3 Free iOS Interactive References

A good friend of mine is downsizing, cleaning house, and tossing stuff she hasn't touched or even seen in years. One item destined for the recycle bin is a complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica reference encyclopedias. When I was a kid I actually wanted a set because I believed that the summation of human knowledge, anything that mattered at least, were contained in those volumes, and I wanted to know it all.

Free on iTunes

The encyclopedias at school were well used, worn, and old. Even back then information was fluid enough to outdate many encyclopedia entries in just a few months. Whole countries appeared and disappeared, space exploration wrote whole new chapters about worlds, galaxies and nebulas we thought we knew a lot about, but found we knew virtually nothing, new animal species were discovered in places once thought incapable of supporting life, and creatures thought to be long extinct were found alive if not always thriving.

All that new and corrected data had to sit until a new volume of encyclopedias or an addendum was published. Often, no matter how frequent addenda came out, there was always fresher data.

I bought a set of encyclopedias for my kids and like my friend, I'll soon have to figure out what to do with them. My kids are grown and the tomes are musty from disuse. My kids hardly touched encyclopedias mainly because they used the Internet to find much of info they needed for school. What a waste of money those encyclopedias turned out to be.

The Internet is great for some things, but sometimes it's better to have the info you seek in one place. For instance, you could search the web for stats about Bahrain, but there's so much info that you may overlook interesting details.

Also, references don't have to be boring lists of stats and endless paragraphs of facts about a subject. A good reference is as engaging, humorous, even suspenseful as any work of fiction. If you have an iOS device you're in luck, I've found three references that are bound to keep you coming back to "refer" to them. They are that good.

So lets get to it.

DataFinder [41.3 MB, all iOS devices iOS 5.0 or later, Maker: World Bank]

DataFinderLine graph in DataFinder offers up stats as you like it

Did you know that about 52% of Austria's population is women? Handy info if you're a lonely guy from Guam where only 49% of the populace is female.

Did you know that mobile phone use in developing countries is skyrocketing? In Latin America alone mobile phone usage increased over 300% percent between 2003 and 2011. Three hundred percent!! The penetration of mobile phones is much higher in other developing countries. Some places as high as 1000% over the same period!

Why would you want to know this info? I dunno and really don't care. It's just interesting. And if you are interested, you can find a world of stats about our world with DataFinder.

DataFinderPick the type of stats you want to see from a staggeringly long list

This app kicks out stats using globally recognized sources in chart, line or bar graph form. And the amount of detail can be staggering- number of teen pregnancies per 1000, education level of females over 15 years old, condom usage of males 15-24, and the list goes on and on.

But its not just stats, DataFinder will show you where on the map the hot spots are for a given indicator. It's a lot of data and having multiple ways to view it is priceless. Yet this app is free.

I should warn you that not all data is available for every country or for every year, nonetheless there's several boatloads of stats to play with, so grab DataFinder and take a look-see.

Atlas by Collins [632 MB, all iOS devices iOS 5.1 or later, Maker: Harper Collins Publishers Limited]

Atlas by CollinsAtlas by Collins

OK, DataFinder gave you some interesting stats about Bahrain, but just where in the heck IS Bahrain? DataFinder will show you, but a much cooler view can be had with Atlas by Collins.

Here you have a virtual globe sitting in virtual space. As you rotate it the name of the city, country, or major geographical feature the little circular cursor glides over is displayed in the search field. Tap the "i" and a window pops up with info about the spot which includes population, area, national bird, and lots of other stuff that you never thought you'd like to know. Type in Bahrain or any other political or geographical point and the globe spins, putting the cursor directly over the place you're looking for.

Atlas by CollinsBasic profile of almost any spot on Earth is available

Navigation is simple and intuitive. Swipe, drag, pinch, and splay to get around and to get up close. In fact, the closer you get, the more detail is displayed. Atlas defers to Apple Maps to let you get really close, down to the street level.

If you want your Atlas with a side order of stats you can buy add-ons that will shows things like energy usage, environment impact, economy and lots more. But if you don't want to spend a dime the included satellite view can give you hours of globetrotting fun.

Abraham Lincoln Interactive Biography [212 MB, all iPad iOS 5.0 or later, Maker: Touchzing Media Private Ltd]

LincolnMr. Lincoln's biography in interactive detail

Our 16th president is getting a lot of attention these days. Movies (slaying vampires no less), books, and more offer up real and imagined tales about Good Ol' Abe. But if you want the real scoop about the man who presided over one of the darkest periods in our nation's history then you need to refer to Abraham Lincoln Interactive Biography, an iOS app that is packed full of all things Abe.

lincolnFree content keeps you occupied for hours

Three major sections are provided: a biography, photo gallery, and quotes.

The biography has movies and photos that bring life to Mr. Lincoln's life, not all chapters are free, however. The photo gallery lets you browse through a bunch of relevant picts that are haphazardly arranged on the screen. The quotes section is a slideshow of pix featuring Honest Abe and many of his quotes.This section is the least interactive. You can't do much but watch.

In all what you get for free makes this is a good app about a great man. A possible keeper.

And that's a wrap for this week.

Angry Bird fans, rejoice! Bad Piggies HD is this week's Free App of the Week!