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Review: Walt Disney World Guide Notescast.

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The App Store is home to over 100,000 apps.  Disney fans will find a ton of apps related to their favorite Disney movies, music, and theme parks.  This week, I’ve spent a lot of time with a couple of apps in particular.  In this review, I’ll give you my thoughts on the Walt Disney World Guide Notescast.  It’s a mobile guide to the Walt Disney World Resort, designed to be easy and convenient to take with you to the parks.  But does it beat carrying an actual guide book?  You’ll just have to click below to find out!

First thing’s first.  You may not be familiar with Notescasts, so I should start by giving you a definition to work with.  The idea of a Notescast is pretty simple, really.  It’s a collection of short documents that are organized into something resembling an electronic book.  A Notescast is really an electronic form of publishing that’s very convenient for mobile devices, most notably Apple products like the iPod and iPhone (although Android devices are capable of displaying Notescasts also).  If you want to learn more about Notescasts, visit their site.

The Walt Disney World Guide Notescast is exactly what it sounds like: a mobile guide to the parks, resorts, and other features of Walt Disney World.  My review will take you on a tour of this tour guide app, looking at its navigation, content, and appearance.  We’ll end with some final thoughts about the Walt Disney World Guide, and I’ll give some suggestions on where I’d like to see this app go from here.

Navigation

WDW Guide Main Menu

Navigation in this app is very similar to other Notescasts.  After the title screen, you’ll start with the main menu.  From the main menu, simply touch which section of the Notescast you would like to read.  Some menus are split into sub-menus, but these are all organized well (usually by park) and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding what you want.  Scrolling through text is as easy as sliding your finger up or down on the screen.  You do have a little multi-touch compatibility: zooming in or out can be done by using the pinch gesture.  When you finish reading, the “Back” button at the top of the screen returns you to the previous menu.

One thing I was happy to see was navigation to take you to other related sections of the Notescast.  For example, if you’re reading the “How to Plan Your Vacation” section, you’ll see links that take you to sections about resort benefits, Disney’s Magical Express, and ticket options.  Once again, a simple touch of the “Back” button takes you right back to what you were reading before.  It’s simple but intuitive, and it makes navigating to related topics easy.

If you’re used to iPhone or iPod Touch navigation, this will be a breeze.  I love the links to related topics, and I’d love to see this implemented more throughout the app.  The only thing I would say is missing in the navigation category is the ability to move forward to the next section of notes.  This could be as simple as a link at the end of each section that jumps you to the next section.  The read a section then go back method works well if you’re using this in the parks and only want to read one bit at a time, but if I’m reading this on my couch to do research on my vacation I may want to read it linearly.  Perhaps something to think about for future versions.

Content

There's a plethora of WDW information here.

So how much information can you fit into a Notescast?  The WDW Guide proves you can have quite a bit.  I consider myself a seasoned Walt Disney World vacationer, and I was really pleased with the information contained in this app.  I could also very easily see someone using this to tour the parks, but there are a few things that need to be addressed in an update to make this completely feasible.

What you will find is great information on just about every attraction, and you’ll never see a quick one-liner for a description.  Descriptions go as far as giving you height requirements and tips on when lines may be shorter (such as during parades or special events).  You can even read about special annual events (like Halloween and Christmas parties), a quick history of WDW, information on resorts (including a few off-property resorts) and transportation, tips on exploring the parks and finding characters, touring the parks for Guests with disabilities, information on merchandise, and a list of parades.  I also love the list of useful phone numbers, so if you can’t remember WDW-DINE you can find it right here.  There’s also a bunch of touring and planning tips (even tips for bringing toddlers), Hidden Mickey tours, and sections for what’s new and coming at WDW.

A rundown of parades is just one section you'll find in this app.

But if you follow Walt Disney World, you know that things change.  Some of the newest changes to the parks aren’t included yet, such as Epcot’s Sum of All Thrills.  As far as promotions go, I didn’t find any information on “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day.”  Also, I’d like to see the length of shows included in the description for all of the parks’ shows.  For example, the app gives a show length for the Country Bear Jamboree but not Mickey’s PhilharMagic.  I like knowing how long the show will last, so maybe it would be good to include that for all shows.

These problems are all pretty easy to solve, and an update could fix everything I have here.  All of this is simply a result of a year’s worth of change at the parks, and this is no different than buying a guide book that becomes outdated after a year.  I would say these will probably be fixed soon, as the rest of the app is pretty up to date.  Because of that, I would say these are minor problems.

The content is organized very well.  All of the menus make sense, and I found all of the information where I would expect to find it.  Even a first time visitor shouldn’t get confused when looking through the park information.  I really have no complaints in this section.  The only thing I’ll point out is that the resorts are divided up by location (Epcot Area Resorts, Downtown Disney Area Resorts, etc.).  It might be easier to find resorts if they were organized by a different category (perhaps by value, moderate, or deluxe).  The only problem with dividing them by area is that you either have to know where your hotel is located or you have to be familiar with the layout of the property.  Other than that, I was pleased with how the content is organized.

Appearance

The Tower of Terror looks great on the small screen.

This may be my favorite category for this app.  The pictures in the WDW Guide look beautiful.  You can tell they were optimized for the iPhone and iPod Touch screen: they’re crisp and colorful.  And they have a professional quality to them.  These photos are every bit as good as Disney’s promotional images – and some are better than that.  I enjoyed browsing this app if only to look at the pictures!

When the app first loads, you’ll see the title screen.  The title screen (seen above) is a pen-and-paper style screen with a drawing of a castle on yellow notebook paper.  It’s a high quality image and it reflects the idea that this is a collection of notes.  It’s simple, but I think it’s fun and completely appropriate.

The rest of the pictures appear throughout the app.  Almost every section contains some type of picture.  Once again, each picture is high quality and enhances your experience with the app.  The only suggestion I can possibly offer here is give us some more pictures!

Yet another example of the great pictures in the WDW Guide.

Final Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed the WDW Guide Notescast.  This is a great app for any vacationer planning a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, and I would say this would be very useful to carry around while you’re in the parks.  Because it’s on the iPod Touch and iPhone, the form factor is small and convenient.  But small and convenient won’t force you to skimp on information.  There’s a lot of info here.

It’s also good to carry around because it doesn’t require any type of Internet connection (once you download the app itself, of course).  It’s all stored locally on your device, so you won’t have to find a Wi-Fi connection or worry about your reception (no AT&T jokes, I promise!).

I know I said this above, but I want to reiterate that the suggestions I mentioned above are minor and can be fixed in an update.  They should by no means hold you back from purchasing the app.  This is a great Walt Disney World app, and I definitely recommend it.

If you’re interested in purchasing this app, visit the App Store in iTunes or on your iPhone or iPod Touch.  I think I’ve held the best news for last: this app is only $2.99!  I was completely surprised by that price, because I would pay more for this.  You get a truly quality guide to Walt Disney World for less money than a Dole Whip float.  You can’t beat that combination!

Something else I’m very happy to see is that this is available for the iPod Classic and Nano as well. Click here to visit the Notescasts site and download the Classic or Nano version.  This is only $.99, making this an unbelievable deal as well.

I have a few more Notescasts apps to review, so keep an eye on DisTECH for some reviews coming in the very near future!

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