Skip to main content

The best iPad business and productivity apps

The Apple iPad is one of the most popular and influential consumer electronics devices in history. Its sleek design and great portability have made it an excellent slate for web surfing, movie watching, email checking, and numerous other activities.

That said, the role that the Apple App Store has played in its success should not be overlooked. According to Apple, over 375,000 iPad apps have been released worldwide. That's a lot of apps that run the gamut from the entertaining to the business-centric. You can transform your iPad into virtually anything.

Obviously, you couldn’t possibly install all of these apps due to storage or quality limitations – and picking out the best iPad apps isn’t an easy task. You could scour the App Store for user reviews, but really, do you want to go down that road? First of all, it's an incredible time sink. Secondly, user reviews can be highly biased, and a little-known app may only have a handful of reviews.

That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you, and compiled our own list of top iPad apps. This is the second offering in a series of articles looking at the best iPad apps in a number of different categories – we covered communication and social apps yesterday. This time around, we’re looking at business and productivity apps.

Note that our crowning of top apps focuses on native iPad apps that deliver unique and compelling tablet-based experiences all of their own, not iPhone apps running in 2X mode.

Install all the apps that appeal to you (assuming your iPad has the available storage!), and by the time you’ve finished reading this series, you'll be well on the way to an excellent tablet computer experience.

Finally, if you think we’ve missed some classic apps out, please let us (and other readers) know about them in the comments section below.

Right, that’s enough preamble, let’s get on with looking at the top business and productivity apps for the iPad, which include the likes of Dragon Dictation, Polaris Office and Network Toolbox. Click on the title of any app to link through to download it on iTunes.

Air Display for iPad (£6.99)

A second monitor can be a boon to productivity, as you can keep Outlook, Twitter, or other potentially distracting work elements on a second screen. That's where Avatron's Air Display comes in: It turns your iPad into a (wireless) second LCD monitor for your Mac or PC.

Cubby (free)

Cubby allows the user to access all their important files on the go, from documents to movies. It offers the flexibility of letting you designate any folder on your system for syncing, while eliminating the confusion that this approach introduces in other products. Its DirectSync capability sets it apart from most competitors, letting you sync unlimited data among your own computers.

Dragon Dictation (free)

Featuring very accurate voice transcription and the ability to share messages via email, Facebook, and Twitter, Naunce's dictation app is both fun to use and immensely helpful – as long as you're connected to the web.

Dropbox for iPad (free)

If you're looking for an infinitely simple way to keep files in sync between your iPad, desktop, and phone, Dropbox for iPad is a must. It's simple to use, free, and offers offline file access.

eFax (free)

The eFax iPad app makes it a simple matter to send and receive faxes from your tablet, losing very little in the transition from desktop to mobile. A free account lets you receive (not send) a handful of faxes, but upgrading to a Plus or Pro account opens the door to full faxing freedom.

FileMaker Go (free)

FileMaker Go is a must-have iPad app for desktop FileMaker Pro users. The database program's excellent design, multiple file layouts, integrated search, digital signature capture, and charting capabilities made it a compelling offer when it debuted, but FileMaker Go 12 ups the ante with enhanced multimedia capabilities, multitasking support, and best of all a new price: Free! A few niggles still linger – you still can't create new files – but FileMaker Go 12 is an iPad database app that can keep you productive while on the move.

GoodReader (£2.99)

When it comes to reviewing, editing, archiving, and sharing text, it's difficult to top this excellent iPad app.

GoToMyPC (free)

Citrix's GoToMyPC for iPad makes it easy to control your computer while away from your work area, but the lack of multitasking support, and latency issues, may dampen the experience slightly.

iSimplyConnect (£10 per month)

Small businesses that want an iPad VPN solution should consider iSimplyConnect, which is fast, easy to deploy, and a snap to use. It’s free to download and try, although if you want to continue to use the app, you’ll have to pay $15 (£10) per month.

iWork for iPad (£6.99 each for Pages/Numbers/Keynote)

If you had any doubts regarding the iPad's productivity chops, look no further than Apple's own iWork for iPad. Comprised of three separate apps – Keynote, Numbers, and Pages – this mobile office suite is a must-have app for getting work done on Apple's slate.

Mercury Web Browser Pro (£0.99)

Featuring full-screen web browsing, gesture support, ad blocking, and syncing with Firefox on the desktop, Mercury is the most feature-packed alternative browser for the iPad.

Network Toolbox (£2.49)

There is a really cool app that turns your iPad (or other iOS device) into a network toolbox, and that app is named, appropriately enough, Network Toolbox. Not only is it chock full of networking utilities that can help analyse and troubleshoot a network, but it's also a beautiful app, and one that is well in-line with Apple's design aesthetics. It’s currently available for £2.49 (for a limited time, apparently) as of the writing of this article.

Note Taker HD (£2.99)

Note Taker HD is a great note-taking tool that does the job nicely, without denting your wallet. The number of features may overwhelm casual users, but anyone looking for a multi-faceted tool for making annotations, diagrams, and doodling will find a lot to like here.

OfficeTime (£5.49)

OfficeTime, which records billable hours as you work and generates invoices and reports based on that data, is a small business owner's best friend, because it's inexpensive, highly useful, and downright practical. Every small business owner needs an app this good.

Penultimate (free)

Fast, flexible, and friendly, Penultimate is a first-rate handwriting app for the iPad that aims to replace your favourite pen with your index finger. As well as basic note-taking facilities, the app features real-time presentation capabilities via VGA, wrist protection, unlimited notebooks, and plentiful sharing options. Who knew your finger was such an excellent pen?

Polaris Office for iPad (£8.99)

Polaris Office significantly improves your ability to get work done and be productive with an iPad, as it's a three-in-one app for editing and creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. For the full lowdown on the app, check out our review here.

Quickoffice Pro HD (£13.99)

Quickoffice Pro HD is light years ahead of Smart Office in terms of usability, and even boasts features that the excellent iWork doesn't possess (such as IP file transfers). It could use some improvements – such as more templates and better file sharing – but it's a competent mobile office suite that's easy to use, and also easy enough on the wallet.

Save2PDF (£3.99)

This feature-rich PDF creation app will appeal to mobile professionals who want to edit documents and create PDFs while on the go.

SugarSync (free)

If you use SugarSync's excellent cloud-based file syncing service, adding the SugarSync iPad app to your tablet is a no-brainer. It could use a search tool, but SugarSync remains a great file-syncing choice for anyone who wants simple setup, a preserved folder structure, and an intelligent interface.

Umbrella (free)

IT administrators can use Umbrella to apply security policies and push out anti-malware and anti-phishing protection on all devices on the wireless network to protect users from potential threats. Location doesn't matter; once the administrator defines and applies a security policy on the device, that device is protected as long as it is connected to the Internet. While the app itself is free, you’ll need to be an Umbrella account holder to use it, and the Umbrella (roaming) package starts from $25 (£16) per user per year.

Register for IP EXPO 2013 now

If you register with, you'll receive:

- Fast-track access to the seminar programme

- Entry into a prize draw for an exclusive gourmet dining experience at IP EXPO ONE Place Dining.

- PLUS: As a loyal reader of ITProPortal, you'll also be able to kick back in the exclusive ITProPortal lounge, enjoying complimentary beverages and the chance to chat to our expert team of technology writers.