About Carli Spina

Carli Spina is an Emerging Technologies and Research Librarian. She also writes for YALSA's The Hub blog, where she is on the Advisory Board, and for the Lolly's Classroom blog hosted by The Horn Book. Follow her on Twitter to continue the conversation: @CarliSpina.

App of the Week: Touch Van Gogh

Touch Van GoghName: Touch Van Gogh
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS and Android

Previously, Yours, Vincent has been featured as an App of the Week, but now the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has released another, equally impressive app devoted to Van Gogh’s work. Called Touch Van Gogh, this app gives users the ability to fully explore eight of Van Gogh’s famous pieces: The Cottage, View from Theo’s Apartment, The Bedroom, Seascape at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Garden of the Asylum, and Daubigny’s Garden.

For each of the images, users are encouraged to “touch” the image to learn more about it, whether this means rubbing the image to unearth more information about damage the painting had sustained, revealing side-by-side comparisons of the original color of the paint, viewing X-rays of other paintings hidden on the canvas, or even exploring the back of the canvas to see parts of the painting that are normally hidden away. In all instances, the images are gorgeous and offer the next best thing to a trip to Amsterdam to visit the paintings in person.

The app has been around for some time, even winning the 2014 Heritage In Motion Award, but recently the number of paintings included in the app was doubled, so even those who have already explored it will want to take another look. You can see the app in action in the video below:

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

App of the Week: Heyday

Heyday logoApp: Heyday
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS (with Android coming soon)

Have you ever wished that you kept a journal, but not been able to find the time? Want to track everything you do without announcing it to everyone you know? If so, Heyday is the app for you. This journaling app automates the process of tracking what you do each day while keeping all of the information private.

To get started with the app, you are asked to give it access to both the media library and the location data on your device. Heyday automatically compiles this information to create an entry for each day that data is collected on your device. Photos (and videos) that are pulled into the app are automatically made into a collage.

Though the app will work without any input, you can also customize each day’s entry by adding notes, rearranging the images, or adding additional location information. If you want, you can also change which images are included in the journal and how they are arranged in the day’s collage. Fans of Instagram and similar photo apps will be happy to know that you can also add separate filters to each of the images, which allows you to display your photos to their best effect. If you are particularly happy with one day’s collage, you can also share it to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or send it via email or text message from within the app. Alternatively, you can also save collages to your device’s media library, making it easy to use them in other apps or simply view them outside of the app.

Heyday truly makes daily journal entries as easy as possible. As an added feature, the app offers the option to create an account, which allows Heyday to automatically sync your journal with the cloud periodically so that you have a backup if anything happens to your device. However, even if you would prefer not to create an account or share your content outside of your device, you can use all of the features. Heyday is a great option for those who want to journal in theory but never manage to in practice.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

App of the Week: OKDOTHIS

OKDOTHIS LogoApp: OKDOTHIS
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS

The new photography app OKDOTHIS aims to be a different sort of image app. By its own terms it is “a Community that encourages growth and inspires us all to DO more” rather than a simple app. To emphasize that idea of community, the first step after you create an account in the app is to add friends. You can choose to find these friends through your device’s contacts, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram or you can instead search for people or accept some of the suggestions provided by the app.

Finding People ScreenshotOnce you have completed that step (or opted out of it), you are thrown right into the app. You will see a screen that says “Try this DO,” which offers a task posted by another user to inspire a specific type of photo. For example, as you can see below, the first suggested activity that I saw was to take a picture of my shoes. At this point, you can either scroll through photos taken by other users or click on the “Do This” button to take your own picture. When completing suggested tasks, you also have the option to use a photo that is already in your device’s image library.
Continue reading

App of the Week: Pocket Avatar

Pocket AvatarApp: Pocket Avatar
Cost: Free
Platform: Android and iOS

Although Intel might not seem like a company that is focused on fun and entertaining apps, they recently released an iOS app that could change this perception. Pocket Avatar detects a user’s facial expressions and maps them onto a personalized avatar.

Getting started with Pocket Avatar requires that you create an account, but once you have, the process of making your video avatar is fairly easy. You can choose from a wide variety of characters, including over twenty that are free. The paid characters are generally $.99 and include pop culture icons such as a Care Bear and Lego Movie characters. Once you have selected and downloaded your chosen avatar, you can start recording. Pocket Avatar can record from either camera on your iPhone, making it simple to create an avatar for yourself or for a friend. Before you start recording, you will have to line up the face to be recorded in a field on your screen. You can then record up to 15 seconds of both video and audio. Rather than recording your actual face and voice, Pocket Avatar maps the expressions you make onto your selected avatar and masks your voice by making it deeper. Once you have finished recording, you can opt to either eliminate the sound completely or swap to a high-pitched version of your voice. At this point, you can also change the avatar to any other character in the app.
Continue reading

App of the Week: Moju

Moju LogoTitle: Moju
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

The best apps for mobile devices are generally those that take advantage of the features inherent in smartphones and tablets. Often this leads to apps that integrate with your device’s camera or accelerometer/gyroscope, but in the case of Moju, the app takes advantage of both to create a unique animation for images. By combining up to 24 separate photos, Moju creates images that change as you turn your iPhone to create the effect of an animation. Continue reading

App of the Week: Flipagram

Flipagram LogoTitle: Flipagram
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS and Android

Flipagram is a fun app for creating slideshows from your images. It allows you to combine photos on your device with those from Facebook and Instagram. Once you have selected your desired images, you can crop them by tapping them or reorder them by dragging and dropping them on the screen. Images can also be automatically arranged in chronological order or in a random order. Continue reading

App of the Week: Color Splash

Color Splash LogoTitle: Color Splash
Cost: $0.99
Platform: iOS

Apps for mobile devices make it easy to achieve impressive visual effects that used to require expensive equipment with an app. Color Splash is an excellent example of this. The app, which works with both iPhones and iPads, lets you remove color from your photo and then selectively add it to only specific sections of your image or objects within it.

Continue reading

App of the Week: Monument Valley

Monument Valley LogoTitle: Monument Valley
Cost: $3.99
Platform: iOS (with Android coming soon)

After hearing great reviews of Monument Valley, I decided to give it a try and I am so glad that I did! Players take control of a small, silent princess named Ida, helping her to navigate through a world filled with beautiful but surreal architecture. To succeed, you must solve puzzles and redesign Ida’s world to help her along on her journey. The pastel artwork appears simple at first glance but is deceptively complex, a fact that becomes very clear as you try to find the correct configuration to allow Ida to reach her destination. As you manipulate the architecture of each level, the music changes as well, making a very cohesive and immersive experience. Continue reading

App of the Week: Path on

Path on LogoTitle: Path on
Cost: $1.99
Platform: iOS

If you like to take pictures with your iOS device or know teens who do, you will definitely want to check out Path on. At first glance it may just seem like another photo captioning tool, but what sets Path on apart from other apps that allow you to add text to your images is that it gives you complete control over where you place your text. From a simple caption at the bottom of a page to a curved caption that follows the mountain at the back of your picture to a complicated pattern of words that fit into the spaces around your subject, this app makes it easy to achieve impressive text effects.

When you first open the Path on app, you have the option to tour their gallery on Instagram, or start creating your own images using those already saved on your device or by taking a new picture. Selected images can then be cropped and, as a nice added feature, the app even includes automatic tools to crop an image to fit the standard size on Instagram or for Facebook cover images or profile images as well as most of the standard image sizes you would find in photography. After the image is cropped, you can select how you would like the text to appear on the image. The app includes automatic options to write text in a square, circle, spiral or standard paragraph format and you can also unlock an automatic heart shape by liking the app on Facebook. But, what really sets this app apart is the option to instead draw your own path onto your image. To do this, you simply select the draw option and then trace the desired path or paths on your image. You can have non-continuous paths and the app will ensure that the text follows the exact order in which you drew each line, giving you an impressive amount of control over the entire process. For more detailed paths, you can also zoom in and out on the image. There are also options to undo your most recent drawing or to clear the entire image. All of these tools make it fairly simple to create a complicated path for your text very quickly.

Once you have selected a path or drawn the desired path for your text on the image, you can type your text and then edit it to make sure it exactly matches your vision. Text can be typed in any of hundreds of fonts or, if you would prefer, you can even opt to mix up to five different fonts on a single image. You also have control over the color of the text, the size, the letter spacing, the shadows and can easily change the layout of the text with the tap of a button. You can also edit the image itself with the built in cropping tool, images filters and other effects. Once you are happy with your creation, you can save it to your device, email it to anyone or share it on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr or Twitter all from within the app. Path on is a very fun option for image captioning and is well worth checking out if you frequently create and share images on your iPhone.

For more app recommendations visit the YALSA App of the Week Archive. If you have an app you think we should review, let us know!

App of the Week: ComiXology

ComiXologyLogoTitle: ComiXology
Cost: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows 8

As someone who generally prefers to read a physical copy of a book or comic rather than using an e-reader, I admit I was slow to warm to reading comics on my e-reader. But, as this winter has stretched on with one snow storm after the next, the convenience of being able to download comics, at least occasionally, rather than venturing out to buy them in the cold tempted me to give ComiXology another try. The app is designed to connect both longtime comic fans and those who are new to the genre with their favorite comics and graphic novels. When you first open the app, you are taken to a homepage that highlights featured comics, but you can also sort through the vast library of available comics by categories such as newest, most popular, specific creators, publishers or genre. The “staff picks” section highlights some of the best options, according to the ComiXology staff, usually starting with issue #1. For those who prefer graphic novels, the app includes a good selection of those as well. There is also a special page for series that brings together all of the books in a series in order, which can be particularly helpful for those who need a little help knowing where to dive into their reading. If you are looking for a specific comic or artist there is also a search feature that works pretty well when searching for comics you already know about, but only if you spell the title or author’s name correctly.

ComixologyiPad

ComiXology on iPad

Entries for each comic include a picture of the cover, information about its release date, authors, and length, both an age rating and a popularity rating and three example pages of the comic so you can evaluate the art style. From this entry, you can either purchase the comic, add an alert for it or share it with friends via social media or email. While the underlying app itself is free, you will have to pay for most of the comics that you want to read. However, a selection of free comics is always available for readers interested in giving something new a try and there are frequent deals such as “Marvel Mondays” where popular comics are offered at a discount. Payment is tied to your Apple account, so you pay the same way you would for an app and can apply iTunes gift cards to your ComiXology purchases. One thing to keep in mind when recommending this app to teens is that it will warn you when you download the app that some of the comics contain adult content. This is certainly not true of all of the comics and users can opt to only purchase non-adult content, but it is something to be aware of if you are recommending it to teens or their parents. It is also worth noting that each comic is given an age rating, which makes it easy to limit your purchases to content you are comfortable with.

ComiXology on a Smartphone

Smartphone view

Once you have purchased comics, you can either set up a subscription, which will automatically pay for new issues of a series when they are released so they are ready for download as soon as they are added to ComiXology’s library, or you can purchase each issue individually. Purchased apps download fairly quickly and I have been happy with the clarity and quality of the images and text in the app. Once you have purchased a comic on one device you can automatically share it with any other device that is tied to the same ComiXology account, so you can seamlessly read on any device. Navigating through a comic is the same as navigating through an ebook if you are reading on a tablet or other device with a large screen, but if you are reading on a smartphone, ComiXology defaults to their proprietary GuidedView feature, which allows you to navigate through a comic panel by panel as your eyes would move through a full page of a comic. You can also zoom in on specific panels to see more detail. This makes it much more comfortable to read comics on even a small iPhone screen. The app is available for iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows devices and there is also a browser-based version of the store. Whether you are already fan of comics or you are interested in getting more into reading them, ComiXology can be a great option when you aren’t near a comic book shop.

For more app recommendations visit the YALSA App of the Week Archive. If you have an app you think we should review, let us know!