I got an iPad 2 recently and I’ve been thrilled with a handful of apps on it that are very useful to me as a Pagan, so I thought I’d do a quick overview. I’m sorry, I’m not sophisticated enough to have detailed screenshots, and I haven’t tried every app out there, so I can’t say that these are definitely the best of their kind, but they’re relatively easy to find and some of them are tremendously useful, so here goes:
My absolute favorite is 3D Sun Moon HD. It’s on sale right now for $2.99, but in my opinion it would be well worth the usual full price of $4.99. It gives you a view of where the sun’s and moon’s courses across the sky will fall for the entire day. This doesn’t sound so cool until you see that it’s a 3D representation that changes depending on which direction you’re facing (or holding the iPad). It doesn’t just show you where things in the sky are right now, it shows where they were, and when, and when and where the sun and moon rise and set, all relative to your position.
It’s really a tremendous amount of information in an elegantly simple display, intuitively communicating things like day length, how the phase of the moon changes, and what the sky will look like when you go to do ritual later on today. Or tomorrow – one of my favorite accidental discoveries about this app is that if you scroll through the date, it animates the sun and moon movements through the next several days, weeks, or months of their progress across the sky. This has to be one of the best tools for helping me, especially as an urban Pagan, stay oriented to what’s going on in the sky.
Along those lines, I also love Sun Seeker Lite, which gives a flat compass-oriented view of the sun’s path across the sky. More importantly, it will take a Google Maps view of your current location and superimpose the directions, hour-by-hour, where the sun will be coming from and casting shadows to. I’m sorry, it’s hard to explain in words. But when you see it, it is an incredibly easy way to figure out what the lighting conditions will be like, so you can tell whether the person calling the West will be blinded if you do ritual at 5pm, or what time today you ought to go outside to see the sun just brushing the tops of your favorite tree.
Originally designed to help photographers set up ideal shots with light and shadow, the Lite version of this app is free, and is plenty for me. For $4.99 you can upgrade to the full version which does “augmented reality.” Point the iPad towards the part of the sky you’re interested in, and the screen will show you a live view through the camera with the sun’s path across the sky graphically superimposed.
Another type of augmented reality application is Star Walk, one of the most highly recommended apps for the iPad. Turn on Star Walk and it shows you a graphical representation of the stars, constellations, planets, satellites, and what-have-you that are (or could be) visible in the portion of the sky it’s currently pointing at. It’s like one of those star charts that you can print out to help you see constellations, except that this is constantly up-to-the-minute, precisely coordinated with your location and the exact direction you’re pointing. It makes $4.99 a cheap price to pay to finally be able to recognize constellations besides Orion.
While we’re still looking at the sky, I can also recommend Luan, an app available for just 99 cents, that shows the lunar calendar, either by itself, or coordinated with the solar calendar. Gorgeous detailed images of the moon show what it will look like, with discreet indicators around the edge indicating when sunrise, sunset, moon rise, and moon set will take place. I tried a ton of different lunar calendar apps and finally settled on this one as the most convenient way to get exactly the information I wanted.
Finally, a little closer to home, Leafsnap is a nifty app that’s helping me improve my botanical knowledge. Take a photo of a leaf against a white background and Leafsnap queries a database to find the best matches for the plant it came from. It’s not perfect, by a long shot, since it’s a little finicky and has a somewhat limited database, but it’s a handy tool, so it’s worth a try, especially because it’s free.
Just a few more apps are worth a mention: GoodGuide can help you evaluate the relative environmental, social, and health impact of products you buy, and there are lots of cool meditation and yoga apps. I’m still trying Equanimity, the i-Qi timer, and the Insight Timer for meditation, along with Capital Yoga and Yoga Free. Using the iPad to have your own rock garden (iZenLite) or calming pond (Pocket Pond) can be pretty fun, too, and Naturespace has some nice audio clips of natural settings.
If you have favorite apps, what are they? Why do you like them?