With the release of the new iPad, many people are entering the tablet space for the first time. With it comes the task of finding the right set of applications. One of the amazing things about the platform is that no two iPads end up with the same set of installed applications; everyone has their own way of using it. Yet still there are a few core apps I would highly recommend evaluating both by those with a new device on the way and those who already own one but are still looking for new ways to use it. Here are ten of my favorite iPad applications.
I wrote a bit about Notability here. Over the last year I’ve used several different note-taking applications including Penultimate, Notes Plus and Note Taker HD. While all of them have their own strengths and weaknesses, I found that Notability addresses the best of my needs and closely fits my working style. Meaghan and I even signed some of our mortgage paperwork using Notability. No need to print or scan. Just sign on the page and email back to the realtor/title company.
Evernote is the center of my online notebook and filing cabinet. I store everything from invoices, receipts, meeting notes, journals, to insurance records and web memorabilia within Evernote. It’s extremely useful to be able to carry all of your important documentation wherever you go. I have used it while opening a bank account to reference required documentation, provide proof of insurance, and even to find receipts while talking with our accountant. Evernote for iPad is free with an Evernote account, which is also free unless you want to take advantage of the premium features, which even then will only cost you $45 once per year.
3) Pocket Informant HD
Like many others I use a Google calendar to manage my schedule and ToodleDo to keep track of my task list. However, I had never found a convenient way to pair that information until I encountered Pocket Information HD. This app syncs with both Google calendar and ToodleDo to provide a single view of both your schedule and task list. Using this I can plan my day by finding appropriate slots in my schedule in which to knock off the top items on my task list. Adding an event to the calendar or new task to the list is sync’d right away back to the source Google calendar and ToodleDo account so reminders and the native features of those applications remain in play. All of the categories and fields of both native apps are maintained within Pocket Informant so you don’t lose any of their power. It’s the perfect replacement for a Franklin Covey right on my iPad. A very quick and simple way to see my appointments and tasks together and plan my day accordingly.
Remote desktop support directly on iPad. This lets me remotely connect to my home and work PCs and use the touch screen to drive the mouse. I’ve attended meetings, given presentations, and even coded fixes to broken builds while on a bus ride home using this application. Definitely worth the price of a foot-long sub.
5) iThoughts HD
I love mind-mapping tools and iThoughts HD brings the ability to iPad. I use this app perform brain-dumps when I just need space to think. From software designs, to thoughts on decorating our new house, to brainstorming how to help a friend through some difficult times, I’ve mapped a lot of thoughts on that little device. Visualizing your ideas is a wonderful way to understand why you might be going in circles over some decisions and grant enough abstraction to cut to the real meat behind the thought. Having that power available wherever I take my iPad has proven invaluable on more than one occasion. It’s extremely cathartic on my evening commute to just brain-dump on the bus ride home and not have to think about work into the early hours of the morning.
6) Track & Share
This is an odd application. The purpose is to track data, not specifically any type of data, just occurrences of data points across time. It wasn’t very intuitive to me until I started applying it to a few real-world applications and now I can’t imagine my life without it. Ever tried to track your weight by periodically stepping on the scale and then writing it in a log book? What about tracking whether you drink enough glasses of water throughout the day? A new exercise regime where you check off how many pushups or reps you do? That’s where track’n’share excels. Simply set up a category to track, specify the data type and range (i.e. numeric and 1-100) and then enter the value whenever you perform the action. It supports not only numeric data but comparitive values such as Bad, Good, Better, Great for tracking energy levels. I use it to track my sleep, energy, weight, exercise regime, diet, drinks, and a few other occurrence based data points. It makes those monthly reviews a lot smoother and you can really learn a lot by looking back over the data. The mind plays tricks on how often you really hit the gym last month. Track’n’share lets you know that Wednesdays and Fridays aren’t good days for your gym record and helps you to adjust accordingly. Once you get past the sometimes awkward interface this app is an absolute gem.
I love this app. The questions I used to get answers to by asking friends over drinks at the pub I now can research and ask to a whole world of people via Twitter & FaceBook. If I can’t get answers within my circles then targeted searches will likely yield the links I need to finish the research. Managing social networks from a single location is fantastic and HootSuite presents the data cleanly and quickly. The ability to save searches as a updatable feed column lets you track what’s being said on a particular topic as if the entire world was on your friends list (without the awkwardness that would lead to). Fantastic!
While it might seem like a no-brainer, the popular online streaming service is a fantastic addition to the iPad line-up. The form factor is perfect for watching your favorite TV shows and movies, whether on the bus, in an airport, or even just lying in bed. Sometimes if I can’t sleep I’ll watch a South Park or Top Gear, without disturbing my wife like a TV in the bedroom would. It’s like having your own personal DVD player 24/7.
9) iTunes (with iTunes Match)
Remember the days when you’d choose which subset of your music collection to sync to your phone, or which CDs to take with you in the car? With iTunes and iTunes Match you can take your entire music collection with you anywhere you go. The music is stored in the cloud so it’s available for download or streaming to any of your devices. I use my iPad to play music while in the shower, while riding home on the bus, and while sitting at my desk at work. You can edit your playlists and buy new songs on the go and it’s all sync’d with the cloud in the background. No more worrying about which subset of music to sync with your phone. Just take it all.
10) Words with Friends/Chess with Friends
Technically these are two separate applications, but Zynga have done such a great job that they fit together seamlessly. While not strictly productivity apps, my synapses have never felt so worked out. I haven’t played this much scrabble or chess since college, and I’ve even re-established old friendships from years ago by playing with friends from FaceBook; friends I haven’t talked to since high school. I’ve learned about their families and friends and what they are doing these days, all while getting a good mental workout and keeping my synapses firing. It’s a great way to clear your mind, keep fresh, and stave off Alzheimer’s and other neurological decay.
I’ve focused pretty heavily on productivity applications in this post. There are so many other great apps I use that I think I’ll write a follow-up post when I get a free moment to talk about the creativity side of the ipad; from music and art to learning foreign languages. Above all remember that iPad is what you make of it. Enjoy it. This is an extremely exciting time to be alive where we have available technologies that prior generations could not even have dreamed about.