This article reviews Paprika, an easy to use recipe manager, cookbook and grocery list generator for the iPad. Created by Hindsight Labs, this app is built on the founded experience the company has in creating custom software for the restaurant industry and was created with both home and executive chef’s in mind.
When the iPad was first released, people looked closely at the tablet design and touch screen interface to wonder how and why people would use it. One of the first things that came to the minds of many iOS developers was the kitchen. Never before had a relatively inexpensive, internet-connected device been available that supported everything home cooks and professional chefs needed. Where large desktop computers, fragile laptops and small screen mobile devices have failed, the iPad was quickly seen as a viable option to replace hand written cookbooks and hard to maintain recipe cards.
Cooking Apps Don’t All Have The Same Ingredients
For several months, a variety of iOS apps have been released with the kitchen in mind. However, as each cook and in turn, app developer has found, workflow, user interface and small details get in the way of obtaining a large number of regular users. People who cook have their own processes and ways of thinking about things. It’s easy for a recipe app to get in the way of cooking and for the cook to feel frustrated by being slowed down by the user interface and small inconsiderations of software design.
Paprika uses what feels like very open-ended processes to manage recipes and assemble grocery lists. What really sets Paprika apart however is that this open-ended design methodology doesn’t get in the way while you’re cooking. It’s easy to put the iPad on a stand and cook by following a recipe in Paprika.
Beyond the open-endedness of this app, the single most important feature of Paprika is the ability to input your own recipes and recipes that you can find on any website. Popular apps such as the Better Homes and Gardens Celebrate app and the Martha Stewart Makes Cookies app only contain a small assortment of recipes from private publications. In apps like these, it simply isn’t possible to form a collection of recipes. In contrast, Paprika allows you to input recipes from any website or manually transcribe details from magazines or your own personal cookbooks.
Paprika’s Three Major Components
Paprika takes three major functions and combines them to form a single app.
First, Paprika makes good use of the always-on Internet connectivity of the iPad. By building their own custom browser into the Paprika app, users can maintain an independent list of recipe websites such as The Food Network, Epicurious, etc. When these sites are viewed in the Paprika browser, one simple toolbar click will transcribe and save the recipe into Paprika. In combination with the Grocery List functionality, these features could have easily been offered as a stand-alone app but are included as part of Paprika.
The drawback to this one-click recipe importing is that the integrated browser only supports a limited number of predefined food websites. With access to thousands of recipes, this limitation may not seem substantial, however with an ever growing number of excellent, independent food blogs and similar small sites, easy recipe inputting without relying on copying and pasting is a missing feature. Hopefully, in a future version of Paprika, Hindsight Labs will allow community members to define recipe scraping rules and share those rules throughout the userbase.
Next, Paprika allows users to easily create grocery shopping lists. When browsing a recipe saved in Paprika, adding all of the ingredients to a shopping list is as easy as pressing the shopping cart button at the bottom of the screen. Using Paprika day-to-day, this makes it incredibly easy to plan meals, especially for those with dietary concerns. After inputting recipes or complete meal plans, a single combined shopping list can be collected simply by choosing what you would like to eat that week. Shopping lists can be emailed from inside Paprika so sending a list to your phone or whoever happens to be closest to the grocery store couldn’t be easier.
The third element of the Paprika trifecta are the recipes themselves. An exceptional recipe app would not be worth it’s salt if it wasn’t easy to add new recipes or view them in real-time when cooking. Paprika has put a lot of thought into how these functions work. Using a familiar two column layout, recipes are easy to read while cooking. On the left of an individual recipe, you’ll find the ingredient list and on the right, the preparation instructions. This layout works well because there is plenty of room on the screen both for ingredients and instructions. This means that the user rarely needs to scroll or touch the iPad in any way while cooking.
In the same way a handwritten recipe card does not force you to input measurements or format your instructions in any particular way, Paprika doesn’t either. Inputting a recipe instructions works much like a simple text editor to allow you to input text in your own way without any required structure. One problem that many users encounter while inputting recipes is the inability to associate a single recipe with more than one category. This is a small limitation, but one that gets in the way of otherwise easy-to-use organizational processes. A practical example of this is my recipe for grilled peanut curry chicken skewers. These could either be categorized under “party appetizers” or “fast dinners” or even “BBQ lunches”.
Using the iPad as an Internet-connected cookbook with Paprika is easy and fun. The user interface is refined and straight forward while features such as e-mailing grocery lists, locking recipes from being edited and desktop iTunes backup syncing are well conceived and exceptionally well implemented. Well worth the price, Paprika is the combination of 3 apps in one. By combining straightforward recipe cards with an integrated browser and grocery lists that culminate, this app does what it says and more.
As with any software application, there are always small issues to resolve. Category assignment and a predefined set of websites that support one-click importing are small, likely temporary issues. On a larger scale, it would be nice to see full online integration with a traditional web app. Many people who are drawn to cookbook apps like Paprika have used similar software in the past to input and refine their recipe collections. Extending Paprika into a web app with similar functionality would make this app a true powerhouse for both home cooks and professional chefs.
With only very small, minor issues, this professional quality app is currently the best cookbook app for the iPad. With planned distribution to other iOS devices soon and an open-ended methodology to inputting recipe data, this app should be in the hands of anyone who plans meals.9