After 18 months of intensive use, here are some of the apps left standing on my iPad 3, sorted by category. I like to think I’m a semi-advanced user, so for some of them I have also listed simpler alternatives. It goes without saying that you should download all the free iWork and iLife apps.

Medicine

MKSAP 16

  • For: all medicine residents
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: free (if you bought online MKSAP access)

MKSAP question bank. No-brainer if you are studying for your internal medicine board or MOC exam. Less page-flipping and instant gratification. Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow you to highlighting or annotate the explanations. Also, it can’t make custom quizzes, can’t review unanswered/wrong questions, and doesn’t allow you to copy any of the text to your notes. Lot’s of cants, but it’s the only MKSAP app available. Free if you purchase the electronic version of MKSAP 16.

Download MKSAP 16 from the app store here.

ACP Guidelines

  • For: all interns
  • Recommendation: ok, sort of
  • Price: free

It seems like a good idea, and the content is great, but it is more of a branded PDF reader than anything else. Doesn’t have search or favorites, and you have to download each recommendation one by one. The download is fast, but good luck getting what you need without internet access. So, good for night-time reading, particularly if you’re an intern, but not a good POC tool.

Download ACP Guidelines from the app store here.

Stanford 25

  • For: everyone
  • Recommendation: just OK
  • Price: free

If you haven’t heard of Stanford 25 before, see this TED talk and see the blog. It’s another good, if ugly, night table app.

Download Stanford 25 from the app store here.

Productivity

Things for iPad (or Omnifocus)

  • For: everyone
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: $19.99 for Things, $39.99 for OmniFocus

Whether you’re a GTD fan or not, this or it’s more powerful and more expensive sibling OmniFocus are a must-have for anyone shuffling between more than two areas of responsibility. It still hasn’t been updated for iOS 7, but is very functional. Only two missing features for me, really: there are no nested tasks/dependencies, and you can’t filter by more than one tag.

I’ve been thinking about switching to OmniFocus, but this works well enough for me that the hassle of complete overhauling my system wouldn’t be worth it. Not to mention the >100$ price tag.

Download Things for iPad from the app store here. You can find OmniFocus for iPad here.

Boxer

  • For: everyone who gets more than 5 emails/day
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: $0.99

The best mail client on the iPad. Apple’s Mail.app was OK until I realized I spent way too much time scrolling through my list of 20 IMAP folders whenever I wanted to move an email. Boxer works with Gmail, IMAP and Exchange accounts, has smart email sorting, and integrates with Sanebox.

Download Boxer here

Dropbox

  • For: everyone
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: free

If you use Dropbox on your PC—and you must—then this is a no-brainer.

Download Dropbox for iOS from the app store here

iThoughts HD

  • For: nerds
  • Recommendation: OK
  • Price: $9.99 for either

I found Tony Buzan’s book on mind mapping as a first-year medical student and used the hell out of it for my biophysics, chemistry and genetics coursers. As the material got more complicated, shuffling huge stacks of A3 paper became unwieldy, so I went back to plain old Cornell notes for biochemistry et al. This app is what got me back to making maps, this time when writing review articles and planning out other research. Also good when contemplating the GTD 50,000 ft view.

Download iThoughts HD for iPad from the app store here. It’s prettier new cousin Mindnode 3 is available here

Calendars 5

  • For: all busy overachievers
  • Recommendation: ok
  • Price: $6.99

The default calendar used to be ugly and impractical. With iOS 7 it’s just the latter. This is a good replacement. Fantastical for iPad would be nice, though.

Download Calendars 5 from the app store here.

Drafts

  • For: advanced users
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: $3.99

Quick note-taking and automation rolled into one. I use it as the default inbox for anything and everything, mainly by appending a dump.txt file in my Dropbox. There is a separate iPhone version that is just as useful.

Download Drafts for iPad from the app store here.

Pinner

  • For: pack-rats
  • Recommendation: ok
  • Price: $1.99

Pinboard is an excellent almost-free bookmarking and discovery service. There are plenty of iPad clients available, but Pinner seemed to be the most cost-effective. I haven’t regretted the purchase.

Download Pinner from the app store here.

GW Mail

  • For: anyone who is forced to use GroupWise
  • Recommendation: meh
  • Price: $9.99

I have to use GroupWise email for work. This is the only decent client I found for iOS. Stopped looking for a replacement since my last day of residency is less than six months away.

Download GW Mail here

Reading

Reeder 2

  • For: serious feed readers
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: $4.99

I’ve been using RSS feeds since the days of Bloglines (circa 2001) and switched to Google reader after the first big redesign. It’s sad that Google decided to murder it instead developing its potential as a social service. Feed wrangler is a good replacement, Feedly is a free one. Reeder 2 is the best iPad feed reader there is, and works well with both.

Download Reeder for iPad from the app store here.

Instapaper

  • For: everyone who reads
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: $3.99

If you read any text that’s longer than 500 words with any regularity, you need a service that will keep track of the articles and remove all the annoying cruft surrounding the text. Instapaper is the first one of its kind, and the best way to read articles on it is on an iPad.

Download Instapaper for iOS from the app store here.

NextDraft

  • For: everyone
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: free

Ten good articles hand-picked by an expert hand-picker and delivered (almost) every weekday. My only source of news for the past six months.

Download NextDraft from the app store here

ReadQuick

  • For: dabblers
  • Recommendation: ok
  • Price: $4.99

The second book from Tony Buzan that I read was on speed reading. This app will flash words from any article you find online or in your Instapaper/Pocket queue one-by-one at a set rate. Good for those who are too lazy to swipe.

Download ReadQuick from the app store here

Writing

Day One

  • For: everyone
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: $4.99

A journaling app. I don’t use it for the Dear-Diary types of texts—though I have no doubt it would be perfect for that. Instead, I use it to keep an archive of meeting and lecture notes (usually started in Drafts and sent to Day One), with an occasional milestone in between. Feature request: multiple journals.

Download Day One for iOS from the app store here

Byword

  • For: beginner iPad writers
  • Recommendation: ok
  • Price: $4.99

If you want to write a long text on an iPad and don’t need automation, text expansion et al. then this is the app for you.

Download Byword for iOS from the app store here

Editorial

  • For: advanced users
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: $4.99

If you want to write a long text on an iPad and like mucking about with workflows, text snippets and Python scripts—which I most certainly do—this is your only choice on any platform. This will become essential next July when I start my long commute.

Download Editorial from the app store here

Social

Twitterific 5 or Tweetbot

  • For: everyone
  • Recommendation: meh… you might want to wait for the newest version of Tweetbot to come out
  • Price: $2.99 for Twitterrific, $2.99 for Tweetbot

If you are on Twitter—and if you are a physician you really should be—please get a decent iOS client. The official one is definitely not it. Tweetbot used to be until iOS 7 came and made it look and feel ancient. Twitterrific is a good—if slightly annoying—substitute, with the added benefit of being universal (i.e. iPhone and iPad with the same purchase). I’m using the old version of Tweetbot and waiting for the new one, since Twitterific tended to make a mess of my position in the stream.

Download Twitterrific 5 here and Tweetbot for iPad here

Facebook

  • For: everyone who uses Facebook (why?)
  • Recommendation: my wife likes it
  • Price: free

OK, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Download Facebook for iOS here

Skype

  • For: everyone away from family
  • Recommendation: OK
  • Price: free

This is the international default for long-distance communication, I guess. It gets choppy and drains the battery, but it’s the only thing my mom knows how to use so I’m stuck with it.

Download Skype for iPad here

Games

Letterpress

  • For: everyone who can spell
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: free (with in-app purchase)

An excellent turn-based word game. The only multiplayer game I play with any regularity. You need an in-app purchase if you want to play more than two games at the same time, but it’s well worth it. I have five going on right now.

Download Letterpress here

10000000

  • For: nerds
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: $1.99

Bejeweled meets a 2D RPG. Hours of fun, even when you get to 100000000000 or however many points.

Download 100000000 here

Aquaria

  • For: adventure gamers
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: $4.99

A 2D side-scrolling action-adventure game set under the sea. At my pace I will finish it in about two years, but it’s great even in 15-minute increments.

Download Aquaria for iOS here

Shopping

Deliveries

  • For: serious shoppers
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: $4.99

Forward an email containing a tracking number to a special email address. Boom, you can now track your package through this app, with push notifications if you’re into being interrupted whenever a case of -diapers- Wild Turkey is delivered to your front door.

Download Deliveries for iOS here

Eat24

  • For: serious eaters
  • Recommendation: OK
  • Price: free

Good app for ordering food in the Baltimore area. Don’t know about rest of the country.

Download Eat24 for iPad here

Hipmunk

  • For: world travelers
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: free (you pay for the plane ticket, though)

The best flight comparison engine there is. Find the most affordable and least annoying plane route. Also does hotel rooms, which I haven’t tried.

Download Hipmunk for iOS here

Entertainment

Netflix

  • For: everyone with a Netflix subscription
  • Recommendation: OK
  • Price: free

I have used this app exactly once, to watch a couple of episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while waiting for an Amtrak train. Well worth it, though.

Download Netflix for iOS here

AppleTV Remote

  • For: everyone with an Apple TV
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: free

I don’t have my original remote any more. We assume Dora ate it. This app is even better, since you don’t have to muck around with the tiny remote buttons when entering your wifi password or searching Netflix.

Download AppleTV Remote here

comiXology

  • For: everyone who reads comics
  • Recommendation: strong
  • Price: free (the app, not the comics)

The only way to read comics on an iPad.

Download comiXology here