The Right Office Apps for the iPad at Work, Round 2

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The best PDF markup program for the iPad

There are dozens of apps to open PDF documents on the iPad, but the built-in Preview app does that for mail attachments, and most Wi-Fi file-sharing apps preview PDF documents. What you really want is a program that can mark up PDF files, adding sticky notes and the like.

That app is GoodReader ($5). You can do most of the markup you would in Adobe Reader, such as notes, highlights, and even free-form shapes -- for example, to circle an item. Once you get the hang of using your finger like a mouse for such actions, it's an easy-to-handle app.

GoodReader is not just a PDF markup app. It can also view Office files, text files, and pictures, as well as play audio files and unzip files. In addition, it comes with a Wi-Fi file-sharing capability to transfer documents to your computer.

The best iPad utilities most everyone should have

The iPad can't open Zip files -- an amazing omission in the iPhone and iPod Touch as well. There are several apps that can unzip files, but the best are ZipBox Pro ($2) and Unzip ($1), both of which also work on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Their clean interfaces make them both easy to use. GoodReader also unzips files, so if you use that, you don't need a separate unzip utility.

Although the iPhone comes with a calculator app, the iPad doesn't. There are several calculator apps for the iPad, but I prefer the simple, capable Calculator Pro ($1). If you do lots of calculations and want a tape function to capture all calculations (and email that history as a file), then get the less aesthetically pleasing Calculator HD ($1).

If you view Photoshop native files, such as for page layout, Web, or presentation projects, get the AirFilesHD app ($1), which also offers Wi-Fi file sharing and basic drawing capabilities, a well as the ability to read documents in all sorts of formats. As you can see, Wi-Fi file sharing is built into lots of apps.

The iPad's own Notes app is fine for taking notes, and its Calendar app is perfectly suitable to manage your appointments. There are tons of alternative apps for both, but I don't see the point -- apart from four exceptions. The PhatPad app ($5) combines free-form drawing, handwriting recognition, voice recording, and limited keyboard entry to create richer notes than what is possible on the iPad's own Notes app. The Notes Plus app ($5) lets you take handwritten notes with a stylus (such as Ten One Design's Pogo Stylus), then export them to PDF, though it doesn't convert the handwriting to text. You can also type in text and include audio recordings in Notes Plus; PhatPad can't do either. If your notes include drawings, PhatPad or Notes Plus is the way to go. The Notability app ($1) is designed for people who take notes while recording lectures, presentations, and the like. Afterward, if you tap any text you entered, Notability will play back the audio recording from that point in time, so you can hear what was being said as you were typing. If you want a simple audio-recording app for note-taking, check out Beefon's WaveRecorder ($2), which has a really important capability not found widely: It continues to record when you switch to other apps.

Beyond these broadly useful utilities, chances are some workers will need additional apps for more specialized tasks. I've put together a collection of such business apps that you might make available to employees as part of an in-house catalog or point them to as recommendations.

Next page: Extra hardware and the full "office suite"...

At a Glance
  • The iPad 2 remains a solid choice, thanks to its lower price and strong app choices. Read the full review


    • Slimmer design with curved edges is easier to hold
    • Comparatively light at 1.3 pounds


    • Tediously slow to charge
    • Relies on PC link to iTunes for updates, backups
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