Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Favorite iPad Apps

I have owned the iPad for [more or less] exactly a year now and that’s a good opportunity to review what the iPad has done for me. It’s surprising that even after well over 20 million iPads sold, the debate about whether or not this device is useful rages on.

When I have tried to come up with a list of my top apps, I have quickly realized that there is a difference on the iPad between what’s cool and awesome and what’s useful. I suspect that most iPad users end up buying some of the really cool apps but those may not necessarily be particularly useful. The owner checks them out, shows them off to a few friends and goes back to using the good old email. And so here are my two lists:

Top 10 Coolest Apps on My iPad:

10. Kindle
No matter what Amazon says when paddling the Kindle gadget, iPad is a great reading device and the Amazon Kindle Reader works great on the iPad. That is unless you find yourself in  bright sunlight in which case you should just forget it.
9. Musicnotes
I keep PDFs of the dozen or songs I can play in my GoodReader. Musicnotes, though, takes it to the next level by providing sheet music for iPad, albeit rather expensive. Playing from notes on an iPad is so cool that the audience is distracted from my poor performance.
8. Bloomberg
One financial application had to make it onto this list and I do like the Bloomberg app. Nothing unexpected here - it allows me to see the market data, news, and stock quotes. There are many other apps like this but this is Bloomberg.
7. Wired
I’ve been reading Wired less and less lately mostly because its content keeps drifting away from information technology and gadgets to other topics. But their interactive, multimedia app has broken new grounds and shown the way of the future for magazine publications.
6. BBC News
Many TV stations provide their video news as an iPad app but I like this one from BBC. The app is cool and the content is available abroad which is where ABC and NBC fail me.
5. GarageBand
I’ve had about a dozen different music apps on my iPad until GarageBand was released. This is easily the most complex and sophisticated iPad app I have and it has made all the other music apps obsolete. OK, maybe except for the n-Track Tuner and AmpliTube.
4. AmpliTube
AmpliTube is a guitar amp and effect rig system for iPad which is the software for the iRig splinter which allows you to replace a slew of guitar sound effect accessories. If you have an e-guitar, you have to get the iRig.
3. Marine US
As a sailor, this app is a dream comes true. The NOAA charts are free in the US except that you have to pay the publishers for the printing. And the prints are expensive and you’ll need many of them. This app exposes the entire NOAA charts database for free which is awesome for trip planning. As for use on the boat, you will need wi-fi or 3G access and to keep in mind that the iPad isn’t waterproof.
2. SoundHound
This is really an iPhone app but the iPad version is really cool and the application still amazes me. You hear a song and SoundHound tells you what it is. Shazam is a similar app but I am finding that SoundHound strikes out much less than Shazam.
1. Netflix
Watching movies on the iPad is awesome and streaming them directly from Netflix just rocks as long as you have the bandwidth. What I love is that I can start a movie at home on the Apple TV or Wii, pause it and then continue on Netflix from a hotel room. Not being able to watch abroad is a major drawback, though, which has to do with the ridiculous artificial borders created around distribution rights. 

Top 10 Most Useful Apps on My iPad

10. OpenText Everywhere
OK, yes, I could have mentioned any enterprise social media application such as or Yammer - I use several of them. But OpenText Everywhere is not only made by my employer but it also provides the enterprise social experience within our CMS solution with all the existing workflows, folders, content assets, subscriptions and favorites readily available. Not to mention it runs on top of a secure and compliant content infrastructure... OK, OK, yes, I do work for OpenText...
9. Dropbox
This is pure file sharing and it is free up to 2 GB. This is a great way to sync my documents between different devices and to share them with others. Dropbox provides a work-around for the lack of file systems on the iPad.
8. NoteMaster
Note taking is one of the key business apps and yet it has been quite neglected by the leading vendors. The notes in Outlook are pathetic and I never got used to OneNote. And the iPad’s Notes tool is pretty bad too. NoteMaster allows better notes organization and rich editing of notes. BTW - I do have Evernote but that appears to be more of a memo app than note taking.
7. GoodReader
The GoodReader is a document reading app for the iPad. It supports PDFs as well as most Office formats. It also allows decent organization of the documents and is integrated with the Mail app. I often download white papers and analyst reports for a plane trip to read.
6. The Economist
Wired gets most of the credit for the new generation of multi-media magazines and rightfully so. But The Economist is one of the best news magazines out there and their iPad version is not only fantastic but it also arrives a week before the hard-copy. And since it is a weekly, who needs the hard-copy?
5. Twitter and TweetDeck
Since I am a big user of Twitter, I use both apps quite often. The Twitter app is fun to use while the TweetDeck provides useful filter-based columns that make the Twitter stream much more valuable.
4. Calendar
Well, the iPad calendar is not very fancy but I live by my calendar and so I use it many times a day. The functionality is still limited and I have to do certain things in Outlook, though. This is a standard app that comes with the iPad OS.
3. FeeddlerPro
I’ve tried several RSS readers and I have settled on Feeddler. There may be better ones out there but this one works pretty well. Catching up on what’s going on in the blogosphere is a piece of cake with an RSS reader on an iPad.
2. Safari
I prefer to use an app for web sites I use frequently whenever available but I am obviously using the browser a lot. I don’t like the Safari browser much and I hope that Firefox for iPad will arrive soon - the iPhone version got released recently.
1. Mail
iPad as an email platform beats the iPhone and BlackBerry hands down due to the larger on-screen keyboard. Since I pretty much live in email, I use the standard iOS email client a lot for both my corporate Exchange email as well as my private email. While not exciting or cool, this is the app I use the most on my iPad.

So, these are my top apps. Obviously, I am not big into games which is why no games ended up on my list - even though I have downloaded a bunch. Facebook and LinkedIn would likely make the list if they had a native iPad app. I do have Keynote and Pages (not Numbers) - neither have made the list because I don’t use the iPad much for real authoring, except for the occasional blog post. Skype would have made the usability list if I had an iPad 2 with a camera.

I’m sure you have other apps you love on the iPad - please do share them in your comments!


  1. Here are Chuck's favorites...
    Bloomberg, Fidelity for investing
    Foreflight and Aeroplus for flying
    Star Walk and Free Books for fun


  2. Shazam, Pandora, Facebook, and Words with Friends are definitely some of my fav iPad apps! Another one of my favs is my DISH Remote Access app from my TV provider/employer DISH Network. Basically that free app and the Sling Adapter at home allow me to "sling" all of my favorite live and recorded programming to my phone anywhere and everywhere I go just as long as I have a 3G or WiFi connection. It's really sweet, and prolly my #1 favorite! Check it out at! ;)