iThing of the Week

iThing of the Week: My Favorites of 2013


With the year coming to a close, it’s a natural time to reflect on some of the highlights of the year. Comparing various types of apps to each other is odd; after all, a productivity app is very different than a game, so I’m not ranking my favorites of 2013.


The Simpsons: Tapped Out – I started playing this game this time last year, and I’m still playing almost daily. With the same tone and quality of writing as the show, Tapped Out is one of the funniest games I’ve played. With regular updates and new storylines, the game stays fresh and gives players plenty of reasons to keep playing. The Simpsons: Tapped Out is made by Electronic Arts.

the_simpsons_tapped_out logo


GoTasks – I use this organization app every single day. Every. Single. Day. I’d be lost without this app. GoTasks is made by Evgeniy Shurakov.

gotasks logo


Haunting Melissa – I am a big fan of horror films, so this app intrigued me because of its unique take on storytelling. Instead of dumping every chapter at once, days would pass before you got a new chapter. The story of Melissa’s grief over the death of her mother and mystery about the entity haunting her only got better with each chapter. Haunting Melissa is made by Hooked Digital Media.

Haunting Melissa iDevices


Year Walk – This eerily puzzle game is effective in creating a sense of foreboding. This first-person tale about a journey into the unknown will stay with you long after you play it. Year Walk is made by Simogo.



Tayasui Sketches – While I liked this sketching app when I discussed it, I’ve come to really appreciate it after having to create diagrams and illustrations for work. Tayasui Sketches is made by Tayasui.



iOS 7 – Yes, iMessage still doesn’t work correctly for me, but the new OS has made my iPhone 4S quicker, and the new look has grown on me. I like the new features, especially the flashlight and being able to add more apps into folders.



While there were other good apps this year, these are the ones that have stayed with me because of their uniqueness and their usefulness. I’m sure there will be plenty of great apps to come in 2014.



I’m using the holidays as an excuse to take time off. iThing of the Week will return January 9, 2014. Happy Christmas and Merry New Year!  

iThing of the Week: Deer Hunter 2014


I have killed thousands of digital people while playing various games, but I’ve never really killed many animals. At first, Deer Hunter made me uncomfortable. The game is a hunting simulation. During the first levels the prey stood still, so there wasn’t much of a challenge. However, as the game progressed, it became challenging. Sometimes you have to hit a certain body part like the lungs or the heart, and eventually the animals react to your attack, running towards you or away, making getting the shot more difficult.002

Deer Hunter 2014 has a simple interface. Tap on the crosshairs to look down the scope, and tap on the bullet hole to shoot. There are a variety of guns, and you have to upgrade your weapons as the game gets tougher. The game has six regions; to unlock a region you have to complete the hunting series and the trophy hunt. There are other challenges as well, such as rare hunts, contract hunts, and series requiring a specific weapon.

I have to admit that my uneasiness wore off rather quickly as I kept playing. Just like I don’t have the urge to kill masses of humans, I don’t want to hunt large animals, but video games allow us to do things we know we can’t do in real life, so I ended up letting myself have fun.

The game is free, but you can buy the in-game currency of gold to get special weapons or speed up the importing of upgrades. Deer Hunter 2014 is by Glu Games, Inc., is rated 12+ for violence, can be played on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and requires iOS 5.1.


iThing of the Week: Dragon Dictation


After testing word processing apps, I got interested in finding a decent speech to text app. The best one I found that was free is Dragon Dictation. For a few laughs, here are some examples of how the app worked:

iPad, with case:

Sometimes you just don’t want to type because typing can be slow if it hurt your hands or just forever reason typing just doesn’t say give so talking sometime stalking can be quicker this is an app to change speech speech into text so right now I’m dictating on my iPad and let’s see how it went

iPad, no case:

Dragon is a free app that lets you change speech into text so this is my second attempt on this time I take my iPad out of the case so I’m thinking that the case made it more difficult for the app to tile my words apart I’m also speaking in a normal tone I’m not going to slow but I’m trying to avoid going to fast iced don’t want to sound really odd to my roommate


Okay Sinan trying it on my phone I find this very interesting it’s odd to just talk to well your device but sometimes I have ideas or just thoughts that I want to get down and perhaps I don’t have a piece of paper handy or just don’t want to write because I type a lot for a living and sometimes I just want to give my hands break so now I find myself actually talking a little bit quicker because I do want this to feel on more natural like I’m doing regular dictation on Dragon is easy to use him after you install you’re prompted to choose your language agree to the terms on you can even opt to have him the names of your contacts added to the vocabulary you just tap on the screen and you start talking when you’re done you tap the screen again

dragon dictation

The app doesn’t do punctuation, but that’s fine with me. Dragon Dictation does have a keyboard, so you can make corrections before exporting it; my preferred method of exporting is email. You can also post your dictation to Facebook or Twitter. If you’re using Dragon on the iPhone, you can dictate a text and send it from the app. Another option is to copy and paste into another app. I was able to paste into iA Writer, but not Quickoffice. The app doesn’t save your work if you use the iPhone version, but the iPad version saved my work until I exported it.

I liked using my iPhone because it felt more natural, but I don’t like that I lose my words if I close Dragon before I export. Holding up the iPad was awkward, but it does record well when it was flat on my desk, even with my iPad case on. I was surprised how well the app worked. Dragon Dictation did get some of my words wrong, but it got most of my words correct.

Dragon Dictation, by Nuance Communications, is free, works on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, is rated 4+, and requires iOS 4.0 or later.

iThing of the Week: Still Searching for a Word Processing App


In my quest to find a decent word processing app that isn’t as costly as Pages, I’ve been trying many different apps. Instead of focusing on one app today, this article will feature different apps because these apps have many of the same features, so writing about each one separately will get repetitive. For this week I’ll be discussing the following: Werdsmith, iA Writer, NewPad, Textilus, Compositions, and Quick Office. All of the apps have many of the same features in common such as copy and paste, a dictionary, word count and spell check.

word processing 1



word processing 2

word processing 3

I took a picture of the paragraphs so you could see how the creations in each app looked after copying and pasting into Word. Like all things, each app has its good parts and annoying parts. You get a lot of features with Quickoffice, but if you’re not into Google Drive, then the app is worthless. I like how Werdsmith lets you keep all of your ideas together then elevate their status when you’re ready. For exporting, iA Writer has a good interface with Dropbox and uploading files from the app to Dropbox was quick after I figured out that Dropbox was better than syncing to iCloud. The others did not make a lasting impression. This experiment has been interesting. I’m trying to use my iPad for more than Twitter, games, and Netflix. I know my iPad is not a laptop, but it is a powerful device with potential I’m not using, which is my mistake, a mistake I’m trying to correct.


There will be no iThing of the Week next week. I’m based in the USA, and next week is Thanksgiving.   

iThing of the Week: Office Note Lite


This week I tested the free version of Office Note by Resolvica, the next app in my experiment to find a decent word processing app that is good and cheaper than Pages.

office note

Unlike last week’s app, Office Note has a lot more features. You can tab, undo, redo, and look at the revision history. There are three options of which set of hot keys you want at the top of the keyboard. The size, color and style of the font can be changed, and words can be in bold and italics and underlined. You can highlight a large chunk of text to delete it or make style changes. The app wants to autocomplete words and knows when you have misspelled words, but you can’t add words to the dictionary. The app has a dictionary; it accesses online dictionaries and searches when you select “Research.” When you need help, there is an extensive guide with videos and the opportunity to email someone and ask for help.

Office Note lets you insert photos, audio, and handwritten content. The photo is of me asking Billy Dee Williams a question at this year’s Crypticon in Minneapolis. Photos can be cropped and resized in the app.

Me and Billy Dee

Here is an example of handwritten content:


It can be difficult to position pictures, but once you do, you tap the hand icon in the upper left. Doing so will let you lock and unlock images. This feature makes Office Note versatile. The app automatically saves your work, which was handy because I explored the app and decided to check out templates. The template feature was unavailable, and the app started a new page for me. The first icon in the upper left is the Notes section, and I found this document listed there, allowing me to find and continue this article. There are different export options. I was able to export to Google Drive. One image was out of place and some of the font had changed, but I was able to easily fix that in Drive. I made changes here and in Google Drive, and the text synced when I synced to the BeWrite folder, but for some reason I had difficulty with the images. It’s nice that the texted synced, but the trouble with the images made completing this article take more time than I expected. In fact, I had a lot of trouble keeping the images when I exported. I had to copy this article to Word, and then insert the images into the Word document to make sure my document was intact. Of course, when it came time to publish this article, I had to save the images as files so they could be in this final form.

I don’t know why this feature is in the list of export options, but if you scroll down, you will find the word count feature.

There are ads, but you can buy the full version for $9.99. For my needs right now, the free version is fine as long as I stick to creating text-only work. For the 2013 holiday season, you can buy the full version for $4.99. Office Note is for iPad, is rated 9+, and requires iOS 5.0 or later.


iThing of the Week: Can You Escape


Can You Escape, by Kaarel Kirsipuu, is a puzzle game. You find yourself in a room. You are not given any clues about how to escape; you must explore the room to find clues and objects that will help you escape.

Tapping is how you will discover the parts of the room you can interact with. Sometimes you have to solve multiple puzzles to find the means of escape. There are hidden objects, combinations to locks to find, and parts to put together. In one room, you find a card that has images you need, but you have to find a camera; one camera is on a desk, but that’s not the right camera, so you have to hunt for the correct one. I had paper and pen handy for jotting down shapes, colors and numbers for the various locks and other puzzles.

can you escape screen

Can You Escape is clever and fun, but the music got annoying, so turned the sound off, which you can do in the settings. Also, there are only 8 rooms with more promised on the way. The game is free, but you can buy a bonus level pack for $0.99, and for another $0.99, you can purchase an advertisement-free version. The game has links to walkthrough videos on YouTube, which are free. I suggest using a second screen like your computer to watch the video because going from YouTube and back to the game can be a hassle.

Can You Escape is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, is rated 4+, and requires iOS 4.3 or later.

iThing of the Week: Apple October 2013 Event


On October 22, 2013, Apple held an event announcing new shiny stuff many are eager to have. Apple plans to launch new MacBooks and MacPro, and they discussed the improved iOS X Mavericks, but my focus was on the new iPads.

As usual, Apple touted stats. The app store has over 1,000,000 apps, and customers have downloaded over 64,000,000,000 times. Apple’s app store has generated over $13,000,000,000 for developers. One of the new features of iOS 7 is iTunes Radio; in the short time it has been available, iTunes Radio has 20,000,000 listeners, and people have listened to 1,000,000,000 songs. Apple declared iOS 7 and the new iPhone 5C and 5S as hits; in the first 5 days, iOS 7 was on 200,000,000 iDevices, making it the fastest software launch, and iPhone 5C and 5S sold 9,000,000 units by the end of the launch weekend.

A trend I noticed is the emphasis on making all of Apple’s apps optimized for iOS X and iOS 7 equally because they want people to be able to share work via iCloud. One of the demos was two presenters working on the same project at the same time. The word “share” was uttered multiple times, signaling where Apple wants to take its products. Start on one device and continue on another was one of their major selling points.


Apple also wants people to use iLife and iWork. They’ve made improvements to both groups of apps. All of the apps have been enhanced to work seamlessly with iOS 7. All of the apps have been redesigned with a smoother and easier UI. The biggest move Apple is making with iLife and iWork is offering them for free. Of course, there are in-app purchases. For example, the new version of Garage Band has a session drummer; there are different drummers to choose from, especially if you pay for them.

The part of the event that I focused on is the iPad announcement. As of the event, there are 475,000 iPad-only apps, and 170,000,000 iPads have been sold. Apple unveiled the new iPad, the iPad Air. The iPad Air has a lot of the features in the new iPhones, such as the A7 chip and 64-bit desktop class architecture. The iPad Air has the same screen size, 9.7”, and will have retina display. The new iPad will be lighter and smaller: one pound and 7.5mm thick. Other features include a 5MP camera, 1080 HD video, and faster CPU, graphics, data transfer, and rendering with a 10-hour battery life. The new iPad mini has basically the same features in the iPad Air in a tinier package and will finally have retina display. The iPad Air and new iPad mini will be available in silver, space grey, white, and black, and Apple has made them to be eco-friendly. While the improvements are nice, the developments aren’t big enough for me to change devices since my iPad is only a year old, but if my iPad was older, then I would be buying an iPad Air.

By the end of November, Apple will have both devices available for purchase. The iDevice lineup will include the following (prices are for 16GB with Wi-Fi): $299 iPad mini, $399 iPad mini with retina display, $399 iPad 2, and $499 iPad Air.

iThing of the Week: Turbo Tip Calculator


Many people don’t know that servers in most restaurants don’t earn minimum wage in the United States; tipped employees are actually paid $2.13 (in some states it is more), which is why servers rely on tips. For those of us who don’t want to spend time figuring out the proper tip, Turbo Tip Calculator is the handy app that will do the math for you.

Turbo Tip is easy to use. Just enter the amount of the bill at the top, and the amount of the tip will appear. At the bottom, you can adjust the percentage if the server did an amazing job or if the server ignored you after delivering your meal. If you are with others, you can change the split number and end any arguments about who owes what.

turbo tip

Other neat features of the app include a list of the sales tax rates of U.S. states, what the expected tip amount is in different countries, and a currency exchange. You can change the currency in the tip section as well if you want to see how much in U.S. dollars your meal costs so you can keep to your travel budget.

Turbo Tip Calculator, by Adysseus, is free, rated 4+, requires iOS 6.0 or later, and is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

iThing of the Week: The Simpsons: Tapped Out


the_simpsons_tapped_out logo

The Simpsons: Tapped Out doesn’t really need additional publicity, but out of all of the games I’ve played on my various iDevices, including the ones I’ve discussed here, Tapped Out is the one I’m still playing a year after I started.

In case you haven’t heard of The Simpsons: Tapped Out, the game, which has content from the staff of the TV show, starts with Homer at work playing a town management game. After accidentally spending $500 on the game, he is upset because all you do in the game is tap on things. Springfield explodes, and you help Homer rebuild Springfield. The destruction of Springfield has also created additional Springfields, allowing you to have friends and visit each other’s towns.

The best part of the game is that the characters are true to their TV show personas and are aware that they are in a game. The breaking of the fourth wall creates plenty of opportunities to make fun of the player, but the jabs are clever, bringing the player in on the joke.

Tapped out 1

Tapped Out is a typical town management game. You build what the characters need, and most buildings resurrect a character. Homer just wants the basics, but Lisa, as reasonable as ever, makes sure schools, the library, and other cultural buildings are brought back to Springfield. Buildings earn money at regular intervals so you can keep on building. You can also earn money by having the characters complete tasks. The in-game currency is donuts, which you can buy with your money. Donuts let you speed up actions and buy special buildings. While some of the buildings and characters are cool to have, you can easily progress through the game without buying donuts. Unlike many games, Tapped Out is saved to a server, so if you spend your money on the game and something happens to your iDevice or to the game, you can log in with you EA Origin account and retrieve your Springfield.

tapped out 2

I come back for the storylines and the expanding Springfield. I would hit the level cap and not much would be going on, so I would plan to stop playing. Then a new update would bring a new story. Recent storylines have dealt with gun control; it was illegal for the citizens of Springfield to not have a gun. Everyone had to have a gun, and every store had to sell them, showing how ludicrous some gun lobbies sound. Marge’s sisters, Patty and Selma, came to Springfield this summer. Upset, Homer became determined to make their lives miserable, so he lobbied to get tobacco banned. After Mayor Quimby’s secretary was no longer as thin as he liked and Marge pleaded with him, Homer lobbied to get tobacco unbanned. Also, Springfield isn’t confined to land. You can buy water and build the boardwalk, and you can take a bus to Krustyland. At Krustyland you help Krusty the Clown rebuild his amusement park with rides like Death Drop and Tooth Chipper.

By maintaining the tone of the TV show, which was renewed for a record 26th season, and introducing new plotlines to the game, EA has crafted a game that players want to come back to repeatedly, an accomplishment few games have achieved.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out is free, is made by Electronic Arts, is rated 12+, is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and requires iOS 5.0 or later.