my favorite iPad apps

I have a number of friends and acquaintances who have gotten iPads recently, and I keep getting asked what my favorite iPad apps are and what ones I would suggest. So, I thought I would list some here. I’m not a big game player, so there’s no games on this list (sorry kids!). In fact, the only game I have on my iPad is Minesweeper. Just FYI: This list is in no particular order.

iAnnotate PDF: This is an excellent app for reading and annotating PDF files. I used it extensively last term to grade papers. It was quick and easy. It has excellent syncing features with DropBox, some decent icon-based navigation for organizing files into folders, and many options for annotating (though I tend to mostly make comments or highlight with comments). It could also be handy for reading academic work and making annotations. Another aspect I like is that you can email someone a pdf with the annotations attached, and also include them in the email. Pretty nifty. ($9.99)

Friendly: This is a wonderful Facebook app that I think works quite well. It navigates in many ways similarly to Facebook’s mobile website, and since Facebook hasn’t developed a good iPad version of their app yet, this one works quite well. In fact, I’d say it works better than Facebook’s iPhone app. (free)

Twitter for iPad: This is by far my favorite Twitter client for the iPad. It’s uncluttered, smooth, loads websites and images well and quickly, and offers every option that you really need. My one complaint is that it doesn’t predict usernames when you start typing them, but that’s only a minor hindrance. If you tweet a lot, it’s super useful. (free)

Dropbox and SugarSync: Using an iPad isn’t really effective until you find a great way to access and store documents, and what better way than Dropbox or SugarSync. You can select specific folders on your computer to be synced and access them via these apps (I’ll write more about how I use Dropbox and SugarSync later). Many applications work well with DropBox. Unfortunately, Pages doesn’t yet, which is a bummer. Not many applications work with SugarSync, but SugarSync’s website has a feature where you can set up an email address and email your files to your SugarSync account, which is pretty handy. (both free)

WordPress and BlogPress: Admittedly, both of these apps can be quite buggy, but if you’re a blogger, they’re nearly a necessity for using the iPad for posting. In fact, I’ve written a number of blog posts on here on WordPress for the iPad, and most of my blog posts on my Movable Type blog for last term’s technical writing course were written on BlogPress. BlogPress is especially nice in that it works well with multiple platforms, including Blogger, WordPress, and Movable Type. Both apps also seem to be improving with each new update (generally), so they’re worth it in my book. (WordPress is free; BlogPress is $2.99)

Pages, Keynotes, and Numbers: If you’re looking for productivity, and ideally have a bluetooth or dock keyboard, these are the apps to go with. There’s some limitations in formatting and such, but overall, they’re useful. Keynote can be used to make some great presentations (if you’re using a projector that will work), Pages offers some good options for typing (I’ve written quite a bit on it, but never really made final polished documents). Numbers I find most useful as a teacher: I kept attendance, grades, and other information on a spreadsheet on there, and was probably the most organized I’ve ever been because of it (no more loose sheets of paper with last week’s attendance records just sitting around somewhere!). I look forward to future improvements in these apps, but I think they’re worth it now. ($9.99 each)

Papers: This app is fantastic! If you’re willing to drop the $40-some bucks for the Papers desktop application (Macs only, sorry), this is great for storing and organizing PDFs of journal articles, reading them, and annotating them. I love reading on this app. If you’re not interested in shelling out the bucks, or if you don’t have a Mac, or if you’re using Zotero and want something that syncs with that, then Mendeley might be a good option, but I haven’t tried it. (Papers is $14.99; Mendeley is free)

Atomic Web Browser: Let’s face it: Safari for the iPad has serious flaws. Some websites won’t allow for scrolling on the iPad, some websites aren’t designed well for Safari, etc. Atomic Web is awesome because it allows you to choose what type of browser you want it to act as (Firefox, Safari, Safari for iPad, Internet Explorer), which is awesome. So when Safari doesn’t allow a website like ANGEL to scroll or send emails, Atomic Web can do the job. There’s also lots of awesome features. The biggest drawback is that Safari is always set as the default browser, so clicking links in other apps will always send you there. ($0.99)

Netflix: Ok, last term I watched every episode of The X-Files because the Netflix streaming on this app is so awesome. Netflix now has accounts where you pay for just streaming, which is a good deal in my book. Lots and lots of options! (free, plus your Netflix account fees)

Flipboard: When this app first came out, I was reading on it on all the time. It’s a great way to read links from Twitter and Facebook, as it remediates them in a layout similar to a magazine. It’s an interesting and novel approach to aggregated news from a variety of sources, and I enjoyed reading on it. After a while, though, the novelty wore off. But if you have a Twitter or Facebook account, I suggest checking it out. (free)

The Weather Channel Max or AccuWeather: Um, because it’s awesome to look to see what the weather’s supposed be like for the day or for the next few days. (both free)

Urbanspoon: This might be the best restaurant finder ever, in my book. I mean, you’re sitting in a hotel in another city and you want a certain type of cuisine. You can search for all the restaurants that serve Thai, for instance, and read reviews, or you can find one by random. There’s lots of search options, a good map interface, and often many reviews and price guides, and sometimes even menus. I love this app for when I’m traveling. (free)

Kindle for iPad: I’m by no means an ebook reader. I’ll read journal article after journal article on my iPad, but I still cling to my print books. However, if I were to read ebooks, I’d use Kindle’s app for the sole reason that you can sync your books and bookmarks with a desktop Kindle app, or your Kindle if you have one. That beats Apple’s iBooks’s system, where if you buy an iBook, its DRM won’t allow you to read it anywhere other than Apple’s iBooks on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod. Kindle also allows you to read free public domain books, which is pretty cool. (free)

Feel free to drop app suggestions or share your favorite apps (not spam, grrr! — this comment will not help) in the comments!

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5 Responses to my favorite iPad apps

  1. Umberto says:

    I started using SugarSync a couple of years ago and I still find it very useful in many ways.
    If anyone wants to register for an account, feel free to use my referral link that will add 500Mb bonus to both mine and your account 🙂

  2. Doug Portmore says:

    “It has excellent syncing features with DropBox”

    I know that you can open files in your DropBox in iAnnotate, but where’s the syncing feature? How do you get the files that you annotate in iAnnotate to sync with your DropBox”?

  3. Michael says:


    If you tap the down arrow (Fetch) in iAnntotate, you can add your dropbox account, and you can access your files. Then, after you’ve annotated, you can tap the up arrow and select “account” and then select your dropbox account to send it back.

  4. CivicSAM says:

    Just commenting that I still come back to this post every time I am researching academic apps. Thanks for creating this, Michael!

  5. Michael says:

    Thanks, Sam, and you’re welcome!

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