Go Pro: the best 25 iPad apps to help you work
With the advent of the iPad Pro and agreements with IBM and Cisco, iPads have recently boosted their credentials as serious work tools that can replace your laptop. They have larger screens, professional-style keyboards and the ability to work on more than one thing at once, thanks to split-screen functionality. Our Technology Editor looks at 25 specialist work apps that make the iPad a valuable business tool.
1. Liquidtext (free)
This is one of the most useful work apps I've come across in a long time. It's particularly handy if you're researching a topic and need to gather snippets of documents or web pages in one place. Liquidtext lets you import almost any kind of document or web page and then clip text snippets or paragraphs to a clipboard on the other side of the screen. It's important to say that this is text, not pictures of text (from a web page). This means it's fully editable later on. You just highlight the text and then drag it over with your finger. You can then attached the snippets together or simply keep collecting them. Some really nice touches include a reference tool that reminds you which part of the document you snipped from.
You can also 'pinch' the document to bring together the highlighted quotes or paragraphs. Finally, you can share (or export) the paragraphs to online services or email.
An in-app €10 purchase lets you work off multiple documents or web pages at the same time.
2. Adobe Acrobat reader (free)
This is one of the apps that, for me, has been transformed by the advent of the iPad Pro. Acrobat Reader works flawlessly with Apple's Pencil, which means that you now have a fully-functional digital document tool when you go into meetings. You can pretty much save any document into a PDF. Once you do, just open the document in Acrobat Reader and you can then highlight text, scribble notes or draw things on the documents. The reason this is so useful is that the Irish business landscape is littered with PDFs. From Revenue guides to tender documents, there's no escaping them. To be sure, there are plenty of 'pro' PDF apps that give a little extra functionality, but I'd try this one before investing in any of the others.
3. Scanner Pro 7 (€3.99)
There are scanner apps and there are photo-to-text-translator (also called Optical Character Recognition, or OCR) apps. But this one does both in one neat app. It turns your iPad's camera into a scanner by capturing a high-resolution image that can then be mailed, merged or tinkered with in a range of other ways as a PDF document. But the OCR bit of it also translates any text in the camera's photo into editable text: just take a snap of a page of text and Scanner Pro does a reasonable job of turning that into text you can work with.
4. Splashtop 2 remote desktop (free)
Ever get caught on the road thinking: "dammit, I never transferred those files from the office PC"? This app lets you call up your office computer in front of you on the iPad. Granted, you have to have permission to run Splashtop on your work PC in the first place, so it mightn't suit every office worker reading this.
But sometimes there's no substitute for your work PC. It could be a file or a document you think you left on the desktop. Or it could be something within an application there.
5. Evernote (free)
The original hit note-taking app is optimised for the iPad Pro, which gives it an edge over many rivals. This means that you can use Apple's Pencil to annotate, doodle or otherwise add to notes. For those new to Evernote, it works right across almost every type of device, meaning that you can access all of your notes, memos and documents (from years back, too) on any gadget you like. It also allows voice notes and images. If you find you're using Evernote a lot, it's well worth downloading Evernote Scannable (a free, separate app), which scans documents and sends them right into Evernote.
6. Vizable (free)
If you want to present tables or charts and can't be bothered ploughing through general presentation apps, Vizable is a great choice. It's built primarily for iPads and it lets you import numbers from all sorts of sources to make an easily-digestible chart of graph. Once made, you can pinch, pull or slide through bits of the graph, as well as sharing chunks of it online or over email.
7. iAuditor (free with in-app purchases)
If you need the digital equivalent of a clipboard checklist, this is a good iPad app. It basically lets you build a checklist form quickly. It can be simple or complicated, branching out into different sub-categories. You can write your own template or use one of over 50,000 it has stored as guidance. And the forms can be shared easily. Very useful for anyone in an inspectorate role.
8. Cisco WebEx Meetings (free)
If you're looking for high-class video conferencing, this is probably the best you can get. As well as top-class audio visuals, it allows you to transfer other items - such as documents - among participants as you speak. It's free to download and free to join a meeting. The only thing is that whoever hosts the Webex meeting has to have an account and that's pricey.
9. GoToMeeting (free)
This offers a similar high level of functionality as WebEx and is based on the same commercial principle - it's free to join a meeting but you have to be a paying subscriber to set one up. It's excellent for sharing and reviewing documents as you conference, though. You can upload all sorts of files (including spreadsheets, presentations or word documents) and look at them together as you talk online.
10. Dropbox (free with in-app subscriptions)
There are so many cloud-sharing services to choose from. But Dropbox is still one of the best choices, partially because it's used as a default sharing option by so many other services. Just like rivals, it allows you to upload, download or access documents, photos or other files across lots of devices. Just download the app, sign in and it feels like you're accessing the files on your own iPad. It's handy if you want to give lots of people access to a collection of large files without having to email them. You get an initial 2GB of free space, which rapidly expands as you perform basic tasks. A 'pro' account, with 1,000GB of storage, costs €10 per month or €100 per year.
11. Box (free with in-app subscriptions)
If you need slightly more business-focused functionality than Dropbox, Box is a good choice. With an initial 10GB of space (you pay a monthly or annual subscription for more), it's a well-made, efficient online storage and sharing facility with way more features than most of its rivals. For example, you can search within files stored there, including PDFs, Excel and Word documents. Also, it shines when dealing with exotic file types - over 100 are supported.
12. Hangouts (free)
If you fancy holding impromptu video conferences but don't want or need the fancy effects or resolution of the likes of Cisco's Webex, Google's Hangouts is an excellent option. You can include up to 10 people in a conferencing session (voice or video) and you can also dial in people on ordinary phones if you want (although you'll pay a network charge for that). You also have a limited ability to attach or display files, such as jpegs. You can even kick users out of conversations if you want control the flow better.
13. Roambi Analytics (free)
The world seems to be run by charts and graphs these days. And this app does a pretty good job of translating data you have stuck in services like Excel or Google Spreadsheets into easily digestible charts. In a nutshell, it reorganises 'enterprise data' (sales, inventories, accounts and other items) from a range of sources into one really concise view. Being described as 'the Flipboard of enterprise data' is not exaggeration. The app is free for a 'lite', single-person license and €20 per month for enterprise users.
14. Skitch (free)
This is one of the longest-standing, most useful 'marking' apps around. It lets you scribble and make notes on most types of document. It also gives nice little arrows to play with so you can highlight important parts of the document things. It's fast, accessible and particularly effective on the larger screens of tablets.
15 - 18. Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft OneNote, Microsoft Outlook (free with in-app subscriptions)
I'm not normally a fan of Microsoft cloud apps with their conflicted personalities, endless logins and old-fashioned, tethered backend IT sensitivities. But these apps are worth downloading because they've been upgraded for working on iPads and, in particular, the iPad Pro. This not only means that they can be used in split-screen scenarios, it also sees them embracing Apple's Pencil. For example, PowerPoint lets you use the Pencil when designing slides, while OneNote and Word now let you use Apple's stylus in an enhanced way too. Even Excel has been upgraded. As for Outlook, you can survive just using Apple's Mail client, as it lets you add an Outlook account. However, the bespoke app gives you a little more flexibility. The only cautionary note is that not much is free - to get value out of it, you'll have to sign up for one of Microsoft's subscriptions.
19. Keynote (€9.99)
If you recently bought an iPad, you may have Keynote pre-installed. For those working off older iPads, it's worth downloading this as a powerful, simple alternative to Powerpoint. Keynote is basically pitched as an idiot-proof way of putting together a good presentation using modern effects, animations, charts, tables, bubbles and images. As an Apple-designed piece of software, this version is built specifically for touchscreen devices, meaning just about everything is touch-friendly. If you use iCloud, it's also easy to access any created presentation from any other iPhone or Mac.
20. Slack (free)
In some businesses, Slack has replaced email as a means of continuous work communication. The app, which can be used across any device and now includes Apple Watch support, basically speeds up messaging and file-sharing between co-workers. Other than its speed and simplicity, its strengths include being able to search for things quickly and integration with lots of other apps out there, including Dropbox, Zendesk and Google Drive. If you get used to this, it's hard to return to email.
21. Join.me (free)
If you want to try hosting a professional online conference session without incurring fees through the likes of WebEx or GoToMeeting, Join.me is an excellent taster. Unlike Google Hangouts (which is also free), it's designed for people who what to share and review documents while talking or conferencing online. There is a 'pro' version you can upgrade to, which gives you a dedicated join.me name, your own background decoration (branding or whatever you want) and the ability to hand over presentation functionality to another conference call participant.
22. Magicplan (free with in-app purchases)
This is one of those 'wow' apps that amaze people when you show it to them. It takes pictures of the room or space around you and then calculates a professional-looking floor plan. The application here is obvious for estate agents, craftsmen or interior designers. But it's also very useful in planning out office expansion. If you want to share a PDF or file of the floorplan, you buy it in-app.
23. Eventbrite Organizer (free)
It seems everyone is organising events these days. But keeping track of who's coming and sales figures is tricky. Eventbrite came up with software some time ago aimed at making this easy. Its iPad app is clear and straightforward, letting you monitor things like attendance and tickets. It even lets you 'scan' people's tickets using the iPad's camera.
24. Moxtra (free)
'Collaboration' apps are a mixed bag. Done right, they can speed work projects up considerably. But they're also a haven for petty details fired into the mix by jobsworths. Moxtra gives a fairly straightforward platform that lets you collect, share and review ideas with a working group of colleagues. It integrates with some heavyweight enterprise work software, including Salesforce and Zendesk.
25. Paper (free)
For creative types, Paper is probably the pre-eminent note-taking and sketching app. Its main appeal is the simplicity with which you can doodle and bring together different notes, photos and sketches. It also works nicely with Apple's Pencil and you share results directly into presentation apps like Keynote or PowerPoint.