Must-have iPad Office Apps

Best Office Apps for Your iPad

As your iPad gets more and more business use, be sure to have these apps to get the most office productivity possible

Road warriors’ business toolkit

Of the tens of thousands of apps available for the iPad, only a relative few are must-have tools for business use. To help keep your iPad stocked with the cream of the crop, InfoWorld offers its third annual roundup of the best office apps for the iPad — some are familiar, some are new, and some old choices are no longer needed. (Check out last year’s choices.)

No doubt your iPad will have specialty apps beyond these choices to help you in your specific line of work. For this, you should peruse our “Favorite iOS and Android apps for IT pros,” and install the appropriate clients for your videoconferencing and instant messaging services. But the app highlighted here are ones almost everyone should have.

Word processor (tie): Quickoffice Pro HD

Almost everyone needs to work on Microsoft Word files, and Quickoffice Pro HD lets you do much of the editing you’d expect, including formatting. Although you can’t apply paragraph and character styles to text, Quickoffice does preserve the ones already in your documents. You also get search and replace, and direct integration with various cloud storage services (sadly, not with iCloud). Plus, there’s a Business App Store version that allows for content management by IT. But Quickoffice is not savvy about layout-rich documents, nor can it work with embedded hyperlinks.

App: Quickoffice Pro HD
Price: $19.99
Developer: Quickoffice
Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Word processor (tie): Pages

Quickoffice’s text-editing module is great for editing, but Pages is better for documents that are layout-heavy, as the app supports multiple columns and insertion of graphics. Where Pages falls down is in not preserving style sheets, not offering a replace-all option in its Find and Replace feature, and not being able to add hyperlinks to text (though you can edit existing ones). Pages does support the Dropbox and Box cloud storage services, but in an unintuitive way. But its iCloud compatibility can be a real life-saver, ensuring all your devices have the current documents.

App: Pages
Price: $9.99
Developer: Apple
Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Spreadsheet editor (tie): Numbers

Apple‘s Numbers spreadsheet editor is designed to make data entry easy, especially around numeric, date, and formula entry. The keyboard adjusts based on the type of data you’re working with. Where Excel users may dislike Numbers is in its approach to creating worksheets; Numbers allows several on a page, which can confound experienced Excel users. Also, like Pages, Numbers supports the Dropbox and Box cloud storage services in an unintuitive way. As with Pages, however, Numbers’ iCloud compatibility more than makes up for this, ensuring all your devices are current on your Numbers documents.

App: Numbers
Price: $9.99
Developer: Apple
Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Spreadsheet editor (tie): Quickoffice HD Pro

Quickoffice’s spreadsheet-editing module works very much like Excel, making it instantly accessible to Excel users. There’s also a Business App Store version that allows for content management by IT. Although it supports several cloud services, it does not support iCloud.

App: Quickoffice Pro HD
Price: $19.99
Developer: Quickoffice
Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Presentation editor: Keynote

Simply put, Keynote is an amazing slideshow editor. I prefer it over PowerPoint even on the Mac, and on the iPad, it works beautifully, even when creating complex slide transitions and element effects. If someone tells you an iPad is just for content consumption, Keynote is all the refutation you need. And its iCloud compatibility can be a real life-saver, ensuring all your devices have the current documents. A bonus is Apple’s free Keynote Remote app for the iPhone and iPod Touch that lets you remote-control a Keynote presentation on your Mac or iPad.

App: Keynote
Price: $9.99
Developer: Apple
Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Office in the cloud: CloudOn

Running Windows on an iPad can be a disconcerting experience, given how neither was designed for the other. But the CloudOn service nicely integrates the Windows versions of Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, as well as Adobe Reader, with the iPad’s native keyboard and Share facility. Plus, it uses your existing Dropbox or Box cloud storage for your files, so you don’t have to worry about version control across multiple devices. It has a few flaws, but when you need the full version of Microsoft Office, CloudOn is a very useful and usable option — as long as you have a live Internet connection, of course.

App: CloudOn
Price: Free
Developer: CloudOn
Compatibility: iPad

File manager: GoodReader

Many people really wish the iPad had a shared file system, like a PC or Mac. But it doesn’t. GoodReader can give you much of the file manager you want. It provides a central file repository for files you transfer via Wi-Fi, various storage services, iTunes, and the Open In facility used by many iOS apps (such as Mail). GoodReader — as its name implies — also lets you read many file formats, inclding several not supported by iOS’s naive QuickLook facility. Plus it unzips file archives as well, so you don’t need a separate utility for that purpose.

App: GoodReader
Price: $4.99
Developer: Good.iWare
Compatibility: iPad (iPhone version sold separately; $4.99)

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PDF markup: GoodReader

Although GoodReader didn’t start life as a PDF annotation tool, it’s evolved into one. And a damned good one at that. You get all the markup tools you expect from Acrobat Professional — even the advanced editing tools — so no one will know you marked up the PDFs on an iPad. The app does a good job of using touch gestures for highlighting portions of your PDF for markup. My only quibble is you can’t rotate individual pages, so sometimes you’re marking up a page rotated 90 degrees from the orientation of the sticky notes’ text you’re adding.

App: GoodReader
Price: $4.99
Developer: Good.iWare
Compatibility: iPad (iPhone version sold separately; $4.99)

Note-taking: Notability

Note-taking is a very personal activity, and there are dozens of note-taking apps for the iPad that reflect all those preferences. But two note-taking apps work well for most people. One is the iPad’s built-in Notes app, which is great for typing in text-only notes and having them instantly available to your computer and other devices via IMAP, Exchange, and/or iCloud syncing.

If you want notes that include audio recordings and drawings (alas, no syncing), also get Notability. It’s straightforward to use, and can associate your recordings to what you type as you type, so to hear the portion of a recording made when you typed in specific text, just tap that text.

App: Notability
Price: $4.99
Developer: Ginger Labs
Compatibility: iPad

Calculator: Calculator Original

Who doesn’t need a calculator now and then? But the iPad doesn’t come with one built in (as the iPhone does). But you can get an iPad version of that familiar iPhone calculator for free.

App: Calculator Original
Price: Free
Developer: Spencer Brown
Compatibility: iPad

Cloud storage (tie): Dropbox

Apple’s iCloud is a great service for keeping files and other data synced across iOS and OS X devices, but it’s not (yet) a storage service where you can keep files in a central location accessible to all devices and other users. Dropbox is such a service, and it’s integrated with many iPad apps, so it can serve as a common file system in some cases. Dropbox also integrates well with OS X and Windows, appearing as just another storage volume. And it’s available for Android. Note that using Dropbox with Apple’s iWork apps requires a $5 monthly fee.

App: Dropbox
Price: Free, but charges for storage vary
Developer: Dropbox
Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Cloud storage (tie): Box

Like Dropbox, Box enjoys wide support from iPad apps, and also works in Windows, OS X, and Android. But Box does not have the simple integration with OS X and Windows that Dropbox does, forcing you to move files through a clumsy Web interface instead. But Box can be used with Apple’s iWork suite on the iPad for no additional charge, and Box offers an enterpirse version that lets IT manage access and content rights for corporate data.

App: Box
Price: Free, but charges for storage vary
Developer: Box
Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Task management: OmniFocus

If you’re a project manager who needs serious task management capabilities, such as timelines, multimedia annotations, multiple assignees, calendar integration, and hierarchical steps, OmniFocus is the gold standard for iOS (and OS X). (If all you need is a to-do list, the iPad’s built-in Reminders app is primitive but serivecable.)

App: OmniFocus
Price: $39.99
Developer: Omni Group
Compatibility: iPad (iPhone version sold separately; $19.99)

FTP client: FTP on the Go Pro

Cloud storage services have made FTP utilities archaic for many users, but if you work on a website or in many file-management systems, you still need an FTP client. For the iPad, that client should be FTP on the Go, which not only does the FTP uploading and downloading you’d expect but also provides a basic HTML editor so you can touch up your Web pages as well.

App: FTP on the Go Pro
Price: $9.99
Developer: Headlight Software
Compatibility: iPad (iPhone version sold separately; $6.99)

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