Malcolm Fraser's picture

iPhone apps


For anyone who might be interested - I have posted a review of ETI Bioinformatics new iPhone app - Flora of the British Isles - on my blog:




Stuart-M's picture

Smart Phones for recording

I have looked into smart phones for taking records so that in one piece of equipment I have a phone, camera, map and note making. All this can then be downloaded with ease. I have baffled the sales staff at phone shops with my query, and the internet baffled me when I tried to research the possibilities.

Does anybody use a smart phone for taking geo-referenced electronic records? If so, what do you use and does it work well? Can you recommend anything?



Martin Harvey's picture


I haven't tried this myself yet (I don't have the right sort of phone), but this project from Imperial College may be of interest:

Entomologist and biological recorder

Stuart-M's picture

Epi Collect

Thanks for this reference. I've only just had a chance to look at this but it is interesting. Citizen Science is clearly gaining momentum and a web facility like this should help local projects, not just the main charities. Exciting times in recording.

Malcolm Fraser's picture

A few options

Hello Stuart,

Yes there are a few options that I've looked into on the iPhone - here's a really brief run through:

1. Catch Notes - a text note-taking app with the option to add a location tag (i.e. a Lat/Long reading) and 1 photograph to each note. This had the added bonus of automated backing up of your records to the internet -

Other note-taking apps such as Evernote or Simplenote can do much the same thing.

2. GPS Log - when you add an entry to this app it records your location (Lat/Long) and you then have the option of adding text, tags, or photos.

This app is really simple to use, my reservation is that I wasn't sure how usable the data would be when exported - i.e. could I export it all to a spreadsheet. I plan to look into this more.

3. Tap Forms - this is a personal database app that is totally customisable. You can set up a form with fields for location (Lat/Long again), text, photos, and a whole host of other field types. For example I've set up a species recording form with location, common name, scientific name, habitat type, date, photograph, etc, etc.

You can manually back up your database to your home computer.

Let me know if I can help more!

Stuart-M's picture

Smart Phones

Thanks very much for this information. I thought there would be something out there that could be used. Tap Forms sounds ideal. I'll play with the wife's i-touch tomorrow and see what I can set up.Cheers

Stuart-M's picture

A Smart Phone App

At a recent meeting I was told about an app called View Ranger. It is mainly a GPS / mapping tool but it allows you to make geo-referenced notes, called Points of Interest. Apparently you can make as many notes (e.g. species records) as you like for any grid ref, so it could be used for quadrat surveys as well as casual records. It also remembers unusual words that you type in, so latin names become easier after a wee while.

Data downloads onto you PC as a GPX file, but the geo reference is based on longitude and latitude so some conversion to grid reference is required. Software can be found at or

Once I've had a chance to use this for a wee while I'll let you know how I get on.


miked's picture

will be very interesting to

will be very interesting to hear your review. we've been looking at a number of devices (quite separate from ispot) to see their capabilities. There do seem to be loads of different bits of software out there all doing slightly different things in the gps/mapping/recording/display area but tending to converge.
I'd be particularly interested in how easy it is to get different kinds of data in and out of the device and what you can do with the data on the device (mixing what is aready on device with what you collect) while you are still out in the field.

Stuart-M's picture

iPhone apps

I have tried using a smart phone to collect records, both ad hoc and for more detailed surveys. The theory was that a lot of time could be saved by downloading data automatically rather than manually. After quite a few attempts I have gone back to using pencil and (paper) notebook for a number of reasons:

* I'm not very technologically minded and linking the smartphone to the computer was difficult.
* I found the buttons a bit fiddly.
* The batteries ran down too quickly. Not even a full day in the field and it certainly wouldn't last a weekend away.
* I was worried about dropping it in a bog, down a cliff etc.
* The GPS did not always work well (or perhaps I pushed the wrong buttons)

I am sure many people can overcome these difficulties, especially the technological ones, but the notebook has advantages also, often the opposite of the phone's problems, e.g. batteries do not run out, buttons are not fiddly etc.

I did geuinely find it much easier to write plant names on paper, draw sketches and make notes on paper than on the phone.

It did occur to me that a tick-box species sheet would be useful as a means of saving time, if it could be scanned into a computer with ticked species automatically recorded. I know this requires some technological know-how but at least the field work is non-tech.

There is also the issue of the process of recording species. Making it technically easier is one thing but there is a discipline to recording species effectively, passing records to wildlife centres etc. Engaging with that discipline is all part of the process. Even typing names into a computer after the field visit reinforces what you found.

The smartphone distanced me from the process and almost made it seem that recording was an inconvenience that could be overcome by mod cons. I don't particularly enjoy typing plant names into a computer but I do much prefer the process of writing names on paper in the first place.

And you can keep your field note books as a more personal reminder of the site visits, especially if you add little sketches etc.

Notebook or technology: this will be a personal choice. I think the smartphone has a lot of potential for the ad hoc recorder. The technologically gifted may also value it as a survey aid. Personally I think that paper and pencil take a lot of beating.

AlanS's picture

yes, the notebook

While not a total technophobe (after all, I am typing this on the keyboard of a desktop computer surrounded by an entire table of ancilliary equipment), I was reading this thread in gloom. Thank you to Stuart for expressing my feeings so well.

My notebooks have stood the test of time - I can go back 40+ years and they still hold my finds and observations, in chronological order, I don't have to switch them on, none has become obsolete and unreadable yet, the sketch maps still work, in short I think the whole concept is well designed and durable.

As I say, I am not decrying recent technology, and I did recently send a text (my first one, took me a while to work out how to do capitals) from that thing I usually keep in the car to telephone in emergency and otherwise kept firmly switched off. I do carry a GPS. I don't think I'm a luddite. Just glad to see Stuart's eloquent defence of the systerm that better suits me.

(thinking he could change his mind when the iPhone/Pad/CoffeeSynthesiser is invented)

HawkHoney's picture

Geo Note

Hi Stuart,
I have an Android HTC and if I type Geo note into the market search engine, I get a list of apps along the lines of what you're talking about. Also used to have a Blackberry, and that too had something similar but not as good.