Whether you've already got an iPad or you're thinking of jumping into the tablet pond with an iPad 2, you probably know better than to expect a miraculous overnight productivity boost from any device. Like any other gadget, the iPad is only as effective as its user. And to get real efficiency out of it, you'll want to adopt a few apps and tools that don't come preloaded from Apple. Here are three excellent productivity downloads, and one indispensible accessory, that can help you speed through your daily tasks with ease and increased control.
Particularly for Google Calendar users, but also for those who need a good stand-alone option, Readdle Calendars is a tremendous addition to pretty much any iPad or iPhone productivity pack. Having sunk more hours than I'd care to contemplate into trying out various free and paid options to replace the stock iPad and iPhone calendars with something that handle's Google Calendar competently, this $7 app is my stand-out favorite.
Calendars handily syncs all of your Google calendars to the iPad and maintains your label colors for easy browsing through your scheduled events. And it lets you easily drag and drop appointments to reschedule them on the fly. Just tap and hold to drag them and let go to drop them. Tap anywhere to add a new appointment at that spot. Unlike the stock iPad calendar, it gives you a useful year view that shows you which days have appointments and which are free. And it gives you a week view on the iPhone, which the stock iPhone calendar doesn't. It also syncs with Google Tasks.
I don't have an exact count, but it seems like there are trillions of to-do list apps in Apple's app store, and most of them do little beyond making lists so you can check things off. My personal favorite, OmniFocus for iPad, comes with a fairly steep download price of $40, which makes it tough for me to recommend it here. If you want features that rival OmniFocus for GTD-style task management, check out Taska.
At $5, Taska won't put a noticeable dent in your credit card statement, yet it gives you an elegant set of task and project management tools complete with contexts, next actions, and a flexible inbox for dealing with your recently captured stuff. Plus, it syncs with Toodledo for cloud access.
As I've said previously on this blog, I'm a zealous convert to distraction-free writing tools. Of course, because the iPad's multitasking capabilities are so limited, practically any writing tool you use will afford you few distractions. Still, because I use my iPad primarily for information capture and retrieval (rather than for extended editing), I prefer a simple editor that connects to my cloud-centric life.
Clean Writer, a 99-cent impulse buy I downloaded last month, has quickly become my favorite way to write on the iPad. Like all distraction-free writing tools, Clean Writer does what its name implies: provides a simple, clean interface for writing stuff. What makes it awesome is that it also connects to Dropbox, so you can hammer out some writing while you have a few spare minutes, and then sync it back to the cloud for later retrieval from another machine.
A good writing app can only do you so much good on the iPad. While I've gradually increased my on-screen typing speed to a level I could never have anticipated, the iPad's on-screen keyboard remains a serious productivity blocker for me. To get around this, I carry an Apple Wireless Keyboard. The downside here is that this keyboard costs $69 and, because of the raised back edge, doesn't stow as well in my bag as I'd like. But I typically make a point of bringing it along whenever I expect to have to do some actual writing on a trip and don't feel like carrying two devices.
My point here is not really to recommend Apple's Bluetooth keyboard, per se, but to suggest that you check out some kind of keyboard for your iPad. Another good solution I've tried, albeit an even pricier one, is the ZAGGmate case/keyboard combo. This slim iPad cover comes with its own built-in keyboard, sparing you the trouble of having to decide whether or not to bring it along.