The best iPad apps
If you've got yourself a shiny new iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4 or iPad Pro, you'll want to start downloading the best iPad apps straight away. And if you already have an iPad Air or older iPad, you might want to update it with some new apps.
It's the apps that really set iOS apart from other platforms - there are higher quality apps available on the App Store for the iPad than any other tablet. So which ones are worth your cash? And which are the best free apps?
Luckily for you we've tested thousands of the best iPad apps so that you don't have to. So read on for our selection of the best iPad apps - the definitive list of what applications you need to download for your iPad now.
If you are looking for games, then head over to Best iPad games - where we showcase the greatest games around for your iOS device. Or if you're rocking an iPhone 6S head over to our best iPhone apps list.
New this week: VideoGrade ($5.99, £4.49)
iPad video editors tend to have a bunch of effects and filters lurking within, but with VideoGrade you can go full-on Hollywood. On launch, the app helpfully rifles through your albums, making it easy to find your videos. Load one and you get access to a whopping 13 colour-grading and repair tools.
Despite the evident power VideoGrade offers, the interface is remarkably straightforward. Select a tool (such as Vibrance, Brightness or Tint), choose a setting, and drag to make a change. Drag up before moving your finger left or right to make subtler adjustments.
Smartly, any tool already used gets a little green dash beneath, and you can go back and change or remove edits at any point.
All filters are applied live to the currently shown frame, and you can also tap a button to view a preview of how your entire exported video will look. Want to compare your edit with the original video? Horizontal and vertical split-views are available at the tap of a button. Usefully, favorite filter combinations can be stored and reused, and videos can be queued rather than laboriously rendered individually.
New this week: infltr ($2.99, £2.29)
A lot of modern camera apps do much the same thing, presenting a seemingly endless array of filters but locking them into categories with names you can't hope to remember. The net result is people find a few they like and ignore the rest. infltr tries something a bit different, brutally simplifying and largely randomising the entire process.
On selecting an image from your camera roll (annoyingly, this must be a local image - shared iCloud albums aren't supported), you tap the filter button and then drag your finger about. With every movement, the app cycles through its reported seven million different filters. If that still feels like too much work, double-tap to instantly apply a random filter.
This loss of control feels a bit weird at first, and there's no way to save favorite filters, but then that kind of feature would miss the point. infltr is about letting go, enjoying watching a photo change as you drag across the glass display. That it also works with Live Photos, panoramas and the camera adds further value to an initially seemingly throwaway but actually rather lovely app.
Tayasui Blocks ($1.99, £1.99)
Freed from the confines of pesky reality and plastic, building blocks have become hugely popular in the digital realm. Tayasui Blocks isn't Minecraft, but does have some of that giant's elegance and social smarts.
Straightforward tools enable you to add and colour blocks and layers. Blocks almost stomp into place, emitting a pleasingly chunky sound effect; and if you find quietly deleting errors dull, you can lob a bomb or shuriken at errant cubes.
Tayasui Blocks is gesture-aware. You can zoom, move and spin your creation, making it simple to add blocks to any surface. And the aforementioned social aspect works very well, offering downloads of existing models and uploads of your own. (Wisely, the app knows if you make very minor alterations to someone else's design and blocks attempts at sharing.)
During testing, we found the odd bit of lag with very large, complex builds (a blocky Death Star even made an iPad Air 2 stutter), and optional stickers (mouths, eyes, and the like) seem broadly pointless. Otherwise, this is a first-rate, elegant and simple building-block toy for your tablet.
Korg Gadget ($39.99, £29.99)
Korg Gadget bills itself as the "ultimate mobile synth collection on your iPad" and it's hard to argue. You get well over a dozen varied synths, ranging from drum machines through to ear-splitting electro monsters, and an intuitive piano roll for laying down notes.
A scene/loop arranger enables you to craft entire compositions in the app, which can then be shared via the Soundcloud-powered GadgetCloud or sent to Dropbox. This is a more expensive app than most, but if you're a keen electronic-music-oriented songwriter with an iPad, it's hard to find a product that's better value.
Sky Guide ($2.99, £2.29)
There are quite a few apps for virtual stargazing, but Sky Guide is the best of them on iPad. Like its rivals, the app allows you to search the heavens in real-time, providing details of constellations and satellites in your field of view (or, if you fancy, on the other side of the world).
Indoors, it transforms into a kind of reference guide, offering further insight into distant heavenly bodies, and the means to view the sky at different points in history. What sets Sky Guide apart, though, is an effortless elegance. It's simply the nicest app of its kind to use, with a polish and refinement that cements its essential nature.
Coda for iOS ($9.99, £7.99)
Every now and again, you get an app that ticks all the boxes: it's beautiful, audacious, productive, and nudges the platform forwards. This perfectly sums up Coda for iOS, a full-fledged website editor for iPad.
The app's graphic design borrows from the similarly impressive Transmit for iOS, all muted greys and vibrant icons. It's a style we wish Apple would steal. When it comes to editing, you can work remotely or pull down files locally; in either case, you end up working in a coding view with the clout you'd expect from a desktop product, rather than something on mobile. Naturally, Coda is a fairly niche tool, but it's essential for anyone who regularly edits websites and wants the ability to do so when away from the office.
MindNode ($9.99, £7.99)
Mind-mapping is one of those things that's usually associated with dull business things, much like huge whiteboards and the kind of lengthy meetings that make you hope the ground will swallow you up. But really they're perfect whenever you want to get thoughts out of your head and then organise them.
On paper, this process can be quite messy, and so MindNode is a boon. You can quickly and easily add and edit nodes, your iPad automatically positioning them neatly. Photos, stickers and notes can add further context, and your finished document can be shared publicly or privately using a number of services.
Earth Primer ($9.99, £7.99)
When you're told you can control the forces of nature with your fingertips that probably puts you more in mind of a game than a book. And, in a sense, Earth Primer does gamify learning about our planet. You get a series of engaging and interactive explanatory pages, and a free-for-all sandbox that cleverly only unlocks its full riches when you've read the rest of the book.
Although ultimately designed for children, it's a treat for all ages, likely to plaster a grin across the face of anyone from 9 to 90 when a volcano erupts from their fingertips.
BIAS FX ($29.99, £22.99)
For most guitarists, sound is the most important thing of all. It's all very well having a massive rig of pedals and amps, but only if what you get out of it blows away anyone who's listening. For our money, BIAS FX is definitely the best-sounding guitar amp and effects processor on the iPad, with a rich and engaging collection of gear.
Fortunately, given the price-tag, BIAS FX doesn't skimp on set-up opportunities either. A splitter enables complex dual-signal paths; and sharing functionality enables you to upload your creations and check out what others have done with the app.
Status Board (free)
We love our iPads, but during the day tend to spend our time glued to glowing laptop and desktop displays. There's always the sense the iPad could be doing something. With Status Board that something is acting as a status display for you or your business. You drag and drop customisable panels, including clocks, weather forecasts, calendar details and website feeds, thereby giving you constant glanceable updates for important info.
A one-off IAP (£7.99/$9.99) unlocks further options that are mostly perhaps more suited to business environments (graphs, tables, HTML, photos, countdowns and text); and in either case support for HD displays enables you to present your status board really large, should you feel the need.
Pixaki ($8.99, £6.99)
With visible pixels essentially eradicated from modern mobile device screens, it's amusing to see pixel art stubbornly refusing to go away. Chunky pixels are, though, a very pleasing aesthetic, perhaps in part because you know effort and thought has gone into the placement of every single dot. For our money, Pixaki is the only app worth considering for iPad-related pixel art.
It's simple and elegant, with straightforward tools, an extremely responsive canvas, global and document-specific palettes, and multiple brush sizes. Extra points, too, for the opacity slider's handle being a Pac-Man ghost.
Audiobus ($4.99, £3.99)
Although Apple's Inter-App Audio, baked deep into iOS, has gained traction, it's Audiobus that leads in terms of app compatibility. The audio-routing system enjoys support from over 600 products, covering a huge range of DAWs, synths and guitar apps. With the multi-routing IAP ($4.99/£3.99), you can create complex chained effects and other sophisticated set-ups.
And if you've multiple iOS devices, Audiobus Remote (also $4.99/£3.99) provides a second screen for your session, simplifying recording, sample triggering, preset selection, and more.
Illustration tools are typically complex. Sit someone in front of Adobe Photoshop and they'll figure out enough of it in fairly short order. Adobe Illustrator? No chance. Assembly attempts to get around such roadblocks by turning graphic design into the modern-day touchscreen equivalent of working with felt shapes — albeit very powerful felt shapes that can shift beneath your fingers.
At the foot of the screen are loads of design elements, and you drag them to the canvas. Using menus and gestures, shapes can be resized, coloured, duplicated and transformed. Given enough time and imagination, you can create abstract masterpieces, cartoonish geometric robots, and beautiful flowing landscapes. It's intuitive enough for anyone, but we suspect pro designers will enjoy Assembly too, perhaps even using it for sketching out ideas. And when you're done, you can output your creations to PNG or SVG.
Chunky Comic Reader (free)
There's a miniature revolution taking place in digital comics. Echoing the music industry some years ago, more publishers are cottoning on to readers very much liking DRM-free content. With that in mind, you now need a decent iPad reader for your PDFs and CBRs, rather than whatever iffy reading experience is welded to a storefront.
Chunky is the best comic-reader on iPad. The interface is simple but customisable. If you want rid of transitions, they're gone. Tinted pages can be brightened. And smart upscaling makes low-res comics look good. Paying the one-off 'pro' IAP enables you to connect to Mac or Windows shared folders or FTP. Downloading comics then takes seconds, and the app will happily bring over folders full of images and convert them on-the-fly into readable digital publications.
You're probably dead inside if you sit down with Metamorphabet and it doesn't raise a smile — doubly so if you use it alongside a tiny human. The app takes you through all the letters of the alphabet, which contort and animate into all kinds of shapes. It suitably starts with A, which when prodded grows antlers, transforms into an arch, and then goes for an amble. It's adorable.
The app's surreal, playful nature never lets up, and any doubts you might have regarding certain scenes — such as floaty clouds representing 'daydream' in a manner that doesn't really work — evaporate when you see tiny fingers and thumbs carefully pawing at the iPad's glass while young eyes remain utterly transfixed.
Fugue Machine ($9.99/£7.99)
This music app is inspired by layered composition techniques used in some classical music. You tap out notes on a piano roll, and can then have up to four playheads simultaneously interpret your notes, each using unique speeds, directions and transpositions. For the amateur, Fugue Machine is intuitive and mesmerising, not least because of how easy it is to create something that sounds gorgeous.
For pros, it's a must-have, not least due to MIDI output support for driving external software. It took us mere seconds to have Fugue Machine working with Animoog's voices, and the result ruined our productivity for an entire morning. (Unless you count composing beautiful music when you should be doing something else as 'being productive'. In which case, we salute you.)
There are loads of sketching tools for iPad, but it feels like Procreate is the one really forging ahead, bringing artists a well-balanced mix of power and accessibility.
If you want to keep things simple, Procreate gets out of your way. The toolbar doesn't distract, and the only on-screen controls are handy sliders for brush size and opacity; but even these can all be auto-hidden after a user-defined period, leaving the entire screen to display your masterpiece.
Whether drawing with a finger or a stylus, Procreate proves responsive and feels surprisingly tactile. The tool selection is straightforward but offers real depth, not least in how you can really delve into brushes and mess about with their characteristics.
But the app has also taken to heart the fact it's running on a touchscreen. To straighten a stroke, you simply hold its end point for a second. Undo and redo are merely a two- or three-finger tap away. And the strength of layer effects is determined by swiping across the canvas, in a pleasing and precise manner.
Google Maps (free)
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.
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.
Jamie Oliver's Recipes (free)
It's strange how iPad cookery apps seem to think they're books, unhelpfully offering a few lines of text and then abandoning you. Jamie Oliver's Recipes is a more appetising prospect. From the off, it makes your eyes pop and stomach rumble with mouth-watering foodie photos. Select a recipe and you'll see steps and ingredients, but tap 'Cook Now' and every step is adorned with a full-screen photo.
It feels like the app is helping you along, through showing you how your culinary masterpiece should appear at any given moment. Jamie even (oddly) occasionally pops up with the odd bit of sage advice.
Elsewhere, video tips provide insight into cooking basics, and there's a one-tap shopping list for any recipe, which you can email to yourself if you don't fancy lugging an iPad around the supermarket.
Naturally, Jamie needs money to buy his vats of olive oil and piles of lemons, and so access to all of the content costs US$1.99/£1.99 per month. But for free, there are always 15 featured taster recipes, which are regularly rotated.
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.
If you delve into browser developer tools, the size of web pages these days is astonishing. Frequently, the actual content isn't weighty, but associated ads and tracking scripts are. Moreover, content is often a tiny letterbox surrounded by a sea of ads, and you might not have time to read anything right now anyway.
Instapaper is designed to place content front and centre, and be there whenever you want to read it. You visit a site and send the URL to Instapaper, or share to Instapaper from the likes of a Twitter client. Instapaper then dutifully pulls down text and imagery for later.
The main view is stripped-back, clutter-free and very readable, with plentiful options regarding typography. An optional monthly/annual premium subscription adds full text-search, text-to-speech highlights, send-to-Kindle, and more, but the free version should suffice for most users.
We're big fans of Duolingo on iPhone. Its bite-size exercises are perfect for quickly dipping into, when you've a spare moment to tackle a bit of language-learning. On iPad, the app is basically the same, and the screen's relative acres make everything feel a touch sparse.
However, Duolingo remains the same impressive and approachable app, and the iPad's form-factor lends itself to more extended sessions, which is great for when you want to properly crack the next challenge the app throws your way. As ever, we remain baffled that this app remains entirely free. We've yet to find the catch.
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.
Khan Academy (free)
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.
Kitchen Stories (free)
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.
Toca Nature ($1.99/£1.99)
On opening Toca Nature, you find yourself staring at a slab of land floating in the void. After selecting relevant icons, a drag of a finger is all it takes to raise mountains or dig deep gullies for rivers and lakes.
Finishing touches to your tiny landscape can then be made by tapping to plant trees. Wait for a bit and a little ecosystem takes shape, deers darting about glades, and fish swimming in the water. Using the magnifying glass, you can zoom into and explore this little world and feed its various inhabitants.
Although designed primarily for kids, Toca Nature is a genuinely enjoyable experience whatever your age.
The one big negative is that it starts from scratch every time — some save states would be nice, so each family member could have their own space to tend to and explore. Still, blank canvases keep everything fresh, and building a tiny nature reserve never really gets old.
Reeder 3 ($4.99/£3.99)
The fairly large screen of the iPad means you can access desktop-style websites, rather than ones hacked down for iPhone. That sounds great until you realise most of them want to fire adverts into your face until you beg for mercy.
Old people will wisely suggest 'RSS', and then they'll explain that means you can subscribe to sites and get their content piped into an app.
Reeder 3 is a great RSS reader for iPad. It's fast, efficient, caches content for offline use and — importantly — bundles a Readability view. This downloads entire articles for RSS feeds that otherwise would only show synopses.
Like on the iPhone, Reeder's perhaps a bit gesture-happy, but it somehow feels more usable on the iPad's larger display. And we're happy to see the app continue to improve its feature set, including Split View and iPad Pro support, font options for the article viewer, and the means to sync across Instapaper content.
LumaFX — infinite video effects ($4.99/£3.99)
It says something about the flexibility of LumaFX that we initially thought it broken during review. It wasn't — we'd in fact accidentally applied so many effects to a video that it ended up looking like a nightmarish Eastern European animation from 1977. We weren't counting on a video app enabling rapid layering of advanced effects just by blithely tapping away, you see.
But that's LumaFX in a nutshell — it makes mucking around with videos almost laughably simple. You can crop and fit videos in various ways, reorient those that are the wrong way round, change their speeds, adjust colours, and fiddle about with that effects catalogue. There are vignettes, blurs, and weird pixelation effects, all of which render almost absurdly quickly. It's all rather brilliant.
Given the sheer photo-editing power available for nothing in Google's excellent Snapseed, paid apps in this space need to be something special.
Enlight covers all the basics, much as you'd expect, with a range of tools for cropping, making adjustments, adding filters, and so on. Where it excels is in shooting for a more artistic and professional approach.
From an art standpoint, you get a bunch of painterly and classic film filters that really look the part. When it comes to professional retouching, you can process up to 50MP images on an iPad Pro, work with noise reduction, freeze areas of images when transforming them, and precision-mask any effect.
The first time you try any tool, a tutorial leads you through the process, but on the whole Enlight has the kind of interface that's easy to click with.
The destructive nature of effects and editing is a pity - you can't later adjust something you changed a while ago, only undo. But that's the only niggle in this otherwise excellent photo editor for iPad.
There are plenty of apps that provide the means to turn photos into messages and poster-style artwork. Elsewhere in this list we mention the excellent Retype, for example. But if you hanker after more control, Fontmania is a good bet.
This isn't the most complex or feature-rich app of its kind, but it is extremely pleasing to use. On selecting your photo, you can add a filter. Then it's down to business with typography. The 'Art' section houses frames, dividers, shapes and pre-made 'artworks'. The 'Text' section is for typing out whatever you like, and you can choose from a range of fonts.
Really, it's the interface that makes Fontmania. The simple sidebar is clear and non-intrusive, providing quick access to tools like Color and Shadow.
All items added to the canvas can be manipulated using standard iOS gestures, avoiding the awkwardness sometimes seen within this sort of app.
Perhaps best of all, though, Fontmania is a pay-once product. Download and you get access to everything, rather than suddenly discovering a drop shadow or extra font will require digging into your wallet again.
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), although you will need to pay a one-off $9.99/£7.99 IAP to access advanced features (multiple vaults, Apple Watch support, tagging, and custom fields).
Air Video HD ($6.99, £4.99)
The vast majority of iPads in Apple's line-up don't have a massive amount of storage, and that becomes a problem when you want to keep videos on the device. Air Video HD gets around the problem by streaming video files from any Mac or PC running the free server software. All content is live-encoded as necessary, ensuring it will play on your iPad, and there's full support for offline viewing, soft subtitles, and AirPlay to an Apple TV.
Perhaps the best bit about the software is how usable it is. The app's simple to set up and has a streamlined, modern interface - for example, a single tap downloads a file for local storage. You don't even need to be on the same network as your server either - Air Video HD lets you access your content over the web. Just watch your data downloads if you're on 3G!
We could all use a bit of brain training from time to time and Elevate is a great way to do it. It aims to improve your writing, reading, speaking, listening and maths skills through a variety of daily challenges, which keep your brain active and test you in entertaining ways. A beautiful interface makes it a joy to use and the core app is free, but extra features can be added with a subscription.
Byword ($5.99, £4.49)
Although there are more powerful text editors available for iPad (such as Editorial and Ulysses), Byword is where it's at if you just want a no-nonsense distraction-free writing environment that lets you get on with writing.
The subdued interface and typewriter-style font feel resolutely old-school, but there are nods to modern working by way of Markdown support (assisted by a custom keyboard row) and live word/character count. For anyone publishing to the web, a single $3.99/£2.99 IAP provides integration with the likes of WordPress and Tumblr.
DM1 ($4.99, £3.99)
Drum machines are always a lot of fun, but many of those available for iOS are rather throwaway, their options exhausted within minutes. DM1 is pretty much the exact opposite, packed with a huge number of drum kits, a step sequencer, a song composer and a mixer.
The bundled sounds are extremely varied, ranging from acoustic kits to thoroughly modern ear-monstering electronic samples. And the option to switch between live play (by way of bashing pads) and step-writing is welcome. Inter-App audio, Audiobus and MIDI support also ensure what you create doesn't end up in a percussion-rich silo.
Dropbox is a great service for syncing documents across multiple devices, and chances are you're familiar with it already. On the iPad, we used to consider Dropbox essential as a kind of surrogate file system.
Even now that Apple's provided easier access to iCloud Drive, Dropbox remains a useful install, largely on the basis of its widespread support (both in terms of platforms and also iOS apps). The Dropbox app itself works nicely, too, able to preview a large number of file types, and integrating well with iOS for sending documents to and from the various apps you have installed.
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.
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.
Fantastical 2 ($9.99, £7.99)
Apple's own Calendar app is fiddly and irritating, and so the existence of Fantastical is very welcome. In a single screen, you get a week view, a month calendar and a scrolling list of events. There's also support for reminders, and all data syncs with iCloud, making Fantastical compatible with Calendar (formerly iCal) for OS X.
The best bit, though, is Fantastical's natural-language input, where you can type an event and watch it build as you add details, such as times and locations. On iPad, we do question the layout a little - a large amount of space is given over to a month calendar view. Still, in portrait or, better, Split View, Fantastical 2 is transformative.
Apple's GarageBand turns your iPad into a recording studio. For beginners, there's a range of smart instruments, making it easy to learn the basics of songwriting and chord progression. You can also experiment with pre-recorded loops, including in the loop player, where you trigger riffs and drum beats with a tap of your fingers.
If you're already a musical sort, GarageBand enables you to write directly into a sequencer or record any instrument live. The app can also act as a kind of hub for other iOS music software, tying your apps together through Inter-App Audio and Audiobus.
GoodReader ($4.99, £3.99)
GoodReader is the iPad's best PDF reader, and also a means of editing documents on the move. Using the app's excellent toolset, you can annotate documents and extract text. Pages within documents can be rearranged, and files split and combined.
Beyond working specifically with PDF, the app will preview many other file types, and includes the ability to archive and extract ZIPs, and connect to a wide range of online services. It therefore goes far beyond the likes of iBooks, becoming a handy tool for anyone who regularly works with PDFs and sends them on elsewhere.
iMovie (free with new device or $4.99, £3.99)
You're not going to make the next Hollywood hit on your iPad, but iMovie's more than capable of dealing with home movies. The interface resembles its desktop cousin and is easy to get to grips with. Clips can be browsed, arranged and cut, and you can then add titles, transitions and music. For the added professional touch, there are 'trailer templates' to base your movie on, rather than starting from scratch.
And should your iPad be powerful enough, this app will happily work with and export footage all the way up to 4K, which will likely make anyone who used to sit in front of huge video workstations a decade or two ago wide-eyed with astonishment.
iStopMotion ($9.99, £7.99)
There's something fascinating about animation, and iStopMotion is a powerful and usable app for unleashing your inner Aardman, enabling you to create frame-by-frame stories. The camera overlay makes it easy to check your current scene against the previous one, and you can preview your work at any time.
There's also time-lapse functionality built-in, and the means to use the free iStopMotion Remote Camera with an iPhone on the same network.
iTunes U (free)
If you're still convinced the iPad is only a device for staring brain-dead at TV shows and not a practical tool for education, check out iTunes U. The app enables you to access many thousands of free lectures and courses taught by universities and colleges, thereby learning far more than what bizarre schemes current soap characters are hatching.
For instructors, it's similarly a boon, enabling them to build lessons, collect and grade assignments, and have one-to-one or group discussions. It's also an app that gels well with Apple's modern design sensibilities, the interface getting out of the way and letting content shine through.
Journeys of Invention ($9.99, £7.99)
Touch Press somewhat cornered the market in amazing iOS books with The Elements, but Journeys of Invention takes things a step further. In partnership with the Science Museum, it leads you through many of science's greatest discoveries, weaving them into a compelling mesh of stories.
Many objects can be explored in detail, and some are more fully interactive, such as the Enigma machine, which you can use to share coded messages with friends.
What's especially great is that none of this feels gimmicky. Instead, this app points towards the future of books, strong content being married to useful and engaging interactivity.
Launch Center Pro ($4.99, £3.99)
The idea behind Launch Center Pro is to take certain complex actions and turn them into tappable items — a kind of speed-dial for tasks such as adding items to Clear, opening a URL in 1Password, or opening a specific view in Google Maps. Although the list of supported apps isn't huge, it's full of popular productivity apps; and should you use any of them on a regular basis, Launch Center Pro will be a massive time-saver and is well worth the outlay.
Microsoft Word (free/subscription-based)
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.
Movies by Flixster (free)
One for film buffs, Movies figures out where you are and tells you what's showing in your local cinemas – or you can pick a film and it'll tell you where and when it's on.
This is a great case of an app that does something simple and useful, and that does it very well. Instead of combing through listings across various websites, everything's there in a single app. You can also watch trailers, rate whatever you've seen, and add to a list anything you fancy checking out.
Notability ($3.99, £2.99)
There are loads of note-taking apps for the iPad, but Notability hits that sweet spot of being usable and feature-rich. Using the app's various tools, you can scribble on a virtual canvas, using your finger or a stylus. Should you want precision copy, you can drag out text boxes to type into. It's also possible to import documents.
One of the smartest features, though, is audio recording. This enables you to record a lecture or meeting, and the app will later play back your notes live alongside the audio, helping you see everything in context. Naturally, the app has plenty of back-up and export options, too, so you can send whatever you create to other apps and devices.
Numbers ($9.99, £7.99)
We mention Microsoft's iPad efforts elsewhere, but if you don't fancy paying for a subscription and yet need some spreadsheet-editing joy on your iPad, Numbers is an excellent alternative. Specially optimised for Apple's tablet, Numbers makes great use of custom keyboards, smart zooming, and forms that enable you to rapidly enter data. Presentation app Keynote and page-layout app Pages are also worth a look.
Paper By FiftyThree (free)
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.
PCalc Lite (free)
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.
Whereas most digital comic stores deluge you with content, Sequential has a slightly different take on the medium. It feels rather more upmarket, serious and considered, concentrating on interesting and often more thoughtful graphic novels, rather than individual issues of throwaway superhero fare.
That probably all comes across like Sequential is a bit 'worthy'. But in reality it just means that whatever you spend your money on is likely to be of a high quality. The app itself is, fortunately, decent too, offering a strong reading experience for whatever's in your collection.
Autodesk SketchBook (free)
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 / £3.99 to unlock the pro features.
In theory, we should be cheerleading for FaceTime, what with it being built into iOS devices, but it's still an Apple-only system. Skype, however, is enjoyed by myriad users who haven't been bitten by the Apple bug, and it works very nicely on the iPad, including over 3G.
Unlike on the iPhone, where Skype clearly wants to be a Windows Phone app, the iPad version feels a lot more like a restrained desktop app. Usefully, Skype works well in Split View, too, so you can message people while referring to an open document or web page.
Skyscanner's website is pretty good, but the iPad app's another great example of how an app's focus can really help you speed through a task. You use the app to search over a thousand airlines, and it provides straightforward competitive journey lists and comparison graphs. If you're planning a flight, it's an indispensable download.
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 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.
Soulver ($2.99, £2.29)
Soulver is more or less the love child of a spreadsheet and the kind of calculations you do on the back of an envelope. You write figures in context, and Souvler extracts the maths bits and tots up totals; each line's results can be used as a token in subsequent lines, enabling live updating of complex calculations. Drafts can be saved, exported to HTML, and also synced via Dropbox or iCloud.
Initially, the app feels a bit alien, given that people have been used to digital versions of desktop calculators since the dawn of home computing. But scribbling down sums in Soulver soon becomes second nature.
TED describes itself as "riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world". The app pretty much does as you'd expect – you get quick access to dozens of inspiring videos. However, it goes the extra mile in enabling you to save any talk for offline viewing, and also for providing hints on what to watch next if you've enjoyed a particular talk.
Traktor DJ ($9.99, £7.99)
Traktor DJ wisely dispenses with skeuomorphic representations of deck-spinning; instead of virtual vinyl on your iPad, you get waveforms, providing visual cues regarding what you're playing. The app is efficient and simple to use, enabling you to define cue points and loops, along with dropping in effects; helpfully, Traktor DJ also attempts to tempo-match songs from your iPad library. It's a very different approach to iPad DJing, but one that works wonderfully.
TuneIn Radio (free)
Output your iPad's audio to an amp or a set of portable speakers, fire up TuneIn Radio, select a station and you've a set-up to beat any DAB radio. Along with inevitable social sharing, the app also provides an alarm, AirPlay support, pause and rewind, and a 'shake to switch station' feature - handy if the current DJ's annoying and you feel the need to vent.
There's nothing wrong with using the Wikipedia website in Safari on your iPad, but dedicated apps make navigating the living encyclopaedia simpler and faster. Wikipanion is an excellent free app. The design is sleek, utilising an efficient two-pane view that places section links in a sidebar. The larger pane is then left for the article's content, along with fast access to navigation, share and search options.
Usefully, the app includes bookmarking for your favorite articles, and a history, so you can peruse what you've recently looked at.
Yahoo Weather (free)
With weather apps, you're frequently forced to choose between lashings of data or something that looks lovely. Yahoo Weather combines both, offering a stunning interface that happens to be rich with information. The maps are a touch weak, but other than that, this is an essential weather app, especially considering Apple doesn't provide an iPad equivalent itself.
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.
Foldify Dinosaurs ($3.99, £2.99)
We're big fans of the Foldify apps, which enable people to fashion and customise little 3D characters on an iPad, before printing them out and making them for real. This mix of digital painting, sharing (models can be browsed, uploaded and rated) and crafting a physical object is exciting in a world where people spend so much time glued to virtual content on screens.
But it's Foldify Dinosaurs that makes this list because, well, dinosaurs. Who wouldn't be thrilled at the prospect of making a magenta T-Rex with a natty moustache? Should that person exist, we don't want to meet them.
SidTracker64 ($4.99, £3.99)
When someone talks about bringing back the sounds of the 1980s, your head might fill with Human League and Depeche Mode, but if you played games, you'll instead think of Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway, chip-tune pioneers whose music graced the C64, leveraging the power of the MOS Technology 6581/8580 SID (Sound Interface Device) chip.
SidTracker64 is a niche but wonderfully designed iPad app that's a complete production package for creating SID tunes. It's unashamedly retro in terms of sound, but boasts a modern design, with powerful editing and export functionality. If you're only into raw chip-tune noises, Audiobus and Inter-App Audio are supported; but if you're an old-hand, you'll be delighted at the bundled copy of Hubbard's Commando, ready for you to remix.
Scanbot (Free + $4.99, £3.99 IAP)
There are quite a few scanners available for iOS, but Scanbot is the one you should keep on your iPad, primarily because it does a whole lot more than just scanning. That's not to say it doesn't do that bit well, because it does; scans are crisp, clear, optionally automatically cropped and straightened, and shareable to a wide range of services.
But pay the IAP and you gain access to smart file-naming, the means to add new pages to existing scans, and text recognition. This not only enables searches of filed scans, but also the automated extraction of key information- phone numbers; URLs; email addresses- into a smartly conceived actions menu.
Tweetbot 4 ($9.99/£7.99)
It's been a long time coming, but finally Tweetbot gets a full-fledged modern-day update for iPad. And it's a good one, too. While the official Twitter app's turned into a 'blown-up iPhone app' monstrosity on Apple's tablet, Tweetbot makes use of the extra space by way of a handy extra column in which you can stash mentions, lists, and various other bits and bobs.
Elsewhere, this latest release might lack a few toys Twitter selfishly keeps for itself, but it wins out in terms of multitasking support, granular mute settings, superb usability, and an interesting Activity view if you're the kind of Twitter user desperate to know who's retweeting all your tiny missives.
AmpliTube Acoustic ($9.99/£7.99)
iPads have opened up a world of creative possibilities for guitarists by way of apps that ape all kinds of amps and stomp boxes. But AmpliTube Acoustic does something new. The clue's in the title - this is a tone studio created for acoustic guitars, and designed to be used with the iRig Acoustic clip-on microphone.
Highlights include a particularly lovely 12-string simulator, and the 'bass maker', which adds low-end to your strumming. Of course, electric guitarists can also use the app, for clean tones and effects, and developer IK Multimedia has, as usual, issued a limited freemium version that acts as a demo of sorts.
Ulysses Mobile ($24.99/£18.99)
There are plenty of great distraction-free writing apps for iPad, but Ulysses Mobile adds serious management and editing clout to the mix. The idea is you use the app for all your writing - notes; in-progress text; final edits; and export. Items in your library can be manually sorted, grouped and filtered; text can be processed to PDF, DOCX, TXT, Markdown, HTML and ePub.
But what's most astonishing is how the app's interface mirrors its Mac counterpart's, and yet still feels entirely at home on the iPad. (And for iPad Pro users hankering after a top-notch writing app to use in Split View, look no further.)
Typography is something that doesn't come naturally to everyone. And so while there are excellent apps for adding text to images, you might want more help, rather than spending hours fine-tuning a bunch of misbehaving letters. That's where Retype comes in. You load a photo or a piece of built-in stock art, and type some text. Then it's just a case of selecting a style.
The type's design updates whenever you edit your text, and variations can be accessed by repeatedly prodding the relevant style's button. Basic but smart filter, blur, opacity and fade commands should cement Retype's place on your iPad.
Even though the iPad is an immensely powerful mobile device, there's no getting away from it sometimes being fiddly for performing complex tasks; this is all the more frustrating if said tasks are something you must do regularly. Fortunately, Workflow is here to help.
It includes over 200 actions that work with built-in and third-party apps, enabling you to fashion complex automation that's subsequently activated at the touch of a button. To help you get started, the gallery houses dozens of pre-built workflows, and for added flexibility, you can access those you create or install from inside the app, via the Today widget, or by way of a custom Home screen app-like shortcut.
Pop music is about getting what you expect. Ambient music has always felt subtly different, almost like anything could happen. With generative audio, this line of thinking became reality. Scape gives you a combined album/playground in this nascent genre, from the minds of Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers.
Each track is formed by way of adding musical elements to a canvas, which then interact in sometimes unforeseen ways. Described as music that "thinks for itself", Scape becomes a pleasing, fresh and infinitely replayable slice of chill-out bliss. And if you're feeling particularly lazy, you can sit back and listen to an album composed by the app's creators.
Although modern iPads enable you to view two apps side-by-side, no-one at Apple apparently considered an equally compelling use-case: viewing two windows from the same app. This is a common requirement when browsing the web, comparing content across sites - or just when trying to do two things at once!
You could of course install a third-party browser to use alongside Safari, but Sidefari is a more elegant solution. It's essentially a wrapper around Safari View Controller, the in-app browser Apple enables developers to use in their own apps. Plonk it alongside Safari in Split View and you sort-of have two Safaris, and can fling links between them by way of the Share sheet (in Safari) and Safari button (in Sidefari).
Sidefari has limitations, notably a lack of tabs and no means to directly edit whatever's in the address bar. But there's a history for quick access to recent sites, and compatibility with installed content blockers. Moreover, it's easy to use and reliable, thereby justifying its tiny price tag.
Plane Finder ($3.99/£2.99)
If you're the kind of person who watches a plane fly overhead and wonders which airline it is, where it's going, and where it's been, you should download Plane Finder immediately. On launch, the app figures out where you are, loads a map, and gets to work showing planes zooming about the place.
If you live near an airport, this will evoke a combination of excitement and terror once you realise just how many steel tubes with wings are being hurled across the sky.
Plane Finder absolutely revels in this plane-based geekery. An augmented reality mode has you wave your iPad in front of your face to track the positions of planes in 3D. (Go outside for best effect – it's a bit weird having plane info splattered across office walls.)
There's a time-travel mode, so you can watch a previous day's flights in fast-forward. And filters and alerts help you drill down into any specifics you happen to be interested in.
There's even a practical edge to the app, with arrivals and departures boards when you tap on an airport, although we will admit in that case it's probably a bit quicker to just visit the relevant website.
Molecules by Theodore Gray ($13.99/£10.49)
Depending on your age and media preferences, Molecules by Theodore Gray might appear to be the future of books, a modern take on a CD-ROM, or something that's escaped from a Harry Potter movie.
At its core, it is, of course, a textbook. But this is a textbook that begs to be explored, primarily due to dazzling your senses with dozens of animated photographic objects that you can interact with.
This is a trick publisher Touchpress has used before, but it never really gets old. Spinning objects beneath your fingers adds a playful side to a subject that could be considered quite dry; this is further enhanced by videos you can drag to scrub through, and molecule simulations.
The simulations are perhaps the smartest aspect of the app, not because they're the most visually exciting, but because of what they represent. In dragging their component parts around and seeing how molecules react to changes in temperature, you're suddenly very aware these aren't static building blocks, but are always alive and in motion.
A printed tome can only hint at such things, but this digital volume brings a level of intrigue and immersion paper simply cannot match.
Touchpress doesn't do cheap apps - but it works hard to deliver titles that warrant the higher price and on the whole, they usually delight.