If you want more from a photo-editing app than simple filters and cropping, Pixelmator is just the thing: a powerful yet easy-to-use image-editing app with more retouching tools than you can shake a (paintbrush) stick at, tapping Apple’s iCloud service to run across devices.
2. Auxy: Beat Studio
Auxy is an accessible but deceptively powerful music-making app, where you create beats, bass lines and melodies then string them together into tracks to share online. It’s stylish, fun and has plenty of flexibility, with more features for preserving your work added since launch.
3. Microsoft Word
Microsoft finally brought its Office suite to iPad, including individual apps for its different elements. Word represents them all in the context of this roundup, then: it was a serviceable tablet port of the company’s flagship word processing software, with Microsoft’s Office 365 subscriptions built in.
4. Pacemaker DJ
There have been DJ apps for iPad since the tablet’s earliest days, but Pacemaker DJ brought a big new feature to the table: it drew on streaming service Spotify for tracks to play, rather than just your own collection. But it was also an inventive take on tablet DJing for other reasons: its tactile interface worked really well.
5. Toca Nature
Toca Nature was an app from children’s publisher Toca Boca: a creative sandbox for exploring nature. Kids raise and lower the land to create mountains, valleys and lakes, then plant trees to attract foxes, bears, woodpeckers and other wildlife.
6. Molecules by Theodore Gray
Publisher Touch Press had a huge hit in the iPad’s early days with its Elements app. This year it followed up with Molecules: a beautifully-crafted app that has a book as its guts, but layers on top some wonderfully-playful simulations of 348 molecules to interact with using tactile controls.
7. Kitchen Stories
Apple choosing this as one of its apps of 2014 may have surprised some, but not cooks for whom it had become a trusted kitchen companion. Kitchen Stories is a cleanly-designed recipe guide app, with videos, photos and step-by-step instructions that even a cuisine dunce would be hard-pressed to misinterpret.
8. American Interior
American Interior was this year’s album from Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys, but it was also a book, a film and an app telling the story of adventurer John Evans’ quest to find a fabled Welsh-speaking native American tribe. The app uses a mixture of text, video and music, and is a great way into the book, film and album.
The coding-for-kids category got crowded on the app stores this year, but ScratchJr came from a fine source: MIT, which was responsible for the Scratch visual programming language that inspired it. Aimed at 5-7 year-olds, this app gets children to create stories by slotting together blocks of code.
10. Storehouse – Visual Storytelling
Not telling you stories: an app for you to use to tell your own tales, using photos, videos and text. Storehouse is one of those apps that Apple can hold up in defence when people say its iPad is for consuming, not creating. This is a simple way to turn your digital media into stories for sharing on various social networks.
Books might not be social when you’re reading them, but they can be hugely social when you’re discussing them later – ask any book group. No digital service has ever quite nailed the idea of social reading, but Glose looked like a promising attempt this year, with its community features.
12. Radio Times Magazine
I’ll be honest: I still buy a print copy of the Radio Times every Christmas and ring loads of programmes with a red biro (then manage not to watch most of them). But the popular UK TV listings magazine also released a smart iPad app this year, for couch potatoes wanting more than their EPG.
13. Brian Cox’s Wonders of Life
This book-app from HarperCollins followed its first app collaboration with TV’s Brian Cox, Wonders of the Universe. Wonders of Life turned its attention to life on earth, with 3D creatures and habitats to explore, and plenty of video, images and articles to inspire you.
Pitched as a “knowledge social network”, Learnist was one of a growing number of apps designed for keen self-educators, harvesting information and videos on a host of different topics for you to browse and digest. A fertile source of ideas and practical advice alike.
15. Timeline WW1 Tanks
Author and TV presenter Dan Snow thinks apps are ideal for teaching history to all ages, and Timeline WW1 Tanks was one of the apps from his own company Ballista that showed his thinking. It was a fascinating history of the tank, based around an interactive timeline, with a wealth of multimedia material to explore.
16. KORG Gadget
Synthesizer maker KORG’s new app was expensive – launching for £19.99 – but it was marvellous value for music enthusiasts. It’s a collection of mobile synths and drum machines which you can mix and match to create songs, then share them via SoundCloud, Facebook and/or Twitter.
17. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
Touch Press had a busy year, with this being its latest classical music app: a sumptuous multimedia version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Multi-angle video of an orchestra playing the music, along with a “BeatMap” feature to show which sections are playing at any one time, and the ability to solo instruments and find out more about Vivaldi himself.
18. Star Wars Scene Maker
A real treat for Star Wars fans: an iPad app for dreaming up your own scenes within the movie universe, using 3D models of characters and settings, then cutting in dialogue from the Star Wars films or your own recordings. And then sharing the results. Think of the fan-fiction possibilities…
19. Mickey’s Magical Maths World
The first in a new series of educational apps for children by Disney: Mickey’s Magical Maths World is a collection of five mathematical mini-games hosted by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy. They’re elegantly done, with lots of extra interactivity for kids to explore – and a smart parental companion app too.
20. PDF Office
Developer Readdle has made a succession of very-useful productivity apps: and its PDF Office offered another angle: it creates editable PDF documents on your iPad, including by taking photos of physical forms and converting them. Once you have it, you’ll realise how often it could come in handy.
21. Think Like Churchill
Another Touch Press app, this time with a famous collaborator: London mayor Boris Johnson. Think Like Churchill aims to help you understand Winston Churchill by putting you in his shoes for some of his most famous political dilemmas, using his writings, advice from colleagues and other real historical documentation.
22. Next for iPad
If you like nothing more than settling down on the sofa of an evening and browsing graphs of your expenses… Well, perhaps check out Netflix or board games. But Next for iPad is nevertheless an excellent expense-tracking app, taking good advantage of the larger touchscreen to present your finances in a clear and simple way.
23. Post-it Plus
A Post-it app? It sounds like a ridiculous novelty, but actually Post-it Plus was a clever idea: an app capable of photographing your Post-it scribbles from a meeting, then turning them into a digital board for further organising, editing and sharing.
24. Duet Display
Released right at the end of 2014, Duet Display could be a real boon for anyone who needs more display from their desktop, but doesn’t want to shell out for an extra monitor. This turns your iPad into an extra display, promising – and delivering, as far as I can tell – “lag-free” performance.
25. iPlayer Radio for iPad
Another release late in the year, here in the UK, iPlayer Radio for iPad is the official iPad version of the Beeb’s radio app, optimised for the bigger screen in both portrait and landscape modes, with simple navigation to get to your favourite stations and shows quickly.
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