Essential Skeleton makes learning human anatomy fun

Essential Skeleton 1When I was in high school, one of my biology finals included memorizing every bone in the hand. That is, all of the carpals, metacarpals, and phalanxes of both hands and every digit. Of course, today there is no way I remember that information. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I remembered more than I thought when I downloaded Essential Skeleton.

Essential Skeleton is an educational app for the iPad from 3D4Medical. The company uses a proprietary graphics engine to create lifelike digital reproductions of medical models. The skeleton in this app is fully three-dimensional, making it better than a real-life model because you don’t have to store it in your closet with your other secrets and you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for it (my puns just keep getting better, don’t they?)


The most attractive and interesting part of this app is its design. The skeletal model is rendered in 3-D, making it possible for you to view every single bone, from the femur to an individual tooth, at every angle. You can also zoom in for extreme close-ups of textures and imperfections. The skeleton itself is set over a black background. You can change the background to solid white, but black makes the tiny bone segments stand out more.

You can pinch to zoom in or out and drag two fingers across the screen to move around. If you want to rotate the skeleton or a selected bone, drag one finger across the screen.

There are a couple of easy-to-use controls on the left side of the screen to help you navigate the system. The user interface is intuitive and the features are easy to find. You are getting a lot of information fed to you with each bone, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

The only complaint I have is that the text is fairly small and there is no way to increase the size. While it keeps things looking tidy, it is a bit hard on the eyes.

Essential Skeleton 2

App Use

When you first open the app, you can watch a video tutorial. I recommend skipping it. For the most part, you are told how to pinch-to-zoom and tap things. This app is easy to explore and you won’t get off track too much if you accidentally tap something you didn’t mean to. Here’s a hint; tap the “Home” or “Reset” icon if you get stuck.

Start exploring by zooming in and tapping on bones. The segment you select will turn green and the bone’s name will appear with a couple of controls. You can hide the selected bone, hide all other bones except the selected one, fade the bone, or fade all others except the selected one. You can also hear an audio sample of the proper pronunciation of each bone.

If you tap the “i” icon, some additional information will appear in a floating pop up window. For example, select the Frontal Bone and tap the “i.” The pop up window will include six different pictures of the bone, plus a paragraph describing its location and relation to the rest of the skeleton.

You can also select sections of the skeleton to view instead of trying to work with the entire system. For example, if you only want to see the skull, tap the book icon on the left side of the screen. Select “Skull” from the list and you will be able to see the entire skull without having to see the rest of the Axial skeleton.

If you think you have learned all there is to know about a section of the skeleton, or maybe even the entire skeletal system, you can quiz yourself. In the quiz section, you will be asked to identify certain bones, just like you would on for a biology final.

There is an annotation feature that allows users to write on the screen with a virtual pen. However, the annotated image must be exported immediately. There is no way to save it within the app for future reference.

You can share images of each bone through email, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also save the image to your device’s photo library.

Essential Skeleton 3


I expected an app of this caliber to hog up massive amounts of space on my iPad and take an unreasonably long time to download, but it didn’t. It is 89.5MB and only took a few minutes to download. So, at the price of free, you aren’t even wasting any of your time or storage space on this app.

It comes with a plethora of interesting information about the human skeleton and makes it very easy to see every part of every bone in its entirety. If I had this app when I was in high school, I might be a scientist today instead of an app reviewer.


If you have any interest at all in the skeletal system and own an iPad (second generation or above), download this free app right now. There is also a “Pro” version called Skeleton System Pro III for $14.99, which includes a lot of awesome features. Essential Skeleton is a work of art in itself and is a great asset to anyone studying the bones of the human body in a rudimentary capacity.