Wednesday, March 9, 2011

JFK Historymaker: an iOS biography app for the 35th President

JFK Historymaker: an iOS biography app for the 35th President -

JFK Historymaker (US$4.99) from MultiEducator, Inc. is an extensive and comprehensive multimedia biography app for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. The amount of information is massive and includes 250 photos, 200 full text documents and 25 videos chronicling the life of John F. Kennedy, the United States' 35th president. In structure, it's very similar to an earlier app from the same company about the Civil War. Both apps have many positive attributes, but also quite a few nagging problems.

The design of the app lets you easily get to and keep track of information. With its larger screen, viewing it on an iPad is far more satisfying since, in landscape mode, there is always a menu on the left side of the screen that shows the categories and sub-categories of information. On the right of the screen is the content. The menu isn't there in portrait mode, but tapping on a menu button makes it appear. In the iPhone version, all you see is the menu; tapping on an item brings up the content, making things more difficult to navigate. The menu items contain distinctive icons that let you know if the item contains a video, photo, audio file or text. A list of Recent places is kept, and anything can be marked as a Favorite so that you can build your own list of interests. Everything but videos can be sent to email as well. Text and photos can be pinched or stretched, which really comes in handy on a small screen.

Organization is important in this type of app, since there are around 35 topic-oriented categories that range from JFK's early life to his assassination. Within each category is a sub-menu that lists the content. Tapping on an item brings up the text, photo, video or audio. It sounds complicated, but after a few minutes of using it, I could easily get anywhere quite quickly, and saving Recents and Favorites made it even easier. There is a button letting you go back to the last category; in the unlikely event you did get lost, there is a Contents button that will bring you back to the main menu. On the iPad there is also a search box to get you to the right place.

Categories are grouped well and break everything down to bite-sized topics, such as Civil Rights, Bay of Pigs, The Navy and so on. Many categories start with an overview then drill down to an in-depth discussion of the topic. Under that are all the supporting items. A great deal of the text is comprised of transcripts of speeches, minutes of meetings and scanned documents, including JFK's report card from the Canterbury School in 1930. (He wasn't a terrific student.) When looking at anything other than a video, there is an Info button on the iPad or a tab on the iPhone to get specific information on what is being viewed.

(Via The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW).)

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