I just got a 12.9” iPad Pro as well as the keyboard and the pencil. In my professional like, I am engineer and physicist. I am also an aspiring writer. Given that, what are some apps that you recommend that would take advantage of the iPad’s power and capabilities?
I’d recommend buying both GoodNotes and Notability for note taking and try them both out. Both Apps are great and it just comes down to personal preference.
I also like PDFViewer to view and annotate PDFs from Files.
What do you expect to do? Write, draw, edit, personal productivity, read web, read books, …?
ZoomNotes. GoodNotes. Apple Notes. Procreate. OmniGraffle. Keynote (it’s not just for presentations).
MediaBang Paint is a fun one if you like drawing comics.
There’s the almost mythological race between GoodNotes and Notability, but a friend has been raving about notetaking with the Pencil in NoteShelf.
I’ve played with sketching in Concepts and I think I might like it more than any other sketching app I’ve tried; it seems a cut above in power and options and UI.
For reading and annotating PDFs, Word and PowerPoint documents there’s nothing quite like LiquidText, which is really enhanced with the Pencil. (I’ve standardized on PDF Expert on Mac so I may stick with it on iOS, but LiquidText really is great.)
For free, you might want to look at Microsoft OneNote, which is Pencil-compatible.
David Sparks has done videos for the MindNode devs. MindNode is a great mindmapping app can be used with finger or Pencil on the iPad. Great for notetaking, or preparing for long-form writing. (I use an outliner app for that, though.)
- ZoomNotes to take hand-written notes at meetings and to make sketches in lectures. Its power for me is in its ability to set Workspaces to minimize the number of tools that are visible, in its ability to put the selection bar on the left side (for right handed drawing and left-handed selection), and in its ability to do app-sharing to pick up documents from the iPad almost seamlessly on the macOS. Its greatest weakness is the cumbersome method of how it organizes documents in “boxes”, especially in its macOS app.
–> ZoomNotes works exceptionally well to take notes or make basic sketches with the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil 2.
- PDFExpert to annotate documents. Its power for me is in its ability to view documents across my multiple sets of cloud storage locations and its integration with its desktop app.
–> I don’t suggest this app has any advantages on the iPad Pro or with the Apple Pencil 2. I recommend it solely because it does so well at managing PDFs from all of the clouds, even when you have multiple accounts per cloud. It also works properly to maintain annotations across to other PDF apps such as DevonThink.
- MarginNotes to annotate documents when the annotations should also be tagged. Its greatest weakness is that it flattens all of its annotations in export and/or the method to export annotations is cumbersome.
–> The two most significant advantages of MarginNotes over PDFExpert are the ability to write hand-written notes to highlights and the ability to hash-tag annotations.
I experimented with Concepts. I find ZoomNotes superior for doing the types of technical drawings and notes that I need to do for the reasons I mention above. However, should I ever decide to drop ZoomNotes (likely b/c the document management method eventually becomes tedious), Concepts is the next app I would use.
I experimented with LiquidText. Unfortunately, it munges annotations from other editing sources (e.g. PDFExpert). It also has far less to offer in features than MarginNote, especially with regard to tagging annotations. The downside to MarginNote is that support is nearly non-existent, although updates are frequent.
Documents by Readdle, notability, OmniFocus, drafts
Apps — most used — writing fiction and non plus other stuff.
- Book apps your local library supports
- Paprika 3
- Insight Timer
- Pixelmator (regular and Photo)
- Simple Radio
- Alto’s Odyssey
By all means try stock apps first.
Why Mindnode vs iThoughts?
Federico discusses in this recent podcast why he switched to MindNode after using iThoughts for years:
I would definitely suggest Drafts and GoodNotes. Probably the two most used apps on my iPad.
Sorry, I want to keep my contribution to , “some good apps to try out.”
From a long term standpoint, I hope that this will be as close to a laptop replacement as possible. IPad OS will appear to make that more viable. As for the current mission set, I’m am going to write blog posts, a novel and edit photos on it. I am a Markdown novice, but, I have found it very helpful for my writing so far. In addition, functions such as running household budgets, email and other basic sorts of tasks.
Writing and Creative:
- Ulysses is great for an all around writing app
- Scrivener is phenomenal for longer form writing, featuring excellent organization
- LiquidText for PDF reading and annotation. It has an amazing feature set for note taking and text referencing for research and such.
- Papers is a great reference manager and PDF annotation tool
- Drafts is usually where I start with andy type of writing and has highly customizable sharing features
Organization and Productivity Tools:
- OmniGraffle for everything from flow charts and mind maps to vector graphics and UI design
- Due is great for quick, time sensitive reminders. It will bug you not just once but consistently until you mark something as completed.
Coding (don’t know if this applies to you but in case it does):
- If you use Jupyter Notebooks at all, Juno is a great iPad client. I use it all the time.
- Coda for both FTP and as a web development IDE
- SQL Pro
+1 for Alto’s Odyssey, beautiful and engaging game.
I already have both of the Alto games. They are a lot of fun. I find the slope time relaxing. Not sure why.
I am not writing code yet, but, I have thought a lot about learning it. I have been trying to teach myself MarkDown and Shortcuts. Time has been my constraint.
Henry, I recently recommended Scrivener for the same reasons you listed. After posting, however, I remembered my experience was with Macs not iPads. I adopted Ulysses when L&L hit snags getting an iOS version of Scrivener to market. I appreciated my Ulysses experience and never tried the iOS version of Scrivener. Ulysses is my just right app for much of my writing.
Drafts has carved a place in my workflow because of it powerful action library.
If you also have the second generation Apple Pencil, I agree with others that you check out GoodNotes. With its almost edge-to-edge screen, the iPad Pro is great for taking notes. The screen is also fantastic for watching videos, so you’ll want to download apps associated with services you use or want to try out - Netflix, Prime Video, HBO, etc. The screen is also fantastic for editing photos, and an app like Pixelmator Photo is great for that. If you have a (free) library card from your local library, you can often download magazines, videos, and comic books for free, all of which look fantastic on an iPad Pro. (The apps you use for this depend upon your local library; mine uses Hoopla and Flipster.) Finally, with any iPad it is nice to have a calculator app, and I like PCalc.