Recipe management is worlds better than it was in the days of coffee-stained index cards slotted into a little filing box—or worse, those horrendous photo-album-like books. It’s enough to make my stomach turn. The digital solutions for recipe management these days let you clip recipes from the Web with a single click, rearrange your categorical sorting system without starting over from scratch, share recipes instantly, and automatically generate shopping lists based on the meals you plan to make. The Paprika Mac app ($19.99) accomplishes the basic feats of digital recipe organization, but it’s more meat-and-potatoes than haute cuisine in terms of features and execution.
For starters, it’s expensive, considering there are better free alternatives, such as Evernote Food and Pepperplate. Additionally, the Mac app contains a built-in browser, which didn’t support Flash, meaning Flash crashed repeatedly while I was testing Paprika. I can’t even count the number of times I had to close the crash report window. But my main beef with Paprika is that the interface just isn’t well refined. Buttons feel out of place, and one or two didn’t do what I expected them to do. It’s just not a premium product, even though it’s priced like one.
The Paprika app has a fairly simple layout. Your recipes appear in the main area of the screen, in either a snipped view with thumbnail images when available, or in list view. Recipes are highly visual, so I greatly prefer the former.
Two left rails house the basic menu options (far left) and secondary options, which include categories for recipes that you create.
Seeing as that far left rail functions as the main navigation bar, I think the settings button should be there, although it’s not. It’s tossed to the lower right corner. A syncing button, also oddly placed, lives at the very bottom left corner. And the option to “add a new custom recipe” is an easy-to-miss plus sign at the top right.
When you’re not managing your recipes, you can browse for new ones using a built-in browser. Paprika offers a long list of supported and partially supported websites from a bookmarks bar at the top of the window when you’re in browser mode. Find a recipe you like, and you can click to add it… as long as you can find the button, which is now at the top right, formerly occupied by the “add new recipe” button, which has now moved to the bottom right when in browser mode. Sheesh.
Aside from these obviously odd interface choices, other buttons just didn’t work as I’d expected. For example, the Recipes button on the main navigation bar right brings you to your main list of recipes, unless you’re already viewing a recipe, in which case you have to click on a different “Recipes” button shaped like a left-facing arrow at the top left. Oy.
To be fair, the lack of polish on the interface design that I’ve described so far was hardly bad enough to fully trip me up. It was more like I noticed these eccentricities and then quickly figured out what I needed to do and moved on. Regardless, from a $20 app, I expect better.
As you find recipes online or add your own, you can also add a star rating to them, level of difficulty (easy, medium, hard), and categories, such as salads, baking, fish, and so forth. The categories can be whatever you want, and Paprika gives you a clean blank slate. It doesn’t even make suggestions for categories, which I think some people would want.
I finally hit a point of genuine frustration when I tried to add a new category to a recipe while I was in the process of editing it. You can’t add new categories to a recipe from the recipe-editing window. Rather, you have to navigate back to the main Recipes view and add categories there first, then return to the recipe itself, and then you can assign the appropriate categories. Really? I can’t just “create new category” from within the recipe-editing view? Then why can I do it in the Paprika iPad app?
I also couldn’t figure out how to nest categories to create subcategories in Paprika, another function that’s fully operational in the iPad app version of Paprika.
And let’s talk about adding star ratings. Can you click on the stars right when you see them in the main Recipes view? Nope. You have to click the individual recipe, click to edit the recipe, and then assign a rating.
Shopping and Meal Planning
I do like how the shopping lists are handled, however. From within any recipe, you can click a shopping cart icon and add all the ingredients to a shopping list. Additionally, you can drill down into a shopping list that’s specific to a recipe to check off items you already have on hand. Or even better, you can view and edit a longer list of all the ingredients you’ve saved to buy, regardless of the recipe where they originated.
A calendar icon lets you save a recipe to a meal-planning area of the Paprika app, and you can assign it as breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack. Go to the full meal-planning calendar view, and you can drag and drop recipes from one day to another, a wonderful feature.
When I started up the Paprika app on my Mac, I had already been busy storing and sorting recipes via the Paprika iPad app ($4.99, sold separately). I wanted to import all the work I had already done, but I didn’t remember my log in (and foolishly, I didn’t save it in my password manager either). Was there a password retrieval option? No, there was not. I later found that there is a password retrieval option in the settings under the tab Cloud Sync, but it only becomes visible after you logout. There isn’t a way to retrieve a password before that point, unless you just happen to know that this link exists. (A more patient me could have gone hunting for that link online, but really, it should be an option at the point at which you first launch the app.)
Oddly, after I logged out and tested the password retrieval options, I returned to the Paprika app to see it was still up and running, and that my recipes were all still visible. Not that most people care to protect their recipes under lock and key, but I assumed logging out would, you know, log me out. Instead, it just turned off the syncing, hence, why it’s located under a tab called Cloud Sync.
Paprika has apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, and Nook Color. But it’s missing a Web app and a Windows app, which seem pretty crucial to me.
Another missing feature is the ability to forward a recipe from your email account directly into Paprika. It’s a feature I find indispensible in Evernote and would absolutely make sense here.
Meat and Potatoes? More Like Sloppy Joes
Paprika has three-quarters of the functionality you’d want in a recipe app, but a lack of design polish so severe that the whole experience feels rather sloppy. It’s not terrible, but $20 for this Mac app, plus another $5 or so for the mobile app feels like a rip-off. Pepperplate is similar to Paprika in a lot of ways, but has cleaner usability (although it’s much less colorful). Personally, I manage my recipes in plain old Evernote because I appreciate its flexibility, although you can use the more specific Evernote Food if you want a more tailored experience to saving recipes, restaurant recommendations, and other food-related notes and ideas.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc