A few of my favourite things…

Over the last two years of owning the iPad, I have downloaded lots of different apps, some of which were free and a fair few that cost hard cash!

At the recent JISC RSC SW TurboTEL event in Taunton I delivered a ten minute presentation on my favourite iPad apps.

Here are the links to all the apps in the iTunes App Store as well as a brief description of what the app is about and why I like it.

Osfoora HD – this is my favourite Twitter app for the iPad and I have been using it for a fair while now. At the end of the day there is no real reason to buy a Twitter App for the iPad, however I find that using Osfoora HD makes using Twitter easier and more effective.

Update: Osfoora HD has now been replaced with Osfoora 2 for Twitter.

Facebook – the Facebook app is not superb, but I much prefer the Facebook app over the web interface…

Keynote – In the last few months I have been using Keynote on the iPad for both creating, editing and presenting presentations. Though I much prefer the desktop app, the iPad version certainly is very usable and has a lot of flexibility. From a presenting perspective, using Airplay is much easier than using a cable, but it does work with a cable (VGA or HDMI). It’s very easy to add pictures and graphs if required. Can be quite challenging to take them off the iPad as they can be quite big files (so e-mail isn’t always the answer).

The Early Edition – I did buy this app a fair time ago, since then there have been many new, different and free RSS news apps. However I do like Early Edition, both in terms of the way it looks, but also for the curation of different sources. I often think of Flipboard as the paper I choose, whereas Early Edition is much more the paper you pick up at the waiting room that someone else left behind.

8mm Vintage Camera – One of the features of the new third generation iPad is how good and how nice iPhone apps look on it. 8mm Vintage Camera is available for the iPad in an HD version, I just use the iPhone version I bought for my iPhone. This is a lovely little application that allows you to use the usually excellent iPad camera and rather than shoot clear 720p HD video, you can shoot film as though the iPad was using 8mm film stock. Now video purists would argue that what you should do is shoot in 720p and then use a video application on your computer to add the effect so if required you can always go back to the original footage. Now there is some merit in that argument, but personally if I was doing that I probably wouldn’t shoot the video with an iPhone and would use a “proper” HD camcorder. This app is about creating an aged film look to a video quickly, immediately and without worrying about finding a computer.

Jumbo Calculator – I do believe that there may be a default calculator app in iOS 6, in the meantime if you have an iPad you don’t have a calculator. I found this one in the app store a while back and use it a fair bit.

Comic Life – If you are at all interested in making comics, then get Comic Life. It is an excellent comic creation app that allows you to easily add images (or take photographs) into a comic strip, add text and effects before publishing your comic on the web, save to “disk” or print.

ShowMe – This is a whiteboard app, unlike other whiteboard apps, it will record what you draw. You can then share this recording as a video. What I also like about this app is that there are lots of recordings of things like algebra that are available to use and learn from.

Scrabble – I quite enjoy playing Scrabble, but it’s not the easiest game to play on the move, when travelling or when you’re on your own. When I got my iPad, I did buy Scrabble for iPad and was pleased with it. I have to admit I am slightly sceptical about the dictionary as it doesn’t allow some words, and has some really “weird” two letter words in it. However it is consistent and as everyone is playing by the same rules, it isn’t too much of an issue if you are playing Scrabble for iPad with a real person.

Avid Studio – Many people think of the iPad as a consumption device, however with apps like Avid, the iPad becomes a creation tool. This is an excellent and very powerful video editing app. You can either import video or shoot video (using the iPad camera) and then do all the things you would expect in a video editing app. I like Avid’s traditional look and approach to video editing which is different to Apple’s iMovie app.

Update: this app has now been replaced by Pinnacle Studio.

iMovie – I do like Avid, however that’s not to say that Apple’s iMovie isn’t any good; no on the contrary it’s an excellent app that is very easy to use. As with the desktop version, the “trailer” creation wizard is very easy to use and results in some fun and clever videos. So if you don’t mind been led, then you will enjoy using iMovie for creating quick fun videos.

Flipboard – Some would say that the iPad was created for Flipboard. I think this is an amazingly usable app for keeping in touch with Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds. It takes the content and the links and creates an engaging magazine format that is quick to flick through and find useful or interesting stuff. Love the user experience and it’s very easy to configure to meet your needs and your interests.

iBooks – I usually use the Kindle App for reading books, but the iBooks 2 app does allow you to read iBooks that go beyond text and images and have video and other interactive stuff embedded into them. iBooks is also quite a useful app for reading PDFs.

BBC iPlayer – Apart from the fact that not everything you find on the desktop browser when using iPlayer is in the iPad iPlayer app, this is a pretty seamless app for finding and watching BBC content.

Maps – I do find the included Maps app so useful for finding places and like the integrated Street View so you can not only find out where some place is, but you can also find out what it looks like. Not sure if the new version in iOS 6 will be as good, but lets hope that Google produce their own Maps app and we can use that.

Update: You can now get a Google Maps app.

MindGenius – Though there are other (and better) mind mapping apps, if you like me use the desktop version of MindGenius then this app is useful for moving between iPad and desktop. As a standalone free app, it’s fine for making notes, but you won’t be able to do that much with your finished mind map. As a result, even though it is free, you will find it quite limiting. However if you already have MindGenius on your PC then you may find this app useful for making mind maps on your iPad on the move or in the classroom. Have a look at iThoughtsHD instead if you don’t have the desktop version of MindGenius.

Kindle – This is a great app for reading Kindle books. The range of books on Amazon is great, and this app is really nice for reading books. It’s a pity that you can’t buy books (now) direct from the app, having to go through the Amazon website on Safari is a bit of a pain. Having said that I like the fact I can get a sample, so if there is a book I am intrigued by I can read a chapter or so and see if I like it. I have bought a fair few books after reading the free sample. Should be noted that Apple also do that in their iBookstore. Another feature I like in the Kindle app is how it syncs across other devices. Start reading on my Kindle and then as the night draws in I switch to the iPad and it knows where I am.

iPhoto – When I first used this app I wasn’t sure about it, however having decided to use it a lot when I was at Moodlemoot I really got to like it. It certainly is a very powerful photo enhancement and editing app. There are lots of features and the functionality is pretty much in there for most things. I was really pleased with many of my photographs from Moodlemoot as a result. I did take most of them on my DSLR and then imported them into the iPad using the camera connection kit, before using iPhoto to edit them. I then uploaded them to Flickr. Another great iPad app that can be used for creating stuff.

Update: iPhoto is no longer available in the store, most of the functionality is now in the Photos app.

Garageband – Another powerful app for creating stuff, this time audio and music is Garageband. So much potential for music and also very useful for recording podcasts or interviews.

Documents To Go – Despite having Pages, Keynote and Numbers on my iPad, I also have Documents To Go. I like how I can use it to create Word, Powerpoint and Excel documents, great for reading them too. I also like how it integrates with Dropbox and Google Docs, something that is missing from the Apple apps. If you, and I suspect, most people reading this do, need to deal with Office documents on a daily basis and you want to do this on your iPad then Documents To Go is the ideal application for this. I have not been disappointed with the app and it makes it much easier to deal with all those documents I seem to get in my e-mail.

Citrix Receiver – This will be for most people a pointless app, unless your organisation has made an investment in Citrix from their end. They have installed at work, a Citrix server that allows me to remotely connect to the corporate Windows desktop. Not only can I do this at home on my desktop, I can also access it, through Citrix Receive on my iPad. Very weird at times using Windows on the iPad, but for those times when you need a Windows desktop for something work based, the Citrix solution can be a lifesaver.

Snapseed – Though I like iPhoto, for me my favourite photo editing app has to be Snapseed. Unlike other similar apps in the iTunes store, this has a unique interface that at first takes a little getting use to, but once you’ve mastered it you realise how powerful and easy it is to use. It certainly makes the most of the touch interface that the iPad has. This is one of the most powerful apps I have used on the iPad for image manipulation and certainly I have been pleased with the results.

Pocket Heart – This is the kind of app that for me is what makes the iPad special and useful. It makes use of the touch interface and contains just the right information, animations and diagrams needed to gain a better understanding of how the human heart works. This is also the kind of app that worries me about the impact of the iPad as a source of information in that this is a closed app, now way to copy information (easily) from the app to say an assignment. There are no links either, in or out of the App. How does a practitioner for example “link” to this app from the VLE, e-mail or social network. This is also the kind of app that creates challenges for practitioners and learners in how do you reference information from such an app? Do practitioner only rely on traditional resources, or can we ensure that learners are able to use new resources such as these.

Pages – I actually purchased Pages (and the other iWork apps) before my iPad had arrived so I could use these apps straight away. Though Documents To Go has a lot more flexibility, I do like using Pages for word processing. The relatively clean interface means I can focus on what I am writing. I also think it is quite a powerful app for what we use to call desk top publishing! The templates look good and are easy to manipulate. Overall I do like this app, it’s powerful, it’s flexible and it’s easy to use. I know some people will baulk at the price tag for what is an iPad app, but come on lets be realistic, £6.99 for a word processor package, that isn’t that bad. If you have an iPad I would recommend this app. There are other cheaper and free word processing apps available, but I do like Pages and it works really well.

Pollock’s Toy Theatre – A nice app that allows you to create one of those Victorian cardboard toy theatres and then record performances.

Bluefire Reader – This is an ebook reader app and as it works with Adobe Digital Editions, it allows you to read books from lots of ebook platforms that would otherwise be inaccessible from iBooks or Kindle. You can also import other non-protected ebooks and PDFs. This allows you to keep all materials and books for a project or assignment in one app.

AudioNote – A simple concept that is very effective. You make notes during a meeting, lecture or similar. However the app also records the audio as you type your notes. When going back over your notes, you can select a line in your notes and you can then listen to the audio recording at that point. Very useful for going back over something if your notes didn’t make sense, or even as a meeting recorder.

Cat Physics – This was recommended to me by a senior manager in my college. A year or so ago this manager would be quite open about her lack of learning technology knowledge, but was eager to see the potential. I did lend her one of my MoLeNET iPod touch devices and this year she did go out and buy an iPad. Cat Physics was one of the games she bought, enjoyed and brought to my attention. Bizarre I thought that a senior manager who wasn’t really that much into learning technologies, is now advising the learning technologies manager on what applications he should buy for his iPad!

Notes – The default Notes app is quite good for making notes and now with iCloud and iOS 6 it will be possible to (finally) sync notes, now that will be useful, though not as useful I guess as Evernote.

Evernote – I really do like Evernote and I use it a lot for making notes. I really like the mobile application on the iPad and I really like how I can make audio notes and photographs of notes. Especially as the image notes become searchable.

Skitch – In my line of work I often have to make screenshots and sometimes annotate them. In the past I would take a screenshot using the built in function in the OS and then paste into Fireworks before using that to add annotations. I would then need to either e-mail the image or upload it somewhere. I really like Skitch for the iPad. Though I don’t use it as much as I do the Mac version, it is still a key app for my iPad. If you ever need to annotate screenshots on your iPad then do have a look at Skitch.

Prezi – It’s a pity you can’t use the Prezi app on the iPad to create Prezi presentations, so the only real use is to show off the Prezi presentations you have made…

Update: You can now use the app to create and edit Prezi presentations.

Jetpack Joyride – Fun game that only takes a couple of minutes of your time. Nice casual game.

Instagram – This is an iPhone app, but if you have the new iPad, it looks great on the big screen. I was quite surprised by how good it looked with the new retina screen. I have been using Instagram since it came out in 2010, well I started using it about a week after it was released. Over 2011 I used it a lot more and have posted nearly five hundred images to Instagram. One aspect that I do like is the social aspect. With any social app the key is the community, now that many more people I know are using Instagram, the social aspect, even though it can only be accessed from the phone is much better and more social. I do like the multi-posting ability, so usually not only will I post to Instagram, I also post a link to Twitter and upload the image to Flickr. As for the photographic effects, I know it is possible to do much better with PhotoShop and even Snapseed on the iPad is superior, however the filters on Instagram are not there to be the perfect photographic filter they are there to add a little something to the photographs you take and to have a bit of fun with. To think that Instagram is a serious photographic app really does miss the point of the app; it’s fun and it’s social, enjoy it for that and not as a photographic app.

Hipstamatic – another iPhone camera app that works just as well on the new iPad. It has a bit of a quirky interface that takes some getting use to. I quite like the effects and can see some use for the types of images it produces.

Paper Camera – Sometimes I am find an app for the iPhone and I go yay, excellent. Paper Camera is one of those apps and like 8mm and Hipstamatic works great on the new iPad. What Paper Camera does, through a clever interface, is convert the live camera footage into a sketch or pencil drawing image in real time. You can then press the shutter to capture the image through the live filter.

HP Photosmart 5510 – Not an app, but as this new HP printer uses the web for access, it means you can scan from your iPad and save the image to the iPad. Previously you would need dedicated software, so to have a printer that has an embedded web server, means that it is much more accessible from a device such as the iPad.

ebrary – By no means a perfect app, but if you have the ebrary platform for ebooks, the app is certainly a much better interface for reading ebrary ebooks than the web interface on the iPad. I will admit that the ebrary app is not perfect, but it does work and it does allow you to access the ebrary collection from your iPad. If you are subscribed to the ebrary collection, have a Facebook account and have an iPad, then get this app.

Update: This app is no longer available.

PhotoToaster – PhotoToaster allows you to edit photographs, manipulating the brightness and contrast, add filters (effects), add textures and add borders or vignettes. Within the app are a range of basic, deluxe and supreme filters. These can make it quick and easy to change an image for immediate use. Where this can be useful is when you are using a series of images for a presentation or a poster. You can apply the same pre-set filter to the images to get a consistent look to the presentation or poster.

Adobe Ideas – A digital sketchbook.

Google Currents – Not as good as it could be and certainly I much prefer Early Edition and Flipboard.

Update: No longer available.

Netflix – If you have a decent connection, then a great way of watching old TV series and films. Yay I can watch Knight Rider!

Star Trek PADD – Many people who have the iPad will notice that in Star Trek there was the PADD that Captain Picard and others used well before Apple released the iPad. Paramount did release a PADD app… which was disappointing.

So there are all the apps from the presentation, you may well also be interested in the apps I have reviewed on the blog, which you can find here.

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