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iOS app review: Astropad. Free to try, $US49.99 after that

25 Feb 2015

iPads and Macs are suddenly talking to each other in more interesting ways than ever before. It’s like they’ve been at the same party, furtively glancing across the room, and now all of a sudden they’ve taken the plunge and are making out on the sofa.

Enter Astropad, which might be the exact thing you’ve been waiting for if you’re a designer type.

There are two parts. The iPad app is free. The associated Mac programme, which you need, is US$49.99 (free to try for 7 days). Yeah, that’s a lot, but it’s cheaper than one of those fancy Wacom screens, which is essentially what it’s mimicking.

The Astropad app on your iPad mirrors what’s happening on your Mac screen, allowing both screens to work on the contents. All you need to do is load up your favourite design tool and get cracking.

You can use your finger or stylus on your iPad to draw, paint, or whatever you like, and you can use your Mac to do the things that are best done on a computer with a mouse—copy and paste, file admin, selecting obscure tools in deep menus, that kind of thing. It’s a workflow that operates remarkably well, and I found myself intuitively jumping between devices easily. 

There are drawbacks, though they are not Astropad’s fault. The biggest flaw you’ll find is that it’s pretty hard to find a decent designer-level stylus for an iPad (they do exist, apparently, but they’re hard to find and I’m yet to see them in the flesh).

Whether or not Astropad justifies its price tag, then, depends on whether a designer feels that they can do what they need to do with it—and whether that designer wouldn’t rather just shell out the extra-big-bucks for a professional tool like a Wacom. For the rest of us who are more ‘enthusiasts’ than ‘professionals’ and don’t mind producing the dough, Astropad may offer a truly innovative solution to trying to use a mouse to draw a picture of our cat.

By Clayton Foster