Just as we did in March, Macworld staffers got together to chat about the best apps they’ve been using recently. Here are some that have recently captured our imaginations (and perhaps a spot on our homescreens), whether they’re tiny apps from budding developers or the top-grossing apps that everyone is using. Our hope is that, while you might recognize some of these apps, others you might never have encountered. All of them, we think, are worth a look.
Chris Breen: Recorder App Pro
Scan around your iPad’s home screen and you discover that it—unlike an iPhone or iPod touch—lacks a Voice Memos app. And yet, those using an iPad for business or school work have as great a need to record the occasional audio tidbit as anyone packing a smaller iOS device. It’s for this reason that I sought out a competent app for just this purpose. The one I’ve settled on is LiveBird’s ($5).
Why lay down a five-spot for this app when others are free? The “Pro” in the app’s name is your hint. It records in a variety of formats (CAF, WAV, and AAC), allows you to set a length for your recording, lets you trim files, provides a way to password protect your memos, supports the usual gang of cloud services as well as iCloud syncing, and it has a cool Auto Pause feature that will cause the app to stop recording during long periods of silence and then automatically kick back in when there’s sound to record. For those looking for a simple voice memos app, Recorder App Pro is likely overkill, but if you need flexibility and features by the score, it’s more than worth the price.
Serenity Caldwell: Monument Valley
MC Esher, meet Sword and Sworcery: ($4) is a delightfully odd puzzle game with brain-bending architecture and a sweet, slightly twisted soundtrack. You take the form of Ida, a tiny pixel princess in white, as she traverses the (not quite) abandoned ruins of a most unusual series of buildings, castles, and other magic delights.
This game is worth playing for the stunning landscapes and twisted puzzles alone, but the music and wisps of epic storytelling are much appreciated. Spend an afternoon wandering through the twists, turns, ups, downs, and sideways of Monument Valley—you won’t regret it.
Dan Frakes: Tocomail
Let’s face it: Today’s kids are impressively tech-savvy at ages when many of their parents were lucky to have even seen a video game. But as experienced as early-elementary kids are with apps, many parents are reluctant to roll out email at such a young age. (free; subscription for additional features) aims to ease these fears by introducing children to email via a safe, secure system that parents can monitor and supervise.
After creating a parental Tocomail account, you create real email accounts for your kids, and then add the addresses of approved contacts—those your child can send to and receive from. (Nothing else gets through, in either direction.) You can also choose how complex the interface is for each child. When creating a new email message, the app provides simple tools for typing text, drawing, painting, stamping, and even taking photos or using existing ones. The app even supports push notifications, so your kids can experience the same thrill (or annoyance) we adults get when new mail arrives. As the “administrator, ” you can view your kids’ inboxes at any time to be sure they’re using email appropriately (and correctly!).
Tocomail is free, but a $30-per-year subscription gives you additional features, such as an expanded approved-contact list, a parental quarantine mailbox for messages from non-approved senders; a profanity filter; and an automated “bullying” monitor. The app is a little too simplistic at times, and a few of the interface decisions could use some refinement, but it’s a nice system that lets your kids learn about email in a safe, monitored environment.—DAN FRAKES
Dan Moren: GoodReader
What is there left to say about ($5)? The jack-of-all trades—which runs $5 each for the iPhone and iPad version, and oh yes, I paid for both—has been on iOS for years now, and it’s still among the best document readers/file managers on the platform—plus, it’s one of the few apps that I use almost every single day.