The 2010 App Gems Awards

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10 best reading and productivity apps

[This article is part of our 2010 App Gems Awards series, honoring the best apps of 2010.]

RSS Reader of the Year

Reeder for iPad ($5)

By Silvo Rizzi

  (read review)

Simple, elegant, and smart, Reeder on the iPad streamlines your Google Reader RSS feeds and incorporates an array of innovative Multi-Touch gestures to present the best possible reading experience. Skim articles or devour them in detail; save them to look at offline, using Instapaper or Read It Later; and publish your favorites on your social media network of choice. If you’ve got a lot of feeds to manage, this app offers plenty of flexibility in a visually appealing package.—SERENITY CALDWELL

Best Visual News Reader

Flipboard (free)

By Flipboard

  (read review)

When it made its iPad debut this past summer, Flipboard generated quite a bit of buzz—and rightly so. Billed as the “world’s first personal social magazine,” this free iPad offering turns your Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as any Twitter lists you create for following specific accounts or topics, into a virtual, visual magazine of images, articles, and interactive media. It’s a 21st century magazine, published by the friends you keep on the two most popular social networks. Flipboard takes a unique approach to presenting your favorite online media sources in a format that’s perfect suited for the iPad’s screen space.—DAVID CHARTIER

File Viewer of the Year

GoodReader for iPad ($3)

By Good.iWare

  (read review)

Every iPad owner needs an all-purpose file viewer, and GoodReader has cornered the market. The app can display PDFs, text files, Office and iWorks docs, and photos, and it can even play back audio and video files. It’s become our favorite app for reading PDFs—when you flip to the next page, it displays instantly, so there’s none of the lag found in other PDF viewers. Or go beyond reading PDFs with a surprising variety of features for viewing, bookmarking, highlighting, and even annotating PDFs. You can get files into GoodReader using just about any method you can imagine: iTunes, e-mail, the Finder (via Wi-Fi or USB), and online connections (including iDisk, Google Docs, and our favorite method, Dropbox). It's great for when you want to load a video on your iPad but are nowhere near the copy of iTunes you sync with. The app also gives you tools for organizing and managing your files, as well as a cross-document search feature for quickly finding a passage of text. it's worth every penny.—DAN FRAKES

Best Alternate Browser

Atomic Web Browser ($1)

By RichTech

  (read review)

Not everyone’s a fan of the mobile version of Safari. The built-in browser for Apple’s iOS device can feel rather limited, especially when compared to the desktop version. Limitations aren’t really a problem with Atomic Web Browser. The iPhone- and iPad-optimized browser is overflowing with options, letting you set up advanced privacy controls, run an ad blocker, customize searches, and even have Web servers recognize the app as another browser like Internet Explorer or Firefox. With Atomic Web Browser on your iOS device, you can essentially customize the browsing experience you want.—PHILIP MICHAELS

Note Taker of the Year

SimpleNote (free)

By Codality

  (read review)

Lots of text editors will let you jot down simple, plain-text notes and then sync them to the cloud, so you can access them from almost anywhere. Of all those syncing editors, we particularly like Simplenote because of, well, its simplicity. Whether you run it on the iPhone or iPad, the app’s interface is remarkably clean: There are windows for editing text and adjusting options and that’s it. Setting up syncing is simple, too: You create a free account on the Simplenote site, and all your notes are there, almost as soon as you jot them down. That ease-of-use makes Simplenote a go-to app for keeping lists and jotting down ideas whenever and wherever they occur to you.—DAN MILLER

Text Editor of the Year

Elements ($5)

By Second Gear

  (read review)

There are a lot of iOS text-editing apps out there, and choosing a single winner proved brutally tough. Though we also liked Information Architects iA Writer and Hog Bay Software’s PlainText, they were beaten out by Second Gear’s Elements, which offers Dropbox syncing, a clever Scratchpad drop-down, and a nifty preview mode if you write in the Markdown mark-up format (which most of us here at Macworld do). And unlike many iPad-focused text editors, Elements also works well on the iPhone.—JASON SNELL

Utility of the Year

TextExpander ($5)

By Smile

  (read review)

A clever typing utility that’s optimized to run on both the iPhone and iPad, TextExpander takes some of the tedium out of typing on your iOS device’s onscreen keyboard. The app makes short change of the text snippets you tediously need to type and re-type on a daily basis—blog post templates, URLs, HTML code, and e-mail signatures. You store those snippets in TextExpander for use in other iOS offerings—more than four-dozen apps, including Twitter clients, task managers, and text editors, feature TextExpander support. If you deal with text for any part of your business or pleasure, TextExpander is one of the best ways to save time while on the go.—DAVID CHARTIER

Best Page Layout App

Pages ($10)

By Apple

  (read review)

Pages for the iPad reveals just how much is possible within the confines and supposed limitations of Apple’s iOS. The powerful word processing/page-layout application gives you complete control over your documents, letting you create paragraph styles, floating text boxes, tables, charts, and a variety of other objects that you’d typically only expect to find in a desktop word processing application. And yet, here it all is, on a small tablet device. Even more impressive are some recent additions to the app. Sure, there's now a word-count feature. But more impressively, you can now share files with MobileMe’s iDisk or, better yet, any server that supports the WebDAV standard. Toss in support for iOS 4.2's AirPrint feature, and you can print those files you created, either to an AirPrint-compatible printer or other devices via third-party AirPrint helper apps. (And once you start switching between Pages and other apps via iOS 4.2’s fast app-switching feature, things get even more productive—especially if you’re using an external keyboard to do your writing.) Add it all up, and Pages is the most powerful and versatile word processing and page-layout app for your iPad.—JEFFERY BATTERSBY

Communication Tool of the Year

Skype (free)

By Skype

  (read review)

Few apps have made more out of the enhancements iOS 4 delivered than Skype. Already a strong voice over IP option for iPhone and iPod touch users, the app became a multitasking marvel when iOS 4 granted it the ability to run in the background while you used other apps. Now, you can receive calls and instant messages from Skype when the app isn’t even active. Skype is no newcomer in the world of iPhone apps—it’s nearing the second anniversary of its App Store debut. But we’re impressed by how the app continually looks to make the most of Apple’s mobile operating system.—PHILIP MICHAELS

Twitter Client of the Year

Twitterrific (free)

By The Iconfactory

  (read review)

Twitter clients may seem like a dime a dozen on iOS devices, but the Iconfactory’s Twitterrific for Twitter stands out. With its easy-to-read interface, unified timeline, and quick access to features like Mentions, Favorites, and Direct Messages, Twitterrific makes keeping up with your friends simple. Inline pictures, a built-in Web browser, and convenient popovers for account information add context without making you lose your place. The basic version is free with ads; you can remove those and add support for multiple accounts by upgrading to the premium version for $5.—DAN MOREN

[Continue on to read about our favorite media and photo apps of 2010.]

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