Ever since the App Store launched in 2008 and then the iPad came out in 2010, there have been thousands of iPad apps, some even working on your iPhone too. The market is so vast and so large, it's hard to find the good apps that aren't from big-name companies. Here are some great app picks that you may not have heard of!
- Astropad Standard
- Pixelmator Photo
- Autodesk Sketchbook
- Linea Sketch
- Paprika Recipe Manager
- Launch Center Pro
- Documents by Readdle
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Drafts is a quick note-taking app that is always ready to go when you need it, and then you can worry about what to do with the text after.
With Drafts, the app launches directly into a new note so you can start typing away the info that you need. You can keep the note in Drafts, or you can take action and export the text into other third-party or native apps. The point of Drafts is to be the first place to capture your text, whether it's notes, ideas, or whatever else that pops into your mind. It supports native apps like Messenger, Mail, Reminders, Notes, and more. There's plenty of third-party support too, such as Fantastical, Things, Evernote, and more. You can also just copy the text too, and it supports formatting like Markdown.
Drafts is one of our favorite quick text capture apps out there, like a digital scratchpad that's always ready. It's free to download, but you can subscribe to Drafts Pro ($2 a month or $20 a year) for features like themes, additional icons, workspaces, enhanced URL automation, and more.
Yoink is an invaluable tool for iOS, but especially on the iPad.
With Yoink, think of it as a single place where you can collect various items that you want to share across multiple apps. Yoink can store text, web snippets or URLs, images, videos, files, documents, and whatever else you can think of, and all of this is accessible at any time. You can use it in Slide-Over or Side-by-Side mode, and drag multiple items at once into whatever other app you need those items in. When you use Yoink, you're eliminating the need to go back and forth between multiple apps. There is even a keyboard that you can use to easily paste in any of your Yoinks into a text input field. All of your items are synced through iCloud too so you can access them on your iPad, iPhone, and also Mac (separate app).
Wish you had a drawing tablet like a Wacom, but all you have is an iPad? Don't worry, Astropad can turn your iPad into a pseudo-Wacom for your Mac!
Astropad works either wirelessly or through USB, and it connects to your Mac seamlessly. You can then use your iPad to draw directly into a wide variety of programs, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Affinity, Corel Painter, Manga Studio, Pixelmator, Mischief, and more. The only other thing you need (aside from the iPad and Mac) is the free Mac companion app. Download that and you're good to go!
While you may think the $30 price tag for Astropad is high for an app, it's a fraction of the cost of a Wacom tablet, and it works just as good.
Looking to do some photo editing on your iPad's large and gorgeous screen? Then you should try Pixelmator Photo.
What makes Pixelmator Photo different from other editors is that it has nondestructive, desktop-class color adjustments, so it feels like a pro app. There are also filter presets that are inspired by analog photography, so even if you apply a filter, your photos won't be ruined by an effect similar to what you would find on Instagram. There is even a magical Repair tool that helps you get rid of unwanted objects, for a more perfect image. Pixelmator Photo supports RAW images and artificial intelligence that automatically improves photos, making you look like a pro. And the entire app is optimized for iPad (no iPhone version), so it's a completely intuitive experience.
If you write a lot, then you should give Bear a try. It's a writing app that's beautiful, flexible, and focused.
Bear features tools that stay out of your way, and only appear when you need them so you can focus on getting your words out. Organization is done through the use of #tags, so you can easily find the notes that you're looking for later since it also supports cross-linking. Formatting is done with one tap thanks to a convenient custom shortcut bar, and if you prefer, you can also dictate your text with Apple Watch and Siri. And Bear lets you add drawings and sketches to your notes, so it's a nice all-in-one kind of writing app.
Bear is free to download for the basics, but you'll want to get a Bear Pro subscription ($1.50 a month or $15 a year) to get the most of it. This gets you iCloud sync for notes across iOS and Mac devices, themes, advanced export options, and more.
Believe it or not, that expensive iPad that you're using doesn't come with a built-in calculator. Shocking, right? Fortunately, there's PCalc!
PCalc is one of the most powerful and feature-packed calculator apps on the App Store. It features RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) mode, multi-line display, different button layouts, colored themes, extensive unit conversions, paper tape, and multiple undo and redo. There's also support for hexadecimal, octal, and binary calculations. With PCalc, you'll be able to get all of your calculator needs!
If the price tag for the full app is too high, you can try the Lite version and buy features a la carte, which may come out cheaper.
Looking for some reading material or perhaps even audiobooks, but for free? Then you should grab Libby.
With Libby, you'll get access to thousands of different eBooks, digital magazines, audiobooks, graphic novels, and more. All you need is a library card, as it works with your local libraries. Libby even allows you to log in to multiple libraries at once, as long as you have a library card for each one. All of your titles are consolidated on a single digital shelf, and you can keep track of what you're reading, wishlist, love, hate, what's for school, and whatever.
One of the best uses for an iPad is to draw, especially if you have an Apple Pencil. But a lot of those cool sketching apps cost money. But not Autodesk Sketchbook, as it's completely free.
Autodesk Sketchbook is great for conceptual sketches to fully finished pieces fo art. You'll find a multitude of different brushes, pens, and pencils in Sketchbook, and there are plenty of colors to choose from. There are even perspective guides, snapping toggles, curve rulers, Apple Pencil support (including second-generation), and Scan Sketch.
If you want a powerful sketching app to get started, then Autodesk Sketchbook is a good option.
If Autodesk Sketchbook is too hard to use, then Linea Sketch is a good alternative.
Linea Sketch's main appeal is the minimal interface that puts the focus on your sketches and not the vast set of tools that it comes with. The color swatch gives you plenty of options to choose from without taking up too much space on your canvas. You can even lasso a select part of your sketch and move it elsewhere, without interfering with anything else. There are a lot of powerful tools in Linea Sketch to make your drawing experience a pleasant one, and they stay out of the way until you need them. Because you should be able to open the app and just start sketching, without spending a lot of time finding the right tool to do the job.
Paprika Recipe Manager
Like to cook in the kitchen while referencing your iPad for recipes? Then Paprika Recipe Manager is a must-have.
Paprika has an in-app browser so you can search the web for recipes and save them immediately within the app. But there is also a Safari extension that you can add, allowing you to save recipes from Safari directly into Paprika, without having to launch the app. Your recipes can be organized into categories, given ratings, and have images attached to them so you can see what the final result should look like. Ingredient lists and directions are separated, and you can seamlessly check things off the ingredients list as you buy them in the store. Paprika also has meal planning features so you can plan out your menu in advance. There is also iCloud syncing so you can have your recipes on your iPad, iPhone, and Mac (separate app).
It's one of the most useful recipe apps out there, and one we can't recommend enough.
Launch Center Pro
If you like to make your life easier, then Launch Center Pro is worth a download.
Launch Center Pro lets you create shortcuts to your favorite apps and even complete complex actions in a single tap-and-swipe gesture. It takes some time to understand it and get it set up to what you need or want it to do, but once that's done, it'll be your default method of launching your most commonly used apps or actions.
For example, Launch Center Pro can be used to call or send a message to your significant other, jump straight into the camera in Instagram, search Yelp, launch IMDB, message a GIF to a friend, and more. There's a lot that Launch Center Pro can do, and it's highly customizable, so make it work for your needs.
Documents by Readdle
Planning on using your iPad as a primary computer, or close to it? Then you should have a central hub for all of your documents and files too. Say hello to Documents by Readdle.
With Documents, you can integrate all of your cloud services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and more, all in a single app. There's also an import option for local files. Documents lets you read, listen, view, and annotate pretty much anything on your iPad and iPhone. Think of Documents as like a Finder for your iPad.
While we mentioned PCalc earlier, Soulver is a different kind of calculator. Think of it more as a notepad type calculator, that's perfect for calculating items over multiple lines, and you need to use words alongside your calculations.
Soulver has been a reliable app for me over the past few years when it comes to calculating business expenses for taxes. In fact, it's designed for things like that. When you need to calculate variables and percentages, unit conversions, finances, currencies, and more. All of your calculations can be spread out over multiple lines, and you can reference previous answers in new calculations. The calculations that you end up doing can be saved and exported as a PDF document, which is great when it comes to tax season. This is the best app to help you keep track of business and well worth the money.
What are your favorite underrated iPad apps?
These are some of our favorite lesser-known apps that we think everyone should be using on their iPad. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
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Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.