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Ultimate Dinopedia brings dinosaurs to life on your iPad

The Ultimate Dinopedia (US$5.99) from National Geographic is a wonderful reference app that will quickly become the go-to source for kids who want to find out everything about dinosaurs. There are other dinosaur apps in the store, but this is by far the most complete and expansive. It started as a hardcover book last year and has since been turned into a terrific iPad app for kids four and older.

The app is broken down into three parts: Discovering Dinosaurs, Meat Eaters and Plant Eaters. It's chock full of paintings of many dinosaurs by Franco Tempsesta, and the text was written by "Dino" Don Lessem, just as in the book. (Don even has a dinosaur named after him.)

The app covers about 700 dinosaurs. Each dinosaur comes with a button to play a sound of the correct pronunciation of its name, plus much more information. For many dinosaurs, that's all you get, but others have full-page paintings, Dino Stats (which give you info from the overview page) and a paragraph on the story of the dinosaur, which you can either read yourself or have read to you in a slightly sinister sounding narration paired with nice sound effects. Each of these pages have Fun Facts like "Riojasaurus had only five teeth in the front of its top jaw and 24 more behind them. So chances are it gulped down its food and digested plants in its stomach." There's also Picture Info, such as "Riojasaurus fed in the southern forests of Pangea, the single landmark that stretched across the middle of the earth". Along with this, there are 13 very short CGI videos showing a number of dinosaurs in action. The videos certainly aren't up to the quality of Pixar, but they get the job done. The videos are the only part of the app that works in landscape mode.

Tapping anywhere brings up the main menu bar at the top of the screen where you can choose from several options. All the paintings and graphic pages cover a wealth of information about finds, definitions, a glossary and assorted notes that can be swiped at the bottom of the screen. It would have been nice to have the dinosaurs listed alphabetically, but other than separating the meat eaters from the plant eaters, the list seems to be random.

The design is similar to a book, and swiping the main screen gives a good deal of background before you get to individual dinosaurs. This introduction includes Meat Eaters, Families, Weapons, Predators or Scavengers. You can view an interactive family tree and see the connections between species in three swipable graphics that include All Dinosaurs, Meat Eaters and Plant Eaters. Touching a dinosaur brings up the full page. It would have been nice to have these three graphics available in landscape mode, since you can't really get a lot on one page before swiping.

The app's notes on the App Store say that it doesn't play will with multitasking engaged, and it even tells you how to turn multitasking off. I ran into absolutely no problems running the app while multitasking, so perhaps those issues have been resolved since the app's last update.

Ultimate Dinopedia is an app that any kids who are interested in dinosaurs should own. It's beautifully done, superbly painted, and the facts included feature the most up-to-date information that paleontologists have discovered. Being published by National Geographic gives it credibility, and I'm sure that all the facts in this large 380 MB app have been painstakingly researched. It's also one of the best looking apps I've seen in a long time. The paintings and graphics are extremely well done. I recommend this app very highly for any child (or adult for that matter) with an abiding interest in dinosaurs.

Here's a short video on what to expect.

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