Best New iPad Apps: Type with SwiftKey, write with Werdsmith and learn foreign languages

by Doug Drinkwater

February 8 2014

SwiftKey Note: The slick keyboard engine with Evernote integration

When I first heard rumors of SwiftKey coming to iOS, I was excited. SwiftKey’s responsive virtual touchscreen keyboards on Android have been excellent for a number of years, even being able to guess what you’re going to type based on previous typing patterns.

SwiftKey Note for iOS landed earlier this month and while the stock iOS virtual keyboard has always done its job, this new app (free, iTunes) take things a step further.

If you’re a regular user of SwiftKey, a lot of the advantages aren’t going to come as a massive shock. As with the other apps, Note suggests words based on what you’ve typed before, serves up corrections and can learn new words. As an example, perhaps you’d like it to remember ‘Timbuktu’ or ‘Super Bowl’ (probably not high on Peyton Manning’s list right now).

In addition, SwiftKey Note users can format text by swiping to the left on the text toolbar and there’s sharing options to send to Evernote, email or just copy to clipboard.

Evernote is also integrated into the app, although this synchronization is optional. Should you choose to sync with Evernote, you’ll see the same layout as with Evernote for notebooks, tags, and notes – although you won’t see any files from your account predating the synchronisation, which is a bit of a let-down. Furthermore, as the SwiftKey prediction engine and keyboard are restricted to being solely in this application, SwiftKey Note isn’t going to replace the stock iPad keyboard for email and other purposes anytime soon.

But in summary, SwiftKey Note is a fast and responsive virtual keyboard that is great for typing notes and saving back to Evernote.

Werdsmith is for journalists and other creative types

There are a large number of writing apps on iTunes – there’s even a section just for writing apps. However, the fact is that the quality varies quite a lot and it can be hard to spot the good ones.

I recently came across Werdsmith, (free,  iTunes), which comes not only with an eye-catching, moustache-featuring logo but also with the promise to offer up a “writer’s studio”. The app was recently updated to version 3.3.3, which largely saw bug fixes, improvements, and a new support and FAQ section.

The main idea of the app is for writers and budding wordsmiths to write down ideas, projects and then share these out to Twitter or members of the Werdsmith community. You also get your own personalised Werdsmith URL, which means you could use the app quite easily for blogging.

Sporting a clean interface that is easy to navigate and with plenty of space for your writing, Werdsmith has a split-screen view similar to numerous apps.

You’ll pull-down left to start writing – which takes you full-screen, where is a standard keyboard, the option to change style, publish, share (to iMessage, mail, Twitter) and change goals. Swiping to the left again takes you back to the home screen.

As touched on earlier, writing is split into two areas – ideas and projects. Projects are essentially ideas complex enough that warrant a goal.

Work is automatically saved and – better yet – synced across all your iOS devices via iCloud. Other bonuses include the option to remind you to write at your preferred time of day.

Werdsmith is free but there’s an in-app purchase option for $2.99 which lets you go beyond the limit of 14 projects or ideas. It’s a useful little app which faces a lot of competition.

(Discover many other good tablet apps for iPad and other tablets at TabTimes.com/apps)

Learn foreign languages with Duolingo

Duolingo, the popular language courses provider, recently updated its iOS app, bringing about new language support and other improvements.

Previously voted Apple’s app of the year for 2013, Duolingo has been updated to version 3.2 and this sees the app size reduced in half, as well as new options for Russian, Turkish, Hungarian and Dutch speakers to learn English. There are also some minor bug fixes.

Duolingo, like an increasing number of education apps, keeps users engaged by “gamifying” the experience by setting goals, moving up levels and tracking your learning over a prolonged period. The basic premise is learning phrases and other basics, and the aim is to do this without losing ‘hearts’. Should you have a specific goal in mind (in terms of minutes per day), you can set this up when creating a user account.

The app is visual, touch-friendly and easy to navigate, and lets you progress from multiple-choice questions on phrases to trickier quests like writing the correct words without prompt.

The home-screen shows your progress, and lets you select from doing the initial ‘basic’ courses to learning about more specific subjects, such as food, clothes, animals or learning plurals. As another bid to make you learn, there’s the option to add friends via email or Facebook to see who is at the top of the weekly leader board.

The app is free and should certainly be on your list if you want to learn another language.

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