Owing to the fact there’s a ton out there, it’s really hard to know what the best anatomy apps for medical students are.
What’s definitely worth your time and money? We’ll go into them in this article.
- The 7 best free and 4 best paid anatomy apps
- If apps are better than textbooks
- How to use these apps to your full advantage
To save you the time of downloading and testing poor quality apps, I’m only including those with the top ratings and reviews.
Note: you don’t have to necessarily be a med student to enjoy or learn from these apps either!
Ready to get started? Let’s go.
Best free anatomy apps
The following range of apps are great for different areas of the subject. The fact that they’re all free (with no in-app purchases) makes them definitely worth a download.
3D Skull Atlas
3D Skull Atlas gives a high level of anatomical detail of the skull, featuring over 1500 specific labels and descriptions.
The app features 3 modes each with full 3D interactivity (rotation, zoom and pan):
- General: main visualization, bone browser, bone isolation, general and specific labels of details and sutures etc.
- Skull base mode: intracranial and extracranial surfaces and subdivisions
- Craniometric: points, lines, angles etc.
Officially supported by World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS).
Grays Anatomy Student Edition
A digitized version of the excellent Gray’s Anatomy For Students atlas, this is a must-have resource for beginner anatomy students.
The fact you can use the app offline, zoom in/out of images and make precise searches makes it perfect for using as a quick reference in cadaver lab or the lecture hall.
The Android version also has a bonus quiz section covering the cardiac and GI systems, general pathology and even the Glasgow Coma Scale.
Essential Skeleton 4
- 4.8/5 from 5,400+ reviews (Appstore)
The number one free medical iPad app in over 95 countries, Essential Skeleton 4 is probably the best introductory anatomy app out there.
Famed for its state-of-the-art 3D technology, Essential Skeleton 4’s functionality enables you to:
- Isolate, hide and fade bones
- See skeletal structures from any angl
- Create customizable pins and notes
- Create and save customizable views.
Get this now if you’re studying anatomy.
Visual Anatomy is a free interactive reference tool offering a rotational 3D organ overview model and animations.
It’s main features include 500 feature points with labels and descriptions, a rapid search function, over 1200+ images and an additional 23 multiple-choice quiz.
It also has audio pronuncation and tap and zoom technology too.
Here’s a video demo of this highly rated app…
Speed Anatomy Quiz
Free on Android, Speed Anatomy Quiz is another supremely useful anatomy app utilizing active recall to really boost the effectiveness of your study sessions.
Doing what it says in testing your speed, enjoy rapid fire questions on bones, muscles, arteries, veins and all the major organ systems and earn points as you go.
The quiz has 28 levels. You can zoom into the images for extra precision.
iOS version costs $0.99.
Daily Anatomy Flashcards
Brought to you by the team at Kenhub (see my Kenhub review), Daily Anatomy Flashcards take digitize some of their best learning content and bring it to you on mobile.
Perfect for beginners, this app starts with the absolute basics and introduces you to anatomy slowly. Increasing in difficulty and complexity over time, you’ll learn all the major bones, muscles, nerves and vessels etc that you’ll need to do well in the subject.
A great alternative to Anki (but where everything is set up for you), the app uses evidence-based learning techniques like spaced repetition and active recall to really bring the benefits for each study session.
3D Bones and Organs
Promoted as a “true and totally 3D free app for learning human anatomy”, this app is brought to you by the creators of Visual Anatomy.
Featuring every bone and organ in the body, this app also enables you to complete virtual dissections (actually peeling layers of muscles and revealing structures below), complete location quizzes and load and save customizable views.
Here’s a demo that shows off more of it’s functionality and features…
Best paid anatomy apps
The followings apps, although paid, are highly rated by medical students, nursing students and tons of other anatomy and physiology students.
If you get value out of the free apps above and find yourself wanting more, these could well be worth spending your money on.
- 4.8/5 from 11,700+ reviews (iOS)
- $14.99 (Offers In-App Purchases)
Billed as “the most successful anatomy app of all time”, the Essential Anatomy series is considered the gold standard in its class.
Impressively comprehensive, with over 8,200 structures, the graphics are what makes it.
This demo shows up most of its functionality including male and female models, customizable views and slicing and social sharing…
There’s a reason schools like Stanford University etc. swear by it.
Human Anatomy Atlas
Human Anatomy Atlas is Visible Body’s rival to Essential Anatomy.
The winner of Digital Health Award’s Gold for Mobile Applications and named one of the App Store’s Best Apps of 2017, Human Anatomy Atlas has been a massive hit.
Featuring over 10,000 anatomical models, here’s a few more of this apps features:
- Male and female gross anatomy models that can be dissected
- Common muscle actions
- Sample animations
For more of an idea on how the app works (as well as what it can offer you), check out this demo…
Teach Me Anatomy: 3D Human Body & Clinical Quizzes
Teach Me Anatomy is one of my favorite websites for learning anatomy – and one I used a ton when studying for it.
Their dedicated app is just as high quality as you would expect from the team behind the site.
Basically an integrated textbook, the app takes all of the site’s easy-to-read content (free) and packages it up alongside 3D anatomy models and a 1700 anatomy question bank (paid).
For med students this is one of the most beneficial apps on this list given the amount of clinical knowledge the content delivers. Learning from this will prove fundamental to your clinical success.
Check out this teaser to learn more…
Complete Anatomy is from the same makers of Essential Anatomy 4 (3D4Medical.com).
You can download it for free (free 3-day trial) but you’ll have to make in-app purchases to really unlock the true potential of the app.
- 17,000 interactive structures
- Living, beating, dissectable 3D heart
- Radiology: see radiological images in parallel with 3D models
- Cross-sections and real-time muscle motion
- 22 microscopic anatomy models
The list goes on. Check out this promo video for more info…
Are anatomy apps better than textbooks?
Learning anatomy from apps has a couple of distinct advantages over textbooks. Apps give a 3D overview of anatomical structures that you can isolate, rotate and sometimes even dissect! That makes understanding the geometry of anatomy many times easier.
A couple of other pros:
- Apps can be more quickly and precisely searched for specific content
- Apps have additional functionality; quizzes, flashcards etc.
- Apps are extremely portable and take up no space in your bag/at home etc
The problem with apps however is that they vary in quality. Those mentioned above are all very different in terms of the content and functionality they offer.
Compared to decades old anatomy textbooks like Gray’s, Netters, Thieme and Grants etc. apps don’t always offer accurate or reliable information.
So you have to do your due diligence with what you decide to use.
What’s better value for money?
Another thing worth mentioning about apps is that they require digital devices to use. Not every anatomy student can afford these tools – or pay the additional cost on-top of purchasing a premium app.
Still, my personal opinion is that apps (especially those like Complete Anatomy and Essential Anatomy) are definitely worth the money.
You don’t need the latest, most expensive devices to run these.
And you can easily pull them out your pocket and reference them on the go.
It’s hard to do that with (a sometimes equally expensive) textbook!
What’s the best way to use anatomy apps?
Some of the apps on this list are very comprehensive. But to really learn anatomy I personally feel you need a mix of resources (or combination of apps).
Learning anatomy well requires:
- Constant and repeated exposure to anatomical structures and features
- Quizzing to test your knowledge and to “hard-wire” the concepts
- Practice questions (based on your specific exams) to apply the knowledge you learn
That last point is particularly important. No one app is going to be able to replace a mock or sample exam that’s closely related to that of your anatomy test or final.
So make sure you use these alongside past papers, past test questions etc.
What are some other great anatomy resources for medical students?
For students who don’t mind paying for great resources, here are a couple of options:
- Kenhub premium (see my review)
- Biodigital: an excellent browser-based anatomy learning platform with 3D modelling that’s similar to Complete Anatomy and Essential Anatomy
- The combination of using an iPad (or tablet) with a digital version of Rohen’s or Netter’s Anatomy and a digital note-taking app
I’ve also got a bunch of recommended free resources in the following articles:
- 6 Best YouTube Channels For Anatomy Beginners
- 5 Best Anatomy Websites For Medical Students (Free, Fast & Easy To Understand)
Anatomy apps use cutting-edge technology to really advance your learning. You can’t really go wrong with any of the picks above.
Their reputation, functionality and features speak for themselves.
Have fun using them!
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Image Credit: @Anne Nygård at Unsplash
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in digital marketing and journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.