iTalmud – iPad Edition | App Review

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Way back in 2009, I did a review of iTalmud English for the iPhone. See: iTalmud English Edition: Review

A few months ago we got an iPad and I could not wait to try iTalmud – iPad Edition. Torah learning is much easier on a bigger screen and the navigation through an iPad app is less crowded than on an iPhone. I’ve been testing the iTalmud – iPad Edition and it with recent updates and the bigger screen the iPad app is one of the best apps I have used on the iPad. Period.

I figured to give you all a real taste of what using iTalmud – iPad Edition is like I would give you a walkthrough with photos.

Before we begin, I will just say that if you have an iPad and have any interest in studying Talmud, this is the absolutely best way to do it. The Torah is timeless and when technology can be leveraged to make the experience more accessible, exciting and convenient, it speaks to the eternal nature of the Torah and its people. When you think about it, it can be quite inspiring.

Here we go:

I always begin studying a page of the Talmud with the traditional page view.  iTalmud provides clear PDFs of every folio of the Talmud. It is a straight PDF with no iOS magic. Functional and perhaps enough to justify spending $40. Imagine having the entire Talmud accessible on an iPad!

To change pages, one taps the book icon on the top of the page and using the iOS selection wheel can turn to any Tractate and any page in that Tractate in an instant. It takes about 2 seconds to download each PDF over wifi. It does not feel like you are “waiting” when you switch pages. Here I have switched from Shabbos to Brachos in an instant. In real life that would mean going to a bookshelf and replacing one overly large tome with another. Amazing.

If you want to be able to read folio pages when offline you can download PDFs of every Daf View page and save them for later in the Download Manager. There is no charge to keep these on your iPad. Additionally, the app provides excellent audio classes for each page. These can also be downloaded and saved for later.

Let’s move on. Daf View is nice, but the other stuff is where we experience the real magic of iTalmud. I use landscape view for viewing the PDFs. It just seems more natural. But for the other modes I mostly use portrait view. (We will stick with landscape for now.) Switching modes is simple. Just tap the page icon on he bottom left. A menu pops up and you can select how you would like iTalmud to display text. Until now we have been using Daf View.

Now I’ve selected “Hebrew Text” and “Rashi”. As you can see, this view is just text without the traditional Daf format. But I have also selected Rashi and the commentary is displayed split-screen style on the left. The two columns are independent and can be scrolled on their own. So if Rashi is lower down on the page you can scroll the left side down but leave the right side where it is. This is great.

We also can select Tosfos and Tosfos will be displayed instead of Rashi. Everything else remains the same.

Another option is to have the English translation displayed. This translation is the Soncino translation with the Footnotes. If you tap a footnote and popup displays the text of the footnote.

I’ve switched the view to portrait. In this view, the secondary text, in this case Rashi, gets moved to the bottom of the screen. I have also tapped on the Daf Yomi shiurim menu. Here, we can see a list of local Daf Yomi classes and their locations. Languages are included so that you can find the class that best meets your needs. You can also enter an address and find  class near that address. Unfortunately, this feature did not work for me. The keyboard kept disappearing. I hope this is fixed in a future update.

Sometimes you want to go directly to a specific page. You can easily navigate to any page using the browse and search menu. The English Keyword search is also great. As I have beards on my mind (The Shave Heard ‘Round the World) I typed “beard” into the search and the results displayed everywhere the word beard occurs in the Talmud. This is a really super tool. Tapping a result sends you to that page. This is great, but could be better. The place on the page that the word occurs is not highlighted anywhere. This would not be so bad if there were a “search this page” option but iTalmud does not have that feature yet.

One of the coolest things in the iTalmud app is a $5 add-on. I bought it because it was useful to me and I think it is a great feature. To bring up the extras pop-up just tap on the Extras menu icon.

With Biblical References” add-on you can tap any verse from Scripture that is quoted in the Talmud and explore that verse. So just click buy and then it is automatically built into the app.

For example, I tapped a verse on Brachos 2a. Tapping the verse brings up a menu where you can choose which commentary should be displayed with the text of the verse from the Torah. I chose English. The verse is automatically highlighted and the commentary is inline.

I tried to select Rashi, but it was not working. That’s another kink that needs to be worked out. But the others work. Here is the Ramban on that verse.

And here is Ibn Ezra. It could not be simpler.

I also want to show you a full-screen view that removes the menus and just shows the text on the screen. This is the ideal method for studying. No distractions and it uses the maximum of the real estate. It would even better if iTalmud could do Airplay and be displayed on an external display. Maybe next version…

So there you have it. That’s how I use iTalmud English for iPad. I am sure many of you would use it differently. That’s part of the beauty of the app. It can be used your way.

I have one more suggestion for a future release (my father actually suggested it to me). It would be great if illustrations and models could be provided as well. The Talmud can be so well illuminated by diagrams and graphics. Some sections require illustrations. I hope a future release could provide pop-up graphics for these sections of the Talmud.

Other than that, search on the page and a couple of bugs iTalmud is one of the most complete iPad apps I have had the pleasure of using. I highly recommend the app and even more than the app, I recommend studying Talmud.

Purchase the app here: iTalmud – iPad Edition. Check out Crowded Road’s other apps and services on their website.

DisclaimerPromotional consideration was provided by Crowded Road for the review of their iTalmud English for iPad app. I was given the app free of charge.

  • Thanks Rabbi for a superb review!

    We wanted to point out that the search results do indeed contain highlighted keywords, you may just need to scroll down the page to find them. We’re already working on fixing the other bug you noticed within the Biblical References module.

    We will continue to develop and evolve the app based on the community feedback and suggestions and we invite your readers to participate in this exciting process – http://www.crowdedroad.com/italmud-ipad-edition/feedback

    Thanks again for the support.

    Best,

    Team iTalmud
    Crowded Road
    http://www.crowdedroad.com

    • One more quibble is I wish the pages could be turned by swiping like ebooks.

  • who does the english translation? whats it based on?

    • It’s in the review. Soncino.

      • Thanks, missed those 2 lines between the pictures loading.

  • I Tick

    Does it work stand-alone, without an iPad? Could one use it on a Mac or PC?