Cloudy Days and Connected Nights

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Archive for February 18th, 2009

iBird Explorer Updated! How to Improve on a Great Program!

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iBird from the Mitch Waite Group

iBird from the Mitch Waite Group

Everything good I said about the iBird Explorer family of bird guides for iPhone and iPod Touch is still true. If you have not read that review you should start there, but read it with the knowledge that there is now a new version out which addresses the few shortcomings I found, and extends the program in interesting and useful ways. iBird Explorer is now, in my opinion, the most complete, and best designed, portable bird guide ever created, in any format, print or electronic. For a serious birder, it totally justifies the cost of at least an iPod Touch (and you know you were just looking for a good excuse to buy one), and it is a must have for any self-respecting iPhone toting birder! Read the original review here. iBird Explorer.

I could list the new features, but the iBird Explorer folks have already done that for me. Take a look. New Features. You can flip back here for my comentary and illustrations on how they work.

I will follow my own order, based simply on my personal impressions of the importance of the change.

Browse by Family

Browse by Family

First in my mind is the reworking of the Family browsing page. This is my default browser, since I still think of the birds by family, in field guide order, when trying to find a new bird. 

In place of the long list of species grouped by family, we now have a list of families, each with its own icon. You can quickly scroll down the family you are after…which was a chore in the previous version if the family was far down the list. Much better.

Note too the additional buttons along the bottom of the browse screen. I will put screen captures of these features at the end of this post.

Help links to specially formatted web pages with general help, new features, and a reference section. Since these reside on the web and are called down as needed you can only use them when you are connected, but it also means that they can be updated and upgraded without issuing a new version of the program.

Glossary is just what it says: a list of terms used in the descriptions with their definitions as used.

The More button is where you will find the Twitter page (posts from iBird Explorer to the micro blogging site Twitter, mostly chatter on new features, beta testing, etc. If you have a Twitter account you can follow and reply to tweets from iBirdExplorer there.) The About feature includes not only info on the Mitch Waite group and the program, but a bit about the whole team of programers, writers, illustrators, and photographers who have contributed. Photographers are linked to their own web pages. (And yes, I am listed. This is a volenteer effort, I have no financial stake in the success of iBird Explorer.)

Species Page

Species Page

Then, if you will remember from the first review, I totally missed the fact that many of the birds have second, and even third, illustrations. More have been added in this version (13) but just as important, there is now an numerical indicator in the Birds button at the bottom of the species page if there are additional illustrations, and they have added the message “scroll down for more variations” at the bottom of the illustrations where needed.  See below. There are similar numerical indicators in the Photos button when more than one photo exists of any given speices. Over 1600 photos have been added to this version, vastly improving its usefulness in the field, filling in gaps in the illustrations quite nicely, and just providing alternative views which are instructional in themselves. In fact, the number of added photos would justify making this a completely different product than the original iBird series. It goes way beyond your usual upgrade.

One significant change is hidden behind the Birdapedia button. Birdapedia now opens in-line, without closing iBird. It even has a slick rotating in thing when you activate it. This makes the Birdapedia a useful feature for the first time!

Multiple Illustrations

Multiple Illustrations

Multiple Photos

Multiple Photos

Again, the addition of suplimental illustrations and the wealth of photographs makes this version of iBird Explorer one of the best illustrated guides on the market. IMHO.

In the Search function a couple of really useful new criteria have been added. You can now search by both Primary and Secondary Color, and you can specify whether you are searching for Any or All of the colors you select under each. Sheen (iridescencemore properly) has also been added as a Color criteria under Primary color. Finally, you can choose to set a Location that iBird will remember, so you can preserve the set of birds you use most often.

The audio play has also been refined. You have a pause button while they are playing. 

As an aside, between reviews here, I switched from a generation 1G iPod Touch, to a 3G iPhone. The built in speaker on the 2G iPod Touch and the 3G iPhone, while kind of thin for music playback, is adaquate for playing bird sounds in the field. That means you do not have to carry an external amplified speaker unless you really want loud! This I like. The iPhone fits in my pocket. I have yet to see amplified speakers that are not a lot bulkier than the iDevice itself.

The More screens

The More screens

I should point out that while this review is based on the full Plus version of iBird Explorer (891 species: $19.99), all these features are available in all special and regional versions: Backyard ($4.99), North, South, West, Midwest, and Canada ($9.99 each).

In summary I will just repeat what I said above. With these new revisions and additions, iBird Explorer, especially the full Plus version, becomes the most complete, best designed, portable birding reference ever concieved. For the depth of illustrations, and especially informational text, no printed guide can touch it. iBird goes way beyond being a field guide. It is a complete reference set to the speices of North America, the equivalent of a whole shelf of books. In my opinion, for any birder, the existance of iBird Explorer in the app store fully justifies the price of an iPod Touch or iPhone. I seriously doubt I will be carrying a traditional field guide anytime soon again.

Short version: buy this program!

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Written by singraham

February 18, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Posted in app, iPhone, iPod Touch, review