App of the Week: Trip Splitter

Image credit: DC Software Arts

App Name: Trip Splitter

Available Platforms: iOS (iPhone and iPad)

Price: $1.99

What does this app do?: When Clif Grim and his wife, Terry, made a trip with a few friends to Alaska in 2004, he used an app he found for his Palm Pilot to manage and split travel expenses among the group.

Grim described the experience as "a little painful" and ended up using a backup Excel sheet to double-check his results.

In 2010, Grim partnered with a former IBM colleague and his son, a 3-D computer artist, forming DC Software Arts, and began writing his own apps. Remembering his Alaskan trip splitting experience, he set out to develop an app that would make tracking and dividing up expenses simple and painless.

"We wanted an app that was intuitive, easy to use and extremely fast," said Grim.

He and his team created Trip Splitter for the iPhone, which lets users enter expenses from a trip, such as lodging and gas, indicate who on the trip paid, and calculate the easiest way to split the bill.

To begin mastering the basics of this app, start by creating a new trip. Select an expense from a row of buttons on the bottom of the screen - a bed to indicate lodging or a knife and fork to signify food, for example - or tap the menu button and enter an item from there. After entering an amount, select the people from your group who will split the bill and who has already paid. You can remove the expense, edit your trips, create new ones or even switch between existing ones. Turn your iPhone sideways to see a detailed view of your trip, the expenses, and who is splitting the bill.

Grim and his DC Software Arts team now have 19 apps in the iTunes store, including a virtual tattoo creation app, Ink Me, and a game called Ninjas Versus Vikings.

While Grim is happy with Trip Splitter's speed and accuracy, he hopes to add some more features in future releases, including a more robust camera management tool and the ability to add more detail about the trips you take.

Is it easy to install?: Trip Splitter downloads easily, but keep in mind you will need to grant it access to your contacts, as well as location services, in order to take full advantage of Trip Splitter's features.

Should I try it?:Trip Splitter contains a variety of useful features, including a map that lets you see where you incurred a particular expense and the ability to email a trip. There is more than one way to perform the same function, and this is where new users may become overwhelmed. For example, you can add an expense, such as lodging, from the bottom row of buttons, from the header or from the main menu. Users may also find navigating the app a challenge, at least at first. For example, once you find yourself in the detail page of an expense, there is no obvious home button to tap to get you back to the main screen. (Never fear! You can find your way out by tapping "done" or "cancel"). Still, it only takes a moment or two to master the layout. More importantly, users will find Trip Splitter does exactly what Grim intended it to do: It's accurate, works fast and it looks nice, making it a practical, handy companion to have with you on your travels with friends.