Top Utility Apps for iPad

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Avatar of James Read
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on February 13, 2013
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Utility apps can increase the functionality of your iPad and can open up endless possibilities to what it can become, listed are some of the utility apps that have done exactly that for me personally.

It is somewhat surprising that utility apps are the unsung hero of the app store given how useful they can be, hopefully some of the ones listed below might just surprise and impress you.

Chrome App IconGoogle Chrome
For a long time I was happy with the standard browsing experience on iPad, Apple’s preloaded Safari browser did a satisfactory job for me, then I discovered just how good the desktop version of Chrome was and decided to extend the experience to my iPad.

The key to what makes Chrome so useful is the simple integration with other versions, for example the desktop version of Chrome, with this mobile version so passwords, bookmarks and browsing history are synced absolutely seamlessly.

Before I jumped on the bandwagon and endorsed Chrome on my computer and then on my iPad browsing the internet on the two devices felt separated, however with Chrome running on both devices surfing the internet on my iPad feels like an extension of browsing on the computer.

Even without running Chrome on a desktop and without bookmarks and passwords to sync personally I feel Chrome is the best day to day browser available on iPad, Chrome is sleek, fast and easy to use, which cannot always be said for Safari.

Get Chrome on the iTunes App Store.

Puffin App IconPuffin Web Browser
I know the irony of singing the praises of one browser only to include another just after but there is good reason. Chrome has one shortfall, which is mirrored by Safari, there is no flash support.

This was something that was hot topic when the first iPad was first released by Apple three years ago, the lack of built in flash support, as some claimed it rendered large parts of the internet inaccessible.

Well evidently the lack of built in flash support was a conscious software choice as there are a number of browsers available to download that enable flash playback, by far the best however is Puffin Web Browser.

I was on the lookout for a flash enabled browser for a while and most that I came across were frankly awful to use, the interface and simple use of flash was clunky and didn’t work very effectively. Puffin puts these browsers to shame, flash is integrated well and flash runs automatically and smoothly.

Also unlike other browsers that enable flash playback Puffin isn’t bad as a general browser, most verge on the point of unusable for general surfing, Puffin however is competent enough and could be your complete package.

Personally because of the useful features of Chrome across different platforms I use both these browsers for different situations, day to day browsing is Chrome’s specialty, whereas if I wanted to render a movie or live stream anything I use Puffin.

Puffin is available as a free download, which supposedly only features a trial version of the flash player but at the time of writing there was no other versions available on the app store and under ‘Flash trial time’ on the app itself I’m seeing an unlimited time scale.

Get Puffin Web Browser on the iTunes App Store.

AirVideo IconAir Video
This may be blurring the lines of utility with entertainment, but as it’s classed as utility on the app store and is one of the apps I use most I thought I’d include it.

If you’re like me you might have a vast collection of movies on your computer that you’d love to view on your iPad but just don’t have the space. This is where Air Video comes in.

Through a download on your desktop Air Video makes your computer a server, which hosts all your movies for viewing on a separate mobile device, in this case your iPad.

You can pick which folders are included and there are limitations on access to ensure that not anybody with the app can access your files.

This is an extremely useful app if you have a large media library and not a lot of room to spare on your iPad, you can access your whole video library through an internet connection, leaving your iPad’s memory unscathed by the normally large nature of media content.

The downside is that the server you set up needs to be on for you to access files from your iPad, which means if your out and get a random impulse to watch a movie and your computer is off then you’ll be out of luck, however if you know in advance that you’ll get a couple of hours in the day you can simply turn you computer on, put it to sleep and access will be open to your iPad.

A free lite version of Air Video is available, however the full app costs £1.99.

Get Air Video on the iTunes App Store.
Get the free version on the iTunes App Store too.

PocketCloud IconPocketCloud
I know so far this list hasn’t been the impressive or surprising collection I promised earlier, browsers and video sharing are hardly eye raising, however PocketCloud might one of the apps that could alter the way you use your iPad significantly

PocketCloud is one of many PC remote apps, it’s one of the better apps in this category for the simplicity of set up and its relatively smooth running.

PC Remote control apps basically allow you to run your PC (as well as Mac in the case of PocketCloud) through your iPad, now whilst the port isn’t without it’s limitations it is an impressive concept all the same.

You can access any programs on your computer and run them effectively on your iPad, it’s particularly impressive to play games or use things like photoshop on your iPad, as this unlocks a whole new dimension of uses for your tablet.

Like I mentioned the interaction isn’t perfect so there is a bit of lag, which in my opinion is to be expected, but after you get used to controlling the app it’s easy to use for extended periods of time.

It works much in the same way as Air Video, setting your computer up as server and accessing this server through the app on your iPad, again this means that your computer must be on for the app to work, the advantage of this app however is that you can shut your computer down through the app, which is useful when using the aforementioned Air Video.

If I know that I have a couple of hours spare in the day, either on the train or in between work for example, I’ll leave my computer on when I leave my house, this will allow me to use Air Video and watch a movie, once I’m finished I can use PocketCloud to turn my computer off so I don’t have to feel too guilty about my electricity bill.

A rather extensive free version is available however a premium version, which unlocks features such as multiple computer support, is available for £10.49, an extra subscription of £16.99 a year is also required for the full premium version.

Get Pocket Cloud on the iTunes App Store.
Get the Pro version here too.

Splashtop XDisplay Icon
Splashtop XDisplay
This is a similar app to the remote desktop controller and another one that hugely increases the functionality of your iPad and may cause you to change the way you use your tablet.

This clever little app turns your iPad into a second monitor for your desktop and whilst the iPad screen may not be the biggest it’s a great little app when you consider it’s small price in comparison to the price of even the smallest monitor.

Again this is one example of an app that you may find a few examples of, personally I went for Splashtop because it is one of the cheapest on the market and once again it’s so easy to set up.

Functionality is good on both the iPad and the computer it’s connected to, I’ve had my fair share of external monitors in the past and this runs just as smooth as they did.

So if you often find your desktop a mess of windows and want a quick and easy way to clean this up look no further.

Personally I find if I’m working on a project and have to reference a whole host of different sources the amount of things open on my computer can sometimes get on top of me, that’s where this app comes in, I simply open it up and can drag the less crucial windows down onto my iPad until I need to them later.

Touch controls are permitted on the iPad, as is the option to call up a keyboard for additional input, which is useful as your natural instinct to touch your iPad to control what is happening on screen doesn’t result in you feeling a tad silly and scrambling for your mouse, as it’s responds accordingly.

Splashtop XDisplay is available for a free download, however this only permits a 10 minute preview, an in app purchase costing £2.99 is required to use the app from there on out.

Get Splashtop XDisplay on the iTunes App Store.

So there you have it, there are some of the utility apps that I personally use often, whilst the browsers may not be too inspiring hopefully the latter apps on this list will impress you if you do decide to give any of them a go. I’d love to here from you in the comment box below if you think I missed some or if you’ve tried some of the apps and want to share what you thought.