Whether or not the iPad Pro is a satisfactory laptop replacement, as Apple CEO Tim Cook has famously contended is a topic of vigorous debate. Federico Viticci of MacStories is in Cook’s camp and has posted the most thoroughgoing analysis of what it’s like switching from Mac to iPad Pro as one’s anchor computing platform in an article entitled “A Computer for Everything: One Year of iPad Pro.”
“I wasn’t sure I needed a 12.9-inch iPad when Apple announced the iPad Pro in September 2015,” Viticci writes. “And yet, over a year later, the iPad Pro is, by far, the best computer I’ve ever owned. I’ve never felt so satisfied with any other Apple device before – but the transition wasn’t easy.”
Indeed, some of us might say not entirely convincing either, but Viticci presents a strongly reasoned defence of his resolve to use his iPad Pro for everything: writing and research, both personal and business finances, gaming, as an e-reader, and for watching movies, programming in Python and Workflow, and for managing two successful businesses. He says that he was already an advocate of multi-purpose iPad use, the iPad Pro amplified the possibilities, and after years spent bringing what he’d learned from the Mac to the iOS, he found on the iOs side “a more focused, efficient way of working and communicating with people,” and The iPad Pro accelerated his switch to an iOS-only setup.
Vittici maintains that millions of people now like working on iOS more than they do on macOS, and that the iPad Pro is the purest representation of iOS — a computer that can transform into anything you need it to be. I’m not hostile to this argument, but I only wish it were so in the context of my own needs. I won’t inventory here the list of iOS shortcomings in terms of my computing needs, except to say (once again) that as much as I like working on the iPad, I still definitely need a Mac for several heavy-lifting tasks involved in doing production work, markup, and Web publishing.
Vittici does concede that lack of a Finder-like directory to the local iOS filesystem makes file management “one of the toughest challenges of switching to an iPad-first lifestyle,” but he says that after years of experiments and workarounds he’s come to terms with the fact that iOS file management demands embracing an altogether new mindset. In his estimation the best iOS file-management strategy is to go whole-hog with cloud storage and leave it to native apps to access your files, noting that over the past year, he’s consolidated all of his file storage needs in Dropbox and iCloud.
He argues that not accepting the reality that you simply can’t manage local files and folders on an iPad like you do on a Mac, and imagining you can force the iOS user interface to behave more like the Mac’s Finder — “you’re going to have a bad experience in your transition to iOS,” — and users who want to, but are unable to adapt, for example because they can’t use cloud services at work or prefer not to store personal files anywhere online, “will have to work harder to make an iPad their primary computer.” Viticci says he’s found Readdle’s free Documents app to be the best third-party iOS file manager and closest analog to a MacOS Finder available for the iOS, noting that “the app supports Split View on the iPad and you can throw anything at it with a share extension. Documents will store files and organize them with an interface that mirrors what we’re used to having on desktop computers.”
In his article Viticci also reviews the collection of peripheral and support hardware he uses with his iPad Pro, including: Twelve South ParcSlope, Razer Keyboard Case, Anker PowerCore 20000 Battery, Apple 29W USB-C Charger, Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless, SteelSeries Nimbus Controller, and the Tom Bihn Daylight Briefcase. Also discussed in considerable detail are the topics of Entertainment, Music, Video, Console Gaming, Calendars, Email Management with Airmail and Sanebox, Editing with GitHub and Markdown, and Automation of tasks like Time Tracking, Publishing to WordPress, Combining Images, Copying App Store Links, Launcher Shortcuts, RSS and Fiery Feeds. Markdown, clipboard Management (with Copied), Split View (he concedes that Split View is far short of perfect, and that its shortcomings often impede working with two apps at once, particularly the app picker: it’s too slow to use, it doesn’t have a search feature, and it makes moving between two apps an infuriating chore), Bluetooth Keyboards, Video Editing, DEVONthink and PDF Search, Mind Mapping, Longform Writing and Research with Scrivener, Podcasting External USB Drive support, Image Editing, Extensions, and miscellaneous.
Viticci has clearly developed a productivity ecosystem for iOS and the iPad that works for him and meets his personal and professional computing needs and tastes. I have built an analogically similar workflow-enhancing ecosystem over 25 years of using the macOS in its various permutations, and I’m very satisfied with how it works for me. However, the operative question is whether Apple is still committed enough to the Mac for it to be sustainable. It seems lately that Apple is gradually dropping many of the features and characteristics that make a Mac a Mac. A relatively minor but topical example is their apparent clumsy attempt to solve the new Touch Pad MacBook Pro’s battery life issues (reportedly attributable to a dispute between Apple engineering and marketing that the marketing folks won) by removing the charge percentage remaining menu bar monitor in the macOS 12.2.2 Sierra update last week. The readout may have been less than linearly accurate, but it was better than nothing.
Also gone on the new Pro MacBooks are the power on/off button and the musical chord that has welcomed Mac users at start-up since early days. Then there’s the brilliant MagSafe magnetic charge cord connector that’s gone missing in the wholesale forced conversion to USB-C I/O for everything along with the charging/charged bi-color indicator on the erstwhile MagSafe port (and for that matter on the last generations of pre-MagSafe Apple laptop charge ports). And how about Apple’s apparent intent to at minimum halt further development of macOS AppleScript and Automator development by recently terminating its Product Manager of Automation Technologies Sal Soghoian’s employment after nearly 20 years heading that department. AppleScript macros are a key element of my macOS workflow ecosystem, and all of these feature eliminations and downgrades diminish the traditional Mac user experience, and make it easier to consider switching to a Windows 10 Ultrabook or convertible hybrid.
The hope for Apple productivity users appears to rest with the iOS, and if that inference is correct, Federico Viticci is getting in on the ground floor. For anyone contemplating a similar switch, checking out his article is strongly recommended. For a counter-argument, see: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/11/17/apple-inc-ceo-tim-cook-is-wrong-about-ipad-pros-re.aspx
And a Merry Christmas to all!