The iPad has gained a series of tools and tricks that make it just as ideal for getting work done as it is for consuming content, and you can get there with the right third-party productivity apps. For example, Drafts can help you capture ideas in an instant, Trello streamlines teamwork and Due will push you to get things done. The slate's best apps also take advantage of iOS 11's iPad-only features. For example, Drag and Drop is supported by the nimble and feature-packed PDF Expert, so you can easily select and pull text from your emails in Outlook to add to a PDF you're editing.
Here are the best productivity apps for the iPad.
There are many PDF-editing apps, but PDF Expert stands out with its well-designed interface. This way, you don't need to spend much time learning how the app works, and which buttons do what, before you start changing the text in documents and adding signatures for important contracts. Speaking of signatures, support for the Apple Pencil enables the app to discern when you're swiping with your finger and when you're writing with your stylus.
The Bear writing app is one of the best lightweight text editors on the market. Not only does its clean design allow you to focus on your writing with its what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor, but its tags-based filing system makes it easier to sort through tons of drafts. The program includes support for split-view mode, the Markdown syntax for converting plain text to HTML, and enhanced drag-and-drop with its Drop Bar for performing actions in multiple notes at once.
Microsoft's Office apps are all solid on the iPad — and while each one is important and necessary — Outlook is the best of them all. It's also not a leap to claim that Outlook is one of the best email applications for the iPad. Not only do these apps support drag-and-drop for the iPad in iOS 11, but its calendar section is better designed than Apple's built-in option, giving you more options for composing event invites and checking availability for yourself and others. It also supports Yahoo, iCloud, Google and IMAP, in addition to Microsoft's own Office, Outlook and Exchange.
Planning out and executing complicated projects is easy with the latest version of Things: an award-winning (Apple's WWDC 2017 Design Award) productivity app. Projects can be broken down into a series of nested lists, and pie-chart icons next to each list display your progress. This latest version allows you to see your scheduled calendar events next to your to-do list, so you can plan your work properly and not overload yourself on days when you don't have time. With Things' bright, clean aesthetic, your to-do lists can at least appear calm, even when your deadlines are creeping up on you.
If you've always wanted a second (or third) monitor for your Mac, Duet Display is definitely worth checking out. This utility turns your iPad into an additional screen, as long as it's tethered via a Lightning or 30-pin cable. Especially useful for travelers, this process is more convenient than using a second monitor display, as those often require their own power sources.
The Notebook app is the multimedia journal kit that your iPad needs, taking the basic premise of the Notes app, but making it look fantastic. You sort your documents, to-do lists and images into different notebooks, and get to add audio recordings and doodles to flesh out your ideas. Each note has a customizable background color, and the program uses a highly legible font. Apple's own Notes app could really stand to borrow some of these features.
If you used the iOS version of Google Docs before but found it lacking, it's time to reconsider. In 2017, Google's text-editor app finally gained full support for handling Suggested Edits: a collaboration tool that allows you to adjust another person's document. That means you can accept and reject corrections from the iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard, which is great when combined with the app's real-time group editing feature. Of course, it also supports Microsoft Office files.
We've all been there: You had a great idea, but it fluttered away before you could jot it down. Drafts for iOS solves this issue, as opening the app gives you a blank note file where you can capture your most fleeting ideas before they dissolve into the ether. Drafts makes a perfect addition to iOS 11's Dock, which you now flick up with a single swipe from the bottom of the screen, from any app. The app is also excellent for processing your thoughts, with highly customizable actions that allow you to append existing documents, create tweets and draft emails. Drag-and-drop support means you can easily pull your notes into web forms and other destinations.
While to-do list apps can be enough for projects you work on alone, collaborative projects need more complex solutions. This is why tons of major companies, such as Pixar, Google and Fender, turn to Trello. In this program, you can assign work to individuals, apply labels to categorize projects, set due dates and more. It even features integrations with Google Drive and Slack, so your planning can sing in harmony with your work.
Not everyone wants to keep their digital life in Apple's iCloud, so it's great that Dropbox's iOS app supports iOS 11's new Files app. This way, you can access your files all throughout your Apple device, instead of hoping individual apps would add Dropbox support. It also supports Apple's High Efficiency Image and Video formats (HEIF and HEVC), which save space without losing quality.
If you constantly find yourself writing the same kinds of emails and typing out formulaic sentences, or if you have ever used templates, consider Text Expander's iOS keyboard. With it, you can just type a short phrase — say, "xdeli" — and watch it expand to your entire lunch order. And while the iOS keyboard settings menu offers a similar functionality, Text Expander is more powerful, including options for formatting, variables and code. You can even opt for your cursor to appear in the middle of your phrase, rather than just at the end.
To-do list apps are useful ways to keep track of what you do, but the simple-looking Due does something few of those programs will: it refuses to stop nagging you until you've completed your task. So, when you've got a task you need to do, but don't exactly enjoy doing it, just Due it.
The work we do in email doesn't end with sending and receiving messages. As such, it's always been peculiar that Apple's Mail app doesn't offer to share sheets in the same way that Safari and other apps do. Airmail works with a ton of our other favorite iPad Productivity apps, such as Drafts and Bear, for building out new ideas from your emails, and creating reminders in Due and Things.
Time spent fleshing out your ideas is a serious investment in your work, so it's worth investing in a proper mind-mapping app. Yes, a simple blank document can hold an individual idea, but visualizing how each thought is connected, and how projects and tasks are related, requires a whole different kind of tool. For this, we recommend Mindnode, which treats ideas like Lego bricks. You can make branching trees of thoughts, and stylize the colors and fonts to differentiate concepts.
Workflow is a favorite app for iOS power users, as you can use it to create new powerful commands that expand your device's capabilities. It's so good, in fact, that Apple bought Workflow and then made the app free for all. What can you do with Workflow? Tricks include automatically texting someone the time it will take for you to travel to their location, create memes, read the news and calculate tips.
You could just use the simple calculator that comes with iOS, but there's a better solution for the more serious number-crunchers among us. For example, PCalc packs more memory slots for saving data, and features support for calculating in binary, hexadecimal and octal formats. It even converts currency, making it a traveler's best friend.
One of the best password managers for Macs and iPhones is also a must-have on the iPad. Not only does 1Password support iOS 11's drag-and-drop functionality and split-view modes (which makes it easy to create secure notes from other documents), it also supports two-factor verification, and can sync to 1Password Apple Watch app. My personal favorite feature is 1Password's security audit, which shows you which passwords need to be updated due to security breaches, and which passwords you're using too often.
After graduating from Bard College a B.A. in Literature, Henry T. Casey worked in publishing and product development at Rizzoli and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively. Henry joined Tom's Guide and LAPTOP having written for The Content Strategist, Tech Radar and Patek Philippe International Magazine. He divides his free time between going to live concerts, listening to too many podcasts, and mastering his cold brew coffee process. Content rules everything around him.