It’s a seeming paradox. iPad sales performance (indeed high-end tablet sales performance in general) continues to lag in the mass market, but more and more production oriented users are experimenting with the iPad, — and not only the Pro models — as laptop or even desktop computer replacements. Apple CEO Tim Cook has famously declared that he only uses an iPad Pro and his iPhone these days.
Of course, Mr. Cook has staff to handle the donkey-work in his office, and my guess is that most of them are on Macs, not iPads.
But some of us really use the iPad for production, or have at least tried to.
Brooks Review’s Ben Brooks reflects on his year of evolving use of the iPad as a desktop machine, and says he has come to realize how portable and manageable the iPad as a desktop machine is. He discusses points like stands, keyboards, and ergonomics, as well as the apps he uses for production work.
Stuff’s Craig Grannell thinks 2017 is the time to ditch his MacBook for an iPad Pro and go full tablet.
Forbes’ Ian Morris has posted a long-term reviewexplaining how he replaced his Laptop with an iPad Pro a bit over a year ago, what he has learned, and how his insights might translate to your decision to buy an iPad Pro.
Morris’s Tech #AllThingsMobile colleague at Forbes Brooke Crothers posted a column last August querying whether the future of the Apple laptop would be iPad Pro Or 12-inch MacBook. Crothers notes (and I concur) that iOS limitations vs.OS X/macOS can be frustrating. for example, most image editing software is designed for a mouse-pointer/trackpad input paradigm, and WordPress, used by millions of bloggers and hundreds of media sites in the U.S. has limitations under iOS. One in particular that keeps me going back to the Mac for content posting is inability to efficiently edit, resize, and upload images to WordPress from iOS.
Crothers says he’s simply more efficient on the MacBook (or for that matter on Windows and Google Chrome laptops) than on his 12.9-inch iPad Pro even with a Smart Keyboard, and the precision of a trackpad or mouse can’t be overemphasized because it applies to so many things.
Gizmodo’s Carlos Rebato observes that while the introduction of Split View with iOS 9 was a huge step forward, in his work as a writer he also edits photos using Pixelmator on the Mac, and while there’s a Pixelmator app for the iPad, too, the problem is how to make all of the beautiful and useful iOS apps work together. For example, there’s no accesible file directory in iOS that enables him to create image documents to drag and drop from his Finder Desktop to a browser window like he does with his laptop, and no way to have the three, four, or more apps that he requires for work open simultaneously.
Unfortunately, for Rebato, the iPad Pro is still “just not enough” to replace a laptop as a work device. He observes that the vast majority of the the iPad Pro’s shortcomings as a replacement of a conventional laptop reside in the iOS 9, and maintains that Apple’s “got a lot of work ahead in order to fine tune iOS into real mobile productivity software.” While he really wants to work with the iPad Pro, for now, “its just a tool for doing some light work. Writers like me [and me, CM] can use it to just write, but when real work needs to be done those days that you’re behind schedule and you need to almost alter space and time to meet deadlines — those days you’ll miss your laptop.”
CIO’s Jim Lynch asks rhetorically: “Can the iPad Pro really replace your laptop?” Lynch says he’a had a 12.9-inch iPad Pro since they were released in 2015, and that he loves it, but has come to realize that the big tablet simply can’t replace any of his Macs for work.
How come? Lynch says his work mode requires “a slew” of multiple open application windows and tabs in Safari, and that the iOS simply doesn’t allow him to do what he can do in macOS, with Apple’s Split View that presents two app windows side by side is just not enough for his work needs. I need the ability to have a slew of application windows open at the same time.
Because a MacBook can do so much more for him than the iPad Pro, and he finds himself so much more productive with his MacBook Pro, he says would be very frustrated if the only machine he had available to work on was his iPad Pro, and it’s not because he hasn’t tried to use the iPad Pro for work, but it takes him forever to get things done on the iPad Pro compared to his Macbook Pro.
I have to say I’m pretty much in the same camp as Lynch and Rebato. I use both platforms more or less equally in screen time respectively, but for different duty, although there is a lot of crossover. After a quarter-century on the Mac, I’ve developed a workflow that is extremely efficient, and when I need to get something done fast, my Macs are the tools of first resort, providing access to the FInder file system, powerful Spotlight open search, AppleScript automation, multiwindowing and content drag & drop between open windows and more — all productivity enhancers I miss when trying to do production work on my iPad Air 2.
The iPad’s handier form factor enables working in a wider and more flexible range of venues, and the incredibly deep selection of iOS apps often provides reasonable workarounds at least for working with text. I try to keep work in progress synchronized and available for edits across both platforms via Dropbox, which means working in plain text on the Macs as well as the iPad. not a problem for me because I switched to plain text on the Mac back in the late ‘”90s, and have used either Transtex Software’s Tex Edit Plus (freeware) and Bare Bones Software’s TextWrangler (also freeware) for about 98 percent of my text work on the Macs ever since. I use either Textwrangler or TE+ for basic drafting and and TE+ custom tweaked with AppleScript macros for most html markup tasks.
When I got my first iPad in 2011, I discovered a wonderful little text app with Dropbox support called PlainText, originally developed by Hog Bay Software, that worked transparently with TextWrangler documents. No AppleScript, but fine for drafting and editing. PlainText support and development was taken over by 433 Labs, and the app renamed PlainText 2, featuring some refinement tweaks, but with its goodness unaltered. Unfortunately, on 30 December, 2016 433 Labs posted the following statement:
“We used to make apps for iOS.
“So long, and thanks for all the fish
“I’m sure this will come as no surprise, but as of Jan 1, 2017 PlainText will no longer be updated or supported. Thanks to everyone who has used PlainText the past few years!
While PlainText 2 is still working fine in iOS, presumably at some future point incompatibility will rear its ugly head, so I guess I’m in the hunt for another Dropbox-supporting iOS text app. There are several, but PlainText 2 has been ideal for meeting my needs within the context of iOS’s limitations (eg: no AppleScript), and I’m sorry it’s gone.
Another workflow element I miss working on the iPad is speedy, low-hassle resizing and basic image-correction with the fantastic freeware macOS app Toyviewer. Don’t let the name put you off. Toyviewer is professional grade in function, refinement, and appearance. I do have Pixelmator on the iPad, and it’s a powerful and capable image editor, but cumbersome to use the way I use Toyviewer for production on the Mac. I just can’t. get comfortable with touch input for image editing, and I don’t like styli, so even a Pro iPad would not be the solution.
Then there’s clipboard management. On the Mac I use a little Open Source clipboard buffer app called Jumpcut that records a user-set number of clipboards in sequence, and which are instantly available from a menu bar pull-down. This is all I need and it works well. I have a couple of iOS clipboard apps as well, Copied and Clips, and they’re OK, but want to do more than I need them to do, and definitely not as handy to apply under iOS limitations than Jumpcut is on the Mac.
File content searches are another sore point when it comes to working with iOS. I have literally thousands of archived columns and articles I’ve written since I started freelancing in 1986, and they represent a tremendous research resource, provided one has a means of finding and retrieving the wanted material. For that, being able to search file content is often necessary. That works fairly successfully with the macOS version of Spotlight, but not with what passes for Spotlight with iOS.
In isolation, the need to work around one or two of these deficiencies might not be a dealbreaker, but together there’s just too much compromise required for me. However, your needs are not necessarily mine, and I congratulate anyone who has found that they can use the iPad as a completely satisfactory laptop or desktop replacement. I hope that Apple will someday rectify the issues that prevent me from doing so.