Now that the holidays are here, it’s the perfect time to give gifts, throw parties, cook up special recipes, and travel. If you’re the festive type, though, you’ll also want to pursue these same endeavors year round. So we’ve gathered up a list of some of the coolest (and most enduring) gifting, feasting, and merry-making apps for the iPad. You won’t feel the need to delete any of these after Christmas and New Year’s Eve have come and gone.
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Touted as the app that’ll help you track all of the important events in your life — as well as the birthdays and milestones in the lives of your loved ones — My Day is an application that’s as user-friendly as it is aesthetically attractive. It does one thing and does it well.
It has a fully functional interface that lets you automatically import the birthdays of your friends from your iPad’s Contacts list so you don’t to have to re-key in the DOB data for everyone important to you. My Day is very customizable, so the countdown to each event can have a different background, including images you’ve taken yourself.
Just about its only flaw is that it only runs in portrait mode; there’s no support for landscape at all.
This software is free to use as long as you accept pop-up ads. A 99 cent in-app purchase can remove these completely if you use My Day frequently.
Pricing Gifts (and Other Stuff)
Barcode scanner and QR code reader apps aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, but they’re also not in short demand. Which is why, sometimes, finding the one that offers more than just a product’s name and description can be a challenge.
ShopSavvy is a barcode scanner and QR code reader that works just like the rest of them do, in that a simple scan from your iPad pulls up both online and nearby price information for the product and returns results based on the lowest prices found. Beyond that, however, it’s also a useful informational tool that gathers the most relevant online user reviews to help you inform your buying decisions.
Even if you don’t have access to a QR code or barcode, ShopSavvy is a useful app to help you discover products, offering browsing for books, movies, electronics, games, and other stuff. Programmable notifications keep you updated to special featured products and local savings, and you can even create watch lists and wish lists and share them with others.
This is another application that, unfortunately, doesn’t support landscape mode on the iPad.
My Recipe Book
If you’re bored with eating frozen pizza day in and day out, you’ve got only yourself to blame. The internet is rife with all sorts of incredible dish recipes that range from simple to extravagant, and you’re never really any more than a click away from discovering your inner culinary skills.
The trouble a lot of people run into is in the organization of recipes. My Recipe Book is an all-in-one app that doesn’t just help you discover good eats, it also has cool organizational tools and you can even create a grocery shopping list so you don’t forget some critical ingredient… and you can display the list on your Apple Watch.
It’s also an aggregator of new information and comes with the ability to import recipes you find online. Food categories are broken down simplistically so you can find what you want fast, and you can also store recipes in specific “dietary needs” categories like gluten free, lactose free, vegan, and vegetarian.
This isn’t your mom’s party planner. It’s an app that covers every aspect you can think of when it comes to the preparation of events. Pro Party Planner is a tool that can work well in the hands of both novice and professional event planners. From the standpoint of the UI (user interface), the app takes a no-frills, all-business approach and has little going for it in the way of visual appeal.
That aside, Pro Party Planner has an awful lot under the hood that makes it worth the cost of the download. Users can create numerous events, with a timeline that tracks individual invitations sent, RSVPs received, the names and contact information of collaborators.
The application also keeps a running budget total. It even enables you to create and edit seating charts. Tasks can be assigned to specific collaborators and are easily trackable for the timely completion of menu items, drinks, favors, and decor.
Pro Party Planner supports SMS communication with participants. Event invitations can be sent via email and synced to an established Facebook event for easy one-touch social media integration.
Martha Stewart Makes Cookies
Baking home-made cookies is a traditional Christmas pastime, and it can be fun any time of the year, but sometimes some expert advice is helpful. If you’ve ever blurted out the words “How does she do that?” at the mere sight of some of Martha Stewart’s baked confections, pick your chin up off the floor and wonder no more.
Martha Stewart Makes Cookies is a lot more than just a drool-inducing visual tour of “greatest hits.” It’s also an easy-to-navigate, great-bang-for-your-buck roadmap for turning your kitchen from a place to make food into a place to make dreams come true. Okay, that might be a little over the top, but you get the picture.
Separated out into six categories (Giftable Cookies, Holiday Cookies, Classic Cookies, Chocolate Cookies, Kids; Cookies, and Sugar & Spice Cookies), the app delivers no fewer than 120 unique recipes in a beautifully laid out and elegantly designed format. In addition to ingredients and instructions, the app comes with video tutorials, a shopping list creator, a unit converter, and a timer that can be set for up to seven hours.
Even better, recipes are sharable via email or Facebook.
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Most people know about two types of cocktail recipes: “on the rocks” and “straight up.” If you’re into the idea of stretching the boundaries of your know-how, there are innumerable online resources to help you to that end — but few quite like Mixology, which has a library of more than 8,000 drink recipes.
Users can filter through seven different categories from traditional cocktails to hot drinks. If you’re playing bartender on the fly, Mixology also lists recipes by ingredients so that you can whip up tasty libations using what you’ve got on hand. Mixology’s handsomely designed appearance includes photos of what the final product ought to look like if you’ve done everything right.
Additional cocktail recipes in several categories are available as in-app purchases.
No party is ever complete without music. But when it comes to real entertainment, you’re going to need one of two things: a live band, or a DJ. Either one is capable of blowing away the simplistic “shuffle” limitations of the average music player, but both can be downright unaffordable.
By downloading Djay 2 and putting in a little practice, anyone can take the helm to effectively deliver a music set worthy of accolades. The app — which took top honors in 2011 as the winner of the highly sought after Apple Design Award in the iPad category — boasts a responsive, visually appealing interface that mimics the appearance of two side-by-side turntables.
Instead of slapping on a vinyl disc, songs are pulled from your device’s music library. Each turntable has its own dedicated EQ meter, which can be manipulated to alter tones, add effects, set cue points and play loops. The app also comes with a number of samples from popular artists that can be laid over tracks, and the record feature can be used to create your very own samples on the fly.
For more accurate record scratch control, rotating the iPad changes the view to a single turntable. If you find yourself taking requests, Djay 2 also includes a song queue as well as a history view so you never have to worry about accidentally playing the same song twice — a well known no-no among the DJ elite.
The app is easy to use for beginners (thanks to special features like Slip Mode and Perfect Sync, which keep songs from falling out of rhythm) but experienced users will also discover a highly functional program that comes for about the cost of a single album download and eliminates the need for bulky equipment. People who find they really get into being a DJ might try djay PRO ($19.99).
Sing! Karaoke by Smule
Tunes like “Jingle Bells” and “Auld Lang Syne” can be cool to sing during the holidays, but karaoke can be a crowd pleaser all year long. An iPad makes a great tool for this, and it’s tough to go wrong with Sing! If you’re a beginner at the whole karaoke thing, the app comes with a library of free tracks to get you started. If you’re already an avowed veteran of the solo singalong, you can record your performances and share them with the world.
While the download is free, you may have to pay extra to unlock the app’s full capabilities. For $7.99 per month, you can get a premium subscription with access to more songs, as well as the ability to sing an unlimited number of duets with famous music stars.
Sing! Karaoke by Smule comes with the ability to add vocal effects, so that those not born with pipes of gold can sound better.
Making Travel Reservations
TripAdvisor Hotels Flights Restaurants
Going home for the holidays — or to any place, any time? TripAdvisor is a popular website for the comparison of hotels, restaurants, airfare and more, but the iPad application offers a host of additional functionalities that turn it into something more akin to a virtual travel agent.
In addition to flight, hotel and rental car price comparisons, TripAdvisor lets you book arrangements from within the app itself. Its Near Me Now function helps travelers discover new things to do.
The app will let you download maps from over 300 cities around the world so you can find your way around without roaming data. There’s even an Apple Watch version.