Friday, July 6, 2012
10 iPad Apps for Creative, Musical, and Somewhat Weird People
Kat surprised me with a new iPad a couple weeks ago (you know, the iPad that I swore up and down that I never wanted and would have no use for), and I've found it to be fantastic. The first mistake you can make with your iPad is thinking it's a smaller substitute for your desktop/laptop experience. Instead, you should look at it for its unique coolness in how you interact with the software it runs.
That software, of course, is collectively known as "apps", and at last count there were something like 75 trillion of them to choose from. I made that up, but there are way too many to just spend weeks browsing through the nearly endless halls of Apple's App Store. You also probably don't want to limit yourself to whatever crap-ass apps that are popular at the moment when you go app shopping. Also, if -- like most creative people -- you have little or no money, you'll be happy to note that many items I chose are cheap or free (though you will probably succumb to in-app upgrades and add-ons, as I have).
So, here are ten apps in alphabetical order that I think are pretty damn cool, useful, or both (as is true in almost all cases).
Alchemy (Camel Audio)
Alchemy isn't a really cool creative music tool with some very usable and tweakable presets. You can buy expansion sound packs, but it comes with a good selection to get you started (and you get 25 more free for registering). Two more things of note: first, it's a smart app in that it allows you to use the iPad itself as a controller so that tilting it will alter the sonic parameters in real time. Second, the Pro Upgrade (still cheap at $14.99) turns it into a full-fledged synth module with load/save capabilities, Virtual MIDI (so you can control it from other apps), sound layering, and much more.
iStroboSoft-HD (Peterson Tuners)
iStroboSoft tuner is the most expensive app on this list at $9.99, the hardware version of the Peterson 490 tuner lists for $925.00... and as far as I can tell, the iPad version works just as well. Incredible!
FREE; In-App "Essential" Tools $6.99
Paper is as good as any computer-based experience I've ever had at mimicking the analog vibe of a notepad. I bought the full "essentials" pack pretty quickly... you'll likely also want to access the different pen, marker, and brush tools, and the palette of colors. Would I like more colors and more tools? You betcha, and I'll probably be standing by when the issue the inevitable expansion pack.
Penultimate (recently acquired by another well-known app company, EverNote) is great at tracking your handwriting in a fast and concise manner, especially if -- like me -- you get a nice stylus for it. I bought the Wacom Bamboo, which has a decent heft to it and so far seems to work very well with Penultimate. I also like the way that one can very easily copy/paste a photo into a note. All useful stuff in many situations.
Photoshop Express (Adobe)
FREE; In-App Filter Pack: $2.99
Photoshop Express is the cheapest way to screw around with some images on your iPad, with zero expertise required to make fun and interesting images. I bought the filter pack ($2.99) to spruce things up a bit. People who need a little more of the full Photoshop vibe might want to step up to Adobe's new Photoshop Touch ($9.99).
Remote turns your iPad into the biggest, baddest remote control for your Mac's iTunes (or Apple TV) you can possibly imagine. A side note: this also uses iTunes' "Home Sharing" feature, which not only lets you control your Mac's iTunes from your iOS device, but also allows you to access your entire iTunes library via your iPad. It's super handy.
SoundHound may be free, but it has a cluttered interface that seems more intent on selling you stuff than serving its one purpose. But that purpose, relegated to a small corner of the screen, is simply awesome: it will listen to any song and tell you the song's name and performer. It's just nuts in that it really works. I've sung some pretty esoteric stuff into the iPad and had SoundHound tell me precisely who did the original. It also got some points via my ego since it recognized every tune from the Zak Claxton album I played at it.
SoundPrism, which doesn't rely on a traditional keyboard or fretboard interface. Much like Alchemy, SoundPrism has Pro upgrade ($15.99), but this one lets you use it as a very new controller for existing VSTis, synthesizers and sound modules. Wow!
Swords & Sworcery EP (Superbrothers)
Swords & Sworcery EP is the first game I've played since then that brings back that same creativity-inspiring quality. I won't -- and honestly can't -- attempt to describe it, other than to say the art is amazing, the music by Jim Guthrie is fantastic, and there's a reason why most critics named it as one of the best games of 2011. Just get it.
Ustream for live video performances for years, so having an even more portable version for free isn't too shabby at all.
I am still finding cool apps every day; I'm sure there will be many updates to this post as time goes by. Also, some honorable mention goes out to some less fun/exciting but still useful apps I'm using: Apple's iWork (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, $9.99 each), Gusto code editor/FTP client ($9.99), and Dropbox (Free) all add some excellent functionality to my iPad, especially when I have to use it for the very last thing I wanted it for.
You know. Work.
Posted by Zak Claxton at 5:12 PM