APP REVIEWS: The Sonnets, Shakespeare Search, (Play)Shakespeare

Just got a new phone… upgraded to a new Samsung Galaxy 6. So I took the opportunity to download some Shakespeare-related apps. Today, I’ll let you know what I think of The Sonnets by Socratica, Shakespeare Search by movin’App, and the subtly-named Shakespeare by the folks at PlayShakespeare.com.

First up is The Sonnets by Socratica.

The Sonnets by Socratica
The Sonnets by Socratica

And it is exactly what you’d expect: all 154 sonnets presented on an aesthetically pleasing faux parchment background. It has an index that includes not only the sonnet number but its opening line; additionally, and more helpful in my book, is the search feature that allows you to find all the sonnets that use a particular word (for example, the word “temperate” is used in exactly one sonnet, number XVIII). A nice function is also the ability to click a single button and share the sonnet through any social media accounts you have activated on your device. It’s a nice touch.

A nicer touch yet is a button for each sonnet that plays an audio file of a male actor reading the poem; the performances are solid. Another feature available off the home screen is called “videos” and this leads to a listing of all the sonnets, each linked to a YouTube video of the sonnet being read: you hear the same actor’s recitation of the poem, and see the lines appear on the faux parchment one at a time as they’re read. It’s a nice feature, but one–from an interface perspective–should have been included as a button on the individual sonnet screens.

The only downside is that whenever you change functionalities in the app (say, move from videos to the search feature), you’re presented with ads. It’s a pain, but it’s also a free app, so you can’t complain too much. The app doesn’t do a great deal, but The Sonnets does what it does well, and is nice to have if you have a minute and want to check out a sonnet or two.

Next up is Shakespeare Search by movin’App.

Shakespeare Search by movin’App
Shakespeare Search by movin’App

This, too, does what you’d expect. It allows you to search through the plays to find a search string. It doesn’t, however, make this easy. There is almost no interface to speak of. The search form has a text box, an icon to begin a search, and a drop-down menu that allows you to filter your results (play, act, speaker, stage direction, line text). While this sounds good, it’s not as effective as you might think. Yes, it returns results, but there’s no aggregate info returned (in other words, it doesn’t tell you how many results were returned). There’s also no way to sort the results. Plus, some of the filters don’t really makes much sense… play and scene? I couldn’t understand how to get that one to work. The app is free, but I’m not sure if it’s worth the time used to download it. Instead, I’d use the website Open Source Shakespeare… it shrinks for the mobile screen, but its functionality is awesome… it’s what I use for this blog.

Finally, we have the not-so-subtly titled Shakespeare app from the folks at PlayShakespeare.com, a website that calls itself the “ultimate free Shakespeare resource.”

Shakespeare by PlayShakespeare.com
Shakespeare by PlayShakespeare.com

The app is called “Shakespeare” … just what is the expectation for such an app? It can’t do everything, can it?

No. But it does do some good stuff. It presents text for all the plays and poems and even the more dubious Shakespearean works, which they call the Apocrypha, including Double Falsehood, Edward III, and Sir Thomas More.

The text is clearly presented (with the ability for you to change the font and background colors of the text), though you will want to do the play/poem reading in landscape rather than portrait orientation (otherwise the line breaks look funky).

Better than the contents of the complete works is the presentation of additional scholarship: biography, chronology, and a wonderfully in-depth discussion of the Elizabethan playhouses. The app also includes a link to the Shakespeare Passport Program, which allows you to present the app’s barcode for discounts at different Shakespeare venues around the globe. That’s pretty neat. And it also includes a news feed of the most recent updates to the PlayShakespeare.com website. Given the price (free) and the depth and breadth of the app’s content, you can’t do a whole lot better than the Shakespeare app.

So there you have it: a should-have in The Sonnets, a don’t-bother with Shakespeare Search, and a must-have with Shakespeare… all are free and available at the Google Play Store.

Tomorrow, more apps, including one with content from the Royal Shakespeare Company!

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