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Apps for Learning - The Greatest Hits

So, after a year of posts, the time-tested 'Apps for Learning' feature is coming to an end. There are only so many subjects I can cover, and the bucket has run dry. That in mind, we thought the best send-off I could provide would be a comprehensive 'best of the best' rundown of the standout apps from every previous edition.

Combined, these 11 apps might completely retool your approach to life, elevating you to a kind of luminous, omnipotent being far beyond the surly limitations of humanity. Or it could just help you find a new hobby. Either way, dig in.

Art - Procreate

Somehow, the minds behind Procreate have created an app which is perfectly accessible to the budding artist, but also probably the best piece of professional digital sketching software in existence. How did they do it? Are they wizards? Probably, but that's beside the point, Procreate boasts amazing touch sensitivity, colour blending, brush stroke variety and all else. YouTube is rife with tutorials on how best to use it, and the interface is so deep and graspable that you can wile hours away just messing around with it.

Biology - NHM Evolution

You might not be within easy reach of the London Natural History Museum, you might have never been there, but that doesn't mean you can't access the brain-meltingly comprehensive archives of biological data housed therein. Beginning with the origin of species and splaying out onward, the NHM Evolution app will have you delving through reams of biological and anthropological history, presented as lovingly and beautifully as you would naturally expect. A must have. 

Chemistry - Virtual Chem Lab

Why take an interest in chemistry? Well, to pour things into other things and see how they react, obviously? When I was at school, the lessons in which we were actually able to create compounds were always the most exciting ones, but that was partially because we might get to watch something explode from behind safety glass. Chem Lab eschews any risk of burning, blistering or dismemberment to offer you a fun way to explore these things, whilst also teaching you how the study of change really applies.

Coding - Code Warriors: Hakitzu Battles

Call me biased, either in favour of coding as an educational pursuit or the unequivocal awesomeness of giant robots, but this might be the best app on the entire list. Learning to code can be a laborious, almost overwhelmingly left-brained undertaking, so how to do you spice it up? Add giant battle robots, of course. Hakitzu has you using lines of code to commit your battle-bot to fight either computer or player controlled foes, with more complex codes leading to more advanced manoeuvres. You can unlock upgrades for your bot and personalise it in other ways, and with enough time logged, you could well discover that your coding knowledge has become applicable to more practical scenarios.

Cooking - Epicurious

In some cases, the old standard is still the best option. Despite hundreds of cooking apps being released since Epicurious first surfaced, it still remains the best one on the market. The sheer number of different recipes available is staggering, and you can easily compile lists of favourites, future projects, quick fixes and whatever else your culinary needs might call for. The recipes themselves are so intricately detailed that it's almost impossible to come unstuck, and the images which come with each one are enough to make you hungry all by themselves. 

Geography - National Geographic World Atlas

It might seem like a bit of a no-brainer that the most essential geographic app belongs to this publication, the clue is in the name. The National Geographic is a mainstay of photography, cartography and travel journalism, and their app is appropriately slick. Storing a huge amount of information pulled from the magazine's archives and presenting it via a sumptuous atlas interface, you're able to span the globe picking up all manner of different kinds of information about nearly every nation, current or previous. 

History - Back in Time

Although many of the history apps which cover one particular era might do so more comprehensively, being able to zoom in and out of a sprawling timeline at will is just great fun. Back in Time traces the history of life, the universe and everything in a huge arc of sparkling time juice. Zooming in opens up a smorgasbord of photos, animation and illustrations about that particular era, and some of the information is so obscure that if you go through the entire app and don't learn anything you didn't already know, you're a freak. A FREAK I SAY.

Languages - Duolingo


Once again, the king has retained the throne. The market for language apps is more over-saturated than any other on this list, but you don't have to do much digging to find the best option, it's still Duolingo. The attractive interface, gentle but effective learning curve, variety of languages and dialects on offer and impetus on practical application out there in the world make it absolutely essential for any digital bilingual hopeful. The icing on the cake, though? The immersion system, which tasks you with translating real world articles at varying difficulties, depending on where you are with the rest of app.

 Music - Real Piano

There's no such thing as an effective, comprehensive music app for any kind of instrumentalist, and the quality between the different ones for different disciplines varies wildly, but Real Piano is a reliable, remarkable constant. The presence of a fully custom 88-key piano, a versatile scale which you can change depending on your skill level/what you're aiming to learn, effects tools, an achievement system and an endless array of other bells and whistles (which is only expanding with time) all come together to make an app which seems almost too good to be true. Even if you're already a seasoned pianist, this is worth a look in.

Photography - Elements of Photography

With all the phone based photographers now roaming the globe, armed with selfie sticks and a range of basic filters, it can be hard to differentiate between apps that are actually useful and those that are only offering a quick fix. Elements is most certainly the former, it's a tutorial based app which can take you from a neophyte to an adept snapper with relative ease. All those complicated letters and numbers on your camera display? Elements will explain what they mean, and how to use them

Physics - Gravity Lab

Part of me wanted to just stick a fun outer space app here, but this is about learning, and none of them have anything on Gravity Lab. In this app, you can literally build your own solar systems, creating physical bodies which orbit and interact with each other realistically across different gravitational planes. It's great fun, and looks amazing, but it also tasks you with understanding how objects of different sizes exert forces on each other, and the more you build, the more complicated it gets. This is structured learning as its best, combining challenge, freedom, intrigue and fun into one addictive, informative app.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @Songbird_Callum

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Apps for Learning - The Greatest Hits Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 Rating: 5

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