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.