I’ve had an Apple iPad since Christmas and I love it. I was a little skeptical when they came out, but that quickly passed. Since getting it, I’ve found a collection of apps that I consider essential and I thought I’d write about them because many of my friends are starting to get them.
If you click on the name of the app or the icon, it should take you to the app in the iTunes App Store.
I’ve been searching for something like Flipboard for many years. RSS readers have been around for several years, but they tend to present the feeds as lists. Flipboard presents feeds as pages of tiles with short extracts, similar to the page of a magazine or newspaper. When you tap an article, if expands to the full article. You can group your feeds together or deal with some of them individually. You can also track various social networks and if you use other aggregators, such as Google Reader, you can bring them into Flipboard and when you read something in Flipboard it will be marked as read in the aggregator and vice versa. The slickest piece of software I’ve seen in a long time and the best part is that it’s free.
One of the most powerful applications of a tablet computer, whether an iPad, Android or other type, is the ability to read books on them, particularly reference books. iBooks allows you to buy books from Apple’s store and also load PDFs using iTunes. You can also open a PDF from an email, a website or something like Dropbox (see below), and import it into iBooks. The app allows you to have different categories, making it easy to find what your looking for. My biggest grumble about the iBooks app is that you can’t name files using the app, so sometimes you end up with randomly named PDFs if you open something from the browser. You can sort this out later using iTunes, but it would be nice to be able to do this inside the app.
Dropbox is a multi-platform, cloud-based file sharing system that allows you to easily sync files between various computers. I use it to shuffle files from my notebook at home to my BlackBerry and iPad and also access the files from just about anywhere using the web interface. Very convenient!
Since you’re reading this, you’ve probably clued into the fact that I have a blog. In fact, it’s a self-hosted WordPress blog. Happily, there’s a blogging client for the iPad made by WordPress that let’s you compose and post entries and pages, and manage comments. I wrote much of this entry using it. While it’s very good at managing comments, the editor is very basic. It allows you to enter and edit text, but you can’t do any markup and even inserting a link is a pain. I’ve done much of the markup for this entry using a combination of the native WordPress editor in the blog and Microsoft Live Writer on my notebook. Still, if you don’t use a lot of formatting in your blog entries, it’s a good solution for you. And even if you do, you can write the entries on your iPad and pretty them up later if need be.
While iPads aren’t really aimed at technical applications, there are nonetheless lots of apps for techies.
A telnet and SSH client are very handy tools to have. After trying several, I settled on SSH Term Pro. It’s a fairly robust SSH client that costs a mere $2.99, which is cheaper than some of the alternatives.
Although I have a 3G iPad, I don’t always have a 3G data plan for it. (I tend to turn it on for a month when I know I’m going to want it somewhere that isn’t going to have hotspots. Also, not all hotspots are free so 250 Mb for a month can be cheaper than buying time on hotspots.) Wi-Fi Finder by Jwire is a service that has 545,000 hotspots in 144 countries listed (free and pay, combined) and their free Wi-Fi Finder app can download an offline database so you can find them when you’re without network access.
There’s also a version of this app that only has free hotspots in it if you’re not interested in knowing about places where you might have to pay for wi-fi access.
Social networking apps
Needless to say, there are hundreds of social networking apps available for the iPad. Personally, I really only use Facebook and Twitter. While Flipboard does allow you to track Facebook and Twitter, among others, if you want to make full use of them you’ll want to get a dedicated app.
Friendly for Facebook is a robust Facebook app that allows you to use most of the features of Facebook, including the chat function. Setting your status, checking into places, posting on walls and sending messages are all easy to do with it.
I’ve tried a number of Twitter clients, including the official one from Twitter, and settled on HootSuite. It allows you to have multiple accounts and also track non-Twitter feeds such as Facebook and Foursquare. One nice function is the ability to set up scheduled tweets, so that you can tweet something automatically. A good alternative to HootSuite is TweetDeck, which offers very similar functionality to HootSuite.
Before continuing, please click this play button: (or this)
The addictive nature of this family of games warrants its own category of apps. Virtually every iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad owner I’ve met has at least one of the Angry Bird apps by Rovio on their device. When I browsed through my iPad, I found four different Angry Birds games, including the Angry Birds HD Free app (remember, the first hit is always free!).
Briefly, the Angry Birds games are:
- Angry Birds HD Free (this is how the addiction starts)
- Angry Birds HD (admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery)
- Angry Birds Rio HD (meh, who likes a quitter?)
- Angry Birds Seasons HD (in for a penny, in for a pound)
Periodically, Rovio releases updates with new levels and challenges, which is pretty cool as the new content doesn’t cost extra.