I’m not the kind of person to buy a lot of apps. I don’t browse the app store picking up random titles that look interesting, rather I go in there looking for a particular app that I’m familiar with having used the OSX version, or I’m looking for an app that a friend has recommended. Thankfully I have a few friends who are compulsive buyers, taking their devices to the limit (literally – they can’t install any more apps). In addition to getting tips from them, I follow a few websites that pick up the best there is on offer.

Here then are 13 of the top 10 iPad apps I couldn’t do without:



A recent convert to Evernote, I am in love with this personal database app that comes complete with Optical Character Recognition (recognizes text, including handwriting as bad as mine, in any image added to it, making it searchable). Throw anything in there and it auto-syncs with the Evernote server, then to any device you have it installed on (iPhone, iPad, desktop etc). Photos, text, PDFs, text docs, audio – all with you whatever device your on. Whilst the basic service is free, I’ve chosen to upgrade to premium which has a few extra benefits. I’ve also bought a plugin (Voice2Note) that automatically creates a transcript of the first 30 seconds of any audio note I create – great for making notes whilst cycling!

LogMeIn Ignition


What I first thought would just be a cool app to demo but that I’d rarely use has turned out to be one of those that I truly value. Basically, it gives you full remote access to any computer you register with the service. I’ve been using it a lot over the past month to remotely control Final Cut Pro (video editing software I have on my 17″ MacBook Pro) whilst out and about, starting the next stage of an export process that takes hours (but is complete by the time I get home). There’s also been times when I’ve needed files that I didn’t have on my iPad, in which case I’ve simply used LogMeIn Ignition to copy them to my dropbox which then syncs them to my iPad (or allows me to send someone else a public link for them to download from).

At $29.99 it’s not cheap, but it’s worth it if you have a home computer but often work when out and about.

Air Display


Use your iPad as an additional external display for your Mac. No need for cables as this works using WIFI. Simply launch the app and your Mac will auto-detect it as a new display. Rotate the iPad and it’ll auto adjust to the new orientation. If you already have a second screen attached to your minidisplay port you can now have three screens!

I mostly use this when working away from my desk at a client office etc when I don’t have my usual second screen. Also handy for those situations where you’d like to just pick up your monitor and go show a colleague or family member something – now you can!

One thing to note though is that the refresh rate is not that of a wired monitor, meaning its better for things like Twitter or your mail app, or web pages used for reference than it is for videos.



Great way to quickly share docs across all your devices. Need I say more? If you’re not using it, you should be! Use this link and I’ll get more space added to my plan, and love you even more.



At one point this was the #1 paid iPad app – and with good reason.
“Super-robust PDF reader with advanced reading, annotating, markup and highlighting capabilities, excellent file manager, TXT file reader and editor, audio/video player, Safari-like viewer for MS Office and iWorks files.”

What I like most about this is the ability to connect directly to gmail accounts and retrieve any attachments. It’ll also work with dropbox, standard FTP servers and more.

Apple iWork suite (pages, Numbers, Keynote)

$9.99 each

Create, edit and share word, excel and PowerPoint docs. Use the iPad when giving presentations with Keynote by plugging it in to a projector / external display. Doing so will enable you to use the amazing built-in lazer pointer that won’t take anyone’s eyes out.



Ever forgotten a password? You won’t ever again with 1Password. This app is simply awesome. I have a database of hundreds of unique passwords for all the different sites and services I use, but don’t have to remember any. With 1 Password, they’re all stored securely, and synched across my Mac, iPad and iPhone. Couldn’t live without it.



Powerful GTD-approach pro-task manager. As I wrote in 2008 when talking about the mac version,

If you are having to juggle a number of projects with multiple mini-deadlines, all requiring attention but some more urgent than others (and if you own a Mac), this is for you. It’s highly intelligent, flexible, and helps you get a clear idea of what needs doing when. Data entry is super quick and easy, and there’s iCal integration.

The iPad version looks to be a complete rewrite – and it is beautiful. Love the UI. Love ticking boxes having Got Things Done too.

Not sure I’d recommend it to people who aren’t so busy – there’s a lot of other cheaper / free task managers that may suffice.


Awesome flexible spaced-repetition flashcard app. – can be used to learn / memorise almost anything. Delighted that the developer has finally released both iPod and iPad versions. Not cheap, but after years of using the software for free on the Mac I’m more than happy to pay. I love the customization options, and the simplicity too, allowing you to focus on your studies. Syncs with iPod/iPhone/Mac

Here’s a quick intro to how you learn with Anki – note that this is the Windows version in the demo, but the functionality in the iPad version is pretty much the same.



Beautiful, simple RSS reader. Plugs into and syncs with Google reader – also syncs with iPhone app, has quick links to adding to Instapaper, sending via email etc.

Art Studio


Simple yet powerful image creation / editing software. Used to create masterpieces such as this


This is what Photoshop for the iPad should be! Tools for crop/rotate/curves/redeye, all sorts of filters, ability to annotate photos too. Definite must-have.

Twitter (the official app)


Awesome app that uses iPads GPS, compass and motion sensor to provide a real-time map of the night sky. Friggin’ awesome!

In the list above I’ve mainly focused upon productivity as that’s where my interests lie. Sure, I have a few games installed, but rarely play them. I also have a few magazine apps installed, but they’re also recreational so don’t get much use.

The combination of this hardware and software has had a significant impact upon my life. I find I’m able to be far more productive, dealing with tasks / requests as they come up rather than adding them to a to-do list for later.

…and also, I feel happier. I think the main reason for this is that the iPad gives me the freedom to work where and when I want. I don’t have to carry my 17″ MBP everywhere, but still have full access to all of my data.

Sometimes I even use it for watching videos of cats.

What are your favorite apps?

5 Responses

  1. Thanks Joseph – great article, really valuable especially as there is no “try before you buy” option on iTunes store apps. I would also add my vote for Evernote, great app especially if you use a range of pc’s/mac’s during the day and always want your docs to hand.

    Two apps I would offer up:

    Flickr Explorer – really nice changing mosaic of Flickr photo’s, handy as form of screensaver.

    RadioBox – nice interface for streaming web radio stations.

    1. Cheers James,Just downloading RadioBox…I had a look for Flickr Explorer but no sign of in UK/US/Japan stores. Don’t suppose you have a link for it?Evernote synching is just great isn’t it? I’ve not used the Windows version, but have got a feel for it through listening to all of the evernote podcasts.CEO Phil Libin is a great guy too. Very funny, down to earth and clearly very good at what he does!

  2. My iPad apps must have, apart from what you have already mentioned, are:
    1. TeamViewer: similar to LogMeIn.
    2. PhotoSync: share photos easily between iOS and PC and Mac. Very cool.
    3. Air Video and StreamToMe: both streams any videos, photos, live conversion smoothly and beautifully over WiFi.
    4. Flipboard: Viewing Facebook, blog, Flickr, etc is never be the same again.
    5. All kind of music apps made just for iPad are mostly great: KORG one, Yamaha iVocaloid, iSequence, etc.
    6. Taiko No Tetsujin: They need more JPOP songs of otherwise a perfect app.
    7. BlueCam or Duplicam: taking photos using iPad, controlling multiple iPhones. Or wait for iPad2 and iPad3.
    8. Prezi: connect to Prezi account and you have nice viewing slides.
    9. Early Edition, Reeder: reading blog in a very nice kind of way.
    10. Dropbox: This cloud storage is just so useful for so many things.