On My iPad

I commented on Twitter recently:

You know what? There are some really, really great iOS apps out there. Every day, I need my Mac a bit less.

A few people seemed keen to hear more. For the purposes of this discussion, I'm ignoring the software development work. I know we still need Mac OS X to develop iOS apps.

This post is about the apps I use on my iPad. I'll write another about my iPhone apps someday.

Let's start with the dock:

  • Safari
  • Mail
  • Calendar
  • Evernote
  • Noteshelf
  • Twitterrific

I've had an Evernote account since forever but it's only since iOS 5 shipped that I really started using it in earnest. Previously, the iOS side of Evernote was quite weak - it was more or less read-only beyond basic text notes. Recently, though, the iOS clients have grown really powerful and I'm loving it. I use Evernote to capture web pages (via Instapaper), I scan all my paperwork into Evernote (via the Mac, not iOS).

Noteshelf is a new addition to the dock. I have not, historically, been a big fan of using a stylus on my iPad. In part this has been because I haven't found a good stylus and in part because I hadn't found a really good handwriting app. I don't like hand-writing things but I do like sketching and I want to sketch without paper. My current favourite stylus is the Adonit Jot Pro. Noteshelf's pen-tracking, zoomed writing and wrist protection are better than any other app I've tried.

Twitterrific is the only iOS Twitter client I've been able to live with. I use it on the iPhone, iPad and Mac. Twitter clients are personal but I like Twitterrific because it integrates all tweets, @-replies and DMs in the main timeline. I don't know any other client that does that and I can't live without it.

Page One

Here's my home screen from top left to bottom right.


Flipboard is another app like Evernote that I've had around for ages but it's only recently clicked. I attribute this to the recent release of the iPhone version. Now that I have it everywhere, Flipboard has replaced my regular RSS reader. I love it, which is why it's in the hallowed top-left icon spot.


What else is there to say about Instapaper?


I don't buy a lot of books from Apple but, until now, iBooks has been my PDF reader of choice. I also receive a lot of hand-made eBooks from kids at school so having this handy is useful.


I buy all my eBooks in the Kindle system - because I have a hardware Kindle too. It's a pretty decent iOS app and its capabilities are growing over time. Support for periodicals was recently added, for example. Pretty great system.


I thought I would use iMessage on the iPad more than I actually do but I keep it on page one so that I can see the notification number.


I loves me some OmniFocus.


My life is in Dropbox. The iOS app isn't super-powerful and it's not entirely Dropbox's fault that there aren't really good round-trip workflows to other iOS apps. For the apps where that's important, I feel sure I will be migrating to iCloud as time goes by.

WeatherPro HD

It's not a pretty app: there's too much royal blue and yellow and the design is hard to use. Nevertheless, the data that WeatherPro presents is stunningly accurate by comparison to anything else I've tried. You could set your watch by the time WeatherPro said the rain was going to start.


This is a funny one. I come and go with Moodboard but it's occasionally useful to have up front. It's a great app but I'm not all that visual a person. I want to use it more but I find 'visual ideas' to be noisy and cluttered. I prefer a list.

iThoughts HD

iThoughts is a great mind mapping app. It has some great keyboard shortcuts, which you don't expect in an iOS app but they work really well. iThoughts syncs with all kinds of services and does a great job of export. We use this in school from 7-year-olds up to staff meetings.

iA Writer

I've recently started to get into using iA Writer. Since it acquired iCloud support, I've been using it to write most of my blog posts. My main complaint is that it doesn't have an iPhone version but the Mac version is quite lovely.

Day One

Day One is a diary app. I've only been using it for a few days since I heard about it in Shawn Blanc's interview with Brian Stucki. A universal iOS app and a Mac app all connected through iCloud (are you sensing a pattern in what I'm into right now? iCloud.)

iTunes U

We're getting to the tail end of the page and into the realm of "apps I want to look at closely but don't absolutely depend on yet". I've already written about the new iTunes U but the iOS app is quite lovely. I'm not taking any courses right now but I've applied for access to the iTunes U publishing backend so I'm keeping the app around for testing.

PDF Expert

Recently, I've been looking into using adapted digital exam papers at school for pupils with additional needs. I've been looking for a while for an app that does a great job with PDF forms on iOS. PDF Expert works brilliantly. I tried to take this further and see if I could mark papers submitted by email but I found PDF Expert's free-form writing tool to be sluggish and inaccurate (Noteshelf remains my benchmark and PDF Expert is nowhere close to it yet).


PDFPen is brand new to iOS but I've been using it on the Mac for years. PDFPen is interesting because it has a Mac counterpart, it supports - you guessed it - iCloud sync. iOS-only apps like PDF Expert and iThoughtsHD don't have Mac counterparts to sync to.

PDFPen does an equally good job with PDF forms. It's a great 1.0 but I found its PDF markup tools to be sluggish - similar to those same tools in PDF Expert. I hope Smile can work on this a bit because, in the longer term, I think PDFPen might be my guy.

The thing I like most about PDF Expert and PDFPen is that they are iOS apps. They're not crazy custom UI. They're just clean, clear, easy-to-use UIKit apps. In all the experimentation that's happening on iOS, I'd like a little more of this.


I subscribe to Tap! magazine and I have National Geographic and Wired installed. Tap! is a great example of iPad magazine design. I hate how the Wired magazine plays sounds. I'd like more publications to get on with supporting Newsstand.

The Rest

So that's my iPad home page. Page 2 contains Settings, 1Password, Notes and App Store as well as dozens of other apps in folders. I keep a lot of apps installed because, well, I'm the iPad Guy and I often have to demonstrate a use case or an app to someone for which I have no real personal use.

There are several other great iOS apps that I'm just waiting for better iCloud support to really get into using: the other Omni apps; iWork on iOS.

Here's the categorised list of all the other 3rd party apps I have installed:


  • YouTube
  • Videos
  • iPlayer
  • Music
  • Instacast HD
  • Netflix

Nerd Tools

  • Airport Utility
  • iTeleport
  • Prompt
  • Deliveries
  • Textastic
  • Find iPhone
  • Interface
  • TouchPad
  • Monitor
  • Skype
  • FaceTime
  • TapTyping


  • Rise of Glory
  • Drag Racing
  • Stack the Countries
  • SimCity
  • Blueprint 3D
  • Strategery
  • Spacelings
  • Anomaly HD
  • Battlefield Bad Company 2
  • Sonic Racing
  • Temple Run

Kids Games

  • Faces iMake
  • Pottery HD
  • Every Toca Boca app in existence


  • Brushes
  • Art Authority
  • ArtRage
  • MadPad HD
  • Fotopedia {Heritage, Paris, North Korea, Japan, National Parks}
  • Moxier Collage
  • Autodesk Sketchbook
  • Architizer
  • Skitch
  • Guardian Eyewitness

Maths and Science

  • Wolfram Course Assistant Calculus
  • Wolfram Course Assistant Algebra
  • Codea
  • Seismometer


  • History of Jazz
  • ESV Bible
  • Human Body
  • Qwiki
  • Typography Insight
  • Qi
  • War in the Pacific
  • Solar Walk


  • GarageBand
  • Animoog
  • Guitar Toolkit
  • forScore
  • VoiceThread

Note Taking

  • Penultimate
  • Paperport Notes
  • CourseNotes
  • Notability


  • Keynote
  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • OmniOutliner
  • OmniGraphSketcher
  • OmniGraffle
  • Book Creator
  • Soulver
  • Explain Everything
  • Keynote Remote
  • Bento
  • ReaddleDocs
  • Squarespace
  • GoodReader


  • Camera
  • Photos
  • Luminance
  • Snapseed
  • Collabracam
  • iMovie


  • Maps
  • Find My Friends
  • Virgin Trains
  • London A-Z
  • Travelodge
  • TubeMap
  • Hotels.com
  • Train Times
  • Google Earth