The Elements for iPad: Hands-on review


My initial hands-on review of the iPad for Boing Boing mentioned The Elements, one of a handful of apps built specifically for iPad available for review prior to Saturday's public launch. After spending some quality time with the app, I can say The Elements is my favorite at this very early stage. We've covered previous iterations of Theodore Gray's gorgeous periodic table series before — books, posters, puzzles, but it's as if all of that was a sketch, and this app the real intended execution of his project. The Elements transforms a familiar scientific reference into a dazzling, living book that delights the eye and tickles the neurons. It really does hint at the possibilities promised by Apple for iPad: a device that makes it possible to merge book, game, entertainment, reference app, internet search, and who knows what else in a new and pleasingly hands-on way.

After the jump, many more screengrabs, and a video of the device playing Tom Lehrer's Elements Song, an awesome little geek easter egg accessible from within the Elements for iPad.

Video links (Boing Boing Video / YouTube):

The Elements for iPad: The Elements Song
iPad: The Elements, a first look from Boing Boing

The app will sell for $13.99, and was developed for Touchpress by John Cromie of Skylark Associates in Ireland, with some coding also by Gray. Nick Mann, who took most of the rotation photographs, using Canon cameras and lenses (Gray says they shot so many stills in the course of developing the project's image base, more than a quarter million, they wore out several sets of shutters).

The basic idea is this: view the entire periodic table on launch. Select an element, see some data, and a "movie" of a representation of that element. Advance to a second page, and see touch-spinnable icons of more real-world representations of that element. Select one of those, and you get a detail view which can also be presented in 3D, viewable with glasses sold separately (at $4.95). Each element's detail view allows you to connect to Wolfram Alpha for live data: for instance, look up the current price of gold, or scan the thermodynamic properties of antimony. The connection speed on that feature feels a little pokey in this early edition.

The app was developed in great haste, without much lead time provided by Apple. Given the speed involved in development, the end result really is impressive: stable, fast, and a joy to meander around in. Gray imagines other forms of interaction with elements for future editions, but there's plenty to work with even in version 1.0.1.