The Portable Office: Apps

With the release of Apple’s iPad Mini, and my purchasing of one, I find myself asking the question – how useable is the iPad, mini or not, as an actual stand alone work unit?

My previous post ‘Work Anywhere. The Portable Office‘ took a look at the physical kit needed to work anywhere. Today I’ll be looking at the software AKA apps you might need.

A bit of background will put this into context. By habit and passion, I’m a content creator. I make stuff. All kinds of stuff.

I build websites, I take photographs, I make videos, I design, and I share everything.

Let’s take a step back. Back to basics. Back to bulky desktop computers. There were three main types of software that every business needed to function:

Word, Powerpoint and Excel. Smart Office 2 is a great app that packages all three very nicely and cater to both the old and new Microsoft Office filetypes.

Chances are, if you’re on a Mac, you’ll be more than acquainted with the Apple counterparts:

Pages, Keynote and Numbers.

In my opinion, they’re better. The user experience is nicer, they look great and with iCloud integration – anything you create on one device, is on every device.

This is an initial list of useful apps that I have personally bought/downloaded – I encourage you to add to the list by leaving the apps you like in the comment section below.

Each link open an iTunes link that will let you read the description and look at screenshots.


Grafio is an amazing tool for wire-framing, flow charts and user journeys. It’s easy and responsive.

Textastic. Before buying this I did a lot of research, downloading and buying of other apps. This one, however, is the most complete as you can locally code a website, preview it and also upload it to your server, plus editing anything already on the server.


POP – Prototyping on Paper. Draw each of your app’s screens on paper, photograph each one and then add touch-points which link to another page allowing you to navigate through the app. Very clever, very quick. I’m looking forward to seeing how this app gets updated.


Inkpad – Draw vector graphics using shapes or the Pen Tool. Export them as various filetypes and even import .SVG files via the Dropbox integration. The more I use it (with a stylus), the more fun I’m having with it. It’s like a basic version of Illustrator that makes you think a bit more carefully about exactly what you’re going to do next.

Paper – Sketch ideas and save them in designated notebooks. The app itself is free, but to really get good use out of it, I would recommend purchasing the ‘Essentials Kit’.


Snapseed – Lets you do what you need to do before sharing your photo in a really easy ‘on-the-go’ type of way.

PhotoForge2 is like a more professional version of Snapseed and has layers. In my opinion, it allows for more accuracy for subtle changes.

Both apps offer RAW support if you’re importing direct from a camera, and where one may seem weak, the other will be stronger so I would recommend having both on your device.


iMovie: Nice and simple to use. Not for heavy editing, but nice to have for putting small clips together for a client and uploading to YouTube. If you have a media downloader it would be great for making mood videos to bring ideas to life.


GarageBand. The more I use it, the better my music making skills and the more fun I’m having. If you need to create a simple backing track, record impromptu voiceovers or just mix sounds together, this may be an option for you.


Evernote – Taking notes isn’t about just writing things down. Evernote is all about capturing your thoughts through a variety of media, be it text, images, audio or screenshots. It synchronises across all your devices so your thoughts are everywhere you go. I’ve been using this on the free package which doesn’t allow offline notes – annoying, but still incredibly useful. You get 3 months free with an Evernote moleskine. Worth it.


Dropbox makes everything better. 2GB free storage that allows you to sync any type of file from your computer to your phone or tablet. All your files can be downloaded via their website too so you literally have access anywhere you are. If you’re not signed up, use this link and you’ll get an extra 500MB free storage.


In theory, the idea of this is brilliant. remote working from wherever you are, but what about in practice? I’ve been trying it for a couple of weeks, on and off, and personally – I think it’s perfectly feasible. There are times where I’ve had to do something quickly on my laptop and working on an iPad and getting used to the apps has a learning curve, but I’ve noticed I’m getting faster at doing things.

I’ll keep the blog updated with how I get on. Now that I’m starting a new business, I’m going to go full iPad as much as possible.

Please add to the list by leaving links to apps you find useful in the comments section.

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