App

Party season is every season, right? So make sure yours goes with a bang by using these great apps

Whether you’ve someone’s birthday coming up, or are blazing headlong into a major holiday, it pays to plan. After all, you don’t want to arrive at the big day, and realize that all you have for the celebrations is an out-of-date bag of popcorn and a solitary paper hat.

Fortunately, your iPhone or iPad can help smooth things along. There are apps for being inspired, managing plans, and even keeping guests entertained while the party’s in full swing. The selection below includes some of our favorites – so make sure you invite them all to your Home screen right now!

MindNode: get ideas down

$15/£15 • v6.1.1 • 65.9 MB • By IdeasOnCanvas GmbH

If you’re planning a get-together with a few friends, you might be fine with a quick checklist – grab some food; get some drinks in; ensure your Apple Music playlist isn’t too embarrassing. That kind of thing. But for bigger and grander parties, it pays to think a bit more and drill down into the finer details. MindNode can be a great way of doing that, through mind-maps that can let your thoughts expand freely.

You start things off with a hierarchical bullet-point list that includes the basics. On a tap, this explodes into a fully formed mind map you can manipulate and edit. MindNode’s flexibility bends the app to your will. You can go freeform, or automatically tidy your diagram. Adding images, icons, and new colors is a breeze. And it’s even possible to include to-dos, if you want to keep all your planning within MindNode itself.

Download MindNode

Magpie: stash inspiration

$1/£1 per month or $8/£8 • v1.5 • 82.8 MB • By Super Useful Ltd

Checklists and notes are all very well, but for the more visually inclined, photos and screenshots are often a better way to store inspired moments to pick through later. Arguably, Magpie is the best way of keeping such things on your iPhone.

The app more or less merges photo albums with a notepad. On creating a list, you can populate it with photos or images saved to your iPhone. Each note can have multiple images attached, and a short text description, along with – as relevant – a price, a website link, and a map.

For parties, this app can be a great way to keep track of ideas for decor, recipes, clothes, music, and more besides. And once you’re done with the party, Magpie’s an excellent way to store ideas for all sorts of other things, from gift lists to holiday plans – if you plan to use it more than once, it’s well worth going for the one-off $8/£8 lifetime purchase rather than the monthly subscription.

Download Magpie

Wunderlist: make to-dos and plans

Free • v3.4.18 • 101 MB • By 6 Wunderkinder

Some time ago, Microsoft bought Wunderlist, and has been threatening to shutter it ever since. The problem for Microsoft is the company hasn’t yet been able to bring across all of Wunderlist’s functionality into its own to-do app – and there are also currently millions of happy Wunderlist users Microsoft probably doesn’t want to annoy.

When you start using Wunderlist, it looks like a fairly straightforward to-do app that’s not a million miles away from Apple’s Reminders. But dig deeper and you soon discover that it’s closer in nature to a full-on task manager. You can create items with sub-tasks, attachments, and comments. If you’re planning with others, tasks can be assigned; and because Wunderlist is free, there’s no additional outlay. Due dates and reminders further help keep things on track.

Wunderlist’s long-term future may be in doubt, but its effectiveness is not. Give it a go while it’s still around!

Download Wunderlist

Tasty: prep your food

Free • v2.22.1 • 71.6 MB • By BuzzFeed

Assuming you’re not just buying in a load of readymade food for a party, chances are you’ll quickly hit problems. You’ll want to be ambitious and show off a bit; but also, you’ll invariably be in a hurry, and a combination of timescales and a lack of skills may prove to be your undoing. When armed with Tasty, you’ve at least a fighting chance of serving up dishes of delight.

The app differentiates itself from other cookery apps in two key ways: it doesn’t mess around, and it focuses heavily on video. Every dish comes with the usual step-by-step guide, and ingredients you can add to a shopping list. But before you get to those, you’re treated to a speedy cruft-free video that shows how to make the dish in question. Edits of the video accompany the step-by-step instructions as you work through them, keeping you on track every step of the way.

Download Tasty

Cocktail Flow: mix some drinks

Free + IAP • v3.3 • 124.2 MB • By Cocktail Flow

If you’ve harbored ambitions to be Tom Cruise in classic 1980s movie Cocktail, this app will give you all of the skills. And by skills, we mean a bunch of recipes and preparation steps for making the best drinks in town. You’re on your own regarding lobbing your cocktail shaker about. The app’s subscription-based, although plenty of recipes are available entirely for free.

Whether you choose to pay or not, everything works very nicely. You select recipes by type or base spirit. Once one’s open, you can adjust servings and unit types, peruse handy tips for that particular recipe, and add your own notes for the future. (One good one might be: actually, don’t lob that cocktail shaker anywhere, because your guests prefer drinking cocktails rather than wearing them.)

Download Cocktail Flow

Heads Up!: play a game

$1/£1 + IAP • v3.9.27 • 161.6 MB • By Warner Bros.

Chances are your party will barrel along just fine with some good food, drink, and music. But you might also want to play a game. If you don’t fancy breaking out a box of cards, grab your iPhone, and try Heads Up!

This one’s a digital take on that well-known game where you hold a card to your forehead with something written on it, and try to guess what it is from clues provided by your friends. Only because this is on an iPhone, the game moves at pace, and you flick the phone down when you get an answer, or up to pass.

You might feel ridiculous holding your phone to your head, and somehow not realizing you ‘are’ Meryl Streep. Still, you can always simultaneously shoot a video of your laughing friends trying to give you clues, and share that online to get your own back. (Or perhaps that’s not quite in the party spirit!)

Download Heads Up!

Also consider:

BigNight: Dinner Party Planner ($4/£4)

If dinner parties are your thing, and you want to be extremely organized, this app lets you keep everything in one place. You can import recipes from websites, create a menu, build a shopping list, and set reminders so you don’t forget everything. It’s even possible to share your menu with guests prior to the big day.

Invitation Card Maker App (free)

This one does what its name suggests – although it’s a bit rough on some modern iPhones, not fully taking into account the notch and Home indicator. Still, it’s a solid, free, simple way to create invites with images and text you can subsequently share.

Plzcome (free)

These days, people communicate in many different ways, meaning you might end up juggling Facebook, WhatsApp, and other services. Plzcome is a free app for iOS and Android that attempts to wrench order from such chaos, enabling you to create and track invites. Friends don’t need the app to respond either – although can join polls and chats if they do!

djay (free + IAP)

For whatever reason, Apple keeps Apple Music oddly isolated from DJ apps. But if you have a Spotify Premium subscription (or a load of standard MP3s/AACs on your iPhone), fire up this app and you can set its automix to work, which seamlessly transitions between tracks. Alternatively, spin some virtual decks with your thumbs, should you feel the need to go all Fatboy Slim on your guests.