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Eight Essential iPad apps for Field Users

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I have made use of an iPad for fieldwork for almost six years now. Most of this work has been in the Forest industry on Canada’s West Coast. I have been surprised at how well these consumer devices have held up in this harsh environment when equipped with a ruggedised case. However, what makes these devices really valuable for field use are the terrific applications available for field users. I would like to share the eight apps that I have found that I cannot work without.

Avenza Maps

  • I have written about Avenza Maps previously. This app allows users to see their location on Geo PDF maps, make distance and area measurements, record simple spatial data as points or lines, and record tracks. If I could only have one application for field use it would be this one. You will find a recent review here: http://www.tablet-ex-gear.com/in-the-field/avenza...

PDF Expert

  • Allows the user to annotate PDFs with objects (i.e. arrows, lines), free-hand drawing, and text. In addition, images can be inserted, stamps added and notes. It also works well with fillable PDF documents. It is simple to use and highly versatile.

Docs to Go

  • This app is great for working with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Adobe PDF files. However, what I value most is the desktop Wi-Fi file sync. I have found this to be an efficient way to move data to and from my mobile devices. In addition, because the desktop folder structure is maintained on the mobile device my files are easy to find.

Faster Scan HD

  • This is a very good scanning app – I use it almost daily. When scanning paper documents the app does a great job of detecting the edges of the paper if it is on a high contrast background. It will even correct for distortion if the paper is curled. What I most frequently use this app for is converting screen shots and photos into Adobe PDF files. This makes it very efficient to share a series of images with others. My workflow often involves using Faster Scan to create a PDF from multiple photos and then adding annotations with PDF expert.


  • What I most frequently use this app for is measuring percent grade – which it does with a high degree of accuracy. I also appreciate the other information that is displayed: Latitude, Longitude, Elevation, Time, and Compass Bearing. Capture a photo within the app and this data is embedded in the image. The compass works surprisingly well, although I would still use the old school magnetic one for most fieldwork. You can also display your position on a map and that of others, provided cellular coverage is available. Position data can also be shared by emailing a KML file.

Tap Forms

  • This is a terrific database application that facilitates efficient data collection. Forms can be built on the mobile device and shared with others so that everyone captures data in a consistent format with the values captured controlled by pick lists.


  • It is hard to beat iBooks for viewing large PDF documents. This is terrific for things like policies, procedures and project documents. It also does a good job of organizing the PDF documents. Of course you can also use it for reading books.


  • These Bluetooth enabled tracking devices are a good way to ensure that mission critical equipment is not lost. Each “Tile” connects with your mobile device. Without having to rummage through your gear you can quickly check that all equipment made it into the truck with you be checking the mobile app. Can’t find something? Then you can look at a map to see the last place your mobile device was within Bluetooth range of the “Tile”. If it is close by you can make the tile emit a sound to allow you to quickly find it. 

Source: forestryconnect.com

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