All the Things the iPad Can Do

The iPad Pro
Apple Inc.

For some, the main question in buying an iPad is what model to purchase. For others, it is whether or not to buy an iPad at all. If you are in the latter camp, or if you've just bought an iPad and are still exploring the device, it might be handy to find out exactly what the iPad can do for you. This list will go over some of the many uses for the iPad, including ways it can be used for entertainment as well as tasks it can do for business.

Replace Your Laptop (Web, Email, Facebook, Etc.)

The iPad is extremely efficient at fulfilling our most basic computing tasks. This includes looking up information on the web, checking email, and browsing Facebook. You can even connect your iPad to Facebook so that apps you download can connect to the social network and share information with your friends.

The iPad can also perform a lot of the miscellaneous tasks often done on the laptop. You can download a calculator, use the Notes program (which now has the ability to secure a note with your fingerprint), find a good restaurant using ​Yelp, and even use a level app to perfectly hang a picture on the wall. 

Can it really replace your laptop desktop PC? Perhaps. The true answer lies in your personal needs. Some people use proprietary software that is simply not available for the iPad, but as more companies convert their platform to the web, it is becoming easier and easier to break away from Windows. And many people are surprised at just how little they use their PC after they buy an iPad.

Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Etc.

Let's not forget about all of the other social networks. In fact, for a website like Instagram, the iPad can actually add to the experience. The iPad's screen runs at a higher resolution than most monitors, which means photos look absolutely beautiful.

Did you know Steve Jobs was originally against the idea of an app store? He believed web apps would be sufficient. And in many ways, that is what apps on the App Store really are: advanced web apps. We say advanced because they can do more than a web page can do, but in many cases, they simply act as a website's portal on the iPad.

Most social networks have a corresponding app, including popular dating sites like And because the iPad can be more comfortable to use in bed than a laptop, the social network experience can actually be better on it. The iPad can even reduce the amount of Blue light at night, which could help you get a better night of sleep. 

Play Games

Let's not forget the fun side of the iPad! While it may be best known for casual games like Candy Crush and Temple Run, it has quite a few titles that would even satisfy a hardcore gamer. The newest iPad packs in as much graphics power as an XBOX 360 or PlayStation 3 along with the processing power of most laptops, so it is quite capable of delivering a deep gaming experience. And with games like Infinity Blade, the iPad's touch-based controls become an integral part of the game.

Watch Movies, TV, and YouTube

The iPad really excels in the area of Movies and TV, with the ability to buy or rent from iTunes, stream movies from Netflix or Hulu Plus or watch free movies on Crackle. And while the iPad doesn't support Flash video, a popular video format on the web, it does support YouTube both from the Safari browser and the downloadable YouTube app.

But it doesn't stop with video streaming apps. You can also "sling" the video from your cable box to your iPad via the SlingPlayer or Vulkano Flow, both of which allow you to watch anything you can see on your TV on your iPad by sending the video to your device even when you are not at home. And with EyeTV Mobile, you can add live TV without hijacking your cable signal.

Create Your Own Custom Radio Station

The iPad makes a great music player, and it is as fully functional as the iPhone or iPod. You can even sync it with iTunes or your PC and gain access to your custom playlists or simply use the Genius feature to create a custom on-the-fly playlist.

But listening to your own music collection is only one way to enjoy music on the iPad. There are a ton of great apps that allow streaming music or grant access to Internet radio such as Pandora or iHeartRadio. One cool thing about Pandora is the ability to create your own radio station by selecting songs or artists you love. And with an Apple Music subscription, you can stream most songs and listen to curated radio stations in the Music app.

Read a Good Book

Do you like to curl up to a good book? Amazon's Kindle may get all the press, but the iPad makes a great eBook reader. And in addition to buying books in Apple's iBooks app, you have access to all of your Kindle titles via the iPad Kindle app and even books from Barnes and Noble's Nook. This makes the iPad a great platform for reading books from a variety of different sources. You can even sync your books from Kindle to the iPad, so you can pick up where you left off no matter which device you use.

One nice bonus you get with an iPad is the number of free books available. Project Gutenberg is a group dedicated to creating digital versions of books in the public domain, some of which are classics like Sherlock Holmes or Pride and Prejudice.

Help out in the Kitchen

While we are on the subject of books, the ​iPad can also do great things in the kitchen. There are a variety of apps like Epicurious and Whole Foods Market Recipes that take the idea of a cookbook to the next level. Not only can you use the apps to find recipes with certain ingredients, like searching for chicken recipes or a great dinner that includes fresh salmon, but you can also search based on dietary needs, such as gluten-free recipes.

Video Conferencing

Did you know you can place video calls with the iPad? The inclusion of front-facing and back-facing cameras with the iPad 2 allowed the iPad to use Apple's FaceTime video conferencing software, which allows users to place free video calls to any iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch user. The iPad also supports Skype, including the ability to place Skype calls over 3G/4G, so you can keep in touch while on the go.

Use It Like a Camera

Let's not forget that those cameras can be used for a more conventional purpose: taking pictures.

The newest iPad has a 12 MP camera capable of shooting 4K video with advanced features like continuous autofocus and facial recognition. It's basically a smartphone-quality camera on a tablet. And even older iPads do well in the camera department, with the 8 MP iSight camera delivering fantastic photos.

Not good enough? There are a number of ways you can improve the iPad's camera to take even better photos.

You can also use iMovie to help enhance the video you take with your iPad. You can even use the iPad's Photo Stream to share photos between devices or even between friends and family.

Load Pictures Into It

You can also load your pictures into the iPad using Apple's Camera Connection Kit. This kit supports most digital cameras and can import video as well as photos. This is great if you are on vacation and want to store your photos so you can clear up space on your camera for more photos. You can also use apps like iPhoto to do touch-ups to the photos you import.

Stream Movies/Music From Your PC

One great feature of iTunes that isn't often talked about is the ability to turn on Home Sharing, which allows you to stream music and movies from your desktop PC or laptop to your other devices, including your iPad. This means you can have access to your full music collection and your full movie collection without eating up precious storage space. This is a great solution for those who have rather hefty music and/or movie collections but don't want to spend extra $$$ on a more expensive iPad to get the extra storage space.

Connect It to Your TV

One of the coolest things the iPad can do is connect to your HDTV. There are several ways to accomplish this task, including using Apple TV to connect wirelessly and using Apple's Digital AV Adapter to connect via HDMI. Once connected, you can not only stream Netflix, Crackle, and YouTube videos to your TV but also play games on the big screen. And some games like Real Racing 2 fully support video out, maximizing the graphics on your TV while using the iPad as a controller.

Replace Your GPS

While Apple Maps caused quite a stir when it replaced Google Maps on the iPad, it does offer one major benefit that wasn't included with Google's Maps application: voice-enabled turn-by-turn navigation. This means you can not only use the mapping feature of Apple Maps but also use it to replace the GPS in your car. However, you will need an iPad with a 4G data connection, which also includes the Assisted-GPS chip needed for accurate GPS.

Act as a Personal Assistant

Siri, Apple's voice recognition software, can sometimes be thought of as more of a gimmick, but it actually has many great uses that can add to the iPad experience. One thing Siri can do and can do well is act as a personal assistant. You can use Siri to set up appointments and events, to remind you to do something on a certain date or at a certain time, and even use it as a timer. This is in addition to launching apps, playing music, finding nearby stores and restaurants, checking movie times, and finding out what the weather forecast is for the next few days.

Connect a Keyboard

The biggest drawback of a tablet is the lack of a physical keyboard. The on-screen keyboard isn't bad, and you can even split it apart and type with your thumbs, but few people type as fast on a touchscreen as they can on a real keyboard. Luckily, there are a number of different options for connecting a physical keyboard to the iPad. The iPad will work with most wireless keyboards, and there are a number of keyboard cases that will turn your iPad into a device that looks more like a laptop. One new keyboard solution by Touchfire basically fits over the on-screen keyboard and gives that touch-type feel without needing to be connected by Bluetooth.

Write a Letter

While the iPad is often called a media consumption device, there are a number of businesses that use it to perform, including word processing. Microsoft Word is available for the iPad, and you can also download Apple's Pages app for free. Pages are Apple's word processing software, and for most people, it does just as good of a job as Word.

Edit a Spreadsheet

Do you need to edit Microsoft Excel spreadsheets? No problem. Microsoft has a version of Excel for the iPad. You can also download Apple's equivalent, Numbers, for free. Numbers is a quite capable spreadsheet app. It will also read both Microsoft Excel files and comma delimited files, making it easy to transfer data from different spreadsheet software.

Create a Presentation

Rounding out Apple's office suite is Keynote, their presentation software solution for the iPad. Again, this is a free app for anyone who has purchased an iPad or iPhone in the last few years. Keynote is fully capable of both creating and viewing great presentations.

Microsoft's PowerPoint is also available if you need a more advanced version of presentation software. And when you combine these solutions with the ability to connect the iPad to an HDTV or projector, you get a great presentation solution.

Print Documents

What good does it do to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations if you can't print them out? AirPrint allows the iPad to work wirelessly with a range of printers, including Lexmark, HP, Epson, Canon and Brother printers. You can access the print capability in many apps, including the iPad's Safari browser for printing out websites and Apple's office suite of apps.

Accept Credit Cards

One of the popular business functions an iPad can perform is to act as a cash register and accept credit cards. This is great for small businesses that want a 21st century way of doing business or freelancers that need access to accepting credit cards no matter where they are located.

Connect Your Guitar

IK Multimedia was an early adopter of the iPad in the music industry, creating the iRig guitar interface that allows guitars to be plugged into the iPad. Utilizing the AmpliTube app, iRig can turn your iPad into a multi-effects processor. And while it may not be gig-ready, it's a great way to practice when you don't have easy access to all of your gear.

By the way, add a sheet music reader and you'll have a much easier way to play your favorite songs.

Create Music

With the ability to accept MIDI signals, the music industry has taken the iPad to a new level with a number of cool apps and accessories. The iPad is now a regular at NAMM, the annual music festival where the music industry showcases the latest gadgets and devices, and it is not uncommon for music workstations to have an iPad companion app.

One really neat thing for musicians to do with their iPad is to hook up a MIDI keyboard and use the iPad for making music, although you don't need to since the iPad keyboard can be used as a piano keyboard. There are a number of different accessories like iRig Keys and the Akai Professional SynthStation49 Keyboard Controller that can help you get started.

Record Music

Let's not forget the ability to use the iPad to record music. Apple's Garage Band allows you to record and manipulate multiple tracks. Combined with the ability to hook a Mic into the iPad, you can easily use the iPad as a multi-track recorder or just as an addition to the practice session.

Use as an Additional PC Monitor

Did you know you can use an iPad as an additional monitor for your computer? Apps like DisplayLink and AirDisplay connect your iPad to your PC via WiFi and allow you to stream an additional monitor to your iPad. And the performance is pretty good with these apps. You won't want to play World of Warcraft or any intensive games on it, but it can reproduce most video well enough and it is great for storing sticky notes and other reminders.

Control Your Home PC (iTeleport)

Want to do more than just use your iPad as an additional monitor? You can take it another step and remote control your PC with your iPad. Apps like GoToMyPC, iTeleport, and Remote Desktop will let you bring up your PC's desktop and control it through your iPad's screen.

Make It Kid-Friendly

Are you planning to use the iPad as a family device? While the iPad doesn't support multiple accounts yet, you can childproof the iPad by turning on the parental controls and apply restrictions. This includes limiting the type of apps, music, and movies that can be downloaded, removing in-app purchases, or removing the app store completely. You can also remove the Safari browser and install a child-safe web browser in its place.

Turn the iPad Into an Old-Fashioned Arcade Game

The iPad and iPhone have built up their own ecosystem. And this ecosystem isn't just limited to a lot of cool apps that cover a wide range of uses. It also extends to interesting and outright cool accessories. And for anyone that misses the days of coin-op arcade games like Asteroids and Pac-Man, ION's iCade is a pretty cool accessory. It essentially turns your iPad into an old-fashioned arcade game.

Scan Documents

 It is actually quite easy to turn the iPad into a scanner. And most scanner apps do all of the heavy liftings for you. You simply place the piece of paper on a table and direct the iPad to it like you were taking a picture. The app will auto-focus, and when it calculates that it has a good picture, it will take it for you. The app automatically cuts the paper out of the picture and will even clean it up a bit to make it appear very straight, just as it would if it was run through a scanner.

The Virtual Touchpad

 The iPad's touchscreen generally does the work of a mouse, but when you need fine control, such as moving the cursor to a particular letter in a word processor, you might miss the level of precision available on a PC's touchpad or mouse. But only if you don't know about the virtual touchpad!

The touchpad is available any time the on-screen keyboard is displayed. Simply put two fingers down on the screen at the same time and start moving them around and the iPad will recognize the fingers and behave as if the entire screen is one big touchpad.