11 Essential Android Tablet Apps: The Ultimate Starter Kit

Springpad

Springpad
Need an awesome way to take notes, make lists, and save all sorts of info? Springpad is just the thing for you. The free app lives in the same neighborhood as note-taking services like Evernote and Catch, but its outstanding Android tablet interface puts it miles ahead in my book.

Springpad lets you input text notes, audio notes, image notes, or product notes (via scanned barcodes) into any number of "notebooks," or categories, that you create. You can even input the name of a movie or book that catches your eye, and Springpad will automatically attach a full profile of the product to your note. Springpad continuously syncs your data, so all of your stuff is always accessible on the Web or via the company's free Chrome extension.

Quickoffice Pro HD

Quickoffice Pro HD
Tablets are great for note-taking, but sometimes you need to do more. That's where Quickoffice Pro HD comes in. Quickoffice Pro HD, available for $20, is a full-featured productivity suite made specifically for Android tablets. It gives you robust word-processing, spreadsheet, and PowerPoint editing capabilities, all in a tablet-optimized interface that's a pleasure to use.

Quickoffice Pro HD can integrate with a number of different cloud storage services, too--Google Docs, DropBox, and SugarSync, among others--allowing you to save files directly to the Web in addition to your device. For my money, no other Android tablet office app even comes close to comparing.

Wyse PocketCloud Pro

Wyse PocketCloud Pro
These days, you don't have to be in your house to get on your home PC. Android tablets are the perfect tools to run specialized software that lets you remotely access and control your computer. I'd recommend Wyse PocketCloud Pro, available for $14.99 (or free in a limited-functionality version).

Setting up PocketCloud Pro is simple, and once you've installed the PC or Mac client, it takes just seconds to get your desktop up and running on your tablet's screen. You can swipe around the desktop with your finger and use mouse or keyboard tools to interact. PocketCloud Pro supports RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) and VNC (Virtual Network Protocol) connections; it also offers TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption and the ability to connect to multiple computers.

Plume for Twitter

Plume for Twitter
Tablets and tweets team up triumphantly with LevelUp Studio's Plume for Twitter application. Plume, available free with an optional $2.99 ad-eliminating upgrade, gives you three customizable columns of Twitter-filled goodness. Any column can be set to show your main Twitter timeline, @mentions, direct messages, favorites, lists, or searches.

Tapping on a tweet causes it to open in a side panel on the screen. Plume has its own built-in browser, too, meaning that you can view linked pages without ever having to exit the program. Add in multiple account support and a completely customizable interface, and you've pretty much got the total package.

Friendcaster Tab for Facebook

Friendcaster Tab for Facebook
In mid-September, Facebook finally updated its official Android app to run on tablets, but the program is still anything but optimized for the big screen. Fear not, though, as Friendcaster for Facebook is here to save the day.

Friendcaster does what Facebook's own app should do on Android tablets: It gives you a multipaneled view of your news feed, with numerous filtering options and split sections to zoom in on specific content. In addition, the app has simple tools for posting new content, whether it's a text update, a photo, or a video, and whether you want to share it with everyone or just with certain friends. Friendcaster has full support for check-ins, messages, groups, events, and pages as well.

JR Raphael is a PCWorld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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