For all seasons

  • Enjoy these autumn apps but remember to tear your eyes away from your phone screen—despite unpredictable weather, fall is a beautiful season.

Now that we have passed the fall equinox, it is time for the weather to cool off and the trees to change colour. This also means it’s time to talk about autumnal apps.

Going for country walks is one of my favourite fall pastimes, especially when I can find orange leaves. Because I am curious, I also like to try to identify which tree is which, and I use Leafsnap, perhaps the best-known tree identifier app. The app has several sections, starting with a fun game. Images of leaves from different tree species blow around the screen, and you move each one onto a box matching the right name. It’s simple but fun, and it could be a good way to learn leaf shapes.

The main part of Leafsnap is a huge index of tree species in North America; each entry has its own small leaf graphic. You can view the list alphabetically by common or scientific name or search to find a particular reference. Tapping on a list entry takes you to an album of photos that show foliage, fruit and bark in more detail. A page of text tells you about the tree, including its habitat, life span and where it is usually found.

Using this list means you have to know a bit about trees to start with. But the app also has a section where you can snap a photo of a leaf on a white background and it will try to automatically identify the species for you. The accuracy can be hit-or-miss, and while some app store reviewers have complained that the system can be buggy, I have generally had good luck. The app also may not have all the tree types for your part of the US. Since the app is free on iOS, it’s worth trying.

A great equivalent to Leafsnap on Android is the free Virginia Tech Tree ID app. This app also has thousands of photos to help you identify autumnal trees. Instead of an image recognition system, it uses your GPS location and your entries in a checklist, like leaf shape and arrangement, to narrow the list of potential trees. It’s not the most elegant looking app, and its menu system feels awkward sometimes, but it’s definitely full of data that could add interest to a stroll in the forest.

For a good guide to help you explore the autumn scenery in the countryside, check out the AllTrails app, free on iOS and Android. It’s a comprehensive guide to trails you can hike or bike, and you can either browse the trails it recommends or simply search for those near your location. The app also has offline content should you roam beyond cell tower range. It even has topographic maps so you can see how challenging a particular trail can be.

This app is graphically rich, full of photos and advice, and it’s free, although some features like offline maps and access to National Geographic topography maps require a paid upgrade of $50 for a year.

Autumn scenery also makes for good eye-candy on your phone, and the Autumn Leaves selection in HD Gyro 3D animated wallpaper for Android is a great example. It’s a pretty 3-D graphical autumn tree scene that moves to simulate a 3-D perspective effect as you rotate your phone. The app is free, and it is free of advertisements. For lock screen and background images on iOS devices, check out the app HD Wallpapers and Backgrounds by Rise Up Labs, which is free. It contains thousands of images in different categories, including some attractive autumnal ones. Beware of pop-up ads in this app, though.

Thoroughly organising and cleaning the house is something I do in the autumn instead of spring, because I figure I am going to be spending more time indoors for the next few months. The BrightNest app, free on iOS and Android, is a great companion for a deep clean exercise because the app’s attractive design, cheerful style and interesting content actually make the task less boring.

The app has thousands of tips for good home-cleaning practices, each explained clearly and well illustrated. If you sign up for a free account, you can enter details of your home and receive customised tips to suit your needs. You can even schedule tasks ahead of time and have the app remind you. It’s actually fun to use BrightNest, which may be something you wouldn’t expect from a cleaning app.

This fall-themed column wouldn’t be complete without a pumpkin-related app, and the Pumpkin Recipes app by NetSummitApps is it. The app contains more than 200 recipes organised into categories, including pumpkin bread, pumpkin breakfast snaps and, of course, pumpkin pie. The food looks good, and the app is free. Enjoy these autumn apps but remember to tear your eyes away from your phone screen—despite unpredictable weather, fall is a beautiful season.

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The Week

Topics : #gadgets | #review

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