App of the Week: True Legends

True Legends LogoName: True Legends
Price: Free
Platform: iOS

True Legends is a very interesting and, fortunately, free app that I can best describe as a combination of a short story and an animated short. The app first asks users whether they would like to use the app in Hebrew or English. Once you have made a language selection, you are presented with an opening screen that looks very much like the front cover of a book with credits for the writer (Alex Epstein) and the illustrator (Tsach Weinberg).

At this point, the app also demonstrates the swiping motion that is required to advance through the story. Rather than turning pages, users swipe as if zooming in to trigger motion and animations throughout the story. Sometimes these animations are, in fact, zooming in to see details, but they also include movement and scenery changes. While there is only one path through the story, this does add an interactive quality to the app and makes for an impressive user experience. The soft and meditative music that plays throughout also adds an immersive quality to the app.

True Legends Screenshot

The story, and therefore the app, are quite brief, but the beauty of the artwork and the haunting and fable-like nature of the story makes up for that, at least for me. In the end, I think this app is an interesting example of how the app format can allow artists to change the way that they present stories and artwork and it is an example of the types of innovations that we will hopefully see more of in the future. Especially given the fact that it is free, I think this is a great app to load on library iPads for demonstration purposes or to show to those who are disappointed that ebooks are so frequently simply text presented on an electronic device.

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: Space Station Research Explorer

Space Station Research Explorer App LogoName: Space Station Research Explorer
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS and Android

Space enthusiasts rejoice! At the beginning of last month NASA released a new (and free!) app that brings users aboard the International Space Station (ISS) with a particular focus on all of the research that is conducted aboard it. The app is divided into five sections: Experiments, Facilities, Benefits, Media, and Links. Continue reading

App of the Week: Dungeon Runner: Fitness Quest

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.

App of the Week: Steller

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.

App of the Week: Fragment

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.

App of the Week: Canva

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.

Continue reading

App of the Week: Matter

Matter LogoName: Matter
Cost: $1.99
Platform: iOS

Matter is the latest photo app from Pixite, a company that has created a number of other photo apps for iOS devices. This fun app lets you add mysterious and otherworldly images to your photos with a few clicks, changing your snapshots from simple records of where you have been to stunning alien landscapes.

Continue reading

App of the Week: The Photo Cookbook

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. ‘  Continue reading

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.