My Top Paid iPad Apps

Well Christmas is here, and a lot of folks will be getting iTunes gift cards 1. So I thought I’d share some of the best paid apps for getting “real work” done on an iPad. The emphasis here is on “paid.” Apps like the iWork suite will not be included 2, and “freemium” apps are also out. Paid apps which include some in-app purchases for more advanced features are ok. Let’s have some fun.

Scrivener – $19.99

Scrivener is the sonic screwdriver of writing apps. It’s got more features than most folks will ever dream of using, but anyone who is familiar with any other iPad writing app will be able to jump in without much of a hitch 3. iOS Scrivener has a clean layout, and is great for organizing long-form writing like academic papers and novels. That doesn’t mean it’s not a decent choice for short-form pieces like blog posts, however, as it excels with this as well.

All my writing – blog posts, novels, weekly sermons, and presentation development – is created inside Scrivener. Each is organized in it’s own project and synced with my Mac version via Dropbox.

iOS Scrivener is a fantastic tool, though if it had one weak point is would be compiling. The options are far more limited when compared to its Desktop sibling, and the coding language used to produce custom formatting requires more effort than most people are willing to give. Even with this limitation $19.99 for this feature set is a steal.

iOS Scrivener Interface
I use Scrivener for all my writing projects.

Affinity Photo – $19.99

Adobe is coming out with “real Photoshop” on the iPad in 2019, and the demos of this new implementation have been nice. But it remains dependent on having a Creative Cloud Subscription. This is a non-starter for a lot of folks.

It doesn’t matter. Affinity Photo fills in the gap of no Photoshop nicely. It’s a great tool for composites, has full Apple Pencil support, and even boasts a raw development module. Effects and filters are drawn on images in pretty much real-time, and it’s interface is so good I find the “more robust” interface of the desktop version a bit clunky. If you do any composite photo editing on your iPad, you need Affinity Photo.

Affinity Photo in action
Affinity Photo is a terrific photo editor.

Affinity Designer – $19.99

Take everything I said about the interface, and then add in a default-module dedicated completely to vector image design. I used to use Autodesk Graphic 4 on my iPad and Mac because I could open the same file on both devices. Once Affinity Designer showed up I switched over the first opportunity I got. If you’ve ever wanted to make a logo, icon, or flyer on the iPad, Affinity Designer is the app to use.

Affinity Designer shows off its stuff.
Affinity Designer just might be my favorite iPad app ever.

Luma Fusion – $19.99

Luma Fusion is the closest video editors can get to Final Cut X Pro or Adobe Premiere on the iPad. It boasts one of the fastest editing interfaces I’ve ever used, and handles multi-track 4k video without a hiccup 5. In addition, Luma Fusion is is able to handle three layers of Video plus audio, and another three tracks of audio only. That’s impressive.

Luma Fusion also boasts a multi-layer title editor which can create some lovely overlays, but these layers can only be animated as a whole – the different elements can’t be key-framed.

The app did recently introduce it’s first IAP, called “storyblocks.” This is a $69.99/yearly 6 subscription. The subscription provides access to royalty-free music, stock footage clips, loops, sound effects, and backgrounds. For professionals who want quick access to stock elements this is a very good deal, but the subscription isn’t necessary for the app to work – editors are free to bring in their own elements into Luma Fusion as needed. There’s also no in-app nags to subscribe, which is much appreciated 7.

Luma Fusion is an amazing technical achievement.
Luma Fusion may lack a few features (I’d love to see an animated titler and a 3D motion graphics companion app), but it’s a GREAT Non-Linear Editor for the iPad.

  1. Should they even be called that any more? Who buys things from iTunes? I guess some folks buy movies, but that still misses the “iTunes” idea. But I digress… 
  2. But every iPad owner should be using them. Or, at the very least, Keynote. 
  3. There is also an excellent tutorial. 
  4. Formerly iDraw. 
  5. The same footage causes my MacBook to choak. 
  6. Or $9.99/monthly. 
  7. Do you hear that, YouTube? 


  1. larosa217 says:

    I’d love to see those same things in LumaFusion. Unfortunately, most of those await updates to iOS since it doesn’t yet support the alpha channel in videos. As soon as that happens, LumaFusion is going to be an even better app!

    1. wezlo says:

      You mean alpha channel for rendered video? That makes sense since you’d have to render a layered title as a video to bring it into the timeline. Internally, Luma handles alpha channels really well.

  2. chrisjwilson says:

    Great selection Wes. I’ve been playing more with affinity designer and have to give it more of a go. I’ll send you my list once I’ve finished.

    1. wezlo says:

      Excellent! I used to use Editorial before I migrated to Scrivener for everything. Drafts also looks nice.

    2. chrisjwilson says:

      I like Scrivener but I wouldn’t want to use it for certain writing tasks, it would take me too long to be ready for writing whereas drafts is more write first, then organize (which can have the downside of NOT organizing my writing). Some of the new features really do make drafts feel like the spiritual successor of Editorial. Great that we can have different options.

    3. wezlo says:

      Heh, the organizational features are what moved me to Scrivener full-time – and I can export markdown and trigger a publish to WordPress shortcut.

  3. Sigh…sooooo many neat things….

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