The iPad may just be the world’s best way to read the Web on the couch, watch movies on the train, and read in total darkness, but with apps, it also takes on thousands of other uses. There are hundreds of thousands of apps available for the iPad. To try them all, you would need to dedicate your life to the project. Which is where we come in. We’ve sifted through the debris, weeded out the duds and plucked out the gems to bring you this list of the best iPad apps available.
Multiple writers have contributed to this article.
GoodReader for iPad ($5)
This mature app can handle all sorts of text files, but it made its name as a PDF reader. You can annotate PDFs, write notes on them, and even draw freehand over the top. It also allows you to organize your files and send them wherever you choose. You’ll find a full range of syncing options, from Dropbox to Google Drive and beyond. It has been updated several times over the last couple of years, so it’s robust, reliable, and packed with an incomparable range of features.
This is the app that iPad wielding, YouTube addicts have been waiting for. You’ve got all the standard features for searching YouTube, watching content, and accessing your account, but there are also some handy advanced features. You can download as much content as you want, organize it into files and folders, create playlists, and then stream it to another device via Wi-Fi. The app has a lot of useful features from background playback to picture quality selection.
Learn World Geography (Free)
Have you ever embarrassed yourself by being unable to answer a simple geography question? How would you like to have encyclopedic knowledge of the location, capitals, flags, and currencies of the world’s nations? With Learn World Geography, you can. The app is a series of flash cards backed by a “scientifically optimized algorithm.” You can measure your progress as you go and you’ll find the information sticking surprisingly quickly. This is a good educational app for the whole family.
Whether you’re an armchair football coach, you want to inspire your Little League team, or you need a tool to show your basketball team where they’re going wrong, CoachNote has got you covered. This app is all about creating drills, strategies, and winning tactics for all kinds of sports. You can easily sync notes with PC or Mac; you can output to a TV or projector for sessions; you can even animate plays. Rank amateurs, aspiring coaches, and pros will all appreciate this app.
If you like to blog then Blogsy will make your life easier. It’s a well-designed tool that makes creating blog posts on your iPad a breeze. It cuts out the need to jump between services and uploading content; you can just drag photos, videos, and links directly into your blog posts. It also has styling tools and tags. In fact, it gives you full access to all the standard blogging settings including HTML editing should you feel the need. There’s support for all the major platforms from WordPress to Drupal and also services like YouTube and Instagram.
There are a lot of news aggregators out there, but the sheer scale of News360 is impressive. You have access to over 20,000 different news sources. You can also personalize the feed. In fact, the app aims to curate content for you automatically by plugging into your social media accounts and taking a look at what interests you. You can find out more in our News360 write up.
Boxfish Live Guide (Free)
We covered the second screen app, Boxfish, and found it to be an interesting idea with a lot of potential. It promises to be the perfect TV companion, allowing you to search for TV content in real-time and doubling up as a remote to switch you directly to it. This is trending and personalized content from the realm of TV and, in theory at least, you can customize it to serve up your preferred televisual treats. It’s early days right now, but this could be a great app.
Marvel, DC, and many more publishers are offering their wares in the Comics app. In addition to all of the classics and premium new releases, from The Watchmen to Batman, you’ll find over 700 free comics. There’s a wealth of choice and the iPad screen really does them all justice. It’s the right size to recreate that authentic comic book feel. For comic book fans, this is the one to get.
Kindles are great readers for almost any book you can imagine, but when it comes to magazines, that E-Ink display just isn’t going to cut it. Get beautiful color displays of your favorite magazines on your iPad with the Zinio reader app. Users can purchase single issues or subscriptions from popular magazines like Rolling Stone, Esquire, ESPN, Elle, and Spin. An enhanced text mode makes reading small type a breeze, and users can share articles through social media for free.
The NPR iPad app is a must-have for users looking for the latest in music, arts, and news. The app has a clean and simple design that features three horizontal (scrollable) rows to bring you the most recent articles and audio in each section. Users can listen to one of thousands of audio feeds or playlists, which will launch in a player at the bottom of the screen. While listening, users can freely roam the rest of the NPR app and adjust playback from the small audio player.
Like Wikipanion, this free app is simply an enhanced and iPad-friendly version of the popular Website, but it’s worth downloading if you’re a movie fan. The app has a clean layout that nicely showcases sections on celebrity and movie news, what’s hot at the box office, and TV listings. Users can watch movie trailers, find local showtimes, and look up filmography of their favorite actors. Because IMDB has the world’s largest collection of movie, TV, and celebrity info, this app will always come in handy when you’re searching for the name of that actor or can’t remember what year that movie came out.
Those with an already-present addiction to StumpleUpon will appreciate this iPad app, and those unfamiliar with the site will be surprised by its ability to find the coolest things on the web and put them all in one place. Simply select general topics that you are interested in (food, fitness, travel, design, etc.) and StumbleUpon will go forth and gather the latest, most-buzzed-about goodies and articles for your reading and viewing pleasure.
It may be one of the most hyped iPad apps to date, but you’ll likely consider it justifiable after setting up all the features. Flipboard arranges content from the places you frequent online – news sites, social media sites, photo sites – and intelligently collates them into a “social magazine.” Like a real magazine, it’s heavy on photos and slick design, but with content specifically catered to you. Not bad for a news stand price of zero dollars.
If you are a news junkie or just want the latest news and video, the CNN app is a must-have. The app can be viewed in an attractive magazine-style format with a mosaic of photos with text, a headline list view, or a large photo-only view that will take you to the accompanying stories. The layout shows you what’s important fast, and other features like live video, an hourly update, and videos to go with most stories make this app a go-to for quick and accurate news.
Can’t find what you need in Apple’s iBooks store? Amazon has you covered. The Kindle app essentially gives iPad owners the keys to the entire library that Kindle owners can access, meaning both more books and real price competition. The browsing feature isn’t overly impressive – it’s basically a portal to Amazon.com with one-click book purchases – but it gets the job done, and the reader works as well as you could ask for.
If you’re going to have one free reader app on your iPad, Pulse ought to be it. Using a magazine style interface with photo and headline thumbnails for each story, users can customize several pages of sources from categories like news, lifestyle, entertainment, technology, and Business. Every source we could possibly think of is available, and users can custom-configure and organize their own category pages. Some sources require that you go to the actual website to read a full article, but others offer up-to-date full article with one click.
If you’ve ever wanted a faster and easier way to look up all kinds of information and factoids on your iPad (without using your browser), it’s now available for free in the form of Wikipanion. A mobile version of the ever-popular Website, this app gives users a quick and user-friendly way to look up just about anything. The app also has features like in-page searching, audio pronunciation, history, and bookmarking. A left-hand sidebar helps with navigating, and locations can even be found on a corresponding digital map.
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