I’m often asked by friends and colleagues that recently purchased or acquired an iPad or iPhone, what apps I recommend or they should purchase.
Apps are a very personal thing, and many are as unique as our personalities. We all have different priorities and reasons for owning a tablet device, however there are some core apps I regularly use as I hate having to carry around a bulky laptop. This isn’t a definitive nor exhaustive list, equally I am keen to learn of what apps you use on a regular basis that has improved your workflow, enjoyment or helped solve a problem and get things done!
As you know, there are hundreds of thousands of apps in the AppStore and it can be a daunting task to find the right tool for the job, but here’s a breakdown of the apps I use on a regular basis.
Whilst not a total replacement for Microsoft office, I do use the Apple Apps, Pages, Numbers and Keynote regularly on my travels, especially when working away, in Europe or the USA. There has to be a better way of killing time when lounging in airports and on the plane!
Pages Will let you import your MS Word documents and edit them on the fly. If you use Macros and extended formatting of your documents, then you may lose some of this on translation, but the app does warn you!
KeyNote Is Apples equivalent of Powerpoint, and I say that loosely. I’ve used this from time to time to create presentations or make amendments to my existing ones whilst presenting at conferences, intact recently I gave a talk on “Operational Cryptography” there was a problem with the projection unit, so I used my iPad to continue the presentation! It has some limitations though. For example the included artwork is very limited, in powerpoint if I want flowcharting tools, or System/Component designs, then it simply isn’t there. Transition and effects are pretty good, but if you are creating presentations from scratch on a professional basis then you will want an accompanying tool to go with it, such as iDraw or TouchDraw
Numbers Editing simple spreadsheets on the go and viewing your MS Excel ones are doable, but the macro’s aren’t compatible with MS Excel. What it will allow you to do is see the computed values and therefore great for review. However if you are not a fan of Excel, this little spreadsheet app allows you to create forms to help collect data. I use mine for tracking blood glucose levels etc.
iDraw and TouchDraw Both iDraw and TouchDraw hold their own and I use these for complimenting the shortfall of KeyNote when creating presentations, they both have applications that run natively on your Mac.
TouchDraw is very good at interpreting Visio diagrams, adding layers and has enough built in art libraries for Flowcharting, Swim Lanes, System/Infrastructure, Sports, Business, Technology, Architecture, Network and Shapes etc. What I also like about it is that you can create your own library of shapes so you only need to define them once and use them many times in your document. You can simply copy the vectored drawing and paste directly into KeyNote or Pages.
iDraw on the other hand is a vectored drawing application that is similar to an earlier version of Adobe Illustrator, or any vector drawing program you are used to. Again it supports layers, and has a wealth of features that you can use to create and copy/paste into Pages and KeyNote.
Both programs offer extensive help and features, I tend to go for Touchdraw to compliment KeyNote more.
MoneyWiz I do like this program, it reminds me of MS Money in the early days. It provides support for importing your CSV, QIX and OFX statements from your bank, setting and managing budgets, creating reports, schedules and the ilk. They offer an iPhone and Mac version of the program also which will automatically sync your updates between all three devices. It isn’t perfect, but the support provided from the team is exceptional, they are constantly developing new tools and features on a regular basis.
What is the point of having a mobile tablet if you can’t write and make notes to it? For this there are two apps I use, my personal favourite
Note Taker HD This app I return to again and again, it has a selection of different paper types built in, i.e. Graph Paper, Music, Plain, Lined etc, and has a relatively low learning curve. It will export your notes as PDF or Images, and you can file your notes in folders etc. You can annotate PDF documents, so a quick win for me is simply writing on the PDF timesheet supplied from my consultancy, and emailing that to them all from within the App.
Notes Plus This app has a dual screen facility, i.e. you can load a PDF to the left side and make notes on the right, it will allow you to record meetings etc. In the earlier days I felt this had a slightly steeper learning curve and hence why I generally use Note Taker HD as my note taker of choice!
Blogsy There can only be one app for mobile blogging on-the-go, and that has to be Blogsy! It is the only iOS blogging software that I know that allows WYSIWYG or Rich Text blogging without having to know HTML. However if you want, you can switch to the HTML side and still use these features. For me personally, it’s a better tool than MS Writer, it integrates with Flickr, YouTube, Your Photo’s and other services, it supports a number of blogs, WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Posterous, Typepad, Joomla etc. I can drag and drop my youtube, flickr or other service provided photo’s and media straight into the blog, resize and edit etc. The team have done an excellent job in making the blogging experience the best it can be on an iOS device, so much so that in my opinion it’s a better proposition than Marsedit on the Mac, and it’s far cheaper too!
Music Creation and Learning
Garage Band This is my number one tool for plugging in my guitar and laying down some tracks. It has many editing features, and allows me to plug my guitar and record using Apogee’s iJam device. It’s very intuitive, and easy to pick up, in fact, whilst presenting in Berlin a couple of years ago, I composed a song for my wife and emailed it to her 🙂
Synthesia I love this app. Using the iPad Camera Connection Kit and my USB enabled MIDI Keyboard, I can learn to play new songs, either from the built-in playlist or from most MIDI files that can be found around the internet.
Notion This is pure music note editing software with plenty of built in real instruments. I can enter and edit music in either Tablature form or Standard music notation. This is a very powerful app with support for multiple staves, keyboard entry and output. It’s worth the asking price of this app in my opinion!
iMovie For movies taken on my iPhone or iPad then iMovie is the standard app for me, I can edit on the train, on the plane, or at lunch, add titles and themes and then upload to youTube.
There are many photo editing tools on the market, but the ones I use the most are
Photoshop Touch and iPhoto Photoshop touch takes a little while to get used to, especially if you are a big photoshop user, and is very handy for editing and creating on the move, or within a photoshoot to check the quality of your images. iPhoto is more user-friendly and I really like the photo journal that you can create of your trips and events in life.
I’m not an artist personally, but occasionally I do use the following for quick sketches, why I don’t use NoteTaker? Well these apps are more geared towards artists with a palette of common tools.
SketchBook Pro This has a number of tools, inks, brushes and support for layers to help get your creative juices flowing.
Paper Is an unusual one, and I like the interface. You create books/journals and the paper unfolds and flips in front of your eyes. predominantly sketching, the motion is very fluid and can make me look like a real artist 🙂
There are so many games out for the iPad, and everyone has their favourite, whether it’s casual, action, arcade, puzzles etc. So I’m going to be shameless here and plug two of my own games created for the iPad and iPhone.
Ballistyx This is a complete remake of a game I wrote in the 90’s on a Windows PC, and is insanely addictive 🙂 We have players that have racked up 100 Hours of game play time, which is great value for money considering it’s less than a pint in most areas.
Newton’s Nonsense Another simple and addictive game, dodge the spiders, jump the barrels and collect the coins and jewels. Before Newton invented gravity he was a little known treasure hunter.
You can see videos for them here, and every little helps support a developer like me to continue creating games and apps.
I hope this article provide useful, to you and congratulations on purchasing your new Apple Tablet device 🙂