TMO’s Favorite iPad Apps, Round I

Apple’s App Store is loaded with far too many applications for one person to sort through, so we threw our team at The Mac Observer at the task and asked them to share some of their favorite finds. We came up with an interesting collection that shows how we use our iPads and iPhones for reading and research, and for expressing ourselves creatively, too.

Nav Clock $2.99
This app gives me complete time and sun information: date, Universal (Greenwich) and local time, my latitude and longitude, sunrise, sunset, civil twilight times, weather (wind speed, visibility, pressure, dew point) and more. What’s cool is that the app’s background reflects the current sky conditions. I keep it on my home page. John Martellaro

1Password Pro $14.99
Using the same password for all of your accounts is just asking for trouble, but keeping track of different passwords for every login can be next to impossible. I use 1Password on my Mac to keep all of my logins under control, which makes using 1Password Pro on my iPhone, iPad and iPod touch a no brainer. I can sync my password database between all my devices so my logins are available to me where ever I go and however I get online. Thanks to the built-in Web browser, I almost never have to copy and paste passwords, and that earned 1Password Pro a coveted spot on my iPad’s Home screen. Jeff Gamet

PCalc $9.99
I grew up with Hewlett-Packard RPN calculators, and while there are HP simulators for iOS, this beautiful, flexible RPN (or Algebraic) calculator takes advantage of modern iOS technologies. So instead of being a throwback calculator, it’s a 21st century calculator. Every calculator option you could want is there, and I love the new “Flynn” night time theme. I keep this one on my home page. And the answer is… 42. John Martellaro

Instapaper $4.99
I spend a lot of time mindlessly surfing researching on my iPad and regularly find articles on Web sites that I want to follow up on later. Instapaper lets me tag the Web pages I want to come back to later and access them from my iPad, iPhone or my Mac. You’ll need a free Instapaper account and a little self control to keep from tagging more articles than you can handle. Luckily, you can group article links in folders to make it a little easier to follow up later. There’s also a free version of the Instapaper app, but it doesn’t support grouping links in folders. Jeff Gamet

USA Today for iPad Free
There are lots of news apps for the iPad, but USA Today remains my favorite. It has a certain look and feel that’s appealing, allows customization of sports scores, has great navigational and layout design, and gets me what I want quickly without clutter or distractions. Ads are not intrusive, and you can directly e-mail the developer team with comments and bugs. It’s just about bug free now after a long period of customer trial by fire. John Martellaro

NPR for iPad Free
NPR for iPad is one of those apps that is so well designed, you can totally get why Apple thinks most of us will move to iPads for all our computing. It has a great interface, and lots of great NPR content. This includes a lot of written reports, but it also includes access to most of NPR’s radio programming. It even includes quick streaming access to NPR affiliate radio stations across the country. This is a truly great app. Bryan Chaffin

ABC Player Free
This app provides access to ABC TV shows with class and style. If you’ve missed an episode of “Castle” or want to go back and enjoy episodes of “Lost,” or check out a new fall series, this is a handy, pleasing app even with the “limited commercial interruptions.” Navigation tools are good, the video thumbnails are helpful and the 720p playback is smooth. It’s another app that showcases the iPad. John Martellaro

Reeder for iPad $4.99
Reeder is an RSS, or news reader, app for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad that’s compatible with Google Reeder. It’s great for keeping up on articles from all of your favorite news sites, and it’s my favorite tool for staying on top of what’s going on at the Web sites I like to follow — that includes news sites, friend’s blogs, and my own Instapaper account. Jeff Gamet

The Weather Channel MAX Free
This app tells me everything I need to know about my local weather. The home page shows Doppler radar for my vicinity and current conditions and warnings. The local weather for today, hourly, the next 36 hours and a long range forecast is available, all laid out beautifully. Travel weather is not so important for me, but I like having it. I can go with static graphics or watch the classic Weather Channel video for my location. The ads at the bottom are non-intrusive. I can see the summary of all Weather Channel Tweeters. And when I miss the chance to see the lovely Kathy Sabine on Channel 9 in Denver, this is my goto app. It stays on my home page. John Martellaro

Simplenote Free
I write pretty much every day of the week, and my iPad has become my de facto on-the-go text editor. Apple’s Notes app is fine for writing, but getting your work off your iPad and back to your computer is, well, less than elegant. Simplenote picks up the slack by continually syncing what you write to your free online Simplenote account, so you can access your notes from any device with Internet access. That means I can start a document on my iPhone, jump over to my iPad to finish the project, and then move over to my Mac for final edits without ever moving files or worrying about whether or not I’m working with the right version of a document. Jeff Gamet

Twitter Free
My favorite Twitter app on the iPad used to be Echofon, but this new Twitter interface with sliding sheets pulled me in and kept me. Twitter has some other very nice advances in UI, and it just feels more modern than any other Twitter client on the iPad. I especially like the screen layout and very clear functions and annotations in the timeline. Like the ABC player, it exploits the iPad and makes using the iPad a lot of fun. John Martellaro

TextExpander touch $4.99
TextExpander on the Mac is a fantastic utility for saving typing time thanks to its ability to auto-expand custom abbreviations you make into words and phrases. On the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, I find it practically indispensable because it saves me from typing mistakes in phrases I type all the time on the software-based onscreen keyboard. It can synchronize abbreviation (snippets in TextExpander-speak) sets between your Mac and iOS device, and you can share snippets with other TextExpander touch users, too. Lots of developers have added TextExpander support to their iOS apps, so there’s plenty of places where you can use the snippets you make. Jeff Gamet

GoodReader $0.99
GoodReader is designed to download, manage and display .pdf, .txt, doc, .ppt, .xls, iWork, HTML and graphics files. It interfaces to Dropbox, but can also download files directly from web sites. You can even view books, movies and maps. I think of it as the Swiss Army knife for viewing files that I want to archive on the iPad. Version 3 will bring annotations/markups. John Martellaro

The Elements $9.99
The Elements is what happens when you turn a gorgeous coffee table book about the Periodic Table of the Elements into a gorgeous interactive iPad app. It has fantastic information about all of the known elements, complete with some amazing photography. Better yet, most of that photography is really a 3D image you can spin with a swipe of your finger for a full 360 degree view. How cool is that? The app is also plugged into WolframAlpha, the online answer engine. That means you have all kinds of detailed facts, weights, size, and structure information for the elements in addition to the background color text that actually describes them. To me, this is what an iPad app is all about. Bryan Chaffin

Emerald Observatory $0.99
If there’s one app you’ll want to have handy to impress others looking at your iPad, this is it. It’s primarily for amateur astronomers because of the technical nature of the display, but it can also be used by a novice to lookup the rise and set time of planets. (In case you think you spotted a UFO.) And it’s also just a the coolest local date and time clock on the planet. Note: some astronomy technical knowledge is require to exploit it fully. John Martellaro

Star Walk $4.99
What can I say? If you’re an amateur astronomer or even vaguely interested in observing the night sky and learning the constellations, this is it. The app just keeps getting better and better. If you ever go camping, away from city lights, you can lay on your back and hold the iPad above you to learn the constellations and bright stars. I loved it on the iPhone, but it’s spectacular on the iPad. Best of all, the layout, design and graphics have a magical feel that somehow encourages further exploration and creates a sense wonder for the universe. John Martellaro

ArtStudio for iPad $4.99
There’s a long list of really nice drawing and painting apps available for iOS, and it’s ArtStudio that really clicked for me. It’s easy to draw quick sketches, create elaborate drawings and digital paintings, and it sports features such as layers, transparency, custom brushes, video out for displaying your works of art, and more. ArtStudio lets me get creative on my iPad without getting in my way or holding me back. Jeff Gamet

AmpliTube for iPad $19.99
AmpliTube for iPad turns your iPad into a guitar or bass rig, complete with effects pedals. This app is just absolutely awesome! AmpliTube for iPhone is great because you can walk around with a rig in your pocket, but the iPad app still offers portability, and it has a great interface that makes the app super easy to use. The company put all that screen real estate to work. There are five amps, five cabinets, 12 effects pedals, and two mics to choose from, and you can have up to 12 preset configurations saved, too. Note that you’ll need a device like IK Multimedia’s iRig ($39.99 - Amazon) to get your plug your guitar (or bass) into AmpliTube, but it’s so worth it! Bryan Chaffin