Developing on an iPad can be challenging, but more and more tools are making it possible to do serious work on the device. Here’s a few apps that you might want do check out if you’re a developer.
My in-laws live in Louisiana and we’ve always made at least one annual car trip from Florida. Years ago that meant that I would have to lug around a desktop and a fairly large monitor wedged underneath a car seat so I could tinker around with some projects while on vacation. Thankfully, over the years things have gotten smaller and now a 13″ laptop will do.
Today, I find myself going for different devices for different purposes. I no longer take my laptop to meetings, it’s just easier to take an iPad; When I’m on the go, my trusty iPhone is always with me. Occasionally, I’m tempted to do everything on my iPad. So I’ve been experimenting with the tools available for web development on the iPad and I think there’s some real promising apps.
The one thing an iPad needs for web development is a file system and nothing fits the bill like Dropbox. Most people are familiar with this excellent tool that allows you to sync items between devices, but for development on an iPad it’s essential. On an iPad this IS your file system. Many programs have built in support for this service which allows you to do things like save, export and manage files to your Dropbox. It’s ability to do versioning and even retrieve files I’ve deleted has saved my bacon more than once. Dropbox Free
When I’m on the planning stages of any project, I love a good outliner to help me get my thoughts organized. MindNode from Markus Müller has just the right mix of power and ease of use. It’s a good example of how intuitive an iPad program should be. I like the ability to export the mindmaps in different formats including OPML outlines or PNGs. There’s a desktop version (sold separately), plus the app works on an iPhone. Although sync’ing still feels a bit odd between devices, it’s a handy feature. MindNode $5.99
Mockups are a great way to get yourself organized at the beginning of a project, and iMockups does a great job. The app feels really intuitive, which is probably the highest praise for anything on an iPad. I like the two finger scroll and selection and the ability to easily customize the display of any element, plus the rich library of icons and interface elements. You can even bring your own photos from the library. It allows you to export as PNG or Balsamiq’s BMML format, which is crucial, but I would love to be able to export to my Dropbox. There’s some great built in video tutorials and the ability to create different projects with multiple pages. iMockups for iPad $6.99
Because of a lack of a file system on the iPad, it’s impossible for you to download jQuery, install htmlreset or boilerplate directly on the device. A good SSH program will at least allow you to do this on your server through wget to download the files and unzip to decompress. iSSH is jam packed with powerful features like the ability to have multiple connections running simultaneously. I also really liked Prompt from Panic for it’s simplicity, but it seemed to run slow on my device…plus this is one time when some of the additional features of iSSH are important. iSSH $9.99
Every once in a while, you’ll forget something on your base station and you’ll need to get it to your iPad. Perhaps it’s something you meant to copy to your Dropbox so it’d be accessible on your iPad. One of the problems a good VNC program has to solve is mouse support and Desktop connect handles it well. It treats the iPad’s screen as a large trackpad that you can use to move the pointer around. Desktop Connect $14.99
A good FTP program will let you manage your files on your server a little more efficiently than with terminal access. FTP on the go gives top notch File Transfer Protocol tools including the ability to CHMOD, edit and preview files on your server. There’s a built in web browser so you can check out your work without having to switch to Safari. I like the ability to decompress zip and create zip archives. You can easily resize images, crop them or add simple captions from within the app, which is real handy for processing images. Need to post a video? This app will even let you capture photos or videos and upload them to your site from the App. FTPOnTheGo PRO $14.99
There are tons of good drawing apps on the iPad, but most of them are bitmap based tools with limited export and sharing capabilities. iDraw is an excellent vector drawing tool that has some essential features for creating artwork for the web. Excellent Dropbox integration is one of the features that I look for in any app and iDraw doesn’t disappoint. You can import and export to DropBox as well as the usual places. One feature that is often missing in graphics programs, but present here is the ability to export transparent PNGs…iDraw will even let you export SVG files so that your graphics can remain vector elements. The drawing tools feel natural and will be easy to pick up for an experienced Adobe Illustrator user. Group, ungroup, flip, resize, strokes, gradients, arrows, shadows and opacity are all there. iDraw $6.99
A lot of apps will let you add special effects, but for a good photo editor, I need serious image adjustment and file system support. Photogene delivers with localized effects like dodge, burn, blur and grayscale. The iPad’s displays shines to give you a nice place to adjust images, so it’s nice to be able to have histogram, color temperature, sharpening and most of what you need to tweak things. This app also supports large files (5616×4212), has good export support for Dropbox, plus a built-in FTP tool for uploading to your server as well as to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Picassa. PhotoGene $2.99
I’d love to hear about other tools that you find useful as a developer trying to make the iPad part of your toolbox.