Air Sharing HD
Air Sharing is one of our favorite iPhone apps, and it only gets better on the iPad's roomier screen. It lets you wirelessly mount your iPad as a drive on your computer so you can load it up with files. You can then view, share or print everything from PDFs to Excel documents. For anyone complaining about the lack of a file system on the iPad, this gives you one. And on our first testing of it, it's speedy and stable. Highly recommended. [iTunes
Lets you load up your iPad with any documents you want, adds printing support.
Good Reader's interface isn't quite as pretty as some other file browsing apps we've looked at (Air Sharing HD, for example) and its initial exhortation to "read all of our instruction manuals" didn't do much to allay my usability concerns, but after spending a few minutes to get the hang of things, it turns out that Good Reader is a pretty indispensable app. Basically it lets you dump just about any supported files—PDF, txt, Word Docs, audio, video—from your computer onto your iPad with a barebones web-based interface. There's no progress bar, but the files beam over without issue, and when they're on your iPad, they just work. Good Reader has a ton of intricate options for handling PDFs, but if you're just in it to read through them like ebooks, it does that really well too—navigation is intuitive, including pinch and/or tap to zoom, and various hot zones on the screen let you turn pages or scroll automatically from side to side. I'm pretty picky about my ereading, and I could easily see myself burning through an entire graphic novel in Good Reader. Though there's no printing support, the app does give you plenty of options for managing the files, allowing you to rename, restructure or e-mail them as attachments, and it plays well with Google Docs, Dropbox, and MobileMe Best of all, it's only a buck (for now). [iTunes]
For $1, you can bypass iTunes and zap a huge variety of files from your computer to your iPad for convenient perusal. Totally worth the small learning curve.
If you want to stream video from your PC or Mac to your iPad, Air Video is the app you want. Slightly better than StreamToMe in basically every way (scroll down one review for context), the interface is intuitive, you get more control over bitrates on the fly and you can preconvert any clips you want (rather than realtime convert) with the touch of a button. There's only one thing that StreamToMe does that AirVideo can't and that's stream music. However, Air Video will be getting MP3 support in the near future. If you can wait, go with Air Video. It's $3 and very, very polished.
The best media streaming app on the iPad, but it can't stream music just yet.
MP4, AVI, MOV, FLV, MPG, MKV, MP3, AAC, WMA and WMV-do these formats sound familiar? StreamToMe can beam them all from your Mac to the iPad without much difficultly at all. You load the StreamToMe software onto your Mac (a background app that's probably familiar to those of you who've used software like Connect360) and download the $3 StreamToMe app in the App Store. Select the folders you'd like shared on your Mac, load the app on the iPad and BAM! All your sweet media is, literally, at your fingertips. Full review here
Doesn't stream music continuously at this time, but unlike AirVideo, it can stream single tracks perfectly.
LogMeIn is one of the easiest VNC remote access methods now, with it taking care of all the firewall and NAT penetration for you, breaking the install process down to just installing the software onto your PC/Mac. LogMeIn Ignition is basically the same as it is on the iPhone, letting you remote access your computer from anywhere (but it's much faster if you're on the same network). The iPad version is pretty great, even if the controls are a little complicated. Scrolling around and clicking are the most awkward, because your finger actually only moves the mouse (or the screen), instead of directly tapping where you want to click. Basically, you need to move the mouse to your click location and then click. The convenience outweighs any of the quirks, even if it's $30. [iTunes]
If you're the type of person who wants to carry your iPad everywhere to control your computers, this is a must.
Wikipanion for iPad
Straight up Wikipedia. The iPad version of the world's most popular iPhone Wiki is as speedy as ever and should keep time wasters or pub trivia cheats extremely satisfied. Bookmarking pages is a snap and quitting out of the app is without qualms since you can resume right where you left off. Browse the main page for something that suits your interest or stumble around with the infamous random page button to read about the most obscure stuff ever. The article text itself can be tweaked to suit your style—big or small, serif or sans, there's no wrong way to read your favorite entries. The more 3G centric geolocation feature lets you be your own tour guide and read up on relevant articles from around your immediate area. Switching from portrait to landscape is not as snappy as I would have liked, but that's really a minor gripe. Spend 5 bucks on the Plus version and you get offline viewing capabilities. [iTunes]
Classic Wikipedia. Five bucks for the Plus version nets you offline viewing.
If you're into organization and you like your organization beautiful, then Bento's $5 iPad app is a solid listmaking solution. It has 25 templates for managing just about any type of information you throw at it, be it contacts, to-do lists, collections, etc. As with all of these types of things, you'll probably get the most mileage if you use it with its corresponding Mac app, Bento 3, but even on its own, Bento's a good fit for the iPad. The aesthetic of the lists, which take the form of clipboards and journals, matches the iPad well, and Bento makes it easy to select individual items in greater collections either by selecting them from a list or browsing them with a swipe. [iTunes]
If listmaking's your thing, Bento does it beautifully, though you might sacrifice some of the more complex database functionality for the good looks.
Mouse Point Pro
This $3 app can turn your iPad into a wireless TouchPad and keyboard for your Mac. So how well does it work? Relatively well, actually. After downloading an app for OS X, you can sync over Wi-Fi with a button press. From there, you can navigate (with mulitouch) across your screen and double two-finger tap to pull up the iPad's keyboard to type. A few caveats: typed text enters a long, sometimes confusing string on the screen—of which only the new content will actually transmit to your computer screen (it gets confusing for text fields like you see in AIM), the app won't work with a second monitor and, overall, I'd say the entire experience scales to OS X with 95% accuracy—not absolute perfection. [iTunes]
If you have the proclivity to use your iPad as a mouse and keyboard, this works.
This app is kinda super awesome. It has one entry per person in your Contacts list, which you can then fill out with notes and photos, plus tie in their Twitter stream. You basically pretend to be the world's nerdiest private investigator, making little observations (and clothing size reports) on your friends. It'll be very awkward when someone finds all your notes on people, but until then, this is unique for sure. $5. [iTunes]
Unique, but definitely weird
Dragon is probably the biggest name in voice recognition, and it's for good reason. Their NautrallySpeaking engine actually lets you, you know, speak naturally, and records your voice with surprising fidelity. I rattled off "Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore," which it parsed perfectly (maybe because that's a common test sentence?) but it kept up pretty well, though not perfectly, when I started rattling off paragraphs of my own design. Best of all, it's free, like the iPhone version, so you can try it out and see if you like talking to type without investing a dime. Worth checking out if you're someone who thinks important thoughts that deserve preserving.
As far as voice recognition note taking goes, it does the job, and, hey, it's free.
Don't get me wrong, Evernote on the iPad is a fantastic app. It's clean, easy to use, and blazingly fast. I just don't find it as useful as the iPhone version. In practice Evernote is a portable list maker that lets you jot down quick memos, lists, and to-dos that would otherwise go forgotten. I can't see myself actively using this version as much as the iPhone or OS native editions that have been a staple for organization hounds since their inceptions. The most prominent unique addition to this version is the ability to geotag notes, something I don't find particularly useful. Ultimately, it's the Evernote you know and love, and you should just get it because it's free. [iTunes]
Get it. It's Evernote. Just not as essential as the iPhone version.
SplitBrowser, as its name would suggest, offers a browser that's split into two independent, resizable panes, each with their own address bar, navigation buttons, and pinching and tapping functionality. The idea here is that you could watch a YouTube video, in that disengaged, glancing way that we're all used to watching YouTube videos, while surfing around in the other pane. That's not the only use for two panes—any streaming service, like, say, Pandora, would work in this setup—but it's the arrangement that makes the most sense to me. Anyway, in practice, it's OK but not great. The bar splitting the browser windows is a little too thick and unsightly, and watching a video in one pane makes the flicking and scrolling in the other one a little choppy, which, especially on a device as elegant as the iPad, is a big ding. The iPad's screen seems big compared to an iPhone and opens up a lot of new possibilities for new apps, but I'm not sure it's quite big enough to justify two paned browsing. Still, it's only $2, and if you're someone whose surfing includes a lot of reading up on one thing while glancing at a video of another, it works as advertised. [iTunes]
SplitBrowser gives you a split browser, like it says it will, but it's not quite a convincing use of the iPad's limited screen real estate.
A second monitor for your Mac, when you're on your Grownup Computer: That's a perfect use for the 1024x768 iPad, and exactly what $5 app iDisplay lets you do. But it needs some work. Mostly, t's slow. Sometimes it's bearably slow; with a solid connection, it's choppy but mousable. Other times-and on our test network, most of the time-it's VERY slow, which relegates the second screen to passive tasks, like displaying Twitter feeds, or IM windows, or something along those lines. (Longer review here.)
Once the bugs are ironed out, this will be a must-have app. But for now, there are bugs aplenty.
Delivery Status Touch
If you needed proof that the iPad could make anything beautiful, look no further than Delivery Status Touch, a bigger, shinier version of the iPhone app that is dedicated solely to tracking your packages. The premise is pretty straight forward: if you're a person who's buying or selling a lot of stuff online, Delivery Status will keep track of all those tracking numbers, from the big guys like UPS and FedEx, Apple and Amazon, all the way down to the nobodies like Sagawa Express and Aramex. It shows each tracked item in a side pane with color coded tabs and provides large, multitouch maps of their whereabouts on the right. If you create a free account with the developer, Junecloud, it'll sync your tracking numbers between a desktop widget, iPhone and iPad, which is pretty nice. All of this, though, seems like overkill unless you routinely have at least 4 or 5 incoming shipments at a time. And for $5, it's almost certainly an unnecessary extravagance. [iTunes]
Delivery Status achieves the seemingly impossible task of making package-tracking gorgeous, but at $5 it's only for serious powershippers.
Things for the iPad could be the most beautiful to-do list I've ever used. It has the elegant look of the popular Mac version with even less clutter, and making and managing to-do items, lists, and bigger projects is a breeze. There's definitely something to be said about an app that makes organizing your messy life so effortless and so gorgeous. But the fact of the matter is that Things for the iPad is $20, and for most people, that's just way too much to pay for a to-do list app. Dedicated users of the Things Mac application might be the exception—if your life revolves around Things for Mac and you feel like you'd go mad without it, then the iPad version is a good addition to your arsenal, syncing cleanly and automatically every time the app is opened. But if you're just looking to pull together some odds and ends here and there, there are much cheaper ways to do it. Taska, a $5 app, has a similar feel to Things, and Evernote, which sacrifices some of Things' refinement for a wider set of features, has a free iPad app that will probably suit you just fine. [iTunes]
Things would be the undisputed champ of beautiful task management if not for the ludicrous price.
Voice memos. On your iPad. Pretty much a no brainer and I'm sure you've probably downloaded this already. If you've used any voice recorder ever you know the drill: Record, Stop, Playback, Delete—oh, look, a new VU meter! That's the jist. The trouble is this first version has a HUGE flaw. You can only toggle the playhead in landscape mode and when you try to—let's say fast forward to the 35 minute mark in a 40 minute lecture, the playhead glitches the fuck out and completely fails. Meaning you'd have to physically sit there and listen until the part you wanted cued up. This is sure to be fixed, but renders this app essentially useless in the mean time for practical purposes. Sound wise it does the job. Audio is crisp and captures voices relatively well. Plug in your iPhone headphones and use the built in mic for more candid functionality. Background noise can be an issue in a crowded setting, so keep that mind if you have to interview the elderly at a dirt bike rally.
Essential app crippled by playhead glitch. Wait for the update.
Besides signing a few documents here and there, I don't think I've ever really needed to annotate a PDF. But I'm sure that PDFs do get annotated, be it by business people who use their mouse to highlight sections or type comments in margins or by college students who print out lecture notes and just mark them up with pen or pencil. If you're one of those people, iAnnotate PDF seems like it'd be a serviceable solution, offering a host mark-up tools—highlighters, bookmarks, underlines, and strikethroughs, just to name a few—that let you get down and dirty with your documents. But it's far from perfect. Getting PDFs into the app requires the use of a separate program which you have to download on your PC or Mac and set to recognize shared folders. The marked-up PDFs are only accessible back in these folders; the app doesn't offer a way of simply firing them off via e-mail. All of this is pretty frustrating, especially having just used Good Reader's simple as pie web interface to dump files from computer to the iPad. It doesn't help matters that iAnnotatePDF's special introductory price is $7, which seems like a lot considering the app's limitations.
If you need to mark up PDFs right now, it works, but I'm sure a better solution (either easier, cheaper, or both) will come along soon.
National Geographic World Atlas HD
I don't know what I expected this app to be, but even at $2, World Atlas HD let me down. It's essentially a world map (coupled with limited demographic data) that you can look at in a few different styles. If you've used Google Maps/Earth for more than 5 minutes, this will feel antiquated and pointless—especially as locally saved maps fail to download, the app crashes and, when you zoom in too far (which you will), you're rereouted to Bing's maps that don't match the old school map experience. $2 of app spam. [iTunes]
Just use the Maps app and have fun with Street View.
It's a calculator app. It's also $0.99. It works nicely, and it looks good, but there should be free ones soon. You should wait. [iTunes]
Wait for a free calculator app.
Facebook isn't showing signs of letting up anytime soon, and even if you're currently in your personal Facebook Backlash stage, as I am, the idea of dumping all your Facebook friends into the Contacts app on your new iPad isn't a bad one. Sadly, ContactPad is not the app to do it. The $3 app offers a list of all your Facebook friends, in no discernible order, which you're forced to peck through one at a time to dump into contacts. I don't know if it's a function of my friends' privacy settings or what, but for most of the friends I checked out, the only syncable options were Image and Facebook URL, so the contact the app created was basically a thumbnail shot of my friend with a link to their Facebook page. And that's not saving anyone any time, now is it. [iTunes]
The idea of pumping up your Contacts with Facebook friends isn't exceptionally exciting to begin with, but ContactPad makes it downright annoying.
iPDF (Free Version)
iPDF is a free PDF reader. In theory, it should be great! In practice, it's entirely useless. That's because the only way to load PDFs into it is by using its built-in PDF search engine. If you have, you know, specific PDF files you want to read, there's no way to open them up. What's the point? [iTunes]
Doesn't let you load up your own PDFs, just PDFs found via its built-in web search