What’s an iPad without a well-rounded collection of apps? Not much more useful than a paper weight, actually, which is probably why there are more than half a million dedicated iPad apps in the App Store right now.

In fact, for most people, it’s the quality and variety of iOS apps that separate the iPad from the competition and make it the top selling tablet on the market.

So if you recently splurged on a new iPad Air or just want to update your older iPad, here, in no particular order, are the best free apps and the apps that are worth your money.

Business and Productivity

The iPad is one of the most popular enterprise tablets and mobile devices for business on the market. If you use your iPad for work (and who doesn’t?), here are some apps you should consider.

Microsoft Word – Free

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Images via Apple iTunes

While many people consider tablets a less-than-idea platform for word processing, the newly updated Word app for iPad gets a lot of things right, especially compared to its competitors. The optional Smart Keyboard, for example, comes very close to mimicking the experience of using a Macbook keyboard. In addition, the layout and functionality is exactly the same as it is on your laptop or desktop device, so there’s no learning curve—and you can work seamlessly across multiple devices.

The Bottom Line: While truly advanced users won’t find all the functionality they’re used to, Word for iPad has all the features most users need, including revision tracking and collaborative editing.

TripIt: Trip Planner – Free ($0.99 for ad free version)

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Image via Apple iTunes

If you’re a frequent business traveler, you’ll love the effortless way this app manages all your travel plans. TripIt connects to your email and combs it for confirmation emails from major travel search and booking sites (including rental cars, hotels, restaurants, and sites such as Orbitz and Kayak), which it then uses to compile your itinerary, complete with maps, directions, and check-in details. You can even forward any emails the app might miss. Your travel information, including maps, is also available offline, a definite plus for regular travelers. The app also syncs with your calendars and can email your travel info to clients and co-workers.

The Bottom Line: This app takes all the hassles out of managing your confirmation numbers, boarding passes, and travel schedules; no more cutting and pasting info from dozens of emails. You can also upgrade to the Pro version ($49 per year) and get premium membership benefits such as a seat tracker and flight status data with SMS alerts.

Splashtop 2 Remote Desktop – $4.99

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Image via Apple iTunes

If you’re in business, having access to your desktop from anywhere you happen to be increases the value of your tablet exponentially. Splashtop 2 Remote gives you access to all of your files and programs, including Keynote, Excel, Quicken, plus your favorite browsers, all with 100 percent compatibility. You can even stream video and access your entire media library from your iPad, including 3D games. Your Splashtop account gives you access to up to five computers.

The Bottom Line: This is the best selling remote access app, and with good reason. There’s also an optional Anywhere Access Pack ($1.99/month, or $16.99 per year) which gives you global remote access via Wi-Fi or 4G.

1Password Password Manager – Free

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Image via Apple iTunes

This app made the “World’s Greatest 100 Apps” list by Business Insider, and occupies a spot in both Macworld’s and iMore’s app Halls of Fame. This password generator and manager safely stores all your passwords using military-grade encryption and autofills them on websites and apps with just a few touches—and it syncs across all your devices. It also allows quick access with Touch ID. Set up personal and team vaults so you can share access to certain passwords and accounts with team or family members.

The Bottom Line: The easy-to-use built-in browser lets you automatically log into websites and complete forms. 1Password also supports iOS 9 multitasking features on iPad, so copying data between apps is a breeze. Upgrade to the Pro version for features such as time-based, single use password generation, categories for financial accounts, driver’s licenses, and passports, and powerful tagging and organizing capabilities.

TunnelBear VPN – Free

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Image via Apple iTunes

Pretty much everyone who uses their mobile device at public Wi-Fi hotspots should use a VPN, and there are plenty of VPN apps that get the job done. We like TunnelBear for lots of reasons, not least for all the clever bear puns. TunnelBear makes security fast and simple; it’s a matter of just tapping “on” or “off” to connect and disconnect. The app is easy to install and use and the user interface is clean and pleasing.

If you travel a lot, TunnelBear has an extremely useful feature: You can choose which country from TunnelBear’s list that you want to browse from. Why does this matter? If you’re in a foreign country and want to access your Netflix account back home, you can set TunnelBear to connect with a US IP address and work around those restrictions.

The Bottom Line: This VPN is so easy to use, even your least tech-savvy employees can figure it out, and it provides a more than adequate level of protection for most users. The free version comes with 500 MB of data per month, but you can purchase an unlimited data plan for just $3.99 a month, or $29.99 per year.

GoodReader 4 PDF Manager – $4.99

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Image via TechRadar.com

Most users agree that GoodReader is by far the best PDF reader app for iPad; Mashable called it a “Swiss army knife of awesome.” GoodReader lets you mark up and annotate your PDF files using a number of tools such as text highlights, geographic shapes, free-hand text, pop-up text boxes, and even sticky notes. The PDF management tools are equally robust, including the ability to delete, add, or even rearrange the order of pages in a document, extract individual pages to email, and append pages from other documents. Notation and navigation are fast and easy, too, thanks to a speedy PDF rendering engine and thumbnail viewer.

The Bottom Line: This app works beautifully with DropBox, Google Drive, and iCloud, and supports downloading attachments from your email accounts. It’s an indispensable PDF reader and editor and includes useful features for viewing videos and listening to audio files.

Marketing and Social Media

Marketing deserves its own app category since most marketers juggle a fast-paced and unique set of responsibilities as they go about their day. If you are a marketing pro, or trying to stay on top of marketing for your SMB, check out these useful iPad apps.

Buffer App – Free

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Image via Apple iTunes

Buffer is a marketer’s godsend when it comes to managing social media accounts, letting users schedule and post content to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ from one easy-to-use interface. For iOS users, Buffer is the go-to app for marketers. Until recently, however, there wasn’t a supported iPad version, but the company fixed that with its latest upgrade, which features a version optimized for iPad. It replaces the tap motions on the iPhone version with the more familiar swipes, and included great iPad workarounds for social sharing.

The Bottom Line: The new Buffer app for iPad is a full-featured version of this powerful social management app, and it’s a virtual must-have for on-the-go marketers.

Canva Graphic Design and Photo Editing – Free

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image via Apple iTunes

This is a powerful and easy-to-use resource for creating beautiful images you can easily share across your social media channels. Template layouts are organized by platform (Facebook post, blog graphic, photo collage, Pinterest graphic, for example), or you can create your own custom size. You can also choose from one million stock images or upload your own from your photo library.

The Bottom Line: Canva has a robust yet startlingly simple photo editor with built-in filters and custom tools that let you create a consistent look in your marketing materials. You can also collaborate with clients or co-workers and publish easily to PDF, PNG, or across your social media channels.

Dashboard for Google Analytics – Free

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Image via Apple iTunes

Marketers who need to have on-demand access to their metrics, especially for those meetings with C-suite staff asking about performance and ROI, love the Dashboard for GA app. It puts real-time KPIs at your fingertips, lets you set goals and targets, and even weight your KPIs in calculating a Web Performance Index.

The Bottom Line: The free version has more than enough info for many marketers, but upgrade to the Pro version ($9.99) for access to over 90 in-depth Google Analytics reports and pre-segmented charts that let you view and compare campaigns with just a tap or a swipe.

Reading, Reference, and Just for Fun

While the iPad is undoubtedly an extremely useful and powerful business tool, it’s also a personal entertainment powerhouse that can provide hours of amusement, education, and enlightenment. If you’re looking for something different to pique your interest, these iPad apps are just the ticket.

Wikipanion – Free

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Image via Apple iTunes

Sure, you can search Wikipedia with your iPad’s Safari browser, but the experience won’t be nearly as delightful as the feature-rich Wikipanion app. Get browsing history by date, bookmarking, in-page search, image copy to camera roll, audio playback, and iCloud syncing, plus an easy-to-read dual-paned landscape view.

The Bottom Line: It’s better than the browser experience and it’s free. Reason enough to download.

Dark Sky Weather App – $3.99

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Image via Dark Sky App

There are lots of weather apps for iPad, some so detailed only a meteorologist could love them. Dark Sky, however, is beautifully designed and answers all the really important weather questions, such as exactly when it’s going to rain and for how long. Unlike most weather apps, Dark Sky doesn’t get its data from the National Weather Service; it uses Forecast.io, a full-featured global weather service. And while Dark Sky’s forecast is hyper-local, it also encourages you to explore the world’s weather when the spirit moves you.

The Bottom Line: If you live somewhere where the weather never changes, Dark Sky might not be as useful. But if you live somewhere prone to scattered showers, or you’re someone who likes to spend a lot of time outdoors, you’ll love the precision and customized alerts of this weather app.

Pinnacle Studio Pro Video Editing – $12.99

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Images via Apple iTunes

This professional video editing app is covered in accolades, including being one of Time’s 50 Must-Have iPad Apps and twice winning a PC Mag’s Editor Choice award. It’s extremely fast compared to most video editing apps, and it’s packed with extremely powerful editing tools. Despite all that, it’s one of the easiest apps to learn and use straight out of the box.

The Bottom Line: Whether you want to create professional-looking movies and videos for work, are a budding amateur filmmaker, or just want to make out-of-this-world home movies, you’ll love this app.

Sidefari Split Screen App – $0.99

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Image via MacRumors.com

Sidefari picks up where the iOS 9 split view mode for apps left off, in that now you can actually open two different Safari windows side by side. You can choose your screen size, from a 50-50 split to a smaller 75-25 split. The app is only available for the iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad Mini 4, since they are the only ones supporting multi-tasking.

The Bottom Line: This nifty little browser companion lets you run two different websites at the same time without losing too much of the Safari core functionality such as content blockers and history. You’ll be surprised at how often this comes in handy during the day.

Flipboard Social News Magazine – Free

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Image via Apple iTunes

Flipboard is an interesting (and engrossing) alternative to boring web browsing in that it delivers stories on topics you select in a slick, magazine-like format—and lets you share them easily with friends and co-workers. In addition to pulling in stories from real-world publications like People, the New York Times, and Vanity Fair, you can also connect it to your social accounts to see pictures and posts from people in your networks.

The Bottom Line: This is an exceptionally attractive app with its gorgeous use of photos and white spaces. It’s a nice alternative to boring new aggregator apps and the social integration is a great bonus.

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