I’ve been a committed Mac user since I was five years old, with my family’s first Power Macintosh 6500 in 1997. From classic Mac OS through to modern-day macOS, Cupertino’s take on the desktop interface has always worked for me.
My mental model of computing is built around the Mac but in recent times, I’ve moved much of my everyday computing to my 10.5-inch iPad Pro. My earliest experiences with iPad (aside from playing around with others’ models from 2010), was when I could afford the third-generation iPad in 2012. I absolutely loved it and certainly appreciated its status as an ‘in-between’ device, as Jobs sold it: more capable than a smartphone but more portable than a laptop.
The Mac is still the hub for my heavier content, such as original iCloud Photo Library files and HD iTunes downloads, however, the iPad now serves as the device that I pick up first to edit photos, create documents, watch online video, complete emails and other creative tasks.
The Home Screen
To frame my thoughts on using iPad Pro, I thought that it would be interesting to run through my first home screen. The apps that make up this space—particularly the dock—determine how you use the device. My home screen is below, followed by a list of apps (with links to those from third parties).
Three Other Visible (Suggested) Apps in the Dock
The Rest of the Home Screen
- Find My Friends
- Tayasui Sketches Pro
- Affinity Photo
- Affinity Designer
- CARROT Weather (custom icon)
- App Store
- Overcast (custom icon)
- V for Wikipedia
- Deutsche Welle
- Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake in Tasmania (shot with my Canon 500D)
I could go on forever about why I use certain apps and place them on the first home screen but we don’t have all day. I could talk about how useful the Affinity apps are (despite my seriously amateur artistic status) or how great it is to read with Books. Not to mention, Shortcuts is really powerful, but I’ve got nothing on the famous Federico Viticci. Instead, reflecting on my move to spending most of my time on the iPad Pro, I thought it would be better to highlight five of the more interesting third-party apps on iOS that have transformed the way that I think and go about computing.
One of the apps that I use the most on my iPad Pro is Twitterrific. In recent years, Twitter has received more and more criticism for its handling of online abuse, fake news and bots. I don’t see any of this when I use Twitterrific, as it offers powerful muting, muffling and most importantly, no ads. The ability to customise the interface with themes, colours and icon shapes is also fantastic and the app respects the recommended two-column interface that works so well on iPads. Altogether, Twitterrfic turns Twitter into a pleasant online space for me and I use its Twitter list function heavily to follow news and blogs that I don’t want to see in my normal feed. It’s also great to have to the side in split view.
Whilst Twitter is my main link to new and the outside worl), Icro for Micro.blog has radically shifted the way that I think about microblogging and sharing updates online. Icro on the iPad Pro offers a simple interface for posting images and sharing quick thoughts, with what can only be regarded as a very engaged and genuine user base, who are generally over the foolishness and narcissism on Facebook. I’ve met a number of interesting people using on Icro on my iPad Pro, whom I wouldn’t have met elsewhere.
Moving on, Ulysses on iOS has changed the way that I think about writing. In fact, I’m wrote this blog post with it. My idea of documents has always been the traditional model of creating individual files, all of which are accessible from a shared file system like the Finder on macOS. Ulysses focuses on a more stripped-back writing environment, based on Markdown XL, with a dark theme, unobtrusive user interface and grouped projects with ‘sheets’ that replace individual documents. With the ability to set writing goals, tag sheets and post directly to sites, it has enabled me to focus more on my writing and use the iPad Pro with less friction. Most importantly, because of its ease of use and minimalism, I’m more motivated to write.
Staying on the topic of text, Day One is one of those apps that can really enhance your computing experience… if you commit to it. As a journaling app, it offers powerful tagging and media capabilities like Ulysses, along with the ability to create multiple journals for different purposes, such as holidays, for example. I was very inconsistent with my use of Day One in earlier days but with the addition of the Smart Keyboard on iPad Pro, two items that are now always with me, writing a long-term journal is now much less of a chore. Tie that in with split view and drag-and-drop, and you suddenly have an easy way to integrate photos, videos, links and other information that’s relevant to your chronicle of the day.
Last of all, this may be the most unexpected choice: V for Wikipedia. Without a doubt, Wikipedia is one of the most revolutionary tools of the digital age, giving people access to abundant information no matter where they are. That being said, Wikipedia makes a lot of sense on the desktop but hasn’t always been super-nice to use on smartphones and tablets. There’s often a lot of scrolling to be done. V for Wikipedia is one of a number of third-party Wikipedia clients that presents the site in a way that is easier and more digestible on portable devices. This app is undoubtedly the nicest and offers quick chapter navigation, bookmarking, search, beautiful type and an engaging and dynamic front page that shows the most read Wikipedia articles on any given day.
Furthermore, V for Wikipedia shows the most searched items in your area, if you grant it access to your location. The thing that is most significant about this app is the feeling that it gives you as you use it. It transforms the site into a reading experience and makes you want to keep discovering new content. In essence, it takes what is an endless database of web articles and makes it seem like a well-designed and modern Britannica or Encarta. When I use this app, it takes me back to the sense of discovery that I had when I was in primary school, using Encyclopedia Encarta on CD-ROM.
What’s a Computer?
Shifting now, this brings me to the major point argument about computing on iOS. Many say that it needs to compete with a laptop and that it fails in doing so. Of course, there are areas where iOS falls down, such as connection to peripherals such as external drives. To me, this is a redundant argument. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad back in 2010, he clearly pitched it as an in-between device that combines the best of consumption and production into a portable package. Since then, it has changed to address the feedback and needs of pro(sumer)s who want something more. Given its original design purpose relatively short history in contrast to the Mac, people just need to be patient. The platform will continue to mature.
What is profound about iPad Pro (and iOS more broadly) is how the form factor enables a new type of computing. Stripping away the need for a desk and pointing devices, at least up until now, has given us completely different apps and contexts for computing. The Apple Pencil is the perfect example of a tool that works beautifully with the iPad Pro, but would gel with a Mac.
I will always love the Mac and see no immediate reason to stop using it. It’s powerful, it’s versatile and it’s nostalgic. The difference is that the vast majority of what I need to do on a computer is now addressed by iPad Pro. It has a keyboard when I need it to have one.
All of this is precisely why I avoid saying that the iPad Pro is my main computer. It’s impossible really to define what ‘main’ means for all users, as I check my Apple Watch more than any other device with wrist-turns all the day, overall I spend the most time on my iPhone and I use the Mac as my content storage hub. I choose to say everyday computer instead, as it’s the large-screen device that I use for the majority of my more taxing functions.
iPad Pro is both a computer and not a computer. It is yet another choice in a broad range of devices and I can’t wait to see where Apple takes it in the coming years.