About a year ago, I reviewed an app called Extensive Notes for Android right here on Android.AppStorm. Among a whole army of note-taking apps on Android, Extensive Notes differentiated itself by providing a huge array of small but useful tools to supplement the core feature.
Fluffy Delusions, the developer behind Extensive Notes, recently released a new app called App Garden, which takes all those extra tools and wraps them together into a single multi-purpose package. The point of the app is to provide dozens of tiny but useful tools to help you with day-to-day tasks without having to install separate apps for each one.
In this post, I’ll try to make sense of what the app has to offer, where it shines and where it needs more work. It is a tough ask, mind you, since there are so many tangentially different things you can do with this thing. Let’s start with a quick overview of what it has on offer.
Swiss Army Knife… and Then Some!
Calling App Garden a Swiss Army Knife for Android might well be an understatement. It come with not 10, not 20, but a whopping 45 apps at last count – some of them even with more apps within them. I’ll not bother covering everything here for the sake of brevity, but here’s a quick sample:
Health related tools like BMI calculator, calorie intake, body fat, heart rate, and metabolic rate calculators
Language tools like dictionary, thesaurus, spelling suggestions, phrase lookup, word suggestions, and pronunciation guides.
Music and movie related tools including album art search, artist information, and film reviews and info.
Finance related tools like mortgage calculator, tip calculator, stock quotes, and tax calculators.
Knowledge and general information tools like Wikipedia search, weather, urban dictionary, and area code lookup.
Miscellaneous utilities like reminders, stopwatch, timer, unit and currency conversion, notes, audio recorder, and system stats.
A very small subset of the tools in App Garden
And trust me, I’ve not even listed half of what’s available. As you can tell from the list, the developer went all out in trying to cram anything and everything that one might want on their phone into one tiny package (and I do mean tiny – it’s under 1 MB).
On deeper inspection it is evident how they have managed to do that, but I’ll come to that later. For now, I’ll focus on that fact that all of this does prove useful when you get down to using it. Most smartphone users tend to download and install tens, if not hundreds of apps on their phones, only to use them just once in a while, so having all these small tools waiting for you to feel the need for one, without hogging all the memory and screen space on your phone, can be quite empowering.
Of course, you can expect to be sliding through a long list of nearly 50 apps to find what you need, so there’s the “Favorites” list so you can pin the ones that you think you will be using most and have really quick access to just those at a glance. As far as app-wide features go, this is pretty much as fart as App Garden goes. You can set your preferred location, currency and units from the app’s Settings menu, so the tools will start up the way you need them.
The Favorites list and Settings
It is hard to choose favorites when there are so many things one can do with the app, but if I were to highlight some of my most used tools from App Garden, it would have to be the timer, financial calculators and unit conversion. Although the unit conversion toolset contains currency as well, that one’s pretty much unusable because the list of currencies is not sorted in any decipherable way. Given how many options there are, it is close to impossible to find what you are looking for without literally going through all hundred-odd entries one by one!
Calculators and the rather intimidating list of currencies
Minimalism Above All Else
So here’s the downside of trying to cram all of that power into a tiny little package: all you get are the bare basics. Sure, the app feels extremely minimalistic and turns out to be pretty snappy in the process, but there are times when it leaves much to be desired.
Take the timer, for example: you can set a time and the app will count down just fine, but there is no audio or vibration notification at the end. You need to be looking at your phone to be able to tell when it reaches zero. The Start and Stop buttons are always there and active, so I can tap the Start button while the timer is on, although nothing happens. This is a common pattern across most of the tools.
Also, tools often have the exact same look, with absolutely no way to tell what they are supposed to do. Look at the example below. The two screens belong to the Timer and the Audio Recording tool. Can you tell which is which?
Timer and Audio Recorder - your guess is as good as mine
To top it off, a big chunk of the functionality is dependent on an active data connection. That would be generally fine, as long as the app made it clear that it couldn’t do something because you don’t have a data connection. Instead, App Garden just throws a “An error has occurred” message at you. The least one would expect is a message explaining what the error was.
Another example of simple oversight is the list of currencies, which (as I mentioned before) is not sorted in any decipherable way. It is minor niggles like this that take away from an otherwise excellent and well rounded toolset.
At its core, App Garden gets the idea right – it’s a set of disparate tools all packaged together for you to use the way you need to. It is a no-frills yet comprehensive app that set out to do some simple things and do them well. There are niggles and surprising omissions that keep the app from being really great, but don’t really take away too much from the feat it achieves in the end.