This has been a year of new creative projects for me. In addition to some personal endeavors that have yet to see the light of day, I joined Federico as the co-host of Adapt, a new iPad-focused podcast on Relay FM. Learning the art of expressing my Apple takes in speech rather than text has been an adventure in itself, but I’ve also grown to cultivate a very different skill: audio editing.
When I was charged with editing this iPad-focused podcast, I naturally turned to an iPad-based editing tool: every episode of Adapt has been edited in Ferrite Recording Studio, and I’ve never even tried using another app. Most podcasters I’m familiar with edit in Logic, but my Mac mini is purposely utilized as little as possible, so I knew when I dove into podcasting that I wanted an iPad-based solution if at all possible. On multiple occasions I’ve heard and read Jason Snell extol the virtues of Ferrite, so that was the app I turned to.
Getting started with podcast editing, even with an app like Ferrite that’s built for it, can be extremely intimidating. There are lots of settings, and unless you have previous experience working with audio, you likely have no idea what any of them do. I learned a lot from Ferrite’s user guide in the early days, and the aforementioned Jason Snell articles on Six Colors. And before long, I found an editing setup that worked well for me. Now, I want to share it with you.
Apple is now selling a new generation of the 5K LG UltraFine display. For the first time, the 5K UltraFine is now compatible with the iPad Pro, finally offering a 5K display option for 2018 iPad Pro users.
Previously, the 5K UltraFine display would only work over Thunderbolt. Now, it can output 5K over USB-C DisplayPort, which means it can now work with any of Apple’s current Mac and iPad Pro lineup.
Earlier this year the previous UltraFine 5K was mysteriously discontinued. Many assumed that move was in preparation for Apple introducing its own display option at WWDC. When the Pro Display XDR was unveiled, however, its $4,999 base price meant it clearly didn’t target the same market as LG’s UltraFine. While it’s possible Apple will introduce a lower-cost first-party display at some point in the future, for now the UltraFine is a nice alternative option to have. It’s priced at $1,299, and while nothing else about the monitor has changed, the ability to output from the iPad Pro is a valuable addition.
Update: Since originally publishing, 9to5Mac has discovered a support document from Apple which clarifies that, in fact, this new monitor can only work with the iPad Pro at 4K resolution - 3840 x 2160 at 60Hz – rather than the full 5K available with many Mac models. A disappointing discovery, but perhaps not altogether surprising.
Last year around the time Adobe began detailing its forthcoming Photoshop for iPad, the company also shared word of another iPad app it was working on, then called Project Gemini. Today in a blog post, Scott Belsky of Adobe announced Adobe Fresco as the official name of the new drawing and painting app, and detailed one of the features that will make the new app special:
The result is Live Brushes, which use the artificial intelligence of Adobe Sensei to recreate the behavior of oils and watercolors in an amazingly lifelike way. When you paint with a watercolor Live Brush, you’ll see the color bloom into adjacent areas of the paper. Use red and yellow next to each other and they’ll naturally blend into orange at the border. You can even recreate painting with water to dilute some colors and encourage tints to mix.
With an oil Live Brush, you can slather on a thick coat of paint and see the ridges and brush strokes that give the painting dimension. And you can mix different oil colors together to create a varied swirl of color that no digital color wheel could ever provide.
Live Brushes can be seen in action in the video embedded below. Adobe’s aim with Fresco is to provide a tool that scales well in serving users who want a simple drawing tool to those who need the power of features like layers, masking, brush creation, and more. While it’s expected that Creative Cloud subscribers will receive full access to Fresco’s full feature set, Adobe seems to be considering its full spectrum of target users when it comes to pricing. In today’s announcement Belsky notes “anyone with the right hardware will be able to draw and paint in Fresco for free.”
No update was given on Fresco’s release date, other than that it remains “later this year.” With iPadOS 13, Fresco, Photoshop, and the iPad app improvements that are hopefully to come alongside Catalyst projects, it’s going to be an exciting end of the year for iPad.
Today during the WWDC keynote, where Apple unveiled the next major version of its mobile software platform, iOS 13, the company also had a big surprise to share: iOS is now exclusive to the iPhone and iPod touch and has given birth to a new, dedicated operating system for the iPad, named iPadOS.
iPadOS includes all the existing features of iOS, including the host of updates coming in iOS 13, but adds to it a long list of enhancements that address common pain points among iPad Pro users. From an updated Home screen to multitasking improvements, Files upgrades including USB drive support, a desktop-class Safari, and much more. All of these features aim to make the iPad a more capable full-time computer than ever before.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.