App-tastic Edinburgh Fringe

Aug 9 2010 | By More

All the Edinburgh Fringe iPhone apps reviewed

By Thom Dibdin

Updates came in thick and fast for the handful of iPhone apps which launched early for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe – with more venues  promising apps for their own programmes, and even more updates  in the pipeline. So I succumbed to Fringe madness, went off to see and review my shows, and rather left this on the back burner until a few more apps and their promised updates arrived.

They haven’t materialised, so here’s the story so far:

The big one is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe app. It’s the official app of the Festival Fringe Society and allows you to access the whole fringe programme. We reviewed version 1.0.1 here, and although it was disappointing over all, version 1.0.2 is a big step in the right direction. Version 1.0.3 is due “imminently” – as of Monday 9 August.

Two Venues have launched their own apps: The Pleasance and Zoo Venues. Assembly is due to launch its own app “any day”, according to the press office, although there is no sign of it a  week later. Also imminent is the Festivals Edinburgh app, covering all the festivals. It was expected on Monday 9th of August, just in time for the Mela to be over, but is unlikely to appear until after the Fringe update to 1.0.3, as it is being developed by the same company.

The surrounding apps are not yet many. Theatre Ninjas is looking to be the most useful one for participants and punters alike, as it provides the opportunity to give free tickets away to a particular show. iFringe collates reviews and recommendations from a handful of “independent” websites. Edinburgh Fringe Venues is a list with handy map feature that shows you the best route to your chosen venue.

A final tip for Edinburgh-bound iPhone users is to load the free edinbus Edinburgh Bus Times app.  It gives real-time tracking of Lothian Travel buses.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe app

The official app of the Festival Fringe Society which allows you to access the whole fringe programme. It does take a wee while to find your way round the app, but given that you are searching 40,254 performances of 2,453 shows in 259 venues, the results are impressive. You can search both the full list of shows and the shows a specific venue by type, time and by name, find the nearest shows – at a time of your choice, and display all the results on a map.

What you can’t do is search the full list by venue, list only productions (not performances), go back to the home page without scrolling back through your whole search. Indeed, the whole navigation through the app needs to be a lot clearer.

It makes a great start with the My Fringe function, allowing you to store any performance – and as many performances of the same show as you like – on a calendar. You can’t, however, annotate these in any way. There will also be a link to the Fringe’s half-price hut when that opens.

There are some irritating omissions. The only phone number displayed is the central Fringe Box office, which is given for all shows. Indeed, the venue information is minimal and doesn’t even include the unique venue number.

As far as glitches go, the most annoying is that the time search throws up results for shows starting after – not at – the search time. So if you are searching for a show that starts at a 12.30pm on a specific day, you need to set the search time to 12.29. Also, while the time panel shows today’s date by default at start-up, if you set it for some time in the future, it shows the previous day’s date – although it works with the date set.

Without going through the whole Fringe programme, this appears to be complete – although the presence of a rogue listing for the Pleasance’s creche (not in the Fringe brochure) has crept in, so it is not immune to fault – The way that this particular listing repeats every half hour of every day is an indication of why the only-listing-by-performances situation is so irritating.

There is the odd mistake: David Leddy’s Sub Rosa, a 100 minute-long promenade production in which small groups leave every 20 minutes at Hill Street, is listed as being 20 minutes long. This, and the continued presence of shows which have already been cancelled or had their runs changed, throws up the desperate need of this app for live updating, of the most minimal kind at least.

The search facility also interrogates the show descriptions, which could be useful – but also means that a search for a show which has a common word in the title, such as The Door, throws up many, many results. Searching for “The Door” helps.

On the plus side, the map is great – taking into account the vagaries of the GPS system in Edinburgh, which means that you are not always where your phone thinks you are. On the down side, it is tricky to set your position.

* * * A good app, which has the potential to be a great app.

The two existing venue apps are somewhat basic by comparison.

Zoo Venues.

Zoo venues was the first out and simply lists all the shows on at Zoo venues, listed by genre. Missed opportunities include the lack of a basic map to the venue sites, no listing by Zoo’s three venue sites, any expansion of the basic listings. Despite updates to the Zoo’s programme (An Actress Prepares has a much reduced run) there’s no new version out.

The Pleasance

Pleasance have much the same lacks, but as the Pleasance is a much larger venue grouping – with something like 200 shows in all – they are magnified. This is the Pleasance programme on an app – but without any of the bells or whistles which this affords.

The first lack is that there is no over-all listing. The first page is “on now” which, if it is early in the morning as you are sitting at home, waiting to set about your day’s Fringing, is just useless: Charlie and Lola, and Monkey Music. I don’t think so. To find out what is on today you have to go to “more” choose “venues” and then choose the venue you want. Even then, if the show you are looking for isn’t on that day, then you will have to go through the search function. So there is no way of planning your visit to Pleasance before coming up to Edinburgh.

The search function is, at least, very fast – and searches for a string of text in the show title. Still, useless if you don’t know the name of the show but know other details about it – there’s no search by venue or by genre. Given the large number of stages at each of the Pleasance two big venues: Dome and Courtyard, a basic map of each would have been particularly useful.

Still, the shows are there and if you come out of a Pleasance show, wanting to know what is on imminently, it is perfect.

* * A missed opportunity

Theatre Ninjas

Theatre Ninjas is looking like being the best of the rest after the Fringe programme. The idea is neat: the app is updated daily with a list of shows that you can see for free. You turn up at the specified venue at the specified time, find the specified person, whisper the code word in their ear – and a ticket is yours. It’s first come first served, so there is no guarantee of a ticket, but it keeps the spirit of the Fringe very much alive in that you can sample stuff which you might not normally ever think of going to.

For companies, it is a great marketing opportunity. Listing is free and the number of tickets offered is up to the company, not the Ninjas.

There is a wee glitch in that the app likes to drop out, particularly when you are looking at the new update for the first time, but it always seems to load. Eventually. And the listing doesn’t say what day the show is on which, as the listing changes daily, isn’t strictly necessary – but it would be good to see before hiking over to the other side of town.

Other than that, the screens are clear, the information excellent – and more than there is in the Fringe programme. Even better, the map function doesn’t take you away from the app. There’s even a page of real-time results for the #theatreninjas hashtag on twitter – where those who get tickets are encouraged to write reviews of the shows they have seen. Which is only polite, having got a ticket for free.

* * * * * Great app, great functionality, great delivery.


iFringe seems to be the most downloaded of all the Edinburgh Fringe apps, and certainly provides a useful service. It is, however, a limited one. Run by Fringe Guru, the app is the only one on this list to carry advertising, although that is not at all heavy.

The thing to remember is that is not a listings, app. It is based on shows recommended, previewed and reviewed in the Threeweeks, Edinburgh Spotlight, Hairline Reviews, Fest, FringeReview – and possibly others. Which, while it is many and is a useful way of looking at reviews, is by no means a universal listing of shows – nor is it a complete listing of all the reviews and reviewers, both professional and amateur, at the Fringe. Still, nigh-on 200 shows listed as of Monday 9th August is pretty good going, and certainly as many reviews as you are likely to find in one place.

That one caveat aside – and lacks which include a basic search facility and the ability to find shows by venue – this is relatively easy to app to use. Recommendations are listed as “soon and nearby”, “top shows by date”, “prime time picks”, recommendations for any date and time of your choice, and a complete A-Z listing of all shows reviewed.

* * * * Good work, needs to be a bit clearer that it isn’t the official Fringe app – or a complete listing.

Edinburgh Fringe Venues

What it says on the app: all the Fringe venues in one place. A link to the google map and, though use of GPS, the ability to get instructions of how to get from where you are to where you ant to be.

* * * * Basic, simple and useful.

edinbus Edinburgh Bus Times
I love this app. Easy to use, it carries all the data from Lothian buses from live bus tracking. So it lets you know what bus is expected to arrive, when at the stop you choose. It is clearly formatted, you can find the nearest stop to you, it says which way the bus is travelling from that stop, can give you instructions on how to get to the stop and it saves stops for future use.

Best tip is that you can sit on the top deck with the app on, watching your progression through the city on the map – brilliant if you are of a touristic bent.

Of course it is subject to the vagaries of traffic, so gridlock on Princes Street could make that information useless. And it does make the Lothian Region minute an elastic period of time.  But in an imperfect world, it is certainly the best way of find out bus information.

* * * * * Realtime bus times. Perfect.


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  1. What’s App? « festivalslab | Apr 19 2011
  1. Marius Ciocanel says:

    I think the reason why the Edinburgh Festival Fringe app doesn’t have reviews is because the Fringe wants to equally promote all the shows not only the ones that have great reviews.

    I love the edinbus app too :). It’s a great app for anyone who lives in Edinburgh.