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: 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: MixBit

MixBit LogoName: MixBit

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS (with Android coming soon)

Last week the creators of YouTube launched their latest project, MixBit. This new app, which is available for free for iOS and has an Android version on the way by the end of September, is focused on helping people to create, remix and share videos. At first, it might seem a bit like Vine, Cinemagram or the new Instagram video feature, but it offers some features that set it apart, such as the ability to record up to an hour worth of video and to combine multiple videos that you have created in the app, uploaded from your device or remixed from other MixBit users. As of now, some of this editing functionality is limited to the web-based version of the tool. For example, you can save content from other users and add it to your own projects only by finding it and selecting it on the web-based version of MixBit and you can currently only access the embed code for videos on the website as well. Continue reading

App of the Week: Animoto

Title: Animoto
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod’ Requires iOS 4.1 or later.
Cost: App is free. Animoto has Lite, Plus, and Pro accounts.

Back in 2008, the YALSA blog raved about how Animoto could be used for libraries, and Animoto often gets highlighted during Teen Tech Week. ‘ So it seemed only right to highlight a great feature of Animoto. There’s an app for it!

With the Animoto App, you can create Animoto videos directly from your iThing. All those pictures and videos of programs and displays you’ve taken with your iTouch or iPhone or iPad can now be easily added to an Animoto video.

With the Animoto App, you can create 30 second videos. If you have an Animoto account (a yearly subscription that ranges from $30 for Plus and $250 for Pro) you can create longer videos.

In addition, once logged in, you can sync your account, allowing you to continue editing a video you’ve created on your computer from the ease of your iThing. It also means any video created on the iThing will appear on your computer account as well. You can also share or download the video right from the app.

It also means you’ve got a portable way to show off your animated book trailers or annual reports (Prescott Annual Rpt 2010-2011)’ when meeting new librarians at ALA or at your next meeting with a supervisor. And it’s it great to share how technology is improving your library?


App of the Week: Hipstamatic

Title: Hipstamatic

Platform: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch (4th generation), iPad 2 Wi-Fi, and iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G. Requires iOS 3.1 or later

Cost: $1.99+ ‘ (several “hipstapaks” come with the initial cost, but additional ones cost extra & it can add up, so choose wisely.)

You know those cool pics you’ve been seeing on Flickr and Facebook lately? The square ones with the grainy edges or shiny middles? The ones that look like they may have been taken by rock star photographer with an old holga camera? Chances are those photos were taken with this app. Hipstamatic can turn even the most mundane images interesting.

For example, here are a few pictures I took of simple things: my glasses, an owl. Which, I think, makes them look even cooler than usual. ‘ No additional touch ups were done to the photos.

Great for taking photos at book clubs, library events, and other occasions, Hipstamatic spruces up the simple iPhone picture into something eye-catching, stylized, and mood creating. At a recent event, I took hipstapics of my students, and they LOVED ‘ how the photos matched the feel of the night.

Photos can sorted into stacks (max of 9 shots sadly) where they can then be sent to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, or email. Photos can also be printed onto real live non-digital versions. For more info on their features, check their launch press release and this demo video:’ Hipstamatic User Interface Demo from Synthetic on Vimeo.

Do you use this app? How? Why not ask your teen advisory to use Hipstamatic to represent a book in one photo, since as they say a picture is worth a thousand words…

App of the Week: StoryCorps

Name: StoryCorps
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Since 2003, the nonprofit organization StoryCorps has been traveling around the United States collecting digital recordings of the stories of regular people. According to their website, their “mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. …StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind.” You may have seen their silver airstream parked at a public building near you as they continue to collect new stories.

The organization has partnered with National Public Radio so that portions of recordings can be heard on Morning Edition weekly. They also maintain a’ podcast.’ Thus far, they have published two anthologies of interviews: Listening is an act of love and’ Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps. Perhaps your library has these titles. Perhaps you have already incorporated their oral history initiative into your teen programming.

If not, showcasing their App may be just the entry point you’ve been looking for. Continue reading

App of the Week: MEanderthal

Title: MEanderthal
Platform: iThing and Android devices (a device with built in camera is needed)
Cost: Free!

Last May, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History got into the app market with this little number: MEanderthal as a supplement to their exhibit on what it means to be human. This January, I spent a long bus ride with high schoolers finding out the real joys of this resource.

Like the early humans, MEanderthal is simple and effective. The app morphs a facial image into one of an early human. There are four choices (two males, two females) of early human. A user can either take a new photo or use an already existing one. Once a photo is taken, you are able to scale the image to best fit the morphing program. Then you choose your species of human and watch yourself regress. ‘  Continue reading