Note: Our top business apps for iPad round-up has been fully updated. This feature was first published in July 2012.
Some people think of the iPad as something of a toy – a basic computing slab suitable for little more than lounging on the sofa poking around at Facebook and Candy Crush. But those people would be wrong.
A large list of critical business functions, like email, messaging and many administration tasks can be performed on the iPad with only its default apps. Add in a thing or two from the App Store and your iPad can become even more powerful.
We’ve trawled the deepest recesses of the store to highlight our current top 10 business apps for Apple’s tablet, whether you’ve got a vanilla iPad or one of the Pro models. This is a collection of software which can make a real difference to your efficiency, improve your relations with customers and clients, not to mention helping you out creatively.
Try a few of them out and you might just find your iPad becoming your go-to office tool. Not that we won’t permit a little bit of Candy Crush in your downtime, of course…
Price: Free/£7.99 ($9.99) each
This entry actually covers three different applications, Apple’s iOS versions of Keynote, Numbers and also Pages, each available for £7.99 ($9.99) or free with post-2013 iPads. If you’re already used to working in the Apple environment, these streamlined tablet versions of its desktop apps will be instantly familiar.
While they’re not quite as well-equipped as their larger desktop counterparts, there’s enough here to keep you working on your essential documents without issues. It’s quite liberating to be able to dance around a spreadsheet with your fingers or generate charts on the fly, and while we’re not keen on typing large documents with the iOS keyboard, a Bluetooth keyboard is the perfect accompaniment to Pages.
Keynote could be particularly useful if you’re equipped with slightly more kit – pair it with an iPad VGA adapter and you’ll be able to hook your tablet straight up to a projector, and if you’re lucky enough to have an Apple Watch on your wrist its (simplistic) app is perfect for subtly advancing slides or activating animations.
Price: Free/£1.59 ($1.99) per month for 100GB
The ying to iWork’s yang, Google’s online office suite (and storage locker) is well-suited to anyone already integrated with its ecosystem, which we’d have to presume is a vast majority of its potential users. Everything you create is auto-saved to Google Drive’s cloud storage, and the iOS specific apps – Docs for word processing, Sheets for spreadsheets and Slides for presentations – support all the major formats. Once you’re finished with something, you can instantly share it with anyone just by sending them the appropriate link.
We love the collaborative element of Google’s apps, which means several team members can access and work on the same document simultaneously, but the real key here is that you can also work offline, so if you’re travelling somewhere without an internet connection you won’t lose valuable work time. Everything’s saved automatically as you work and synchronised with Google’s servers when you next connect online.
Genius Scan+ PDF Scanner
Price: £4.99 ($6.99)
This is a fantastic idea on the face of it. Take pictures of documents with your iPad’s camera, and Genius Scan will turn them into PDFs. In practice, it’s just as effective as that simple explanation suggests. Once you’ve snapped a document, Genius Scan attempts to draw a frame around it, which you can tweak if it’s not quite bang on. Scan the document, and Genius Scan applies a transform to your photo, flattening it out and allowing you to export it as a PDF or JPG.
This is perfect for sending signed contracts on the fly, particularly if you’re not near an actual hardware scanner, and it’s a great idea for cataloguing receipts for later expense claims without having to carry an overflowing wallet.
In fact, if you’re looking to reduce any stacks of paper in your office, Genius Scan’s batch scanning function could be the perfect tool – just import all that paper, process it as you go, and have it sent right to Dropbox or OneDrive. You can even protect your PDFs for extra security.
Price: Free/$49 (£35) per year
Efficient projects are well-organised projects, and keeping all the information you need in one place is paramount. There’s a reason so many diligent individuals rely on Evernote to manage their information streams – it’s a great place to store everything from written notes to photos and web content.
Integrated sharing options and Evernote’s group notebooks make team collaboration easy, and it’s all entirely platform-agnostic, so anything you do on your iPad will automatically be reflected anywhere else you have access to the service.
We’d definitely recommend plumping for the $49 (£35) annual subscription option – you’ll get 10GB of uploads per month as opposed to the free version’s paltry 60MB, synchronisation to unlimited devices, the ability to attach and search PDFs and Office documents, and PDF annotation tools which come in handy more often than you might think. Once you’ve integrated Evernote into your workflow, you’ll never turn back – especially as rival services like Google Keep don’t even come close.
In the spirit of saving paper and reducing the number of things you have to lug around in your bag, here’s awesome note-taking app Penultimate. It gives you access to beautifully rendered and smooth inks, which make your quickly-jotted notes look amazing, and you get a host of papers to use them on (with more available through in-app purchases).
As the name implies, it’s best used with a stylus – owner Evernote naturally recommends its own Jot Script Bluetooth stylus (£45/$45) – mainly because scribbling notes with your index finger both gives comparatively poor results and looks ridiculous.
Highly useful for taking notes in meetings or for collaborative planning exercises, Penultimate is packed with features that integrate with Evernote. As long as you don’t have handwriting like a cross-eyed GP, Evernote will attempt to interpret your scrawls and make your notes searchable, and you can quickly and easily catalogue them in folders, meaning all of your projects will stay well-organised.
Price: £11.99 ($15.99)
Apple’s preinstalled and staunchly non-removable Stocks app is a bone of contention for some because they don’t need it, and for others because it’s not quite up to the task. Replace it with the beautiful and clean Stocks Tracker app (then spend the £11.99/$15.99 on the full version upgrade) and you’ll see just what you’re missing.
It puts real-time quotes on US stocks at your fingertips, with support for just about every worldwide exchange. You can make the most of its highly customisable graphs and views to create your own personal stocks frontend, and use its custom push notifications to keep a close an eye on your portfolio.
While its abilities to track historical earnings and offer buy/sell indicators are undoubtedly useful, you might find even more inspiration in the integrated social feed, where other traders discuss the stock they find interesting and what they’re doing with it.
Price: £7.99 ($9.99)
Every business has a host of systems, and usually these aren’t interconnected, meaning you’ll need to remember a bunch of logins and passwords for every single one. Forget that. 1Password lets you manage all of your access credentials on your iPad, and it even integrates with Touch ID and a master password to ensure that you’re the only one who can gain access to your password vault.
You can use it with many online services to make your accounts more secure – not having to remember a password means it can literally be a random jumble of characters and punctuation, something 1Password can generate for you. And the app can even automatically update your accounts with new info to avoid duplicates or insecure logins.
Everything is 256-bit AES encrypted to ensure you’re fully secure, and the iOS app also supports 1Password for Teams, a specific version of the system with differing access levels allowing a central manager to control who can see what.
Price: £2.29 ($2.99)
Making the most of the recently implemented Extensions feature in iOS, Workflow essentially allows you to create your own mini apps using the features of others you have installed. Think of it as analogous to Automator for the Mac: if there’s a task you’re forever doing, you can create yourself a quick macro to get it done in a single tap.
Workflow also features IFTTT integration, meaning the app can extend its abilities beyond your iOS device and through to anything you use online. With 150 actions built in – think things like ‘Select phone number’ or ‘get upcoming calendar events’ – you’re sure to be able to come up with creative ways to use it, and this software is user-friendly enough that even more complex activities are reasonably straightforward to set up.
When you’re done, you can run your workflows in the app, or add a shortcut to your home screen for quick access.
Annotations are very important. If you’re not clear with your clients and contacts, your meaning can get lost, so make sure you’ve got a tool which can clarify your message with ease. Skitch (another app from the Evernote stable) is perfect: you can take snaps from your camera roll, add quick annotations and mark-ups, and send them on with ease. Do it with screenshots and you can make maps more useful, ensuring everyone ends up where they’re supposed to be.
Plump for the $1.49 (£1.49) add-on and Skitch will also enable you to add your own highlighting to PDF files, pointing out important passages with a couple of swipes. It’s worth pointing out that you don’t have to rely on the camera roll – you can take pictures in Skitch and annotate them immediately before sharing them via email, social or any number of other methods.
Price: £7.99 ($9.99)
Putting your ideas down on paper in a mind map is a great way to turn them from ideas into reality – or at least sift out the crazy stuff from the concepts that might work. Fire up MindNode on an iPad in the middle of a meeting room and you and your colleagues can get to work straight away. The canvas expands, so no matter how many ideas you need to get down, you’ll fit them on.
Add connections, stick on a few photos and before you know it you’ll have a solid plan. When you later come to revisit and revise, you can shut off entire branches to ensure the focus stays on what’s important, then turn individual nodes into tasks when it’s time to make the plan into a reality.
There’s a huge list of export formats, so no matter what your backend supports you’ll be able to export your mind maps and use them later on.