Google Translate app

Google Translate app (Google)

Google Translate (Free for iOS and Android)

What it is: an app that uses translations of hundreds of documents to offer the best translations from one language into another, whether it's English to Spanish, Spanish to German, etc. More than 80 languages are available, including Arabic, French, Italian, Punjabi, Portuguese and Spanish.

How it works: After launch, you set the translation direction from Italian to English or English to Italian, Punjabi to French, etc. You input text for translation by speaking, handwriting or typing. Turning your device to landscape mode makes translations appear in large type to hold up to someone at a restaurant, etc.

Why it's great: You can translate words between your native tongue and almost any target language. I love being able to speak, scribble, type or cut and paste what I want translated. This is great for keeping in touch with friends you make abroad. Google Translate helps me understand the message in English and reply in Spanish. Google has created offline workarounds, so you can use the app without a data connection. Android users can pre-download language packs for their devices, and iOS users can create phrase books for offline use. Though idioms can create problems in translations, this app seems to be pretty solid as long as you keep your input language as simple as possible.

Union ($1.99 for iPhone and iPad)

What it is: a photo-effects app that lets you stack, blend and merge images to create a variety of artistic effects.

How it works: You select a photo, color or a blank background, then add an image in the foreground. A masking tool helps you erase elements you don't want. You can combine multiple images while adjusting contrast, brightness, etc.

Why it's great: Union has one of the easiest user interfaces of any photo-effects app I've tested. If you simply want to tweak lighting, contrast, etc., you can do that, or you can merge images. Union makes it easy to take a subject photographed indoors and move it outside or to alter the time of day, for example. You also can combine two images, then flatten them into one background and add another image in the foreground. Union is an apt name because it makes it so easy to unify multiple images. A real-time magic wand allows you to tap on an area to erase, and a slider lets you expand or contract the magic erasure. You can create double exposures and other unique artistic effects.

Untappd (Free for iOS, Android, Windows and BlackBerry 10)

What it is: a social media app that helps you find or discover beer when traveling. It also helps you remember favorites and discover what Facebook and other friends are drinking.

How it works: You launch the app and search for nearby beers, bars, breweries and trending beers. Or if you want to note the beer you are drinking, you can find or add your location, then check in to note the beer you are imbibing.

How it works: Whether you are a beer expert or a novice, Untappd makes it easy to find beers and remember them. You also can check out what friends or strangers nearby and worldwide are recommending. My favorite feature is Untappd's ability to steer users toward beers that are similar if a favorite isn't available. You can permit the app to scan your Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare friends to see what they are drinking. Untappd seems to be the favorite beer app available.

Why you might hesitate: It requires a data connection, which could be an occasional issue abroad when you are relying on Wi-Fi while traveling in airplane mode.

ctc-travel@tribune.com