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10 mobile apps that every Chicagoan should have

Written by
Jonathan Samples

There's an app for everything these days. Form ordering food to photographing food to creating shareable albums of deliciously framed food art, there seems to be no shortage of mobile applications for you to sink your teeth into. With so many options (and so little storage space), we know it can be hard picking and choosing which apps to own and which to avoid. That's why we sorted through the crap and came up with 10 must-own apps for every Chicagoan.

From tracking CTA trains and busses to providing step-by-step navigation, this self proclaimed “urban travel companion” does everything. A straightforward interface and location-based arrival times makes this app extremely user friendly, and added features such as service-disruption notifications and departure reminders mean you’ll always be a step ahead of your fellow commuters.
Android and iPhone, free

With OverDrive, you can borrow eBooks, audiobooks and stream video from the Chicago Public Library (provided you have a library card) from the comfort of your own couch. And, you’ll never have to worry about late fees since titles are automatically returned when they’re due.
Android and iPhone, free

Ever wish you could have a tour guide with you everywhere you go? Me neither. But, 312Go gives users all the fun and interesting facts about the things they walk past and none of the uncomfortable tour guide banter. This app combines the knowledge of hundreds of local experts in history, architecture and city planning (among other fields) and lets users hear the interesting stories behind the extraordinary landmarks they pass everyday.
iPhone, free

Ventra App
This app is an absolute must if you're a public transportation user in Chicago. The Ventra App lets you add money to your Ventra Card (if you ride CTA and Pace) and avoid those annoying kiosks. You can also buy mobile tickets to ride Metra. Plus, you’ll never miss a train because you were waiting in line to buy a ticket, unless you just have really slow thumbs.
Android and iPhone, free

Dark Sky
Chicago is known for its fickle weather, but this beautiful app can help you predict what the day (or night) will bring. Dark Sky features down-to-the-minute forecasts wherever you’re standing, important weather alerts and custom notifications, and stunning weather maps (seriously, these things are beautiful) so you can track approaching storms.
Android and iPhone, $3.99

Chicago has great public transportation, but cars are still a constant presence. For those of us who like to drive ourselves around from time to time, SpotHero cuts out the most annoying thing about that old-fashioned self commute: finding parking. All you do is open the app, thumb in where you’re going and SpotHero will pull up a map of all the available parking spaces (plus the cost) near your destination. Reserve the spot that works best and you're done.
Android and iPhone, free

We’ve all planed a day at the beach only to find out once you arrive that the water quality sucks and swimming comes with the added risk of an illness you can't pronounce. With myBeachCast, you’ll never have to worry about beach closures again. This neat little app shows the current conditions, swim risks and weather forecasts at beaches throughout the Great Lakes region. It’s helpful map function lets you type in your city and browse every beach in your area. The only thing it doesn't do is help you pick out the proper bathing suit to wear.
Android, free

Moving is a pain no matter where you live, but moving in Chicago is a special kind of hell. This easy-to-use app offers a simple way to book a reliable (background-checked) truck owner to move your stuff. And since everything is done through the app, there’s no awkward cash transaction when you’re all moved in.
Android and iPhone, free

My Chi Parks 
The Chicago Park District offers more than 1,000 free events each year, and the My Chi Parks app will keep you abreast of all the local, outdoor activities (including Movies in the Park) taking place in your neighborhood. You can also look up information about specific CPD parks and use the app’s GPS feature to find nearby parks and events, so you won't miss the umpteenth screening of The Lego Movie.
Android and iPhone, free

Chicago Works App 
From making 311 service requests to tracking infrastructure-related issues in your neighborhood, Chicago Works (Android) and Chicago Works 311 (iPhone) let you take on a more active role in your community. So do your part, download this app and report that annoying pothole before it becomes a story on the evening news.
Android and iPhone, free

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