Tablets are eating into PC sales for a reason -- they can be big productivity boosters, at much less cost. If you've got an iPad, you don't need to spend a penny for great free productivity apps. Check out six of my favorite ones.
Microsoft still hasn't released Office for the iPad, but with this free app, you might not care. With it, you can work with PowerPoint, Word, and Excel documents. And it does more than that as well, and will read or view .PDF, .JPG, .PNG, and many other file types. It integrates directly with Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and SkyDrive, so you'll be able to grab files from the cloud as well. Keep in mind that you'll need to be connected to the Internet when you work.
This is a note-taking app with a twist -- it lets you combine typed, handwritten, and dictated notes with audio and web content into a multimedia, annotated document that's easy to store and share. It's got annotation tools, bookmarking, and more. It works directly with cloud storage services, including Dropbox, Box and GoogleDrive.
Paper by FiftyThree
This was Apple's 2012 iOS App of the Year, and with good reason. With it, you sketch out ideas, diagrams, and other visuals, with a set of very useful and simple tools. The interface is clean and free of clutter, and you've got tools for sketching, coloring, outlining, writing, and drawing. You can do more than just save your sketches -- you can also share them on Facebook, Twitter, and stream them to Tumblr.
Face it, tapping out notes, memos and documents on the iPad is no fun at all. Productive, it's not. That's where Dragon Dictation comes in. Speak, and it transcribes your words to text. In addition to saving them, you can share the document via email, Twitter, and Facebook. Be aware that you'll need to be connected to the Internet to use it.
Sometimes the best apps are one-trick ponies, software designed to do a single thing, but do it exceedingly well. DocuSign Ink is one of those. It lets you sign PDF and other files by adding your signature to them. First draw your signature, then save it. From that point on, when you get sent a PDF, there's no need to print it out, sign it, then mail it or scan it back in. Instead, simply add your signature to it and send it back,
This may well be my favorite free productivity app of all time. It's much more than just a note taker. With it you can grab pages and other content from the Web, video, audio, photos, and more, then save them and organize them into notebooks. Its organizational and search tools are superb, so you'll be able to find anything you want quickly. And it's cross-platform, so it syncs with all of your iOS, Android, Windows, Windows 8, and Mac OS X devices. Your notes are also available on the Web.