For those interested in going mobile with iPad

For those interested in going mobile with iPad

(Wilson Ng) #1

I accidentally discovered a podcast about using the iPad as the hub of your digital life. Here’s the tagline for this Relay FM podcast…

Hosted by Federico Viticci and Fraser Speirs, Canvas is a podcast all about mobile productivity. Armed with iOS, Federico and Fraser will be walking through workflows, exploring the best apps for the iPad and iPhone and helping users solve problems.

I’m finding myself not needing to lug around my MacBook Pro 13" as much. I have been slipping into my messenger bag my iPad Air 2 and an Apple bluetooth keyboard. Nearly everything is being worked on my iPad now. I have the iWorks suite, Ulysses, Fantastical, Apple Mail, Dropbox,, Safari, and OmniFocus being my mostly used apps.

I do have other app such as iThoughts but it hasn’t seen much love lately.

The Microsoft Surface has seen a lot of interest lately. The nice thing is that you can use a full OS and can use your current Windows apps. But I think Apple isn’t afraid to break from the past. It was a jarring experience switching from MacOS 9 to MacOS X if you go that far back. The transition from PowerPC to Intel wasn’t as jarring.

But I’m guessing because MacOS X is starting to show its age despite being a very robust system, Apple probably designed iOS as a reboot of their ecosystem. My guess is that they’re trying to refine and tinker under the hood as the years pass. iOS 11 has been a breakthrough with the introduction of multiple spaces and drag and drop (finally!).

Another jarring experience was when the first Mac was the first computer to use the mouse as a main input device with the keyboard. Other things were the dramatic decision to not include 3.5" floppy drives, discarding optical drives, and deprecating standard I/O connections such as SCSI and FireWire. The latest items that Apple has discarded has been standard USB connections in favor of USB-C and the headphone port on the iPhone. So we can see that Apple isn’t afraid to buck the trend.

I might guess that eventually MacOS X will be deprecated and replaced by a full featured iOS ecosystem. Developers are learning to create apps for iOS after years of working on MacOS X. I think I saw a tweet somewhere from Omnigroup head honcho, Ken Case, that stated that they are seeing more sales of OmniFocus for iOS over OmniFocus for MacOS.

As much as I love my MacOS X and USB 3 connections, I’m grudgingly changing. I find that the only time I use my USB ports is to connect my iOS devices and external hard drives. I’m using Dropbox and more often and print/scan via wifi. It’s a changing tide that is rolling over us now.

The Canvas podcast started in January 2016 and features a lot of issues that is involved with using an iPad as a main device. I’m finding several episodes interesting… There is a small series of using “Workflow” on iOS that I’ll be listening to. They also discuss some of the workflows and trouble spots they’re discovering with iOS 11.

I’ll use my Mac when I need more screen real estate but Handoff has been creating in letting me work on the iPad and then opening the same document on my Mac and continue work there. It’s interesting to see developers getting new APIs with every iOS release and creating new workflows for us.

It’s a great podcast to listen to if you’re vaguely interesting in using your iPad more frequently.

(Mike N) #2

That is a great podcast.

Federico also has many articles regarding using an iPad as the primary device at

He wrote a massive overview of it awhile back:

It was before iOS11 so many of the workarounds are no longer necessary.

Author Matt Gemmell has a series of posts of switching to an iPadPro only:

There is a stand he recommends in one of the articles that I’ve picked up that is brilliant.

I use an iPad Pro as my primary device. It my main personal device, my side business device, and my 75% day job device. I have a day of excel jockeying and a day of video editing per week that limit the use. My phone is generally

If you travel a lot, even as a daily commuter, getting a cellular enabled iPad is incredibly useful.

There are limitations for specific use cases (developers), but iOS is truly a fantastic operating system.

(Wilson Ng) #3

I’ve just been connecting my iPad to the iPhone hot spot to get internet connection. I didn’t feel like adding another cost to my cellphone bill.

(Simon) #4

If that happens I suspect they will lose a lot of users. iWorks is now a shadow of it’s former self. The ratings say it all 1-3 stars. I’ve recently purchased Office2016 because Apple’s offering is so massively poor. Numbers was my goto app on mac and ios until they started to remove all the features, no date picker, poor rules support and the list continues.

I cannot think of a worse OS to use as my main workhorse than iOS. File management would be a massive headache. Besides, many of the heavy lifting apps such as Devonthink pro and graphic and video editors would be cumbersome. Of course, Apple may well do this as their main revenue is the iPhone, which seems to be demonstrated from the very poor development of macOS since Tiger days. There are a great many mac users looking at Windows again and wondering if the switch with Apple’s lacklustre OSX development is inevitable for business use, plus of course they are pricing themselves out of the market. One iMac = 2-3 PC’s in cost.

I love the idea of tablet only, but the Surface is about as close as it gets with iOS’s limited offering. I love apple and use an ipad air 2, iphone, macair and imac, but I’m questioning my iPad’s future more than any of the other devices. Most I can do with my iPhone 6+ and what I cannot do there I cannot do on the iPad so the macair is the most mobile device.

(Mike N) #5

The iPad Pro’s are being used by a large number of graphic designers as a replacement for Wacom / similar tools. Several articles out there, one I had read previously gets into it halfway down:

File management was solvable by Documents, however that really isn’t as necessary with iOS 11.

I’m not sure what you need out of DEVONThink that can’t be done on iOS:

The various document markup / research tools like Liquid Text and Martin Note create a fantastic experience - of being able to pick up the ipad, lean back in your chair and use the pencil to annotate.

Video editing is dependent on what you are doing. Some of the existing apps when combined with the pencil are actually somewhat intuitive. The limitation is around huge video files or very complex edits.

I agree on the Numbers limitations. Excel on iOS is also limited. I don’t understand the choice in limiting the formulas that can be build while in iOS.

I’m not trying to sell you on it, as it isn’t for everyone, however it may be interesting to have a look around. The number of different types of professionals that are trying to make the switch is fascinating. Programmers appear to require the most work arounds, but their setups are worth reading about.

There is a mindset shift that is required. The podcast that @wilsonng linked above goes through that and many of the workarounds that can lead to a better experience.

(Wilson Ng) #6

I think they’re slowly working their way back. I remembered all the backlash from the introduction of Final Cut Pro X. It was a disaster. But Apple slowly filled in the cracks and now have a very capable video editor. Sure, they lost customers to Adobe Premiere but I think they’re slowly gaining back some users. I liked the old iWorks apps and was frustrated when the new versions came out. Apple is slowly putting lost features back into their apps.

Omnigroup had huge backlash when omnifocus 2 arrived. There were a lot of missing features. It took a long time for users tog st adjusted to the new interface and waiting for lost features as well.

The new Files app, dock, spaces, and multitasking feature in iOS 11 are slowly being introduced to try to win over some converts. Remember when Apple was ridiculed for using a graphic user interface and a mouse when the first Macs came out? A text based interface was faster and everybody loved the command line interface. When the CLI got hidden by pretty windows, a menu bar, and a trash can, it took time for the graphic user interface to eventually win over people. iOS 11 is just the newest step towards a new operating system. Let’s see how iOS 15 looks in a few years.

As iOS matures, developers ar getting savvy about how to use the new interface. Using the Apple Pencil for a drawing/painting app is pure pleasure over using the trackpad or mouse.

(Simon) #7

As much as I can see the advancement in many areas, There is still too great a short fall for me:

  1. Storage. 512GB maximum. My hard disk contains 1TB of data. This means not everything is in one place. I need to purchase other storage solutions and I don’t want my data in the cloud. Backup also becomes an issue with needing to backup multiple areas rather than on Mac.
  2. File management. I work from one 30 day folder and all documents not edited in 30 days have a date stamp added to the title and are filed chronologically. I have a folder structure chronologically based and can find things in 30s. This is not possible on an ipad. File management is still not sufficient.
  3. Applications. Many application I use don’t work on the iPad like QuarkXpress, Logoist, Rapidweaver, Curio, etc.
  4. Feature loss. Most apps on iOS do not have feature parity with macOS equivalents.
  5. No USB connectivity. You can’t just put something on a USB and give it to someone when you’re out and about.
  6. Printing and Scanning. Is possible, but not easy for high volumes.
  7. Hardware. Not as powerful as a mac, you need an external keyboard, which then makes little size and weight difference to a macair and with a macair you get all your apps.
  8. Cost. A 512GB iPad pro costs £1200. Plus the Pen adds another £99. An iPad Keyboard costs £159. That’s over £1400 just for the hardware. Apple’s pricing is massively increasing. The price of replacing equipment with an iPad will also comes round sooner that with a mac. For £1400 I can get a macair with the same capacity or for £1100 an imac with greater capacity and both macair and imac have a much longer life span.
  9. Shelf Life. My iPads tend to last me about 3 years before they become pretty unusable. My mac’s last at least double that life span.
  10. Stuck in the Cloud and security. iOS makes little provision to move data around via hardware. USB, external disk and so on. All data functions through the cumbersome iTunes or the cloud. This forces you to work on the cloud and many organisation’s have security requirements that would not work on iOS such as GPG/PGP which doesn’t work on iOS. We don’t place personal or sensitive data on the cloud. That alone would make working on iOS almost impossible. Plus you’ve got to trust Apple and what they do. I think it’s healthy to use other systems that Apple don’t own or have access to. Most people aren’t even aware that Apple have a copy of your login password to your devices in the cloud, irrespective of if you use the online keychain or not. This means they can access anything they want.

The one thing I do like with my iPad is portability and the retina screen. But it ends there. Many apps do not use the full screen such as dayone, which limits you to half the screen. Also, the cost increase is massive. To purchase all the adapters, NAS, cloud connectivity to make this work would be a massive financial investment in my opinion. I’m also of the opinion that the cloud is becoming less secure and more hacked each year. I want as much of my data offline. In reality, I do not need everything with me everywhere. In fact with adequate preparation if I have to leave the office, it is a simple process to make sure I have everything I need. Devonthink Pro takes care of that mostly.

(Justin DiRose) #8

I agree with a lot of your points, but this one stood out to me.

I also find that a year or two old iPad performs worse than a 5 year old Macbook. For some reason, it seems the hardware is more sensitive to OS changes over time. I’ve consistently owned my Macs for 5+ years, however, and rarely have issues, except certain features become unsupported due to lack of compatible hardware (i.e. unlock with Apple Watch without Bluetooth 4.0 on my 2011 Macbook Air).

(Wilson Ng) #9

I agree there are still shortcomings. But each device has a niche. There are things I would only do on my Mac Mini with a 27" monitor. I do heavy duty work on the Mini. But for simple Office and Productivity stuff like Office 365, email, and web browsing, I’m OK with the iPad.

The iPad will not be a complete true notebook replacement today but it’s getting there. I remembered when my Windows friends would be toting around their subnotebooks with that little Intel Celeron processor that was woefully underpowered. I remembered when the first MacBook Airs came out with that little iPod spinning hard drive and a low powered CPU. Everybody loved the concept but criticized the computer specs. It took time for the MacBook Air to eventually become a reliable powerhouse. I think the same trajectory is happening with the iPad.

There are apps that are slowly approaching feature parity. I love using Pixelmator to do some drawing that would be difficult to do with a mouse or trackpad. Then I can hand it off to my Mac Mini. Again, it’s knowing when to use a different platform.

We’re slowly becoming a wireless society. We’re not yet there but we’ll get there. We have AirDrop to send small simple files. We have Dropbox and iCloud to move larger files. Like it or not, the cloud has slowly taken over. Nothing is ever truly secure when we have insidious hackers doing whatever dastardly deeds they want. Wifi speeds have become fast enough to be able to overcome speed limits via USB 3 or USB-C.

If I need to give a file, I can always e-mail it or send a Dropbox link or an iCloud link.

This is just the beginning. Economy of scales will help reduce the price of devices over time.

My kids already have their iPads. All I had to do was buy an Apple Bluetooth keyboard and they have a capable device for their classroom work. It was amazing how quickly they picked up on it. They have Pages and Keynote and can quickly type up something on their iPad. I didn’t understand why my oldest daughter wanted to type a report on her iPhone but she was able to do it.

In the end, the iPad is a much better device now than what it was when it was first introduced with the iPad 1. it won’t replace the computer but it sure looks like the future.


It depends what you do. I’ve used my iPad Pro as my primary device for over a year and it’s the best investment I’ve ever made. To use a ‘proper’ computer now is hideous for me.

(Mike N) #11

Right, it isn’t perfect for every role but when it fits it really fits.

The cost difference, including adding cell service, is a non-factor. I view it the same as when I used to do solo video production work - buying a camera was a tool to generate revenue to a tool or luxury good. For some reason, with an iPad pro I’m able to produce more of the higher level work that I’m actually paid to do. The pain of administrative tasks (i.e. excel jockeying, sys admin, file management - not really anymore ) lead to finding ways to automate or delegate them. There is just enough friction to make it worth finding a solution vs. a pc where little minor tasks / functions never have that occur as it is “faster to just do it”. Every day. Forever.

It is a paradigm shift and again requires a job role that fits.

To take it more down the rabbit hole, the Canvas podcast linked above sometimes advocates the multi-pad lifestyle i.e. having a large iPad pro for your desk work / bigger items, the smaller for doing work on the road, and the iPhone for even greater portability. The shared OS and effective syncing lends itself to this working. Very Star Trek TNG.

(Joe Buhlig) #12

But what if you upgrade your MacBook every two years? :wink:

The longest I’ve ever kept an MBP is three years. And that was because of approvals and such. I’ve found that after about two years, the storage is too little and the new features on the newer models give me enough of a productivity boost to easily warrant the upgrade.

The idea of working with a five-year-old Mac is a bit hard for me to swallow. But everyone has their own tolerance level for this sort of thing.

(Justin DiRose) #13

If I ever get into making a living on my Mac, I would likely upgrade sooner. The 2-3 years of use is a good timeframe to sell it after. 5 years, not so much. But for me, I think a lot of it boils down to $$$. I haven’t felt comfortable or always able to drop $2k on a computer every 3 years.

(Joe Buhlig) #14

At the same time, buying a $2,500 MBP every two years costs me about $500 per year. I typically get about $1,500 for them when I sell.

(Simon) #15

I have, from experience, found the best mobile device happens to be my Sigel Conceptum Notebook and Sheaffer fountain pen. They’ve never let me down yet!

(Wilson Ng) #16

In this week’s newsletter, @joebuhlig ponders whether he should get an iPad. I’d recommend to not get an iPad unless you can find a purpose for it. It may work for you if you have a purpose for it. Thankfully, I’m not a tech blogger and don’t need to get my hands on the latest app or device to review. if I can’t find a purpose to use something, I won’t get it.

I might not know if I wanted something or not. I might get lucky and get the chance to play with something for a week. Or I I’ll try an app with the free trial period see if something works for me. But I’ll really need a reason to get it.

I think Ulysses is a perfect example. For my use, Ulysses is great for writing my longer articles for my current work office. But I don’t think it’s as good as Bear for notes and checklists. I’d drop Ulysses if I don’t have a purpose for it. Why fight it? You might find a use for it later in life when you need long form writing.

Personally, I couldn’t find a use for Bear even though it’s a beautiful app. If it re-appears in my life, I’ll welcome Bear back. I’m pretty entrenched in DevonThink and not interested in adding Bear to my life.

In summary, use an app or get a device like an iPad or new iPhone only if you can find a real use for it in your life.

(Stan Sienkiewicz) #17

Viticci is a great guy to listen to about iOS productivity. His MacStories weekly publication is very insightful. I just head David Sparks talk about this decision and I agree with him that it isn’t a one or another but what tool works best for a given situation. He is a big Mac user as a lawyer but uses his iPad many times when traveling. I myself have found that the iPad Pro 10.5 is a great lightweight companion for business travel when responding to emails and reading documents is the main work for a few days. Plus it allows me access to all my books, magazines, podcasts, music, and videos. Work is using the VMware AirWatch which is a great way to split between work and personal on the same device.

(Joe Buhlig) #18


But I still can’t find a reason for it! Even though I really want a reason for it. Ugh.

(Wilson Ng) #19

Ok my wife doesn’t read this forums so I’ll disclose. I bought the iPad “for the kids.” But then I had to buy the lower end iPad minis so that I could reclaim my higher end iPad. But now it’s a challenge to balance screen time and Daddy time. Sigh.

Then you can play with it. Try out some apps and see what works and how it can fit into your life.

For me, it’s a perfect travel companion. If I don’t need to lug around my 13" MacBook pro, I can bring a Bluetooth keyboard and an iPad stand with the iPad. It’s mostly for email, journalling, OmniFocus, web browsing. I just started writing in Ulysses on the iPad and it’s great for single focus work.

Then I get a few games if I ever have down time or load up some ebooks.

It’s not meant to be a notebook replacement but I can safely say it’s better than those windows subnotebooks from many years ago. I used to get jealous of my windows friends who carried a subnotebook but saw the subpar performance. It was an idea that was too far ahead of technology. But when the 11" MacBook air came out, that was a great little notebook.

That might get you in the door. Otherwise it’s easy enough to sell off. But if you still need a notebook, those 12" Macbooks sure are sexy.

(Joe Buhlig) #20

This is always my question: If I have to add a keyboard (and I would) and a stand or a pencil or any other accessories, then why not just take my MBP? I’ve looked at the iPads others pull out when traveling and the thickness of iPad/keyboard/case ends up being the same as my MBP. And for weight, I can’t tell a difference.

Granted, the 9.7" iPad screen is smaller than the 13" MBP. I’ll give you that. But if I were to do this, it would likely need to be the 10.5". And at that point, the size difference is so small that I again have to ask if the dollars to add it to my workflows is worth it.

I get the idea in theory but what I see happening in practice never adds up for me. I think if you run naked iPad without a keyboard then I could see the arguments. But otherwise, I have questions. And again, it would need to fill a need that my MBP can’t.