Education apps will help you learn new things. It’s an exciting field with many wonderful apps and here are the best of them.

Shortcut Sumo

Shortcut Sumo Puts Adobe Shortcuts at Your Fingertips


I’m a heavy Creative suite user. On any given day I easily spend multiple hours in Lightroom, and equally as many in Photoshop. I’m not as well versed in Indesign or Illustrator but I’m getting there. This week Kelby Media announced the release of it’s latest App entitled Shortcut Sumo and I can’t tell you how excited I’ve been for this App to become available! This App not only teaches you ALL of the keyboard shortcuts for EVERY piece of the Creative Suite, but it also provides you with a quick point of reference to jog your memory when you forget one! I’m extremely excited and you should be too! Finally with the tap of your finger on your iPad screen you have access to every keyboard shortcut that the pros use to streamline their workflow and stay profitable. So you can stop right here, right now and go buy it. You don’t have to read this review as to why it’s amazing, just take my word for it and head over to the App store. If however you want to see all of the awesome features contained within, read on…


Done Right

We all know that every learning tool coming from Kelby media is top notch. If you’ve ever read any of the books, taken any of the online courses, or attended any of the seminars then you know that Kelby media is full of some of the best instructors of Photography, and the Creative suite the industry has to offer. I say that to say this, when they release an App like this, we all expect that it will be done right and they didn’t disappoint with Shortcut Sumo! From the extremely well thought out categories, to the extremely (sometimes too) powerful search function, you have every keyboard shortcut that you could want. On top of the ability to search, they have included the ability to bookmark your favorite or most used sections as well as add notes. They’ve really thought this App through.


Getting Started

The first thing you’re bound to notice when you search the App in iTunes is that it’s FREE! Like Light It Magazine (also from Kelby Media) the App itself is free to download and comes with the ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) “module” for free! That in itself is enough to download the App. There are tons of keyboard shortcuts to learn just in ACR which (again) they give you for the low price of nothing! Once you finish up with ACR you are more than likely going to want to download the rest of the modules for all of the products you use. (As of this writing Photoshop is the only other module available for download but the rest are coming shortly) For me Photoshop was the obvious choice of places to start. I’m in Photoshop non stop and it’s the place where I truly stand to save the most amount of time. To access the desired module you have to be connected to data (either wifi or over your cellular network) and you simply tap on the desired module on the “bookshelf” Once you have them downloaded however, they’re local; meaning they are on your device to read no matter if you have a data connection or not. Once downloaded you launch the module exactly as you would expect by simply tapping the desired title. When you do you are presenting with a home screen asking if you would like your shortcuts in Mac or Pc. This is awesome for anyone that hasn’t made the inevitable jump to Mac and still uses the Windows platform (kidding).  This will ensure that you are reading the shortcuts for your machine as some of the buttons very from Windows to Mac.  Like I said, Photoshop was where I was headed first because that’s where I will save the most amount of time with my shortcuts.


A Little Something Extra

Inside of every module there is a “bonus tips” video accessible by tapping the play button on the main screen. The video for Photoshop happens to feature my buddy RC from “The Photoshop Guys”. He’s doing his best impression as a sumo wrestler but anyone that knows him, knows that he’s a pretty in shape guy, and the absolute last person I’d expect to see throwing a punch but it’s funny all the same seeing him dressed like that!



Using the App

Once inside you either search or use the menu hierarchy to select the topic you are looking for shortcut wise. When you do find your desired topic LAYERS for example, you will see sub menus below the main topic. Selecting a sub menu will bring up that particular shortcut. In the screen shot above you see the shortcut for NEW LAYER. Below the dialog box that would pop up within Photoshop you see a virtual keyboard showing the key combination. This is to ensure that you know exactly what keys to push.

In the upper right corner of the screen you will find the “search” option. This is where you will type in the topic that you’re trying to find info on. This is also where you’re going to find the only flaw with this App (if you want to call it that). When you search a topic, the search results bring back both Mac and PC (hey at least it’s thorough!), and you can’t determine which is which until you click into the shortcut. Once you click into the shortcut you have to open the search bar again (it saves your previous search results so it’s easy to switch selections) and tap on a different shortcut until you find your platform. So far this is the only flaw I’ve found with the App and I look at is more as search being thorough.

Next to the search bar you will notice the three small icons and the browse button. The tag pencil icon (closest to the search button) is a search for sections that you have bookmarked or left notes on. This is where you would quickly access your favorite shortcuts and/or notes. The next small icon (the one in between the two tags) is the notes button. This is where you tap if you want to add a note for the particular section that you’re in. The third icon (tag furthest away from the search button) is used to bookmark the page. This is extremely helpful if you want to mark a section for quick access later. The browse button is exactly what you would think it is. You can use this to browse the sections.

The Bottom Line

There isn’t a better way to easily keep All of the Creative Suite keyboard shortcuts in one place and have them be so readily accessible. Again, I showed you, and talked about Photoshop shortcuts, but they have ACR available now, and will have the other parts of the Creative Suite available shortly. With a cheap price (the App is free and each module is $2.99) this is a must have for anyone, new or seasoned pro that uses Lightroom, Adobe ACR, Photoshop, Indesign, or Illustrator.


Get Shortcut Sumo from the iTunes store for your iPad for free here: iTunes


Photoshop Quiz Game

Photoshop Quiz Game

Have fun testing your knowledge of Adobe Photoshop! Our good friend Dave Cross (Photoshop Instructor) has just released his Photoshop Quiz Game App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Whether you’re new to Photoshop or a long time pro, I would dare say that you don’t know everything about Photoshop (know one does), however, if you think you’re a Photoshop guru and you want to put your skills to the test, then you definitely want to check out this “game”. While it has the word Game in the title and it is entertaining, I feel like this is more of an educational tool than a game. As a matter of fact it would really be useful as a study aid for those of you looking to pass your Photoshop ACE exam or being tested on Photoshop at school.

Three Levels of Difficulty

There are three levels of difficulty ranging from those “how can anyone not know these?” questions to those “who in the world would know this?” type questions. While I’ve been using Photoshop since version 2 (not CS2, 2.0) there are still things that stumped me in this “game.” Besides playing the three different levels you can also use the Flash Cards feature to study from.

The Bottom Line

Any Photoshop User will definitely want to check out this App. My only complaint/annoyance (besides not knowing all of the answers) was that once I started a game, there didn’t seem to be a way to bail out of it. I had to keep tapping answers until all of the questions were answered before being allowed to get back to the home screen. Hopefully I’m missing something and there’s a secret handshake or button. I’m also hopeful that Dave will continue to update the App with new questions.

You can get the Photoshop Quiz Game for $4.99 here from the iTunes


AlphaTots Alphabet Learning App

The alphabet is the core of the English language. Reading and writing start with knowing each and every letter, how they sound, and the words that they're associated with. This is why it is so important to teach the alphabet to our children at an early age. Any App that helps do that, and keeps my 5 year old twins interested at the same time catches my attention. AlpaTots does just that. With the interactive activities attached to each letter, and the alphabet sing along, this is a great App to help in the learning process.


Keep It Interesting

Keeping a child's attention is one of the hardest things to do. My children (they're 5 years old) have the attention span of a gnat. They don't stay tuned in to any one thing very long. Even TV doesn't put them in a trance like it does some other children. AlphaTots manages to keep their attention for a long period of time; sometimes as long as an hour. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is an accomplishment for my children believe me. The way this App does it is by offering so many different "things to do" within it.  Each letter has an activity attached to it. This means that there are 26 different "things" for my children to do which keeps them entertained. Each activity is associated with the particular word that they chose to represent that letter. For example, U is represented by the word "unlock". For this they show a chest and tell the children to unlock the chest. To do this they have to line up the shapes in three separate wheels (similar to a slot machine). This keeps them doing something fun, and also helps with shape identification and matching! This isn't a new concept within children's learning Apps, but the simplicity and effectiveness is second to none.

The ease of use is found throughout the App. The letters are easy to navigate to from the home screen. Advancing to the next letter after completing the activity is intuitive and simple, and there are words of praise throughout the entire process.

The Alphabet Song

When I was a little kid, no one thing helped me learn my letters more than the alphabet song, as I'm sure it has helped millions of others. Knowing this, AlphaTots included the alphabet song into the App. Tapping on the music notes in the lower right hand corner of the screen brings up a new screen that not only plays the alphabet song, but also displays the letters as it sings it to your child. My children can sing the song word for word, but they still enjoy this feature of the App and play the song at least once every time they are using the App.


The Bottom Line

You can't go wrong with a children's App that not only teaches your child the alphabet, but helps them enjoy the learning process while they're doing it. This App will help your child learn their ABC's very, very quickly.


You can get AlphaTots for the iPad from the iTunes store for $1.99 here: iTunes
You can get AlphaTots for the iPhone from the iTunes store for $.99 here: iTunes


A Digital Take on a Classic Kids Game


When I was a kid I distinctly remember having a game that had a row of "Jack in the boxes" each with a different switch that released the hidden shape or animal to pop up through the trap door. Each of the switches was different. One would be a round button that you pushed, one would be a toggle switch that you flipped, one would be a nut that you turned, etc. My twins even had a variation of this when they were 2 or so and they're only 5. Now we have it on the iPad but only better! Kids Place brings you Peekaboo Pets, an interactive learning tool designed to teach kids animal names, sound and picture correlation.

Just like the traditional game, each animal has a different button that requires a different movement. This does two things. First, it keeps things different for the kids so they don't get bored, and second, it helps with fine motor skills. Whether it's a switch or a button, the movement is never too difficult.

Once the animal is released from the trap door, the sound that it makes is played through the speaker or headphones. Touching the picture below the animal plays the sound again, and if you're kids are like mine, it will play it again, and again, and again… Touching the name of the animal below the switch plays the animal's name. This is my only complaint about the App. It sounds like the narrator sounds to be from England which, makes some of the pronunciations a little "different" than what we are used to.

The Bottom Line

This is a simple App. Sometimes however, the simple Apps are the most effective. This is one of those Apps. It's so simple that it is really, really effective in teaching animal names, pictures, and sounds to toddlers. If you have a toddler, it's a definite must have. This is a universal binary meaning that it will work on both the iPhone and iPad. The layout is exactly the same and I wrote this review kind of late so I didn't have any screen shots to show you.


You can get Peekaboo Pets for the iPad and iPhone from the iTunes store for $1.99 here: iTunes


Teach Your Kids Measurement With the iPad

Just last month my Twins went to their first day of kindergarten. For the last two years they went to preschool 3 days a week (which they loved) but I don't think they were quite prepared for school "every day". My daughter (who is quite opinionated to say it kindly) announced after her second day that she was tired of going every day and that she was just going to go three days a week like last year. I chuckled and told her that she should probably get used to it because she has about 16 more years of school before she's done.  Since my first day with my iPad I have tried to find Apps that not only keep my children's attention, but also help prepare them for school. Anything that can give them an advantage, or edge in the learning department, I downloaded. Not too long ago I was presented with Measurement HD for the iPad. Like any App to help my kids, I ran through all of the features myself to see if it was a good quality App or something that was going to just confuse them in the long run. I was delighted with what I found. This App not only teaches measurement in the form of length, but also volume, time, months, and scale! And it does it in a way that really keeps their attention. If you have a child in the Kindergarten or 1st grade range, this is a must have App.

Five Sections

As you can see, there are five sections to chose from with really good graphics to entice the kids. Crazy Clock, Scale Tale, Fill Me Up, Long and Short, and Action Month. Each has it's own set of graphics, and lesson to learn, and each is just as good as all of the others at teaching that lesson.

Long & Short

I'm going to start with this section because it's right where my twins went to first. I'm not sure what drew them to this section first, but there was no doubt which one they wanted to play.  Long and Short the child is given a choice of two pictures. The pictures are of items that they are familiar with; Fish, trains, pencils, etc.  They are asked to chose which is the longest or shortest. This question comes not only in text form but audibly as well. When the child chooses correctly the pictures is sprinkled with what I would describe as golden sparkles indicating that they chose correctly. A new set of pictures is then placed on the screen and the process starts over again.


Crazy Clock

Crazy Clock, is a pretty fun game, and a really good way for children to learn their time on a "traditional" analog clock. The children are presented with a statement such as the one shown. "I go to playschool at 8 in the morning" They are then asked to move the minute hand until the time is correct. As you can see the "8" is circled to help the children figure out which number they should be on. The clock works just like a real analog clock. As you move the minute hands the hour hand moves. They don't move independently of themselves. This means that the child has to spin the minute hand around past the 12, 2 times to get the correct time. When they do, a loud bell and a congratulations message are heard. This particular game has helped my twins learn their time on an analog clock in about 2 months.

Scale Tale

Scale Tale incorporates a really hungry alien holding two food items in his/her hand. The children are presented with a question as in the other games. In this case, which item is heavier? If the child chooses correctly, the alien eats the food and makes a "yum" sound. It's a great way to help children understand scale with visual support.

Fill Me Up

What I really like about Fill Me Up is that it's a little more interactive than the other games. First the child has to drag the liquid to the containers to "fill them up". In the example above it allowed me to drag three glasses of water to the large jug, and two to the smaller jug. Once that was completed, it then asked me which jug held more water. This game is a really, really good exercise for children to grasp volume. I really think that is has helped my children with the concept.

Action Month

Last but not least is Action Month. This particular game asks the child to drag the letters to their correct place in the name of the month. There is an outline of the month to help the child place the letters correctly. Once all of the letters are placed correctly the name of the month is said, and a little helpful saying about the month is said aloud to help the child remember.


Great Learning Tool

As with all of the Apps that have come from PunFlay, this App is a wonderful learning tool that really helps your toddler/young child's developmental skills. I have seen the effect that it has had on my two 5 year old's in just the short amount of time that they have been using it and it's remarkable.


You can get Measurement HD for the iPad from the iTunes store for $1.99 here:  iTunes

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