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Apple Watch: Indispensable iPad apps

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A short while back I talked about what apps I used a lot on my Mac, and promised to do the same for iPad. This coincided with a lesson in iPad I gave at the Grey Lynn Community Centre recently, so it's timely. I remember back when they first came out, I characterised it as an 'almost useless thing you wouldn't be able to leave alone', and I used to start my iPad sessions with the statement 'The iPad is not a laptop', but I have to say my position on both those things has changed, partly because they're so powerful now.

Maybe you heard that this week, Apple dropped the iPad 2, which was non-retina, and relaunched the fourth-generation iPad in its place. It's now available once again on Apple's website, but only at 16GB capacity, for NZ$529. This new version includes Apple's custom dual-core A6X processor, a 5 MP iSight camera and 1.2 MP FaceTime camera and the much better, smaller, either-way-up Lightning connector. Called the 'iPad Retina' as against iPad Air and iPad mini, it sells here in black or white for $529, or with cellular for $779. It's a lot more powerful than the iPad 2.

Actually, in my house were iPad-less for a few days, and it was an interesting experience. It lives in the lounge/kitchen (they're pretty much the same room) and does duty for finding recipes, information, reading magazines and books and, when my daughter's in the house, playing the occasional game. I wanted one - I run presentations from iPad sometimes, and I present about iPads at times, too. When I'm doing that, it's always better to actually have one. But I decided to try and do without. That simply wasn't going to wash, though. My partner kept looking for it and after three days of that, told me I 'had' to buy one. She missed reading the Herald (app) with her morning coffee, being able to look topics up when the news was on and to pore over maps, so decided this was an intolerable state. Which was music to my ears. So I ordered a 32GB iPad mini, just wifi as I can always find wireless and if not, I can use my iPhone as a hotspot anyway. I figured the iPad mini was 64-bit and I could get the 32GB for the same price as a 16GB Air. I haven't missed the size - in fact, I find it handier (literally) to use. I paired it with a Logitech Folio case which lets you enclose it, and open it and prop it for a good viewing angle. (Sorry, Apple, I can't use your Smart cases - they just collapse on me. I can't make them work.)

The beauty of iCloud is that any apps I've ever bought are recorded (as against actually backed up into iCloud's free 5GB allocation) so I can download anything I've ever paid for free; that's what the little cloud icon with a downward arrow means when you find something in the App Store. Same with music, movies etc from iTunes. Of course, iCloud also means any documents you put in the cloud are accessible on a new device, once you log in, and your contacts fill out magically. I'm not saying you can't do this on other tablets, OK? I have no idea. I hope you can. I'm just saying this is a benefit, on iDevices, of Apple's iCloud. Log-in and you're done.

So what did I put back on? These are the apps I find indispensable. In my Dock along the bottom, I have the following apps: Settings, NZHerald, Safari, Maps, App Store and Music. Yes, six items - you don't have to stick with four - hold your finger on an app for a couple of seconds to enter Edit Mode, and drag two more to it, there's a tip for you. Also, if you don't want something in there, drag it out - like the Mac itself, you should only have the things in there that you want to use a lot. I have all my songs on this iPad already as I use it to play songs wirelessly over my stereo, thanks to an AirPort Express.

I immediately made sure Pages was on the mini. Sometimes inspiration strikes while I'm sitting on the couch. I should probably sit there more than I do, as these days my default position seems to be in either front of my MacBook Pro or painting and sanding on the house. Working in Pages means it's instantly accessible in Pages on my Mac once I need to fine-tune in luxury of a bigger screen and a real keyboard, but if I have a lot more to add, I usually open the document (copy from one, paste into the other) in Nisus Writer Pro instead, on my Mac.

Keynote for sure, for those presentations (I have a dongle that lets me plug my iPad and iPhone into a projector and lets me charge it at the same time. This is how we ran dozens of presentations at the ASB last year when they fitted their staff with a couple of thousand iPads and iPhones). Numbers I don't need on an iPad. Skype, yes: in winter we prefer to sit in the lounge by the fire to Skype our daughter in Wellington. That's one pretty good Microsoft app (though to be fair, Microsoft bought it). We could use FaceTime as she's an Apple user too, but for some reason we've never taken to it.

The Freeview TV Guide by is essential since we stopped getting the Listener (why would I want to read an unsigned editorial?) YouTube (that's a Google app, since Google bought it). Mail is turned off, as is Calendars in Settings>iCloud - rather than bombard family with my emails and schedule, I can just turn them on if I take the iPad anywhere. iTranslate is a brilliant app that came over from my iPhone. It translates loads of languages one to the other - you talk in one, it talks in the other, so someone can say something in Arabic and your iPad can relay it in English ... or German, Dutch, Italian ... and you can see the words, too. Or vice versa. Genius.

BBC News for overseas news with a more European focus. Apple's iMovie, GarageBand for musical jottings and the excellent Logic Remote app for playing instruments, or automating faders and more, remotely on Logic on my Mac. The games S.Go Dance (daughter) and, likewise, HairSalon Me and Smash Hit. You'd have to ask her why.

The photo apps GroupShot (very clever - take several groups shots of people and you can mix and match the best head shots seamlessly, flawlessly and in a matter of seconds, no Photoshop skills required). TiltShiftGen for effortless photo mastery that has to be seen to be believed. Both these apps underscore why Apple introduced 64-bit iPad processing.

iBooks naturally - if you haven't got this on your iPad, go get it. It's Apple, it's free. In iBooks, tap Store at top left, tap Top Charts at the bottom and check out all the free books: they include the iPad manual written by Apple. In the paid section, Eleanor Catton's Luminaries for $12.99, the book Twelve Years a Slave for ... just 99¢! Stop on page whatever, open it up a couple of days later and it opens to the same page - and it syncs with iBooks on your Mac, so open it on there and it opens to the same page. Take notes, highlight passages - it's a delight.

This whole iBooks thing is set to explode, by the way. Books can be text, but they can also be interactive singing, dancing text books that will wake your kids up. There are already Kiwis working in this space - check out the efforts of TeachMe Resources Ltd, and I know of some very interesting NZ history books being developed right now.

I try and keep to just two screens, by the way. Let me know of anything you think is indispensable, please let me know of NZ app efforts and yes, it's very good to have an iPad back.

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