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This is a superb resource particularly if you think that the full atlas costs many hundreds of dollars. The maps are extraordinary to look at on an iPad Air. For a first effort, highly commendable.

I’ve got one or two observations for improvement, however. They are all in the main about the navigation of the maps.

  • The navigation buttons, etc, are still IOS 6 style.
  • The page curling animation in the “introduction” section is cheesy.
  • Over half of the pages in the “introduction” are credits and preface. Perhaps split into separate documents?
  • The way it opens with two logos and stops at the second one is actually not a great iOS interface practice. It should open with the menu on the left open and ready to go. The app opens first with a Princeton Uni Press logo, and after this first logo splash screen, that you get another logo splash screen (the “Barrington Atlas Logo”). This second logo you have to tap or slide in order to reveal mere navigation (which would be zero cost to show first up!). This is doubly wrong. So far I’ve seen two logos and no functionality. When I tap on this second logo (and it’s a nice bit of art) all what happens is that the logo slides right a bit and reveals a menu on the left. That menu, with the lovely bit of Barrington Atlas artwork on the right, should be right there when it starts up, not the third screen visible.
  • By far, the most annoying thing about the app is, every time it starts, you have to go through the navigation of the logos all over again. If I background the app and then reload it, I have to navigate all over again to find the map I was looking at. So if I was reading some a text online with my iPad, and I wanted to consult the map, I have to start from the beginning (find the right map, zoom in to the map I was looking at) every time I open the app. When I switch back to reading, and want to look at the map again, I would have to find the entire map all over again. Which is a major interface failure.
  • When you go to the “maps” section with the “Cover Flow” style view, it’s slow, and not terribly responsive (on an iPad Air! I’d hate to try it on my old iPad2). Also, this is the area that seems to cause instability (it just crashed then I was verifying the behaviour as I wrote this paragraph). The app has crashed twice on me in this part of the navigation.
  • It’s not entirely obvious that up in the right hand corner there is a list icon which gives a simple list view of the maps, with a regional overview (not a tape target, annoyingly). To be honest, I find this view preferable to the “Cover Flow” view. But when I select a map, then go “back” to the Maps, I’m back at the “Cover Flow” view of the maps, not the list view I started from.
  • The best view of all though is the big overview map! However, can this be please made conventionally zoomable? If you wanted the ‘Attica’ Map (No. 59) there’s no way you could accurately select its tiny square in that view. There is a loupe device which appears when tap-and-hold but once it appears I could not work out how to accurately control it and better than just trying to tap the tiny targets. Just make this map zoomable with a pinch gesture please.
  • I wish the topographical measurements on the map were in metres – the international standard – not in feet. A minor quibble.

Once they clear up the stability and navigational issues with the app, my additional feature wish list is pretty simple, although fiendishly complex to implement: Vector based maps with selectable period layers. I realise that would mean all-new cartography though and probably make the price a lot more than $20.

My thanks to the team who developed and assembled this.


Barrington Atlas for iPad from Princeton University Press

Barrington Atlas for iPad – direct iTunes link