The Best iPad Utility Apps

How to Get More Out of Your iPad

There's more to the iPad than just playing games, watching movies, writing email and browsing Facebook.  There may not be anything quite as fun as using the iPad for those things, but there's certainly a more productive side to the iPad.  These apps provide more of a utility than outright productivity, so we'll save the word processors and spreadsheets for our list of office apps.   But while it is great that we can get Microsoft Office for the iPad now, the ability to scan documents and put sticky notes on our iPad might be just as important.  

1
Dropbox

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Getty Images / Harry Sieplinga

Cloud storage is the easiest way to expand storage on your iPad.  Instead of saving files, documents, photos and videos locally to your iPad where they'll take up valuable real estate, you can save them to Dropbox.  

The best part about using services like Dropbox is having the files available on all of your devices, even your laptop.  Because the file is saved on a remote server, you can get at it from any device with an Internet connection.  

Cloud storage also provides values as a way to backup your most precious documents like your family photos.  Even if you iPad gets run over by a truck, anything you save on Dropbox will be safe.  

Dropbox is just one of many cloud storage options.  You can also use Google Drive, Box.net and Microsoft OneDrive. 

2
Skype

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Tim Robberts/Taxi/Getty Images

It's hard to argue with placing cheap phone calls on your iPad. Skype offers free Skype-to-Skype calls, a pay-as-you-go model with calls as cheap as 2.3 cents a minute and a subscription mode as cheap as $4.49 a month that allows unlimited calls to the U.S. and Canada. (Exact prices may change at Skype's discretion.)

The Skype app will remember your most recent calls and allow you to tag your contact list to make it easy to search. The app works over Wi-Fi and 4G, and along with cheap calls, you can do instant messaging and add emoticons to your messages.

Why use Skype over FaceTime?  While FaceTime is great for placing calls to iPhone and iPad users, Skype works on any platform so that Android-loving friend doesn't have to be left out.  

3
Photon Flash Browser

Photon Flash Player allows you to play Flash games on the web.

One of the biggest perceived shortcomings of the iPad is the inability to play Flash.  Steve Jobs famously wrote a whitepaper explaining the decision not to support Adobe Flash on the iPad or iPhone.  Among the reasons were battery power and Flash crashing the device.   

But what if you really need Flash support?  Whether you need to load a website that runs Flash or you want to play a Flash-based game on the web, you won't be able to do it on the iPad's Safari browser.  But you can run Flash using the Photon Browser. 

The Photon Browser loads the website remotely and then streams it to your iPad in a way that the iPad understands.  This lets the remote server interpret the Flash and essentially translate it to your iPad.  And it not only works with video, you can also play games using it. 

4
Scanner Pro

Whether you need a scanner on a regular basis or just on rare occasions, Scanner Pro is a great bargain.   There are a bunch of apps that can scan documents, and most of them do the heavy lifting for you by automatically snapping the photo when the document comes into focus and clipping out the non-document region of the image.  Scanner Pro is the best of the bunch, utilizing cloud storage services like Dropbox to store your scanned documents, converting scanned documents into text and providing sign-and-scan capability to your iPad.

5
Adblock Plus

Did you know the iPad can now block unwanted advertisements on web pages?  This can actually work to speed up your Safari browser.  When the page bypasses loading all of the extra advertisements, it pops up lightning quick.   Adblock Plus is one of the better ad blockers available for the iPad.  And best of all, it is one of the few free ones.

You will need to tweak your iPad's settings to install ad-blocking software, but it is an easy fix.  

6
Swype Keyboard

 I have friends that refused to get an iPhone for the longest because they wanted access to the Swype keyboard.  If you haven't heard about Swype, it is an on-screen keyboard that allows you to draw the shape of the word rather than tap each letter.  And while that may sound complicated, it is amazing just how easy it makes it to type on a touchscreen.  You simply touch the first letter of the word and drag your finger from letter to letter without lifting it.  

Similar to the ad blocker, you will need to set up the keyboard in settings.  Once you have it downloaded and set up, you can easily switch between the regular on-screen keyboard, the emotion keyboard and third-party keyboards like Swype.  

7
Kalkulilo Scientific Calculator

There are a lot of calculator apps on the app store. On a scale of 1 to 10, this one goes to 11. It'll not only do your standard multiplication, division, addition and subtraction, but you can use it for scientific functions, statistical functions like variance and standard evaluation, and even some programming functions like calculating logical operators. Truly a calculator fit for Nigel Tufnel.

8
Clock Pro HD

About the only time-keeping this clock won't do is keep track of time underwater. Clock Pro not only has a standard analog and digital clock setting, but it will let you time a quick nap or how long the rice should be on the stove. It also has a stop watch, a chess clock and the ability to find out when sunrise and sunset will come for your specific location. It even has a metronome, so if you are musician, you can use it for keeping track of the beat.

9
Sticky

If you love sticky notes as much as I love sticky notes, Sticky is a must-have download.  Sticky isn't the most fancy app on the app store.  In some respects, its actually rather plain.  Which is why it is great.  We don't need a lot of bells and whistles to go along with our sticky note.  That's the entire point of the sticky note!

Sticky allows you to create a quick note out of text, stick a photograph to your digital notepad or even pin a web page.  This makes it a good all-around solution without going over the top.  Best of all, because bombard you with bells and whistles, it is very easy to use.  

10
Air Display

Have you ever wanted to add a second display to your iMac or MacBook but didn't want to shell out over $200? Now you can get one for just $15. AirDisplay acts as a second monitor for your Mac, allowing you to extend the desktop to your iPad's display.

But the cool part is that the iPad doesn't lose its touch controls. You can use the touch screen controls to manipulate the applications running on you Mac, like punching in the numbers for a calculator or drawing inside of a photo editing app.

AirDisplay may not be the best solution for playing a game or watching video, but most normal apps will work great with it.

11
Wi-Fi Map

Another great utility, the Wi-Fi Map will find the closest Wi-Fi hotspots to your location. This makes it a great utility for vacations or work trips, allowing you to scan near your hotel to find a coffee shot or Internet cafe where you can park for a while and go for a nice stroll on the information super highway. Wi-Fi Map also tracks passwords, so you don't need to check with the shop to get the password when you need a quick connection.

12
PrintCentral

If you are planning to use your iPad for work, you'll probably want the ability to print from it. Most newer printers support AirPrint, but if you have a wireless printer that doesn't happen to support AirPrint, PrintCentral may be able to save you the cost of a new AirPrint-capable printer.  

PrintCentral can also print to wired printers and non-compatible wireless printers by using your PC or Mac as a go-between.  It can also convert files like spreadsheets and web pages to PDF format for easier printing and print from cloud storage.

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