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15 Back to School iPad Apps



For students heading off to school in the next few days and weeks, toting an iPad might make you the envy of the class. It also ensures that you have some great tools to make the Dean’s List. There are numerous free apps for those on a budget, as well as excellent paid apps that give you a scholastic edge.

Our sister site,, recently provided a list of the best Back To School gadgets and tech as well as 5 great laptops for going back to school. In similar fashion, this is a list of great iPad apps for going back to school.

These apps listed below can help you make the grade, or even just kill a few minutes between courses.

inClass – Free

inClass is designed to keep your school work organized and on time. It costs nothing to use, but you might as well drop a buck on it to remove the annoying ads at the bottom of the screen.

inClase Keeps Your Course Schedule with Alarms

inClass Keeps Your Course Schedule with Alarms

The interface looks like a student organizer with room for your class schedule, professor contact info and homework assignment lists. You can also take notes right in the app with the ability to record audio, video and pictures. You can email notes to a friend who missed the lecture, or to yourself for backup. If I were using this app, I believe I would take my notes by hand on paper and then snap a shot with the iPad 2 camera or an iPhone/iPod Touch. It only lets you type notes inside the app so no inking allowed. Despite that, I like the app.

inClass Lets You Type Notes and Record Audio, Video or Photos

inClass Lets You Type Notes and Record Audio, Video or Photos

If you are in class and need to open another app, you can keep the audio recording going by using the background function built into iOS 4. Double tap the home icon and open the other app and the recording still keeps capturing the lecture audio.

inClass is free in the app store and has an in-app purchase of $.99 to remove the annoying ads you see in the first shot above.

PocketCAS – lite version free, Pro version $19.99

If you are a math major, or have a somewhat advanced math class, this app will help you with simple to complex mathematic equations and formulas. The tutorials even show you how to solve them, so that you can not only check your work but also learn how to do the assignment. The mathematical keyboard makes entering these equations and formulas much easier, although the lite version is not as feature rich in this area as the pro version.

PocketCAS Helps with Complex Math

PocketCAS Helps with Complex Math

After you finish creating a graph or chart or some special equation, you can output the content to your Photo library on the iPad, email it as a PDF, print it using Air Print, or in the pro version you can send it to an external display using a projector and the dock to VGA or HDMI adapter. Hopefully, when iOS 5 comes along you will be able to send it wirelessly via an Apple TV.

The paid version is $19.99 and outputs the results via projector and has more advanced keyboard functions. The lite version is free. In the app store there are a lot of negative reviews of the lite version saying the ads are too distracting and the keyboard is not as functional.

Evernote and Evernote Peek – Free

Evernote bills itself as “an extension of your brain” and that it is for many us. I use Evernote to store notes, tax receipts, personal information, and more. As a student you could set up a separate notebook for each semester, class, or for a project. Then import content to it using email or enter it directly by typing into the app. You can also record audio and photos.

Evernote Peek Turns iPad Into a Study Tool

Evernote Peek Turns iPad 2 Into a Study Tool

Evernote Peek takes Evernote and turns it into a flash card system along with a magnetic iPad 2 Smart Cover. For example, if you are studying Spanish, then you could set up your vocabulary words and study them using the Evernote Peek app. You fold up the part of the Apple Smart Cover that is furthest from the magnets. There you get your question, or in this case the Spanish word. Open the cover the rest of the way to reveal the answer. Below is the company’s video demo:

Evernote Peek now also supports audio clues, which would be great for a foreign language or for studying in a group. Record the questions and listen to them and then test yourself. Get the answer by opening the cover the rest of the way.

Both Evernote and Evernote Peek are free in the App store and require a free account with the Evernote service. Remember that Evernote Peek only works with iPad 2 and the Apple Smart Cover or a cover that uses the magnetic on/off feature and folds up at the very edge.

CourseSmart eTextbooks for iPad – Free

Below I provide links to the three major e-book apps. But for textbooks, our own Josh Smith, who teaches college classes, recommends CourseSmart’s eTextbooks for iPad app. He said it has the best selection. Of course it is free and looks like most e-book apps with a bookshelf view and easy to read interface. The app includes the following list of features taken from their App store description:

  • Access your eTextbooks for quick reference
  • Scan for images, tables, graphs & charts
  • Skim thumbnails or full pages
  • Add and Edit Notes to pages as you study
  • View your notes during an open book exam
  • Find what you need using keyword search
  • Get a true digital equivalent of your textbook

Audible – Free with $14.95 Monthly Subscription

With Audible you can listen to your text books instead of reading them. This can be a huge time saver especially if you have a commute of more than fifteen minutes to school every day. I literally drove two hours to grad school three days a week, and listening to some of my books made that productive time.

Audible gives you access to a free book or two every month depending on your subscription level. You can save up credits for a couple of months so you can get a few of your books all at once. Many books do not work well as audio books, but that English Lit novel you have to read could be a great option. Even if you only find one or two books a semester, this makes the subscription worthwhile.

The iPhone app works well on the iPad and gives access to all of your books either via download or streaming. I wouldn’t normally recommend an app that is not a native iPad app, but in this case you will likely be starting the book and then moving on to something else like taking notes or playing a game, so listening in the background means you don’t see the ugly 2X interface. That is how I use it.

The app is free in the app store.

All Work Makes Students Dull

The above apps focus on your class work, but here are a few apps just for fun.

RAGE HD Helps Take Your Mind off Studying

RAGE HD Helps Take Your Mind off Studying

RAGE HD – Free this week – A fun shooter that has some nice graphics and is easy to learn is the perfect distraction from studying.

SlingPlayer Mobile – $29.99 – In the Gadget Guide at I recommended a SlingBox connected to your home TV so you can get local news and sports from home. You need the mobile app to enjoy that gadget. It streams the shows from your home TV even if you get programming via a cable or satellite set-top box or a DVR. You can switch channels and schedule DVR recordings too.

HBO Go and MAX Go – Free for subscribers – These apps stream on demand movies and TV series from either HBO or Cinemax through the Internet to your iPad. Only those who subscribe from one of the approved services will be able to access the content. Students can stick it to the cable guy in college by using mom or dad’s subscription info, with their permission, to get access.

HBO and Max GO stream content from the pay channels to your iPad

HBO and Max GO stream content from the pay channels to your iPad

iTunes U – Free

While technically not an app, but a service, iTunes U works on the iPad fine. The service provides learning podcasts from major universities all over the country and from various kinds of courses. You can learn US History from Dr. Dominic Capeci, of Missouri State University or iPhone Application Development from Alan Cannistraro and Josh Shaffer of Stanford.

iTunes U Offers Free Audio Lectures via iTunes

iTunes U Offers Free Audio Lectures via iTunes

Go to college without going to college or just supplement your learning from these great courses, all of which are free for the download and will sync to your iPad via iTunes. You can also access them directly in the iTunes App on your iPad.

Other Obvious App Choices

Here are a few obvious app choices. We include them even though you likely already thought about them. Just in case you didn’t, we list them below:

  • Amazon Kindle – Free – save money on text books by buying digital versions and supplement CourseSmart above.
  • Nook – Free – if for some reason your textbook is not on Amazon, then look here.
  • iBooks – Free – if for some reason your textbook isn’t on Amazon or Nook, then look at iBooks and it might be there.
  • Amazon Mobile – Free – students already get free Amazon Prime memberships, so why not put their store on your iPad and save money and time?


  1. Keith Bourne

    08/24/2011 at 11:16 pm

    Could be very useful in school to be able to web clip on your iPad to your Evernote account. Check out, which is an iPad only web clipping app that clips right to Evernote.  It also jumps back and forth from Safari fairly easily, so that you can still use Safari as your main browser. It was just added to Evernote Trunk, is currently #79 for iPad productivity apps, and is climbing the charts quickly.  Web clipping is alive and well on the iPad!

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