Core Dump isn’t all fun and games … just mostly. It turns out you can use your iPads and iPhones for some serious things, too. Here are a handful of apps you may find useful, if you can stop playing Avengers Initiative long enough.
Business Card Reader – $4.99 universal app
If you get a lot of business cards from other people, you either have a bunch of cards stashed all over the place, or you spend time scanning them or entering them into your contacts list. Business Card Reader is meant to streamline that process, snapping a photo with your built-in camera and importing the data. The problem is, unless the card is laid out very clearly, the app may have trouble figuring out what’s the first or last name or what’s the company name — especially if the company name is in the logo. If you look more closely at the screenshot above, you can see it made a mess of my wife’s business card details — I’ve had better luck with others with larger text.
However, the app also has a “card holder” which lets you store the actual images of the cards, so that’s still better than a pile of paper cards. A LinkedIn connection also lets you search for contacts there, and if you have photos of cards stored in your photo gallery for some reason you can pull those up as well. The little mug of coffee? It just sloshes around when you tap it or shake your iPhone. Not necessarily the best-working app, but could be handy just as a quick card scanner, and you can go in and make corrections to the text.
CoPilot Live – prices vary based on map selection ($14.99 USA maps, universal app)
If you’ve got an iPad but aren’t paying regularly for a data plan, then you know that your map only works while you’re near a Wifi signal — which isn’t great when you’re trying to get somewhere. The CoPilot Live collection of apps lets you download maps to your device while you’ve got a signal, and then use them offline. I don’t like the display and interface as much as Google Maps, but I like that I can still access it when I’m offline.
Additional features include a “Find My Car” that lets you save a position where you parked so you can find it later, navigation with 2D or 3D maps, and PhotoNav which looks up GPS data from photos (if present). Some of the features (integrated music player, Facebook Check-In, Wikipedia, and Weather) make it seem like CoPilot Live is trying to do a little too much, but the map itself is not bad.
You can purchase bundles of maps covering North America, South America, Europe, Australasia, or Southern Africa, and the app is available for iOS, Android, and Windows. More info is available at the website.
IM+ pulls all of your various instant messaging and chat programs into a single app: Google Talk, Skype, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, and many others. It’s fairly simple to add accounts and customize which notifications you get, and then all of your chats can be grouped into a single app. It can even pull in Twitter @replies, and you can send voice or video memos from the app. The Pro version removes ads; both versions also support “off-the-record” messaging which encrypts your conversations, at an additional $4.99. For more about all of the features, visit the web page.
* IM+ Pro is currently on sale for the holidays, dropping the price to $4.99.
Weather Live – $1.99 universal app
I don’t know why Apple chose not to include a simple weather app on the iPad (I frequently used the one on my iPod touch) but here’s a simple one that does the trick. You can choose from a number of different layouts depending on how much information you want at once, and you can also set a number of default locations in case you travel often or are just curious what the weather’s like out here in Portland. (Hint: rainy.) The app pulls data either from AccuWeather or World Weather Online, and you can turn on weather alerts or alarms if the temperature drops below zero. Tapping the little radar icon in the top left corner brings up Cloud, Radar, Satellite, or Rain Maps. You can also set it up so that the badge on the app’s icon shows the current temp — but it’s positive only, because the app treats it like notifications.
Need a second screen for your desktop or laptop? How about using your iPad, which is a decent-sized screen in itself? iDisplay lets you add your iPad (or iPhone) as a second display — you can throw your Twitter feed there, or just whatever else doesn’t quite fit on your main screen while you’re working. You’ll need to grab the free desktop app, but then it’s pretty easy to configure. With my large iMac screen it’s not entirely necessary, but if you’re on a laptop it could be handy having that extra real estate. One complaint: for some reason running iDisplay resets my background wallpaper to the default.
ScreenChomp – free iPad only
ScreenChomp is an easy-to-use white-board sharing app. You can doodle on the whiteboard (or load images from your photo gallery), and make a recording while you draw and write. You can also pan up and down — the whiteboard is three times as high as the screen. Once you stop the recording, it automatically plays back your recording, which you can delete or share. The video is saved as an MP4 file to the ScreenChomp site, and you get a link that you can email or tweet — from the ScreenChomp site you can also download the movie file itself. Here’s a short sample video I made using ScreenChomp.
The app is sort of slim on details of how to use it, but it is fairly intuitive. You can select three pen widths and twelve different colors, and you have three pens that can each be customized so you can switch between them quickly while recording. It’s not a ton of features (and the recording level seems a bit quiet to me) but the ease of use makes it something that even kids could use to share doodles or ask homework questions. There are a lot of possibilities, and it’s free!
Idea Flight – free iPad only; $7.99 for Pilot; additional options available in-app
For a more robust presentation app, Idea Flight might be a better fit. You can create a slideshow presentation (a PDF, basically), and then use “Pilot” to drive the presentation. Other people use the “Passenger” option, connecting to you via Wifi or Bluetooth, and watch the presentation. The pilot can let passengers turn pages, rotate, and zoom, or lock the controls to share a specific view. There’s a space to add notes, and a bunch of additional options you can add on, like letting passengers ping you if they have a question.
In my line of work (stay-at-home dad) I don’t really have much use for this app myself, but I suppose if you’re often in meetings with a bunch of people with iPads, this might be an interesting alternative to the projected PowerPoint presentation. (Disclosure: this app is designed and developed by Conde Nast, the parent company of Wired, but I stumbled upon it on my own.)
Pitter-Pad – free iPad only
Let’s say you’re at home with the kids when your wife or husband calls from the store and says, “Hey, there are some great kids’ shoes on sale, what size shoes do they wear?” Ok, I’ll be honest: that’d be me, because my wife knows what size they wear. However, I’d rarely call her and say I found some cute shoes to buy.
There have been times when I needed to find out what size shoe my kids wear, and generally I resort to pulling out some of their current shoes and hoping I can still read the size label on them. A more common situation may be buying shoes online.
Pitter-Pad is an app that lets you measure your toddler’s feet (US, UK, Europe, Canada, Japan, and Korea sizes are included) by sliding a line to meet the toes and both sides of the foot. Note: you don’t let them stand on the iPad, you just have them gently rest their foot on it. Nothing beats actually going to the store and trying on a pair of shoes, of course, but Pitter-Pad is free so it doesn’t cost you anything to give it a whirl. (Of course, the app is only good while their feet are still small enough to fit on the screen.)
Disclosure: GeekDad received review codes for Business Card Reader, CoPilot Live, iDisplay, IM+ Pro, and Weather Live.