Writing with iPad Pro

Roughly 336 hours away from Mac, I’m almost at the point of not looking back. While there are still a few minor annoyances with how iPad Pro operates, the pros far outweigh the cons. Here’s what it’s like to do real work — in my case, write — with iPad Pro on a daily basis for two weeks straight…

As many tech influencers have expressed over the last few weeks, iPad Pro is seemingly becoming one of the best tools available for getting work done. Whether you upload videos to YouTube for a living, or put words on a screen, iPad Pro has proven to be the right tool for many.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s the right tool for everybody. It’s now been just about two weeks since unboxing, and here’s what I’ve learned…

Built-in LTE is fantastic

Some may argue that having LTE on a tablet is idiotic because you can always tether an iPhone to your iPad and have data. However, nothing beats having a device that is always connected and doesn’t require any snafu every time you’d like to connect to the internet. Even at home, when Wi-Fi becomes slightly flaky, getting back online is as easy as toggling Wi-Fi off.

For me, having a built-in cellular radio is an absolute game changer as I can be much more mobile when working and can practically work from anywhere and not have to worry about connecting to someone else’s Wi-Fi or waiting to see if tethering will work. The locations I can work at now are virtually limitless — provided there’s solid cellular reception.

With this generation of iPad Pros, you get an embedded eSIM similar to how iPhone XS and iPhone XR implements it. This means that your main SIM can be an electronic SIM and have a free physical SIM while traveling.

Size and weight

One of the biggest annoyances with previous generation 12.9-inch iPad Pros for me was weight and size. Older 12.9-inch iPad Pros were too big and too bulky, despite being much lighter than a 15-inch MacBook Pro. This adds up with the addition of a Smart Keyboard. The last iPad I owned was the 12.9-inch iPad Pro first-generation, which I returned within a week due to its bulkiness.

With the third-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, I initially thought the same. Maybe its placebo or me getting used to it, but after two weeks, both the size and weight have become second nature. I don’t bat an eye at the 11-inch iPad Pro, as it actually feels small in comparison to me now. I’ve also had no issues carrying the larger model in my bag or hands.

Apps and navigating around iOS

One of the major challenges when using my iPad for work purposes is finding the right apps to get things done. With how 9to5Mac works, I need to have Slack running in the foreground during work hours. I also have the 9to5Mac web portal, which runs in Safari, for when I’m working on shorter posts like daily news or how-to’s. If you’re interested, you can learn more about my writing workflow here.

After everything is written. I’ll go into Pixelmator to quickly import a header image, crop it and resize it to the proper size for 9to5Mac’s theme. Rinse and repeat for any other images I’d like to add into a post. I’ll then export it to Photos and upload it to our backend.

The 12.9-inch size is absolutely essential to my workflow as floating apps on the smaller 11-inch often overlaps one of the two Split View apps. While that isn’t terrible it does mean that I have to move the floating window back and forth.

Needless to say floating apps are essential to my workflow.

However, not everything is rainbows and unicorns. With the way iOS is designed for both iPhone and iPad, it focuses on app experiences rather than web-based ones. This means that tapping an App Store link will fire you into the App Store with no way around it, for example. Speaking of the App Store, the ability to copy text from an app’s description, an App Store story, or an app’s changelog is currently impossible. And that’s absolutely infuriating. The App Store isn’t the only location where this happens, either. It happens with several other apps as well.

Copy and paste, while it’s nice to have, is currently one of the biggest headaches when working with iPad Pro. Copying an App Store link with the native Copy share sheet function copies the app name before copying the link. My current workaround is using the Messages share sheet action, deleting the app name, and then copying the app’s URL within the Messages compose window. That’s just one out of a small handful of annoyances with how iOS manages copy and paste.

One thing Apple has absolutely nailed is the dock implementation and the ability to quickly pull apps in and out of Slide Over and Split View. Apps that aren’t in the dock can be activated by way of Spotlight Search, which can be activated via a ⌘ + space keyboard shortcut. Unfortunately, from what I’m able to see, you aren’t able to gain access to Spotlight Search without using some sort of external keyboard.

Is it a worthy computer replacement?

To conclude, I’ll have to answer my original question: Can it replace your computer? Ultimately, I think iPad Pro will be a sufficient replacement for most users. There may be a few edge cases here and there, but for the majority of users, this could easily be your next computer, as Apple says.

The message is loud and clear: iPad is the future of computing. The hardware is here, the software is 80% there. As mentioned in Happy Hour episode 199, Apple needs to “Mac-ify” iPad apps more, rather than port iPad apps to the Mac. The operating system is in many ways still a blown up iPhone interface. As soon as Apple stops treating the iPad as such, third-party developers will stop treating it as so, too. Apps will start taking advantage of the larger screen, websites in Safari will stop serving up mobile sites, etc.

While I don’t think porting a mobile version of Finder to the iPad is a great move, I would agree that it needs basic filesystem management, at the very least allowing apps to rename or save documents and files to disk, and support for flash drives or external disks. It doesn’t have to be full access to the filesystem.

Apple also needs an option to disable the “open in app” function. For example, opening an Amazon or App Store link shouldn’t fire up their respective apps if you don’t want it to. Again, the iPad is running a blown up iPhone OS versus having a “tabletOS”.

For me, iPad has replaced my MacBook Pro for 99% of my tasks. iPad has been a joy to use and surprises me every passing day with what is being accomplished on it, and how others are getting “real” work done.

And yes, I wrote this entire piece on iPad Pro 🤯. And before I forget, iPad Pro is also an incredible consumption device, in case you forgot!

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