Blog Post

5 iPad Apps That Changed My Mind

I was not optimistic about the future of the iPad prior to its release. It seemed a unicorn among horses in the tech world, something precious and therefore expensive, but without any real tangible benefit over its brethren in terms of functionality, at least for the average person. Clearly, I was wrong.

But what convinced me that I truly was wrong about the iPad and its prospects for the future weren’t the reports coming in about its tremendous retail success. That could still be accounted for by initial fervor for a new product by Apple (s aapl), which, few will argue, has become the “it” company of late. No, it was a few select apps that convinced me that the iPad was here to stay, and that that was a good thing. Below are those apps, along with why I think they’re serious game-changers.

Air Video ($2.99)

When I found this app for my iPhone and iPod touch, it was like a godsend. But when I booted it up for the first time on my iPad, it was more impressive by far. The added screen real estate and resolution makes the iPad a terrific portable video device, and having access to my entire media library on my home computer from wherever I am, well that’s just a fantastic combination.

So fantastic, in fact, that I still feel like I’m getting away with something when I use it, that Apple will at some point come in and shut it down for being too competitive with iTunes. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, because Air Video’s developers say that an update will also support audio streaming of your iTunes library. Only thing this is missing is support for Apple’s video out accessory, but that’s recently come to GoodReader, so we could be in luck shortly.

Air Display ($9.99)

Similar in function to Air Video, but also completely different, there’s Air Display. Long have I coveted a Mimo monitor, or some other similar small equivalent for bringing a multimonitor workspace with me when I travel. But then there’s the price tag, and the question of whether or not I’ll actually do enough work with it to justify the purchase.

Air Display provides an inexpensive software solution, provided you already have the iPad to begin with. It allows you to extend your computer’s desktop wirelessly using VNC technology to your iPad. Though it isn’t smooth enough for advanced editing or other intensive tasks, it works great for having Mail, Twitte, or an IM client constantly open without grabbing precious laptop screen space.

Documents to Go Premium ($11.99)

So many times I’ve wished I could just leave my MacBook behind and still get writing work done on the go in a manner that wasn’t clumsy or awkward. Documents to Go Premium, with its built-in support for Google (S goog) Docs, which is what I use more than anything else for my own writing, fits the bill perfectly.

Now I just pack my iPad and an Apple Bluetooth keyboard and I’m working easily in Starbucks (s sbux) or wherever I happen to pause to rest my heels. Better still, the nature of the iPad with its lack of true multitasking actually inhibits distractions, so I feel like I get more done.

Sketchbook Pro ($7.99)

A long while ago, when the software that turns your MacBook’s trackpad into a drawing surface for a stylus came out, I bought a Pogo Sketch. It’s a capacitive stylus that you can use with iPhones, iPads and iPod touches, in addition to MacBook trackpads. It stayed in the closet until I got my iPad.

Now, in combination with a powerful drawing program like Sketchbook Pro, the iPad becomes the perfect on-the-go drawing and painting device. I’m not skilled enough to pull off any masterpieces, but rough sketches for graphic design work and even some basic speed paintings are well within reach. I’d have preferred genuine Wacom input options, but you can’t always get what you want.

Comic Zeal Comic Reader 4 ($7.99)

I’ve saved the best for last, because no matter how much I may try to convince myself and others that the iPad is a productivity-boosting device, there’s no denying that it’s also just downright fun. And one of the most fun things to do on the platform is read comics. It seems tailor-made for the task. Even if you haven’t ever read comics before, you should try it on the iPad. I can almost guarantee you’ll enjoy the experience.

In order to accomplish this, there are a number of comic book format (CBR and CBZ file) readers you could try available in the App Store. For my money, Comic Zeal is the best, because of its interface, its sync options, and its app-specific format and desktop conversion tool. It may even be a little bit buggier than other offerings, and Comic Book Lover doesn’t require conversion, but it’s the one with which I’m most comfortable. I can honestly spend an entire day with this baby and not know where the time went.

The iPad has drastically changed the way I interact with, enjoy and produce digital media. Sure, sometimes it’s hard to get a good, comfortable grip on the thing, but it’s definitely a far cry from the niche-less device I expected it to be. And Apple has developers to thank for that.

18 Responses to “5 iPad Apps That Changed My Mind”

  1. Drop Documents To Go from the list and replace it with Quickoffice or similar. Docs2Go crashes for many folks when trying to access Google Docs and Dataviz only offers $20 per incident phone support for it. No email support for the iPhone or iPad versions.

  2. Aaron Johnson (CyKiller)

    Here is my top 5 list anode next why not start a wish list.

    iWork apps….page, keynote, numbers I didn’t want to ruin list so listed as one.

    Needed app…cut and paste feature on any draw app. Having to use pages is a little annoying because you cannot export to proper formats. Hopefully we see an app for that, or updated feature to one of the good draw/sketch apps. I was a skeptical about the iPad but the developers are showing some nice implementations, for this to be in it’s infancy I am happy. With these apps above it makes the my iPad experience a lot more productive, I am just missing that one vital feature in the art apps so I don’t have to open saved file and can work within multiple apps for art and pictures. Soon to come for sure, I love the apps mentioned above sans air display, as I opted for logmein.

  3. While they may look pretty, comic book apps are ridiculous for two reasons.
    1. Kids like to trade comic books with each other.
    2. People like to collect comic books based on their value and age.
    Neither one of these can happen with a digital file.

      • peter de vries

        I do too, besides you can collect digital comics. It will be great for the comic book industry; if I really like a digital comic, I’ll buy it in a book (paper) version . I bet a lot of people will do the same.

  4. I don’t have an iPad yet, but hope to get one soon, but like yourslef now, I did beleive that the iPad would be a serious gamechanger. I see it as a great educational tool for my 8 month old son. Whe n I heard about the iPad, I immediatley could relate as to how I will use it to spend time to read stories and proivde it as an educational tool for my son. I look forward to that use soon, imagine having thousands of educational stuff at my finger tip, this is incredible.

  5. Can someone please moderate these messages? His comment is offensive and totally not proper for anywhere except the dark place from where this creature is coming.

  6. Shock Me

    The iPad is more of a Pegasus (winged horse) with a unicorn’s (single horn).

    It has an amazing battery life as well as a large, awesomely clear and bright multitouch display.

    In addition to the apps you mentioned, I would add: Pulse, VNC, SkyGrid, Scrabble, iCab, and Layers Pro.

  7. “It seemed a unicorn among horses in the tech world, something precious and therefore expensive, but without any real tangible benefit over its brethren in terms of functionality, at least for the average person.”

    You lost me right there.

    A horse can gallop, whinny, prance and canter and TRAMPLE ITS ENEMIES.

    A unicorn can gallop, whinny, prance, canter TRAMPLE AND GORE ITS ENEMIES.

    How is that not a real, tangible benefit over horses?