Some changes in how you work make the iPad Pro a great choice
I was very happy to receive an iPad Pro for Christmas from Mrs. Claus.
I will skip a discussion of the iPad Pro’s limitations and comparisons to the Surface Pro – those have been generally well done all over the place and I concur with the analysis that the Surface Pro is a laptop trying to be a tablet and the iPad Pro is a tablet trying to be a laptop. Likewise, I think the content consumption abilities of the iPad are terrific. The key is whether it can be a producer of content beyond the occasional email.
I really do think the iPad Pro can replace (for the most part) a laptop – this does not mean it will be a laptop but rather that you can accomplish everything you typically need to do when using a laptop. I spent about a week using it as my primary device and I was pretty happy with it. But the key to making it useful as a content creation device is total reliance on the cloud to replace your hard drive which means a change in how you work on all devices.
I did not try the Apple Smart Keyboard ($169) because it looked sort of flimsy and similar to the Surface Pro keyboard which I have found to be awkward to use. (sidebar – for Windows tablets, I much prefer the Dell Latitude 13 7350 which comes with a real keyboard when you want to use it in laptop mode). Instead I bought the standard Apple Smart Cover ($59) which holds the device up at a comfortable angle and I used my trusty old Apple wireless keyboard with the iPad Pro.
I found using a real keyboard to be very comfortable and I liked being able to put the iPad Pro a little further away and keep the keyboard nearer (or wherever I wanted it since it was wireless). While this has been possible on the iPad Air (and earlier), the size of the Pro’s screen made a huge difference in usability for me. With this setup, it feels indistinguishable from a laptop except for having to use the touchscreen instead of a mouse. Of course, you can’t really use it in your lap.
More than a Satellite
Because I work in technology, I have used almost every model of iPad over the years. I’ve always liked the device but at its best, I’ve found it to be a satellite of my MacOS devices. I love iOS on my iPhone, but I feel like my iPad’s should just be able to do more things.
Two of those “more” things are multitasking and having an accessible file system.
While multitasking(ish) functions have been available for a while on the iPad, it wasn’t until the iPad Pro’s screen real estate that you are actually able to use two apps side by side. Being able to easily switch between open Apps has been available and useful for a while but the side by side (or swipe out) functionality was too small on the iPad Air. It feels a little like the when Apple debuted Multifinder in the late 1980s. I do think there is something productivity-enhancing about not having a lot of windows open across several monitors though.
The accessible file system is a bit of an issue for my workflow. I’m used to managing my files directly. While there are cloud file systems such as Box or Microsoft’s OneDrive, they are cumbersome sometimes on iOS. Microsoft frequently throws permission issues and both options require that whatever I was doing on my other computer have properly sync’d to the cloud.
The solution that worked the best for me was transitioning to Evernote. This means a change in both workflow on my MacOS computers and in how I store files. To really take advantage of the iPad Pro as a content creation device, I need access to my data and that means that when I use any computing device, I have to use software that makes that content available everywhere. As noted above, there are multiple ways of doing this but trying to graft an directory-based file system onto iOS is always going to feel Frankenstein-like.
Once I started opening Evernote as my first choice word processor instead of Apple’s Pages or Microsoft Word, things started to work very smoothly on the Pro. Evernote’s sync works better than what I found in the other tools and I can just copy files to Evernote if they are more complex than text.
The limitation, of course, is that Evernote does not do spreadsheets. If I need a spreadsheet, I am back to cloud file systems like Box or Google’s gDocs. I have Excel and Numbers on my iPad – and iCloud has been serviceable for Apple software – but I’m not a heavy spreadsheet user. Your mileage may vary.
I have an Apple Pencil on order and I can’t wait to try that. In meetings, I find typing distracting and I don’t like the sense of being more focused on my screen than on my colleagues. I am looking forward to how that works and of course, with Penultimate, I should be able to maintain my use of Evernote.
I will likely buy the Apple Smart Keyboard at some point for ease of use when traveling.
I intend to look into MacJournal for blogging on the iPad Pro since it has an iOS counterpart that appears to sync with the MacOS version.
I find the iPad Pro to be a very useful device and I can do almost everything I need to do on it — I have actually traveled without my laptop a few times and find that very liberating. Changing my workflow is still a bit of a challenge but for the person whose primary activity is textual, I think using a cloud-based program such as Evernote is a helpful step.
As is often the case, the technology is the easy part. It’s the human stuff that makes or breaks things.