where you were and how you were moving at that point in your ride. I think there are some minor improvements that could boost the utility of the graph feature, such as a moving the value labels from the endpoints to the vicinity of the marker when zoomed in (at present, you can’t see the labels when zoomed in to look at the details of the graph).

Star Walk

Star Walk screenshot

What star or planet is that? Launch Star Walk, hold the phone up to the sky, adjust the brightness setting to approximate what’s actually visible, and tap the object in question to see its name and details. It’s a clever use of various sensors to simplify search based on where you are and where you’re looking. To be honest, I haven’t made many opportunities to consult it out under the night sky yet, but I think just playing around with it can help you learn where to look for things.

(For another example of the powerful convergence of sensors and portable processing mojo, check out Word Lens. I’ve tried the demo, which just reverses words instead of translating them – even so, given bright lighting, it’s space-age cool.)

Posted on Sunday, December 19th, 2010. Tags: .