essential (so far) iPad software

I just got my first receipt for iPad software that I bought since buying my iPad:

GoodReader for iPad, v3.14.2 (4+) Good.iWare Ltd. App $4.99
Comic Zeal Comic Reader, v5.0.36 (12+) Bitolithic Pty Ltd App $4.99
Articles for iPad, v1.5 (17+) Sophiestication Software App $4.99
Tweetbot ― A Twitter Client with Personal… Tapbots App $2.99
Air Display, v1.6 (4+) Avatron Software, Inc. App $9.99

Then there are a few free apps that didn’t show up:

  • Everything Butt Art
  • Adobe Reader

In addition to those, I’ve been using these apps that already had available from iPhone use:

  • It’s Playing
  • Kindle
  • Instapaper
  • Dropbox
  • Night Stand
  • Amazon

I’ve got a bunch of other stuff installed, but I haven’t really used it, so I’m not going to bother listing it.

I got my iPad to replace my HP TouchPad and my Kindle DX. I used my Kindle DX for reading technical books, children’s books, Instapaper, and very occasionally other content. I used my HPTP for reading RPG books, comic books, Instapaper, and very occasionally other content. So, I needed to get iOS applications to replace these functions.

GoodReader is, I was told by nearly everyone I know, the best PDF reader around. Since I wanted this tablet in large part to read PDFs, I did not balk at dropping five bucks on the reader. I’m glad: GoodReader is pretty fantastic.

I don’t need any of the annotations. I just need something good at listing files and displaying them. On the HPTP, I wrote a little rsync-ish script to load books into a directory when I mounted the tablet as a USB mass storage device. It was fine. The only PDF reader to speak of was Adobe Reader, and it was lousy. It was fine for reading a PDF in order, page by page, but it was slow and its interface for moving to arbitrary pages was a joke. Also, when you wanted to open a PDF, you could let it scan your whole storage for PDF files, which it would display in a single flat list. Argh! Instead of doing that, I used the Gemini File Manager to browse my file tree, then pick PDF files to open in Adobe Reader. It was pretty lame.

I saw that GoodReader had Dropbox sync, so I pointed it at my Dropbox. I told it I wanted to sync my RPG books folder and it got to work. A while later, my huge pile of PDFs was sitting on my tablet, still organized by folder. Then I synchronized my “articles to read” folder. I read a few and deleted them from my tablet, then synchronized the deletions back to Dropbox. Awesome!

Sadly, GoodReader uses Apple’s (very fast) PDF renderer, which has some very unfortunate bugs that can cause text to appear missing or mangled. In my experience, it mostly affects OCR scanned files of now-unavailable texts, but even some modern documents, like the Pathfinder RPG PDF are affected. When I want to read these on my laptop, I fall back to using Adobe Reader, which is slow and ugly, but works. This bug is one of the reasons I had long hesitated to use an iPad to read PDFs. Yesterday, though, I learned that Adobe makes a PDF reader using their own engine, which renders these files properly! I’ll still be using GoodReader for most files, but within GoodReader, if I see a file is rendering poorly, I can click “open in Adobe Reader” and read it there.

The other thing I wanted to read on the iPad, which I couldn’t possibly read on my other ereaders, was comics. Reading comic books on my TouchPad was a revelation. I’d read them, before, on my laptop, and it was tolerable. On the TouchPad, they looked gorgeous. They looked, I though, even better than on the page. There was no problem with the spine obscuring any pages. The image looked bright (because, hey, backlight!) and crisp. Even a bit smaller than on paper, I was sold. I felt pretty unlikely to go back to buying paper comics.

I also felt like I wasn’t going to see anything much better than ComicShelf HD, which I was using on my HPTP. It did just what I wanted: it let me load a bunch of comics, in folders, and then read them. What else would there be? I looked around for the most-liked iPad app and found Comic Zeal. At first, I was frustrated that its Dropbox integration was worthless, compared to GoodReader’s. It only supported “Open in…” and not syncing. Loading comics by hand required going through iTunes, and then screwing around in the app to get things into folders.

Eventually, though, I found some useful help articles. It would be easy to do what I wanted: I had to turn off “automatic series,” which guessed (badly) at series names from filenames. Then I’d make make new collections and focus on them while importing to get the files into the right place. It worked really well, and there are a metric ton of other organization features that I’d love to use… if Comic Zeal was a Mac app. As it is, I can’t load all my comics onto my iPad, and don’t plan to, but it’d be great if I could organize them with something this nice on my laptop, then sync them to my iPad in hunks for reading.

I use Articles for iPhone daily. I probably use it more than I use Safari. I was surprised to see that it didn’t show up to download for iPad, because Articles for iPad is a distinct app. I’d have to pay another $5. I was annoyed for about fifteen seconds, then I paid the $5. I had to admit: I use that program so much, the author deserves another five bucks anyway. The iPad version is just as nice as the iPhone version so far, though I’ve hardly used it as often, and I doubt I will use it as often. Still, it’s nice to have on hand.

I installed Twitter’s official app, at first, just to avoid paying for a Twitter app, but I hated it. It looked bad, was annoying to use, and even with all its Notification Center access turned off, I kept getting notifications. I deleted it and installed TweetBot. I had wanted to install Twittelator, which I like on iPhone, but recently its had some weird things going on with pricing and features that I didn’t like, so I stuck to TweetBot, which seemed very nice, too. It’s so nice I might switch to using it on iPhone, too. In fact, I think I’ll put replace Twittelator in my iPhone dock right now!

The next iPad app I picked up was AirDisplay, which lets me use my iPad as an external high-DPI display for my Mac. I had no idea what I’d use it for, but Jesse said I’d like it, so I ran with it. I still don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but it does seem pretty darn cool. It also makes me with that I could full-screen one OS X program without rendering the second display useless. Argh!

Everything Butt Art is a cute drawing app that David Golden showed me at the QA Hackathon. Along with normal drawing tools, there are trace-the-lines drawings that I thought Martha would enjoy, and the whole thing is cute. It’s also $0, which made it easy to justify.

The iPad Kindle app is very nice. I’m not sure what else to say about it. It does everything I expected and looks great doing it.

I also really like the iPad Instapaper client, which has a very simple interface and has already let me make some progress on my backed-up reading queue. The high-density display really paid off here. The text is gorgeous, and it really does make a difference in the reading experience.

Some of the applications that Apple installs by default (and, incidentally, doesn’t let you delete) on the iPhone aren’t present on the iPad. There’s no “Clock” application and no “Weather” application, both of which seemed like they’d be useful to have around. I installed Night Stand HD and Magical Weather to fill in for Apple’s apps. I’d already been using Night Stand on my phone, so it cost nothing, and Magical Weather seemed like it would be a nice thing to leave displaying while I sit at work. It looks like I’d like it even more if I could have it display some other data as it sits there, like a notification center, but I’m not picky. It looks great already.

Right now, I’ve got everything I liked about the Kindle DX and HPTP replicated on the iPad, and in every case the replacement software is much better. I’m not sure what I might use beyond these, but even if it’s nothing, I think I’m happy. I should note that I also installed WriteRoom but I don’t see myself using it much. The iPad keyboard is a thing that I can suffer through, but I hate typing on it. I ordered a cheap knock-off of Apple’s camera connection kit so that I can plug in a USB keyboard, though, and that may change things. Time will tell.

Written on April 13, 2012
💾 software