I'd build a mind-melder into the iPad so it would just know what you wanted to do and find the app automatically.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Best apps for your iPad, Part 1

May 15, 2011

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, The Post-Standard

Stop counting. You'll just go bonkers.

Just settle on a round number -- 75,000 sounds good. Or maybe 80,000.

That's how many iPad apps, or programs, you'll find at Apple's App Store. That's not counting iPhone apps, of which there are at least 355 zillion. This is a phenomenon we've never experienced before. Buying software by simply touching an icon twice (once to buy, twice to confirm) without worrying about how to download something and then wondering where it goes after it's downloaded is a real pleasure.

And I didn't mention the three PC and Mac problems of figuring out how to install what you just downloaded, finding where the program went after you installed it and -- if you're really conscientious -- going back to the downloaded file to get rid of it now that you don't need it any more.

Ain't progress grand?

But if 75,000 apps is progress, my name is Steve Jobs. I like choice as much as you do, but if I had my way I'd build a mind-melder into the iPad so it would just know what you wanted to do and find the app for that task automatically. (Steve, are you listening?) In the meantime, of course, we're stuck with the halfway progress of those thousands of apps.

So let me help you out. This week and next I'll describe my favorite (and most useful) iPad apps. Next week I'll also tell you about a book that provides an illustrated description of many more superb apps.

My favorite apps, part 1:

-- Penultimate, $.99. Take handwritten notes of any length by writing with your fingertip or stylus. You can store them in notebooks, e-mail them as PDFs or save them as images.

-- Dragon Dictation, free. Writes your spoken words as text. You have to pause every few hundred words for the software to catch up, a minor annoyance for a free app.

-- TextExpander, $4.99. Inserts text of your choice (any length) when you type trigger words. Works directly with only a few other apps, but you can easily paste your resulting text into an e-mail letter, a Pages document or another app.

-- Pages, $9.99, and Keynote, $9.99. Outstanding desktop-publishing (Pages) and presentation (Keynote) apps. You CAN do this with an iPad, and easily.

-- SmartRecord, free. Records audio notes and interviews with superb quality.

-- MusicStudio, free. Amazing music-creation software on a par with studio devices.

-- Kindle, Nook and Google books apps, all free. The iPad comes with Apple's excellent iBooks app, but these three are also exceptional.

-- Epicurious, free. A recipe lover's ticket to heaven. You can pay a little for some extras, but the free app has a lot.

-- WebMD, free. Like the website only better and easier to use. Essential health info.

-- IMDb, free. Actors, plots, backstories and reviews of movies and TV shows. Don't leave the couch without it.

-- NYTimes, free. Probably the best designed iPad newspaper. The app with limited content is free, but the Times wants you to pay $20 a month for full access.

-- Photogene, $1.99, Photo Fixer, $1.99, and Touch Retouch HD, $.99. Three essential photo-editing apps that will do 90% of what Photoshop does. Photo Fixer and Touch Retouch are very good at blemish and boo-boo removal.

-- ShutterSnitch, $15.99. Expensive but unique way to receive and display photos wirelessly from Eye-Fi cards in cameras. Superb way of viewing photos right after they're taken.

-- Wikipanion, free. Self-bookmarking way of reading topics on Wikipedia.

Next week: More favorite apps.