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iOS App Review: iGeoKnife Carves Up The Opposition

Some people can distinctly remember what they were doing when they found out President Kennedy had been shot. Others will recollect exactly where they were when they learned Princess Diana had died in a car crash. But I distinctly recall the day I discovered GSAK (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife).

That day was monumental and opened up hours of database fun for me. So it is no surprise that I clearly recall my introduction to  iGeoKnife.

This iOS geocaching app can be considered GSAK’s iOS baby brother or, as one of the developers notes, “an extra tool in the Swiss Army Knife“.

So what is all the excitement about? Well, the big hook with iGeoKnife is its synchronisation with your GSAK database. You simply add your GSAK database(s) to the iGeoKnife shared folder in iTunes and the app will ensure you have all that vital information with you. No more mucking around with GPX files or making sure your handheld is up-to-date.

An iPad screenshot of the database screen

Of course, you can still load GPX files into the database if you must.

But the developers, Smudgy Games, haven’t just made it easy to update your database … they’ve also made it quick. This is no mean feat when you are storing hundreds or even thousands of caches. The app sorts and filters like a FTF addict on speed.

Just like GSAK, iGeoKnife has the ability to make custom filters with a large range of options. Initially, I wasn’t sure why you would need such a tool while out on a cache hunt but soon realised that it offers two significant advantages.

The custom filter settings

The first is that if, like me, you enjoy mucking around with your geo-database and drilling down to find interesting bits of info, then you will enjoy being able to do this on the go even more. The second is that it gives you an excellent tool when you’re out of town or the country to find all the right caches.

And when you’ve finished filtering your database to your exact specifications, you can view all those caches on the handy dandy map. And yes, lots of other apps have maps, however I don’t believe any have a filter as powerful as iGeoKnife to accompany them. Viewing a filtered map removes all the clutter and lets your brain process only the data you want, instead of forcing you to ignore all those unwanted caches.

But possibly the highlight for me was the stability of the compass in iGeoKnife’s navigation screen. Unlike those offered by other navigation apps I’ve used, this one didn’t fly all over the place. It changed direction smoothly and really gave the impression this was a bearing and signal you could trust. I’m yet to try this feature out under heavy cover with the Bad Elf but can’t wait to give it a go.

Even better, at $3.99 the app is less than half the price of the some of the better known versions. It’s compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPads running iOS 4.2 or later.

The main feature list from Apple’s iTunes App Store states:

* Browse GSAK database.
* Import GPX files from iTunes file-sharing.
* Import GPX files from mail attachments.
* Make custom filters.
* Sort by database column.
* Search on name, cache code or owner.
* Navigate to a cache on map or using the build-in compass.
* All additional waypoints will be shown on map when you navigate to a cache.
* Create custom waypoints, e.g. when solving a multicache.
* Use the map to browse all your caches.
* See the corrected co-ordinates, if any.
* View the cache description, logs, hints, waypoints and user notes.
* Log your finds.
* Choose to email the log file or drag and drop it from your shared folder.
* The created logfile is compatible with Geocaching.com’s ‘field notes’.
* Show favourite points, if you use a GSAK8 database.
* Customide app behavior in settings.

Personally, I think the best geocaching apps are the ones built on a solid database. CacheSense for the Blackberry (and hopefully soon Android) does this well and has long  been my favourite geocaching tool. iGeoKnife has the same vibe about it and, as a result, I found it a very comfortable app to use.

I’m especially looking forward to trialling it on an upcoming road trip. I won’t be able to do a lot of caching this time but I know that I can cram every hide between here and our destination into iGeoKnife and not miss an opportunity. Time is of the essence when you are travelling with the family and trying to sneak in the odd cache along the way!

The other factor that will be the key to iGeoKnife’s success is the small but dedicated development team at Smudgy Games. It seems the best pieces of software, such as GSAK and CacheSense, become great tools because the people behind the scenes make themselves available to their customers and because they are involved in the hobby as well. The Smudgy Games crew seems very keen on feedback and wants to shape iGeoKnife into what its users need it to be. You can find out more these developers in an upcoming interview with It’s Not About The Numbers.

Overall, I think iGeoKnife is off to a fantastic start for a new app and am excited to see how it progresses  over the coming year.

RATING: Four out of five satellites from me!

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