Let your Trekkie flag fly with Star Trek PADD for iPad

Be still my geeking heart. This official app turns your tablet into a bona-fide "Star Trek" encyclopedia, complete with a sexy-for-the-'80s LCARS interface.

The new Star Trek PADD app makes your iPad look and sound just like the "real" thing.
The new Star Trek PADD app makes your iPad look and sound just like the "real" thing. Screenshot by Rick Broida

Let's just get this out of the way right up front. The best "Star Trek" series was the original. Second-best: "Star Trek: Voyager." Worst by far: "Enterprise."

I say that so you know who you're dealing with: a lifelong Trekkie who has strong feelings about the shows and movies. (I also thought J.J. Abrams' reboot was good, but not great.)

Assuming you're still reading (most people shun me after hearing of my love for "Voyager"), you'll be glad to know there's finally an official Star Trek PADD app for the iPad. And by official, I mean produced by CBS Interactive (which owns both Paramount Pictures and, it should be noted, CNET).

The highly prescient Personal Access Display Device featured prominently in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and later series. It employed the still-sexy Library Computer Access/Retrieval System, or LCARS, interface, which the app reproduces like never before.

And what is the app, exactly? A fairly comprehensive "Star Trek" encyclopedia, with sections devoted to aliens, cast, characters, episodes, food, places, ships, "sci/med," staff, and technology. There's even a slick screensaver of sorts that engages (heh) after a period of inactivity, switching back and forth between a system scan and ship-status overview.

Star Trek PADD looks--and sounds--like it came right off the bridge of the Enterprise. It's without question the best LCARS implementation I've ever seen. And it's actually functional, unlike some fan-made apps that don't really do much. It beeps or speaks with every tap of your finger, even when you hit buttons or areas that aren't specifically tied to database functions.

Speaking of which, there's plenty of reading material here for the die-hard Trekkie, though the PADD falls short in a few key areas. First, it lacks any kind of video, though it has no shortage of photos. Second, its episode guide is listed alphabetically and spans all five series; you can't sort the list or browse by series. As someone who'd like to forget "Enterprise" ever happened, I find it frustrating to see its episodes listed alongside, say, "TOS" classics.

Bonus points, though, for incorporating official "Star Trek" Facebook and Twitter feeds; you can read both without having to link your accounts.

Ultimately, Star Trek PADD is cool, geeky fun, and reasonably priced at $4.99. If you've always dreamed of turning your iPad into a "real" PADD (or you just need a realistic-looking prop for your fan film), your starship has come in.

 

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