The best Apple Vision Pro productivity apps at launch

Forget games, it’s going to be productivity apps like PCalc that make Vision Pro worth buying

The best Apple Vision Pro productivity apps at launch

While Apple shows off movies and games on Apple Vision Pro, productivity app developers are making sure you’ll be able to do serious work with it too. Here are some of the stand-outs so far.

If you were surprised by Apple’s release date for the Vision Pro, you had reason to. Traditionally, the company will promise a release for, say, winter, and it’ll come out on December 22.

That actually is the official start of winter, though, so there is also an argument that Apple is very, very literal about its release dates. Either way, when it said “early 2024” for the Apple Vision Pro, there were more than a few shrugs from people assuming that meant June.

Perhaps that may have been helped by the Vision Pro operating system. “There’s still a lot of work to do on the operating system and presentation,” said AppleInsider in its exclusive hands-on back in August 2023.

And with the OS still being worked on, it follows that app developers could only go so far with their work. While no developer would comment on the record about when Apple told them the final release date, all of them at least implied that they’d had no early notice.

What was different was that some developers interpreted Apple’s “early 2024” correctly — and others did not.

So there are going to be some apps ready for day one, and many more that are not. Apple has only opened the Vision Pro App Store for submissions since revealing the launch date, so its review team is also going to be busy.

Productivity apps will be there and will be key

No one is going to put on a Vision Pro headset and choose Slack as their first app — but they could. The communications app Slack is going to be one of the productivity apps on Vision Pro from the start.

Chat apps like Slack will be on Vision Pro from the start

Chat apps like Slack will be on Vision Pro from the start

Or they could take their exciting new device and settle in for another Cisco Webex video conference. If they’re not a Webex user, though, they will be able to use Zoom instead.

Lesser-known — but respected in their field — apps such as JigSpace will also be on Vision Pro. JigSpace is a presentation app that’s similar in principle to Apple’s Keynote, but it’s really a tool specifically for having 3D presentations

Photographers will have be able to work in Adobe Lightroom from day one

Photographers will have be able to work in Adobe Lightroom from day one

JigSpace and Numbers will be joined by Microsoft PowerPoint, too, though it’s not clear whether that will be on day one. More, what’s really coming to Vision Pro is the whole suite Microsoft 365 apps — which could mean everything from Microsoft Word and Excel to Teams and OneDrive.

In practice, it’s likely to be that Microsoft 365 will include only the apps that the company currently has for the Mac and iPad.

Microsoft has never brought out a version of its database app Microsoft Access or project management one, Microsoft Project, for Apple devices, for instance.

Not just a wall-sized Gantt chart in OmniPlan, but a room-sized one. (Source: Omni Group)

Not just a wall-sized Gantt chart in OmniPlan, but a room-sized one. (Source: Omni Group)

Specialized productivity apps

But one app that its developer told AppleInsider will be there on day one is OmniPlan, a long-standing project management app. There won’t be as many project managers as there will be Apple Arcade players, but they’ll get a larger, wider Gantt chart than they’ve seen before, or at least digitally.

“Large Gantt charts have been in my life for as long as I can remember,” the Omni Group’s Ken Case has written. “When I was young, I remember my father bringing home Gantt charts for the assembly line of the Boeing 747 in big paper rolls.”

Case seems genuinely thrilled at the prospect of the Vision Pro’s infinite canvas and the ability to just have charts as big as a wall.

More than Apple’s hype, it’s this developer enthusiasm that makes Vision Pro promising. And that attitude seems to be consistently the same whether the developer makes niche productivity apps or general use ones.

General productivity apps

Right from Apple’s first unveiling of the Vision Pro, it was clear that there would be a calendar in it — because we could all see Apple’s own Calendar app. But it’s not going to be the only one.

Fantastical developer Michael Simmons has confirmed to AppleInsider that the popular calendar app will be in the Vision Pro App store right from launch.

Previously he’s said that just trying out Vision Pro with his company’s app “was like seeing Fantastical for the first time.”

Fantastical calendar app developer Michael Simmons (center, in yellow) watches as a colleague tries out the app in Vision Pro

Fantastical calendar app developer Michael Simmons (center, in yellow) watches as a colleague tries out the app in Vision Pro

“Experiencing spatial computing not only validated the designs we’d been thinking about,” he continued, “it helped us start thinking not just about left to right or up and down, but beyond borders at all.”

Then James Thomson has had a thing about producing a version of his PCalc calculator app for every single Apple platform going — and he’s made one for Vision Pro.

Demonstrating it on Mastodon, Thomson specifically showed a native Apple Vision Pro app running in Apple’s simulator.

There will be so many more

Thomson has also mentioned something else that is going to prove significant — he says he had previously run his iPadOS version in the Vision Pro simulator.

By default, every iPad app will be available to run on Vision Pro. This is not the same as the way that a Mac has been able to run iPad and iPhone apps since Apple Silicon was launched, however.

In that case, developers have to positively choose to create a Mac version of their app in the Xcode development tool. They don’t absolutely have to do any work, but it’s a conscious decision to put their iOS or iPadOS app out on macOS.

With Vision Pro, a developer will have to explicitly choose to prevent their iPad apps being available on Vision Pro. It’s this ability to run iPad apps unchanged, and developers not even having to tick a box to make it happen, that is going to mean the Vision Pro App Store may be more full than, say, the Mac App Store was at launch.

Vision Pro's App Store will showcase native apps but also compatible ones built for the iPad

Vision Pro’s App Store will showcase native apps but also compatible ones built for the iPad

What we have little idea about so far is how much most of these apps will cost. The OmniGroup sells its OmniPlan as a single purchase that gets you the app across the Mac, iPad and iPhone, and they confirm that it will now automatically include the Vision Pro version.

It's not as dramatic a use of Vision Pro as watching 3D dinosaurs, but being able to do this work is what may make people buy over the longterm

It’s not as dramatic a use of Vision Pro as watching 3D dinosaurs, but being able to do this work is what may make people buy over the longterm

Other companies are less forthcoming about charges, though that’s quite possibly as much because they’re still scrabbling to finish the apps as it is that they’re still guessing what people will pay.

It’s certain that users will buy apps, though, and the ones that will get attention, especially at launch, are the games and the streamers. Disney+ and HBO’s Max are confirmed, for instance, plus of course there will be Apple TV+.

But Vision Pro is too costly to be a casual gaming purchase, it’s going to have to prove to be worth its expense. We’ll have to see how effective iPadOS apps are when they run unaltered on Vision Pro, but ultimately it’s going to be the native productivity apps that will make or break the new device.

If Vision Pro doesn’t deliver productivity apps, there will be nothing to stop us carrying on with our existing computers — or maybe even going further back in time, since someone did get Windows XP to work in the Vision Pro simulator.

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