My Favorite Things: iPad Apps for Productivity

Has it really been almost 7 months?  For as much as I pine for a decent Tablet-style device running the Windows OS (don’t get me started – what’s out there now is either prehistoric or pitiful), my love affair with the iPad started with the sale.  But I digress…. 

Since then, several friends and associates have done the same, and our conversations always trend towards discussing the apps that make the experience.  So, I’ll share the apps that help keep me productive.  Note: I do not use my iPad for work, a decision I made early on to acknowledge a work/life balance.  So while you I don’t use apps for word processing, spreadsheets or presentations, there are still quite a few that keep me viable throughout the day.


Evernote [Free].  As a former Microsoftie, I’ve use Office OneNote since it’s inception.  It’s a great product that is largely unsung in it’s ability to capture and organize information.  But, the learning curve for managing that information efficiently is pretty steep for a tool that’s meant to make life easier.  I tried using the online version, but it just didn’t seem natural and of course isn’t available offline.  That’s when I turned to Evernote, a product I’ve heard about for a while but never had the need to consider.  What I appreciate most is the simplicity in how it organizes notes and the fact that it’s available not just for my iPad but also my WinMo phone and PC.  Syncing is automatic and painless – I frequently will jot down notes during the day and know that I’ll have them on my phone within a minute or so.  Best of all, the free version is feature-rich, with the premium version offering some very compelling options for collaboration, Office doc syncing, etc.

Dropbox [Free].  If you haven’t heard of Dropbox, you’re missing out on one of the best utilities out there for managing files across multiple devices.  Here’s how it works.  You’re given 2Gb of free space “in the cloud” and a folder is created on your PC (called Dropbox, natch).  Any files placed in this folder are synced to your storage area in the Dropbox server farm, using SSL (an encrypted internet channel) for transferring files and AES-256 encryption on their servers.  Additionally, any device you install Dropbox on can now sync those same files locally or easily access them from your cloud storage.  This provides an effective way for sharing files across multiple machines and making them available from the browser.  With 3Gb available on my account, it’s become my primary document storage, enabling me to keep critical files available to me on my iPad for viewing in a pinch.

GoodReader [$1.99]. GoodReader is an app for viewing a myriad of file types on the iPad.  This includes Microsoft Office documents, PDFs, images and probably a lot more than I can remember.  It can become your default viewer app, making it a great companion to your Dropbox account.  It’s one app that I probably use more often than I think about, and definitely worth paying for.

When creating this list, I was surprised to see only 3 apps for productivity.  But again, I don’t see my iPad as a business-critical tool for me.  Not that it couldn’t be – there are some pretty good office productivity apps out there.  But in combination with Mail and the browser, I’m pretty set.

And that brings up the subject of productivity apps on the web.  I use Windows Live, and apart from some tweaking necessary to get the PC experience and not the mobile UI, I’m able to create and edit Word and Excel documents pretty well.  It does require the use of SkyDrive as the repository, which doesn’t hold a candle to Dropbox (yet.  still.), but that’s not necessarily a deal breaker.

Are there any apps I’d like to see?  Yeah, not so much for me, but making the Office 2010 Standard apps available would be an exciting prospect for many.  The idea may seem easy to dismiss, but keep in mind that the audience is probably larger than those using Windows Mobile phones, which have their own Office apps, so….

That’s it.  For those who have iPads, I’m curious to learn what you use, and whether you agree with me on these apps.