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Top Android App: Aldiko Book Reader

Posted on Feb 25, 2010 in Reference, Top Rated Apps | 1 comment

With Aldiko Book Reader you can read and download thousands of books right on your Android phone.  With large catalogs of both free and paid books, as well as the ability to import your own ePub files, this app is your gateway to more reading.

Version: 1.2.6.1
Size: 1.09MB
Category: Reference
Price: Free (Premium $1.99)
Overall Score: 4.6/5

User Interface: 5/5
Ease of Use: 5/5
Customizability: 4.5/5
Originality: 4/5
Indispensability: 4.5/5

If you’ve been looking for an eReader but don’t want to spend the money for a Kindle or Nook, you’ve found your answer with Aldiko Book Reader.

When you open the app, you’ll first notice the great UI.  On the top shelf you’ll see the covers of your recent reads.  This is nice for coming back to books you’re still reading.  The second Bookshelf is where you can browse your entire collection of books.  You can sort your collection by author, title, download date, last read data, rating, and other tags.  This is great for those of you who are avid readers.

You’ll also find the option to Download Books on the bottom shelf.  Here you can browse catalogs like O’reilly Ebooks and Free Public Domain Books.  This is your place to find both free and paid books to add to your collection. You’ll be surprised by the number and quality of the free books you find. I’ve already put “On the Origin of Species” and “Around the World in Eighty Days” on my list of books to read with this app.

Additionally, you can import books you already own in the ePub format. Unfortunately, you currently cannot import DRM-protected books.

The claim to fame of this app is the extensive customization it allows you to perform.  When you open a book, you can slide your finger up and down on the left portion of the screen to adjust the brightness.  You can tap or flick to easily change pages.  Switch to night mode (black background with white text) to make night reading easier on your eyes.  Also, you can add multiple bookmarks to come back later to a saved page (or if you exit a book, it will remember what page you were on).  Even perform a search throughout the entire text.  Further settings allow you to set the font size, line spacing, margins, and more all to make for custom readability that works best for you.

Overall, Aldiko Book Reader is an extremely functional and customizable app that really makes reading books on your phone easy.  Try it out, you’ll be impressed!

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Top Android App: Dictionary.com

Posted on Feb 21, 2010 in Reference, Top Rated Apps | 2 comments

The free Dictionary.com app delivers reference content from both Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com.  This app includes over 325,000 words and 300,000 synonyms and antonyms.  Needless to say, you should find whatever word you’re looking for here.  Thanks to @bprior22 for tipping me about this new release!

Version: 1.0.1
Size: 485KB
Category: Reference
Price: Free
Overall Score: 4.6/5

User Interface: 4.5/5
Ease of Use: 5/5
Customizability: 4/5
Originality: 4.5/5
Indispensability: 5/5

The Dictionary.com app brings you trusted reference material faster than pulling up your browser or (for the truly old-school) pulling out the dictionary. The app features phonetic spelling as well as audio pronounciations for words you’re not sure how to say.

One of the best parts of this app is the well renowned ‘Word of the Day.’ You can find this in the final tab located at the top of the app.  This is a great way to expand your vocabulary, especially if you’re preparing for standardized tests like the SAT and GMAT.  Conveniently, there is also a widget for the ‘Word of the Day’ so you can check it easily from your homescreen.  You can click on the widget to open the app directly.  Note: There is also the spanish ‘Word of the Day’ as well.

This app is a great native reference client, which completely removes the need to visit the mobile site.  This ensures you’ll get the information you need as quickly as possible.  This app is a great reference tool that you’ll find yourself using time and time again.  Try it out now from the Android Market!

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Top Android App: Google Sky Map

Posted on Dec 9, 2009 in Reference, Top Rated Apps | comment

“Google Sky Map turns your Android-powered mobile phone into a window on the night sky.”  The description Google gives in the Android Market is spot on, so I figured I’d put it here for you.

Application: Google Sky Map
Version: 1.3
Size: 409KB

Category: Reference
Price: Free
Overall Score: 4.9/5
User Interface: 5/5
Ease of Use: 5/5
Customizability: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Indispensability: 4.5/5
To make it short and sweet, Google Sky Map uses your GPS location and the built-in compass to determine where you are and what direction you are looking.  Simply point your phone in a direction to see stars, planets, constellations, messier objects, the moon, etc. in your view.  You will be amazed at how accurate this app truly is.
By touching the screen you can quickly see the different layers (items in the sky) that are turned on by default.  You can toggle which layers you want to see.  You can also switch between automatic mode (which changes the view based on how your phone is positioned) or manual mode (where you can search the sky by moving your finger around on the screen).  Similarly, there is a feature for night mode that uses black and red colors in the app only in order to reduce any glare from the light coming from the screen.
Google Sky Map can help you figure out the name of that certain bright star in the sky.  It can also help you determine where a particular item in the sky is.  For example, if you wanted to find where the star Polaris is, you can do a quick search.  The app will point an arrow to help you home in on the object.  Once it is found, a large locating circle encompasses the object.
One thing I wish this app did was allow you to select an item on the screen to either a) pop up a window describing it in more detail or b) open a Google search with the name in order to get more detail.
Overall, Google Sky Map is one of those apps that is extremely fun to play around with.  It is a great app to share with family and friends because of how useful and exciting it is along with how it displays the power of Android applications and Google.
Scan with Barcode Scanner for direct link to Google Sky Map in the Android Market.
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Top Android App: PlinkArt – ADC Winner

Posted on Dec 5, 2009 in Reference, Top Rated Apps | comment

PlinkArt is a new Android app for identifying, discovering, and sharing art.  PlinkArt was the top winner in the category of Education and Reference in the Android Developer Challenge (ADC).  Congratulations!

Application: PlinkArt
Version: 1.1.2
Size: 319KB

Category: Reference
Price: Free
Overall Score: 4.7/5
User Interface: 4.5/5
Ease of Use: 5/5
Customizability: 4.5/5
Originality: 5/5
Indispensability: 4.5/5
PlinkArt is to art as Shazaam is to music.  With PlinkArt, you simply take a picture of any piece of art you are interested in and it will analyze the image and return a selection of pieces that were recognized.  When you select the correct item, the name and artist of the piece in front of you will be displayed.  Additionally, it will return a the matched article from Wikipedia.  This way, not only do you find out the title of the piece and the artist, you can also read up on the history, time period, and all sorts of information pertaining to what you’re looking at.
The user interface of this app is very easy to use and promotes it’s functionality as an app you can quickly pull out to get information in a split second.  Also, there is a search box where you can look up any artist or title you please.  The results are generated inside the app which is very refreshing; no worrying about opening up the browser or anything like that.
The Random Artwork button allows you to do just that, open a new page with a random piece of art (the page you see is the same as what you see when you take a picture of an unknown piece of artwork).  This is great for anyone interested in art or history.
Also, there is a timeline spanning from the Middle Ages all the way to the current Post Modern.  This is nice as described, but knowing that each type of art actually is linked to it’s own information page is incredible.  For example, selecting on Social Realism will return the major figure Diego Rivera.
Lastly, a very cool part of this application that hasn’t been fully developed yet is the Suggested Galleries.  In future updates, this section will make recommendations for you based on your location and your favorite artworks.  This will be a great feature once the app starts to learn your preferences.
Overall this is an absolutely incredible app that has so much room to grow.  As more pieces of artwork are added and features implemented, the value of this reference app will greatly increase.
Here is an interview with PlinkArt’s team done by AndroidGuys.

Scan with Barcode Scanner for direct link to PlinkArt in the Android Market.

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