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Essential iPad apps


I've been using iPads for years, initially for aviation and over time adding in photo editing, writing, and coding.

Today, I'm using a 2018 iPad Pro 11" that I picked up in early 2019, along with the Apple Magic Keyboard case, and a pencil. The same model is now available (refurbished) on Amazon for just over $600.

Before the iPadOS 13.4 update and the release of the Magic Keyboard, I used the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio, which is good. The Magic Keyboard, on the other hand, is outstanding -- it's more expensive, but it turns the iPad into a laptop I actually want to own, as it lets me do basically everything from one computer: programming and web development, photo editing, writing, and an electronic flight bag for aviating.

This is an opinionated list that lays out how I've set up my iPad for every day use.


ForeFlight ($200/yr, discounts available). It's the obvious choice, in my opinion, with really good planning tools, enroute and approach chart support, and data layers. I've tried WingX and Garmin Pilot, and while both solve the same problems, ForeFlight's presentation and how they've combined features puts it at the front. There are plenty of other articles about why ForeFlight is great, so I'll stop here.


Adobe Lightroom CC ($10/mo, with 1TB storage plan). It gives me cloud storage for backups, solid editing tools that I'm comfortable with, and support for Fujifilm's X-Trans RAW files.


iA Writer ($5 iOS, $30 macOS) is my markdown editor of choice. Good shortcuts, full keyboard support, and it integrates perfectly with the iOS file system, allowing me to edit files in any storage location including git repositories. I use iA for personal and work tasks -- it's what I use to draft articles for this site, and in my day-to-day work as an engineering manager. It's also got a very, very good macOS version, so there's very little cost to switching back and forth between platforms.

Working, including coding

Working Copy (free, $16 pro unlock) is a fantastic first-class git client, with native file system integration and some solid diff tools. It's also got a built-in preview web server that is pretty powerful for simple projects.

Screens ($30) is a really good vnc screensharing app, with great support and devs who keep up with new tech like iPadOS 13.4's mouse support. You can remote into any device that runs a VNC server -- PC, Mac, *nix -- and it's fast enough that you can do most things without issues. Super useful.

Blink Shell ($20) allows me to remote in to any machine, either using ssh or mosh. I can connect to my work VPN and run builds, use tmux and vim to edit files, and generally do about 95% of what I need as a front-end software developer. A large portion of Blink's utility is the result of a good dotfiles configuration. I also regularly use Blink at home to connect to a Mac or a Raspberry Pi that I use for site development builds.

Inspect Browser ($7) puts a set of web developer tools back into Safari. Tap-to-inspect the DOM and CSS; JS console; network waterfalls; simulate devices for responsive testing; the list goes on.

Agenda (free, $10 to $25 pro unlock) is really useful for someone like me who needs a way to offload things from my brain. I use it to link meeting notes to calendar events, where I can then later search by attendees, or topic, and to create to-dos that are synced to Apple's native Reminders app.

© 2023 Eric Gideon  •  archive