About a month or so ago I completely switched from my Macbook Air to my iPad Pro for work. (And most leisure, too.) Here I want to share a few thoughts about the why and how.
I did a lot of odd gigs this year, and particularly in the summer. At the end of it all I was given an opportunity to get an iPad Pro, and took it. Haven’t looked back since.
I’ve been eyeing a tablet for a while, particularly the iPad Pro when it came out, but never felt that I could justify the cost on a gamble. Which buying one would’ve been. I did enough research to suspect that I could make it work, but still. So getting one as part of this deal was a good balance of gamble (since if it didn’t work out, l’d have been left with something I couldn’t use as much as the work leading to it would’ve worth it) and confidence (because when I do resarch I do it — and I knew the iPad Pro is a terrific machine).
Long story short: I fell in love with it. I’m not kidding. I love this thing deeply and thoroughly.
A small coda to this story: I bought a bluetooth keyboard for it, because otherwise it wouldn’t suit me (being a writer and all. Guy’s gotta work.) Not the official Apple one, because that thing is horribly overpriced for what it is. I bought the Logitech Keys-To-Go instead, and couldn’t be happier with it.
Additionally, for my birthday mug friends gave me an Apple Pencil. Which is an absolute work of art (minus its charging method) both literally and figuratively.
The last piece of the puzzle, as far as accessories go, was a case. I ended up, after finding out that the “laptop case” I had my eyes on was no longer available in Europe, with a Moleskine folio case. And I don’t regret buying it.
All in all, I switched to the iPad Pro (extended with the keyboard and the Pencil) for 100% of my work and roughly 80% of entertainment. (World of Warcraft and a couple of other games being the 20%.)
I realize my workflows and preferences aren’t universal. YMMV. But here’s how I use, at least currently, my iPad. It’s in no way an exhaustive, nor complete, list of apps; but I wanted to touch on the big picture.
There are three main areas I find myself alternating between constantly: writing (duh!), digital media production, and social media/communication.
My bread and butter, obviously. And it’s interesting I because my workflow have actually changed in this regard since I switched.
Namely: I write longhand, almost everything, including this very blog.
On a laptop, you have no choice but type. Originally I thought it will be the same on the iPad as well, albeit with a smaller physical footprint. But the Apple Pencil with the Nebo MyScript app changed all of that.
I always liked writing longhand. In addition to the feeling of it (which I love unapologetically) I hold that it triggers a very different process in our brains (or at least in mine).
The problem with writing longhand in 2018 is the gap between paper and computer. Getting your hand written notes turned into digital files is a highly cumbersome process. Scan it, OCR it, edit it… ugh. In addition, I have a fairly ugly handwriting, which further complicates it, or at least makes the inevitable correction process that much longer and more annoying.
Nebo from MyScript not only recognizes my handwriting with a 97% accuracy (for that alone they deserved my money) but because I’m already writing on digital paper with digital ink, the text file is literally a double tap away.
As for the feeling of it: writing on the screen of the iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil is a joy. And the closest thing to writing on real paper with real ink (and by that I mean a fountain pen. No ballpoints for me, no thank you sir.) as it’s ever going to get.
So there. I write most everything into Nebo, and with just a tap or two export it into Ulysses for editing and whatever small corrections are needed for that 3% of my handwriting even Nebo couldn’t make sense of.
Oh, Ulysses. ❤️
Ulysses has been my writing software since forever. (Well, since l ‘ve been using a Macbook, as it’s Mac and iOS-only.)
l’ve tried nearly every single writing software ever put on the market, but nothing even comes close to Ulysses.
It’s incredibly powerful, yet hides it behind a clean interface. I don’t need the kitchen sink and the consequent choice paralysis when I write. I need focus. Ulysses gives me that.
If and when I need to format my text (after it’s been written, not during or before) it’s already mostly done thanks to Markdown, which I hold to be a professional writer’s best friend. (Just like writing in Fountain is a better choice for screen and stage writers than getting bogged down in some cumbersome app.)
Markdown allows me to write in plain text (or even longhand and the symbols carry over just the same) and let the software do the styling automatically.
I use Ulysses for writing, and my blog is powered by Ghost. Both dispensed with the idea of manually fiddling with a WYSIWYG editor, and we’re all better off for it.
Additionally I use Notes (the stock iOS app; I never found the need for anything else, and the iCloud sync has been fantastic since a few years ago) a lot when I’m out and about, or need speed instead of focus. Its plain text, together with the Markdown symbols it leaves intact and that come as second nature to me by now, is then brought into Ulysses and/or this blog if and when needed — again, by just a few taps.
All things considered, I think I got this “writing on the iPad’ -thing covered pretty well.
(One thing, though. Dear Ulysses, I’d be most grateful for a Courier font in the iOS app. On the Mac I use Courier Prime for everything I can, and not seeing it on the iPad is weird.
Plus, y’know. The whole “typewriter” thing.)
Right now this area mostly means audio for my podcast(s) and some light graphics work for cover images and whatnot.
For audio I record and edit mostly with Anchor.
For however roughly they started out, their most recent pivot made them absolutely for me. A strange bug currently non-withstanding, I can use Anchor for the entire audio workflow.
I do have some other apps I’m trying out (I like to be up-to-date about my options) and at some point I’ll have to deal with things like using Skype to record interviews… but for the time being, and possibly even further, Anchor is my go-to app and service.
For the very light graphics work: the iPad Pro was made for artists. The hardware is incredibly powerful (it is, in fact, more powerful than my Macbook Air) and the software has caught up to it as well.
I obviously can’t testify for (or against) pro-level usage, but I myself am fully covered with Photoshop Mix, Adobe Sketch, and the Spark apps.
Also, the Marvel Color Your Own app is the best stress relief. Period. (Plus it’s, you know, Marvel.)
Come on. This thing runs iOS — whatever you’re using on your iPhone you’ll find here as well.
(Except Instagram. Apparently Instagram doesn’t give two fucks about making an iPad app.)
The larger screen and the landscape orientation is still novelty for some apps, but more and more realise what possibilities are in those and in split view multitasking.
Now I can keep an eye on Twitter while editing a blog post or reading an article. I can drag-and-drop links or files between apps. And all that is more intuitive and faster than it is on a desktop OS.
As someone who uses social media both as a fun hobby and professionally, I can say working on an iPad Pro has made me faster and more efficient. Except for Instagram. Fuck Instagram.
And it just feels good. That’s a real consideration, when you use a device for 8–12–14 plus hours a day.
* * *
I haven’t regretted my decision to switch fully to my iPad Pro.
Like I said, your mileage may vary. For my needs it’s perfectly sufficient, and then some. There were some tradeoffs, but well within tolerance levels. And, in fact, in many cases those turned out to be improvements.
PS.: I have a 10.5 inch iPad Pro. I found it to be a healthy balance between the tad bit small 9.7 and the way too big 12.5. It’s the 64GB version with cellular, so I can truly work from anywhere, anytime.