Thanks to its slim design, excellent battery life, and utility, the Apple iPad is increasingly the portable computer of choice for business travel, meetings, and presentations. As a presentation tool, it’s more fun to carry around and use than a laptop PC, and it’s more easily shared.
In this roundup, we look at a variety of apps for creating and delivering business presentations — or other kinds of presentations, such as lectures and school reports — on an iPad. In its own way, each app is exceptional.
Free to Buyers of Recent-Model iPads
Requires iOS 8 or later
Keynote is an Apple-created app that competes seriously with Microsoft PowerPoint.
“Keynote is the most powerful presentation app ever designed for a mobile device,” touts the iTunes store, and this is probably true.
Launch it for the first time and a very comforting welcome screen beckons you to continue. You start your presentation with a choice of no less than 30 themes, with names like Renaissance, Showroom, Chalkboard and Craft. You replace the text and images in these presentations with your own, and proceed from there.
Over three dozen transitions are on hand to animate the changes from one slide to the next, including standbys like page flip and cube. Some other great effects include anagram — which appears to rearrange the text from one slide to the next — and twist.
Being an Apple product, Keynote is also designed to be remotely controllable by an iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPod touch, so you can hook up a projector and swipe through slides with a handheld remote. Plus, it supports a raft of other signature Apple features, like iCloud Drive and Handoff.
Overall, Keynote is much, much simpler than PowerPoint, with far fewer options. Yet, it can create very slick presentations and it might have as much as most people need.
Its biggest problem is compatibility. Yes, you can import PowerPoint files to Keynote, but the process is funky and unreliable. So be ready to do some “cleaning up” to get the presentation looking the way it did on the PC.
Also, there are numerous PowerPoint features that Keynote does not support, such as text overflow. (If you don’t see the text at the time of the conversion, it will get lost.)
There are better ways to show a PowerPoint with your iPad if that’s all you want to do. But if you’re creating a presentation from scratch, and you want to deliver it with your iPad, Keynote is probably your best bet.
Easy Chart HD
Requires iOS 4.0 or higher
Easy Chart HD is simple. Very simple. With it, you create charts — bar charts, line charts, pie charts, and sideways bar charts.
The charts look good and colorful, however, even though they’re simple.
The app converts the charts it makes into jpeg or other image formats, and it works offline, so you can use it to create charts for presentations while on the go.
You can create charts to use in a Keynote presentation too, or just to show by themselves.
Where does the data for the charts come from? You enter it, manually, using touch sliders on the iPad. This is the app’s biggest weakness. There’s no ability to import data. It’s all done by hand.
If you need to make charts and you don’t mind entering all the numbers and labels, Easy Chart HD does the trick. But that’s its only trick. And be aware, it hasn’t been updated since 2012, so new features aren’t on the way.
Free* (see below)
Requires iOS 8.0 or higher
MightyMeeting is an app to help you hold a meeting with a group of colleagues.
When you first launch MightyMeeting, a blank white screen appears, with about ten icons along a small strip on the left.
Tap the top one, which looks like a small group of people, to start the meeting. Next, invite some people via email to join you. The background of the meeting can be a sketchpad, or you can import PDFs and PowerPoint files. These can come from a variety of cloud services, including GoogleDrive, OneDrive, and Box. You can also import pictures from your iPad’s Camera Roll.
The idea is that together you will look through the presentation. You can also draw on it using the whiteboard feature, which is limited to basic drawing with four different thickness lines and eight colors.
After the meeting, the marked-up presentation and white board notes are stored as a PDF for later reference or so you can send it to a colleague who missed the meeting. The presentation can also be printed.
MightyMeeting is available for Android phones and tablets too, a distinct advantage.
Although the app is listed in the iTunes store as free, this is really only true for attending a meeting, “Free” means a 14-day trial for being the meeting presenter. Beyond that, pricing is based on how many participants can be presenters. With just one presenter (a teacher in classroom for example) pricing is $4.99 per month, but with up to 15 presenters (a meeting in a board room) it’s $49 per month. So, since at least one person has to be the presenter, figure sixty bucks a year minimum.
Requires iOS 7 or later
The hype for Instaviz makes it sound phenomenal: “Diagram sketching for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch…Sketch some rough shapes and lines, and Instaviz magically turns them into beautifully laid out diagrams. Throw away the exercise books and paper napkins. Instaviz will figure it out for you.”
For the most part, this app lives up to the hype. If you want to make flow charts and/or organizational diagrams, you’ll probably like Instaviz. If you’re familiar with Visio, you’ll find Instaviz very underpowered, yet amazingly easy to use, and probably good enough for many instances. You can choose from a variety of box shapes, group them inside other boxes, and unlike some apps, it gives you a full selection of fonts.
What’s really cool, though, is that as you connect the boxes you draw to show their relationships, they automatically reposition themselves, with directional arrows intact, to simplify and clarify the arrangements.
After finishing your diagram you can export it as a pdf, png, Visio vdx, or Graphviz GV file and ftp it to your own Dropbox or an account with Box or iDisk. You can also add it to your iPad’s Camera Roll.
Instaviz was left to languish without an update for 5 years, but version 2.0 was released this summer with many new features, so if you checked it out before and rejected it as too limited you should give it another try.
Requires iOS 3.2 or higher
Anyone who has ever carried the standard letter or legal size notepad to a meeting will appreciate what iMeetingPad is attempting: an iPad replacement for paper and pen.
“Does you notepad connect to the projector?” its description asks. The concept is that you can use iMeetingPad to take notes — and to make quick sketches using drawing tools and clip art images — and you can show these to everyone else at the meeting by hooking up to a projector or external monitor using an optional VGA connecting cable for the iPad.
The app also includes fun diversions for a friendly meeting — in the form of about a dozen sound effects such as applause, rim shot, laughter and cheering — that you can quickly play at appropriate moments. And at the end of the meeting, you can save all the notes that were created to a pdf file and email these to colleagues who may have missed it.
Yes, you can use this iMeetingPad to take handwritten notes (with a stylus). But what iMeetingPad lacks — and is practically screeching for — is handwriting to text conversion. (Ironically, the Apple Newton had this handwriting recognition feature built-in! It worked fairly well, too, and that was back in 1998!)
Without handwriting to text conversion, an old-fashioned sheet of paper still seems more appealing for taking notes. But, the portable white board and sound effects are indeed useful meeting tools.
Just be warned, this app hasn’t been updated since 2010.
Requires iOS 7 or later
Roambi Analytics is an app for looking at data — preferably large amounts of data — in graphical form.
The underlying service producing the charts and graphs uses as its source data from Excel spreadsheets, CSV files, Google Docs, Salesforce CRM and other business intelligence products. This can then be displayed in ten views that offer “interactive navigation, visualization, and analytic features designed to engage and guide you through your data, making it easier to use, and easier to understand”.
The big question with Roambi, however, is where will all this underlying data come from? For someone working in finance, where the spreadsheets and data sources are ready for the taking, Roambi may offer a fantastic way to visualize this pre-existing data. Yet for anyone else, Roambi could turn into a large project of generating the spreadsheets to feed the beast.
Requires iOS 5.1 or later
Power Presenter is a very basic but useful and reasonably priced tool for showing presentations created on a PC using an iPad to feed a projector.
Note that it does not work directly with PowerPoint presentations, which are presumably the main source of material to display. Instead, you must first convert the PowerPoint file to a pdf (something PowerPoint can easily do), and then copy the pdf file to the iPad using the iTunes program.
You then launch Power Presenter, where you can open the pdf in the Open menu and display it to a projector (using the optional iPad VGA cable.)
The controls here are very basic, allowing you to move through the pdf pages and adjust the projector. There’s also a white board you can display, which includes a simple drawing tool. (There are no shapes or text, but you can mark up the presentation.)
Other components include a web browser (for displaying web pages and web videos using the projector) and a similarly simple email display.
So if you have a PowerPoint that you want to show, and you have an iPad and a projector to show it with, Power Presenter bridges the gaps and makes this doable with a minimum of fuss.
Note that this app hasn’t been updated since 2012.
Requires iOS 6.0 or later
Conference Pad is similar to Power Presenter, above, in that it’s intended mainly as a system for displaying pdf files from an iPad — pdfs that, presumably, were originally created with PowerPoint (or Apple’s Keynote for Mac). Yet this app uses a very different method of display: more iPads.
Conference Pad is perfect for educators who wish to lead a group of students through a presentation on individual iPads while making sure that everyone is literally “on the same page.” The app enables you to control a presentation on up to fifteen iPads, iPhones, and/or iPod touches from your iPad, using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The displays seen by your audience are under your control as you change pages, pinch to zoom, etc.
As with many other apps here for showing presentations Conference Pad only works with pdf files. Everything else, including PowerPoint files, must first be converted to pdf.
A companion free app called Conference Pad Loader converts Mac Keynote and PowerPoint presentations to pdf on the iPad — a convenience if you forget this step on the PC.
When you first launch Conference Pad, it simultaneously looks for two things: Along the top of the screen it searches for pdf files to display (and explains how to use iTunes to copy from a PC). These pdf files would make this iPad the transmitter, or leader. Along the bottom, the app simultaneously searches for other iPads running Conference Pad to make this one a receiver. Conference Pad looks for devices over both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks, and the app helps you with some tips if you experience problems.
What’s really neat about Conference Pad is that it is an easy-to-use self-contained system. You can try it among a small group of iPads without requiring help from the IT people. Also, there are no monthly fees. There’s just a one-time five-buck charge for each iPad. That said, there’s no free viewer; everyone participating has to buy a copy of the software.
Free (Pro version is $9.99)
Requires iOS 6.0 or later
Anyone who does a lot of public speaking will probably find Prompster Pro to be useful, as well as anyone involved in narration for video, presentations, or audio recordings.
The app works just like a teleprompter. It is intended for use in delivering a speech without the distraction of changing pages.
The Pro version includes the ability to record clips using the iPad’s front-facing camera showing you speaking — for a presentation, for example, or to practice a speech. This version also can make audio recordings of long chunks of text (such as narration) .
When you first launch Prompster Pro the screen is filled with a combination welcome message and instructions, which are actually in the form of a text document that you use as a practice teleprompter script. The app allows you to create your own scripts on the iPad too, but it’s mainly meant to let you import files that you create elsewhere with programs like Microsoft Word, and convert to the standard .txt file format.
Using Prompster is a pleasure. A simple speed control in the lower right corner adjusts the scrolling, and there are easy controls for video and audio recording. You can change the font and font size. Also, if you’re trying to time your speech — to fit a 30-second slot for example — a convenient elapsed time counter is on hand.
Other than the need to convert your .doc or other files to .txt, there’s really nothing to complain about here.
This article has been updated by Ed Hardy from its original publishing.