Female student with a notebook

The greatest advances in science and productivity were spurred by sheer desire instead of careful calculation, but let’s be honest: your iPad 2 wasn’t one of them. But just because the purchase was impulsive, enjoyable, and motivated more by sexy shininess than any conception of practical application doesn’t mean it can’t be useful. It turns out a portable computer capable of instant wireless communications and data recording is quite useful for a student — you know, what with the whole “learning” thing — so we’ve researched a list of student-serving applications for your iPad. You’re welcome.

Pages1. Pages


Assignments and hangovers are the college equivalent of death and taxes: they’re inevitable and make you pay extra for your achievements (respectively). Word processors on public college computers are your enemy on deadline day. Even if you can find a spare seat in the computer lab (everyone else in your year seems to be working today too, for some reason), the inevitably ancient software turn writing, formatting, and even printing the thing into separate and equally time-consuming taxes. That’s why Pages is essential for every student.

Pages Rome Essay

Pages Rome Essay

The one-stop word processing program truly is WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get), and it’s even easier to get them that way. Turn the iPad to type, drag, and drop images to arrange them. Preset templates turn even the lastest-minute mashing of the keyboard into a professionally presented document. And it accepts all files from Mac and PC alike. So it’s just as good for downloading slides and “researching” other people’s assignments as it is for making your own.

GoodReader2. GoodReader


The #1 non-Apple app last year, and with excellent reason: PDFs are stupid. The encapsulated format might preserve images and text no matter where you send them, making it an excellent choice for the writer, but what about those poor suckers the readers? You know, the ones who outnumber the single writer by every-single-one-of-them to one? In the past this lead to mountains of highlighted paper in rotting stacks whose only clear organizational rule seemed to be that the one you wanted was right at the bottom. No longer!

GoodReader In Action

GoodReader In Action

This PDF-annotating program lets you make notes directly on the file, and save in a searchable format for later. With PDF files the standard choice of academic journals (and because of that, course professors) a good reader is essential for any academic. And GoodReader is exactly what it claims to be.



You became a student to learn, and that doesn’t mean just going to lectures. Academics are only 10% of your college education, and even then only if you’re doing something crazy advanced like theoretical physics and doing it 10 hours a day. The real purpose of college is to teach you to act like a real person, and to do various things with other people (whether work-related or not, you’re going to have to work with others for the rest of your life.) This means even your spare time is instruction in how you’re going to think for the rest of your life. And if you want to live s smart life, you’ll need something better than YouTube clips of self-crippling skateboarders.

TED Talk Selection

TED talk selection

TED started of as Technology, Entertainment, Design, and has expanded beyond even that powerful trio. It’s a huge collection of immensely entertaining and informative lectures delivered by professionals. Real professionals. They don’t just have the degrees, they have the real-world experience, the vision, the success stories, and the speaking skills to inspire a whole new generation of great men and women. Or, you know, you could spend that half-hour browsing on the sofa watching cat videos. It’s your choice. Which will make you a more productive, more interesting, and simply better person?

AirVideo4. Air Video


Of course, you’re still going to have to unplug that brain to maintain maximum productivity. If only because having your head explode from overwork is a bad thing. Air Video turns your iPad 2 into the ultimate reverse remote control — instead of using the portable device to control a far off media center, it streams those faraway files (which would require you to stand up) into your hands. Usually after reclining on the sofa and telling your thigh muscles they can take the next two hours off.

Air Video In Action

Air Video In Action

Air Video allows you to stream your media folder from a desktop computer, or a local shared drive, to your portable screen. No more messing around with wireless transfers, USB cables, or digging around for memory keys when all you want is to share a movie. Especially in dorms and university residences, where there is always a shared network drive for entirely legal entertainment files. Seriously. If you don’t know about it, ask.

PenUltimate5. PenUltimate


Now that you’re recharged and refreshed, it’s time to stroll back to class. (Or run, depending on how good the movie was/bad the class is.) While Pages is perfect for detailed reports, lecture halls call for faster notes. Step forward PenUltimate, the quick but by no means dirty handwriting application. University is where these notebook programs really shine over standard text entry — sketches, emphasis, and all those Greek letters in the science and engineering courses are entered accurately and easily, instead of having to Insert > Symbol for every second character.

PenUltimate In Action

PenUltimate In Action

It also means you’ll never lose notes again. Especially if you regularly backup your iPad 2. Pro tip: You absolutely must regularly backup your iPad 2.

Image credit: RichVintage / iStockphoto