Image: Anatoliy Babiy / Getty Images

Apple’s iPad, its signature tablet, has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years in order to make it a competitive business machine.

Competition from hybrid devices like the Microsoft Surface has given Apple plenty of reasons to make the iPad more than just a media consumption device, and adding new hardware accessories like the Apple Pencil and a new operating system that more closely mimics a desktop make Apple’s vision for the iPad clear: The company wants it to be an option for professionals.

But hardware and OSes alone do not a productivity device make: Getting work done requires good apps, too–that’s where this software come in. Some of the apps enhance the iPad’s ability to be a work machine, and others will fill niches for specific types of professionals. Take your pick to turn your iPad into a laptop alternative.

SEE: Apple iPad (7th generation): A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Pick an office suite

No matter what kind of work you do, you need an office suite. It could be Office 365, Google Docs (and Google’s other G Suite apps), Apple’s office suite, or an alternative office suite. The bottom line is that you’ll need some way to edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.

All of the above mentioned office products for iPadOS have a free version. Office 365 is the big exception to being totally free, in that you’ll need a subscription to unlock some of the more essential features.

Your choice can be a personal one, but be sure you’re using a product that is supported by your place of employment. If you’re a freelancer, be sure you know how to export documents from one product to another so that your clients end up with files they can use.

Microsoft Office 365 is an office suite option for your iPad.
Image: Apple

SEE: iPad turns 10: Why did it take a decade for Apple’s tablet to get its own operating system? (ZDNet)

Now pick a cloud storage product

Your choice of cloud storage platform will probably depend largely on the office suite you’re using since they usually go hand in hand, and that’s a good thing: Damage to your iPad means lost documents are still stored safely in the cloud.

Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud, and Google Drive are all options for iPad, so take your pick. There’s also office suite neutral products like Box as well.

Cloud storage apps are free, but if you want additional storage space you’ll have to pay for it. Refer to individual apps for pricing.

Google Drive is a free cloud storage app.
Image: Apple


The iPad’s multitasking features have great business capabilities but are limited by the fact that you can really only switch between two apps: What if you need to hop between several to get your work done? That’s where Yoink comes in.

Yoink, which costs $5.99, is sort of like a visual clipboard for iPadOS. It can be used in Slide-Over or Side-by-Side modes and users can drag and drop or copy and paste a variety of things to it. It can act like a total replacement to the iPadOS shelf, and it’s essential for those who need more out of iPad multitasking.

Yoink for Mac is a great app for multitasking.
Image: Apple

Code Editor by Panic

At its heart, Code Editor by Panic is a text editor, but it’s built to be a coding platform that makes the iPad capable of being a real developer productivity machine.

Syntax highlighting, context keys, integrated file storage, and a fully-featured SSH client make Code Editor a must-try for developers that use their iPads for work. It’s not cheap at $24.99, but if you want something that makes coding on your iPad as convenient as coding on a laptop/desktop, be sure to check it out.


Graphic design professionals all have their software of choice, so Pixelmator may not be your first choice when it comes to editing images on the iPad.

Give it a chance, though: It’s only $4.99, is designed to be a professional-tier photo editor for the iPad, supports PSD files and layers, and does most of the things you need to create professional-quality photos.

If the cost alone isn’t reason enough to try it, Adobe has a relatively fully fleshed-out version of Photoshop available for iPad as well. It’s free, but most of the necessary tools you need to do editing work are locked behind a $9.99/month subscription that’s specific to the iPadOS version of Photoshop.

Adobe Acrobat Reader for PDF

Adobe Reader on the iPad works great, and it’s a must-have for those that do a lot of PDF editing. The default version is free, but that restricts users to basic Acrobat Reader functions like viewing, sharing, and annotating PDFs.

Those that need to edit PDFs on their iPad can choose from several different paid packages, or opt for a $14.99/month Adobe Document Cloud subscription to make the iPadOS version of Acrobat sync with all your other devices.

Adobe Scan

Of all the mobile device scanning apps I’ve tried, Adobe Scan has been the best at recognizing, scanning, and cleaning up documents.

If you find yourself needing to digitize paper documents for work, Adobe Scan is a great choice. It’s free, works great, and integrates tightly with Acrobat Reader for the iPad to make digitizing and editing documents a snap.

You can also toggle between documents, forms, whiteboards, and business cards while scanning, and the app will adjust how it does OCR based on the kind of document being scanned.


If you’re doing sensitive, confidential work on your iPad, you need a virtual private network (VPN) to secure your internet connection. ExpressVPN is a well-regarded option in a sea of VPN apps, and it comes with a seven-day trial as well.

What makes ExpressVPN a good choice is its simple interface: Open it up, and you see an option to choose a location and toggle the VPN on–that’s it.

Pricing is average for a VPN app, but buying a subscription on your iPad enables ExpressVPN from multiple devices. It’ll run you $12.99/month, but it’s worth the price to ensure sensitive work files aren’t stolen over an unsecure Wi-Fi connection.

ExpressVPN is an option when you need a secure internet connection.
Image: Apple


Apple Pencil users are sure to want a handwriting app for their iPad, and Penultimate (by the makers of Evernote) is a good option.

It’s free, supports a variety of Bluetooth styli, and Evernote users can sync Penultimate notes with Evernote cross-device. Those who want customization can get it as well: Penultimate allows users to import their own scans as paper styles, adjust the app based on how you write, and more.

Evernote’s Penultimate allows customizations.


Web apps are popular options for businesses looking to make platform-agnostic software, so if you’re using an iPad for work, there’s a good possibility you’ll spend time using Safari, its built-in web browser.

If you’re browsing the web on your iPad you need to stay safe, which is where 1Blocker comes in. This web blocking app can protect Safari users from tons of online risks, like trackers, malicious ads, and other dangers.

1Blocker is free, but for a mere $2.99/month, a premium mode is available that lets subscribers create custom blocking rules.

1Blocker helps protect those using the Safari web browser.