It's that time of the week again, when the iMore writing staff comes together to share with you some of those apps we've been using the most this week. Once again we've got a good spread, covering both iOS and Mac, with apps for tracking expenses, a few iOS games, and something to keep the kids busy!
No one likes to have their valuables stolen. It's a terrible thing to have happen and thankfully, thus far I've been lucky. That doesn't mean I don't prepare for things like that to happen though. My computer houses a TON of information and honestly, if there was one thing that could be stolen that would be vital it would be my MacBook. Although I hope to never need it, to keep my computer safe I use Prey AKA Prey Project, which offers a free solution for tracking stolen computers, iOS devices and even Android devices. Prey runs in the background waiting to be triggered from an online control panel, should your computer be stolen you can activate it and perform actions on the device such as snap photos, sound alarms, remote lock and even activate Wi-Fi connections. It's lightweight, simple to install and easy to use. Set it and forget it — and hope you never need it. I encourage you to check it out more.
Ember is to digital images what Evernote is to note-taking - an app that helps you gather all of your images in one place for easy sorting, cataloging and sharing. Sure, you can use iPhoto, Lightroom or Aperture to do the same thing, but those apps are skewed towards photos. Ember helps you grab images from the web, from your iOS devices and elsewhere and provides an easy way to sort through what you're looking for. You can create collections that contain specific images, or Smart Collections that sort based on criteria like rating, tags, originating URL and more. A built-in browser lets you save web pages at widths specific to iPad or iPhone orientations, you can subscribe to web sites that produce photos that inspire you, and sketch feeback right on your images. Once you're done, you can share the images with friends and colleagues using e-mail, AirDrop, Messages, or social media including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and others.
Ember also has the screen capture capabilities of Littlesnapper, the Realmac app that Ember replaces, which makes it terrifically useful if you create tutorials or other content that relies on screen captures to get the point across. Realmac just released the software last week but they've already updated it with new features like new keyboard shortcuts, easier movement of snaps between collections, and more.
Cannon Crasha is a castle defense game that's easy enough to grasp, though you'll need to spend some time in order to master it. Your castle trades cannon fire with a castle on the opposite side of the map. You earn coins throughout each level that you use to buy everything from new types of ammunition to various soldiers that you can deploy during play to different defensive structures. Your goal is to knock the health meter of your opponent's castle down from 100 to 0 before they do the same to you. The game features a 40-level campagin mode, as well as an arena that can pit you against AI in custom games, a wave-based survival mode, and goal hunt mode. There is also a multiplayer mode, allowing you to play a friend either on one device or two. Cannon Crasha does have an in-app purchase component, allowing you to buy large amounts of coins for use in-game. Cannon Crasha is a universal game for iPad and iPhone, and costs $0.99 on the App Store. If your a fan of castle defense, then you should definitely check this one out.
After much anticipation, The Drowning has finally landed on iOS. Though this first-person shooter game has all of the similar free-to-play trappings we're used to, the control scheme is decidedly unique. Instead of leaning on the tired old dual virtual joystick paradigm that straight-up doesn't work well on mobile, you actually employ more finger-friendly techniques. For example, in order to fire, players tap two fingers on the screen, and your shot goes off directly between them. Getting around is really easy - tap on the ground, you'll find a path to that spot. Tap a button at the bottom in the middle to do a 180-degree turn, or swipe for more subtle changes. Things get pretty advanced when using this in conjunction; for example, tapping on a spot to start moving, then doing a 180 turn so you can keep an eye on things while backing up. This is genius. It promotes a different skillset than most are used to, and takes a step in the right direction to making touch-friendly FPS titles. Beyond the controls, I'm really digging the gritty zombie apocalypse feel, mainly since it has a very interesting twist to the old formula.
My godchildren, all 4 and 7-year olds of them, are currently, fiercely in love with Reading Rainbow. Yes, that LeVar Burton PBS show we all remember from the television of our youths has been re-imagined for the iPad of their youths. They love that they can choose books, that they can return the ones they've finished through a delightfully skeuomorphic slot and choose another one to keep their virtual backpacks full.
They have range of mountains, and each mountain has a genre, including family, action, fantasy, and non-fiction, with new content coming all the time. The books are interactive, full of sound and animation, and at the end they're rewarded with stickers they can put on their virtual islands.
It's educational, it's entertaining, it's a classic, and it's just one more example of why the iPad is the best, most accessible computing appliance in history. If you have kids, point them at the Reading Rainbow, and you'll all be dazzled.
I have a thing for expense tracking apps. I'm not quite sure why but I find myself wanting to try new ones and switch between them occasionally. xPence Plus is another great one for the iPhone that works as a series of customizable colored grids that show different categories for expenses. You can edit and create new ones labeled however you want. When you add an expense, it will automatically filter into the category you assign. The main grid view gives you a nice picture of what you're spending and on what. xPence Plus is divided into four easy to use categories: expenses, income, statistics, and settings. Each category will give you a nice picture of where your money is going and how fast you're spending it compared to how fast you earn it.
xPence Plus supports recurring transactions such as monthly rent or mortgage payments as well as photo attachments for times you'd like to attach receipts to something. The only catch is that you can only track so much for free. If you need to track more than 4 categories, you can upgrade to the pro version as an in-app purchase for $2.99 for unlimited transactions and categories. You can also only track up to 10 expenses at a time using the free version. The pro option removes this limitation. Even at $2.99 it's a great buy for what you get.
So, those are our picks for the week, but what about yours? Found a great app you think others might like? Share it with us and the community in the comments below!