Top 5 iPad Business Apps

by Lee Hopkins on December 6, 2010 · 4 comments

in tools


Following on from Shai Coggins’ ‘top 5 presentation apps’ post, here’s my top 5 business apps:


1. Keynote.

keynote logoWithout doubt the best presentation tool on the iPad and, like many iPod/iPad apps, unbelievably cheap compared to a desktop/standalone version. Ok, it’s not as fully featured as a desktop application, but it does what I need it to do:

  • Import PowerPoint slides and allow you to edit them (even PowerPoint 2010);
  • Add nice transitions to the slides;
  • Add images and other media; including
  • Play videos from within it.

This last was a frustration for me – I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Thankfully, the twittersphere came to my rescue. Courtesy of Richard Pascoe, here’s how:

To add a video to a Keynote slide, follow these steps:

1. Tap the Media window icon at the top-right of the display:media window icon 
2. When the Photo Albums page opens, tap Media.
3. Tap the Photo album that contains your video.
4. Tap the video thumbnail you want.
5. Then tap Use. The video and its audio track will play automatically when the slide is played by tapping the play icon:play icon

Note: put the video(s) you want to play in the folder you store your photos when you sync your iPad to iTunes (Windows version; no doubt the Mac folk have a much easier time of it since the iPad is an Apple product).

Keynote for iPad’s Site :: AU$12.99


2. MindMeister

mindmeister-ipad-logoI think mind maps are the productivity tool most folks these days have either forgotten about or not even heard of, which is a pity. I use mind maps for:

  • Meetings (particularly for taking notes, because no meeting ever sticks to an agenda but instead wanders all over the place and makes connections between different items on the agenda);
  • Brainstorming;
  • Study and research purposes (I found it particularly helpful condensing large volumes of subject material into one A4 sheet when I was at university); and
  • Problem solving.

Whilst MindMeister on its own is a great tool, where it really shines for me is its ability to import and export to and from Mind Manager, arguably the leading mind mapping software tool for PCs. But Mind Manager’s US$349 is lot to pay for some (reiterating my earlier point about standalone software) and having the ability to create and edit a mind map across platforms is not for everyone.

Where MindMeister can shine, then, is in creating mind maps when you’re working in everyone’s favourite office – the local coffee shop. You can then export your mind map to PDF, RTF (for importing into Word as linear, bullet-pointed text) or as a PNG image. Cleverly, you can also collaborate with colleagues who also have the MindMeister application on their iPad; just email them a special link (MindMeister sorts it all out) and voilà!… instant collaboration.

MindMeister for iPad :: AU$9.99


3. Documents To Go Premium – Office Suite

docs to go-ipad

A fabulous tool that comes in several different ‘flavours’, the top-of-the-pile Premium – Office Suite version of this app lets you view, create and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files – yes, even the Office 2010 versions.

It also allows you to:

  • View PDFs, iWork documents;
  • Access, use and sync files stored in Google Docs, Dropbox (see app number 5, below),, iDisk and SugarSync;
  • Email file attachments to others;
  • Enjoy two-way sync with a free downloadable desktop app.

The list of what it can do with Word, Excel and PowerPoint files is impressively long, as you would expect from a company that has been making software for 11 years. For example, in Excel (a data-hungry application, you would think), you can:

  • Freeze panes and Sort;
  • Retain original document formatting;
  • Freeze columns/rows;
  • Enjoy the use of 111 functions;
  • Open password-protected Excel 97-2008 files;
  • Insert/delete, hide/unhide, and resize columns and rows;
  • … and the list goes on.

I use it for working on Word documents (as I rarely work on spreadsheets and use ‘Keynote’ for my PowerPoint stuff) and seeing as how Apple’s bluetooth keyboard is the number one selling accessory for the iPad, I’m sure I’m not alone.

I move documents to and from the iPad via iTunes and it really is simple to run (as most iPad/iPhone apps are). When you ‘Save’ you can choose the spot you want to save the file; handy for attentive/retentive Windows users like me who have their lives stored in dizzying numbers of folders.

Documents to Go Premium – Office Suite :: AU$19.99


4. iAnnotate PDF


If, like me, you spend a lot of time working with PDF files, then this app may be a boon for you.

With it you can not only view PDFs but – surprise, surprise – annotate them too. That is, write on them, scrawl on them, insert notes at various points, put arrows and other shapes on them at various points, and so on.

So, for example, if you have a contract that needs signing, but they only sent you a PDF of the contract, you can use iAnnotate PDF to digitally sign the contract by using your finger as a pen on your iPad.

Let’s consider another use: copy editing. Let’s say your design team have come up with a great look for your monthly newsletter, but some of the words need refining to work with the mages and space. Rather than print out the pages requiring the changes, then laboriously hand-writing the changes, then walking the pages over to the design team, why not have your design team send you a pdf of the newsletter, you use iAnnotate to underline, highlight, star, mark and insert notes typed from your keyboard, and then send the changed pdf back.

Your design team can cut and paste the text in the notes into their layout software because all of the changes you’ve made to the original PDF – the highlighted words and phrases, the underlines, the typed notes, the hand/ finger-written snippets and comments, are embedded into the PDF, not just added as an additional layer that requires someone at the other end to also have iAnnotate PDF on their computer (I’m not even sure if there is a desktop version, but there probably is, or will be at some stage).

You can also store your PDFs in folders and move your PDF files around using email, iTunes sync or my beloved Dropbox (see below).

I also use it for my academic studies – marking up PDFs I download from research databases, and so on.

It’s a well-cool tool and one seriously worth investing in if you have any need to interact with PDF files.

iAnnotate PDF :: AU$12.99


5. Dropbox

dropbox logoDropbox is the tool that I would never be without, one of the first that I load onto any new laptop/desktop that I get. it’s my ‘get out of jail’ card for presentations and client documents that I’m currently working on.

It’s a free online storage tool that allows you to store up to 2GB of material – documents, spreadsheets, programs, music files… – and keep them in sync all of the time so that no matter where you go or what platform you are on, you are always working on the latest version.

It works on all major platforms and is so simple to use that even your Aunt Mabel could use it.

Most of the applications mentioned above allow you to sync with it and you can even set up shared folders so that you can share documents with others – everyone always having the most up-to-date version.

  • Shared folders allow several people to collaborate on the same files;
  • Using shared folders you can see other people’s changes instantly;
  • You can use your "Public" folder to link directly to files, allowing the world to access particular files; and
  • You can control who has access to your shared folders, so you can kick people out and remove the shared files from their computers in the process.

Did I tell you the cost? Oh yes, it’s free.

Sure, if you want more features (such as more storage space) you can pay more, but I find that 2GB is plenty of storage for me if I use it to store client documents I’m working on and presentations I am about to give (working on the very sound principle that my laptop will fail and the two usb sticks with the presentation on them will also fail).

Let’s imagine you are working on a document at the office and want to continue working on it later, but don’t feel like lugging the laptop home. With dropbox you can store that document in the clouds and when you get home it will already be waiting for you on your home pc; no usb stick, no cd-rom, no hassle.

Or else, let’s say you have worked all day on a document (a co-authored book or report, perhaps) and now it’s time for a colleague in a completely different time zone to work on it. You store the file in a shared folder that they have access to and in the morning the file will be up-to-date with their changes, additions, etc.

Let’s say a colleague has some music you want to add to your iTunes, but if you connect your iPod to their iTunes you’ll wipe out all of your own carefully crafted playlists and all the music. Not good. So instead your colleague pops the music you want to add into a shared Dropbox folder on their computer, you import it into your iTunes and there you go – you can add it to your iPod/iPhone/iPad for easy listening pleasure both at work and at home! Such an action is called ‘file sharing’ and is totally illegal for copyright reasons, of course, and I therefore don’t recommend you actually do it, but if you wanted to then that is how you could.

I store some music in mine, as well as AudioShell, a MS Windows Explorer shell extension plugin piece of software that enables me to edit the ‘properties’ of mp3 files – dead handy for podcasters like me.

Dropbox is a piece of software that I consider ‘essential’ to have. I’ve never seen anyone not astounded by it and its ease of use.

Dropbox for IPad :: AU$free


Some other tools worth checking out

These apps didn’t make the Top 5, but you should check them out anyway…

2Screens: Presentation Expert – as Shai says,

“Unfortunately, a number of apps aren’t readily shown on external screens – including the iPad’s built-in browser, Safari. So, enter 2Screens! When you need to show websites as part of your presentation, this is the way to go. It can even serve as a white board (write on iPad screen, it shows on the external screen). And, you can use it to show some files on your iPad, such as PDFs and photos.”

Slide By Slide – a way to search and view Slideshare presentations, for research and for idea generation

Evernote – a brilliant way to store the clutter that is your online life. Syncs with your iPhone and your desktop computer, allowing you to store clippings from web pages (recipes, etc), photos, images, voice notes and text.

Blogpress – currently a better tool, imho, than WordPress’ iPad app for blogging whilst seated at your local coffee shop or on the high seas. However, never underestimate the power of the open source community to rise to a challenge and turn the WordPress app into the Windows Live Writer of the iPad world.

Twitterific – again, currently a better tool, imho, than TweetDeck, Echofon Pro, Hootsuite, TwitBird Pro or Twitter’s own iPad app, but a twitter app is one of those tools that will generate intense personal, subjective feelings. What’s the best for me, in other words, may not be the best for you.



These are my Top 5 apps (and some runners up); what would your Top 5 list look like? What apps have I missed that you think rock?

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  • ZuhandenMobile

    Lee, We would be thrilled to hear what you think of our newest iPad app called Presentation Link, which we will release August 10. Presentation Link allows you to seamlessly mash pdfs, images, videos and web content into engaging mobile slideshows. In short, the app is powerful tool to create and show interactive presentations on your iPad with the following key features: -Hyperlinks for nonlinear presentations-Multiple file support and mash-up-Easy sharing and distribution Please let us know if you would like to receive a version prior to our launch on the App Store and we will prepare a package for you. You can also find more detailed information on Best regards, Hans 

  • Lee Hopkins

    G’day Hans,
    I’d love to give your app a test run, thanks.

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