By Terry Gardner, Special to the Chicago Tribune
January 8, 2014
Best Flash Light!
(free for iOS, Android and Windows from RV AppStudios)
What it is: An app that transforms a smartphone or tablet into a flashlight. Extra talents include a magnifying glass and controls that use movement or sound to turn the light on or off. Six additional features, including a compass, location maps and an SOS signal, can be unlocked for 99 cents or by recommending the app over social media and email. The app should be available in Samsung, Nook and Kindle stores in early 2014.
How it works: You launch the app, then use a power button to switch it on or activate special features to operate it by waving your phone or clapping your hands.
Why it's great: I often need a flashlight when I travel, either to find something in a hotel room or when I drop my keys in a darkened theater. The "Clap-On, Clap-Off" and waving controls have made this my favorite flashlight app. And the compass and SOS feature are great to have when traveling off the grid. Though the app is limited on the iPad by the device's lack of a camera flash, it turns the iPad's screen into a bright torch.
(99 cents for iOS; WT360 Lite is free)
What it is: a predictive weather app from WeatherTrends 360 that is a great 99-cent investment. If you don't mind ads, you can get WT360 Lite for free.
How it works: The app uses your phone's GPS to find the weather forecast for your current location, or you can tap on the name of the city and open a search window to look up weather there. You can research weather conditions for the next day or tap on "Daily" and use the app's slider to find weather forecasts several months out, which are more averages than forecasts.
Why it's great: This app helps me pack for a trip and plan activities. Even for extended forecasts using averages as far as a year out, it gives me some confidence in making plans. When it projected rain on a trip, I made sure to pack my umbrella, which I did need. In planning activities for a March visit to Dubai, the app helped me get an idea about what activities I may want to do when temperatures will hover around 90.
National WWII Museum App
(Free for iOS and Android)
What it is: An educational app that is the official visitors guide to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. The app includes photos and descriptions of more than 75 exhibits and artifacts.
How it works: The app can make a virtual visit to the museum by scrolling through a variety of onboard images. If I had had the app before visiting the museum in October, I would have known that a two-hour visit would be insufficient.
Why it's great: Until you can visit this extraordinary museum, you can scroll through information and images of a variety of exhibits and artifacts, including World War II aircraft and vehicles. Details for planning a half-day, full-day or two-day tours are included. The app also has GPS maps of museum buildings and audio and video content, along with themed puzzles to solve and an option to create a photo of yourself in a propaganda poster.
Why you might hesitate: Many features require a data connection. I hope an update will store puzzles and propaganda photos in app to be enjoyed offline.
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