My top 10 (ish) iPad apps

At The Unofficial Apple Blog today, I read “The best iOS apps I used in 2010.” It’s a nice enough list, but as an iPad expert (by virtue of the fact that I got one the first day they came out), I thought I’d offer my own thoughts on the top 10-ish apps that I have found myself using in my iPad this year.  Not counting the obvious things like Mail, Safari, iTunes, etc.

  • iAnnotate PDF. As far as my academic-life goes, this app probably ranks positions 1 through 8. Hands-down, this is the app I use for work the most, and it is by far the app that gives my iPad its most important “unique” functionality– that is, this is something that I can’t easily do with a desktop or laptop computer.  Basically, iAnnotate allows me to take PDFs of journal articles, book chapters, or whatever else of the sort I put together for course packs for classes I teach and to annotate them as if they were paper by using a stylus or my finger to highlight, take notes, etc.  So, for example, this last fall term, where I taught classes that involved in total about 40 or so readings from books and journals, I made no photocopies and took all of my reading notes right on iAnnotate.  In my mind, if the iPad did nothing beyond what this software does, it’d be worth it.

    If you are not an academic-type, you might be reading this and thinking “big deal,” but if you are someone who teaches college and who hates dealing with all of these paper copies of articles and such, you probably understand.  I was at a function recently and showing my iPad to a colleague who also teaches at EMU and also to her husband, who is a perfectly smart person who exited academia years ago and who now has a “real job.”  He didn’t see the advantage of iAnnotate, but my colleague who taught seemed to immediately to understand the value of this software.

  • Facebook.  I know it’s not an iPad app, but I use it a lot, probably more on my iPad than on my iPhone.  I wonder when the Face people are going to come out with an iPad version….
  • Reeder for iPad. There are a bunch of different RSS Feed readers for the iPhone and the iPad, but my favorite is Reeder for two basic reasons.  First, it works well with my Google Reader RSS feeds.  Second, it’s very straight-forward and doesn’t have all the unnecessary bells and whistles of readers like the over-hyped Flipboard.
  • WeatherBug. This is a link to the “Elite” version, but the free one works fine for me.  Reliable weather information in a nice to read format.
  • Twitter. I like the iPad app for this quite a bit, actually– I think much better than for the iPhone.
  • Dropbox.  I figured I needed to put this on the list some place, but I don’t actually use this for the iPad so much as iAnnotate uses it:  that is, I upload PDFs to my Dropbox account, and iAnnotate will synch with that to download and then upload again after I annotate the PDFs.  Have I mentioned the pros of iAnnotate yet?
  • IMDB. It’s a really slick interface for the ever-popular and useful Internet Movie Database, even if IMDB has gone kind of “commercial.”
  • (Tie) Kindle and iBooks.  Since I use my iPad mostly for reading stuff, including both of these apps probably isn’t much of a surprise.  I think that the future of electronic textbooks does not mean Kindle or iBook versions of textbooks, but it rather means free-standing apps presented as books.  Still, I like reading trade and/or “fun” books with both Kindle and iBooks.  In my view, the main advantage of iBooks is it is closer to open source with the epub format, and the main advantage of the Kindle is there are probably 10 times more books available.
  • Kayak HD. I don’t use it that much, but the interface for this travel web site is just really slick and user-friendly, more fun to use than it is on a “real computer” for sure.
  • (Tie) Pages and Keynote.  As I have noted previously on this blog someplace, both of these applications ought to be followed by the phrase “lite,” as in “not nearly as good as the ‘real’ app for the computer.”  But I have done some writing and presenting with them, so I’ll include them here.

You will notice that I don’t include any games or such things here, mainly because I don’t play a lot of games.  But okay, if I were to include one or two of those, I’d have to say that Angry Birds is pretty fun, and while PS Express isn’t a game but an image editing software, it has a lot of “game-like” features.  As my friend Chris W. once said, Photoshop is the most fun application on the Mac.

5 thoughts on “My top 10 (ish) iPad apps”

  1. Your list is very close to my list. I tried iAnnotate right away thanks to your recommendation, and it is a lifesaver. The one thing I am not happy with yet is using it for poetry draft comments, and I think buying a good stylus will take care of that. I also use MobileMe instead of Dropbox.

    Flipboard is great, and I also use Submishmash’s app for working with online submissions for Moon City Press And Moon City Review. That is a very specialized use that would only fit a top ten list for journal or book editors using their online submissions system, but I also think that is the iPad’s strength–the ad hype is now nearly true. There really is an app–or several apps– for most things.

  2. I have played around with Evernote a bit with the iPhone, but it doesn’t really fit into the way I do things like “to do” lists, so I never bothered with it for the iPad. I still think Flipboard is mostly about the cool animation/page flipping thing. I don’t think it’s any more useful to actually read RSS feeds than reeder.

    Lanette, try the free version of Dropbox and see what you think. The storage options are enough (I think 4GB) to probably keep track of more than a semester’s worth of PDFs. But I have MobileMe too, and I with there was a way to sync iAnnotate with MobileMe instead of Dropbox. Maybe in the next update.

  3. Steve, there’s at least two solutions I can think of off the top of my head for annotating PDFs on the desktop. (Not a slam on iAnnotate — just pointing out the functionality is not unique.)

  4. Well, what is unique about annotating PDFs with the iPad is I can do the annotations with a stylus or my finger, which is a lot closer to how I generally take notes on my reading. That’s a big difference. Oh, and with iAnnotate, those annotations can be ported back to my computer.

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