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: 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.


ComiXology on iPad

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App of the Week: Notegraphy

Notegraphy LogoTitle: Notegraphy
Platform: iOS (with Android coming soon)
Cost: Free

Design and typography fans will be happy to know that there is a new tool that allows you to share text and makes use of well-styled typefaces and fun design elements.’ Notegraphy‘ is designed to be a way to share text in a more attractive format than most social networks allow.

Using Notegraphy is as simple as typing your text into the service. Notes can be any length. Once you have finished your note, you can style it using one of over 30 different styles that have been created by a variety of artists and designers. Most of the options offer multiple color schemes for further customization. Once you are happy with your design, you can add a title and tags and then publish it, either on Notegraphy alone or also directly onto other social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. And Evernote users will be pleased to know that you can share it directly with your Evernote account as well. Published notes can either be private or public and can allow or disallow comments. Each user has their own dedicated URL where their gallery is displayed, and you can choose to follow other Notegraphy users or favorite specific notes, which makes Notegraphy its own standalone social network for these sorts of designed texts.

NotegraphyScreenshotNotegraphy is a great tool for making better looking text posts online. It is currently still in beta and there are a few features I hope that they will add in the future, such as Pinterest integration and the ability to export or print notes more easily, but for now it is an interesting new design app. It is a great tool for those who frequently share text online, but it could also be used to encourage teens at your library to share their favorite passages from books or to share quotations across your library’s social media accounts. Check it out to see if it works for you.

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: Tellagami

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 10.11.53 PMTitle: Tellagami
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS and Android

Tellagami is a video creation app for iOS and Android devices that allows users to create fun animated videos in minutes. The app creates simple animated videos with a single character talking to the viewer. The first stage of creating a video is customizing the character to your specifications. You can change the character’s gender, skin tone, eye color, head size, hair color and clothing to get exactly the look you want for your project. From there, you can set the character’s default mood and specify the background of the video. Backgrounds can be a photo from your device, a drawing you have done or one of the eight backgrounds provided by the app.

Once you have customized the look of your video, it is time to set the audio. You can either record your own voice or type in your desired text and choose from the selection of male and female speakers offered by the app. The app automatically animates your character’s mouth so that it matches the words in your message, which helps to make a decent quality animation quite quickly. I found that the sound on the recording option had a noticeable amount of background noise, though both recording my own audio and typing in my desired text worked well. If you are happy with your video, you can preview it, save it to your device’s library or share it via Facebook, Twitter, email or text message. Tellagami is a good option for creating animation and would be particularly good for classroom assignments since it is very accessible to younger users. I could also see using it for library outreach videos or as part of an activity or contest where kids make their own stories and animate them using the app. It is a fun video creation option!

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: GifBoom

GifBoom LogoTitle: GifBoom
Cost: Free
Platform: Android and iOS (this post based on the iOS version)

If you are a fan of GIFs, GifBoom is the app for you. It allows users to make, find and share GIFs from their mobile devices and includes a wide range of editing tools to make the process of customizing your GIFs as simple as possible. To get started, you will need to create an account. Accounts can be tied to your Facebook or Twitter account or can instead be created using an email address. Once you have created an account, you will see a feed of GIFs, which can be customized by following other GifBoom users. You can also search or browse through all of the GIFs created using GifBoom on the explore tab, which makes it easy to find GIFs by specific users or on specific topics. GifBoom also offers a browser-based site where you can search through content that users have created and shared using the app, though, at this time, you cannot create and share GIFs on the browser-based site.

While those features are great for discovering fun GIFs, the most useful aspect of the app is the wide range of tools that it offers for creating your own GIFs. It is designed to allow you to film either regular videos, timer videos or stop-motion animations using the camera on your device. Once you have recorded a clip, you can choose to change the speed at which it plays, create a video loop, or edit or crop the clip. You can also opt to add a filter to the video, much like in Instagram, to change the look of the picture. Once you are happy with the look of the clip, you can add text over the video or add a song or other recorded sounds to the GIF. If you would prefer, you can also upload existing content from your device, in the form of either still images or videos. A total of 9 seconds can be published and once the GIF has been published, you can caption it, add location data and then easily share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram or via email or iMessage. Once you have created and shared a GIF, you still have the ability to delete it later, whether to save space or because you want to fix errors. The entire process is very user friendly, making this perfect for creating GIFs on the go.

GifBoom screenshot
In addition to being easy to use, the app also offers some useful privacy features. In the advanced settings, you can opt to make all of your GIFs private so other users can’t see them (though this is not the default when you first login to GifBoom) and you can choose whether other GifBoom users can contact you or ask you questions within the app. Even if you opt to allow other users to contact you, there is an option to block specific users if necessary. GifBoom offers a nice combination of features that makes it a good choice for anyone interested in making GIFs, whether for themselves or for their library. For libraries that loan devices, I could easily see using GifBoom to run contests for the most creative library-related GIF that patrons create or creating GIFs of library programs to share on the website. And, I would also recommend it to teens who are interested in creating their own GIFs.

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: PiciBooth

PiciBoothTitle: PiciBooth
Cost: Free ($1.99 in app upgrade removes ads)
Platform: iOS

With PiciBooth, you can use your phone as an old-fashioned photobooth. When you begin to take a picture with the app, it will start a countdown to a series of four photos. In between each photo, you have a couple of seconds to strike a new pose or reposition. The idea is to create the same style of photography found in photobooths, so after the photos are taken you are asked to choose between a traditional strip display of four photos in a row or a 2×2 square of photos. In the free version of the app, these photos include a small PiciBooth logo; you can pay $1.99 to have this photo removed.

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App of the Week: PicPlayPost

PicPlayPost LogoTitle: PicPlayPost
Cost: $1.99
Platform: iOS

PicPlayPost is a great app for photo and video sharing. It allows users to make montages that combine photos and videos into a single montage. The app offers 36 different layouts with pretty much every permutation possible to include between one and six images in a rectangular montage. Once you select a layout, you are can tap on each space within it to add a photo from your device’s camera roll, photo library or other select apps. You can also resize the spaces within the montage to create your own custom layout. Continue reading

App of the Week: Shadow Puppet

Shadow PuppetTitle: Shadow Puppet
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS

Shadow Puppet is a great new iOS app that has uses for both teens and librarians. The app, which has versions for iPhones and iPads, makes it easy to create slide shows of your pictures and add a soundtrack or voiceover to the resulting video. You can either take new pictures from within the Shadow Puppet app or load one or more images from your device’s camera roll. Once you have selected images, you can rearrange their order and then record an audio track with the click of a button.

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App of the Week: ZombieBooth 2

ZombieBooth 2 LogoTitle: ZombieBooth 2
Cost: Free (for Lite version; Pro version costs $1.99)
Platform: iOS (an earlier version of the app is available for Android)

Just in time for Halloween, ZombieBooth 2 will give you the power to see what you or any of your friends (or even pets) would look like as a Zombie. Using an image from your device’s library, camera or even your Facebook account, this app will create a fully animated zombie. The results are actually surprisingly believable and slightly disturbing!

Once you have selected an image, you will be asked to line up the eyes and mouth with a prompt from the app. This helps the app to detect the location of key facial features and allows it to replace the eyes and mouth with animated, zombified features. The result is a moving image with bloodshot eyes, a gaping bloody mouth and a senseless, zombie moan. If you swipe your finger around on the screen, the eyes (and mouth) will follow you. If you make the mistake of getting your finger too close to the mouth, you might even have a bite taken out of you.

You can also edit the image to change the appearance of the mouth or eyes or to add additional facial wounds and accessories (such as a cleaver in the head or glass shards). You can also add filters to the image to change the look of the image. The resulting image is recognizable as the subject of the original photo but altered just enough to look like a zombie from your favorite zombie movie.

Once you are satisfied with your new zombie, you can take a picture or even capture of a video of it moving around to share on Facebook, Twitter or via email. Whether you are looking for a fun project for Halloween, need an app for use in a zombie program, or are just a zombie enthusiast, this app is well worth a try. Check it out in action in the video below.

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: Oyster

oyster_iphone_app_iconTitle: Oyster

Price: Free (but requires $9.95/month subscription to use)

Platform: iOS

Last week, a new iOS app called Oyster launched in private, invitation-only beta. Oyster offers users unlimited access to the company’s 100,000 book library for a monthly subscription price of $9.95, prompting some to refer to it as “the first true Netflix-for-e-books app.” After a short wait, I was fortunate enough to get an invitation to try it out. I haven’t had the app for very long and I am sure it will change over the course of the beta period, but here are some initial thoughts on the app. Continue reading