If you’re already using an Apple iPad, initial improvements delivered by the new Apple 10.5-inch iPad Pro can seem deceptively skin deep. Sure, there’s a larger 10.5-inch screen size, a truly Goldilocks “just right” screen outfitted with a 120Hz refresh rate, illuminated up to 600 nits of brightness, and displaying a wider gamut of colors with True Tone technology for crisp graphic acuity. And inside a new 64-bit A10X Fusion chip with six cores fits within the iPad Pro’s 6.1mm thin case, pushing everything fast, fast, and faster with nary a hiccup. It’s all quite expected, and in sum, results in simply the best iPad we’ve ever tested.
All of these improvements, however welcome (alongside numerous other smaller hardware tweaks, like the most instantaneous TouchID sensor we’ve ever tested) presents a register of unsurprising evolutionary upgrades in comparison to an already solid iPad experience. That’s been the real dilemma for Apple: the iPad has long been a capable and durable device hampered by the limitations of its operating system, one that has never really warranted immediate upgrades on an annual cycle (or even every 3 years). iPad users have a tendency to hold onto their iOS-powered portables for years, satisfied enough with its capabilities even in the face of ever improving screens and chips, or even with the promise of expanded utility offered by the likes of the genuinely capable Apple Pencil.
Fortunately, Apple is finally offering a substantive pivotal upgrade, one directed toward the professionals who’ve always most defined Apple’s core culture: designers. iOS 11, the yet-to-be released mobile device operating system, is aimed squarely at improving nearly everything about the iPad Pro (and iPhone, to a lesser degree), unlocking many of the features users have long clamored for: multi-tasking, file management, on-screen annotations, drag-and-drop, and even a dock that makes the iPad feel a little closer to the computer versus a plain ol’ tablet.
Now several months into using iOS 11 Beta, we’re convinced Apple is finally catering to graphic designers, architects, illustrators, and other creatives who operate siloed within a single app, but tend to cross-pollinate ideas and projects across numerous apps and applications throughout the day. What we have now is a tandem effort merging improved hardware with an even more improved operating system that works for, instead of against, the intentions and needs of professionals.
For example, iOS 11 now allows users to select a multitude of files to attach to an email or text using multi-touch. For designers who are perpetually sending images for review and approval, this small yet significant change is a game-changer. Drag-and-drop is fully systemwide, accessible from the Home screen, Dock, Reminders, Calendar, Messages, Search, Files app, Safari, Contacts, iBooks, News, Notes, Photos, Maps, Keynote, Pages, and Numbers. We fully expect shortly after iOS 11’s official launch just around the corner, we’ll see this Developer API supported feature become standard across all apps.
Normally we’re not prone to recommend others to switch to non-final software, especially operating systems. But in this particular case the benefits delivered by iOS 11 Beta to iPad owners far outweigh the few issues we’ve seen across every incremental update of iOS 11’s Beta phase. Multi-tasking apps into split view, list view of files, and the ability to drag and drop photos and text into other apps all add up to a transformative experience that finally answers the wishes of anyone who has muttered, “If only the iPad could…”.
Even if you’re not planning to jump onto the iPad Pro or iOS 11 upgrade bandwagon yet, there is an ever increasing list of apps designed to help the creative set create rather than consume. The baker’s dozen list below contains some of our current favorite picks for architects and interior designers (many that I’ve loaded/tested while researching apps for a local landscape architecture firm). Those updated with features specific to the new iPad Pro below are noted:
Archisketch, Sketch and Doodle to Scale
A scale-aware sketching program ideal for architects, interior and landscape designers, product designers, design students or anyone working with design on the iPad. Archisketch supports Apple Pencil. Draw to scale and layer over your sketch to further develop your ideas. Visualize your ideas in 3D and use smart one- and two-point perspectives.
AutoCAD – DWG Viewer & Editor
The official AutoCAD mobile app by Autodesk features easy-to-use drawing and drafting tools that allow you to view, create, edit and share AutoCAD drawings. You can upload and open 2D DWG drawings and view all aspects of your DWG file, including external references, layers and image underlays.
Autodesk FormIt by Autodesk
Autodesk FormIt is a mobile powerhouse solution designed to conceptualize digitally using the iPad and Apple Pencil, one that really benefits from the extra pixel pushing horsepower of these new iPad Pro models. Formit uses real-world site information to help create forms in context and support early design decisions with real building data. Experience a continuous Building Information Modeling (BIM) workflow by synchronizing designs in the cloud for further refinement using Autodesk Revit software products and other applications.
BIMx – Building Information Model eXplorer by GRAPHISOFT
GRAPHISOFT has yet to optimize this BIM communication tool for iOS 11, but users praise the app’s ‘Hyper-model BIMx’ technology for navigating plans and 3D construction models to “share with clients…including the VR features” for on site collaboration and decision making.
Concepts – Sketch, Design and Illustrate *optimized for the new iPad Pro
Concepts intelligently combines sketching with powerful vector manipulation. Optimized for iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, you can bring the power of CAD to your sketches through multi-touch shape guides, automatic measurements and snap-to sketching. It now takes advantage of ProMotion on the new iPad Pro and the native resolution of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.
Morpholio Trace – Sketch & Design for Architects *optimized for the new iPad Pro
Designed for architects, Trace is best for times when a project requires layered additions to existing photos, images, or background templates, building markups or ideas to generate immediate, intelligent sketches in the app. All ready for a hardware upgrade, Trace is optimized for the native resolution of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.
Morpholio Journal: Design & Architect Sketchbook *optimized for the new iPad Pro
Like to journal? Morpholio’s updated app is designed to record, organize, sketch and brainstorm ideas along with photos, images or text to capture and develop your most important thoughts, the entire app optimized for the native resolution of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. The app includes an array of drawing and writing tools including pens, pencils and paint to capture those first few ideas to use as a springboard.
Morpholio Board: Interior Design, Decor, Moodboard *optimized for the new iPad Pro
A tool now optimized for the native resolution of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro for any creative process or presentation, Morpholio Board allows users to effortlessly layout, collage and illustrate with a series of photos, images, sketches and annotations to generate beautiful and informative boards that are easy to share.
Built from scratch for the way today’s engineers, designers, and manufacturers work, Onshape allows you to use intuitive sketch tools, build 3D geometry and interactive assemblies. Fully optimized for Apple Pencil, use it to zoom in on small features, sketch select and interact with 3D models. All designs are stored securely in the cloud and are always up-to-date. Share your Documents with others and work on the same parts and assemblies in real-time with the push of a button.
PlanGrid – Construction Blueprints and Punch Lists
Instantly share construction plans, markups, photos, and reports with your entire project team, right from your iPad. PlanGrid keeps everyone on the current set and manages all your construction documents without relying on paper.
Procreate *optimized for the new iPad Pro
The standard by which all illustration apps are measured against, this powerful sketching, painting and illustration app continues to improve with every hardware/iOS release. Procreate features ground-breaking canvas resolution, 128 brushes and an advanced layer system. It now takes advantage of ProMotion on the new iPad Pro, which makes drawing with Apple Pencil feel even more natural.
Shapr3D *optimized for the new iPad Pro
A mobile CAD app designed to take advantage of the iPad Pro’s power and the input flexibility offered by the Apple Pencil to create and manipulate 3D models. Great for engineers, industrial designers, 3D hobbyists and architects. Optimized for ProMotion included with the new iPad Pro.
uMake – 3D Sketch, Design, Modeling
Developed around the idea that modeling in 3D should be easy for everyone, uMake lets you create in 3D space in an entirely new way—by simply sketching. Together with iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, uMake allows you to do 3D modeling, graphic design and engineering concepts. Create with vector based NURBS curves and surfaces, and export files to use with other CAD apps.
Are you an architect, landscape designer, or interior designer who uses the iPad professionally? Which apps do you recommend? And what do you still think needs to be improved?