iPad

The 20 best apps for the iPad

The iPad has its limits, but it's really good at a few basic functions. Here are 20 useful apps that play to the iPad's strengths.

This article has been superseded by a more recent update, published on March 14, 2012, on the eve of the launch of the third generation iPad.

I previously said that the Apple iPad is only good for two things (I later added a third), but it's really good at those things. With that in mind, I've compiled a list of the 20 most useful apps for taking advantage of the iPad's strengths.

Keep in mind that this list is skewed toward professionals and technophiles who are using the iPad on a daily basis, but I also realize that these folks tend to use tablets like the iPad for non-work stuff as well, like reading the news in the morning during breakfast or a little entertainment on the plane during a business flight.

Photo gallery

The best way to view this list is the photo gallery of screenshots of the 20 apps. But, you can also view the full text of the list below, including links to download each of the apps from the iOS App Store.

1. Flipboard

This is a 21st century newsreader based on your social graph. It displays news stories based on what's being shared by your friends in Twitter or Facebook and auto-formats them in a newspaper-like column format. You can scan the headlines and first couple paragraphs and then click through to the site to the open the full story right in the built-in web browser in the app. (Tip: search for TechRepublic or Jason Hiner and you can set us up as one of your sections in Flipboard.)

2. Kindle

The best way to read books on the iPad is the Amazon Kindle app, mostly because it has a large selection of titles available and it does the best job of syncing between multiple devices -- iPad, iPhone, Android phone, PC, Mac, and more. Of course, there are also strong alternatives such as Barnes & Noble's Nook app and Apple's iBooks app.

3. Documents to Go

The best way to collect, manage, and read business documents on the iPad is with Dataviz Documents to Go, which not only allows you to sync local files from your computer but also connect to cloud services such as Google Docs, Dropbox, Box.net, SugarSync, and iDisk.

4. Things

Tablets are great for people who spend most of their days in meetings. For that crowd and everyone else who needs a task list and project planner, the best app I've found is Things. It's a little expensive ($19.99 at the time I'm writing this), but I've tried cheaper solutions and none of them are as easy to figure out and as powerful to use as Things. It has a few limitations (syncing between multiple devices), but it does a great job of getting the process out of the way and helping you effectively track and organize your to-do items.

5. Analytics HD

One of the great ways to take advantage of the iPad as a viewer is to use it for quick glances at business dashboard metrics. This even translates to the simple task of checking traffic metrics and user info for your website. If you use Google Analytics, the Analytics HD app is a great way to view site data from the iPad. (Also see QlikView, SAP Business Objects Explorer, and Roambi.)

6. Evernote

The iPad is a surprisingly good note taker. The keyboard is about 80% as good as a laptop keyboard but the convenience of a more portable device is valuable. Evernote is a great note taking companion for the iPad, since it can auto-sync your meeting notes back to your PC and smartphone. Just keep in mind that it's an online service and so be careful that you don't use it for any business-sensitive data. For that stuff, you can use locally-controlled files with Apple's built-in Notes app, for example.

7. Penultimate

Now that we've talked about the value of using the iPad for note taking, there are ways to do it that go beyond just typing things out. You can use an app like Penultimate to jot down handwritten notes and sketch out pictures and diagrams. There are several apps that can do this (such as Adobe Ideas, Ideate, and Idea Boards) but I think Penultimate is the most effective. If you get tired of using your finger as the writing device, you can get an iPad stylus like the Bamboo Stylus or the Griffin Stylus. In addition to using it for notes, I've even used Penultimate to sketch out an idea for a colleague in a meeting. It works great as a mini whiteboard in a coffee shop or a taxi cab.

8. Twitter

Twitter's official iPad app is the best way to access Twitter and is an example of the kind of imaginative new UIs that good developers will attempt once they get grounded in touch-based tablets like the iPad. Check out the way the Twitter app exposes more or less info by sliding left and right. (Other useful Twitter apps include Osfoora and Twitterific.) The bottom line is that Twitter is an amazing real time news aggregator, as long as you follow the right people.

9. TED Talks

By far, the most inspiring app on the iPad is the TED Talks app. TED is a series of events featuring some of society's most fascinating and innovative ideas and most influential thinkers. You'll definitely disagree with some of them, because there's a large diversity of opinions. But, there are a lot of talks worth listening to and they're all free. Many of the talks are short and succinct, somewhere between 5-20 minutes.

10. Pulse

Pulse is another iPad news aggregator like Flipboard, only instead of building its sections based on social feeds it uses RSS feeds. Like Flipboard, it presents the info in a visually-compelling format using images from the articles that it is linking to. You can use the RSS feeds for TechRepublic and/or Tech Sanity Check if you'd like to use Pulse to keep up with our latest posts.

11. SkyGrid

Yet another great news aggregator for the iPad is SkyGrid, but its specialty is pulling together news on hot trends in real time. It's not nearly as visual as Flipboard or Pulse, but SkyGrid helps fill in the gaps by surfacing hot news and articles that might have been missed by your favorite RSS sources and your social network.

12. ProPublica

ProPublica, a non-profit publication of investigative reporters, is doing some of the most important work in journalism today -- the work that has increasingly been cut out of the profit-driven newsrooms. Plus, they have an excellent iPad app. The three column layout gives you the latest stories from ProPublica (most of which don't make the mainstream news), the middle column links to good investigative news pieces from the mainstream media (many of the stories are buried), and the third column has ProPublica's "Projects" or groups of stories where you can stay up to date on on-going issues. Keep in mind that ProPublica is non-profit and funded completely by donations.

13. NPR

Another one of the best iPad news apps from a media organization is the NPR app. It lets you quickly skim top stories, read related text articles, and quickly add radio/audio stories to a playlist that you can then listen to all at once.

14. The Guardian Eyewitness

A real diamond in the rough among iPad apps is The Guardian Eyewitness, which features amazing photojournalism from around the world from the popular UK news publication. The photos look fantastic on the iPad screen and provide a great way to scan through some of the most important current events on the planet.

15. Big Picture

Another great world news photo app is the Big Picture from Boston.com, a site that has had some of the web's best news photographs and slideshows for a long time. While The Guardian Eyewitness app lets you scan world events, the Big Picture app lets you dive into them as there are full sets of photos from each event. The two apps compliment each other well and are great for visual storytelling of important news stories.

16. Rosetta Stone

The popular language software Rosetta Stone has an excellent iPad app called TOTALe HD. Unlike the Rosetta Stone iPhone app, which simply serves as a review for your full lessons on a PC or a Mac, the iPad app has basically all of the same content from the PC/Mac and delivers it in a multitouch experience. It also syncs back to the Rosetta Stone servers (for Version 4 of the software) so you can pick up right where you left off when you get back to your computer. You have to have a full license of a Rosetta Stone language pack and an online account set up in order to use the iPad app. You can't just buy language modules directly for the iPad app.

17. iA Writer

If you want to use the iPad for note taking, journaling, or writing, then iA Writer offers a very simple solution for writing and managing your files. It is a completely bare bones word processor that can save your stuff directly to your Dropbox. Another similar program is WriteRoom ($4.99) and there's always Apple's own Pages ($9.99), but at $0.99 you can't beat the price and basic capabilities of iA Writer.

18. The Weather Channel

Unlike the iPhone, the iPad does not come with a built-in weather app. However, The Weather Channel has filled the void with an excellent app that takes advantage of the tablet interface. I've never been a big fan of The Weather Channel's desktop PC widgets, but they've done a great job with the iPad app.

19. NASA

Let's face it, most of us geeks love space. The iPad itself was, in part, inspired by science fiction such as Star Trek. NASA has a strong tradition of sharing its space exploration advances and research and they've continued that tradition in multi-touch style with an excellent iPad app that lets you explore photography from satellites, see NASA's launch schedules, research historical information about missions, and watch NASA TV live.

20. Scrabble

I've been a Scrabble fan for a long time but hadn't pulled out a board in a while when the game suddenly saw a revival in recent years in digital form, including several knock-offs such as Words with Friends. My favorite way to play digital Scrabble is the Pass'n Play mode on iPad. But the iPad also has an individual learning mode, a local network mode, Party Play (where you can use an iPhone or iPod Touch as a tile rack), and a mode where you can play against a Facebook friend. So, you can have a little fun and expand your vocabulary at the same time.

Your favorite iPad apps?

What iPad apps do think deserve to be on this list? Post your favorites in the discussion section below.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

30 comments
Appsicum
Appsicum

As I think you must add some apps in your list such as files- finder edition and photo effect plus as both apps are primary requirement for students and professional people. If someone wants to transfer their data from iPad to pc/mac, then files-finder edition app is best fit for them. Apart from this if someone wish to put their creativity in photos along with sharing option, then photo effect plus is exclusively for them.


https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/files-finder-edition/id733259837?mt=8
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/photo-effects-plus/id579571333?mt=8

learntek
learntek

Yet another news agrigator. Editions from AOL. I hear the bike bell ring, the dog bark and the thump of the newspaper landing at my door. My Editions is ready when I want to be delivered. Editions begins with the top news stories in a large number of areas inlcuding "local". As you go to any story you can add sources based on information providers and key words. You can add your own sources (if they are available) and edit/remove both sources and key words. The pictures come from a story's source. Now, while my wife reads our local newspaper with her coffee, I am on my iPad doing the same.

copelandd
copelandd

SoundNote is the best software for taking notes I've seen in any medium. I evaluate teachers in classrooms and take notes. SoundNote also records the session. When I need to examine the accuracy of my notes, just touch a word in your notes. The program will immediately open the recording where the word is that you have touched!

farshidhoushmand
farshidhoushmand

Try it, you'll get there It's kina cool for offering projects, check lists and 2 do s, in separated tabs.

laurentiu.bogdan
laurentiu.bogdan

Very good article but I have a question ... What about Techrepublic for iPad?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

How do site-specific apps differ from visiting the corresponding web site directly?

john.hoffman
john.hoffman

One if the major shortcomings has been to manage, edit and send files back to facilities such as Dropbox, etc. GoodReader has definitely managed to alleviate some if thes frustrations and put the iPad back into production. Associating your iPad file system and external repositories is a breeze and sync with a single tap. Jason, keep up the great articles!

Quinn78
Quinn78

I think most of the apps you listed are very useful. I agree with others concerning The Weather Channel. I readily use my ScreenConnect as a remote support app. We purchased the PC version and it came wtih Smartphone/iPad apps. I've heard of others liking and using LogMeIn Ignition. I think a remote app is essential to productivity.

ctcg
ctcg

Without a doubt my fave. Removes all the clutter and let's me read the content. Is integrated with many apps and has new features (search is one) with the paid version. The revised iPad cube style listing of articles is very nice also. No Safari Reader or Reading List for me.

dmm50
dmm50

I agree that the iPad is ideal for handwritten notes, I'm not sure I agree with your choice of app (although until recently I was using Penultimate). I have recently found ZoomNotes which is admittedly quite similar, but has a unique zoom feature which is incredibly useful. You can zoom in and out and write anywhere - even off the edge of a page which means that you never run out of space.

Ellenson
Ellenson

Gone to testing this week Reach from www.stronger.pro is the only news reader on the iPad that supports your personal keywords. With a curator platform supporting 101,000 news articles Reach delivers your relevant news.

awesterheim
awesterheim

Boggle is great on the iPad! It's a word game thats fun for the whole family.

cbbosse
cbbosse

I like mind mapping apps and find this one very easy to use. I have tried 3-4 on the iPad but I think this one is the best blend of ease of use and functionality.

Per4mer001
Per4mer001

The major flaw of the ipad in my opinion has been the lack of an apple-like (easy) way to print. Sure, buy one of these 11 or so printers and you'll have no problem. Well most people don't have those printers. That's why my solution for clients has been to throw the Weprint server on a laptop (or desktop) on the network and then use print central pro to print through it to any printer. Also allows for users to easy share files, pictures, etc. across laptops and ipads without having to email them. For 9.99 it does what Apple should have done from the beginning and supports virtually all network printers,

kwheil
kwheil

This used to be my favorite iPad weather until they updated it. I have since deleted it and now use Intellicast HD which is much better.

Randy Hagan
Randy Hagan

... for laying out this multi-element review laid out as a single article for easy viewing, reviewing and printing. It's so much easier to see and understand this content when it's presented as a single, manageable article than when it's divvied up into a 21-page pseudo-slide show, like the similar "story" delivered to me this morning. That article -- I'm talking to you, PC World -- was left unread and got nothing from me but essentially this same comment. Thank You Tech Republic for valuing your audience more than your click total.

ozchorlton
ozchorlton

This app is useless! outside the US - I tried it, then deleted it - It is a total waste of time!

geoff.schardein
geoff.schardein

Sorry but I disagree with you on Netflix for the list. I used to like the ap then Netflix removed the ability to manage my DVDs as a first insult. Lastly when Netflix changed their business model and ruined the decent price point for online and 2 DVDs I dumped the streaming as it is far too limited in offerings and not worth it. In example search on World War I, I would expect to at least find a documentary or a few streaming movies but did not. (Note this was for a school project my daughter had for history). I uninstalled the Netflix ap and haven't missed it on my iPad or iPhone.

Jeff7181
Jeff7181

I'm a fan of One Note in the MS Office Suite, and the iPad version is surprisingly useful.

JonGauntt
JonGauntt

I recommend GoodReader for documents. It seems to handle a larger variety of documents and can even tackle the big PDFs (say 500+ pages in full color). It also can read annotations and allow you to make your own and still dump it back out to somewhere else. Phenomenal PDF reader. Daedalus Touch for text input, manipulation and export. Instead of books, you have stacks of sheets that can be moved around and manipulated (even from one stack to another). It is more of a minimalist approach, but with a lot of functionality. Export is available to txt, pdf, epub and email (print as well). Currently it syncs with MobileMe and Dropbox. I'm sure it's just a matter of time until it syncs with iCloud.

booklyncowboy
booklyncowboy

iRule ... turns your iPad into a Remote Control for just about everything in your house. Extraordinary ability to customize.

eileenfp
eileenfp

As a teacher in the classroom, I am excited to try this. It sounds truly amazing.

Mohammed246
Mohammed246

This is a good recommendation actually. I, too was using Penultimate (and I've tried a few others as well) but I've just been converted to ZoomNotes! Not being constrained to a physical page is unbelievably liberating and just what I need for my work. Diagrams can grow and evolve without having to start a new page. I love it.

MarkCLewis
MarkCLewis

This also works well, but not quite as full featured as Printopia

Victoria Herring
Victoria Herring

including to Dropbox and elsewhere - it's $20 but I got it as part of a bundle so it was effectively much less.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I actually replaced Netflix on the list with TED Talks.

car126
car126

When I saw your note, I thought I had missed the update to OneNote for iOS. I just checked and see that Microsoft has not released a OneNote version for iPad--only the iPhone version (which is good, but not great). Have I missed something. The other pretenders in the AppStore don't have shining reviews.

geoff.schardein
geoff.schardein

Interesting, I too added TED recently to my iPad and do find it useful.

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