Top 10 iOS Apps for Designers

Designers tend to gravitate to objects that are well designed, so it’s no surprise to find designers with iPhones, iPads or iPod touches. The capability of Apple’s iOS devices to run apps makes them desirable on more than an aesthetic level: developers are building useful apps that designers can take advantage of, whether at the office, meeting with clients, or escaping for some outside inspiration. Here are 10 apps to bolster your productivity, and one to keep your mental typographic muscles in shape.

Note: Except where noted specifically, the apps marked as being “iPhone, iPod touch” also can run on the iPad, but in an emulation mode that doesn’t take advantage of the iPad’s large screen. Apps that list “iPad, iPhone, iPod touch” are designed to run natively on any iOS device.

1. OmniGraffle
Device: iPad
What it does: Creates diagrams, wireframes, flowcharts, and other drawings that benefit from some structure.

Why you want it: When you need to diagram a concept, mock up a website structure, or build a rough wireframe for a site, you could take a pen to a napkin and draw it out. But then someone (typically you) needs to convert that into something that can be edited, printed and distributed. With OmniGraffle on the iPad, you can build it wherever you are and have a version that can be emailed or copied back to your computer for further tweaking. If you already use OmniGraffle for Mac, you also can add projects you’ve created on the computer and transfer them to the iPad, ready for presenting to clients or editing with collaborators.

$49.99; You can purchase this through iTunes or OmniGraffle directly.


2. ColorExpert
Device: iPhone, iPod touch
What it does: Helps you find colors that work together, identify Pantone swatches and hex values, and pull colors from digital photos.


Why you want it: With a few taps, you can put colors together to see how they interact, or choose a color on a color wheel and get its Pantone value. When you’re done tinkering, email the results to yourself, which include not just the color values but also an Adobe Swatch Exchange (ASE) file that can be imported into Photoshop.

$9.99; Find it on iTunes or Click Here.

3. AutoDesk SketchBook Pro
Device: iPad
What it does: Painting and sketching


Why you want it: Whether you need to sketch an image quickly or spend time creating a painting, SketchBook Pro has the tools to do it. If finger painting isn’t your style, consider buying a Pogo Sketch stylus. (The iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch have capacitive touch screens, which react to the electricity in your body; that’s why a Wacom stylus won’t work on these devices. The Pogo picks up the electricity from your fingers.) AutoDesk also offers SketchBook Mobile for the iPhone running iOS 4.

$7.99; Find it on iTunes or Click Here.

4. Dropbox
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
What it does: Keeps files synchronized among all your computers and devices.


Why you want it: It’s indispensable if you need to use files in various locations and on multiple machines. Store all of your presentation materials in a folder on your computer and they’re automatically uploaded to a server at Dropbox (giving you incremental backups) and duplicated on any other computer. The app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch lets you view everything and download what you need on a per-item basis. Dropbox has fundamentally changed how I work for the better, no matter what I’m working on.

Cost: Free; Account provides 2 GB of storage; more capacity can be purchased. Get it here.

5. What the Font
Device: iPhone/iPod touch
What it does: Identifies fonts.


Why you want it: You’re out walking and spy the perfect font for your current project, but what typeface is it? Snap a photo with your iPhone (or load a saved image that you synced or copied from Safari in an iPod touch), draw a selection box around the text, and upload the image. The app picks out the letters and then delivers font matches.

Free; Find it on iTunes or Click Here.

6. GoodReader
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
What it does: Reads PDFs, transfers files


Why you want it: The iOS can read PDF files without assistance, but its implementation is pretty bare-bones. Links don’t often work, and long documents can be a chore. GoodReader, available in versions for the iPad and for the iPhone and iPod touch, makes reading PDFs much less painful. However, GoodReader isn’t just a PDF reader: you can transfer files of all types (Office files, movies, images) either via syncing through iTunes or by creating a temporary wireless server from within the app.

$0.99; Find it on iTunes or Click Here.

7. Gorillacam
Device: iPhone only
What it does: Adds many useful features for taking photos


Why you want it: The iPhone’s camera is great, but the software running it is fairly simple. Gorillacam (from Joby, the makers of the Gorillapod flexible tripods) adds controls such as a self-timer, grid overlay, time-lapse mode, a bubble level, and more.

Free; Find it on iTunes or Click Here.

8. 1Password Pro
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
What it does: Secure password storage


Why you want it: I know this 1Password isn’t necessarily a design-specific app, but if you use a computer, you no doubt have lots of passwords to manage. 1Password on the Mac stores Web logins, software serial numbers, and other secure information; 1Password for iOS devices syncs that data so you always have the information at hand. Need to log into a CMS remotely and the login information has escaped you? No problem. (1Password Pro works on all iOS devices; there’s also 1Password for iPad and 1Password for iPhone, each $6.99, that offer reduced features.)

$14.99; Find it on iTunes or Click Here.

9. Photogene/Photogene for iPad
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
What it does: Image editing


Why you want it: I’m not quite ready to do full-scale image editing on an iPad or iPhone, especially not for print projects. But Photogene is the one app I’ve seen that’s closest to Photoshop. If you need to do some on-site editing, or take an image and mock up changes to be processed later (or, heck, prepare a low-resolution image for the Web), Photogene has it all: levels, curves, exposure and color temperature adjustments, and filter presets for specific looks or effects.

$3.99; Find it on iTunes or Click Here.

10. PrintBureau
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
What it does: Prints to many Wi-Fi printers, or via a computer on the network.


Why you want it: The iPad is a portable computer that can handle documents, Office files, presentations‚ but can’t currently print anything. Although Steve Jobs has hinted that printing will be coming in a future update, that’s not helpful now. PrintBureau detects compatible printers on your network, or you can run free print server software on a connected computer.

$12.99; Find it on iTunes or Click Here.

Don’t forget to keep your mental typographic muscles in shape with this last app.
11. The Font Game
Device: iPhone, iPod touch
What it does: Tests your font knowledge


Why you want it: How well do you know your typefaces? The Font Game tests your knowledge by displaying the word “fargo” in one of 657 fonts, and giving you four choices as to which it could be.

Cost: $0.99; Find it on iTunes or Click Here.

Jeff Carlson is the author of “The iPad Pocket Guide” (Peachpit Press) and “Take Control of Media on Your iPad” (TidBITS Publishing, Inc); a columnist for the Seattle Times; an editor at TidBITS, and a frequent magazine contributor.
Follow @JeffCarlson on Twitter.



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