Throughout the year, YALSA's App of the Week bloggers review what's new and interesting in the app world for teens and the library staff that work with them. In this end of the year App of the Week post, we look at the top four apps that stood out to bloggers in 2014.

Canva
A favorite of YALSA Blogger Jen Scott Willis

canva logoGraphic design is a tricky business, and one that many of us don't realize is part of our job description until we're faced with a blank document and a list of almost-but-not-quite-right font choices. ' Canva, a free, web-based application' that lets you easily produce' professional-looking' designs, made this part' of the' job much easier for me when it debuted over a year ago. ' Now, with the introduction of the iPad app, the possibilities are both endless and mobile.
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Name: Dungeon Runner: Fitness Quest
Cost: Free
Platform:  iOS

Dungeon Runner: Fitness Quest

The creators of Run, Zombies! Are back with another app that encourages players to exercise in the name of game play. This time, players control the fate of a small, pixilated knight with the help of their device's forward-facing camera and some fairly basic calisthenics.

Set the device six feet away and follow the old-school instructions at the bottom of the screen to help the knight navigate his way past five levels of baddies in the dungeon. Exercises -- including burpees, punches, jumping jacks, squats, and side-to-side shuffles -- all correspond to actions on the screen and the knight's success can depend on the speed in which the exercises are completed.

While the motion tracking isn't as seamless as an Xbox Kinect, and the number of calories burned during a session seems a little dubious, Dungeon Runner did get this player up and moving when all I wanted to do was eat seasonal pies and read books in front of the fireplace.  And for that, it gets all the stars.

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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 6.51.23 PM

Title: Sphere 360º

Platform: iOS, with some limitations

Cost: Free

Sphere 360º bills itself as "the future of photography." It adds a three dimensional aspects to your panoramic shots, with sometimes startling results. Be it a Siberian forest or an Italian coastline, there's a definite concrete virtual reality aspect to viewing a "sphere."

The gallery of shared spheres is pretty intimidating. Many are taken with a rotating gadget called a Motrr, which can be controlled wirelessly. There is an "easy" mode, but there is a definite art to creating a sphere. Additionally, you must be connected to a network, which could make capturing nature scenes difficult

To begin your sphere, you can scan a panorama or upload one saved to your camera roll. To complete the sphere, you use your finger to create details and depth, essentially zooming in and moving around to flesh out the experience of being there.

If that's not enough to get your teens interested, Kendall Jenner recently recommended it her recent Vogue interview with an enthusiastic "Download immediately."

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Name: Steller
Cost:  Free
Platform: iOS

Steller

Digital storytelling apps have a tendency to be cumbersome and not so conducive to telling stories on the go.  Not so with Steller, which lives up to its name by letting users combine text, photos, and video to create stories with the ease of an Instagram or Twitter post.

Users build their stories page by page, choosing the type (text, photo, or video) and layout before tweaking things like colors and fonts.  Design choices are limited, but result in a modern, professional-looking story that, once published, uses the parallax effect in iOS to produce an impressive 3D page-turning experience.

Publishing your story adds it to Steller's home page, where other users can like, comment, and follow your profile.  The stories can also be embedded into blogs or websites, emailed, or posted to Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter.

So far, stories posted to Steller run the gamut from travelogues and fashion lookbooks to illustrated recipes and even short works of fiction, but the potential uses for libraries and teens are exciting:  book reviews, booklists, school projects, and portfolios would all be at home here.  Or, you could turn all the photos you take this holiday season into beautiful stories to share with your family and friends.

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.

Fragment LogoName: Fragment
Cost: $1.99
Platform: iOS and Android

My previous App of the Week post discussed Matter, an app for creating otherworldly images. This time, I took a look at Fragment, another app from the same company, Pixite. As with Matter, this is an app that is aimed at making your pictures look beautiful and yet alien. You can import any image from your device and make it into a magical view through a prism that looks professionally done and completely transforms your original picture.

When you first open Fragment, you are given the option to start creating your first fragmented image or to view the "Inspiration" gallery to see how others have used the app. I found the images in the gallery to be particularly useful in seeing how the app could be used since some of the possibilities would not have immediately occurred to me without these examples. When you decide to "fragment" an image, you will have the option to import any image stored on your device, take a new photo with your device, or use one of the "Community Photos," which have been contributed by other users for free use by anyone. Once you have selected an image, you can start adding effects to it. First, you will need to decide the aspect ratio you wish to use for the image. You can then move on to adding effects. When you purchase the basic app for $1.99, you have access to the two classics volumes, though there are four additional collections that you can purchase if you want to try additional effects after you have given it a try. Each of the two collections included in the basic version of the app includes over twenty different options for shapes or styles of fragments and each of those can be resized, aligned at different angles, and shifted on the image for an almost limitless number of combinations. In addition, the app allows you to change the underlying image by altering the light level, contrast, blur levels, and saturation of the image. You can test out as many variations as you like before making your final selection for each of the settings.

Once you are happy with your image, you can save it, share it via Instagram, share it via text message, Twitter, or email, send it to one of the other image apps on your device with two taps, or "refragment" it, which will take you back to the editing features. If you have other apps by Pixite on your device, Fragment also makes it easy to move your image from one app to the other for further editing if you want to add multiple effects to a single image. Whether you have used any of Pixite's other apps or not, Fragment is an intuitive app that allows you to make fun and very unusual looking images that will really stand apart from the average online picture. If you enjoy taking, editing, and sharing images, it is worth checking out.

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.

Name: Brushstroke
Cost: 2.99
Platform: iOS 7 or later

code organa logoBrushstroke is a seemingly simple app that turns a photo into a painting. You might think to yourself, so what? But really, it's a pretty powerful tool that gives teens, teachers, and librarians the chance to use a variety of effects on their photos and is a great way to start discussions on painting techniques, styles, how visual messages change as a result of visual choices, and even artists and art movements.

The way it works is that a user selects a photo from an iPad or iPhone camera roll or takes a photo from within the app. The next step is to crop the image if need be. After that, and I admit it took me a minute to figure out how to get from the crop screen to the painting screen - it's the > on the top right (as you can see in the images below) - the image is rendered as a painting. In the photos below you'll see the original version of the photo I painted on the left and the painted version on the right. Read More →

Name:'  Canva
Cost:'  Free

Platform:'  iPad

Canva app icon

Graphic design is a tricky business, and one that many of us don't realize is part of our job description until we're faced with a blank document and a list of almost-but-not-quite-right font choices. '  Canva, a free, web-based application' that lets you easily produce' professional-looking' designs, made this part' of the' job much easier for me when it debuted over a year ago. ' Now, with the introduction of the iPad app, the possibilities are both endless and mobile.

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2048
Title: 2048
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS and Android

2048 may be 2 to the eleventh power, but it's also the name of a game I have noticed a lot of people playing lately. It's based on a paid game, Threes!, which has won numerous game design awards, but the story behind 2048 involves a teen game developer, Gabriele Cirulli who tackled the design' as a weekend project then released the game as open-source so that anyone can use the code behind it to build their own versions. You can play through a browser' as well.

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Name:The Photo Cookbook
Cost:'  Free
Platform:'  iOS

photo cookbook

As much as I would love to offer cooking programs' for teens at my library (other than the Iron Chef/Top Chef/Cupcake War-type snack challenges)' I am hampered by two very important things:'  the absence of kitchen appliances in our building and a complete lack of culinary ability on my part.'  Thankfully, there are apps like The Photo Cookbook for me to recommend to my future Bobby Flays and Rachael Rays.

The Photo Cookbook app offers 84 recipes in four categories -- ' "Quick & Easy," "Italian," "Asian," and "Baking" -- each containing' recipes for a variety of tastes and skill levels.

Click on a recipe and you're met with a minimalist group photo of the ingredients that looks like those you'd find on popular food blogs or in your Pinterest feed, followed by a guide to how the recipe will look at each step along the way. '  Read More →