6 FREE iPad Productivity Apps for the Music Teacher
The school year is about to start and it’s time to get organized. There are plenty of digital tools to help make music teacher’s lives easier: you can automate tasks, manage your time, capture ideas, and eliminate piles of paper. Below are six of my favorite free iPad apps that have helped to make me more organized and productive. Most of these apps are cross-platform which simply means that there are compatible apps available for your computer or Android devices.
(Note: With the exception of Evernote, I have avoided commonly known apps like Google Docs, Dropbox, and Adobe Reader. These apps are well-known and fairly straightforward.)
Evernote (with Penultimate & Skitch)
If you are not already using Evernote, download it right now! It’s design and features have become a little bloated over the years, but it still remains one of the best note-taking apps around. In addition to plain old text notes, checklists, and file attachments, here are three of my favorite ways to use Evernote:
- Going paperless. If you have a decent scanner or an iPhone app like Smile’s Scan+, you can organize and tag your paper documents digitally in Evernote as PDFs. I used to keep old files all over my computer’s hard drive, but later realized that I should keep my documents in Evernote where I can search their contents quickly. With Scansnap+ and Evernote’s paid subscription, you can actually search the text within a PDF!
- Penultimate. There are some decent note taking apps on the App Store, but I like Penultimate because it links directly into an Evernote account. Taking notes by hand is a breeze and writing them into separate notebooks automatically saves them to my Evernote account as notes. Bonus: If your handwriting is decent, your text is even searchable!
- Skitch. Skitch is an image annotation tool that also links to your Evernote account. I like to take screenshots on my iPad and then use Skitch to write directly on them so I can remember important information or communicate with others visually. The app can look at my camera roll (or hard drive on desktop) and import images for annotation. Tools include text boxes, drawing, arrows, highlighters, stamps, shapes, tags, and my favorite: text blur (a tool that can “blur” out sensitive information in photos). Skitch also has some options for sharing directly from within the app.
Short for “if this, then that,” IFTTT is something to behold. IFTTT plays with the computer-programmer-y idea of “if-then” statements and applies it to the automation of Internet services. IFTTT allows the user to log into one of many “channels,” like Facebook, Dropbox, and Google Drive. Channels have triggers (ifs) and actions (thens). A basic example is: “if I am tagged in a Facebook photo, then save it to my Dropbox in a folder called ‘Photos of Me.’” Another example: “if I like a YouTube video, then email it to myself.” One of my favorite automations (or “recipes” as IFTTT calls them) uses my phone’s location to determine when I enter and leave work. Then, the service automatically adds this data to a Google spreadsheet for keeping track of work hours.
Wunderlist is one of many great “to-do” apps on the App Store. It does a good job of balancing powerful features and simplicity. The feature I think sets Wunderlist apart is that you can share and delegate tasks with other users of the app. Managing projects into subtasks, setting reminders, sharing tasks, and uploading files are all free, but there are some limits unless you upgrade to the subscription-based paid version.
Do you love taking notes but dislike the complexity of apps like Evernote? Simplenote is the simplest note taking app I have used on the iPad. It allows you to create notes and enter text. It’s that simple. I love apps like this because when you have a thought that needs to be written down, the last thing you want is to wait a long time for the app to load. You can also access Simplenote from your laptop or desktop computer, allowing you to access your notes from any PC. If you like this approach and use a Mac, there is a blazingly fast (and free) note app called nvALT that will sync to your Simplenote account.
Sunrise is one of a few calendar replacement apps on the App Store that delivers a truly beautiful approach to their user interface design. It is compatible with Google Calendar, Exchange, and iCloud. It has tons of features , but you really have to click on the link and see some of the screenshots to understand it’s value. Calendars are ultimately visual experiences and Sunrise understands this by giving data more context at a glance. I get some personal delight out of the fun icons Sunrise puts next to events automatically: for birthdays it adds an image of a present; and when I title an event “work out”, a picture of a barbell appears. Adding locations to your events pulls up a beautiful map in the info pane – powered by Google Maps – and events that involve other people display pictures of them. I am also amazed at how this app continues to integrate third party services: Connecting a Songkick or Tripit account will automatically add concerts and flights to your the calendar, while connecting Evernote allows you to associate notes with events.
Pocket is an organizational tool for saving Internet content for viewing later. Clipping internet articles, images, and videos from the web allows you to keep them all in one place where you never forget to review them. From there, they can be tagged, shared, or committed to other digital organization tools like Evernote. Pocket formats your media beautifully so that, for example, articles are stripped of their ads and text is made to fit the screen like a newspaper. Pocket has such great management tools that sometimes I don’t bother to export my clippings anywhere else. Using Pocket and IFTTT, I can favorite a YouTube video and it will automatically be downloaded to the Pocket app. From there, I have an additional rule to send Pocket items that I favorite into Evernote.
These apps will definitely help you manage your teaching workload this fall. Each of them are loaded with features that might seem overwhelming, but the barrier to entry is low and you have plenty of time to learn by the first day of school.
Best PAID apps available next week.
Make sure to come back next Monday for an exploration of my favorite paid productivity apps for iPad. There are some great ones our there that are worth the investment.
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