It’s been a while since I contributed to Mobile in Japan, but I’ve made a comeback with a post that I hope is really useful for people coming to Japan for short-term visits.
I’ve lost count of the number of times that people have asked me how they can get data access whilst here for short visits. Until now I’ve not been able to offer much advice except telling them of a few open WIFI networks I knew about. The thing is, having both an iPhone and a pocket WIFI device means I never have to think about these things.
Whilst writing this article I spoke to all of the major mobile data providers, trying to get an accurate picture of what services they provided, and whether they were available for those without Alien Registration Cards. The results therefore should be pretty accurate – at least for now!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
About this site
Hello. I'm Joseph, Tokyo-based fouder and Creative Director at creative agency/video production house Wild Tame. I'm also known as a runner with an experimental tech streak, father of two, husband of one.
This site documents my personal journey through life.
To learn more about me and my adventures in tech please visit my main site at http://josephta.me