I first linked to Louis D'hauwe's pixel art editor for iOS, Pixure, in March, when he introduced PanelKit in the iPad version of the app. If you've never played around with Pixure and PanelKit, imagine the ability to grab iPad popovers or sidebar panels and detach them so they're floating onscreen like tool palettes would on macOS. I was skeptical of this idea initially – I feared it would overcomplicate the iPad's UI – but it works surprisingly well on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I know that after using PanelKit months ago, I tried a few times to grab popovers in iPad apps like Omni's, realizing that they didn't support PanelKit.
D'hauwe is back today with Pixure 3.0, another excellent update that, among various enhancements, brings a version browser (a feature more apps should offer on iOS), drag and drop, and advanced export options. With today's release, Pixure also includes PanelKit 2.0, a major update of the framework that now supports pinning multiple panels to the side of the screen as well as resizing them. Plus, your custom panel configuration is now saved across multiple app launches, so once you set up your workspace in Pixure, the app always remembers it.
Even if you're not interested in editing pixel art graphics, I recommend checking out Pixure 3.0 just to play around with PanelKit 2.0. Support for multiple panels on the side is particularly impressive – try, for instance, to resize and stack the Color Picker and Layers panels on top of each other. It's fun and intuitive, and I bet you're going to wish more pro iPad apps offered this kind of flexible, customizable UI. You can find Pixure 3.0 on the App Store and read more about PanelKit 2.0 here.
In a new video posted on YouTube called ‘What’s a Computer?’, Apple follows a girl as she leaves home on a bicycle and travels around a city with her iPad Pro. Set to ‘Go’ by Louis the Child, the girl uses FaceTime to chat with friends, marks up a screenshot of her chat, and sends it via Messages. Later she’s seen writing a report in Microsoft Word. In the middle of writing, she sees a praying mantis, swipes up to access the Dock, and takes a quick photo of it.
In the next scene, the girl draws with Procreate using the Apple Pencil. Later, she’s seen sitting in a park taking notes on ‘Bugs in the City’ using GoodNotes, and then reads a Wonder Woman comic book on the subway ride home. The video ends in the girl’s backyard. She’s lying in the grass typing away on her iPad Pro. When a neighbor asks her what she’s doing on her computer, the girl replies ‘What’s a computer’ making the not-so-subtle point that an iPad Pro is more than enough computer for many tasks.
In the summer of 2017, I wanted to know what it would be like to use an iPad Pro as my main computer. I found out that it can actually work, thanks to an iOS app called Blink, an SSH replacement called Mosh, iOS 11 and running stuff on a server.
As is tradition, I will first explain myself and tell you about the why.
This is a technical, fascinating look at turning the iPad Pro into the primary computer for a web backend engineer. It's always interesting to read how other people with different needs are taking advantage of iOS and the iPad's app ecosystem.
There's something about the screen of the new 10.5” iPad Pro that feels immediately novel but quickly becomes normal, and something that seems obvious at first but reveals itself as a deeper change after a few days. As a heavy user of the 12.9” iPad Pro, I've been pleasantly deceived by this new iPad, and the more I think about it, the more I keep coming back to the display and the story behind its new form factor.
Earlier this week, The Iconfactory released version 1.1 of its iPad sketching app, Linea. The highlight of the release is iCloud syncing for all drawings stored in the app. This is a welcome addition for the sake of having safe backup files in the cloud, but it is also important because of a related app debut from this week.
Alongside Linea's 1.1 update, The Iconfactory has also released a companion app for Mac called Linea Link. Ged Maheux shares the details in a blog post:
This new app is the easiest way to get sketches drawn on your iPad onto your Mac. Using iCloud sync, your work is instantly available for use in your favorite macOS applications.
Start a new Photoshop document using Linea’s layers. Reference a quick design idea while working in Xcode. Transcribe meeting notes into a Pages document. Or just tap the spacebar to preview Linea documents using Quick Look. Linea on iOS works great to get an idea started, and Linea Link on macOS lets you take the next step toward making it a reality.
Linea Link is a perfect bridge between the iPad and Mac for those who use both devices to get their work done. Third-party app support includes Sketch, Acorn, Pixelmator, Affinity Designer & Photo, and the above-mentioned Adobe Photoshop.
It is still the early days of Linea's life, but it's comforting to see continued investment being made to the app by The Iconfactory. As John shared in his initial review, Linea is an excellent example of an app that blends elegance and usability with just the right amount of tools and power needed to get creative work done.
Pixure is Louis D'hauwe's excellent pixel art studio app for iOS that lets you create retro-styled illustrations. Pixure was already best suited for the iPad's bigger display, but the latest version 2.2 adds PanelKit – a UI framework created by D'hauwe himself to turn traditional iPad popovers into floating panels.
Popovers are a staple of the iPad's interface, and I was skeptical when I saw the first details of PanelKit in February. After testing Pixure on my 12.9" iPad Pro, though, I think D'hauwe is onto something – when the app is in full-screen, it's nice to be able to re-arrange a palette of tools so it doesn't hide your content. The best part, in my opinion, is that panels can be converted back to sidebars by snapping them to the edge of the display, which is a fantastic use of the iPad Pro's large screen. There's an argument to be made about PanelKit bringing the cognitive load of desktop window management to the iPad, but I believe that, for some apps (such as graphic editors like Pixure), floating controls that you can re-arrange around the canvas are necessary.
I'm testing a few iPad apps that try to optimize for the iPad Pro's screen with additional popovers and sidebars, and none of them feel as flexible or as intuitive as D'hauwe's app. If you're an iPad user, you should check out Pixure.
John Gruber on what may be coming next in terms of iPad refreshes:
What doesn’t make sense to me is a new 10.5-inch model. The idea makes sense — keeping the physical footprint of the current 9.7-inch models but reducing the bezels and putting in a bigger display. The ideal form factor for iPads and iPhones is just a screen, like the phones in Rian Johnson’s Looper — reducing the size of bezels and moving toward edge-to-edge displays is inevitable. Even the pixel density math works out for a 10.5-inch display.
What doesn’t make sense to me is the timing. I don’t see how an iPad with an exciting new design could debut alongside updated versions of the existing 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPads. Who would buy the updated 9.7-inch iPad Pro with the traditional bezels if there’s a 10.5-inch model without bezels? No one.
If Apple is going to position both the second-gen 12.9" and 9.7" iPad Pros as the high-end models, I don't see where a simultaneous release of a drastically different 10.5" iPad Pro would fit. But if the second-gen iPad Pros (with the current form factors) move to the low end of the lineup, that means the 10.5" iPad Pro could introduce an edge-to-edge design with no Home button before the iPhone gets such treatment (supposedly) later this year.
That idea always seemed odd to me. Traditionally, the iPad doesn't get major hardware changes before the iPhone. The iPad hardware tends to follow the iPhone. True Tone and the four-speaker system were iPad Pro-first features, but they weren't fundamental platform changes such as Touch ID or Retina. Both of those came to the iPhone first. (I won't even count the Smart Connector here.) An edge-to-edge design with no Home button is a major platform shift – particularly if it includes new developer APIs, which would have to launch in the Spring before iOS 11 if the rumor of an imminent iPad Pro 10.5" is to be believed. At this point, I find that somewhat hard to believe.
Instead, I think spec-bumps across the entire iPad lineup would make more sense in the short term. I can see Apple bringing consistency to the product line (True Tone, USB 3 speeds, and fast charging for every iPad Pro model) and adding faster CPUs/more RAM for powerful iPad-only features coming with iOS 11. I'm curious to see if Apple will revive the iPad mini by making a 7.9" iPad Pro and if iPad accessories will receive substantial improvements at all (it'd be nice to get an upgraded Smart Cover or a Pencil with superior battery life).
iPad Diaries is a regular series about using the iPad as a primary computer. You can find more installments here and subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.
Ever since I first got the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, I've wanted to use the Apple Pencil more. However, every time I tried to fit the Pencil into my workflow, I stumbled upon the realization that, no matter the excellence of the tool at hand, I'm no artist.
I spend most of my time typing with a keyboard (either a Bluetooth one or the iPad's software one) and, while it's fun to pretend I know what I'm doing in Linea or Paper, the sad reality is that I'm downright terrible at sketching or drawing. Moreover, unlike others, my background doesn't involve a passionate appreciation of pen and paper. Therefore, I'm attracted by the Pencil's concept and technology, but I don't need it for my main line of work; plus, handwriting stopped being a daily habit after I graduated high school in 2007.
I was inspired by a story Ryan wrote, though, to reconsider if my work routine could still benefit from a different note-taking perspective. Testing fresh approaches and new ideas has always been the underlying theme of my switch to the iPad, after all. So when Ryan shared his thoughts on using the Pencil for non-artistic purposes, I took it as an opportunity to try out the Pencil as a complement to my writing needs rather than a futile diversion.
As I wrote in my story on one year of iPad Pro, I consider cloud services a necessity for managing files on iOS. Dropbox and iCloud Drive make it possible to keep the same sets of documents and app libraries synced across devices, but, more importantly, they help overcome iOS' file management woes through centralized storage spaces. In the article, I espoused the flexibility of Documents and its tight integration with Dropbox, noting how Readdle had built the missing iPad file manager with features Apple omitted from their iCloud Drive app.
Since early January, I've been thinking about my larger writing projects scheduled for 2017 and whether Documents can scale as a reference and research tool. Looking back at 2016 and the time I poured into organizing and referencing files for my iOS 10 review draft in Scrivener (which I covered here), I realized that neither Scrivener's built-in file manager nor Documents could meet the basic requirements I have set for this year's review. These include the ability to search different file types with advanced operators as well as a system to reference individual files and folders throughout iOS with local URLs. It was during this meta-research phase that I decided to try DEVONthink To Go again.