All About Apps

If I had a dollar for every time some asked me, or everyone on Facebook, for iPad/iPhone apps, well, I could buy all of the paid apps I wanted. I remember the excitement of getting my new gadgets (yes, I now proudly own both the iPad and the iPhone) and wanting to open up the world of fun, informative, and useful applications.

Most recently, my sister and I gave our Mom and iPad. Let’s just say that even though she was a computer pioneer when Commodore computers first came out in the 80s, her entry into the 21st century has been somewhat slow.

Anyhow, the following are my favorite apps. I hope you discover at least one new one. I also hope that you will suggest your favorite finds. Unless I state otherwise, the app was free when I got it. 

Functional Apps

Grocery IQ  – This is one of my most used apps. It keeps your grocery list, but the best part is that you can sync it with your spouse’s/roommate’s list. So, if I want clementines and shampoo, I put them on the list, and if the Knight goes to the store, my items are right there in black and white. 

Evernote – This app functions much like the Notes app that comes with the iPad but it is better. I use this for everything: to do lists, keeping track of random bits of information, saving articles. One of my favorite features is the ability to email yourself notes. So if I am at work and I see a recipe I want to make, I copy and paste it into an email message to my evernote address, and then it pops up on my iPad. I also like the ability to organize notes into folders (called notebooks). I have house stuff (what were those drapery measurements again?), baby stuff (for example, two separate a list of  agreed upon baby names and suggested baby names),  food (restaurants to try, menus), etc.

OpenTable – if you don’t already know about this online reservation system, where have you been? The app is excellent and functions better than going to OpenTable on safari.

Nightstand -This allows your iPad/iPhone to function as an alarm clock. I haven’t figured out how to keep the display lit (other than set it to not turn off), but it does what I need. It goes off when I specify. You can also set the alarm to play a song from your music collection.


Kindle – this one seems kind of obvious, but it is worth mentioning. Definitely my favorite reading app, but I’m an Amazon nut. I have found tons of great, free e-books. Skip the “free ebooks collection” (which is mostly old stuff). Go to the Kindle Store and about midway down on the page there is a section for Best Sellers. The second tab is Top 100 Free. You’re welcome 🙂

Overdrive – If I sound cheap, it’s because I am cheap. There are some things I splurge on, but if I can get a deal, I’m all over it. Overdrive allows you to “borrow” free e-books from your local library. (In Fairfax County, the lending period is three weeks.) I don’t know about other libraries, but this is what Fairfax County uses. The collection could be better, but I’ve gotten plenty of great stuff this way. Often there is a waiting list for the titles I want, but they email you when your title is available. It is terrific!

Women’s Health – My favorite magazine has an app. I was initially very put off by the idea of paying close to $4 (I think) per issue. However, they have a yearly subscription available which is close to what I paid for the paper version. It arrives on your iPad in beautiful full color. I love it!

Travel Apps

TripIt – This is my #1 travel app pick. You set up an account and then email your itinerary to from your registered email account. You can simply forward your hotel or airline confirmation email and it plugs all of the data in for you. Then it puts together an itinerary and all of your travel info (flight info, hotel address, etc.) are all in one place. You can also “share” your itinerary with a loved one (or whoever).  There is a paid version of this app available but I can’t figure out why I would need it. The free one works great for me!

Urban Spoon – Technically, this isn’t a travel app, but I have found this to be the best restaurant finding app for travel. I don’t care for the random selection feature, but it is really helpful for finding stuff when you’re on the road or in an unknown place.

Tripadvisor – Please tell me you already know about tripadvisor. I won’t book a hotel without it. The app is very user-friendly and definitely worth downloading.

Kayak – People who know me know that I am a closet travel agent. In other words, I love researching and booking travel. I will gladly help you find a good airfare, hotel, etc. I just enjoy searching for deals and I love this kind of research. Out of all of the travel sites (Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity), this one is my favorite. I still prefer to search on my PC because the interface is better, but this is great when on the go.

Informative Apps

USAToday – I admit that I’m not a newshound. But I do like to have some clue what is going on with current events. USAToday delivers a daily, free version of the newspaper daily. I can’t say I read it every day, but I do regularly. The articles are a good length and very readable.

The Weather Channel – I think this one is self-explanatory, no? I’ve downloaded a few different weather apps and this one is my favorite.

How to Cook Everything – This is going to sound crazy, but I paid for this app. A lot. $9.99. Not cheap. And to make matters worse, I own the cookbook (and the sister cookbook, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian). But I heartily recommend this app. Not only are there lots of good recipes with tons of variations within each one, but it has neat tricks like built in timers. I think it was worth it.

Epicurious – download this if you use the website. It is another good cooking app and it is free, so you can’t go wrong.

Fun Apps

Facebook –This is the official app (I think).  Before they finalized this version of the app, I tried some of the other Facebook apps like Friendly and Flipboard. I think they got this right and I use it daily. It doesn’t work perfectly, but it is the best of the bunch.

Sudoku HD – This is the best Sudoku app I have found. Unlike other versions that limit the number of games you can play per day, this seems to be unlimited. There are only a certain number of puzzles at each level, but I haven’t yet gotten through all of the intermediate puzzles and I’ve had it for a while. Definitely turn off or mute the music though or you’ll be hearing it in your sleep.

Netflix – Free app, paid subscription. What can I say about this? You can only watch videos streaming – so it doesn’t work on a plane. Other than that, it is fabulous. I watched a whole season of Army Wives on my iPad.

Pandora – Why did I wait so long to try this out? I’d heard of it but didn’t really understand that it is a free app that allows you to play whatever music your heart desires. You design stations based on your favorite artists. The free version has occasional short commercials, but it is totally worth it.

Talking Tom – This is just a cute, goofy app where the animated cat repeats what you say. It makes me giggle.

Pocket Pond – You’ll get bored with this quickly, but it is worth downloading to appreciate the graphics on your iPad and provide you a zen moment. Touch the screen and the water ripples. The app is free and they allow you to purchase add-ons to enhance your experience. I haven’t fallen for that – I mean, I haven’t taken advantage of that opportunity, so I can’t speak to it.

Doodle Buddy – Like to doodle? Get this app. I’ve done some interesting things during my sleep intermissions. My artwork is available…for a price.

That should get you started. I have more apps on my pad, but these are the top ones. So, what did I miss? I love discovering new apps so bring on the suggestions.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carla Runs the World
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 00:15:44

    Like doodle? Try “Draw Something” — I’m totally obsessed with it. It’s like pictionary on your iphone/ipad. My username is CCSR if you want to play with me!


    • Catharine
      Mar 05, 2012 @ 10:48:40

      I’m not sure if I am excited about this recommendation or scared. This sounds like something I could really get addicted to. I love pictionary!


  2. Bibiana
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 08:23:48

    For foodies: Local Eats (top picks by locals.
    Epicurious (recipes on the go)

    for fun: Words with friends
    Scramble with friends
    Solitaire (sometimes, you need mind-numbing)
    Farkle (again, mind-numbing)

    Evite Mobile
    Shazam (most awesomest ever!)
    I Heart Radio


  3. Lisa
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 08:18:40

    I use flight update instead of TripIt. The paid version allows you to sync to a TripIt account. The reason I chose flight update is because it sends reminders that include the gate… I got used to not having to look at airport boards, so when I switched to using TripIt to try it, I felt lost at the airport. I think you can get that details with a pro TripIt account, but I’m not going to pay for both.


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