by James A. Martin

Apple Pencil makes these 15 iPad Pro apps pop

Aug 10, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsiPadMobile

When paired with an Apple Pencil stylus, these 15 iPad Pro apps help unlock the full potential of your tablet, whether it's saving web pages as PDFs for annotation, creating color masterpieces in seconds or sending custom greeting cards.

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Credit: Thinkstock/Apple

iPad Pro apps for productivity and creativity

Despite Apple’s claims to the contrary, not everyone believes the iPad Pro can replace a computer. When paired with an Apple Pencil, however, the tablet lets people do things they might never accomplish on a traditional PC or Mac. For example, the iPad Pro lets you create handwritten thank you cards that can then be sent through the mail, write notes on PDFs and sign on the dotted lines, and drain all the color out of photos, then add it back to particular objects.

The following 15 iOS apps look great on iPad Pro, and they all put your Apple Pencil to work.


Adobe Acrobat Reader, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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Plenty of PDF annotation and digital signature apps are available today. But Adobe invented the PDF. Why not use its app? The free Adobe Acrobat Reader iOS app gives you plenty of annotation features, including the ability to add notes, highlight, strikethrough, underline, or add new text, add freehand drawings and annotations, and create and add signatures to PDFs. You don’t need an Apple Pencil to do any of that, but it sure is easier with the stylus. In-app purchases, which range from $10 to $90, give you additional abilities, such as text editing in PDF files and PDF exports into Word or Excel files.

PDF Reader Pro Edition, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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PDF Reader Pro ($10) provides similar tools as Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader app. For $10, the app also delivers real-time collaboration and in-app chat, so you can simultaneously work on the same PDF and communicate with someone else. The app’s editing feature is similar to Microsoft Word’s Track Changes, and it lets you create new PDF files from existing files. It has some text and annotation capabilities. However, some additional functionality, including online collaboration, requires in-app purchases, which can increase the cost.

iAnnotate 4, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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The iAnnotate 4 app ($10) isn’t free, like Adobe Acrobat Reader, and it doesn’t offer real-time collaboration, like PDF Reader Pro Edition (also $10). The app does make it easy to capture and annotate web pages by using a web capture tab to navigate to the desired URL. It then captures and converts pages to PDFs for annotation, using the Apple Pencil — a feature that could be particularly useful for online marketers, SEO pros, and website designers. With iAnnotate 4, you can also create blank PDFs from scratch.



Image by Luminant Software, Inc.

AudioNote ($10) isn’t the sexiest or most polished app around, but it’s one of the best for taking notes during meetings, interviews and conference sessions. The beauty is that you can record audio in the app as you type notes. The two are linked together, so that you can tap a sentence halfway through your notes and hear the associated audio. You can annotate documents and highlight text using Apple Pencil. AudioNote syncs with other iOS devices via iCloud. The app also works on Macs, Windows, and Android devices. And you can add photos to your notes, too. Tip: The paid version is superior to the free one.



Image by LiquidText, Inc.

LiquidText is another excellent app for reading and annotating PDF documents. With the app, your Apple Pencil and iPad Pro, you can draw, freehand-style, on documents imported from Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, or a website page you’ve imported. You can also import Word, PowerPoint, and PDF files. Imported docs have a workspace on the right. You can highlight sections of a document and then drag/drop those excerpts into the workspace, to call attention to them. You can group objects in the workspace, too, according to your needs. The app is free, but you’ll need to upgrade to LiquidText Pro ($20) for the digital inking.

MyScript Nebo


Image by MyScript

MyScript Nebo (free) comes close to turning your iPad Pro into a super-useful paper notebook. The app’s Interactive Ink automatically translates your handwritten letters as typed characters, as you write. When you’ve finished writing a word, sentence or paragraph, double-tap to convert it into editable text. Using your Apple Pencil, you can draw a frame around text to automatically highlight it. Create a bulleted list by drawing small black circles before each bulleted item. It’s faster for most people to type notes than to handwrite them, of course. But if you prefer to take notes by hand, it’s hard to top MyScript Nebo.

MeisterTask, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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MeisterTask is a visual and collaborative task-management app that’s fun to use — and free. You create projects, add tasks to them, and then classify each as “Open” or “In Progress.” You can change tasks’ status by dragging and dropping them from Open, to In Progress or “Done.” A timer tracks time spent on each task. Using an Apple Pencil, you can draw images or handwritten notes and attach them to specific tasks. And collaborators can join and contribute to projects, as well. The basic MeisterTask plan is probably fine for many people, but the $9-per-month Pro plan adds workflow automations and custom backgrounds.

UPAD 3, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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On the surface, UPAD 3 ($6) is a handwriting-capture app, designed for jotting down notes in meetings, conferences or elsewhere. But that’s just the start. The app makes it easy to expand upon notes with images in the iPad Camera Roll and from web pages, add typed text, insert maps (and draw on them), read and annotate PDF files, and add shapes such as rectangles and arrows. There’s certainly no shortage of note-taking apps for the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, but UPAD 3 is among the most flexible options.

GoodNotes 4, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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GoodNotes 4 ($8) is another worthwhile app for capturing handwritten notes and annotating PDF documents. Though it costs $2 more than UPAD 3, it offers optical character recognition (OCR) so you can search handwritten notes for specific words. (You still need to write legibly, of course.) The app syncs notes between iPads and iPhone via iCloud. It offers an attractive assortment of notebook templates, covers and papers from which to choose. And you can set the app to automatically backup notes to Box, Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive. GoodNotes 4 effectively replicates the pen-on-paper experience, with all the benefits of a tablet and stylus

NoteLedge Ultimate, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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Like iAnnotate 4, NoteLedge Ultimate ($6) lets you capture and import web pages into the app. As a “multimedia notebook,” NoteLedge Ultimate frees up a hand to draw or write, or type by keyboard, attach photos, record audio and video clips, and add stickers. You can add notes to the iOS Calendar app or to Google Calendar, back them up to Evernote, Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive, and password protect them.

Astropad, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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If you use a Mac to do graphics work, the $30 Astropad app is well worth the price. Astropad turns your iPad into a drawing tablet for Mac, similar to the much-more-expensive Wacom tablets. After you download the free companion Mac app, you can use an Apple Pencil (or other stylus) to scribble notes in Microsoft OneNote for Mac, create and adjust Photoshop images, and doodle in most photo- or image-editing and sketch programs. Whatever you do in Astropad for iPad mirrors to your Mac app, and the two connect via Wi-Fi or USB. The recently released Astropad version 2 adds improved controls and better performance, among other enhancements.

Explain Everything Classic, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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Though it’s aimed at students and teachers, Explain Everything Classic is cool even if you’re not in school. The $6 app is designed to create visual, animated and voice-narrated presentations for demonstrations and explanations. And the animations can be shared with others by exporting them to MP4, MOV and other file formats. There are endless ways to use this app — and they’d be a worthy topic for multiple explainer animations.

Color Splash, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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Color Splash ($2) does one thing, but it does it well. The app strips out all the color from photographs you import. Then, using the Apple Pencil, you can restore the color to particular objects or people in the photos for dramatic effect. If you accidentally color outside the lines, you can restore the grayscale by tapping a gray icon at the top of the screen, and then use the Apple Pencil to fix it. Color Splash probably isn’t an app you’d use all the time, but it can help advertisers, marketers and other creative pros create dramatic visual effects with minimal effort.

Pixelmator, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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Adobe’s Photoshop software still rules the image-editing kingdom. But is it worth $20 per month? (That’s how much it costs to license the software on a computer.) If not, the Pixelmator app ($5) may be all you need. It’s full-featured, with tools for watercolors, color correction, clones, blurs, sharpening, adding text, blending layers, and tons more — and the Apple Pencil helps you fine-tune it all. You can open, edit and save Photoshop files with Pixelmator, and unlike some other image-editing tools for iOS, you can create blank canvases with custom sizes. A Mac companion app is available for $30, as well.

Felt Cards, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

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In a pinch, it’s easy to buy a greeting card at Safeway. But the free Felt Cards app offers a better alternative. Using the app, you can build your own cards around personal photos or predesigned greeting templates, and you can even send Visa gift cards. Using the Apple Pencil, you can add handwritten notes to cards, which is a great touch. The cards you create can be delivered to recipient mailboxes via the U.S. Postal Service. And the service is affordable: $3 for photo cards sent within the United States. (You’d pay more for a tacky card at Safeway.) Monthly subscriptions are also available.