The best apps for iPad Pro connoisseurs: 10 essentials to download right now

The best picks for Apple's advanced tablet.
An iPad Pro with a keyboard, on a windowsill surrounded by plants and bathed in sunlight.

This story has been updated. It was originally published on January 10, 2019.

Right out of the box, an iPad Pro can do plenty—it lets you create doodles, send emails, watch movies, browse the web, check your schedule, and more. But Apple’s premium tablet really shines when you start adding third-party apps to it.

We found the very best apps for the iPad Pro, ones that will simply supercharge your essays, art, and music. These essential downloads prove the power and versatility of Apple’s top tablet.

1. Procreate

The Procreate app for digital art, one of the best apps for iPad Pro users with an artistic streak.
Procreate’s tools will help you make digital art that simply astounds. Procreate

We could do a whole feature just on digital art apps for the iPad Pro. Out of all of these options, Procreate wins for its breadth of features and intuitive interface. The app offers a wealth of advanced tools—well over 100 different brush and pen types, with more than 50 different customizations available on each one. These help you create some seriously brilliant results, from basic digital sketches to advanced computer-generated artwork. Despite this multitude of options, Procreate still manages to avoid making its interface cluttered-looking or difficult to access. It really is a pleasure to use.

Procreate costs a one-time fee of $10. But to get the most out of it, you should also invest in an Apple Pencil ($130 from Apple).

Procreate is $10 for iPadOS.

2. Paper

The Paper app for iPad Pro.
The versatile Paper app works equally well for sketching and note-taking. Paper

Paper helps you scribble digital doodles, with an emphasis on taking notes and making plans rather than creating artwork (though the app can do that too). Like actual paper, it lets you organize everything in a series of customized “notebooks.” In another similarity, the interface is very simple to use: It keeps the workspace as the main focus.

Sign up for a Pro subscription ($8 per month), and you can add cross-device syncing, multiple brush sizes, unlimited color swatches, and more features. While you’re buying, be aware that, like Procreate, Paper benefits from the Apple Pencil accessory.

Paper is free for iPadOS, or $8 per month for a Pro subscription.

3. Pixelmator

The Pixelmator iPad Pro app.
Pixelmator covers all your image-editing needs—and then some. Pixelmator

Pixelmator is a comprehensive image editor for the iPad Pro, and it offers oodles of bonus features, including pixel-by-pixel editing, a vast range of tools, layer support, automatic adjustments, Photoshop compatibility, the ability to drop in text and shapes, and more. Create your own digital artwork from scratch, or make your existing photos look their best: The app can remove blemishes and imperfections from images, clone areas of a picture, blur or sharpen specific regions, and apply a host of color and brightness filters.

This thorough set of options comes with a price tag of $5. Add an Apple Pencil and Pixelmator becomes even easier to control.

Pixelmator is $5 for iPadOS.

[Related: How to use advanced editing tools without ruining your photos]

4. Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel for iPad.
Hear us out—the mobile version of Excel is becoming more and more advanced. Microsoft

Apple is eager to promote the iPad Pro as a serious computing device, and few apps demonstrate this better than Excel. Although it may not be as capable as the full-fat desktop version, Microsoft has been incrementally improving this competent mobile adaptation of Excel over the years and it’s significantly better than it was at launch. For example, the company added the ability to edit two spreadsheets side-by-side earlier this year.

The free app includes key formatting and sharing tools, but you will need an Office 365 subscription from Microsoft to make edits (rather than just view spreadsheets). That’ll set you back $7 per month.

Microsoft Excel is free for iPadOS, or $7 per month for an Office 365 subscription.

5. YouTube

The YouTube iPad Pro app.
YouTube shines on the iPad Pro. YouTube

This essential video player should be one of the first apps you download onto your new iPad Pro. Whether you want to catch up on the latest sports highlights or learn to play guitar, you’ll find yourself turning to the YouTube app. You can also upload your own video clips straight from an iPad Pro.

With the free YouTube app for the iPad, you’ll have access to content from livestreams to music videos, as well as any shows and movies you’ve purchased from Google. If you pay $12 per month for YouTube Premium, you will also get an ad-free experience and access to some original web shows.

YouTube is free for iPadOS, or $12 per month for YouTube Premium.

6. Evernote

The Evernote app for the iPad Pro.
Evernote works well on the iPad Pro (and all your other devices). Evernote

Evernote is widely regarded as one of the best note-taking apps in the business. Part of its appeal is that you can adapt it to so many different uses, from taking lecture notes to editing a shopping list shared between multiple family members (everything syncs seamlessly across multiple platforms). Because its interface is easy to navigate on a touchscreen, and it offers support for handwritten notes—whether you scribble them with a finger or an Apple Pencil—Evernote works particularly well on the iPad Pro.

Plenty of these features are available free of charge. If you need access to more features, such as offline support and plug-ins for other mobile apps, you can purchase a premium subscription for $8 a month.

Evernote is free for iPadOS, or $8 per month for a premium subscription.

[Related: Digital notebooks that are actually better than pen and paper]

7. LumaFusion

The LumaFusion iPad Pro app.
LumaFusion brings advanced video editing to the iPad Pro. LumaFusion

If you plan to do some advanced video editing on your iPad Pro, Apple’s own iMovie is a decent (and free) choice—but LumaFusion is better. It offers a traditional, timeline-based interface, as well as a host of drag-and-drop functions you can use to split and combine scenes, while adding filters and effects. With a set of comprehensive tools for creating titles, mixing and syncing audio alongside your clips, and introducing effects like slow or fast motion, LumaFusion guides you from the first steps to the final export of your movie masterpiece.

Admittedly, at $30, the price of entry is relatively steep. But if you want your iPad Pro to help you with serious video editing, this app won’t let you down.

LumaFusion is $30 for iPadOS.

8. Notability

The Notability app for the iPad Pro.
Notability includes everything you could want from a note-taking app. Notability

The iPad Pro makes a great note-taking tool, particularly if you download Notability. Your digital scrawls will never have looked so good and well-organized as they are inside this app. It lets you enhance your handwritten text with different pen styles and colors, find search terms within a digitized version of your notes, drop in images and typed words, and import and annotate PDFs. In other words, this is a complete sketching and note-taking solution.

With its $12 annual subscription, Notability costs more than a less visually-dazzling option like Evernote. But the iPad Pro was designed for apps like this—it really makes the tablet shine.

Notability is $12 per year for iPadOS.

9. Google Docs

What it looks like to use Google Docs on an iPad Pro.
Google Docs makes text entry easy. David Nield

If you think there are too many note-taking apps for the iPad Pro, just wait until you check out the selection of writing programs. You might opt for anything from Apple’s own Pages to the beautifully-designed Ulysses, but we’ve selected Google Docs. When you write on an iPad Pro, you need an app that focuses on core features like formatting and collaboration without including so many elements that it appears cluttered on screen. Google Docs ticks all the relevant boxes: It’s lightweight, user-friendly, and versatile. It also works offline, so when you lose Wi-Fi or LTE access on your iPad Pro, you can keep typing that report.

Like most Google apps, this one is free to use, and it lets you access your essays from any other mobile device or web browser.

Google Docs is free for iPadOS.

[Related: The best shortcut for switching between editing and suggestion mode in Google Docs]

10. Things

The Things app for the iPad Pro.
Master your to-do lists and projects with Things. Things

If organization buffs plan to manage their tasks and to-do lists on an iPad Pro, they can’t do better than the Things app for iPadOS. It’s almost as fully-featured as the macOS version, which means it gets two thumbs up from us. With simple and intuitive tools for scheduling, sorting, and searching, you can stay on top of all your projects, small and large alike. Choose your favorite view and use it to review what you need to do today and how far along each project is. Meanwhile, integration with the iPadOS Calendar and Siri makes this productivity app even easier to use.

This marks another relatively expensive app in our list. But if you think about the years of use you’re going to get from Things, and the time you’re likely to save with its help, we think the app is worth the outlay.

Things is $20 for iPadOS.