Calculator

There are two calculator apps on the Kindle that are good, and have their respective strengths and weaknesses.

For this post, I will focus on Calculator, by 7 Dragons. It is easy to see. The graphics are good, and large enough for someone who has vision loss. It took me a minute to figure out that there are keyboard shortcuts for the mathematical symbols such as add, subtract, sine, cosine, etc.

This app gives you more than the basic calculator because it includes the trigonometric functions: sine, cosine, tangent, etc. Not sure who uses these besides students and mathematicians, but they’re there for use for whoever needs it.

Comparing this app to Mobigloo’s Easy Calculator App, Calculator has an easier keyboard set up. The keys on the calculator are easier to see and are white with black letters. So they have better contrast than Easy Calculator’s grey, and smaller keys.

The thing I like better about Easy Calculator is that you can see the whole transaction like it is written on a piece of paper. So, when you do 5×5, it shows that, and puts a line underneath it to show the answer. This is good because that way, you can make sure you put in the right numbers.

Both apps include a history button. Hitting the enter key on the Kindle is the “equal” key on the calculator for both apps. That is an obvious choice.

Overall, Calculator is definitely not as fast as punching keys on a regular calculator, but compared to a computer version, it is much more portable. It is good to not have to carry so many little gadgets in my purse because I can just access it on my Kindle whenever I need it.

Brenda Fernandez

“It provides all kinds of operations of a normal calculator an even some of the more advances “scientific ones” like trigonometric functions, exponents, roots, 1/X, etc. It’s very user friendly and the redesigned keyboard layout for typing numbers works pretty well and lets the user input numbers much faster and more easily than with the standard Alt+Letter or Sym key.
It has memory functions very well implemented and supports seeing history of the last 10 operations and values stored in memory. I find that really useful. “

Notepad

Notepad is a great quite note taking tool for the Kindle. I use it for my “to do” list, but it can be a quick way to note interesting tidbits on the go, grocery lists, etc.

Another handy use for Notepad that would fit right into the Kindle’s purposes is creating a book list. I see books all the time that I would love to read, but I have a hard time keeping up with their titles and authors when it comes time to purchase them. I also have a tendency to lose paper.

When you first get started, you’ll find a welcome note that tells you the keyboard shortcuts to tasks such as saving the note, scrolling up and down, deleting the note, and more. I think it is a very helpful quick reference guide.

You will also find a note where you can provide contact information in case your Kindle gets lost. This is a really handy tool, but I’d be scared my Kindle might get into the wrong hands.

Notepad is pretty easy to navigate. I was able to move the 5-way cursor around to get in and out of the note. The Kindle’s keyboard can be awkward, but it works fine for short notes.

Kathleen B

“Before, when I had a brainstorm, I had to open the browser, pray Google Docs was wanting to work, and squint to read what I’d just wrote. Notepad makes things much, much easier. ”

One thing that took me a few minutes to figure out was how to move to the next line in my “to do” list note. But, then I found the “return” button on the bottom right hand side of the keyboard.

I like that the text in the notes are easy to read. The navigation buttons are not too bad either.

You can search your notes, back them up in case they get lost, and go to your most recent notes. To access these options, just press “Menu.”

One big improvement that I’d like to see is the ability to access Notepad while I’m reading a book. The Kindle does have annotation options, but if you’re out and see something you want to remember, but don’t want to have to get out of the book you’re reading, you can quickly make a note of it on Notepad.

Kindle Calendar

Kindle Calendar
Kindle Calendar

Update 2: Finally there is a proper Kindle Calendar app that works like a proper calendar should without having to resort to workarounds like annotations. You can download it here!

Update: While we’re still waiting for fully functional Kindle Calendar application you can download this Kindle Calendar Book which comes close enough in terms of functionality.

Even before KDK was announced people wanted to use Kindle to organize their lives better. So “Kindle Calendars” were some popular eBooks that sold on Amazon Kindle Marketplace. With Kindle lacking any interactive features at that time these were merely eBooks with a page for every day of the week. You could then type notes for every day and these notes would be backed up to Amazon’s online servers.

While this provided security in case your calendar was lost, it would not show you your upcoming appointments in any easy way and it wouldn’t synchronize with any calendar services like Microsoft Exchange based corporate or personal mail servers, MobileMe, Google Calendars etc.

With Kindle SDK out all these features would be easy to implement. Also this app can very well be free since calendar isn’t likely to cause a lot of internet traffic unless your schedule is extremely busy.

I would bet that Calendar App would be among the first ones to appear.

RSS Feed Aggregator/Reader

While I would love to read any kind of blog on my Kindle I’m not that sure that this is going to happen.

While the application wouldn’t be that hard to create, it will pretty much render Kindle Blog publishing dead, since why would anyone want to pay for each individual blog when they can just pay for an app (even if it will be a recurring monthly subscription because of the amount of Internet traffic it will generate) and get all of the blogs including ones that are not available in the Kindle Store because their authors don’t want/care/can’t or just plain wouldn’t put them on there.

Although I doubt that blog subscriptions generate a noticeable porting of revenue compared to book sales and newspaper and magazine subscriptions the issue can cause bad publicity fallout for Amazon either way.

If Amazon would chose to block all such applications from it’s app store that will surely anger the user-base and cause bad publicity. Worse yet it will provide competitors with an easy opportunity to score a feature that Kindle wouldn’t match.

On the other hand should Amazon chose to release such an application, it might anger bloggers who submitted their content to Kindle Store and perhaps earned sizable income from doing so. I have no doubt that some blogs can boast more Kindle subscriptions than brick-and-mortar paper periodicals that are also available on Kindle. Should Kindle RSS reader application become a reality everyone except the most lazy individuals will likely cancel their subscription and switch to the app. This will result in revenue loss by bloggers and might cause some retaliatory bad PR. Although the number of begrudged people would be much less than in the first scenario these few people because of having popular blogs would have louder voices.

Despite the fact that personally I have some blogs published in Kindle Store I would prefer Amazon to go the open way. However I don’t know if it would be the case. Technically the app can be considered a “generic reader” that is explicitly prohibited by the Kindle SDK guidelines.

While most of the blogs can be read via Kindle’s built in browser the experience is so inferior to using the Kindle Store subscription (mostly because browser takes forever to start and navigate to the proper page) that I doubt that many people actually use it.

Email

While GMail as well as some other web-based email services work in Kindle’s basic web browser to one degree or another. Still accessing email is more frustrating experience than it should be from a device with decently sized screen, full keyboard and 3G Internet connectivity.

Therefore another application that is bound to appear is email client. Even though I have iPhone that can I can read my email on I would love to do so on Amazon Kindle because of it’s larger screen. After all if I carry it with me anyway to read books while I wait for one appointment or another why not use it as email client as well?

However there are some factors that don’t make this as easy and nice it one would wish:

1) The application will likely be subscription based since fixed-price and free applications are limited to 100 kilobytes of Internet traffic per month which is much less than average email user receives nowdays. However for those of us who do receive only few emails once in a while there may be a freeware app. Another option would be to setup filtering rules that would prevent all but email from several while-listed senders to ever reach the device.

2) While nothing is certain at this point it’s possible that Kindle SDK will prevent applications from connecting to any but standard HTTP ports and therefore whoever would distribute the app would have to come up with HTTP to POP3/IMAP/SMTP proxy service.

3) Rendering HTML emails with rich formatting might prove tricky given Kindle’s limited computing power on top of the fact that the SDK is likely java-based. While there are several ways around it – none are perfect.

4) International characters. Fonts that are installed on Amazon Kindle are limited to only Latin characters. With KDK and applications putting more strain on the limited amount of RAM that is available on the device Amazon will be even less likely to put fonts that would support broader range of characters and therefore consume more memory.

Folders

Folders is probably the most asked for Kindle feature. So with Kindle SDK out are we likely to see Kindle folders application? Right now it seems a coin toss to me.

After Kindle 2 was released internationally Amazon acknowledged the problem of organizing large libraries on the device promised a solution sometime in 2010. As I see it there are 4 options:

1) Amazon implements folders themselves. Folders can be one of the sorting options or a tab in the main screen that would most likely be accessed by tilting the 5-way controller right. Since Amazon owns the software and can integrate new features however they like it wold be easiest for them to do. So they may try to implement one-size-fits-all solution. I’m pretty sure that default home screen is going to be left intact by default so that the majority of users who are used to it will not have to change their habits.

2a) Amazon will provide a rich enough SDK that will allow developers to integrate their apps into home screen and book reading screens in a seamless and natural way (new menu items, new hot-keys, redefining existing hot keys, etc). This would allow the same experience as described in option 1 but developed by 3rd parties. So users will have more than one folders app to chose from. Multiple such applications might conflict with each other and spoil the user experience. However users will be free to chose any app or none at all. Since such seamless integration will require more complex SDK there is a chance that Amazon will not allow this kind of integration at all at least for now.

2b) Although it will not be possible to integrate folders application into home screen, Amazon will still allow applications to see filer in the “documents” folder and launch book reading application and PDF viewer. In this case folders app will be something users will have to explicitly start before they can see their library in an organized way. While this might not be too user-friendly it may end up being the only option. Lets not forget however that options 2a and 2b don’t cancel out option 1 (Amazon implementing folders themselves)

3) SDK will not allow applications to touch books at all. So folders app will be impossible to implement at all unless paired with a hack that Amazon will not likely allow.

Personally I find options 1 and 2b slightly more likely. Time will show if I’m right.