Skip to main content

The best iPad apps of 2019

The best office and writing apps for iPad

Our favorite iPad apps for writing, email, editing PDFs, spreadsheets, coding and file management.

(Image credit: Alexander Blach)

Textastic Code Editor 8 ($9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99)

Textastic is a text editor for coders. It’s tasteful and minimal, yet packed full of features for optimizing workflow.

When using just an iPad, the custom keyboard row provides fast access to a range of characters. If you’ve got a physical keyboard, you can configure keyboard shortcuts for important actions. Fonts can be customized, and new themes selected.

The built-in file transfer manager enables you to access documents stored remotely; and although Textastic cannot be used as a Files location, you can get at local content via On My iPad. Want to go old school? Try printing off your code on paper.

As ever, there are limitations to an iPad coding editor, meaning you’re unlikely to create web pages or apps from scratch using the app, but it’s ideal for making edits when on the move – or on the sofa.

Cardhop ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Cardhop reimagines the Contacts app – in a manner that makes it far more usable and useful. It uses existing iCloud data (and can integrate other address books), but rethinks how you get to data and actions.

A powerful search field utilizes natural language. This can be used to get at data that’s otherwise buried deep – ‘phone John’ or ‘FaceTime Jane’ – or to rapidly add new contacts by typing in a few of their details prior to tapping a button.

When browsing, notes are always accessible – handy if you use that field. There’s a tab specifically for birthdays, and another for recently accessed contacts – and that syncs across iCloud. Also, tap a piece of data in a card, and an action (like a call or email) isn’t immediately triggered – instead, you get a pop-up with options. Every detail feels considered and polished.

FE File Explorer Pro ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

FE File Explorer Pro plugs a hole in iPad file management – namely, getting at things that aren’t stored on your iPad or on iCloud. The usable, Apple-like interface makes it a cinch to connect to, explore, and preview or download your files, whether they’re on a PC or Mac, a network drive, or on remote cloud services other than Apple’s.

There’s drag-and-drop awareness, the means to flag files as favorites, and password support if you want your documents locked down. Perhaps best of all for people who work a lot on their iPads, FE File Explorer Pro integrates directly into Apple’s Files. Activate it as a location, and Apple’s app then gains seamless access to a huge range of storage options that are otherwise out of reach. Top stuff.

Memento: Modern Reminders ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.99)

Memento: Modern Reminders is an alternative to the Apple Reminders app. It uses the same database, meaning you can at any point switch between the two apps; the main reason for splashing out some cash on Memento is speed – the app just makes it much easier to do stuff.

For example, when creating or editing a reminder, a smart keyboard row gives you speedy access to time and location alerts. The former provides useful options like ‘this evening’ and ‘tomorrow morning’.

Beyond that, there’s a Reminders feed that shows everything in a single scrolling pane, a tab for reminders with time alerts (‘For You’), powerful notifications management, and a visual design that looks far more like something Apple would create than Apple’s own app.

PDF Expert by Readdle ($9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99)

On the Mac, PDF Expert by Readdle is a friendly, efficient, usable PDF editor. If anything, the app’s often even better on iPad.

You can grab PDFs from iCloud or Dropbox. Pages can be rearranged by drag-and-drop, and you can add or extract pages with a few taps. Adding pages from another document sadly remains beyond the app, but you can merge two PDFs in its file manager.

As a reader, PDF Expert fares well, ably dealing with large PDFs, and the text-to-speech mode can read documents at a speed of your choosing. Similarly, the app makes short work of annotations, document signing, and outline editing.

Buy the ‘Edit PDF’ IAP ($9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 on top of the original price) and you can directly update text, redact passages, and replace images. You’re obviously a little limited by a document’s existing fonts and layout, but this functionality is great if you spot a glaring error while checking a vital PDF on your iPad.

iA Writer ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

iA Writer provides a writing environment suitably focused for iPad, but that also makes nods to the desktop.

The main screen is smartly designed, with a custom keyboard bar offering Markdown and navigation buttons; if you’re using a mechanical keyboard, standard shortcuts are supported.

Further focus comes by way of a typewriter mode (auto-scrolling to the area you’re editing) and graying out lines other than the one you’re working on.

Elsewhere, you get an optional live character count, iCloud sync, and a robust Markdown preview. We’d like to see a split-screen mode for the last of those (as per the Mac version), but otherwise iA Writer’s a solid, effective and affordable minimal writing app for iPad.

Scrivener ($19.99/£19.99/AU$30.99)

On the desktop, Scrivener is widely acclaimed as the writer's tool of choice. The feature-rich app provides all kinds of ways to write, even incorporating research documents directly into projects. Everything's always within reach, and your work can constantly be rethought, reorganised, and reworked.

On iPad, Scrivener is, astonishingly, almost identical to its desktop cousin. Bar some simplification regarding view and export options, it's essentially the same app. You get a powerful 'binder' sidebar for organizing notes and documents, while the main view area enables you to write and structure text, or to work with index cards on a cork board.

There's even an internal 'Split View', for simultaneously smashing out a screenplay while peering at research. With Dropbox sync to access existing projects, Scrivener is a no-brainer for existing users; and for newcomers, it's the most capable rich text/scriptwriting app on iPad.

1Password ($2.99 per month)

Although Apple introduced iCloud Keychain way back in iOS 7, 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 license details.

But there are other benefits: the app’s cross-platform nature means it gives you a solution if you also use Windows and Android. And with it being a standalone app, accessing and editing your information is fast and accessible.

The app is free to try for 30 days, after which point you must pay a monthly $2.99 subscription ($4.99 for a family of five). For the peace of mind and usability the app brings, it’s well worth the outlay.