The Journey from Desktop to iPad as my Primary Device

This article has been updated to include a list of the common iPad applications I use.

I am pretty tech savvy.

But, this has been an interesting journey over the last year. I spend more time on my iPad Pro (and my iPhone) than using my Apple iMac. So. I decided to make the move from the desktop to the iPad. Aside from my iPhone, I also have an iPad Pro and an iPad Air 2.

So, let’s talk about the things I do:

  • Read email;
  • Write for Medium :-);
  • Conduct online research;
  • Write in various formats;
  • Write code;
  • Track my tasks and projects;
  • Track appointments;
  • Take and edit pictures and videos.

And a whole lot more.

For the most part, I can do everything I need to do on my iPad and do it just as well as on my Mac. There are only a few things that I have found challenging to get a good solution for outside of a web browser, and some of those web browser interfaces are difficult to deal with.

Why do I like the iPad so much?

Well, it’s portable. Between my iPhone and my iPads, I can work on anything, anywhere. I am no longer limited to being in front of my iMac all of the time. I like that.

I also have a visual impairment. This means sometimes it is easier to manipulate the screen magnification or use dynamic type (assuming the app supports it) on the iPad. That being said, not all apps support dynamic type in iOS, which greatly inhibits the usefulness of the app. In many cases, there is a website which provides the same functionality.

As a side note, every iOS (and Android for that matter) developer needs to be addressing accessibility in their application. Yes, it takes more effort to build an accessible application. However, building in accessibility features makes the application more useful to a wider audience, and even those who do not need the features can also take advantage of them if they choose.

I am not tied to a web browser. Okay, not a big deal. In my “day job”, almost everything I do is in a web browser. I use Google Gsuite for email, docs, spreadsheets, presentations, web based issue tracking software, collaboration tools, etc. All of these can be run on an iPad. And I likely could use many website interfaces instead of the native application, but sometimes those websites have a less than appealing interface on the smaller screen.

But, I like the native app concept, despite Lance Ng’s article on Medium suggesting the end is near for native apps on mobile devices. Part of my issue with the web interfaces for many of these apps is they are not designed to work correctly with the mobile web browser, or do not offer a mobile optimized view. Similarly, when you try to zoom the web view because the developer chose to use 8 point font, the ability to effectively use the web interface is virtually eliminated.

So how many apps do I have installed on my iPad Pro? I am, sure I have too many. (No, I am not going to count them.) Some I use daily, some weekly, some a lot less frequently than that. Fortunately, a setting in the iOS preferences allows the device to offload unused applications while preserving the data to recover some space if needed.

The Trouble Spots

The only real trouble areas for me are applications which do not support split view. In my workflow, writing code on a networked virtual machine and being able to access another application such as a web browser to see the impact of changes. Or writing an article and wanting to see the research work I have prepared in a split view.

I have no problem paying for an app that does what I need it to. If that app includes the accessibility features I need, and more advanced features like Handoff and split view, then that’s even better. Sometimes, it is just the limitation of the platform, although I personally don’t find the form factor or it’s capability very limiting overall.

Over time I have added more apps which help me the tasks I need to do. I estimate that about 98% of what I do is done on my iPad. If I need more complex video editing, I have to go back to my Mac and Apple Final Cut, or if I need a command line shell, then I can either ssh to my Mac or spin up a virtual machine in AWS for the time I need it.

Here is a list of the apps I use and what I use them for:

  • IA Writer — my primary article writing platform and Markdown editor.
  • Apple Numbers, Pages and Keynote — productivity applications
  • MindNode — mind mapping
  • Working Copy — Git on iPad
  • Textastic — code editing
  • Pythonista — Python IDE
  • Papers 3 — research document and library manager
  • Terminus — SSH client
  • IMovie — video editing and creation
  • Photos — photo library
  • Pixelmator — image editing
  • Clean Text — text editor, and processor
  • Anchor — podcasting development
  • GarageBand — music creation
  • FaceTime, Webex, Skype — web meeting and video conferencing tools
  • Medium, LinkedIn, Facebook apps — social networking

For me, it works.

Cross Posted to LinkedIn and Medium

Copyright 2019, Chris Hare

Written by

Chris is the co-author of seven books and author of more than 70 articles and book chapters in technical, management, and information security publications.

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