I use my iPad extensively when I travel — it’s all the computer I need— and over time I’ve come across a smattering of essential utilities for the tablet. I want to talk about three of them, which have recently been updated.
3 iPad utilities you should download
I spend a lot of time looking for iPad apps that can help you get things done. I’ve mentioned all three of these before, but as they’ve all been updated this month (as was the excellent Parallels for Mac) I thought it would be worth mentioning them once again.
These three apps help you take better notes, handle email more effectively and give you powerful tools for PDF creation, editing and management.
[ Further reading: The wireless road warrior’s essential guide ]
Here we go:
Handwriting anyone can read: Nebo
Nebo is such a useful app. I use it during meetings, to capture ideas when I’m on the move, and to help support my work. It can handle most note-taking tasks, with the addition of smart handwriting transcription. This means you can make notes using an Apple Pencil in your own handwriting and have that scrawling turned into nice, readable text.
Nero’s OCR-based handwriting recognition is accurate and even lets you create headlines, sub-headlines, and paragraphs as you write. You also get numerous export options (including PDF and Word).
The latest update adds a whole bunch of enhancements:
- You now use the iPad’s (built-in and external) keyboard as well as Apple Pencil. This also lets you use your keyboard to edit both handwritten or converted text.
- You will soon be able to use Nebo on Android/Chromebook and Windows devices.
- Unique to iOS, it is now possible to publish your notes (privately or for public/shared access) via a unique URL — it works a little like any other data source in the Files app.
I’ve managed to negotiate ten free license codes to give away on a first-come, first-served basis to the first ten readers to drop me a line on Twitter and request one.
Sophisticated email for busy people: Boomerang
Boomerang is an email augmentation app that lets you easily categorise, sort, manage and prioritize your incoming messages — even to the extent of scheduling replies. Inbox Pause lets you stop receiving new email until you get your current project done.
While it doesn’t work with Apple’s Mail app, it does support Gmail, Outlook, Exchange and Hotmail, all services which many iOS users use.
The latest version adds the capacity to use the app’s built-in AI to provide you with briefings on incoming messages, along with existing tools to set and reschedule meetings. The app also offers a two-column message view and sophisticated email composition tools.
The developers tell me that improving the iPad app helped improve the iPhone version, which should feel faster and more responsive while being more iOS-familiar in terms of the UI.
What I like about this app is that as I receive messages I know I need to deal with, I can schedule a reminder to myself to deal with them later in just a couple of taps. The result is that I’m a lot less likely to lose communication in the email flow.
You can download the app here.
[Also read: 6 best note-taking apps for an Apple iPad]
PDF management and more: PDF Expert 7
If you need a more sophisticated PDF-handling tool than you get with the default tools on iOS, PDF Expert is the app to get.
Developed by Readdle, the app lets you read and annotate PDFs, create notes and comments, draw using a finger or Apple Pencil, fill out forms and use cloud-based assets. Fast and responsive, the free version of the app is based on Metal, with a range of PDF conversion and file size reduction tools.
If you want more, the $49.99/year Pro subscription adds the capacity to edit text and images in existing PDFs, convert, sign and password-protect them and some additional features.
The company says it plans to add scanning and handwriting recognition in a future upgrade, though if you also use Nebo you already have this.
While I make lots of use of PDF Expert 7, it does strike me as a little ingenious the company offers the capacity to create PDFs as a Pro option, given this is something built into iOS that you should be able to do yourself by tapping Print from almost any app and then spreading your fingers to get to the PDF print preview image, which you can save and share like any other PDF.
However, such reservations aside, PDF Expert is the go-to PDF app for students, researchers or anyone who needs a powerful way to manage/use or organize their PDFs.
What’s interesting about all three of these recently updated productivity apps is that I think they show we are reaching a point at which iOS apps are in some ways becoming more capable than conventional Mac apps.
The paradigm for software is changing away from tools that do everything toward the evolution of focused apps that can achieve more within a narrow bandwidth of need.
That’s a form of personalization that should make these tools invaluable for knowledge workers engaged in digital transformation.
Want more? Take a look at these iPad productivity tips.