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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

9 Best iPad Apps

Still on the fence about getting that iPad? I've already made several in-depth reviews on what you can actually do with an iPad. (lotsa short videos to be found there too).
This time, we will be looking at some of my Favorite Applications on the enigmatic, yet fast-selling device.

Here is what I consider to be the Top Essential iPad Apps, in no particular order:

1. iBooks/Kindle - As I have mentioned in my review, Reading on the iPad is such a joy, in fact one of its best attractions. 
The native app (iBooks) works well, the user interface literally feels like you are reading a book and you have a lot of options as well, like bookmarking, searching, dictionary, and even encyclopedia features built-in.  The accompanying iBook Store is also easy to use. 

But I decided to add Kindle into the list as a tie because the Amazon app (who came first, by the way) still refuses to go down without a fight. Yes, Kindle as a gadget looks  like an "obsolete model" versus the iPad, good thing you can still have the best of both worlds by downloading the Kindle as an App for the iPad. Although it's still nothing fancy, it's saving grace comes from the fact that Amazon's Kindle bookstore choices vastly outnumbers the selection found in the iBookstore. If you enjoy reading, have both Apps handy on your iPad, they're both free anyway from the App store

2. CloudReaders - There are a few dedicated comic readers in the App store, but the highest rated among them are all paid apps. CloudReaders is a free App that allows the user to read Comics in their iPad by way of CBR or CBZ file extensions, which most comics online are saved as anyway. The reading functionality is just as you would expect, with pinch to zoom, flicking, fit-to-page, and page memory features (when you open a book, it will remain on the last page you viewed). The browsing speed is very fast and steady, I have had no problems leafing through trade paperbacks with 100's of pages. The application also has a handy feature that allows dragging and dropping of files via the iTunes sync screen (under "Applications" tab). CloudReaders can also read directly from ZIP or RAR files, so if the pages are compressed into one of those, no need to worry. If that wasn't enough, the App also supports PDF formats, so it can even be a competitor for iBooks or even a handy magazine reader. I wish it would add Folder categories in the future so I could sort my comics from the books, but for now it works great at the great price of Free.

3. Evernote - Already one of my top Android Apps, Evernote is a must have for note-taking people. I've also made a comprehensive review of Evernote here. This application really works well through note synchronization, and it gets exponentially better the more devices you have running it. Why? Evernote allows you to share your notes (reminders, URL's, to-do's, etc.) across all of your devices that have it installed. It doesn't matter which one you have with you, Evernote will save and sync all of your notes, written from all of your devices into a single cloud storage, where it can be accessible by any and all of them, as long as Evernote is installed and you have a network connection. 
It's free from the App store.

4. IM+ - Chances are, you have an Instant Messenger account. Everybody has one or two (or ten) nowadays. Whether it's Yahoo messenger, Google Talk, MSN chat, or even the Facebook chat, everybody has a way to stay connected with short online message conversations. On the iPad, there are a few choices available to maintain your instant messaging, but for me, I use the IM+ App. It's available in a free "Lite" edition or a US$10 edition, but for the long time I've used it, I never found a reason to upgrade to the paid app. The Lite version is already plenty useful to keep me connected with all of my accounts, in just one application. It also has some nice customization options on your status, and which accounts you will keep open. It stays "awake" in the background, ready to inform you of new messages....as long as your iPad remains online (and you can find out how to do that here).

5. QuickOffice - If you've gotten an iPad, productivity is certainly something that you consider important. Lord knows...you need a job to be able to pay Apple's high prices nowadays!...Anyway, Kidding aside...If you have a Job or a Business, or even if you are in University, you probably need to work with Microsoft Office documents.
Word, Powerpoint, or Excel: They are staples in the world of productivity.
With the QuickOffice App, you can receive or store MS office files into your iPad, and then edit them or create new ones. Don't expect it to function as advanced as MS Office on your PC, it is a streamlined mobile version after all. However, you will be satisfied most of the time with it's capabilities, unless you want hardcore document editing on your iPad (hint: that's unrealistic).
The App doesn't come cheap at US$9.99, and I'm still a bit ticked off that I needed to buy a new one for my iPad when I had already owned the iPhone version previously. But nevertheless, Document productivity is a key concern for quite a few people, and QuickOffice does the job well enough for a mobile device.

6. Reference (Wikipanion/Converter Plus/XE) - Having the iPad around with you all of the time, means having all of your books, comics, magazines, music, videos in one tightly packed device. Why stop there? You can also have all of you reference material along too.
Wikipanion, provides you with a mobile encyclopedia.
Converter Plus, lets you have weight, temperature, distance, etc. unit conversions at all times.
XE, lets you have real-time updating of foreign currency exchanges.
These are 3 handy apps to have around for reference and information guides.
All are free, except for the Converter, which is US$1.99 at the App store.

7. Keeper - A Handy little App that stores your personal and confidential information such as account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, codes, etc. 
Keeper utilizes a password-protection system that allows you to store the data locally on your iPad or you can also sync and restore the data from their server, after a series of security checks. There is also a remote "self-destruct" mode to make sure all your data is deleted, should you ever have the need to do so. Keeper is a free App from the App store, although you could opt to purchase it's accompanying desktop app, which syncs your info across multiple devices, among its other added features.

8. National Geographic World Atlas HD - Knowledge of our Globe is always a good thing. Heck, I even have a 48"x60" World map hanging on my wall in all of its glory.  Having it on the large crisp screen of the iPad is just as good, if not maybe better since you will have the iPad with you when you travel.
If we're going to get a Map why not get an Atlas from a group that has explored the world more than any other: National Geographic. Their App sports several views of the world map, in a beautifully illustrated view, with some info on each country as well as geo-tagging and bookmarking options. The App can be downloaded for US$1.99 on the App Store.

9. Backgrounds HD - Of course, what good would the iPads beautiful and spacious HD screen be without some wallpapers. Backgrounds HD lets you select from a wide variety of HD wallpapers, which you can then set as your lock screen or home screen images. Best of all, this is another free App.

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