As close to perfection as you can get

This is my last full post for a while. I am taking a short break to launch my blog We Rule: The Hidden Grimoire next Monday. I will return the week of Tuesday the 14th with regular reviews on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Game Day Fridays. On some weeks I may do more, if I’m doing a series.

I will be looking at apps designed to reduce stress, the browser wars, hidden object games and apps to make music. Jenny will be back to make sure rescue cats are represented, and Carol will still be proofreading to keep me in line. And the ghost of my long departed Baptist Preacher dad will still be haunting me to make sure I feel the True Guilt for every time I stray from the true path.

Baptists don’t believe in ghosts, or hauntings—even former Baptists who sold out to become Episcopalians. We sure believe in guilt, however, even if we don’t let it change our behavior in any way. We just feel worse about it and find another rationalization to justify what we do.

The True Guilt, however, is uniquely Baptist. I mention the True Guilt because True Blood fans have been hearing a lot about the True Death lately and they are currently waiting with hearts pounding (okay, Carol is waiting with heart pounding) to see if Alexander Skarsgård will actually suffer the True Death or return for Season Four.

I understand why women don’t want Skarsgård to suffer the True Death. The guy did make to the cover of Rolling Stone, all naked and covered with blood along with Sookie and Vampire Bill. But Vampire Bill just can’t make women quiver the way the blond brooding Skarsgård can just by casting his gaze off the TV screen. I don’t understand the appeal myself, but whenever Carol and her friends discuss True Blood their eyes light up and their faces glow each time Skarsgård’s name is spoken.

However, my real point was about the True Guilt, which is worse than the True Death. The True Death is final, there’s no returning from it. There’s no returning from the True Guilt either, but it isn’t final. It accompanies every Baptist into the afterlife. Even when we’re rejoicing at the feet of God, suddenly we will remember what worms we were to feel guilt over what we were about to do, and then do it anyway because once Baptists are saved we’re always saved. There’s no going back, even if we backslide into becoming Episcopalian.

So there has to be some deterrent, and that deterrent is the True Guilt. God will forgive you every sin, but you’re never going to forget how poorly you treated him. While you’re singing at the feet of God you will look at all those Baptists who never sinned and feel ashamed. For the rest of eternity. That’s the True Guilt and there’s no getting away from it.

But, hey, it’s not God’s fault you feel the True Guilt. It’s your fault, and that makes it so much worse. So I’ve learned not to dwell on it, it’s my father’s job to do that for me, and to focus on this blog.

I wasn’t sure I could pull off reviewing an app a day, even for three months. I find it’s very difficult to stay motivated when there isn’t a client on the phone wanting to push up a deadline, or a department chair demanding that you keep up with a constantly changing agenda.

I was’t even sure any one would read this, but I have had enough readers drop by to make it worth my while.

I decided I wanted to end the summer session not with a review, but with my recommendation for the one app you really should buy. I did this for two reasons:

  • To bring some closure to the reviews before I take time off, and
  • Because, try as hard as I could, I couldn’t decide on one last app to review. There are so many good ones (and awful ones) still out there to review.

So I set out on the task of narrowing down all my reviews so far to find the single must-have app. First, I went back and added a new category to the blog called “ratings” which allows readers to search for reviews depending on how well an app performed. I then went back and identified all of the apps that Jenny rated “make biscuits.”

In the process I realized that the five categories could use a little tweaking. So I added two more:

  • Make Biscuits—Best Buy for the apps that not only received the best rating, but stood at as apps that I would recommend you actually buy.
  • 0 Stars—Total Waste for the apps that are so bad they go beyond bad. These are apps that Jenny would ignore completely. Only one app I already reviewed would go into that category, Wasted Time, hence the inspiration for a “total waste” designation. But I can think of a couple of others I will review that might go there.

This won’t change the ratings system Jenny uses, the new categories will appear only in the categories search option in the site sidebar. I simply thought they would help readers narrow their searches through the archives.

I will also be going back through all of the reviews to add them to their appropriate search categories. I have only done so currently with the apps that rated “make biscuits.”

Only five apps made it to the “Best Buy” category, and four of them could be considered entertainment or games. The apps were:

  • Deskstop
  • I Dig It HD
  • Let’s Create! Pottery
  • Mondo Solitaire
  • Plants v Zombies

Before I made my final decision, I asked Carol which app she thought I should name as the best app. She misunderstood me and didn’t realize I meant from the apps she reviewed (or, perhaps, it was her kind way of saying she couldn’t remember any of my reviewed even though she proofread them). Instead she named an app I recommended to her when I generously gave her my iPad (so I could buy the3G iPad).

In fact, she told me she relies on that app every day.

Ironically, I had to agree with her. Of all the apps that I would recommend as a best buy, that would be the app at the top of my list. I simply have been postponing reviewing it because I wanted to give its competitors a longer look. So, even though the review won’t appear until after I return, I will name it as the single must-have app from all the apps I have looked at so far.

The runners up

Four apps came short of making it to the “best buy” list that I thought I should mention. PocketGod is, in my opinion, the best iPhone app ever, but until the developers release an iPad HD version, it will remain forever just an iPhone app. The same goes for Airport Mania, another iPhone app that still performs better on the iPad than many games developed exclusively for iPad release.

NPR Reader came very close to making the cut. As an app, it’s the best news delivery app I’ve seen. And I love NPR’s news delivery. On the other hand, I recognize that NPR can be an acquired taste, such as oatmeal stout (which I love) or monster trucks (whose appeal eludes me entirely). And, to be honest, NPR’s news coverage is written to be listened to, and it it even better when listened to than read.

I will say this. If you think there is more to the news than you can get from the FOX or CNN site, but still feel sites like Slate are a little too left of the dial for you, NPR reader is definitely a best buy.

I seriously considered We Rule as a best buy, but the mojo thing still bugs me. Carol and I both love the game, we check in constantly to return orders and harvest crops and see how we can tweak our kingdoms. But the developers are doing more and more to make sure we spend more money on mojo, and I can’t call an app a best buy when there are so many back end charges. Besides, they killed off the unicorns last week. New players will never have the joy of a sparkling unicorn spreading joy through their kingdoms? What kind of heartless bastards do that?

The best app I’ve reviewed

Of the apps I’ve reviewed, Desktop is the one app I would recommend you download now. It packs a lot of punch for a dollar, and even if you rarely use it, I guarantee the day will come when you’re glad you did.

Desktop lets you take notes and work with your calculator (among a dozen other activities) without ever leaving your browser (which is Desktop). After I reviewed it, I still considered deleting it from my iPad simply because I told myself I really don’t need to take notes or compose emails while browsing. Time and time again, I’ve realized I do.

The most recent example? My wife and I love the Five Veggie Plate at Threadgill’s restaurant in Austin. We aren’t vegetarians, but we love this item. It’s like ordering from a vegetable buffet with more than a dozen choices, including an excellent dinner salad, squash casserole, cheese grits, and butter, black-eye and red beans. Carol loves to call me using her handsfree Bluetooth headset from the Honda and ask me to call Threadgills for take out since she’s in the vicinity. She has her list memorized, but there are too many good choices for me to settle on the same five each time.

The problem is, when I call in using the menu from my browser, I simply take too much time remembering what I decided this time. By the time I close the browser to call, I’ve forgotten at least two items I wanted. I could write them down, but I have to close Safari down to do so, and I forget at least two of the items I wanted anyway. I could call with the menu open, trying to keep which of the dozen delicious vegetables I want straight in my mind, and I can feel the hostess waiting to slam the phone down and hoping I won’t call back. So I keep the menu open in Desktop, write my selection down in the Desktop notepad and call with my list in front of me.

If I look up an address on map quest and don’t have a printer, I can jot it down in the notepad. Nor do I have to close and open the browser several times to copy and paste the data from three different address fields. If I run across an article that gives me a thought for the blog, I don’t have to leave the browser to jot the note down.

Desktop allows me to keep my browser open and juggle several tasks at once, without leaving the browser window. I don’t know another app that works that well.

Conversion experience: Apple comes in second again

I also should tell readers that I find myself using Pages less and less and Quickoffice more and more when I write. The only exception would be documents that need stylesheets and graphics, but for clients and the blog Pages isn’t working for me anymore. The main reason is the inability to manage the dozens of documents I may be juggling during any one week.

Pages dumps all my documents to a single folder. If I want to back them up, I have to email them or physically connect my iPad to my Mac.

Quickoffice lets me create as many folders and subfolders as I want and I can back my files up by dragging and dropping them to any folder in iDisk. The only drawback is the lack of support for the arrow keys on my keyboards, but I’m discovering that isn’t as big a problem as I’d first imagined.

The winner: Perfect Browser

Perfect Browser really is almost perfect. It does everything iPad Safari doesn’t that Mac Safari does. It even spoofs your favorite browser, rendering the pages the way they would look if you were actually using that browser. Most important, however, it allows you to search for phrases in the web page itself, a feature lacking in other iPad browsers. The full review will come when I return in September, but you have the heads up for now.

Download it now and try it for yourself, or wait for the review if you need more convincing. I will be back with a full review on the 14th of September, and will post little tidbits in the meantime.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad.
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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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