New iPad, what do I do with it?
January 7, 2021 9:41 PM   Subscribe

I recently bought an 11 inch iPad Pro, and aside from realizing that maybe I don't need something this powerful, I realize that I'm stuck with it, and wondering what's out there that I should be using it for, or what apps are the super awesome must have apps.

One of the main reasons I got it is to start learning how to draw on a tablet, and see if I can't goose myself back into doing more art type stuff, and picked up Procreate on a recommendation. I realize a lot of my art stuff has atrophied, so I'm also interested in apps or YouTube channels that I could use to learn more about techniques and just improving in general.

I'll be using it as a support for my classes, and have loaded it with the Google Classroom and other apps I'll need. Games suggestions are more than welcome, but in general, any help in figuring out how to make a purchase that might have been a mistake feel a little less mistake-like would be greatly appreciated. I want to make sure I don't end up only using it to stream video.
posted by Ghidorah to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I forget the name, but there is an app that lets you see the night sky directly above you with information on all the constellations and other things above you. It’s really cool.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 10:12 PM on January 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Your note taking app of choice will make it worth it!! Especially if you are someone who gets a great deal of pleasure from colored pens / highlighters. I waffled between Goodnotes 5 and Notability before settling on Goodnotes, and it's brought me so much more joy than I thought it would.

Otherwise, I've really enjoyed having a more portable device I can carry around my apartment to watch Netflix / videos (especially for the more mind-numbing tasks like assembly IKEA furniture, or folding laundry). It's also been super useful in the kitchen for displaying recipes.

Another app I love using it for is Notion, which I use to organize my life. Granted, I also have the phone app, and desktop app, but it works well on the iPad. I have separate pages for grocery lists, packlists (gear checklists for different sports / activities), general brain dump, recipes... I also make pages for planning specific trips, and random stuff like my cat's health history. I love Notion so much.

But honestly, if you are able to learn how to use Procreate and experiment with it, that will probably make it worth it already. I'm trying to learn myself and will be watching for recs on this thread too.
posted by blueberrypuffin at 10:34 PM on January 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I used mine as an external monitor for a while with Duet, which also lets you use it as a drawing tablet for a computer.
Apple Arcade has some fun things to do, like Grindstone or Necrobarista, and you can sub for a month at a time.

The Pros are beefy, so try using it as a laptop replacement for a bit (constraints can be fun, and you might discover something about your regular workflow).

Also, Paprika is the best recipe manager. I have every platform's version, and iPads get the best one.
posted by Anonymous Function at 11:30 PM on January 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Anonymous Function, Paprika was one of the first apps I installed. I’ve been using it for years, it’s fantastic. Joy of Cooking app as well.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:39 PM on January 7, 2021

It wasn't until I got my ipad that I actually started reading ebooks. I had a kindle before (a gift from someone who'd upgraded to a newer model) and hated using it. Also, when I was finishing up my grad school program, it was highly useful for reading assigned articles during breaks on campus without having to lug my laptop with me all the time.

It's also been useful for some games I play that involve text that I found too small to read on my phone.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 11:43 PM on January 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I use mine to read books (Libby makes it easy to take them out from my local library), to draw, to take notes on PDFs using notability, to do the nytimes crossword, and to browse news and magazines with Apple news.
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 11:43 PM on January 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

I use mine to help me fall asleep. The speakers provide high-quality audio, especially if I use my Flippy tablet holder. And the position of the volume +/- buttons make it very easy to control the volume while slowly drifting off to sleep.

I'm not too fond of the Podcast app, so I use Overcast to create multiple playlists. It also has a dark theme that works great for bedtime. also has great sleep stories, and if you're an Amex cardholder, you can get a free 1-year trial.
posted by invisible ink at 1:59 AM on January 8, 2021

iPad is the best for ebooks apart from dedicated waterproof e-ink devices if you absolutely must read digital in the bath. I use an app called Marvin to read copious amounts of fanfic downloaded from AO3 as well as my other ebooks, it’s super flexible in terms of format and display - I love my specifically calibrated dark mode and two column horizontal display. Libby is a must have for library content. Comixology is pretty great for comics.

I like doing picross puzzles on the iPad because when they get big enough to be a challenge the squares are way too tiny for a phone screen. The Luna Story games are very solid with a ton of puzzles and a cute style, I believe they are up to three games now?

The Netflix app is pretty good because you can quickly flick it to the corner of your screen and it will overlay while you do other stuff, so it’s perfect for say, watching multiple seasons of a reality competition show while drawing or browsing.
posted by Mizu at 3:58 AM on January 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Jitterbug perfume, it’s called Night Sky, I use it on iPhone but didn’t know there was an iPad version!!


If you add a cheap keyboard like the Logitech k380 (or if you already paid for the apple ones), and a mouse or trackpad, I think it turns into a decent productivity machine. I use mine for my day job off and on (but because my company installs a profile and technically controls the whole device I get weirded out by that and uninstall everything lol) but I have been using my iPad as my primary machine for a while now. I think it’s plenty powerful enough to do most of the things that you’d expect from an everyday computer.

I have a 12.9 pro because it’s my primary computer, so your mileage may vary, but I’ve found that google docs etc works perfectly on the browser and can be even better than the apps. I have been volunteering pretty heavily on a local political campaign and use my iPad for drafting and scheduling emails, managing contact lists on air table, chatting with people via slack, all sorts of stuff.

GarageBand is great if you want to noodle around with music without getting too invested. Using your fingers is much more fun than a computer keyboard if you don’t have a midi controller :)

For a while Moog was giving their synth app away for free but not sure if that’s still true.

Sure you don’t NEED an expensive tablet to do these things but I appreciate the OS for the most part, it does the job and it’s really nice to have a nice computer for once instead of creaky laptops.
posted by bxvr at 5:43 AM on January 8, 2021

I have a haggard ipad mini. Just saying. This is what I use it for:

- Meditation. I like the Buddhify app which has meditations for any situation from travelling on public transport to arriving home after work. If I can't get to sleep I tend to pick a meditation to sort of talk me to sleep. For some reason if I tell myself to relax my muscles I can't do it but if a complete stranger tells me to on an app then it works.

- I use Keynote to make motivational slideshows with music. Like a moving vision board. I don't play them every day but I use them to keep myself on track if I've forgotten why I'm doing something. An example would be creating a "Clean Eating" slideshow with pics of appetising and healthy foods plus other things connected to that like images of people with clear skin. So if I'm feeling chocolate-hungry I can just transform that desire and make myself strawberry-hungry instead just by looking at the images.

- I watch TV & Movies on there because it's bigger than my mobile and less draining than watching it on TV (plus I don't have to relocate to the sitting room). I use BBC Iplayer (not sure if you have access?) and moviebox (for this I have an app on android but I have to watch it in the Safari browser on the ipad as my old arse ipad will not d/l any new apps)

- I'm not able to download the Pinterest app because OLD IPAD but if I could that would be the app I would use the most. It seems like the best platform for something like that.

- I'm pretty sure I used a guitar pedal and fx app many years ago but I can't remember enough to link to it. This is just an idea of what to do with your ipad.

- When I was learning to drive I downloaded a driving test theory app. I did quite well on that. Shame I can't drive. There is a driving simulation app though.

- Lastly I find it's very good for reading, whether it's free ebooks or pdfs or classic texts. I read things on the ipad that I wouldn't read if I was given an actual copy (too much pressure) and if it was on my phone (too small).
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 6:12 AM on January 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of interesting and easy-to-use music-making apps, if that interests you. I have no musical talent but have still managed to have a great time tinkering with the following apps:
- Drambo - Modular music creation tool. You can string together other audio apps inside of it, leading to wild chains of sound.
- Gauss Looper - Create warbling loops of recorded sound.
- Radio Unit - Capture internet radio and feed it into another app (like Drambo).
- Animoog - Just a really pleasant-sounding synthesizer.
posted by Transmissions From Vrillon at 6:27 AM on January 8, 2021 [5 favorites]

For a Procreate tutorial recommendation, I've really enjoyed Art with Flo's YouTube tutorials. I have very limited art skills and am amazed what I can do while following her You Can Draw This videos. I've tried other videos or watching artists on Instagram share their Procreate process, but only with hers have I really learned the functionality of the app. She also has a patreon channel with more advanced tutorials.

Jitterbug perfume's mention of stargazing, made me think of Skyview, which I found in the pandemic on my iphone, but there's an ipad version, too. Great way for a newbie to figure out what's above us with visuals that I appreciate.
posted by icaicaer at 6:44 AM on January 8, 2021 [3 favorites]


Get an iRig HD 2. Along with Garageband (free!) you have a recording studio and a fine selection of amp sims and effects at your disposal. This is a great start.

If you, like me, want to take the game up a few levels from there, get the mixing app "AUM", the guitar amp sim app "STARK", the looping app "ENSO LOOPER", and gleefully explore the sonic landscapes anxiously trying to claw their way out of your mind.

If you want to stay in the keyboard vein, Garageband is a great start, but if you like synth sounds at all, go grab Synth One, a free open source synth that is absolutely astonishingly good.
posted by sydnius at 9:09 AM on January 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Here's an option - trade it for a regular iPad.

iPad pro 11" plus pencil 2 $930

iPad 10.2" (the most basic iPad) plus pencil version 1 - $420

Selling things is a hassle but nearly-new Apple gear does not lose much value, so you stand to lose a bit on selling a gently used Pro, but still come out hundreds of dollars ahead.

Also, with Apple's 14 day refund policy, you could purchase the cheaper iPad and see if it meets your needs. If you find the increased quality of the better one is worth it, return the base iPad for no money lost, and you gain the knowledge that you do in face get value from the more expensive pro version.

If you are the kind of person who can feel intimidated, rather than empowered, by really serious equipment, this could be a solution. I believe all of the excellent suggestions above for apps will also run on the basic iPad.
posted by sol at 11:25 AM on January 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

Like bxvr I also use an ipad as my daily driver. In 2018 I moved from the 12.9 to the 11 as I carry it everywhere and the space/weight savings were important to me. I tend to use the magic keyboard at home and at work and the keyboard folio when I'm out-and-about otherwise for extended periods; ie working on call but needing a 4hour walk.

This use case isn't exactly typical so I'll skip my "this is how I work around the fact that it's not a laptop" suggestions. There are things that the ipad truly excels at - here are a few that matter to me:
  • mind mapping; I like iThoughts and MindNode. If I were to buy just one I'd get MindNode. It's fast, easy, pleasant to use, and pretty capable at the fire tier. If you need a feature from the subscription it's available monthly and yearly.
  • Keynote is (IMHO) the best of Apple's iWork suite, it's free, and it's very well suited to building slides on an ipad. It also exports to PowerPoint very well and has served me well.
  • Video conferencing - Zoom, Teams, FaceTime etc: fast, easy, well supported, better than my phone & far fewer security concerns than my desktop.
  • Soulver for when you're noodling about with ideas that need numbers and a spreadsheet is overkill.
On preview: what sol said; every current ipad is a pretty astounding machine power wise. The difference between the current pros and the new air is largely Touch ID instead of Face ID, screen refresh rate, 2 vs 4 speakers. And $270CAD difference on the base models. The "regular" ipad is even cheaper (another $350CAD drop from the Air) but doesn't get to use the nifty new accessories but it's still an amazingly capable machine. There's a reason so many of us have been wanting these processors in a mac for years.

The machines are nice, feel good, are nice to use and are all very capable. If you're in the return window you could absolutely trade "down", not be sad and use the cash for very nice accessories.
posted by mce at 11:40 AM on January 8, 2021

I think note-taking and drawing are probably the things that are the most better on an iPad vs. a laptop, but it's surprisingly good for single-tasking productivity. I personally really like it for powering through an email backlog -- it's got a big enough screen to read easily, the keyboard case isn't bad to type on, and it encourages you to stay focused since you've only got one app on screen. For whatever reason, it's just enough to trick my ADD brain into staying on task. It works similarly well for other focused work -- reviewing documents, planning projects, etc. I'm not sure why it's different from a full-screened app on a laptop, but it really works for me.

For drawing and notes, there's a lot of really awesome apps. The ones that stand out to me are:
  • Concepts is a drawing app that's designed more for drafting than painting. It's still got a good variety of tools, but has snap-to-grid drawing, and a really cool system for tweaking vector-based strokes after the fact. The interface is also really fluid and well-designed, allowing you to fine-tune a huge number of things. I use it for doodling and sketching, playing around with furniture layouts, planning out Minecraft builds, and planning out knitting projects. Free download, with IAP for extra tools and features.
  • GoodNotes, as mentioned by other folks, is a classic for a reason. Good tools, good organization features, and easy to use. I like it for regular note-taking or for marking on PDFs. It's pretty good at any note-taking task, but it lacks personality.
  • Note Always is a more niche note-taking app. Not as good for longer written notes as GoodNotes in some ways, but incredible for diagrams and more visual note-taking. Selecting and moving bits of your drawing is fluid and easy. Really pleasant to use with a great ink feel, but limited tools and colors.
  • Any of the drawing apps from Tayasui: Sketches, Calligraphy, and Doodle Book are all pretty great. The watercolor tool in Sketches has a wet/dry distinction that I haven't seen elsewhere, that allows for some great effects. Doodle Book and Calligraphy are more toy apps, but still great.
  • Liquid Text has kind of a steep learning curve, but if you're doing a lot of research-type reading it's really awesome. You can highlight and select extracts from PDFs, then organize them into mind-maps or get an overview of all your highlights, while still keeping everything linked back to the original text.
For games that are especially good on the iPad, the whole The Room series is pretty great. Other games that I think work really well on iPad are are Project Highrise, Don't Starve & Shipwrecked, Mini Metro, Papers Please, Cultist Simulator, and Kingdom Rush. It's also pretty fun for coloring books and jigsaw puzzles, but those apps tend to be really ad-heavy so I'd hesitate to actually recommend one.

For me, I found that the added convenience of the magnetic charging and storage with Pencil 2 was enough to make it something I reach for all the time, rather than something I use occasionally (after cursing about the pencil battery being dead again). I rarely have to think about the fact that the stylus is a separate thing that needs charging, and that lowers the friction a lot.
posted by duien at 11:42 AM on January 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Another vote for 'Garageband', which is a swell music-making app even if you're a non-musician: "smart" instruments can be told to start vaguely strumming away in the key you pick for some goofy/funky loops, if you're into that kinda thing. In related, there's also 'Beatwave' which layers electronica/trance loops from non-musician-style tapping on a grid.
posted by ovvl at 11:58 AM on January 8, 2021

The iPad Pros are reputed to have particularly good digital-to-audio conversion. I have the previous model, the Tidal app and an RCA adapter for my integrated amp. I'm very happy with the sound.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:28 PM on January 8, 2021

For traveling, Netflix and Amazon apps allow for super easy downloading of videos ahead of time that can be watched while on airplane mode.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 3:18 PM on January 8, 2021

I would recommend selling the iPad Pro and getting a regular iPad -- I use my iPad for Procreate and notice no issue with quality or performance.

That being said, I am a design student and use my iPad as a workhorse with Adobe Creative Cloud to do a bunch of small tasks that would be great, like sketching or painting or using the pen tool in the new Adobe Illustrator app, and then transport it to my computer to do more intensive activities. Think of the iPad as one tool in your arsenal of doing cool things, rather than an end all to be all.
posted by yueliang at 5:47 PM on January 8, 2021

I have a regular iPad (the one that can use 1st Gen Apple Pencil).
- I enjoy doodling with Concepts
- I use it for all my reading (I love that I can highlight and navigate easily with tables of contents)
- I just discovered that I can add non-English language epubs to the Books app, and install the appropriate dictionary, so I can practice reading in other languages. In my case, I'm reading a book with which I am very familiar in English. The dictionary isn't perfect, but it does the job
- For games, I am planning on getting Gorogoa next (I played a demo ages ago and loved it).
posted by taltalim at 3:12 PM on January 9, 2021

James Julier has some great ProCreate art tutorials.
posted by mmoncur at 5:45 AM on January 10, 2021

- Like others have said, it's great for reading. Not super relevant right now, but when traveling, I love that I know longer have to throw a bunch of books into my bag - I can just bring the ipad.
- I have a laptop, but if I want a quick break, I like to pull out the iPad to watch stuff on Netflix. It's easier than unhooking my laptop from my external monitor set up.
- I use it for teaching online. Notability is the app I use for annotating notes/screensharing when I teach. This is the number one thing I use it for these days.
- I'm not a big artist or anything, but I enjoy doodling on it. "Paper" is the app i use for that.
- If I'm going somewhere and don't want to haul around my laptop, I use the ipad instead.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:54 PM on January 10, 2021

Oh, one other thing:

I use an iPad Pro at work for recording videos for students (this is in a lab based class). It has a better camera than a laptop or my current phone and can easily be set up on a tripod. One nice thing about using the iPad for this is I can really see the quality of photos/video footage before I upload it to my laptop (harder to do on a phone, or digital camera/video recorder with their small LCD screen). I use Google drive to upload the video footage/photos.

(Technically, you can edit movies on an iPad, but I prefer doing it on my macbook pro.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:56 PM on January 10, 2021

I have the latest iPad Air, and strongly suggest a few accessories to turn your iPad into a magic machine.

First, the Apple Pencil 2. It's a really good stylus, especially if you're doing art stuff. I bought it so I could easily take hand-written notes, which it's also great for, but the whole pressure-sensitive, position-sensitive part of it drove me right off to get a coloring app so I could play with that. (... I cannot draw. But I can color!) It sticks magnetically to the iPad to store and charge, so there's no fiddling with extra cords. It feels just like picking up a pencil or pen you've stuck in your note/sketch book.

Second, the Apple Magic Keyboard. It turns the iPad into a laptop, but without losing any of the iPad-ness of it. The touchpad acts exactly like the touch screen, with the same gestures doing the same things, so it's completely seamless going from one to the other. When you use the touchpad, there's a little dot on the screen acting as your cursor. The keys feel good, too, and give you laptop-type things like cmd-tab to switch through open apps, instead of having to pull up the whole screen of them and decide what you want. Again, it's just all really easy to use.

Third, a PaperLike screen protector, which gives just a touch of friction so your Pencil isn't sliding around when you're writing or drawing.

The combination of those three makes the iPad unbelievably useful and simple for pretty much anything you want to do with it.
posted by current resident at 9:49 AM on January 16, 2021

"For games that are especially good on the iPad, the whole The Room series is pretty great."

Thanks for this rec, duien! I played through the first one and am currently partway through The Room Two. It's right up my alley. I loved Myst back in the day and this scratches that type of itch, of being alone in a mysterious environment and solving puzzles. Also this has an escape room quality but much more complicated.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 2:58 AM on January 18, 2021

« Older Staying afloat while working for a narcissist   |   Whatsapp and Facebook Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.