The 10 best overlooked iPad features – and apps

May 3, 2014

A quick glance at the AppStore Top Charts reveals that most consumers (TabTimes readers aside!) are just playing games since only Microsoft Excel for the iPad has broken through to the top 10 across the Top Free, Paid and Grossing Apps.

Given these charts it would seem that many of you are missing some really cool features and capabilities of the iPad. What follows is a list of features and functions you may not have thought about. Some are underutilized features others are workflows and processes that could make your life easier.

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The Top 10 – Drumroll please:

Document Scanner: All iPads from the iPad 2 on up have a camera included. Even with limited resolution the camera on the iPad 2 is good enough to scan a document. You can eliminate lots of paper using apps like Smile's PDFpen Scan+ with OCR, Readdle's Scanner Pro and Evernote. Download one of these apps and give scanning a try; your paper pile will be much smaller for it.

Keyboard Shortcuts: iOS provides a way to create text shortcuts where a simple abbreviation typed in an email or document can automatically expand into a longer string of text; this is great for typing your signature or a salutation. Check out Keyboard Options under General Settings to create your own shortcuts.

Screen Capture Device: One of my favorite iOS features is the ability to capture a screen-shot with the press of two buttons. This is amazingly useful if you want to show a co-worker exactly what you are viewing on your iPad. Give this a try by pressing the power button and the home button at the same time. If you press the buttons correctly you will see the screen flash with the corresponding shutter sound. Each time you capture a screen the screenshot ends up in your photo roll. One additional capability is the ability to crop photos directly from the iOS photo app. Just select your screen captured photo, click Edit on the upper-right side of the screen and then crop however you want.

Presentation Control Device: Why should presidents, dignitaries and other really important people be the only people who benefit from a teleprompter? The iPad can provide just as a good of a teleprompter experience with an app called Slideshark. Just upload your PowerPoint presentation to Slideshark to have access to functionality like a timer, notes, next/previous slide, etc.

Photo editor with iPhoto and Snapseed: I have read that professional photographers love using their iPad as a photo editing station. Why not follow their lead and start editing your own family photos with your iPad? The picture size is a lot larger than an iPhone and the resolution with Retina Display screens is stunning. And, with cool apps like Snapseed and iPhoto (screen shot to the right) you can correct and enhance your creations without having to connect your iPhone to a computer. 

Little League Scoring Book: Have a kid in little league, softball or basketball; give GameChanger a try. This amazing app replaces the drudgery of a paper scoring book while providing pro-like stats on the whole team. Ever wonder what your son's batting average is? GameChanger can tell you this amongst many other stats. Use GameChanger for one game and amaze all the other parents with your initiative.

Notebook Killer: Replacing notebooks with an iPad is not a new idea, but is certainly is an underutilized one. Check my article Ten best reasons to type more on your iPad from a few weeks ago for some of the key reasons why typing on your iPad is faster and better than taking notes manually.

Remote control for your TV: You may not realize it, but your cable or satellite provider probably has a reasonable functional iPad app. If you are like me you probably hate to search for shows one character at a time with the standard remote controls. Connecting your iPad to your cable box dramatically makes the whole process of finding shows easier. Some apps even allow you to change channels, adjust volume and control the DVR from afar.

Total document handing including signing and annotating: Do you get PDF's via email that need a signature? If so, stop printing and sign right on your iPad. All you need is a cheap stylus, one of the numerous PDF apps like GoodReader, PDFpen or iAnnotate and a PDF converter like PDFPROvider. I personally use PDFPROvider to convert documents to PDF and then I process the converted documents with GoodReader. Once you have signed, simply email the document rather than going through the hassle of faxing.

Finding what is lost with Find My iPhone: Find My iPhone is not just for your phone, use it between all of your iOS devices as a way to keep tabs on your equipment. Hopefully you will not need this app, but it is nice to have this utility as a little insurance.

I hope you found a few new ideas for using your iPad or at least were reminded of some iOS functionality you either forgot about or didn't know about. As you can see from above, there are many ways that an iPad you make your life easier and more efficient. What often overlooked features are you using for your  iPad that I missed? Feel free to share with others in the Comments section below.

TabTimes contributor Chris Lee is a healthcare administrator and also writes the blog Tablet Productive

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