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iPad in-depth: portable productivity

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Don't believe the rumours -- you can be creative on the iPad. There are several apps that let you edit photos (Photopad, free), paint pictures (Brushes, $7.99 or Draw Pro HD, free), bang on a piano (Magic Piano, $0.99), create music (Vultus, $5.99, Beatsequencer, $9.99) and learn to be a Guitar God (iLead, $2.99).

Even if your creativity is more of the button-down type, your iPad is still your friend. There are brainstorming, mindmapping and collaboration apps galore available. Mindmash and Jot! both allow you to combine text, photos and sketches and both are free. Poplet ($6.99) costs more but gives you more options. Mindmapping apps include Mindmeister ($7.99) and Mind Node ($5.99). Even venerable Adobe has released an app, Adobe Ideas (free), that lets you overlay text and drawings on images from your photo library.

Take a Letter

If Mad Men makes you nostalgic for the days of dictating letters to stenographers, give Dragon Dictation (free) a try. Dictation uses the iPad's built-in microphone to record and transcribe your creative musings. Its results are sometimes amusing, but for a free app, it does an impressive job. There are many other recording apps as well, such as the free Recorder HD, which allows you to either email your sound files or transfer them to another computer using iTunes.

Recorder HD uses the iPad's built-in microphone to let you record interviews, confessions or the nice things people are saying about your iPad.


There are two database programs of note available for the iPad, Bento and Filemaker Go. Bento ($4.99) has the same slick appearance as its desktop (Mac only) namesake, while Filemaker Go ($39.99) promises the same functionality as its desktop counterpart including the ability to remotely access web-based databases.


There are a number of tools to help you manage websites on the iPad. Wordpress (free) lets you create new posts, delete old ones and otherwise manage your Wordpress blog. FTP On the Go ($6.99, $9.99 for the pro edition) enables file uploading, transferring and deletion. The oddly named Gusto ($6.99) organizes your websites as projects, and includes file editing functionality.


If you like lists, there are numerous "to-do" and other list apps for the iPad. I use Zenbe Lists ($2.99) because of the ease of syncing with its web-based and iPhone based counterparts, but you can spend anything from nothing (lots of free list and to-do apps out there) to $19.99 for the highly rated Things.

There are fewer calendar apps available for the iPad, perhaps because the built-in Calendar looks so good. But I can recommend Informant HD ($6.99) if you want more functionality. Informant HD integrates a to-do list and contact manager and also includes Google Calendar syncing. It's also more intuitive and better looking than Calendar.

This and That

Two other apps to mention: Evernote (free) and Print Magic ( $7.99). Evernote lets you write notes, take photos and record audio and then organize your notes by category and keyword. It syncs automatically with a free web account and an Evernote desktop program. Print Magic gets around the iPad's lack of a USB port and sends your documents to a printer connected to your wifi network.

There are many more useful apps out there, and new ones pop up every day. But that'll give you a taste for what's available, and put a lie to the myth that the iPad is just a passive entertainment device. Next time I'll look at some less button-down apps.

Postscript: While I was able to compose this entry on my iPad, uploading it to the Observer was more of a challenge. Eventually, I had to copy the text, paste it into Simplenote, sync with the web, open my laptop and sync Justnotes, copy the synced text and then upload it from my laptop to the Observer website. A bit of a chore, but eventually, it worked. 

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