The best free productivity apps for iPad
Our favorite free iPad apps for being more productive with cloud storage, timers, iPad keyboards, automation and more.
Focus - Time Manager
Focus - Time Manager will help you stay focused on the task at hand. Its system is based on Pomodoro-style work/break sessions, the idea being that you focus on a single task during the former, and have brief downtime during the latter. At the end of the fourth session, you have a longer break.
With Split View and Slide Over support, Focus fits nicely into your iPad workflow. Its interface is crystal clear, without being a distraction. Importantly, you can also customize the settings to suit, if you’re not keen on the default 25-minute focus session and five-minute breaks.
Splash out on monthly IAP and you can take things further, managing tasks and tracking activity over time. But when just used as a focus timer, this app is a top choice.
Agenda is a mash-up of a notepad, a journal and a task manager. Notes can be organized into projects, have all manner of attachments (such as files or images), and be linked to existing Calendar and multiple Reminders entries.
Flagged notes appear in overviews, and the app’s timeline-oriented nature makes it ideal for tracking projects – before, during, or after the event. Agenda’s interface is clean, efficient, and usable: you can quickly get at a specific note, collapse items that aren’t a priority, and add important notes to Siri.
There’s optional IAP. A one-off $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 gives you premium features, which power up integration with Calendar and Reminders, add pinned notes, and flesh out formatting. But in its free incarnation, Agenda is still a great choice for anyone who lives in notes apps, and wants them to do more.
Authy is a system designed to house two-step verification tokens. If you’re not already using two-factor authentication, you should be. It helps protect accounts from hackers by adding an additional layer of security – a regularly updating token linked to a specific device.
A major benefit of Authy is how easy it is to synchronize tokens across multiple devices, rather than having to set things up on each one. This speeds things along when you, say, buy a new iPad or iPhone. The app can also generate tokens offline, rather than you having to wait for an SMS.
On iPad, the app makes good use of screen real estate, with tappable buttons for accounts in a sidebar, and token text you could probably see from across the street, meaning you’re definitely going to locate it when you need to.
Copied is a ‘shelf’ app – a means of saving snippets so you can use them later. This is advantageous over the iOS clipboard, which only offers a single slot.
Text, images, and web page links can be sent to Copied from the clipboard or Share sheet, and the app is also drag-and-drop aware. In Split View or Slide Over, Copied can be used alongside other apps while researching and writing. Items within Copied can be formatted prior to pasting them elsewhere, too (to extract a web page photo’s source URL rather than the image itself, for example).
Some features sit behind a $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 IAP, notably clip organization (lists/rearrangement) and sync, but even in its free version, Copied is worth a download if you spend time copying words and images between iPad apps.
Speed Test SpeedSmart Internet
Speed Test SpeedSmart Internet might have a name that appears to have sprung forth from an annual meeting of search-engine optimization experts, but the utility itself proves a useful install on your iPad. Prod a button and it checks your internet speed, providing readings on latency (response time), download speed, and upload speed.
These tests don’t necessarily show the full speed your router is getting, but if you’re having connectivity issues over a period of time, SpeedSmart can be a useful way of logging results.
Not only do you get a full history, but also a handy details pane that shows your location, offers extended information about each test, and lets you add notes. All good stuff to send your internet service provider’s way.
Shortcuts is Apple’s revamp of automation utility Workflow. Its main goal is to save you time by performing complex tasks with simple interactions (such as a button tap), rather than going through a list of steps manually in multiple apps and websites.
There are two ways to approach Shortcuts. The first is to delve into the gallery’s dozens of premade actions. These include everything from calculating tips to saving documents as PDFs. Everything you download can be experimented with, or you can start from scratch and construct your own workflows in the user-friendly drag-and-drop interface.
This proves particularly effective on the iPad’s larger display, which gives you plenty of room to work. And this latest revamp makes workflows even easier to access, because you can trigger them using Siri voice commands.
Cheatsheet Widget is a notes app for all those little things that you need to remember – but never do. Its items are designed to be quick, glanceable fare (like phone numbers, codes and combinations and a few words) and are made easier to spot by twinning them with icons.
Your list is created in the Cheatsheet Widget app, but the list can also be displayed as a Today view widget. Items within the widget can be deleted, or their content copied to the clipboard – ideal for things like open network passwords.
For free, the widget will display four items from your list, and you can opt to always place new ones at the top. As of iOS 12, there’s a dark mode; and if you splash out on the one-off IAP, you also get iCloud cross-device sync, a Cheatsheet Widget keyboard, and no ads.
Bundler is a boon to anyone who regularly finds themselves having to collect a selection of files that then need to be sent elsewhere – a common task in many kinds of workplace.
Documents are added to ‘bundles’ using the Share sheet. In any compatible app, you share selected documents (or the current one) to Bundler and choose which bundle to place them in (or make a new one). On returning to Bundler, these documents can then be previewed and renamed. (In the latter case, ensuring your files have suffixes – JPG, TXT, and so on – is a good bet, or they aren’t always included on export.)
Sharing a bundle sends it to a location or app of your choosing as a ZIP archive. The process is sleek and simple, and the dual-pane view on iPad makes things even easier when you’re juggling a large number of files and bundles.
DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser
DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser is a browser designed to make the internet less creepy, preventing websites following you around the web. It blocks every hidden tracker it can find, uses the privacy-oriented DuckDuckGo for search, and rates websites you visit in terms of how much they care about your privacy.
It’s a combination of educational aid and web browser, and the latter bit isn’t half bad. It’’s a bit stripped-back compared to Safari, but you can still bookmark sites, open pages in tabs, and share content with other people. When you’re done, you can nuke your session’s search history with two taps.
Even if it doesn’t become your primary browser, DuckDuckGo is worth installing. It’s ideal for browsing sensitive data such as financial and medical records, safe in the knowledge you’re not being tracked by nefarious scripts.
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, MultiTimer – 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.
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.
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.