OK – you've probably noticed on the Apple App Store that iPad apps cost more – sometimes a LOT more – than their iPhone equivalents. But trust us, it's worth the extra cash.
Many of the best free iPhone apps cost money in their iPad incarnations, and the quality level of what's still free for the tablet is often ropey. But among the dross lie rare gems – iPad apps that are so good you can't believe they're still free.
Of those we unearthed, here's our pick of the best free iPad apps. Note that apps marked 'universal' will run on your iPad and iPhone, optimising themselves accordingly.
New this week: TED
TED is a video app designed to feed your curiosity, by watching smart people talk about all kinds of subjects.
Although the organization’s name stands for ‘Technology, Entertainment, Design’, it’s fundamentally interested in ideas. Example talks we watched during testing included a piece about screen time for kids (and why related fears are not true), not suffering in silence from depression, and mind-blowing magnified portraits of insects. What we’re saying is: this app has range.
It also has smarts. Along with a standard search, you can have the app ‘surprise you’ with something courageous, beautiful, or fascinating, and revisit favorites by delving into your watch history and liked talks, which sync across devices.
TED’s perhaps not an app you’ll open daily, but it’s a breath of fresh air when you desire brain food rather than typical telly.
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- For a mix of free and paid apps, check out our amazing Best iPad apps chart or if you're more into a smaller form-factor or have your eye on the iPhone 7 check out our list of the best free iPhone apps.
- Haven't bought an iPad yet and not sure which is best? We've got them listed on our best iPad ranking – or you can check out the best tablets list to see the full range available now.
- Are you a professional? Then our pick of the 10 best business apps should have something for you.
Epicurious is a massive recipe book for iPad. It provides access to over 35,000 recipes, and offers a magazine-like presentation. The entry screen is awash with new recipes with vibrant photography; you can quickly flick between that and dedicated pages for themed recipes and new videos.
The app’s search is excellent. You can select by meal type, and filter available recipes by selecting specific ingredients, cuisine types, and dietary issues (such as low-fat and wheat-free). Flicking back and forth between filters and results can irk, but the app at least does so quickly and efficiently.
The actual recipe pages are a touch basic – there’s no hand-holding like the step-by-step photos you get in Kitchen Stories. Still, if confident in your abilities, it’s a great app to broaden your culinary horizons.
Beatwave is a grid synthesizer/sound toy, loosely based on Yamaha’s Tenori-on. This means you tap notes by turning on the grid’s lights. When the endlessly looping playhead collides with one, you get an explosion of color, and a sound plays.
Notes towards the top of the grid are higher, and those at the bottom are lower. Some instruments use the bottom two rows for drum sounds. Most importantly, though, Beatwave is designed to always make output listenable.
It’s actually quite difficult to create anything horribly discordant, short of filling every square on the grid.
For those who fancy more depth, the app offers plenty of alternate sounds, automated morphing, and the ability to save patterns to the sidebar, which you switch between with a tap. So it’s fun whether writing songs or just playing with sound and color.
7 Minute Workout is designed to give you a complete fitness workout in just seven minutes. It’s far from alone on the App Store, but we like this take because it’s straightforward – and also properly free (rather than being riddled with IAP).
The exercise screens are basic, but bold. It’s always obvious where you are in a routine, and if you’re unsure about the next step, you can tap a video playback button to view a demonstration.
Beyond the exercises, the app enables you to track your weight and set the gap between exercises, which are regularly switched during the routine. The only downside is not being able to block specific exercises if, for example, you don’t have access to a chair, or cannot perform them due to accessibility reasons.
Tayasui Sketches is a drawing tool, designed to be realistic, versatile, and usable. And although various IAPs lurk for the full toolset (which includes a ruler, extra layers, and pressure sensitivity), you get an awful lot for free.
You start by selecting a paper type, or use an imported photo as the basis for your masterpiece. Then it’s time to get cracking with the pens and brushes. Although it’s perhaps a stretch to call them totally realistic, they all offer pleasing results. The watercolor brush in particular is lovely, bleeding into the paper and leaving splats on the canvas when you tap the screen.
In fact, the app as a whole is very pleasant to use, offering the right balance between trying to help and getting out of your way when you’re busy painting. And as a final neat touch, if you’re stuck for inspiration there are some coloring book pages thrown in for free.
Dropbox is perhaps the most famous of cloud storage providers. For free, you get 2GB of space for your documents and photos – and more if you pay to upgrade.
In the early days of iPad, Apple wanted to hide the file system away, and Dropbox – which was quickly supported by a great many apps – became a kind of surrogate. And even in these days of iCloud Drive, it’s very much worth installing.
The main Dropbox app is smart and straightforward, with speedy previews, the means to save content offline, passcode lock functionality, and optional automated backup of your iPad photos.
As of iOS 11, Dropbox can integrate directly into the Files app, too. Given Dropbox’s cross-device and cross-platform nature, this makes it worth grabbing even if you only use it rarely. Chances are, though, you’ll use it a whole lot more often.
There are other decent cloud storage apps too, such as Google Drive, but even if you already have that it’s worth grabbing Dropbox for a little extra space.
Google Maps is an app that might seem an odd fit for an iPad, but we’d argue it’s an essential install. First and foremost, it’s much better than Apple’s Maps for figuring out journeys: Google Maps can more easily find points of interest, and ably deals with public transport information.
Local areas can be explored in terms of amenities (food, drink, and sometimes entertainment), and in a more direct sense, with the road-level Street View. The latter is a great way to familiarize yourself with a place before you visit.
If you always have your iPad on you, Google Maps can save maps for offline use as well, so you don’t even need an internet connection to use it. Alternatively, sign up for a Google account, and the searches you make will be synced with the app on your iPhone.
Snapseed is a photo editor that’s suitable for all iPad users. If you’re a beginner, you can import a photo, tap a filter (Snapseed calls them ‘looks’), venture briefly into the tools menu to crop and straighten your masterpiece, and export the results.
But there’s so much more on offer. Tools include perspective editing, adjustments, vignettes, text, and textures you can use to merrily wreck the pristine nature of your digital snaps.
Every edit is non-destructive, and stored in a ‘stack’ found in the undo menu. Previous edits can be removed or adjusted at any point – and that goes for any built-in ‘look’ you may have applied, too.
You can also save your own adjustment/edit combinations as a ‘look’ to use on other photos.
About the only thing we don’t like about Snapseed is its light grey background. (Bring back black in an update, please!)
Pic Collage has you create collages from photos and images. In Grids mode, select some pictures, and the app automatically places them in a layout. If you’re not keen, switch to a different layout; you can also adjust background colors and border sizes.
Select an individual image and you can move and rotate it, and perform the kind of edits and adjustments you find in a slew of photo apps. Using the + button you can further customize your creation with stickers, text and doodles.
Beyond this mode, you can craft cards and ‘freestyle’ layouts. For free, it all comes across as an astonishingly flexible, usable and feature-rich take on digital collages. The only real downside is watermarks on your exported collages, but you can be rid of them forever by paying a single $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP.
Doctor Who: Comic Creator does what you’d expect from its name. When you’re between seasons of the hit sci-fi show, you can satisfy yourself by fashioning custom adventures about everyone’s favorite regenerating time traveler, who goes everywhere and everywhen in a beaten-up old time machine.
Creating comics is akin to slapping down stickers – only you can move things around later. And you get a pleasingly diverse range of page layouts, along with a monster maker, so you can combine parts of the Doctor’s enemies into something suitably horrific.
The main downside is most foes lurk behind various IAPs – would it have killed the BBC to throw in a Cyberman for free? Sadly, there’s no way to use the app to get all timey-wimey and change people’s minds when the app was being made.
Sandbox offers an interesting take on coloring apps. Instead of virtual paper and pens (as per the excellent Pigment), Sandbox gives you a quirky combination of painting by numbers and old-school pixel art.
Select an image and it appears in grayscale. A tap zooms you in to a grid of numbers. Select a palette color and tap relevant grid squares to start coloring things in. Tap the wrong squares and your colors remain – but the numbers stick around in zoomed view, reminding you of your ‘error’.
Because you have to tap every single square, Sandbox might for some feel tedious. But there’s a meditative quality to proceedings, and there are plenty of images to color for free. A drag-to-color brush wouldn’t go amiss though.
Google Earth is about exploring our planet. Search for somewhere specific and the app swoops and dives to its target. Important landmarks are rendered in 3D that’s surprisingly effective – if you don’t zoom in too far.
This is an entertaining, tactile app that encourages investigation. You can drag and spin the screen, and flick through cards that point towards local landmarks. Fancy looking at something new? Hit the random button, or tap on the Voyager icon for stories based around anything from UNESCO World Heritage Sights to trekking about Kennedy Space Center.
The app is effortless to use, and the iPad’s large screen enables you to more fully breathe in the sights; the result is armchair tourism that’s far more effective than what you’d get even on the largest of iPhones.
seems to bill itself as an app akin to Foursquare – a place to find the best local cafes, restaurants, and sights in major cities. But really it’s more of a place where photo-bloggers can publish their unique take on amazing locations, thereby providing you with gorgeous photos and succinct chunks of writing to devour.
You can jump right into the main feed, or focus on a specific city. You then tap on a photo to open an individual story. Every one we tried was rich in superb imagery, with just enough text to add meaningful context without interrupting the flow of the visuals.
Neatly, you can tap a map icon to see where the various photos were all taken; and if you sign up for an account, favorite stories or individual images can be bookmarked for later. But even if you simply treat Townske as a regularly-updated lean-back digital take on a newspaper travel supplement, you can’t really go wrong.
wants to teach you to communicate with computers. You provide some information about the kind of coding you fancy doing, and it recommends a course – anything from basic HTML through to delving into Python.
Py could be more helpful when you get something wrong, but its breezy, pacy nature gives it a real energy and game-like feel that boosts focus and longevity.
Unlike Duolingo, Py doesn’t have any interest in being free forever. A premium tier locks a chunk of content behind a monthly fee (along with access to mentors, who can help you through tough spots via an integrated chat). But for no outlay, there’s still plenty here for budding website – and app – creators to get stuck into.
comes across like a social network for people who like making bold statements – in bold colors and with bold text. Imagine Twitter, but with a chunky font, eye-searing backgrounds on every post, and a user base that’s perhaps a little too full of itself.
Which all sounds a bit unflattering, we’re sure, but Boldomatic is actually rather fun. You can zip through the feed to find random thoughts, tiny nuggets of philosophy, daft jokes, and little bits of poetry.
Fashioning your own slice of creative genius is simple, too: just type out your words, select a background color (or a photo), and share it with the world.
Boldomatic also works as a means to create content for elsewhere. Your creations can be hurled at Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, to share them with the wider world (or Photos, if you want to keep them just between you and your iPad).
is an app about coding, although you’d initially be forgiven for thinking it a weird game. Early lessons involve guiding oddball cartoon cyclops Byte about an isometric landscape by way of typed commands, having him trigger switches and grab gems along the way.
This is, of course, sneakily teaching you the fundamentals of logic and programming, and the lessons do then gradually become more involved. However, at no point does Swift Playgrounds become overwhelming. And the split-screen set-up – instructions and code on the left; interactive world based on your work on the right – feels friendly and intuitive.
It’s not Xcode for iPad, then, but perhaps a first step in that direction. More importantly, Swift Playgrounds can act as a first step for people who want to start coding their own apps, but for whom the very idea has, to date, simply been too daunting.
On importing a PDF from another app, Dropbox, or iCloud Drive, you can rearrange its pages, add a signature, slather the thing in comments, and highlight bits of text. If your document arrived from , you can search the text, and select/copy some to paste elsewhere. Annoyingly, copying must be done manually – there’s no ‘grab all text’ option.
In the main, though, this is a friendly, usable app, and you get the bulk of its functionality for free, including the means to share edited PDFs with other apps. (IAP is mostly for converting PDFs to other formats for editing in the likes of Microsoft Word.)
turns your iPad into a handheld scanner. This in itself isn’t anything special – there are plenty of paid and free scanners for iPad, including inbuilt support with . However, in Adobe Scan’s case, it’s mostly about the ecosystem.
The basics are present and correct – place a document in front of Adobe Scan and it will automatically be captured. This feature is sometimes a bit over-eager when scanning multiple pages (in one case during review, it took a fetching angled picture of a trackpad), but you can subsequently fiddle with cropping, page order, and recoloring.
The best bit, though, is the way in which Adobe Scan also captures words. You can’t actually get at them in Adobe Scan, frustratingly, but fling your PDF at , and you can copy and paste text to the likes of Notes. Accuracy is pleasingly high, too.
The basics involve selecting a track type (drums, bass, or synth), and then a sound, whereupon Groovebox starts playing a loop. If you’re not happy with what you hear, tap the dice and Groovebox will spit out a different pattern.
Most apps of this ilk are samples-based, and so grind to a juddering halt at this point. But Groovebox goes further, offering a keyboard for live play, and a piano roll grid for tweaking a loop’s notes – or removing them all to add your own.
The lack of a song editor is a pity (you’re limited to 16-bar loops), and advanced instrument features sit behind various IAP. But for free, Groovebox offers plenty of head-nodding entertainment.
is well known among designer types for being a hub of creativity. It’s used by thousands of illustrators, graphic designers, typographers and the like to upload ideas and see what everyone else is up to.
The discussion forums are a great way to get feedback on in-progress work and to talk about weird and wonderful sketches and experiments.
For those in a creative industry, the Dribbble app gets the bulk of the experience neatly onto your iPad. You can browse, chat, flag favorites, and adjust the toolbar to include buttons for quick access to your preferred streams.
For everyone else, it’s a hive of inspiration – a great way to explore what’s hot in visual design, perhaps even sparking some ideas to drive your own creative endeavors.
The basics are all there for creating old-school pixel art, but beyond brushes and fills, Dottable adds some fairly sophisticated shapes and transform tools.
If you want to trace an image, it can be imported, and optionally converted to pixel art form. Exports are also dealt with nicely, either exporting your image as a PNG, or converting each layer into a single frame of an animated GIF.
On creating a new document, you can draw with a finger, and resize the canvas with a pinch. There’s also an eraser, a small palette to change colors, an interesting night mode (which flips black to white) and that’s pretty much it.
It sounds reductive, but in reality frees you up. You’re not thinking about line thicknesses and the like – you’re just drawing. Export is a little disappointing – it would be good if you could have a vector format rather than a fairly low-res bitmap – but otherwise Thoughts is a nicely simple sketching tool for iPad.
Instead of forcing workmanlike grids of data on you, Numbers has you think in a more presentation-oriented fashion. Although you can still create tables for totting up figures, you’re also encouraged to be creative and reader-friendly regarding layout, incorporating graphs, imagery, and text. On iPad, it’s all tap – and finger – friendly, too.
With broad feature-parity with the Mac version, iCloud sync, and export to Excel format, Numbers should also fit neatly into most people’s workflow.
And although updates robbed the app of some friendliness (whoever removed the date picker needs a stern talking to), it still excels in that department, from nicely designed templates through to the handy action menu, ensuring common tasks are only ever a tap away.
The idea behind is to be a central hub for all your files. It can pull in documents from various sources, which can then be collated and sent elsewhere. There’s a media player, smart search, PDF annotation, and document archiving (by way of zipping files) too.
However, Documents 6 also points to one particular future of the iPad many people would like to see: drag and drop between apps. Yes, this is coming in – but if you want it now, this is the app to start with.
Because this is a proprietary solution, it only works with Readdle apps, but it feels entirely natural in Split View to drag a file from Documents 6 to . And this alone may nudge productivity-oriented users towards Readdle’s apps until the official solution finally lands around September.
There are quite a few DJ apps for iPad, but they mostly tend to make the assumption you’re a master of the decks already. With its bright colors, straightforward nature, and lack of a price tag, feels rather more approachable to the typical wannabe deck spinner.
You can mess about with demo tracks or load tunes from your iPhone and Spotify. Then it’s a case of messing around with virtual decks, sliders and buttons to crossfade, beat-match, and add effects. If you hit on something especially great, record your live performance and share it with your friends.
It’s worth noting the app does have IAP lurking, but that’s really only for people properly bitten by the bug. Splash out and you can grab new effects or a premium subscription for precision mixing. For free, though, there’s plenty to enjoy.
Another filter app, but this one’s more about creating semi-abstract works of art than aping a bunch of photographic effects from the 1970s (although you get those too). With , the most interesting bits are the art filters, which can totally transform even the most mundane snap into something visually arresting.
You get four for free – more styles lurk as various IAPs – and they’re all pretty amazing. With a single tap, you can turn your photo into a landscape of isometric blocks, or overlay fragmented reflective surfaces.
With the brush tool, you can then paint out the effects layer to let parts of the original image show through, before exporting at up to 4K. It’s certainly a lot more creative than tapping a button to make a pretend Polaroid.
Automation is something you’d usually associate more with a PC than an iPad, but , can perform strings of tasks on your behalf. This means instead of dipping in and out of several apps to do something complex, you can just tap a button.
The app’s gallery includes over 200 pre-made workflows, such as turning a web page into a PDF, creating an animated GIF, or finding the nearest coffee outlet. These can be saved to your Home screen as an app, to Workflow’s Today view widget, or even as a Share sheet action extension.
Should you want to construct a workflow of your own, you can do so using a straightforward drag-and-drop interface. During creation, workflows can be tested and each step tweaked until you’re happy.
Now Workflow’s owned by Apple, its future is a little unclear, but it’s also free, so you’ve no excuse not to delve in.
Looking for flights is simple; the app allows a pleasing amount of vagueness regarding locations (including regions with multiple airports, such as ‘London’, or even entire countries, such as ‘New Zealand’), and it’ll happily enable you to search for singles, returns, or multi-city jaunts.
As search results gradually load in, the app points you to the cheapest and quickest options, along with what it considers ‘best’ when taking into account price, time and convenience. For some routes, a calendar graph lets you check nearby dates to see if you can snag a bargain.
Additional filters are available to further refine your results, and you can create an account to save favorites and receive fare alerts – plus hotel listing can be added in too, should you want a more comprehensive.
On the iPhone, Prisma has become many people’s go-to app for transforming photos into tiny works of painterly art. Bafflingly, an iPad version of the app has yet to materialize, so fortunately is on hand to plug that particular gap.
In fact, in many ways Pixify is superior to Prisma. It has the same level of immediacy: load a photo and select what artwork you’d like it to resemble. But the app also provides a modicum of control over the output, in you being able to adjust brush sizes and how heavily the painterly style is applied.
The one downside on iPad is the final rendered image displays quite small on the screen. And even the $0.99/99p/AU$1.99 IAP, which unlocks higher-resolution artwork to export, doesn’t affect this oddity.
Making apps approachable is a good thing on mobile, but sometimes photo editors go a bit far, flinging all kinds of detritus into the mix (stickers; gaudy frames; a million indistinguishable filters).
The basic toolset includes cropping, rotation, a bunch of measured and genuinely useful presets, and an editor for adjusting tones, vignettes, colors and lens issues. Edits aren’t burned in and so you can experiment and revert as you wish. When you’re done, you can send the result to your Camera Roll.
If you’re an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber, you also get DNG support, and selective adjustments. But even as a pure freebie, Lightroom’s a must-have for any iPad owner interested in improving their photographs.
feels like one of those apps where you’re always waiting for the catch to arrive. Create a new canvas and you end up staring at what can only be described as a simplified Photoshop on your iPad. There are loads of drawing tools, a layers system (including photo import), and configurable brushes.
Opening up menus reveals yet more features – rotation; shapes; grids – but palettes can also be hidden, so you can get on with just drawing. Judging by the in-app gallery of uploaded art, MediBang is popular with manga artists, but its tools are capable enough to support a much wider range of digital painting and drawing styles – all without costing you a penny.
There are two ways to approach , where the first is as a really bizarre interactive album. Select a track and a bunch of little creatures swim about on the screen, which results in spatialized sound mixes. (Stick some headphones on to hear how their movements affect the placement of sounds being played.) You can manually fling the creatures about, or tap-hold to remove them.
But Seaquence also enables you to edit. Add a new creature and it’ll instantly change the track. Tap a creature and you can delve into a scale editor, sound designer, and a sequencer for adjusting the notes of the current loop.
A $6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99 IAP opens up a bunch of pro features; but for free, Seaquence is entertaining whether you’re just listening and occasionally bothering the digital sea life, or figuring out how to construct your own tunes.
If you often find yourself rooting around the web for images to use in projects, Google Images will do. But it can be tricky to know whether you have the rights to use whatever you download – and you very often don’t.
The downside is the selection can be sparse for niche subjects, and quite a lot of the vector art is of poor quality. But for general imagery to add to a brochure or website when you’re lacking a budget for pictures, there are plenty of decent photographs to choose from, easily accessible from the app’s straightforward search.
On an iPhone, music-making app is mightily impressive, but on iPad, the extra space proves transformative. In being able to see more at any given time, your experience is more efficient and enjoyable, whether you’re a beginner tapping the grid view to trigger loops, a live musician tweaking a synth on stage, or a recording artist delving into audio waveforms and MIDI data.
Apple’s app also cleverly appeals to all. Newcomers can work with loops, automated drummers, and piano strips for always staying in key. Pros get seriously impressive track controls with configurable effects, multi-take recording, and Audio Unit support for bringing favorite synths directly into GarageBand.
If you don’t feel terribly creative sitting in front of a PC, GarageBand’s the perfect way to unleash your Grammy-winning songwriter in waiting.
acts as a time-shifting service for the web. You can send pages to it from any browser (PC, Mac or mobile), whereupon Instapaper strips away everything bar the content. When you open the app, it’ll quickly sync your article collection. You can then read anything you’ve stored in a mobile-optimized layout that’s entirely free from cruft.
On an iPhone, Instapaper is handy for commuters wanting to catch up on saved pages while belting along on a train. But on iPad, the larger display transforms Instapaper into a superb lean-back reading experience – your own personal periodical that’s free from the gimmickry and iffy curation found in glossier fare, and that’s instead all about the content.
A beginner can start with a blank slate, paper texture, or photo background, on to which an animation frame is drawn. Add further frames and previous ones faintly show through, to aid you in making smooth transitions.
Delve further into the app to discover more advanced fare, including brush options and a hugely useful layers system. When done, export to GIF or video – or save projects to refine later. That this all comes for free (and free from ads) is astonishing.
Although Photoshop started out as a tool for retouching imagery, plenty of people use it for creating art from scratch. It’s presumably that line of thinking that led to , an iPad app that enables you to draw with virtual takes on ink, paint, pastel and markers.
The tools themselves are broadly impressive and configurable. You can adjust brushes in all kinds of ways, and then utilize blend modes and layers for complex art, and grids/stencils when more precision is needed.
Export feels a bit needlessly restrictive – you’re mostly forced to send drawings to Adobe’s Behance network – even Photos isn’t an option.
Also, while tools work well individually, they don’t really interact, such as when dragging pen through a glob of paint. Still, for free, Adobe Photoshop Sketch gives you a lot – and even if you don’t use the app for finished art, it works (as its name suggests) as a pretty neat sketchpad.
There are quite a few apps for creating ambient background noise, helping you to focus, relax, and even sleep. is perhaps the best we’ve seen – a really smartly designed mix of sound and interface design that is extremely intuitive yet thoroughly modern.
It works through you adding sounds to an on-screen grid. Those placed towards the right become more complex, and those towards the top are louder. Personalized mixes can be saved, or you can play several that are pre-loaded.
For free, you do get an ad across the bottom of the screen, only five sounds, and no access to timers and alarms. But even with such restrictions, White Noise+ is pretty great. Throw $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 at it for the extra features and noises, and it borders on exceptional.
Your notes are grouped into little notebooks, which when opened display as a grid of sticky notes. Individual notes can have a bespoke background color and contain text, imagery, audio recordings, checkboxes, and scribbles. The drawing tools lack the ruler from Notes but offer far more colors and tooltip sizes. Back in the notebook, notes can be grouped and browsed through with subtle flicks.
Export is weak and sync rather annoyingly requires an account with the developer rather than iCloud; but for a freebie note-taker on a single iPad, Notebook fits the bill.
Often, third-party apps improve on bare-bones equivalents provided as the ‘official’ take on a product, but is an exception. This freebie app for browsing the online encyclopedia is excellent on iPad – and probably the best option on the platform.
The Explore page lists a bunch of nearby and topical articles; after a few uses, it’ll also recommend things it reckons you’d like to read. Tap an article and the screen splits in two – (collapsible) table of contents to the left and your chosen article to the right. Articles can be searched and saved, the latter option storing them for offline perusal.
It’s a pity Wikipedia doesn’t rework the Peek/Pop previews from the iPhone version (by way of a long-tap), but otherwise this is an excellent, usable encyclopedia for the modern age.
On the desktop, Adobe Illustrator is more about enabling creative types to work up pin-sharp illustrative fare than freehand drawing. But on iPad, concentrates on doodling. You can experiment with five highly configurable brush tips, which feel great whether drawing with a stylus or a finger.
But dig deeper into the options and the professional sheen of this app becomes apparent. There are perspective grids, a layers system for mixing and matching artwork and imagery for tracing over, and stencils you temporarily overlay when extra precision is needed.
Completed images can be exported to Camera Roll or the clipboard, and Adobe Creative Cloud users can also send art to Photoshop or Illustrator with layers preserved.
A straightforward vector export option would be nice, although that’s perhaps too big an ask for a free app designed to suck you into a larger ecosystem.
Given the acres of space you get on an iPad display, it’s a bit odd that Apple’s own clock only provides a single timer. Fortunately, – as its name suggests – goes somewhat further by offering multiple options.
In fact, depending on the layout you choose, you can have twelve timers all ticking away at once. Each one of them can have its own icon, color and default time assigned, for those people who need to simultaneously exercise, boil eggs, and cook a turkey.
Smartly, the app works in portrait or landscape, and if you want a timer you can see clearly across the room, a single button press zooms it to fill almost the entire screen.
Should you want a bit more flexibility by way of multiple or custom workspaces, there’s a single IAP to unlock those features.
It’s fair to say that is primarily designed for the iPhone, enabling musicians to quickly capture a song idea, which can later be expanded on. But if you’re in a studio – home or otherwise – strumming away on a guitar, and with an iPad nearby, the app can help you compose your next chart-troubler on a much more user-friendly screen size.
You kick things off by tapping a circle in the middle of the screen, whereupon Music Memos starts recording. Tap again to stop. The app then attempts – with some degree of success – to transcribe the chords played, and enables you to overlay automated bass and drums.
It’s when tapping the audio waveform in the recordings list that the iPad’s value becomes clear – you get the whole screen to see your in-progress song, which is great for playing along with or when considering further tweaks. And with iCloud sync, you can always record on iPhone and peruse later on iPad.
The sidebar links to notes you’ve grouped by hashtag. Next to that, a notes list enables you to scroll through (or search) everything you’ve written, or notes matching a specific tag. The main workspace – which can be made full-screen – marries sleek minimalism with additional smarts: subtle Markdown syntax next to headings; automated to-do checkboxes when using certain characters; image integration.
There’s not enough here for pro writers – they’d need on-screen word counts, customizable note column ordering, and flexibility regarding notes nesting. Also, for iCloud sync, you must buy a $1.49/£1.49/AU$1.99 monthly subscription. But as a free, minimal note-taker for a single device, Bear more than fits the bill.
Fancy creating a slice of dubstep, hip hop, or deep house? Largely bereft of musical talent (or just feeling a bit lazy)?
Don’t worry – has you covered. Using the app, you select a genre (others are available via IAP – and some extras are even free), and then superstardom is just a case of triggering loops by tapping large colored pads.
The app’s pretty much idiot-proof – pads are labelled, everything’s always in time or in tune, and you can record your efforts by tapping a big REC button. Lovely.
But if you fancy going a bit further, the app’s happy to oblige: there’s a mixing desk for adjusting levels, live effects, and an editor to mix and match pads from different genre sets. Want to import/export your own sounds? Grab the relevant IAP ($5.99/£5.99/AU$9.99).
The web’s pretty great, apart from the bits that aren’t. And those bits are the manner in which your journey online is monitored by countless trackers. They look into what you’re viewing and where you’re going, aiming to serve up targeted ads. Beyond privacy issues, these trackers can slow down web pages and even crash browsers.
Enter: . The app itself is a brutally stripped-back, privacy-oriented browser. You go online, tracker-free, do whatever you want, and then stab Erase to delete your session. Which probably sounds ideal for nefarious purposes, but this is mostly great for basic efficiency, and also handy if someone wants to quickly get online using your iPad but not leave their accounts live when handing your device back.
Beyond this, Firefox Focus can also integrate with Safari, blocking trackers and web fonts from that browser and, potentially, increasing its performance.
If you’ve any interest in wildlife films, is a must-have. It features over a thousand clips picked from Attenborough’s decades-long journey through what he refers to as the “greatest story of all…how animals and plants came to fill our Earth”.
The app is split into three sections. You’re initially urged to delve into some featured collections, but can also explore by habitat or species, unearthing everything from big-toothed sharks to tiny penguins skittering about. Clips can be saved as favorites, or grouped into custom collections to later peruse or share with friends.
Some of the footage is noticeably low-res on an iPad – there’s nothing here to concern your Blu-Rays, and that’s a pity. Still, for instant access to such a wealth of amazing programming, this one’s not to be missed.
For reasons unknown to us, Prisma’s not on iPad, but provides a similar take on transforming photos into works of art. You know the drill: load a pic, select a filter, watch as the app turns it into something that looks more akin to paint on canvas, share, print, rinse and repeat.
Matissa’s filter selection is quite diverse, even if the results aren’t as convincing as Prisma’s. Still, there are some interesting ‘dynamic’ styles, which animate the end result, in a flickering loop that’s oddly hypnotic.
Everything does feel a bit too much like a blown-up phone app, though, and we wish Matissa could delve into shared albums rather than just Camera Roll. Still, it’s free, it works, and it does the job if you want to add a little art to your snaps.
The iPad and App Store combine to create an extremely strong ecosystem when it comes to art apps, but that's not terribly helpful if you don't have an artistic bone in your body.
As you draw, feathers of color explode from your fingertip, bleeding into the background in a manner that feels like you're drawing with an alien material atop viscous liquid. You can adjust your brush and color – 'neon' from the former coming across like sketching with fire.
Artwork can be further enhanced using mirrors or background filters prior to export. The process is at once aesthetically pleasing, fun and relaxing.
A single $0.99/£0.99/AU$1.49 IAP unlocks a set of premium brushes, but Fingerpaint Magic's free incarnation has more than enough to unleash your inner artist, regardless of your skill level.
Sago's range of straightforward, play-oriented educational apps tend to go down well with tiny humans, but and its lack of a price tag should also please your wallet. It's a generous and heart-warming game in terms of content too, promoting empathy, sharing and creativity through play.
On selecting a cartoon character, you knock on doors to colorful houses and play little mini-games, such as dress-up, taking a bath, and having a snack. In the last of those, feed too many items to one character and the other looks sad, hopefully prompting your own tiny person to figure out that sharing is a good thing.
On iPad, Sago Mini Friends shines, with its bold colors and smartly designed interface. There's no advertising, nor any IAP, meaning toddlers can play in safety without interruptions.
The App Store's awash with alternate cameras with editing smarts, but warrants a place on your iPad's home screen nonetheless. As a camera, it's fine, with an on-screen grid and plenty of manual settings. But on Apple's tablet, it's in editing that MuseCam excels.
Load a photo and you can apply a film-inspired filter preset (based on insight from pro photographers), or fiddle around with tone curves, color tools, and other adjustment settings.
The interface is bold, efficient, and usable, making it accessible to relative newcomers; but there's also enough depth here to please those wanting a bit more control, including the option to save tweaks as custom presets.
IAP comes in the form of additional filters, but what you get for free is generous and of a very high quality, making MuseCam a no-brainer download.
On YouTube alone, something like 60 hours of new video is uploaded every minute of the day. So keeping track of the best video from across the web is impossible.
The app can download videos overnight for offline playback, and presents your daily selection as a Harry Potter-like magazine page, video loops playing behind bold headlines. Simply tap to play, drag across videos to scrub, and tap to pause. On supported iPad hardware, click the home button and you can continue watching the current video with Picture-in-Picture mode.
Chances are even Hyper's considered selection won't always be to your tastes, and it's often a bit too US-oriented; but Hyper is nonetheless a great place to start your daily trawl through online video, and frequently serves up interesting things to watch.
is a custom iPad keyboard that makes sharing online content easier. Tap the slash key for a list of commands, which you can filter by typing a letter or two, and then enter search terms and prod a result to insert it into a document.
This makes it a cinch to quickly find and add links (Wikipedia articles; SoundCloud songs; App Store products; and so on) to notes, documents and social media posts. Additionally, Slash Keyboard speeds up typing with gestural single-finger scribbles in a manner similar to Swype and SwiftKey.
It’s not a perfect app by any means, as links are US-focused and sometimes use a proprietary link shortener rather than giving you the entire URL. Also, long-pressing the top row of letters cuts off the menu displaying related special characters.
But Slash's usefulness counters such drawbacks, and it's at the very least worth considering as an occasional alternate keyboard when wanting to link to a bunch of things you've found online.
As iOS has evolved, Notification Center has become a far more useful and robust part of the iPad experience. It can now house all kinds of useful information, which is accessible via a single downwards swipe. The idea behind is to create a place for tiny things you need to remember, such as luggage combinations, phone numbers, and Wi-Fi passwords.
The Cheatsheet app enables you to configure your list of items and their sort order; a custom icon can also be assigned to each one. On iPad, the screen is big enough to show two rows of 'cheats', meaning the widget rarely takes up much space.
Note that for free, you get all of this without even any ads, but there's a single IAP ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49) to extend Cheatsheet further; this gives you extra icons, iCloud notes sync, a custom keyboard, and an action extension, along with allowing the developer to eat.
Load in a pic (or use the camera to shoot a new one), and you can quickly add a filter, adjust things like saturation and contrast, overlay some text boxes, and get creative with quotes and stickers.
Weirdly, the last two of those things are pixelated when browsing through the app, but look just fine when added (and sadly many of the categories also sit behind in-app purchases).
But everything else about Little Moments is a joy, from the non-destructive adjustments (unless you select a new filter, whereupon everything resets) to the friendly, intuitive interface.
On analyzing your photo or screen grab for changes in hues, saturation and brightness, a music loop is generated. You can adjust the playback speed, instrument and visual effect (which starts off as a lazily scrolling piano roll), along with setting a timer.
Although occasionally discordant, the app mostly creates very pleasing sounds. And while it’s perhaps missing a trick in not displaying your photo as-is underneath the notes being played (your image is instead heavily blurred as a background), you can export each tune as audio or a video that shows the picture alongside the animation.
These free exports are a pretty generous gesture by the developer; if you want to return the favor, there’s affordable IAP for extra sounds, animation and MIDI export.
One of the great things about the app revolution is how these bits of software can help you experience creative fare that would have previously been inaccessible, unless you were armed with tons of cash and loads of time. is a case in point, providing the basics for crafting your own animations.
We should note you’re not going to be the next Disney with Folioscope – the tools are fairly basic, and the output veers towards ‘wobbling stickmen’.
But you do get a range of brushes (of differing size and texture), several drawing tools (pen, eraser, flood fill, and marquee), and onion-skinning, which enables you to see faint impressions of adjacent frames, in order to line everything up.
The friendly nature of the app makes it accessible to anyone, and there’s no limit on export – projects can be shared as GIFs or movies, or uploaded to the Folioscope community, should you create an account.
After years of eyesight deterioration, John Hull became blind in 1983. has six chapters taken from his journal of the time. Each is set in a specific location, marrying John’s narrative, binaural audio, and real-time 3D animation, to create an immersive experience of a ‘world beyond sight’.
Although designed as a VR experience, this app remains effective when holding an iPad in front of your face, moving the screen about to scan your surroundings. The mood shifts throughout – there’s wonder in a blind John’s discovery of the beauty of rain, disconnection when he finds things ‘disappear’ from the world when sound stops, and a harrowing section on panic.
Towards the end, John mulls he’s “starting to understand what it’s like to be blind,” and you may get a sense of what it’s like, too, from the app, which ably showcases how to craft an engaging screen-based experience beyond the confines of television.
Among the various finger-painting apps for iPad, is one of the weirdest. You draw by dragging two fingers on the screen, which results in a set of neon lines atop the background. Twisting your fingers changes the nature of the futuristic ribbon you’re creating, and subsequent taps and twists add to its length.
Using the app’s settings, you can play with the thickness and density of the lines and switch between angled and wavy compositions. The results are very abstract whatever you do, but Nebula’s a fun app for creating something visually different on your tablet.
There’s no saving your work in the free version, though (beyond snapping a screen grab) – you’ll need the $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 Tools IAP for that, which also adds symmetry functionality and high-resolution PDF export.
The thinking behind Auxy Music Studio is that music-making – both in the real world and software – has become too complicated. This app therefore strives to combine the immediacy of something like Novation Launchpad’s loop triggers with a basic piano roll editor.
For each instrument, you choose between drums and decidedly electronic synths. You then compose loops of between one and four bars, tapping out notes on the piano roll’s grid. Subsequent playback occurs on the overview screen by tapping loops to cue them up.
For those who want to go a bit further, the app includes arrangement functionality (for composing entire songs), along with Ableton Link and MIDI export support. Auxy’s therefore worth a look for relative newcomers to making music and also pros after a no-nonsense scratchpad.
It’s become apparent that Adobe – creators of photography and graphic design powerhouses Photoshop and Illustrator – don’t see mobile devices as suitable for full projects. However, the company’s been hard at work on a range of satellite apps, of which Photoshop Fix is perhaps the most impressive.
Built on Photoshop technology, this retouching tool boasts a number of high-end features for making considered edits to photographs. The Liquify tool in particular is terrific, enabling you to mangle images like clay, or more subtly adjust facial features using bespoke tools for manipulating mouths and eyes.
Elsewhere, you can smooth, heal, color and defocus a photo to your heart’s content, before sending it to Photoshop on the desktop for further work, or flattening it for export to your Camera Roll. It’s particularly good when used with the Apple Pencil (still a funny name) and the iPad Pro, such is the power and speed of that device and input method.
The idea behind Canva is to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating great-looking layouts based on your photos. Select a layout type (presentation, blog graphic, invitation, and so on) and the app serves up templates to work with.
These are mostly very smart indeed, but the smartest thing about Canva is that these starting points can all be edited: swap out images for your own photos, adjust text boxes, and add new elements or even entire pages.
Because of its scope, Canva isn’t as immediate as one-click automated apps in this space, but the interface is intuitive enough to quickly grasp. Our only niggle is the lack of multi-item selection, but with Canva being an online service, you can always fine-tune your iPad creations in a browser on the desktop.
Many of us are caught in high-stress environments for much of our lives, and electronic gadgets often do little to help. Apple has recognised this, promising a breathing visualization tool in iOS 10. In the meantime, Breathe+ brings similar functionality to your iPad.
You define how long breaths in and out should take, and whether you want to hold your breath at any point during the cycle. You then let Breathe+ guide your breathing for a user-defined session length.
The visualization is reminiscent of a minimalist illustrator's take on a wave rising and falling on the screen, but you can also close your eyes and have the iPad vibrate for cues. For free, there are some ads, which aren't pretty, but don't distract too much. For $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99, you can be rid of them, along with adding themes and usage history stats.
Between quickly trimming a video in Photos and immersing yourself in the likes of iMovie sits Splice. This is a free video editor that on the surface looks accessible – even simplistic – but that offers surprising depth for those who need it.
To get started, you import a bunch of clips. These can be reordered, and you can for each choose a transition if you don’t want standard crossfades. Access an individual clip and a whole host of additional tools becomes available, including text overlays, speed adjustment, and animation effects. It’s also possible to layer multiple audio files, including on-board music and narration.
For more demanding wannabe directors, Splice might still not be enough – in which case, head towards a more powerful product like Pinnacle Studio Pro or iMovie. But for everyone else, it really hits that sweet spot in being straightforward, approachable, and powerful.
With a native weather app bafflingly absent from iPad, you need to venture to the App Store to get anything beyond the basic daily overview Notification Center provides. Weather Underground is the best freebie on the platform, offering a customizable view to satisfy even the most ardent weather geeks.
Current conditions are shown at the top, outlining the temperature, precipitation likelihood, and a local map. But scroll and you can delve into detailed forecasts, dew point readings, sunrise and sunset times, videos, webcams, health data and web links. The bulk of the tiles can be disabled if there are some you don't use, and most can be reordered to suit.
Although not making the best use of iPad in landscape, the extra screen space afforded by Apple's tablet makes the Weather Underground experience a little more usable than on iPhone, enabling faster access to tiles. And for free, it's a top-notch app, although you can also fling $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 at it annually if you want rid of the unobtrusive ads.
Formerly known as Replay, Quik is a video editor primarily designed for people who can’t be bothered doing the editing bit. You select photos and videos, pick a theme, and sit back as Quik pieces together a masterpiece that can subsequently be saved and shared.
For tinkerers, there are styles and settings to tweak. Post-Replay, the app offers its 28 varied styles for free, and you can delve into the edit itself, trimming clips, reordering media, adjusting focal points, and adding titles.
Alternatively, the really lazy can do nothing at all and still get results – every week, Quik will serve up highlights videos, enabling you to relive favorite moments. These videos are quite random in nature, but are nonetheless often a nice surprise. Still, anyone willing to put in the slightest additional effort will find Quik rewards any minutes invested many times over.
We’ve always found the Remote app a bit of an oddball. On the one hand, it’s sort of iTunes for iPad, streaming your Mac or PC’s library to your device. On the other, it’s also a means of controlling an Apple TV.
In the former case, it’s fine, if a bit slow to load large libraries. Still, the interface is in many ways superior to Music’s, which now seems determined to sideline anything that isn’t Apple Music.
As for controlling an Apple TV with a massive glass-screened tablet, that might seem ridiculous until you’ve grappled with the Siri Remote. After that point, you’ll be glad to have Remote installed, enabling you to navigate your Apple TV and quickly input passwords, rather than getting frustrated to the point of wanting to hurl everything you’ve ever bought from Apple into the heart of the sun.
There’s a tendency for relaxation aids to be noodly and dull, but TaoMix 2 bucks the trend. You get the usual sounds to aid relaxation (wind, rain, birds, water), but also an interface that nudges the app towards being a tool for creating a kind of ambient personal soundtrack.
The basics are dead simple: tap the + button, select a sound pack, and drag a sound to the canvas. You then manually position the circular cursor within the soundscape, or slowly flick so it lazily bounces around the screen, your various sounds then ebbing and flowing into the mix.
This makes TaoMix 2 more fun to play with than its many rivals. Of course, if you just want to shut the world out, that option exists too: load a soundscape you’ve previously created, set a timer, and use TaoMix 2 to help you nod off.
Should you want something other than what’s found within the generous selection of built-in noises, packs are available for purchase (including whale sounds, ‘Japanese garden’ and orchestral strings); and if you fancy something entirely more custom, you can even import sounds of your own.
Although it’s apparently designed for kids aged 9-11, Seedling Comic Studio comes across a lot like a free (if somewhat stripped back) take on iPad classic Comic Life. You load images from your Camera Roll (or take new ones with the camera), arrange them into comic-book frames, and can then add all manner of speech balloons, filters and stickers.
Decided that your heroic Miniature Schnauzer should have to save the world from a giant comic-book sandwich? This is your app! Naturally, there are limitations lurking. The filter system is a bit rubbish, requiring you to cycle through the dozen or so on offer, rather than pick favourites more directly, and a few of the sticker packs require IAP.
But for no outlay at all, there’s plenty of scope here for comic-book creation, from multi-page documents you can output to PDF, to amusing poster-like pages you can share on social networks. And that’s true whether you’re 9 or 49.
Although Photofy includes a decent range of tools for performing typical edits on photos – including adjustments, cropping, saturation, and the like – this app is more interested in helping you get properly creative.
Within the photo editing tools are options for adding in-vogue blurs and producing collages; and in ‘Text & Overlays’, you’ll find a wealth of options for slapping all kinds of artwork and text on top of your photographic masterpieces.
The interface works well through bold, tappable buttons and chunky sliders (although it takes a while to realise the pane containing the latter can be scrolled). And although some filters and stickers require IAP to unlock, there’s loads available here entirely for free. (Also, Photofy rather pleasingly gives you alternatives for its watermark, if you don’t want to pay to remove it, but aren’t too keen on the default. Nice.)
With a noodly soundtrack playing in the background, WWF Together invites you to spin a papercraft world and tap points of interest to learn more about endangered species. 16 creatures get fuller treatment – a navigable presentation of sorts that hangs on a key characteristic, such as a panda’s charisma, or an elephant’s intelligence.
These sections are arranged as a three-by-three grid, each screen of which gives you something different, be it statistics, gorgeous photography, or a ‘facetime’ movie that gives you a chance to get up close and personal.
Apps that mix charity and education can often come across as dry and worthy, but WWF Together is neither. It’s informative but charming, and emotive but fun.
Rather neatly, stories can be shared by email, and this screen further rewards you with origami instructions to make your own paper animal; once constructed, it can sit on the desk next to all your technology, reminding you of the more fragile things that exist in our world.
GarageBand offers a loop player, but Novation Launchpad was doing this kind of thing years before, and in a manner that's so intuitive and simple that even a toddler could record a track. (We know — ours did.)
The app comprises a set of pads, where you choose a genre, tap pads, and they keep playing until you tap something else in the same group. Performances can be recorded, and you can also mess about with effects to radically change the output of what you're playing.
Whether you're a musician or not, Launchpad is a great app for making a noise. And if you fancy something a bit more unique than the built-in sounds, there's a $6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99 in-app purchase that lets you import your own samples.
The iPad’s well catered for in spreadsheet terms with Google freebie Sheets and Apple’s Numbers, but the reality is the business world mostly relies on Microsoft Excel. Like Microsoft’s other iOS fare, Excel is surprisingly powerful, marrying desktop-style features with touchscreen smarts.
You can get started with a blank workbook or choose from one of the bundled templates, which include budget planners, schedules, logs, and lists. Wisely, the app has an optional custom keyboard when you’re editing cells, filled with symbols, numbers, and virtual cursor keys. This won’t make much odds if you’re armed with a Bluetooth keyboard, but it speeds things up considerably if you only have your iPad handy.
You might be wondering what the catch is, and there aren’t many if you own a standard iPad or a mini. Sign in with a free Microsoft account and you’re blocked from some aesthetic niceties, but can do pretty much everything else. If you’re on an iPad Pro, however, Microsoft demands you have a qualifying Office 365 subscription to create and edit documents, but the app at least still functions as a viewer.
You might argue that Google Maps is far better suited to a smartphone, but we reckon the king of mapping apps deserves a place on your iPad, too.
Apple’s own Maps app has improved, but Google still outsmarts its rival when it comes to public transport, finding local businesses, saving chunks of maps offline, and virtual tourism by way of Street View.
Google’s ‘OS within an OS’ also affords a certain amount of cross-device sync when it comes to searches. We don’t, however, recommend you strap your cellular iPad to your steering wheel and use Google Maps as a sat-nav replacement, unless you want to come across as some kind of nutcase.
The original Brushes app was one of the most important in the iPhone’s early days. With Jorge Colombo using it to paint a New Yorker cover, it showcased the potential of the technology, and that an iPhone could be used for production, rather than merely consumption.
Brushes eventually stopped being updated, but fortunately went open source beforehand. Brushes Redux is the result.
On the iPad, you can take advantage of the much larger screen. But the main benefit of the app is its approachable nature. It’s extremely easy to use, but also has plenty of power for those who need it, not least in the layering system and the superb brush designer.
Adult colouring books are all the rage, proponents claiming bringing colour to intricate abstract shapes helps reduce stress – at least until you realise you’ve got pen on your shirt and ground oil pastels into the sofa.
You’d think the process of colouring would be ideal for iPad, but most relevant apps are awful, some even forcing tap-to-fill. That is to colouring what using a motorbike is to running a marathon – a big cheat. Pigment is an exception, marrying a love for colouring with serious digital smarts.
On selecting an illustration, there’s a range of palettes and tools to explore. You can use pencils and markers, adjusting opacity and brush sizes, and work with subtle gradients. Colouring can be ‘freestyle’, or you can tap to select an area and ensure you don’t go over the lines while furiously scribbling. With a finger, Pigment works well, but it’s better with a stylus; with an iPad Pro and a Pencil, you’ll lob your real books in the bin.
The one niggle: printing and accessing the larger library requires a subscription in-app purchase. It’s a pity there’s no one-off payment for individual books, but you do get plenty of free illustrations, and so it’s hard to grumble.
For a long while, Paper was a freemium iPad take on Moleskine sketchbooks. You made little doodles and then flipped virtual pages to browse them. At some point, it went free, but now it’s been transformed into something different and better.
The original tools remain present and correct, but are joined by the means to add text, checklists, and photos. One other newcomer allows geometric shapes you scribble to be tidied up, but without losing their character.
So rather than only being for digital sketches, Paper’s now for all kinds of notes and graphs, too. The sketchbooks, however, are gone; in their place are paper stacks that explode into walls of virtual sticky notes. Some old-hands have grumbled, but we love the new Paper. It’s smarter, simpler, easier to browse, and makes Apple’s own Notes look like a cheap knock-off.
There are loads of iPad apps for reading and annotating PDFs, but LiquidText is different. Rather than purely aping paper, the developers have thought about the advantages of working with virtual documents.
So while you still get a typical page view, you can pinch to collapse passages you’re not interested in and also compare those that aren’t adjacent.
There’s a ‘focus’ view that shows only annotated sections, and you can even select chunks of text and drag them to the sidebar. Tap one of those cut-outs at a later point and its location will instantly be displayed in the main text. Smartly, you can save any document in the app’s native format, export it as a PDF with comments, or share just the notes as an RTF.
Although Apple introduced iCloud Keychain in iOS 7, designed to securely store passwords and payment information, 1Password is a more powerful system.
Along with integrating with Safari, it can be used to hold identities, secure notes, network information and app licence details. It's also cross-platform, meaning it will work with Windows and Android.
And since 1Password is a standalone app, accessing and editing your information is fast and efficient. The core app is free – the company primarily makes its money on the desktop. However, you’ll need a monthly subscription or to pay a one-off $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 IAP to access advanced features (multiple vaults, Apple Watch support, tagging, and custom fields).
We’re not sure whether Slack is an amazing aid to productivity or some kind of time vampire. Probably a bit of both. What we do know is that the real-time messaging system is excellent in a work environment for chatting with colleagues (publicly and privately), sharing and previewing files, and organising discussions by topic.
There’s smart integration with online services, and support for both the iPad Pro and the iPad’s Split View function.
Note that although Slack is clearly designed with businesses in mind, it also works perfectly well as a means of communicating with friends if you don’t fancy lobbing all your worldly wisdom into Facebook’s maw.
Podcasts are mostly associated with small portable devices – after all, the very name is a mash-up of ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore your favourite shows when armed with an iPad rather than an iPhone.
We’re big fans of Overcast on Apple’s smaller devices, but the app makes good use of the iPad’s extra screen space, with a smart two-column display. On the left, episodes are listed, and the current podcast loads into the larger space on the right.
The big plusses with Overcast, though, remain playback and podcast management. It’s the one podcast app we’ve used that retains plenty of clarity when playback is sped up; and there are clever effects for removing dead air and boosting vocals in podcasts with lower production values.
Playlists can be straightforward in nature, or quite intricate, automatically boosting favourites to the top of the list, and excluding specific episodes. And if you do mostly use an iPhone for listening, Overcast automatically syncs your podcasts and progress, so you can always pick up where you left off.
The prospect of drawing can fill people with terror, and so the idea of animation probably sends such folks fleeing for the hills. Animatic might calm their nerves, being the friendly face of iPad animation. Start a new project and you get a small canvas and a bunch of effective and broadly realistic tools – markers, crayons, pencils, biros – for scribbling with.
Once you’ve composed a frame, Animatic makes use of traditional ‘onion skinning’ techniques to help you produce smooth motion thereafter: up to three previous frames are shown in translucent fashion behind the one you’re currently drawing. Tap ‘Next’ and you’ll see your animation looping. Its speed can be adjusted, and you can export to video or GIF.
Beyond Animatic’s approachable nature, we’re big fans of its flexibility. You simply return to the main ‘My Animations’ screen to save (which we recommend doing often with lengthy projects, because a crash can take work with it), and can later edit any frame from any animation – nothing’s fixed forever.
And while, as the bundled examples suggest, you’re more likely to end up with Roobarb and Custard than Pixar’s finest, Animatic is a superb way to explore making drawings move – entirely for free.
The majority of comic-book readers on the App Store are tied to online stores, and any emphasis on quality in the actual apps isn't always placed on the reading part.
But with many more publishers embracing DRM-free downloads, having a really great reading app is essential if you're into digital comics. Chunky Comic Reader is the best available on iOS.
The interface is smart, simple and boasts plenty of settings, including the means to eradicate animation entirely when flipping pages.
Rendering is top-notch, even for relatively low-res fare. And you get the option of one- or two-up page views. For free, you can access web storage to upload comics. A single $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99 pro upgrade adds support for shared Mac/PC/NAS drives.
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are becoming very popular, due to issues people increasingly face when browsing the web. A VPN can be used to circumvent region-blocking/censorship and security issues on public Wi-Fi. Such services can baffle people who aren't technically adept, but TunnelBear is all about the friendlier side of VPNs. With bears.
After installing the app and profile, you'll have 500 MB of data per month to play with. That said, TunnelBear’s exclusive TechRadar plan offers a far more generous 5GB, 10 times the amount you get if you sign elsewhere.
Tunnelling to a specific location is simply a case of tapping it on the map and waiting a few seconds for the bear to pop out of the ground.
Tweet about the product and you'll get an extra free GB. Alternatively, monthly and annual paid plans exist for heavier data users.
Learning a musical instrument isn’t easy, which is probably why a bunch of people don’t bother, instead pretending to be rock stars by way of tiny plastic instruments and their parent videogames.
Yousician bridges the divide, flipping a kind of Guitar Hero interface 90 degrees and using its visual and timing devices to get you playing chords and notes.
This proves remarkably effective, and your iPad merrily keeps track of your skills (or lack thereof) through its internal mic. The difficulty curve is slight, but the app enables you to skip ahead if you’re bored, through periodic ‘test’ rounds. Most surprisingly, for free you get access to everything, only your daily lesson time is limited.
Maybe it’s just our tech-addled brains, but often we find it a lot easier to focus on an app than a book, which can make learning things the old fashioned way tricky. That’s where Khan Academy comes in. This free app contains lessons and guidance on dozens of subjects, from algebra, to cosmology, to computer science and beyond.
As it’s an app rather than a book it benefits from videos and even a few interactive elements, alongside words and pictures and it contains over 10,000 videos and explanations in all.
Everything is broken in to bite-sized chunks, so whether you’ve got a few minutes to spare or a whole afternoon there’s always time to learn something new and if you make an account it will keep track of your progress and award achievements.
We elsewhere say nice things about the official Twitter client, but Twitterrific is a better bet for the more discerning Twitter user. It has a beautifully designed interface that's a delight to use, helpfully merging mentions and messages into a unified timeline, saving you mucking about switching tabs.
Customisation options give you the means to adjust the app's visual appearance (and the app can optionally automatically switch to a dark theme at night), and powerful mute and muffle features block users and hashtags you want no part of.
Pay $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 and the app adds notifications, Apple Watch support, and translation support, along with removing ads.
It’s not like Microsoft Word really needs introduction. Unless you’ve been living under a rock that itself is under a pretty sizeable rock, you’ll have heard of Microsoft’s hugely popular word processor. What you might not realize, though, is how good it is on iPad.
Fire up the app and you’re greeted with a selection of handy templates, although you can of course instead use a blank canvas. You then work with something approximating the desktop version of Word, but that’s been carefully optimized for tablets. Your brain keeps arguing it shouldn’t exist, but it does — although things are a bit fiddly on an iPad mini.
Wisely, saved documents can be stored locally rather than you being forced to use Microsoft’s cloud, and they can be shared via email. (A PDF option exists for recipients without Office, although it’s oddly hidden behind the share button in the document toolbar, under ‘Send Attachment’, which may as well have been called ‘beware of the leopard’.)
Something else that’s also missing: full iPad Pro 12.9 support in the free version. On a smaller iPad, you merely need a Microsoft account to gain access to most features. Some advanced stuff — section breaks; columns; tracking changes; insertion of WordArt — requires an Office 365 account, but that won’t limit most users.
Presumably, Microsoft thinks iPad Pro owners have money to burn, though, because for free they just get a viewer. Bah.
According to the developer's blurb, Zen Studio is all about helping children to relax and focus, by providing a kind of finger-painting that can only exist in the digital realm. Frankly, we take issue with the 'children' bit, because Zen Studio has a welcoming and pleasing nature that should ensure it's a hit with every iPad user.
You start off with a grid of triangles and a column of colored paints. Tap a paint to choose your color and then tap individual triangles or drag across the grid to start drawing. Every gesture you make is accompanied by musical notes that play over an ambient background soundtrack. Bar the atmosphere being knocked a touch by a loud squelch noise whenever a new paint tube is selected, the mix of drawing tool and musical instrument is intoxicating. When you're done, your picture can be squirted to the Photos app, ready for sharing with the world.
This is, however, a limited freebie in some ways. You get eight canvases, which can be blank or based on templates. If you want more, you can buy an IAP to unlock the premium version of the app. Still, for no outlay at all, you get a good few hours of chill-out noodly fun — more, if you're happy drawing over the same canvases again and again.
As you launch Kitchen Stories, you catch a glimpse of the app’s mantra: “Anyone can cook”. The problem is, most cooking apps (and indeed, traditional cookery books) make assumptions regarding people’s abilities.
Faced with a list of steps on a stark white page, it’s easy to get halfway through a recipe, look at the stodge in front of you, reason something must have gone terribly wrong, and order a takeaway.
Kitchen Stories offers firmer footing. You’re first met with a wall of gorgeous photography. More importantly, the photographs don’t stop.
Every step in a recipe is accompanied by a picture that shows how things should be at that point. Additionally, some recipes provide tutorial videos for potentially tricky skills and techniques. Fancy some Vietnamese pho, but not sure how to peel ginger, prepare a chilli or thinly slice meat? Kitchen Stories has you covered.
Beyond this, there’s a shopping list, handy essentials guide, and some magazine-style articles to peruse. And while you don’t get the sheer range of recipes found in some rival apps, the presentation more than makes up for that — especially on the iPad, which will likely find a new home in your own kitchen soon after Kitchen Stories is installed.
Beatwave is a simplified Tenori-On-style synth which enables you to rapidly build pleasing melodies by prodding a grid.
Multiple layers and various instruments provide scope for complex compositions, and you can save sessions or, handily, store and share compositions via email. You can also buy more instruments via in-app purchases.
In a sense Evernote is an online back-up for fleeting thoughts and ideas. You use it to save whatever comes to mind — text documents and snippets, notes, images, web clips, and even audio. These can then be accessed from a huge number of devices. (We suspect any day now, Evernote will unveil its ZX Spectrum app.)
The app itself could be friendlier, and there’s a tendency towards clutter. But navigation of your stored bits and pieces is simple enough, and the sheer ubiquity and reliability of Evernote makes it worthy of investigation and a place on your Home screen.
When the YouTube app presumably became a victim of the ongoing and increasingly tedious Apple/Google spat, there were concerns Google wouldn’t respond.
Those turned out to be unfounded, because here’s yet another bespoke, nicely designed Google-created app for iOS. The interface is specifically tuned for the iPad, and AirPlay enables you to fire videos at an Apple TV.
PCalc Lite‘s existence means the lack of a built-in iPad calculator doesn’t bother us. For anyone who wants a traditional calculator, it’s pretty much ideal. The big buttons beg to be tapped, and the interface can be tweaked to your liking, by way of bolder and larger key text, alternate display digits, and stilling animation.
Beyond basic sums, PCalc Lite adds some conversions, which are categorised but also searchable. If you’re hankering for more, IAP lets you bolt on a number of extras from the paid version of PCalc, such as additional themes, dozens more conversions, alternate calculator layouts, a virtual paper tape, and options for programmers and power users.
Although you get the sense eBay’s designers can’t get through a month without redesigning their app, it’s always far superior to using the online auction site in a browser.
eBay for iOS works especially well on an iPad, with images looking great on the larger screen, and browsing proving fast and efficient. Speedy sorting and filtering options also make it a cinch to get to listings for whatever it is you fancy buying.
Instagram might be the current online photo-sharing darling, but it’s clear veteran Flickr remains up for a fight. On iPad, it’s a lovely app, with a refined and minimal UI that makes browsing simple and allows photography to shine.
Another smart aspect of Flickr is its extremely generous 1 TB of free storage. You can set videos and photos to automatically upload, and they stay private unless you choose to share them.
There are compatibility issues with the most modern Apple toys as Live Photos end up as stills on Flickr. Even so, Flickr makes Apple’s free 5 GB of iCloud storage look pathetic by comparison; and even if you use it only as a belt-and-braces back-up for important images, it’s worth checking out.
SkyView Free is a stargazing app that very much wants you to get off your behind and outside, or at least hold your iPad aloft to explore the heavens.
Unlike TechRadar favourite Sky Guide, there’s no means to drag a finger to manually move the sky around – you must always point your iPad’s display where you want to look – but there’s no price-tag either. And for free, this app does the business.
There are minimal ads, a noodly atmospheric soundtrack, an optional augmented reality view (to overlay app graphics on to the actual sky), and a handy search that’ll point you in the direction of Mars, Ursa Major, or the International Space Station.
Find my iPhone would perhaps be better named ‘Find my Apple stuff’, because it’s not just for figuring out where a missing iPhone is – it can also track iPads, iPods and Macs. The app is simple, elegant and, generally speaking, provides an accurate location for devices. It also enables you to remote-lock or wipe a device.
We tend to quickly shift children from finger-painting to using much finer tools, but the iPad shows there's plenty of power in your digits — if you're using the right app.
Autodesk SketchBook provides all the tools you need for digital sketching, from basic doodles through to intricate and painterly masterpieces; and if you're wanting to share your technique, you can even time-lapse record to save drawing sessions to your camera roll. The core app is free, but it will cost you $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 to unlock the pro features.
The description for Cove is rather noodly — all about self-expression and creating soundtracks to capture your mood. In reality, it’s a somewhat controllable instrument for creating ambient music loops. You start with a mood (which determines the scale), ‘base’, ‘melody’ and a filter (effect).
You can then play your creation, or save it alongside a kind of diary entry, noting how you feel. Unlike many simple iPad music apps, Cove does enable you to create discordant output, but beyond the hippy vibe, there is the potential here to fashion great beauty.
It’s as ugly as they come, but XE Currency is the best free currency app you’ll find. You define which currencies you want to see, along with the number of decimals to show. Double-tap a currency and you can set it as the base currency by tapping 1.0 in the calculator, or do bespoke conversions by typing any other value.
One for the graphic designers out there, desktop publishing giant Quark’s DesignPad is an astonishingly useful app for figuring out layouts on the move, or knocking about ideas in meetings. Plenty of ready-made documents can give you a head-start, and your finished work can be exported as a PNG or emailed for use in a QuarkXPress document.
Because of its single-app nature and big screen, the iPad’s become a tool many people prefer to a PC or Mac for email. However, if you’re reliant on Gmail, Apple’s own Mail is insufficient, not providing access to your entire archive nor Gmail’s features. Google’s own app deals with such shortcomings and looks as good as Apple’s client.
Apple's Photos app has editing capabilities, but they're not terribly exciting — especially when compared to Snapseed. Here, you select from a number of from a number of tools and filters, and proceed to pinch and swipe your way to a transformed image. You get all the basics — cropping, rotation, healing brushes, and the like — but the filters are where you can get really creative.
There are blurs, photographic effects, and more extreme options like 'grunge' and 'grainy film', which can add plenty of atmosphere to your photographs. The vast majority of effects are tweakable, mostly by dragging up and down on the canvas to select a parameter and then horizontally to adjust its strength.
Brilliantly, the app also records applied effects as separate layers, each of which remains fully editable until you decide to save your image and work on something else.
The iPad is the perfect mobile device for composing music, with its fairly large display and powerful innards. This has resulted in a range of involved and impressive music-creation tools, such as Korg Gadget. Sometimes, though, you yearn for something simpler for making some noise.
This is where Figure comes in. Within seconds, you can craft thumping dance loops, comprising drum, bass and lead parts. The sounds are great, being based on developer Propellerhead Software’s much-loved Reason. They can be manipulated, too, so your exported loops sound truly unique.