Blog Post

7 Essential iPad Productivity Apps

When I got my iPad (s aapl), I gave myself a mandate: Don’t lug a 5-pound MacBook around; instead, try to make do with the iPad. For the most part, I’ve been successful. My MacBook hasn’t left the house since April 3, and for what I do (writing, reading, video watching), I don’t really need the horsepower all that much. I wouldn’t want to do a day’s work on it, but it’s great for getting work done on the train, on my lunch break, etc.

These are the apps I’ve found to be indispensable for getting things done.

The iWork Suite: OK, in fairness, everyone who wrote about it wasn’t all that trilled with it. However, I’ve found that it’s currently the best option, which is pretty sad. Office2Pro has potential, but the lack of USB transfer is a turnoff for me. Granted, the lack of MobileMe integration with iWork really makes me wonder what on earth Apple was thinking; I can’t get my iPad on the Wi-Fi network at work, so it’d be nice to be able to transfer files from my work PC. It really feels like the suite is one or two patches from being excellent.

Evernote: I’m a huge Evernote user. For me, it has replaced bookmarking; any page I’d normally bookmark just gets Evernoted. Evernote for the iPad finally pushed me over the edge to becoming a premium user, primarily because premium users can sync their notebooks offline. I don’t use it a lot for taking notes, but it’s indispensable for reading my research material offline.

Goodreader: I deal with a ton of PDFs, Word docs, Presentations and videos, all of which I tend to need to refer to and not edit. Given the complete lack of a real file system — another failure on Apple’s part — Goodreader lets me organize more cleanly than the iWork suite. I’ve got lecture notes and handouts for my class all in one place, and I store my PDFs of my character sheets for D&D in it was well. Goodreader can also get files from Dropbox, MobileMe and USB sync, and more. It lets me sideload just about any file onto my iPad without it being tethered to my sync computer.

Things: No discussion of getting things done is complete without  a to-do manager. My favorite is still Things, primarily because of how well it plays with the desktop version. I’d like to see the iPad version have a little more feature parity with the OS X version — namely in being able to edit Areas on the iPad, and I look forward to the day when the syncing is done over the cloud.

Bento: I originally picked up Bento because Delicious Library didn’t let me edit my library on the iPhone — and Amazon’s (s amzn) forbidding of its data to be used by mobile apps, which is how Delicious gets its data, forced the app to be pulled. I wanted to be able  to edit my library on the go. Since then, I’ve found it’s a great place to dump all sorts of data you need to sort through on the road or need to edit. For example, an inventory manager could update inventory levels right on the iPad.

These are the apps I’m finding handy for being productive. What ones do you prefer using?

35 Responses to “7 Essential iPad Productivity Apps”

    • Tony D'Angelo

      Well, it certainly looks impressive from the overview in the App Store. I need more than just a simple task checklist, and I like how they say that it all works together.

      It’s a bonus that it’s a universal app so I can get it for both my iPhone and my iPad – for the price, that makes it a no-brainer and definitely worth a try.

      If it does half of what it looks like it can do, I’ll be thrilled. I’ll come back and post my findings once I’ve given it a whirl.

      • Tony D'Angelo

        I’ve had a chance to use this app for over two months now, and I am totally hooked. It does so much more than apps I’ve paid a lot of money for – I wish I had found it sooner. It supports all the things I want to track (projects, tasks, health metrics, trips, events) and information in one area is automatically avialable in another. One low price and I got it on my iPad and iPhone. It’s so good, it’s in my dock on both. Well worth a look.

  1. Emily

    Probably my most used App is 2Do, which, as the name suggests, is a task list manager. It’s clean and intuitive and has plenty of handy features. It’s a blessing to the busy or the scatterbrained :)

    And a close 2nd, is Pastebot, which will fill all sorts of need gaps you never knew you had! It’s a quick and satisfying way to jot down those ideas that you tell yourself you’ll remember, and then forget, or to copy paste things (images/text) for later.

  2. Emily

    Probably my most used App is 2Do, which, as the name suggests, is a task list manager. It’s clean and intuitive and has plenty of hand features. It’s a blessing to the busy or the scatterbrained :)

  3. FileBrowser for the iPad works like Mac Finder or Windows Explorer, allowing you to browse all your network shares directly from your iPad. Files can be copied to your iPad for offline viewing, or launching into other apps such as Apple’s iWork suite. No third-party software is required on the target computer/NAS drive, so this is ideal for home and work use.

    Video and Audio files can also be streamed directly from your network drives over WiFi, removing the need to sync.

    FileBrowser is also able to do this over the Internet via WiFi hotspots or the phone data network. It works with the iPad/iPhone’s built-in VPN client, or you can configure your home router to port-forward TCP Port 445 to your home computer. It uses the SMB protocol, which is supported by all versions of Windows and Mac OSX 10.5 or above.

  4. Good starter set for the most part. I’m one of the iPad guys who bought iWork components and decided not to use them much. :(

    On average I use my iPad about 4 hours a day I’d say, give or take.

    Instapaper is solid, but Offline Pages is much, much better.

    When the iPad came out I bought every PDF app I could find since I read tons of them. Overall, I’d agree that GoodReader is the best. And for 99 cents, it’s worth it.

    I’m surprised 1Password isn’t on the list. For use web workers, it’s a must-have. It syncs with your Mac, so your iPad can have all your account data. Love it.

  5. Does Goodreader also allow you to view the floor plan of your parent’s basement where you’ve lived the past 40 years, or just store your D&D character sheets?

  6. hmurchison

    Yeah Instapaper should have been in there. I think it’s more valuable than Things which is a spendy app.

    I think Taska is a nice up and coming task app that’s 5 bucks but does basic stuff pretty well.

    Last but not least Dragon Dictate is something business or anyone looking for productivity should look at. It works amazingly well for people who don’t slur their speech.

  7. @Aleksandar – iPad 1.0 adopters are typically tech-savvy users and tech geeks, it makes sense that the first wave of apps target at this group of audience.

    Excited to get my hands on the apps in 10 days, can’t wait!

    • Try “Sorted”. You swipe to mark as completed, and to view your completed items, click the completed tab. Hell—read the pre-populated tasks that appear when you first install it (I didn’t, and would’ve been better off had I done that), and you should be good. It’s 99¢, I believe.