Top 10 iPad Apps for Business

Just when you thought the iPad could be safely ignored as unimportant to the enterprise, suddenly two related facts have emerged to change our perspective. The first is that a small army of executives now are, dare I say it, proudly, carrying only iPads on business trips.

“That’s what I usually do,” said Marc Siry, a senior vice president at television network NBC-U. His contention is that he pretty much can do all the work he needs to do on an iPad and he is not alone. C-suiter’s and other top rung execs often are among the most vocal iPad proponents.

That leads to the second fact: there’s been a steady trickle of robust, business focused apps that indeed exist to enable traveling executives to do the work that needs doing. No one will confuse an iPad with a supercomputer but the plain truth is, real work can get done on it if you have the right apps.

So here is a Top 10 round-up of apps CIOs need to know about for their road warriors:

1. Pages ($9.99) – Apple’s own word processor, it has good compatibility with Microsoft Word. High ease of use. This may be a Tata Nano to Word’s Maybach, but if all you need to do is crank out a four-page white paper, Pages is plenty powerful.

2. Keynote ($9.99) – Apple’s version of PowerPoint, with which it has good compatibility. It’s an excellent tool for viewing PPT files on the go. Shows can also be created in Keynote but, again, this is a lightweight app compared to the heavyweights of presentation software.

3. Dragon Dictation (free) – Can’t stand the iPad’s onscreen keyboard? This is your salvation. Use Dragon’s app to dictate emails, or create other texts. Heavy users say it is many times faster to talk into Dragon than to type on the soft keyboard.

4. Dropbox (free) – Load files onto Dropbox and then they are available on multiple platforms, including smartphones, a desktop or laptop, and of course an iPad. This is a crucial app for the iPad which lacks a USB port, making mass file transfers tricky. Dropbox is the simplifier. Move file into Dropbox from the desktop, then cherry pick what’s needed on the iPad. The first 2 GB of storage is free. Dropbox can also be enlisted to back up iPad’s user created content.

5. Evernote (free) – Another cross-platform tool. Running on smartphones, laptops, and also iPads, Evernote is a mobile, 21st Century note pad. Jot down anything, using any device, and the info is accessible via Evernote from any other device you use.

6. GoodReader ($1.99) – The app for reading PDFs on iPad, this tool also handles MS Office files as well as many audio and visual files. It’s kind of a Swiss Amy knife for the iPad. “Phenomenal document viewing, reading, and managing app,” said Brad Nickel, a partner at Web marketing firm ClickBrain.

7. Filemaker Go (freeCorrection: Sorry folks, Filemaker Go is actually priced at $39.99.) – Another very slick iPad tool out of Apple, this app is designed to sync with versions of database tool Filemaker that are running on your desktop or laptop. For SAP companies, SAP’s free Business Objects Explorer is another must-have app, giving access to SAP data on the business computers.

8. WebEx (free) – The ubiquitous Cisco meeting tool is available for the iPad. Download and be fully involved in your next WebEx meeting (view presentations, even the presenter’s desktop from your iPad). Perfect for logging into a meeting in Indianapolis when you are poolside in Miami. If you prefer, GoToMeeting also has a free iPad app.

9. Citrix Receiver for iPad (free) – If your company has Citrix servers, this app works real magic by giving an iPad user access to the full Microsoft Office suite, just about everything running on the company’s boxes. Install this and get one-click access to whatever your favorite apps on your office desktop are. This genuinely turns the iPad into a networked appliance that has access to all the power of the network. High levels of network security are touted by Citrix.

10. iTeleport ($24.99) – Access your home or office computer from wherever you may be via this app. Not every company has Citrix servers so this app delivers many of the same benefits with no server requirement. (Wyse’s PocketCloud – $14.99 – offers much the same functionality.)

Add it up and iPad users can word-process, create presentations, go to meetings anywhere, access much of the data on their office computers and they can do much more still (including making free or very low cost phone calls using Skype or TruPhone). Bottom line: tools are proliferating that put all the content and much of the functionality of a desktop computer within easy reach of an iPad user.

There remain limitations to the iPad? The OS still is an inflated mobile phone operating system and there is no keyboard. But eyeball the available apps and it is beyond doubt that there is work that can be done, well and easily on an iPad.

Robert McGarvey – As a busy freelance writer for more than 30 years, Rob McGarveyhas written over 1500 articles for many of the nation’s leading publications―from Reader’s Digest to Playboy and from the NY Times to Harvard Business Review. McGarvey covers CEOs, business, high tech, human resources, real estate, and the energy sector. A particular specialty is advertorial sections for many top outlets including the New York Times, Crain’s New York, and Fortune Magazine.