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Is my new iPad just a toy or can I really justify it?

I recently bought an iPad which I initially thought was a bit of a frivolous bit of kit, but have changed my mind considerably since I got it a little over 2 weeks ago.

Why this shift in opinion (a shift which is contrary to my firmly entrenched PC background)? Quite simply, it's the efficiency increase and ease of doing certain tasks that I would normally rely on a laptop on but couldn't be bothered to boot it up for.

The 'instant on' is a huge attraction and has been beneficial many times since purchase to jot an idea down, or just to quickly tweak this or that.

The other aspect is the synchronisation between my iPhone, the iPad and PC which is streamlining my work life and therefore giving me more time to spend with my family - THE most important part of my life!

So, to the list of my 'must have' apps and why:

1. Pocket Informant (iPhone and iPad) : this is an app that combines your Google calendar(s) together with your to do list using the formats of 'Getting Things Done', 'Franklin Covey' and 'Toodledoo'. It has a wonderful GUI which many older users of Palm may appreciate if they used Agendus on that platform. A much richer experience than the native iPhone and iPad calendar. PI is also planning on bringing the contact interface in to the application as a whole. The ease of use and the ability to synchronise to Google calendar Means that I have all my info and tasks to hand wherever may be.

2. Notebooks (iPhone and iPad) : simply a godsend. This app is on both my iPad as well as the iPhone and syncs between the 2 as well as my desktop through DropBox where I am able to read and amend using either the native Notepad app in Windows 7 or Notepad++ . Notebooks is now how I take all my meeting notes, client discussions and you can even make doodle notes if you so choose. This app has taken me one step closer to being paperless and now I do not use a traditional notepad at all......

3. Reeder (iPhone and iPad) : with over 100 blogs that I subscribe to and read every week, quite simply this is a life saver in both time and effort. It allows me to sift through my feeds at a glance, choose which articles I want to 'star' or allows me to add them to ReadItLater (the next app on my list). My only negative about Reeder is the inability in app to add a feed.

4. ReadItLater (iPhone, iPad and Firefox) : this does what it says on the tin. It allows me to create a reading list of any webpage that I may not have time at that point to read but wish to read at a later date. Whether I am on my iPad, iPhone or firefox I am able to access that list and read saved pages at any time.

5. Twitbird (iPhone and iPad) : there are many Twitter clients out there and I have tried most of them. To me none of them encompass all that I want so inevitably use them for different reasons. However, for my general day to day tweeting, I use twitbird. It just feels more comfortable to me.

6. Hootsuite (iPhone and iPad) : another Twitter client. This one I use purely and simply for the analytics side of things as there is a simple stats 'package' under the hood as well as the scheduling aspect which I find it the easiest, fastest and most intuitive application to do that.

7. Xmarks (iPhone, iPad and Firefox) : this is a superb utility app which allows me to have all of my favourites and bookmarks from whichever device synched to all 3 machines.

8. IThoughtsHD (iPad) : fantastic full featured mind mapping application allowing you to brain dump (is that term still considered 'un pc'?.. Ahhh who cares) whenever and wherever you are. It also allows you to export mindmaps as graphic files (png) or as various desktop mind mapping tool formats such as Freemind (an open source mind mapping tool for desktops)

9. Photopad (iPad) : a great and simple graphics package which allows me to edit images, resize, crop etc to be used in blog posts etc. Remarkably powerful all things considered. NB. I arranged my apps and took a screen grab then used Photopad to resize the image at the top of this post.

10. DropBox & Box.net (iPhone, iPad and Firefox) : 2 cloud based storage offerings which allow you to keep files etc always available (subject to Internet access) as well as giving the ability to synch apps above such as Notebooks. dropBox gives you 2gb of storage free while Box.net gives you 5gb

11. Bonus - AngryBirds (iPhone, iPad) : productivity is all about having a clear mind and the ability to focus on the task in hand. A major part of any day is having some time out to relax, disengage and do something other than what you were focussing on. AngryBirds is an addictive game app that allows you to do just that. Beautifully simple yet inherently difficult, this game has taken the mobile gaming world by storm and is available across most of the major smartphone platforms.

My productivity has increased since getting the iPad, I am now blogging more and finding it easier to bring my thoughts together. It has streamlined various aspects of my working life which, as a sole trader, frees up time to do other more important things

So, what apps have you discovered that you just can't do without? Would love to hear about them in the comments.

All the best.

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