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Being a Basil Beta Tester (Basil Review

Basil, for those of you who don't know, is an iPad app that I have been using for quite some time; the app is like a digital recipe book, allowing you to save, tag, and add notes to recipes as they are collected in the library. In addition to what you would expect from such an app,—browsing and saving, recall for use, etc.—Basil contains a lot of great touches that the detail-oriented developer uses himself and therefore spends time to make better. For instance, Basil has a list of supported sites from which the user can search and save recipes with a tap. Basil also highlights the measurements within the list of ingredients for better recall and highlights times within the directions of a recipe to allow a timer to be set with a simple tap. However, these and other features have been around for awhile, and I am writing this after beta-testing a new version that was released today.

Before I get into the new features and my recommendation to purchase this app (since that has always been my recommendation), I wanted to discuss the beta-testing process since this is the first app I have beta-tested aside from an app or two over the years for the Mac. The iOS beta systems are unique because it is not as easy as downloading a piece of software to run on your device. Your device must be authorized to run the software and install a "security profile", based on your specific UDID, that includes the beta itself and an expiration date; each iOS device must be connected to a team member, where teams and team members are defined by the developer. Using such a beta-testing service, I was able to get ahold of an early build and start playing with it and, as is the case with any beta product, there were bugs.

Now, I wouldn't call myself a Basil power user, but apparently I'm a bug-finder extraordinaire! Maybe I simply have strange usage patterns or care too much about the perfection of every recipe I put in my library, but no matter what the reason, the beta testing experience has been one to remember and hopefully one that will help Basil get even better in the future. I won't lie to you, I use many different sources for my recipes, often defaulting to the smaller recipe sites around the web, instead of The Food Network or Martha Stewart (Yuck!). Due to my penchant for little-known (and therefore unsupported) sources, a plethora of problems were found that would possibly otherwise go unnoticed by the majority of Basil's usership, who may stick to supported sources. In the last six weeks, the developer, Kyle Baxter, and I have had many a conversation identifying, fixing, and changing behaviors that were less than ideal.

I want to continue to beta-test this and other apps in the future because it definitely helped me to better understand the process, which allowed me to get to know the developer and the thinking behind the app better, as well. As an engineer and technologist, these are things in which I have a vested interest. Over time, I hope that my suggestions and findings will be taken to heart and will go to make the app better for everyone who loves it as much as I do.

So what do I have to say about an app that I have been happily using for some time with lots of success? As one would expect, I have nothing but good things to say. Basil is a solid, intuitive, and friendly recipe saving app with very few bugs and a boatload of features. The most recent update has even more to love including many items that I have suggested to the developer in the past. To name a couple, users can now save photos to each recipe, whether personal photos or those representative from the web. And users can now import and export their recipe libraries using Dropbox for backup and archival purposes; even with photos, I have found my recipe library export to be relatively small in size. Although there are many more features, you should just go get the app to check it all out; if you are in your kitchen as much as I am, you will appreciate Basil as a whole.

I don't often write reviews because I feel they are biased or noncommittal. I can almost guarantee that I will only write reviews of things that I love or absolutely hate because I don't have time to write something wishy-washy. Basil falls into the category of things that I love and one can easily tell by the fact that this is the second review I have written on the subject. I wrote an initial review of the app back on my old site; that review was written after I had spent awhile with the 1.0 and had really fallen in love. As such, I continue to be pleased with the direction the app has taken in this release and I look forward to what Kyle has in store for Basil in the future.