The Best Office Apps for Your iPad, Round 4

Be sure to have these apps to get the most office productivity possible from your iPad.

Road warriors' business toolkit

Of the tens of thousands of apps available for the iPad, only a relative few are must-have tools for business use. To help keep your iPad stocked with the cream of the crop, InfoWorld offers its fourth roundup of the best office apps for the iPad -- some are familiar, some are new, and some old choices are no longer needed.

No doubt your iPad will have specialty apps beyond these to help in your specific line of work. For this, you should peruse our recommended iPad speciality apps and our favorite iOS and Android apps for IT pros, as well as install the appropriate clients for your videoconferencing and instant messaging services. But the apps highlighted here are ones almost everyone should have.

InfoWorld Test Center scorecards
 Product Score Rating
Apple Keynote
8.0
VERY GOOD
Apple Numbers
7.0
GOOD
Apple Pages
6.8
FAIR
Byte Squared Office2HD
8.0
VERY GOOD
Google Quickoffice HD Pro
7.2
GOOD
Picsel Smart Office 2
5.3
POOR
RIM Documents to Go Premium
6.5
FAIR
Word processor: Office2HD

A new office productivity suite -- Office2HD -- has unseated our previous co-winner, Quickoffice Pro HD, in the word processing category. Office2HD offers the editing and formatting you'd expect, including support for multiple columns and images. But it does more than the rest: It lets you add comments, footnotes, endnotes, column breaks, and section breaks, plus -- the big deal -- track changes made within Office2HD.

Although it can't apply paragraph and character styles to text, Office2HD preserves those already in your documents. Also, you can search but not replace, nor apply or edit embedded hyperlinks. Office2HD supports a wide range of cloud services, but not iCloud.

App: Office2HD
Price: $7.99

Developer: Byte Squared
Compatibility: iPad (iPhone version sold separately, $5.99)

Spreadsheet editor (tie): Numbers

Apple's Numbers spreadsheet editor is designed to make data entry easy, especially around numeric, date, and formula info. The keyboard adjusts based on the type of data you're working with. Excel users may dislike Numbers' approach to creating worksheets; Numbers allows several on a page, which can confound experienced Excel users.

Also, like all iWork apps, Numbers supports cloud storage services such as Box and Dropbox, but messily: You must copy your documents into and out of Numbers, which creates version issues. Only in an all-Apple workflow does Numbers avoids this messiness, using iCloud to keep your documents current on all your devices.

App: Numbers
Price: $9.99

Developer: Apple

Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Spreadsheet editor (tie): Quickoffice HD Pro

Quickoffice's spreadsheet-editing module works very much like Excel, so it's instantly accessible to Excel users. There's also a Business App Store version that allows for content management by IT. Although it supports several cloud services, it does not support iCloud.

App: Quickoffice Pro HD
Price: $19.99

Developer: Google's Quickoffice
 division
Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Presentation editor: Keynote

Simply put, Keynote is an amazing slideshow editor. I prefer it over PowerPoint even on the Mac, and on the iPad, it works beautifully when creating complex slide transitions and element effects. And its iCloud compatibility can be a real life-saver, ensuring all your devices have the current documents. A bonus is Apple's free Keynote Remote app for the iPhone and iPod Touch that lets you control a Keynote presentation remotely on your Mac or iPad.

Keynote's big negative is its awkward requirement of copying documents to and from cloud storage services, rather than allowing direct access as other apps do.

App: Keynote
Price: $9.99

Developer: Apple

Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Office in the cloud: CloudOn

Running Windows on an iPad can be a disconcerting experience, given how they weren't designed for each other. But the CloudOn service nicely integrates the Windows versions of Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, as well as Adobe Reader, with the iPad's native keyboard and Share facility. Plus, it uses your existing Dropbox or Box cloud storage for files, so you don't have to worry about version control across multiple devices. It has a few flaws, but when you need the full version of Microsoft Office, CloudOn is a very handy option -- as long as you have a live Internet connection, of course.

App: CloudOn
Price: Free

Developer: CloudOn

Compatibility: iPad

File manager: GoodReader

Many people really wish the iPad had a shared file system, like a PC or Mac. But it doesn't. GoodReader can give you much of the file manager you want. It provides a central file repository for files you transfer via Wi-Fi, various storage services, iTunes, and the Open In facility used by many iOS apps (such as Mail). GoodReader -- as its name implies -- also lets you read many file formats, including several not supported by iOS's naive QuickLook facility. Plus, it unzips file archives, so you don't need a separate utility for the task.

App: GoodReader
Price: $4.99

Developer: Good.iWare

Compatibility: iPad (iPhone version sold separately; $4.99)

PDF markup: GoodReader

Although GoodReader didn't start life as a PDF annotation tool, it's evolved into a damned good one. You get all the markup tools you expect from Acrobat Professional -- even the advanced editing tools -- so no one will know you marked up the PDFs on an iPad. The app does a good job of using touch gestures for highlighting portions of your PDF for markup. My only quibble is you can't rotate individual pages, so sometimes you're marking up a page rotated 90 degrees from the orientation of the sticky notes' text you're adding.

App: GoodReader
Price: $4.99

Developer: Good.iWare

Compatibility: iPad (iPhone version sold separately; $4.99)

Note-taking: Notability

Taking notes is a very personal activity, and there are dozens of apps for the iPad that reflect all those preferences. But two such apps work well for most people. One is the iPad's built-in Notes app, which is great for typing in text-only notes and having them instantly available to your computer and other devices via IMAP, Exchange, and/or iCloud syncing.

If you want notes that include audio recordings and drawings (alas, no syncing), also get Notability. It's straightforward to use and can associate your recordings to what you type as you type; to hear the portion of a recording made when you typed in specific text, just tap that text.

App: Notability
Price: $4.99

Developer: Ginger Labs

Compatibility: iPad

Calculator: Calculator Original

Who doesn't need a calculator now and then? But unlike the iPhone, the iPad doesn't come with one built in. Fortunately, you can get an iPad version of that familiar iPhone calculator for free.

App: Calculator Original
Price: Free

Developer: Spencer Brown

Compatibility: iPad

Cloud storage (tie): Dropbox

Apple's iCloud is a great service for keeping files and other data synced across iOS and OS X devices, but it's not (yet) a storage service where you can keep files in a central location accessible to all devices and other users. Dropbox is such a service, and it's integrated with many iPad apps, so it can fill in as a common file system in some cases. Dropbox also integrates nicely with OS X and Windows, appearing as another storage volume. It's available for Android as well. Note that using Dropbox with Apple's iWork apps requires a $5 monthly fee.

App: Dropbox
Price: Free, but charges for storage vary

Developer: Dropbox

Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Cloud storage (tie): Box

Like Dropbox, Box enjoys wide support from iPad apps, and it works in Windows, OS X, and Android. But Box does not have the simple integration with OS X and Windows that Dropbox does, forcing you to move files through a clumsy Web interface instead. Box can be used with Apple's iWork suite on the iPad for no additional charge, and it offers an enterprise version that lets IT manage access and content rights for corporate data.

App: Box
Price: Free, but charges for storage vary

Developer: Box

Compatibility: iPad and iPhone

Task management: OmniFocus

If you're a project manager who needs serious task management capabilities, such as timelines, multimedia annotations, multiple assignees, calendar integration, and hierarchical steps, OmniFocus is the gold standard for iOS and OS X. If all you need is a to-do list, the iPad's built-in Reminders app is primitive but serviceable.

App: OmniFocus
Price: $39.99

Developer: Omni Group

Compatibility: iPad (iPhone version sold separately; $19.99)

FTP client: FTP on the Go Pro

Cloud storage services have made FTP utilities archaic for many users, but if you work on a website or in many file-management systems, you still need a client. For the iPad, that client should be FTP on the Go, which not only does the FTP uploading and downloading you'd expect but also provides a basic HTML editor so that you can touch up your Web pages.

App: FTP on the Go Pro
Price: $9.99

Developer: Headlight Software

Compatibility: iPad (iPhone version sold separately; $6.99)