10 apps ready for your geek (2013 Gift Guide)

Apps are better than gift cards and in some ways they fit the old, "The gift that keeps on giving" adage. In any case, there's no shipping deadlines when you give the gift of app.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor
10 apps ready for your geek (2013 Gift Guide)

I'm sure that your geek has a tablet, a phone, or both. So, an app is a perfectly acceptable geeky gift. Your geek will appreciate your understanding and your ability to think outside the box. He or she will have many hours of enjoyment (and you to thank), if you given him or her the coolest, droolworthy apps.

I know that for us "old schoolers" an app seems like a cheesy gift. That somehow it's less than an actual gift. But you have to change with the times. And giving an app thrusts you squarely into the contemporary age of mobile computing.

These apps are in no particular order but are oriented toward Apple device* owners. Enjoy.


As you know, if you've kept up, I love photography and video. My favorite form of entertaining visual imagery is the short film. Vintagio is the perfect app for creating short films that also employ the artistic power of "filters". You can create films that look as if they were created in the 1920s through the 1980s. Of course, you can also choose not to use a filter and just shoot straight video but that's no fun.

My personal favorite is the 1920s Newborn filter at 3.0X normal speed with the Plucky Daisy song accompanying the faster than normal scenes. This turns your drab film into an old timey black and white, fast moving, retro wonder. It looks like a silent film from the early days of filmmaking.

Currently on sale for $1.99. Regular price is $3.99. Hurry.

Real Racing 3

If your geek is a video gamer and likes racing, this is the ultimate app. Real Racing 3 (RR3) is the best and most addictive racing game that I've ever played. It should be because it's made by Electronic Arts, the people who know more about video gaming than anyone else on the planet.

RR3 has a limited number of tracks but an almost unlimited number of available cars. This free app does have in-app purchase options for Gold and Racing dollars (R$) but you don't ever have to pay any money to play, to buy cars, to upgrade your cars, or to play. You can race forever free of charge.

So, giving this app should be easy but should come with a warning: Don't buy any Gold unless you have permission to do so. It's very tempting to burn your Gold for upgrades, for speeding up upgrades, for unlocking higher racing Tiers, or for unlocking new cars—don't do it.

I say don't do it but you're perfectly able to do it, if you want. I'm just saying that you should resist the temptation. Save up your Gold for really important purchases. Gold is hard to earn, so be frugal.

$0.00 to download and play but in-app purchases can run upwards of $100.00 for more R$ and Gold.


The iSSH app is the ultimate connectivity app for anyone who uses Linux, UNIX, or Mac systems and must connect remotely. iSSH supports the X protocol and gives you a very good user experience. I've tried several SSH remote connectivity apps and I like this one the best.

It's made for iPhone and iPad and has some very advanced features, including:

  • Multitasking support
  • Tunneled VNC client
  • Tunneled RDP client
  • Arbitrary port tunneling through SSH
  • SSH, telnet, VNC, and RDP work via EDGE, WiFi, and 3G.
  • Multiple simultaneous connections
  • Portrait and landscape mode support
  • Stored connections
  • Command execution on connection
  • Multiple fonts
  • Customizable keyboards
  • Multiple window managers
  • Agent forwarding
  • Bluetooth keyboard compatible

And it has many other features as well. One of my favorites is that you can swipe between the multiple open connections. The iSSH app receives accolades from anyone who reviews or uses it. As of this writing, it has received 1,858 reviews on the iTunes Store site and stands at a solid four stars. The new version has received a few bad reviews but as a long term iSSH user, and someone who has spoken to the developer by phone, I can tell you, without reservation, that it is a five star app and well worth its $9.99 price.

Printer Pro

Printer Pro allows you to print to a shared Windows or Mac printer from your iPad. There's also an iPhone version. In my opinion, printing is a major gap on iDevices and a fail for Apple for not building that capability into the devices themselves.

With Printer Pro, you can try before you buy, which is a good thing, because Printer Pro might not work with your printer. The free version allows you to check first.

Printer Pro works with web pages, email attachments, clipboard content, iWork documents, Photos, documents from Google Drive and Dropbox, and contacts. I've seen very little that it won't do. For me, it's the best $6.99 I've ever spent on an app. The iPhone version is $4.99.


Yes, I know that Dropbox is a free app, but it's not the app that's important, it's the cloud-based storage space that is. You get 2GB free by signing up for an account. If your geek a phoneographer or someone who keeps everything, then she'll need more space. By using friend referrals, your geek can gain up to 16GB of free storage.

You can get 100GB of space for $9.99 per month. I paid that much for their 50GB plan until they upgraded me to the 100GB one. The cool thing about Dropbox is that it has widespread support from third party vendors. You can seamlessly share files between your iGadgets, your laptop, your desktop, your Linux system, your Windows system, your Mac, and your Android-based stuff. And you can access it via a web browser if necessary.

It's storage. Plain and simple. Nothing more and nothing less. Nothing very exciting. It does provide a much-needed backup for files that you can't afford to lose.

$9.99 per month for 100GB and up to 16GB free from referrals.

Angry Birds

Another video game. But this one's different. Aren't they all? But seriously, Angry Birds and all of its incarnations (Seasons, Star Wars, Rio, etc.) are all fun. Frustrating fun is what I call it. Angry Birds is not only one of the most successful apps of all time, it's also one of the most successful video games of all time. Addictive and annoying, Angry Birds grows on you. Your geek probably has one version or another on his or her gadget already.

You'll know if your geek has Angry Birds because you'll hear the side effects, I mean sound effects, clearly emanating from your geek's gadget. The oinks, crashes, laughter, and various bird-like vocalizations are coming from the game not your geek.

Angry birds, like a fez or a bow tie, is cool. And any of the many iterations of it can be purchased via the App Store for a mere $2.99. Prices vary for the other versions.

SketchBook Pro

SketchBook Pro by Autodesk (the AutoCAD people) is one of the coolest apps for drawing, sketching, and creating advanced drawings on your iPad. It is a professional grade tool but simple enough for the beginner. You might recognize the name of this app as a desktop application, which it is. It's the same applicaiton with the same features available to you.

You can create everything from simple line drawings to realistic renderings. I suggest that you use a stylus of some sort and have a steady hand. But, with this tool you can create your masterpieces. There are some impressive examples available on the application's iTunes page for you to see.

At $2.99, it's a deal and an app that your geek will love. Hey, anything to take his or her mind away from Minecraft for a few hours is worth $3.00 to me.

GLSL Studio

For the hardcore geek, there's GLSL Studio. I say 'hardcore' because that's what you'd have to be to use this app. GLSL Studio is the first full featured OpenGL ES 2.0 programming environment for iOS. If you don't know what that is, then ask your geek. If he/she doesn't know, skip ahead. If he or she does know, then spring the $7.99 from your virtual wallet for your future programmer geek. It might be the best lunch money you ever spent.

The app has some crazy advanced features that only a true programming geek would appreciate, but trust me, they're awesome.

"Create, edit and compile full vertex and fragment shaders right on your iOS device! Custom vertex data, textures and attributes/varyings/uniforms are all managed using an easy interface making testing under different conditions quick and simple.

GLSL Studio's native code editor has been built from the ground up to provide the most comfortable coding environment available on a touchscreen device with desktop grade features such as syntax highlighting and code completion."

A $7.99 investment.


Netflix is another free app with a paid subscription behind it. For $7.99 per month, your geek can watch TV shows, movies, documentaries, news, cartoons, and lots of retro content like Classic Doctor Who, Doc Martin, The IT Crowd, and even some non-British programs such as Eureka, Psych, and Parks and Recreation. Lots of fun for a little money.

Go ahead, make your geek happy with a $7.99 per month Netflix subscription. Subscriptions are limited to two simultaneously watching devices but that seems OK for 'normal' geeks.

DK the Human Body

An educational app like this is unique. DK (Dorling Kindersley), the developer has done a superb job of presenting the human body and all its 2,000 parts. It has a 3D human body map that reminds me of the one in the old World Book Encyclopedia with the various overlays of muscle system, skeletal system, nervous system, and digestive system.

An incredible amount of time must have gone into building this app, which also explains its size (381MB). This app is the best carry around human anatomy reference that I've seen. For the anatomy student, for the nurse, for the medical professional at almost any level, this is a great one to have handy.

For the geek, it could be the path to great things in medicine. A cure for cancer, diabetes, old age, or geekism. Oh wait, sorry, geekism isn't a disease, but it is a condition. 

$6.99 is an insultingly low amount to charge for this award winning app.

There you have them. My ten 2013 choices for geek apps. What do you think?

*Many of these apps exist on multiple platforms. I just have best access to Apple ones myself.

Editorial standards