You know those iPhone commercials where familiar life
situations are made easier with the iPhone?
For example: “If you’re an avid baseball fan and want to
catch a game-winning run, live, there’s an app for that.” Or: “If you need to
find a cab in a strange city, there’s an app for that.”
Well here’s a new one for ya: “If you’re a Scout or Scouter
and want access to the entire Boy Scout
Handbook on the go, there’s an app for that.”
That’s right. The BSA just released its first-ever app for
the iPhone or iPod Touch. For $9.99, you get a digitized, searchable edition of
the handbook that fits right into your pocket. It’s the perfect example of the
BSA’s new initiative to connect with Scouts through technologies they already
The app sounds great, but how does it work? We spent the past week testing it,
so follow the jump to find out how it holds up.
installation: As you might expect with an app that has the same amount of
information as a full-color, 480-page book, the file is quite large. It weighs
in at 89.9 megabytes. The downside to this is that it won’t download over a
cellular connection—you’ll need to be logged onto a Wi-Fi network to get it.
The reason for its large size is that the handbook is stored
entirely on your device instead of on a server, meaning you won’t need any kind
of data signal to use the app. In other words, if you’re in the middle of a
hike to Mount Phillips and need to look up how to splint a lower-leg fracture,
you’ve got the answer even if the nearest cellular tower is miles away.
contents page is organized just like the print version of the handbook—into
Scoutcraft, Woodcraft, and Campcraft sections. But no more thumbing through
pages to get to the right one—just tap on the chapter and go.
There’s also an impressive searchable index. It works just
like the search function in other iPhone applications. We wanted to look up how
to tie a bowline, so we started typing. By the time we got to the letter W, the
result had appeared. Tap it, and we were taken right to the step-by-step
Once you open a page, it’s easy to simply swipe your finger
left or right to go forward or backward. A single tap on the screen brings up a
navigation bar to tell you what page you’re on and what chapter you’re in.
You can even add bookmarks—helpful for those pages you know
you’ll be coming back to frequently.
Viewing: When you
want to look closer at some information, you’ll need to zoom in. If you’re a
seasoned iPhone or iPod Touch user, you’ve already mastered the art of zooming.
Simple double tap or “reverse pinch” (place two fingers on the screen and slide
them apart) to zoom in, and double tap or “pinch” to zoom out. It’s quite
On text-heavy pages, we found it was easier to use the “Text
Only” option, which takes away the images and the book’s formatting and leaves
behind plain text on a white background.
One gripe was that you can only view the book in portrait
mode—turning the phone on its side didn’t change the screen’s orientation the
way it does in other applications. We figure that this might be coming in a
free update some time down the road.
Also, there’s no way to write on the screen—without doing
permanent damage—so pages that require you to check boxes or fill in blanks
don’t translate as well. This won’t be a big deal for most users, though.
you’re an iPhone or iPod Touch user and a Scout leader, purchasing this app
seems like a no-brainer. While it can’t emulate the familiar feeling of
flipping through the handbook while sitting around the campfire, it’s a great
tool to carry with you when you can’t bring a thick book along.
Ready to give it a try? Click here to be taken to the iTunes
Check out a few more screenshots below.