Friday, January 6, 2012

Kindle Fire Apps for the Gamer

I use my Kindle Fire a great deal for gaming and writing research. It's handy form factor makes it extremely portable and the ability to load my PDFs onto the device means my gaming library is with me where ever I go. The long battery life allows me to use it for days between charging and my Verso leather(ish) cover that makes the Fire look like a leather-bound book. For some reason I like that a lot.  

Currently I'm wading through the new chase rules in the Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition and making notes along the way for a future blog article. Along the way I decided it to document the Android applications I use daily so other gamers considering a Fire purchase could gain from my experience.

My first and foremost favorite application is ezPDF Reader Pro by Unidocs Inc. The program makes great use of screen real estate and navigation is a breeze. 

The File Management screen allows you to view a list of your PDFs you've sent to your Kindle, those you've downloaded, or you can open a PDF directly from the web. I use the 'Recently Viewed' option most often because I usually reference more than one PDF for research. 

Thus far, ezPDF does the best job of reading PDFs. The default Kindle viewer displays PDFs and that's about it. If you're going to make your Kindle into a gaming book reader, you need much more. The ezPDF view behaves like a standard Kindle reader when in full screen mode complete with page flipping animation. Full page is normally too small to read unless the Kindle is sidways.

When you double tap a text column, it zooms so the column fills the screen. After that, tapping either side of the screen scrolls to the next or previous text column. Touching the top or bottom of the screen scrolls to the top or bottom of the page. All this makes for a great navigation experience although it's a little frustrating at first.

Selecting text is easy. You simply hold down on a word and a selection highlighter appears allowing you to select all the text you want. Once your selection is complete, you can 
  • Copy - saves the selected text to clipboard to be used later
  • Search document for other occurrences of the selected passage
  • Web - sends the selected text to Google search
  • Send - sends the selected text to other applications like Facebook, Twitter, Email, or Evernote
  • ColorDict - sends the selected text to ColorDict application (not available on Kindle but should be there for other android devices)
  • Highlight, strike through, or underline text
  • Add sticky note
  • Draw figures, freehand, or text boxes on the document
The ezPDF menu appears with a single tap to the center of the screen. From the menu you can
  • Search
  • Bring up the outline for quick navigation between book sections
  • Goto or add a bookmark
  • Browser like navigation to visit previous pages if you're jumping around in the document
  • Jump to a page number
  • Set the zoom %
  • Export/Import/List Annotations
  • Voice reading to have your Kindle read to you
  • Auto flipping to have the Kindle automatically navigate through the PDF
  • Night/Day mode which inverts the colors light to dark or dark to light
  • Save As to save a copy of your PDF
Next on my Must Have list is Evernote. This free application makes note taking easy and puts notes on the cloud for access on all android devices and any web browser. I use Evernote as I'm reading game manuals to save off interesting tidbits for later. My current article involving chase rules has me back and forth between the Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition and the Space:1889 - Red Sands setting rules trying to figure out the best way to handle Sky Galleons combat. Since the chase rules have changed, keeping track of all the information was becoming difficult. 

Evernote to the rescue. I cut and paste the relevant sections from ezPDF into Evernote giving me one place to absorb the information. What's more, you can share documents with other Evernote users and all your notes are automatically on all your Evernote devices. It comes in very handy. 

You can also embed media, such as photos and videos, into your notes. 

Another app from the Evernote folks is Skitch. The application lets you rapidly annotate photos and images the share them with others. It's simple functionality but incredibly useful for passing maps and other graphics back and forth. 

You can add arrows, boxes, text, and freehand drawings to your graphic and then share them via email, Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, or other apps. 

Skitch is easy, fun, and I spend too much time in it. 

Sketchbook Pro is last on my list Must Haves. Sketchbook is a great little drawing program for rapidly putting together maps or other graphics. It's something of a mini-GIMP or Photoshop with a wide variety of brushes and other tools to make drawing easy. 

You can confine drawing to squares, circles, lines, or use freehand. There are 45 brushes to choose from with variable radii and opacity. It has a mirroring mode so one side of the drawing duplicates the other. Best of all it has 6 layers which allow you to draw on different, overlaid canvases. The three transformation tools - rotate, move, and scale - are simple and intuitive. 

For a quick drawing, nothing beats Sketchbook. What's more, you can always save your drawing then annotate in Skitch and save in Evernote. It makes for a powerful combination. The image below took me less than five minutes to create and share. I drew the image in Sketchbook, annotated in Skitch, and saved to Evernote as well as shared to Twitter.

Please forgive the crudity of the model. I was in a hurry.

I don't edit Microsoft Office documents on my Kindle often but when I do I use QuickOffice Pro. It is your standard office suite with a word processor, spreadsheet, PowerPoint, and PDF viewer. The nice thing about QuickOffice is its ability to work from a variety of cloud sources such as Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote, Catch, Egnyte, Huddle, Box, SugarSync, and MobileMe.

The product works with all  recent versions of Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files.  While this probably doesn't fall into the Must Have category, I do use it often for game-related materials.


  1. Thank you for this list! I've been using ezPDF reader as well - do you if there is a good way to save screenshots/maps from PDFs as images that way? I like to clip out stat blocks and push to evernote, but ideally with the formatting. Thanks, and great article!

  2. Thanks DBV.

    I don't know how to save it as an image on the Kindle but you can annotate an area on the page for quick reference later. Hold down your finger on the page. When the popup show, pick text box and draw a box around the section in question. You can then go back to that section quickly by listing your annotation.

    Good luck and please let me know if you find a way to clip an image.

  3. I just started playing around with Evernote, and it's the coolest thing ever! I'm using it like a set of note cards for my upcoming Deadlands game. I've got a notebook stack for the game as a whole, and then seperate notebooks for character sheets, NPC's, and adventure notes. Then I make an individual note for each bit of info, much like I would do w/ a note card normally.

  4. I use EZPDF most but a close second is Evernote. The great thing is you can add notes from anywhere. I access and update notes from my phone, fire, and computer. It's great.