5 Must Have Back to School iPad Apps for 2011
By on August 16th, 2011

That time of year is here once again. Summer is coming to an end, students are gathering their supplies, and classes will soon be in session once again. I know that many students, like myself, are getting iPads to use in class. I have been searching all summer for the apps that I think every student needs to have on their Apple tablet.

Now, before we get to the list, lets talk about iPads as education tools. For me, the iPad serves a handful of different purposes in my educational adventure. The first major use is as a textbook replacement. I hated having to carry heavy books around all the time, and bought an iPad to replace those. The benefits include having a light alternative, being able to save money by buying e-books, and still having full color diagrams. That brings me to my first pick.

1. Kno Textbooks (Free)

When I first started looking for textbook apps on the iPad, there weren’t that many options. I originally found CourseSmart, which is nice but doesn’t allow you to buy books in side the app, and Inkling, which doesn’t have a great selection of books. Then, I tried an app called Kno Textbooks.

Kno is a start-up company that originally started out making an education specific tablet. After determining the they couldn’t manage that project, the refocused on creating a great textbook app for the iPad. I can say that they have succeeded. They have a great selection, and in-app store, and a nice notation system.

The only feature I can’t seem to find is highlighting within the ebooks, but I can live without that. My one real gripe with Kno is that their entire collection of books is not available for purchase inside the app. however, you can access them all on the iPad, as well as in your browser and even on Facebook.

Alternatives: CourseSmart (Free), Inkling (Free)

When I originally got my iPad, I didn’t think I would be able to take notes with it. My original thinking was that I would try to type on the on-screen keyboard into something like Evernote. I quickly decided that was a horrid idea, but that I still wanted to try taking notes on my iPad. So i bought myself a $10 stylus on Amazon and gave it a shot. That brings me to my second must have app.

2. Noteshelf ($4.99)

I have bought more handwriting/note taking apps than almost anything else on my iPad. I tried most of the major players, including Notes Plus and Penultimate. While some had features I liked (voice recording in Notes Plus), none of them were exactly perfect. However, I have settled on one, and that app is Noteshelf.

Noteshelf has a number of nice features that make note taking in lectures very easy. They have one of the best zoom features, which allows you to more easily write in an organized manner. They also offer the ability to group notebooks, export to many services (including Evernote and Dropbox), and many customization apps.

My only real issue with Noteshelf is that it doesn’t do voice recordings. However, I always export my notes to Evernote so that I can read them on any machine, and that wouldn’t save the recording. in order to record a lecture, I use AudioMemos ($0.99) which records in the background. I then upload them to Dropbox for later listening.

Alternatives: Penultimate ($1.99), Notes Plus ($4.99)

The next use I have for my iPad is as a quick reference tool kit. I have multiple apps that are specific to my studies, like nutrition disorder charts and vitamin synthesis tables. Overall, the iPad serves this purpose very well. However, it is lacking a native calculator app. That’s why my next must have is a calculator for the iPad.

3. Calculator for iPad (Free)

Calculators are something that you don’t think about much outside of the world of academia. if I have to do any simple math while on my MacBook Pro, I simply do it in the Spotlight bar. However, I don’t carry this machine to class. If I need to do some short math while working in a class, I turn to Calculator for iPad.

Now, this calculator app is not very advanced. It offers enough scientific calculator functions for me to be satisfied. Most of the math I do is simple algebra type stuff, with the occasional constant substitution. I have seen more advanced calculators in the App Store, but I don’t need anything better than what Calculator offers.

I’m not sure what to offer as an alternative to Calculator for iPad. If all you need is a basic/scientific calculator, then go with it. If you need something better, you will probably buy a real calculator. Either way, you would be happy getting the free version of this app.

As far as I know, almost every student these days are forced into using PDFs. Despite being one of the most insecure file formats currently on the market, many educational institutions force us to use them. When they do, I like to have the ability to annotate them on my iPad, and that’s what my next app does.

4. PDF-Notes (Free)

Annotating PDFs is probably one of the best things about owning an iPad. Many of my professors release notes and outlines in PDF format, and it’s very helpful to be able to mark those up on the fly. I have found what I consider to be one of the best apps for that, and its made even better by having a free version.

PDF-Notes is my app of choice for annotating PDFs. It offers a great set of features including highlighting, writing handwritten and typed notes, and even PDF management. It offers a great zoom feature that makes it easier to handwrite notes on PDF documents. You also get the ability to export the annotated documents to Dropbox, email, or even other apps.

My only complaint with the free version of PDF-Notes is the ads. However, those are there so that the developer makes some money for their work. There is a pay version available, but it costs a whole 10 bucks. I’m not sure I’ll buy it any time soon.

Alternatives: iAnnotate PDF ($9.99)

Now that you have all this information, from your notes to your prepped PDFs, you need to think about syncing it all with your computer. For most students, the iPad is not a replacement for a traditional computer. It makes a great supplementary tool, but needs to synced with your real machine. For that, I recommend this last app.

5. Evernote/Dropbox (Free)

That’s right, my last pick is actually two different apps. If you use all the apps I have listed, you will need to make use of both Dropbox and Evernote. You can sync your notes to Evernote or Dropbox from within Noteshelf, save your recordings to Dropbox, and even export your PDFs to either service.

I can’t imagine being a student without Evernote and Dropbox. It has eliminated my need to carry a flash drive with me all the time. It also helps me keep track of all my notes and documents for my courses. They have revolutionized my education, and they both have fantastic (and free) iPad apps.

If you are already a user of both of these services, then you have no reason not to grab these iPad apps. They give you all the features you could want, including fantastic mobile control. I highly recommend these apps. Seriously. Go get them.

Download and Get Ready To Learn

So there you have it. 5 apps that every student needs before they get into their classes this fall. They are all incredibly useful, and none of them are super expensive. If you are carrying Apple’s tablet to classes this year, make sure you have these installed.

A note on surviving in education: All work and no play makes sure you will fail. Use that iPad to relax as well. Watch some movies on it, read via the Kindle app, or play some games. Even download a nice Facebook app and talk to your friend. I promise you will regret it if you don’t.

I also know that these are not all the apps a student needs. The App Store is full of more specific research apps that students will find useful. My wife has many engineering calculators and charts on her iPad, and I keep mine full of nutrition information. Search around and find some apps that will be great for you.

What apps did I miss on my list? What kind of app do you think every student with an iPad needs? Let me know you suggestions and thoughts by leaving a comment below. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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Author: Tony Price Google Profile for Tony Price
Tony A. Price is a Nutrition and Dietetics Student from Louisiana in the United States. He has a deep passion for high end technology, mobile devices and applications, Mac hardware and software, and video gaming. His website is Tony's Brain, his Twitter handle is @TonyAllenPrice and you can follow him on Google+.

Tony Price has written and can be contacted at tony@techie-buzz.com.

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