iPhone App Review: Mom’s Garden – Handmade Story

iPhone App Review: Mom’s Garden – Handmade Story

July 2nd, 2011 by

There are very few opportunities on the iPhone for shared experiences with your children. Games can be distracting for a few moments but the small screen and the nature of the games available simply make it impractical to be able to huddle together and enjoy the experience. The new app Mom’s Garden – Handmade Story is a way for parents and children to interact together and create something that they can both share.

Using pre-made backgrounds and characters, images from your device, and text you can use your iPhone to create a storybook-type experience that can be shared with your children or with anyone else that has the app installed on their device.

How It Works

The main screen is simple, with only three options: New Story, Load Story, or Tutorial.

Starting a new story begins with giving it a title. After that you are on the main story creation screen: the left-hand menu lets you add backgrounds, characters, and text, as well as the save option; while along the bottom you have options for turning to a new page, turning sound on and off, and exiting to the main menu.

Once you add an element, tapping on that will bring up a floating menu of options. You can adjust size and color for text, and characters come with a good variety of poses and expressions to choose from.

Loading a story from the main menu shows your list of stories, with options to open them up for further editing or viewing, emailing them as attachments, or deleting them. The tutorial is an interactive screen-by-screen run through of the interface.

Pros And Cons

Mom’s Garden has a few rough edges, but overall is a terrific app. The few backgrounds that are supplied are of very high quality, with vivid colors and a whimsical artistic style that fits the characters well.

The character selection is better than the background selection, providing just about everything you would need for your basic fairy tale-type stories. The characters have a wide variety of options once placed in the scene, with a range of poses (sitting, walking, sleeping) and emotions (such as angry, astonished, crying, etc). While it’s possible to use your own photos for backgrounds, it’s not currently possible to add photos for the characters, limiting your options in that regard.

Adding text is simple, but the options to edit text are not as robust as that for the characters. You can change the color and size, and that is about it. The most glaring omission is the lack of ability to edit text once it has been placed in the scene, which gets double frustrating if you accidentally hit “Enter” while typing text, only to have to trash your work and start over again. Don’t get this wrong though, you’re not typing Dostoevsky into your scenes: this is intended to make children’s stories so the “page” is small, and your text should reflect that. The text doesn’t flow into multiple lines, so if your line is too long it will flow off of the screen. You can adjust the size to make it fit, but then it may get so small that it’s unreadable.

I also wish the app would email a useful version of the story instead of the proprietary “*.hms” file format, which can only be opened in the Mom’s Garden app. It would be far more useful and user-friendly if it would output a PDF version or something similar, so that the results could be viewed on any device or computer.

Despite the shortcomings of the app, it is actually very good. The text entry issues can get tedious and may be too frustrating for smaller children to deal with (at least until the issues are fixed), but overall it’s a simple app to use and with a little imagination you and/or your children can make a lot of fun stories.

Overall

Mom’s Garden (not entirely sure why it’s called that), while having an initially small variety of backgrounds and characters to choose from, is actually a fun story-building app that’s easy to use and produces high-quality “storybooks”. While the use of your own pictures can help overcome its lack of backgrounds to choose from, future updates to the library (whether they were small and free or large and paid) would be welcome. It’s a great starter app now for your budding storyteller, or if you’re looking for something more productive and less guilt-inducing than just letting junior play another round of Angry Birds.

Mom’s Garden is currently free through July 25, 2011.

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