There are over 225,000 apps designed just for the iPad, which makes finding the most essential apps for the tablet a bit of a hunt. Let us save you some time with this collection of the best iPad apps to help you get things done, stay connected, enhance your lifestyle, and more.
The Lifehacker Pack is a yearly snapshot of our favourite, must-have applications for each of our favourite platforms. This is the first (but not last) time iPad apps are featured, although many of the apps below have also been highlighted in this year’s Lifehacker Pack for iPhone and iPhone App Directory. This list focuses specifically on apps that really shine on the iPad (eg, no iPhone apps that have to be blown up 2x on the iPad).
Looking for an app in a specific category? Use the links below to jump around.
One of the best uses for the iPad is catching up on the news, and Reeder is an elegant, streamlined app for doing just that. The easy-to-use app syncs with Google Reader, can save or post to a variety of other apps (including Instapaper, Pocket and Twitter), and is also optimised for the new iPad’s retina display. We think spending $5.49 for the feature-packed reader is definitely worth it, though there are also cheaper alternatives like previously mentioned RSS Reader (free to $1.99) and Feedler (free to $5.49) you can try first.
For a more personalised news reading experience, take a look at Zite and News360, which present articles to you in magazine-style layouts and also customise the content based on your interests — actually learning from you based on what you read and like.
I’ve long loved and relied on Zite for finding new stories relevant to my interests, but News360 is starting to take the spotlight as my go-to news discovery app. (News360 was revamped just this week with new features, so its personalisation skills have yet to be tested, but the app does nicely consolidate multiple news sources for the same topics. This means you won’t see the same things multiple times, unlike with the mother of all magazine-style readers, Flipboard). Both are free and worth trying out to see which format and news tailoring you like best.
There are quite a few stellar apps available for saving articles to read later, including Instapaper, Readability, and Pocket (formerly known as Read It Later). Pocket has great video support, is already integrated into a lot of apps (unlike newer Readability), and is free (versus Instapaper’s $4.49 price), so it’s the winner just on those counts. Whenever you find something on the web you want to read later (on any device, whether you have an internet connection or not), it’s a cinch to save it to Pocket.
For the most minimalist note-taking experience on the iPad, look no further than Simplenote (a key component in the holy grail of ubiquitous text capture). The app basically offers a blank slate to type in your notes and add tags, and lets you sync them easily between all your devices via the free Simplenote service. It’s just you and what you need to jot down. (On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you’re craving more features, like note-taking with audio or photos, both the Evernote and Springpad iPad apps are well designed to sync with those note-taking services.)
If you prefer scribbling rather than typing your notes or journal entries, a handwriting notes app like Notability should be in your iPad arsenal. For just $0.99, Notability features retina ink capturing, annotation of PDFs, images, web pages, and other media, audio recording, and even palm rest protection to prevent unwanted marks from your hand. (Previously mentioned Paper by FiftyThree is a gorgeous and free alternative but with fewer features and less intuitive interface — because there are no on-screen buttons, while if you want to go whole-hog with a handwriting note-taking app, the $6.49 Noteshelf is both feature-rich and a joy to use.)
Wunderlist is a great to-do list app for the iPad not just because it’s so well designed and easy to use, but also because it syncs to the web and other platforms. Its multi-platform support, ease of use, and elegant interface are why this free app won our “best to do-app” App Directory awards for Mac OS X and Windows. (But if you prefer a more feature-rich and advanced projects and tasks manager for your iPad, the full-strength OmniFocus will have you covered — for $20.99.)
If you want to work with text or PDF files on your iPad, you’ll likely want GoodReader. This versatile app not only opens a variety of files (include MS Office docs, PDFs, images, audio, and video), it marks up PDF files and can help you organise and transfer your files — think folder creation and zipping, syncing with Dropbox, and more. It’s $US4.99 for this do-it-all PDF and text file tool.
The iPad’s built-in Safari browser is fast and works fine, but if you want more advanced features like full screen viewing or auto form filling, take a look at Atomic Web Browser. Some features, such as page saving, are only available in the $0.99 full version, but the Lite version also offers handy features like searching in-page.
Who says you need to use just one browser? Chrome is still pretty new to the iPad (and iPhone), but if you’re a Chrome user on the desktop, you’ll likely appreciate the same super-simple omnibar here and having all your bookmarks synced. (As an aside, the newest version of Chrome promises tab syncing too across all your devices, but I have yet to see it actually working. You? Despite this failed feature, though, synced bookmarks are nice.)
You are a social person or at least a member of the digital age and therefore you may need an app to help manage your social media feeds. That app on the iPad is MyPad, which connects to your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts in one convenient interface complete with things like push notifications, birthday calendars, and photo uploading.
If all you’re looking for is a dedicated but robust app for your tweets, take a look at Tweetbot. Many Twitter clients on the iPad (including the default one from Twitter) are great, but Tweetbot is a little extra special. The recently revamped app offers multi-account support, push notifications, smart gestures, and a lot more. It’ll run you $US2.99.
Imo is an instant messaging app that connects to every major IM service and is super simple to use. This iPad-designed version supports photo and video sending, group messaging, and even push notifications after you close the app.
Even if you have Google+ on your smartphone, there’s a great reason to download it to your iPad too: Hangouts — wherever you are, on a 10-inch screen. Just this week, Google launched an iPad-friendly update to the universal iOS app with support for full multi-person video conferencing. If you’re a Google+ user, the app is an attractive way to stay in touch.
You have more than a couple of options for remotely accessing your PC or Mac (or Linux desktop) from afar using your iPad, but we’re fans of LogMeIn and Screens in particular. Screens is a VNC client that’s painless to use and setup and even syncs your stored screens across iOS devices and Mac, but it costs $20.99. LogMeIn recently dropped its $30 price tag and is now free to use for controlling your Mac and PC, so you can access your files from afar and remotely troubleshoot computers.
If you want to get the best deals on apps, AppShopper is must-download. The app helps you find newly released apps, plus ones that just went on sale or are offered for free. You can even keep a wish list and get notifications, plus sync your account with the website.
Calculators might not be the most exciting apps to add to your iPad, but because the tablet oddly doesn’t come with one built-in, you’ll probably want to pick up one for any quick maths work you need to do on the go. Calculator Pro for iPad does the job, includes a scientific calculator, and looks nice to boot.
Having access to all your synced online files from the iPad can be a godsend, so we couldn’t leave our favourite online storage tool Dropbox off this Lifehacker Pack. The iPad app lets you mark files for offline viewing, upload photos and videos, and share files with ease. (Because there are quite a few Dropbox alternatives, if you’re using one of those instead or in tandem with Dropbox, definitely download their iPad app as well. SugarSync has a pretty feature-rich iPad app, for example.)
eBooks, Music, Photos, and Video
The Kindle for iPad app offers a clean, minimalist reading experience for alI your Amazon Kindle books (including comics, graphic novels, and children’s books), plus PDFs and other docs you send to yourself. Features like night reading mode and synced bookmarks and notes make the app stand out, even when there are other fine ereader apps on the market, including Apple’s own iBooks and the extensive Stanza.
A bunch of capable photo editing apps are available for the iPad (including Adobe’s own Photoshop Express), but PhotoPad pretty much does it all so you don’t have to look elsewhere. For example, you can rotate images, fill areas with the paint bucket, adjust color/contrast/red eye, apply filters, and more. One thing PhotoPad specialises in is giving you absolute control over image resizing or scaling, so it’s definitely a handy tool for doing what you need with your photos.
Want to do amazing things with your photos? Snapseed’s easy to use creative enhancements turn your pics into dramatic, vintage, grunge-y, tilt-shifted, or other extraordinary works of art. The $5.49 app also features other photo adjustments like rotating and cropping, plus tweaking tools even professional photographers can use. The results really are stunning.
Plex streams music, videos, and photos from your Mac, PC, or Linux directly to the iPad, with no need to convert before viewing. It’s easy to set up, and you can even connect to friends’ shared servers. The app costs $5.49. (Another streaming app definitely worth a look is Air Video, available for free and in a $2.99 version with no folder item display limitations. Air Video is for video streaming only.)
Downcast is Lifehacker’s choice for podcast listening on both the iPhone and iPad. You don’t need to sync your favourite podcasts with iTunes but can instead download them directly in the app (or stream them live). Other features include AirPlay support, gesture support, and lots more. The $US2 is worth it if you listen to a lot of podcasts.
Lifestyle: Food, Fun, and More
Epicurious offers a bountiful array of recipes — that is, over 30,000 from the likes of Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and professional chefs’ cookbooks. Besides browsing for recipes or searching for them, you can save recipes and sync them to your recipe box at Epicurious.com, as well as create shopping lists from them. The full-screen cookbook view makes cooking next to your iPad easy.
ShopStyle is an easy way to find what you’re looking for across over 300 retailers. You can buy clothes (for men or women), shoes, accessories, home items, kids and baby stuff directly from the app or just add them to your list. Handy features like filtering by size, colour, or price and creating sale alerts makes this a great app whether you love shopping or hate it (like I do).
Weather HD is hands down the most gorgeous way to get your weather forecast. (Just click to the download page if you don’t believe me.) Besides the stunning HD video backdrops, Weather HD brings you seven-day and hourly weather forecasts from The Weather Underground. The free version lets you track two cities, but for $US0.99 you can get rid of the ads, unlock special themes, and save more cities.