Every DIYer should know about these apps | Popular Science
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Every DIYer should know about these apps

Seven essential phone apps for your next project.

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Add a smartphone to your DIY toolkit.

When you start thinking about your next DIY project, preparation is key: You need good tools, the right quantity of the right materials, and enough know-how to not make a complete mess. Oh, and as you gather your tools, don't forget your smartphone.

Thanks to a variety of DIY applications for both Android and iOS, your phone makes a valuable ally when you tackle any task. We picked seven of our favorite apps for turning any DIY project into a success.

1. YouTube

This well-known video app is a great pick—just try to find a DIY project that doesn't have multiple tutorials on YouTube (for Android and iOS). It's not easy—amateurs and professionals alike have uploaded hours of useful footage that covers every kind of DIY challenge you can imagine, from faucet repairs to fence painting.

To tap into that knowledge, use the search box at the top of the app interface to look for videos related to the DIY task at hand. With so much content on YouTube, you should make your search terms as precise as possible to weed out the irrelevant clips. Then narrow down the results even further with filters like rating, number of views, or how recently the videos were uploaded. The clips you choose will also come with more recommended videos, which you might find helpful as well.

One final piece of advice: Don't automatically head towards the most polished videos, the ones whose hosts do a perfect job. You might be able to learn just as much from videos that show mistakes—so you can make sure you don't repeat them.

2. TapMeasure

A tape measure is an essential part of any DIY toolkit. But why settle for a physical instrument when your phone offers an augmented-reality version? TapMeasure (for iOS only) runs on ARKit, the new augmented reality (AR) platform that Apple has opened up to developers. Essentially, it lets apps layer digital graphics over the real world when users look through the camera of an iPhone or an iPad.

You can bring up an AR tape measure to check the distance between two points, but TapMeasure also does much more. Need to hang paintings or photos nice and straight? Use the app to check their orientation on the wall. Want to see how your project will look before you take your tools out? TapMeasure lets you build a virtual world that you can explore in 3D space.

The app will even export your files to more advanced 3D-modeling programs like SketchUp, so you can continue tinkering with your designs on your computer. And if you want to get input from friends, you can share your virtual models through a simple web link.

3. Paint Tester

When you tackle the classic home improvement project of painting your walls, you don't want to get the colors wrong. Paint Tester (for Android and iOS) will use augmented reality to help you pick a palette.

While it won't perfectly reflect reality, the app gives you a general idea of what your walls might look like in various colors. Point your phone's camera at your walls, and Paint Tester shows you various color combinations, helping you pick the right shades for your space. Then you can pick up your favorite hues at the hardware store.

In addition to AR, the app can also detect the walls in photographs—as long as they're lit well—and then give you simple sliders and color mixers to test out different shades. If you have a physical color sample, tape it to the wall, and Paint Tester will expand it to fill the surface from top to bottom. Thinking about accents? The app can apply more than one color at the same time.

4. The Home Depot

Unless you've stockpiled a huge volume of materials and tools, your DIY endeavors will likely require a trip or two to the hardware store. To make this process significantly less tedious, let The Home Depot app (for Android and iOS) help you out.

Use the app's simple interface to browse for the supplies you need among the million-plus products The Home Depot sells. You can also search with voice commands or even photos of the items you want. When you've picked out your supplies, you can order them delivered straight to your home, or look up the exact aisle where you'll be able to find them at your local store.

If you're not a huge Home Depot fan, then check whether your hardware store of choice has developed its own app. For example, you can find solid apps from the retailers Lowe's (for Android and iOS) and Ace Hardware (for Android and iOS).

5. Smart Tools

A fantastic all-in-one app for DIY enthusiasts, Smart Tools (for Android only) provides digital versions of six different instruments: a ruler for measuring lengths and angles, a measure for calculating distances and areas, a GPS-enabled compass, a sound meter, a flashlight, and a unit converter.

All of the tools let you use your phone for any quick measurements and calculations your project requires.The app won't beat the accuracy of an actual tape measure, but it gives you a great way to estimate, say, how much material you might need to cover a wall.

On the down side, you do need to pay for this app (the total cost is $3), and it's currently only available on Android. However, you can find other iOS apps that duplicate the different features of Smart Tools. For example, AR MeasureKit (for iOS) lets you hold a floating virtual ruler against any surface in augmented reality.

6. DIY On A Budget

DIY On A Budget is a fledgling social network centered around helping other people with their DIY projects and getting feedback on your own work. This makes the app (for Android only) valuable for any type of project.

Browse through a gallery of other members' ongoing DIY work, read tips and tricks submitted by the community, and run polls—any questions like what color to paint something or how to approach a particular task—to get feedback on your current project.

Although DIY On A Budget is a much smaller network than Facebook, it does let you like and comment on others' posts. As the community grows, keep an eye on this space.

7. Houzz Interior Design Ideas

Stuck for inspiration? Houzz Interior Design Ideas (for Android and iOS) will toss you useful suggestions for improving your home, whether it's redesigning the living room or setting up an outdoor patio area. Although it leans more toward interior design than actual DIY, the app can spark your creativity and help you visualize how your redecoration attempts will eventually look.

Browse through some of the app's more than 14 million high-resolution photos, which can give you ideas for what to do with every room inside and space outside your home. Houzz also sells furniture and other accessories if you'd like to go shopping—and for some of its 9 million or so home products, you can drop an augmented reality version of the item into your room, checking out how it might fit into your decor before you spend any money.

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