Everything you need to work from your iPad Air or Pro
Working from your iPad can be great, but you’ll need some gear to get things just right
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There's a lot to love about working from an iPad: It's lighter than a laptop, the touch screen gives another way to interact with your work, and it can switch to a browsing/reading tablet with ease when the work day's over. It's not without its caveats, though. For instance, multitasking isn't as fully-realized on iPadOS as it is on Windows or macOS, file management isn't as straightforward, and the tablet itself can get pricey.
But if none of that scares you off, you'll need some gear to start working on your iPad. From keyboard cases and Bluetooth headphones to todo list apps and password managers, we've rounded up all the tools and apps that can help you get things done on an iPad.
A good keyboard case
While it's great to scroll down a webpage with nothing but your finger, some things are better with an old-fashioned keyboard and mouse. You could pair a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to your device, but it's not the most elegant option, and you still won't have a way to prop up your iPad while you type.
A keyboard case can tie a trackpad and keyboard into one device that simultaneously protects your device from damage, even when not in use. We like Logitech's Combo Touch, which acts as a case with a separate keyboard and trackpad that you can detach when you just want to use the iPad as a tablet.
Even in tablet mode, there's still a case around the iPad, and it has an adjustable kickstand that can prop the display up at any angle, though it's not as easy to use in your lap as the Apple's more expensive Magic Keyboard.
A stylus for doodling and notetaking
Few tablets can come close to the iPad when it comes to stylus input; There's almost no noticeable latency when you draw on the screen, and the iPad's built-in stylus-holder (via magnets along the right side of the tablet) charges the Pencil when it's not in use.
If you're interested in illustrating on your iPad, check out Procreate, a powerful drawing app with the option to install third-party brushes for even more versatility in your art. College students who prefer to handwrite their notes should like Goodnotes, a powerful notetaking app that acts like a notebook. It allows you to search your handwritten notes like you would a Google Doc, annotate other PDFs, and sync your notes via a variety of cloud services. You can choose from a bunch of paper templates, and even find creative ones from other users on sites like Etsy.
Bluetooth headphones to help you focus
One of the iPad's biggest perks is its portability, but working in places like an office, coffee shop, or outside at a park, can leave you vulnerable to noisy distractions. Sony's WH-1000XM5 noise-canceling headphones, for instance, offer excellent sound and consistently block out even loud noises, but there are plenty of other excellent choices, as well.
Plenty of cloud storage
There's no way to upgrade your iPad's physical storage after the fact, so you should get the highest amount of storage you can afford. That said, you may still want to offload some files to the cloud, especially the ones you don't frequently open.
iCloud Drive is the easiest option. Since it ties directly with your iPad, other apps can easily sync to it, and it'll work with your backups and Photos app as well. It's pricey, though; $1 per month gets you 50GB, and you can go all the way up to 2TB for $10 per month.
A good notetaking app
You never know when you'll need to take note of something for later access. Whether it's for class notes, meeting agendas, or just general note taking from things you've read, listened to, or watched, the right note taking app will make sure your ideas, and any handy information you've come across, all at-hand for when you need them.
I already mentioned Goodnotes, but Notion is another great note taking app that's packed to the brim with features like database integration, collapsible lists, and cross-platform support (plus a web app). It's cross-platform and free, too, so you won't have to fork over a monthly fee to use one of the best note taking apps around.
If you prefer to tinker with your apps, or you're an information junkie, check out Obsidian. Like Notion, it's free and cross-platform (unless you use their syncing or publishing services), and plugs into your local drive or a cloud drive for storage. Its best feature, though, is its ability to link notes together and build a visual map of your ideas and information. Every time a note gets linked to another note, a line on the map gets drawn between each note's representative dots. Take and link enough notes, and eventually you'll get a pleasant map of how all your notes tie together.
Supercharge your iPad with Shortcuts
While the laptop-class M1 chip in the iPad Pro and iPad Air makes them incredibly powerful tablets, iPadOS still has its limits as a fully-realized operating system. Apple's Shortcuts app, which lets you automate strings of actions and get your apps to talk to each other, can help you get around some of those limitations. It lets you e manage calendar events, change text case in a document, create a side-by-side image using two separate photos, and much more.
Building your own Shortcuts can be tricky, though, so thankfully there are lots of clever people sharing their own Shortcuts so you can download theirs and get back to your to-do list. Matthew Cassinelli, Rosemary Orchard, and MacStories all have excellent tips and examples to get started—and enough Shortcuts to try out that you may never have to build your own (though their enthusiasm for automation may make you want to try).
A stand that looks good on your desk
Even if you don't intend to use your iPad as a second monitor for your Mac, a good stand can come in handy when you're working from your desk: looking down at your iPad's screen all day isn't good for your neck.
CharJenPro's MagFlott stand has an array of magnets that attach to the back of your iPad, just like Apple's Magic Keyboard, to hold your tablet in place while you work, and you can just pull it off when you're ready to step away. It's a bit pricey, though—$110 for the 11-inch model, and $120 for the 12.9-inch option, and its height isn't adjustable. There are cheaper options that do have adjustable heights, like this one from Lisen, but it's not quite as elegant as CharJenPro's stand, and removing it isn't as easy.
A reliable password manager
While the shortcomings of iPadOS can sometimes kill a bit of your time, not everything is wonky. iPadOS can work seamlessly with your password manager of choice to generate, store, and sync all your passwords so you don't have to store them all in your head.
I prefer 1Password, since it can check HaveIBeenPwned.com to see if any of your accounts have been compromised, and it's available on just about any platform you can get your hands on. It's not the cheapest option available, but it offers the best protection for your accounts, and it's dependable.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.