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Posts tagged with "iPad Pro"

Beyond the Tablet: Seven Years of iPad as My Main Computer

For the past seven years, I've considered the iPad my main computer. Not my only one, and not the most powerful one I own, but the computer which I use and enjoy using the most.

I've told this story on various occasions before, but it's worth mentioning for context once again. My iPad journey began in 2012 when I was undergoing cancer treatments. In the first half of the year, right after my diagnosis, I was constantly moving between hospitals to talk to different doctors and understand the best strategies for my initial round of treatments. Those chemo treatments, it turned out, often made me too tired to get any work done. I wanted to continue working for MacStories because it was a healthy distraction that kept my brain busy, but my MacBook Air was uncomfortable to carry around and I couldn't use it in my car as it lacked a cellular connection. By contrast, the iPad was light, it featured built-in 3G, and it allowed me to stay in touch with the MacStories team from anywhere, at any time with the comfort of a large, beautiful Retina display.

The tipping point came when I had to be hospitalized for three consecutive weeks to undergo aggressive chemo treatments; in that period of time, I concluded that the extreme portability and freedom granted by the iPad had become essential for me. I started exploring the idea of using the iPad as my primary computer (see this story for more details); if anything were to ever happen to me again that prevented being at my desk in my home office, I wanted to be prepared. That meant embracing iOS, iPad apps, and a different way of working on a daily basis.

I realized when writing this story that I've been running MacStories from my iPad for longer than I ever ran it from a Mac. The website turned 10 last month, and I've managed it almost exclusively from an iPad for seven of those years. And yet, I feel like I'm still adapting to the iPad lifestyle myself – I'm still figuring out the best approaches and forcing myself to be creative in working around the limitations of iOS.

On one hand, some may see this as an indictment of Apple's slow evolution of the iPad platform, with biennial tablet-focused iOS releases that have left long-standing issues still yet to be fixed. And they're not wrong: I love working from my iPad, but I recognize how some aspects of its software are still severely lagging behind macOS. On the other hand, I won't lie: I've always enjoyed the challenge of "figuring out the iPad" and pushing myself to be creative and productive in a more constrained environment.

In addition to discovering new apps I could cover on MacStories, rethinking how I could work on the iPad provided me with a mental framework that I likely wouldn't have developed on a traditional desktop computer. If I was in a hospital bed and couldn't use a Mac, that meant someone else from the MacStories team had to complete a specific, Mac-only task. In a way, the limitations of the iPad taught me the importance of delegation – a lesson I was forced into. As a result, for the first couple of years, the constrained nature of the iPad helped me be more creative and focused on my writing; before the days of Split View and drag and drop, the iPad was the ideal device to concentrate on one task at a time.

Over the following couple of years, I learned how to navigate the iPad's limitations and started optimizing them to get more work done on the device (I was also cancer-free, which obviously helped). This is when I came across the iOS automation scene with apps such as Pythonista, Editorial, Drafts, and eventually Workflow. Those apps, despite the oft-unreliable nature of their workarounds, enabled me to push iOS and the iPad further than what Apple had perhaps envisioned for the device at the time; in hindsight, building hundreds of automations for Workflow prepared me for the bold, more powerful future of Shortcuts. Automation isn't supposed to replace core functionality of an operating system; normally, it should be an enhancement on the side, an addition for users who seek the extra speed and flexibility it provides. Yet years ago, those automation apps were the only way to accomplish more serious work on the iPad. I'm glad I learned how to use them because, at the end of the day, they allowed me to get work done – even though it wasn't the easiest or most obvious path.

When Apple announced the iPad Pro in 2015, it felt like a vindication of the idea that, for lots of iOS users – myself included – it was indeed possible to treat the iPad as a laptop replacement. And even though not much has changed (yet?) since 2017's iOS 11 in terms of what the iPad Pro's software can do, the modern iPad app ecosystem is vastly different from the early days of the iPad 3 and iOS 5, and that's all thanks to the iPad Pro and Apple's push for pro apps and a financially-viable App Store.

We now have professional apps such as Ulysses, Agenda, Things, Keep It, and iA Writer, which, in most cases, boast feature parity with their Mac counterparts; we have examples of iOS-only pro tools like Pixelmator Photo, LumaFusion, Shortcuts, and Working Copy, which are ushering us into a new era of mobile productivity; and both from a pure iPad-hardware and accessory standpoint, we have more choice than ever thanks to a larger, more inclusive iPad lineup, remarkable Pro hardware, and solid options to extend the iPad via keyboards, USB-C accessories, and more.

Seven years after I started (slowly) replacing my MacBook Air with an iPad, my life is different, but one principle still holds true: I never want to find myself forced to work on a computer that's only effective at home, that can't be held in my hands, or that can't be customized for different setups. For this reason, the iPad Pro is the best computer for the kind of lifestyle I want.

However, the iPad is not perfect. And so in the spirit of offering one final update before WWDC and the massive release for iPad that iOS 13 will likely be, I thought I'd summarize seven years of daily iPad usage in one article that details how I work from the device and how I'd like the iPad platform to improve in the future.

In this story, I will explore four different major areas of working on the iPad using iOS 12 system features, third-party apps, and accessories. I'll describe how I optimized each area to my needs, explain the solutions I implemented to work around the iPad's software limitations, and argue how those workarounds shouldn't be necessary anymore as the iPad approaches its tenth anniversary.

Consider this my iPad Manifesto, right on the cusp of WWDC. Let's dive in.

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    Introducing Adapt, a New iPad Podcast on Relay FM

    The iPad has been a key subject at MacStories for years. In fact, it was Federico’s exploration of using the iPad as his primary computer that first led me to become a reader of the site, and subsequently an iPad-first user myself.

    Today, I’m thrilled to introduce a new podcast on Relay FM where Federico and I get to talk about the iPad and challenge ourselves to do new things with our favorite device. The show is called Adapt, and the first episode is available now.

    Adapt was born out of a love for the iPad, and a desire to continue pushing our own use of it forward. Federico formerly hosted an iPad-focused podcast with Fraser Speirs called Canvas, but since that show ended Federico and I have been dreaming up its spiritual successor, with a similar focus on the iPad but a unique new format.

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    Review: Touchtype Pro Offers an Ingenious All-in-One Solution for iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard Users

    The Touchtype Pro is a clever new accessory created by Salman Sajid that aims to combine the iPad Pro with Apple's Magic Keyboard using a flexible cover case and magnets. Sajid launched a campaign for the product earlier this month on Kickstarter, where you can check out more details about pricing and the design process of the Touchtype Pro. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early production unit before the Kickstarter went live and I've been using the Touchtype Pro with my 2018 12.9" iPad Pro for the past few weeks. After sharing some first impressions on Connected, I wanted to post a few more thoughts here, along with some photos.

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    Latest iPad Pro Ads Highlight the Device’s Versatility

    Today Apple published six new videos that focus on the iPad Pro. Five of them are continuations of the 'A New Way' series that debuted in January, highlighting the device's versatility in tasks like video creation, wedding planning, and serving as the perfect travel companion. The final video, titled 'Life on iPad,' follows a man around town as he uses the iPad Pro during what's presented as an average day – he uses the device to make a Group FaceTime call, do illustrative work while connected to an external monitor, email a file, and draft a document during a flight.

    All five 'A New Way' videos do a great job showcasing real-life tasks being tackled on the iPad. Most are focused on getting things done, but the video about travel also highlights the iPad's strengths as a video player and even coloring book. The task-focused videos offer step-by-step examples of workflows that can be helpful to users aiming to stretch their use of the iPad Pro.

    
As with the prior round of 'A New Way' ads, these all end by highlighting how they were filmed, edited, designed, and made entirely on iPad Pro, no doubt with similar workflows to the ones Apple previously documented.

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    2018 iPad Pro to Add Support for the Logitech Crayon in iOS 12.2

    In addition to the new iPad Air and iPad mini, it looks like Logitech's Crayon stylus, first introduced with the 6th generation iPad last year, will be compatible with the 2018 iPad Pro line too thanks to the upcoming iOS 12.2 software update. Jason Snell writes:

    Over at 9to5 Mac, Zac Hall noticed that a few of us—at least myself and Nilay Patel from the Verge, and possibly others—have been passing along an interesting new iPad tidbit after meeting with Apple about the new iPad models this week. I realize that people may have missed the brief parenthetical in my Macworld story this week, so it’s worth restating here…

    Logitech’s $70 Crayon, an interesting stylus that originally was available for education only and worked only with the sixth-generation iPad, will now be supported by all of Apple’s current iPad models. So not only do the new iPad Air and iPad mini work with the Crayon, but so does my 12.9-inch iPad Pro running a beta version of iOS 12.2, which should be released next week.

    (I haven’t been able to test if earlier iPad Pro models will also add compatibility via this update, or if compatibility is limited to the 2018 and 2019 models.)

    If you don't like the design of the new Apple Pencil and would rather use a thicker stylus based on the same drawing tech but that charges via Lightning, the Crayon is a very good alternative to Apple's device. Just keep in mind the differences between them.

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    Moleskine Flow Review: An Elegant, Accessible Digital Notebook for iPad and iPhone

    One strength of an analog notebook is its simplicity. The times in my life when I've used a notebook regularly, I would always keep a pen attached to the notebook so that the process of writing involved just two simple steps: open the cover, and press pen to paper. Many digital notebook apps forfeit this simplicity due to overly complex interfaces and toolsets.

    Moleskine's new app, Flow, is a digital notebook that understands what it takes to succeed as a notebook replacement – giving you the tools to customize your experience to your own preferences. It's available on both iPad and iPhone, and offers an elegant balance of convenience and flexibility that make it my favorite digital notebook to date.

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    USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 Merged Under New USB 3.2 Branding

    Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors about the latest rebrand in USB spec land:

    The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), this week announced a rebranding of the USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 specifications, under the USB 3.2 specification. As outlined by Tom's Hardware, USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 will now be considered previous generations of the USB 3.2 specification.

    Going forward, USB 3.1 Gen 1 (transfer speeds up to 5Gb/s), which used to be USB 3.0 prior to a separate rebranding, will be called USB 3.2 Gen 1, while USB 3.1 Gen 2 (transfer speeds up to 10Gb/s) will now be known as USB 3.2 Gen 2.

    It gets better though:

    If the swap between USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2 to USB 3.2 wasn't confusing enough, each of these specifications also has a marketing term. The new USB 3.2 Gen 1 with transfer speeds up to 5Gb/s is SuperSpeed USB, while USB 3.2 Gen 2 with transfer speeds up to 10Gb/s is known as SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps. The USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 specification with transfer speeds up to 20Gb/s is known as SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps.

    Make sure to check out the comparison table on MacRumors to admire the full extent of these changes.

    As someone who's been experimenting with USB-C accessories compliant with the USB 3.1 spec over the past few months, I can't even begin to stress how confusing for the average consumer all of this stuff can be. It took me days to wrap my head around the differences between the physical USB-C connector, the underlying specs it can support, and the DisplayPort compatibility mode – and I do this for a living. In my experience, if you're looking to buy modern USB accessories compatible with an iPad Pro or MacBook Pro, you're better off looking for a technical spec label rather than the "friendly names" such as "SuperSpeed", which manufacturers often fail to mention in their spec sheets.

    Until today, if you wanted to buy USB-C accessories supporting the highest data transfer rates on the 2018 iPad Pro, you had to look for devices compliant with USB 3.1 Gen. 2; with today's rebrand, the 2018 iPad Pro supports USB 3.2 Gen. 2 for transfers up to 10 Gbps, but not the similarly-named USB 3.2 Gen. 2x2. I'm sure this is going to be so easy to explain to someone who's looking for the "fastest" USB-C cable for their iPad Pro.

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    Jason Snell on Podcasting with Only an iPad Pro

    Jason Snell's podcasting setup is similar to mine – he wants to hear his own voice, record his local audio track, and have a conversation with multiple people on Skype, who also need to hear his voice coming from an external microphone. And he wants to use one computer to do it all. Now he's figured out how to podcast from an iPad Pro with the help of an additional USB interface:

    In the past, I’ve done something similar using the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB, a microphone that can output a digital signal using USB and an analog signal via an XLR cord simultaneously. The problem is that the last time I tried to use the ATR2100-USB with my iPad Pro, it didn’t return my own voice into my ears, making me unable to judge the sound quality of my own microphone. After years of having my own voice return to me, I strongly prefer not to record unable to hear my own voice. (I use in-ear headphones that largely shut out audio from the outside world, so the experience of speaking while not hearing yourself is even more profoundly weird than it would be with leaky earbuds.)

    This time I wanted it all, or at least as close to all as I’m able to get with iOS in the mix: A pristine recording of my own voice, that same high-quality microphone audio also flowing across digitally to my podcast guests via Skype, and the ability to hear both my guests and myself at the same time.

    The takeaway from the story isn't that Snell wanted to prove a point to spite Mac users – it's that he was able to travel with one computer instead of two (he would have used most of the same audio gear with a Mac too) and that he found an expensive, but real workaround to professional podcast recording on iPad Pro.

    I don't currently have a USB audio interface like Snell's USBPre 2, but I may have to buy one before the summer so I can record podcasts from our beach house using only the iPad Pro. (That is, assuming the iOS 13 beta I'll have installed at that point doesn't have meaningful improvements for audio workflows.)

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