Re: Morcombe field guide released as an iPhone/iPod touch app

Subject: Re: Morcombe field guide released as an iPhone/iPod touch app
From: Murray Lord <>
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 2010 06:41:37 +0800

Hi Peter and Ian,


Yes I can provide a bit more information about how the app works.  If you go into iTunes you will see a few screenshots from the app.  If anyone has seen the iPhone version of the Sibley guide to US birds, this one follows the same format.


At this stage there isn’t an iPad version.  I think the intention is to do one for iPads (and maybe other mobile phone formats) at some point down the track.  But I suppose that will depend on how well this one sells.  I don’t know what would happen if you tried to install this on an iPad – but the pictures are designed to be viewed on a small screen so probably wouldn’t look great on a bigger one.


There are several ways you can bring up a species, including searching by typing its name, browsing alphabetically, or browsing by taxonomic order.  So if you want to identify a thornbill, you can bring up the list of Thornbills by selecting T in the alphabetic list.  Then you can select the first species, and move through the remainder just by sliding your finger horizontally as you finish looking at one species.


Additionally there are beta versions of a smart search and a way of searching by location.  The smart search allows you to tick boxes about the bird’s size, shape and colour and then gives you a list of suggestions.  I think only beginner birders would want to use that.  And also you can set your location so you just browse the birds found in that area.  As these are beta versions they don’t work perfectly at that stage.  But (like all other apps) updated versions will be available at no additional cost, so as bugs get ironed out they can be corrected and the product updated – another advantage of this format over books.


When you bring up a particular species you see one picture of it on the top half of the screen, and the start of the text at the bottom.  You can scroll through the pictures and text, or else by tapping either they become full screen.  So you can make a picture full screen (and even bigger by tilting the device horizontally).  In practice this means the pictures are far bigger than in the printed version of the book.  Buttons let you bring up the distribution map and the menu of calls.


The calls aren’t as long as the recordings on the BOCA CDs, but there are usually a couple of calls of each species (different call types or different named subspecies).  I have been in the field with Dave when he’s recording and he’s a bit of a perfectionist (eg he never uses playback in the field as he doesn’t want to end up with recordings that might be a bit different to the call the bird makes in natural conditions) and the calls seem technically very good.


To answer Ian’s question, this is a high level summary of what someone who doesn’t have an iPhone or iPod touch would have to do to get this working:

·         Download iTunes to your computer.  This is a free download from Apple.  Just googling iTunes will get you the link.

·         Once you have iTunes running, there is a box in the top right corner to search the iTunes shop.  Search for Australian birds and a link will come up.  Clicking on the icon will let you have a look at some screenshot pictures.

·         If you decide to buy it, you have to set up an iTunes account and give credit card details to Apple.  Then you can click on a link to buy it and it will be downloaded to your computer. 

·         However it is important to note that you can’t run the app on your computer.  You must own an iPhone or an iPod touch to get it to work.  Also note that it won’t work on iPods other than the iPod touch.

·         So if you buy say an iPod touch, the final step is to connect the iPod to your computer and “sync” it, which then copies the programme from the computer to the iPod. 

·         Down the track you can periodically check via iTunes whether updated versions of the apps you have bought are available, and if so you can elect to download them and then next time you sync your iPod the new version will replace the old version.

Hope this helps,




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