I’ve done my design work with a Wacom tablet for as long as they have been around. I love creating with a pen instead of a mouse because it is just so much more fluid compared to designing with a mouse which always felt was like drawing with a bar of soap. For years I have also been trying to find some way to justify getting a Wacom Cintiq tablet but the $2,000+ price tag has always kept me from getting one.
Then this week I came across a new app called Astropad and everything changed. Half of Astropad runs on your Mac and the other half on your iPad to turn your iPad into a Cintiq style display where you can use it to control and draw on your Mac.
It is obvious that the app creators really made this for designers and really spent a lot of time trying to solve common problems with apps like this. The first feature I love is that the connection between the Mac and iPad can be created over WiFi or over USB. Having the option of USB is fantastic because if you have ever tried to run an app like this over corporate WiFi or in a hotel you know just how futile that process can be. This makes it easy to use the app in any setting which is has been something where other apps like this have fallen down for me in the past.
Once you’ve got the connection up and running you start to see all the other details in the app like the exception image quality of the screen mirroring, it can be customized to work with your finger or any stylus, and it works with any Mac app without any drivers. But the thing I love the best is that there is a slide out menu that lets you create your own shortcuts so you can do things like increase or decrease brush sizes, switch to the eraser, undo, redo and zoom in or out all from the Astropad iPad interface. You can also switch the screen to be in ‘drawing’ mode to use a stylus to design with or you can have it in ‘move and zoom’ mode to control your files as you use them on your Mac. And the best part is that it all just works easily and every time. All of this was made possible because they built the ground up on a new technology called Liquid which is more than twice as fast as Apple Airplay.
The only down side is that the app costs $50 which makes it expensive but they were smart in that you can get a free 7 day trial to see if you really love it before having to buy it. You can learn more about it here, you can download the Mac version here and get the iPad app here.
I will also say that this also has me even more excited for the possibility of the iPad ‘Pro’ that has been rumored lately which I wanted badly before I saw this app but want it even more now.