Sometimes, everything just comes together.
The photo above was taken at my gym last week when I decided to head there with only the 10th-generation iPad for the morning’s work. For the first time in a long time, there was no MacBook in my backpack.
I needn’t have worried. Apple’s weirdest iPad worked brilliantly. Granted, I was only using it for writing and publishing that day’s blog post (along with a few back-office admin bits and pieces) but everything just fell into place.
The distraction-free nature of writing on the iPad, the brilliance of the Magic Keyboard Folio, and the joy of being able to touch the screen as well as use the trackpad made that morning’s work pass by without a fuss. Better still, it was fun. Even Grammarly proved nice to use in its form as an alternative iPadOS keyboard.
But I’m still struggling to go iPad-only, I’m afraid, and I think it’s because of the following five reasons.
1. Working with files
If I had to pick one reason I always feel so inclined to return to the Mac while using an iPad, it’s file management.
I’ll talk more about the comfort of the Mac later, but my gripe with the new computing paradigm presented by iPadOS is that it makes traditional and still entirely relevant tasks such as working with files an absolute pain in the backside.
Yes, there’s a Files app, and services like Dropbox integrate very nicely. The problem is that we’re still bereft of two things on iPadOS: proper window management and a desktop.
The former isn’t solved by Stage Manager which is far too clunky to ever be considered useful, and the lack of somewhere on which to place stuff for those who use the macOS desktop as a key element of their workflow feels restrictive.
The fact that Files is an app is also inherently restrictive. It’s accessible from the share sheet throughout iPadOS, but still feels far too abstract to be fully integrated into any workflow. It’s a genuine problem, and I don’t care how old this makes me sound.
2. The web app conundrum
During my iPad-only morning at the gym, I used WordPress to publish that day’s blog post on my website. It worked almost flawlessly. I didn’t encounter any roadblocks, and every function I rely on within WordPress was present and correct.
The key word above is ‘almost’. Because my second frustration with an iPad-only lifestyle is the way in which web apps don’t always play ball. Even WordPress has its iPad-related frustrations; scrolling the blog editor sometimes results in interface elements disappearing or obscuring your content, and there are a bunch of controls that aren’t designed appropriately for touch.
There are far worse examples. For instance, I use Taplio and Tweet Hunter for significant parts of my daily social media content production and they’re practically unusable on the iPad. This is due to certain buttons and sections of the screen falling outside of the iPad’s screen estate and being completely irretrievable.
I appreciate that these incompatibilities with web apps on iPadOS are down to the third-party developers. But the fact they’re clearly having trouble – or simply can’t be bothered – reveals how big a challenge it is for the iPad to completely replace the Mac.
Oh, and while I’m at it, the insistence iPadOS has on you to open the corresponding native app rather than the web version is infuriating.
3. Multitasking still feels clumsy
I think Apple has worked itself into a corner with iPadOS when it comes to multitasking. The absence of the desktop and the full-screen, zero-distraction nature of apps on iPadOS make any form of multitasking support inevitably feel like an afterthought.
As I alluded to earlier, Stage Manager is the epitome of that. Try as I might, I just cannot warm to it. This might be due to decades of baked-in experience using traditional multitasking operating systems like macOS and Windows, but that’s the point. The iPad isn’t running either of those operating systems, but it is serving a huge audience of people who know them like the backs of their hands.
I want to open multiple Files windows and move them freely around the screen. I want the ageing tiled app display of the Home Screen to be replaced with an iPadOS version of the desktop. I want to place multiple apps on the screen in precise locations and in sizes of my choosing.
Is that too much to ask?
4. Touch CAN feel a bit forced
I’m aware that there are plenty of people who feel that the presence of a touch interface within a traditional computing environment can feel a bit forced.
Why reach out and touch the display when undertaking the desired function is far more quickly and easily achieved with a click of the trackpad or tap of a keyboard shortcut?
The more I use the iPad as my only machine, the more I appreciate this point of view. I’m still a big fan of combining touch with more traditional input methods; it does feel entirely natural to occasionally reach out and interact with the display. However, I often wonder if I’m doing it simply because I can.
As Dr. Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Granted, there are no genetically engineered dinosaurs at play here (yet) but Dr. Ian had a point. I do wonder how much time I waste during each iPad-only session by reaching out and scrolling, button-pressing, and moving stuff around. I’d guess that, when added up over the course of a week, it could be a bigger drain on productivity than one might think.
5. The comfort of the Mac
Of all the reasons for avoiding an iPad-only lifestyle, this is the most pathetic.
Alas, I cannot shake off the fact that the Mac still feels incredibly comfortable – like a nice, warm, well-worn pair of slippers.
This experiment is forcing me to avoid the trap of reaching for my MacBook, but it’s tough. During every session on the iPad, I inevitably tire and begin yearning for macOS.
Call me old-fashioned or resistive to change – I don’t care; it’s just so hard to release myself from those shackles.
You’ll notice that I’ve broken with tradition today; I haven’t once mentioned the absence of Final Cut Pro on the iPad.
I’ve given up, to be honest. I’m not convinced we’re going to see anything in that regard for a long time – if ever. It’s why I’ll soon be trying out DaVinci Resolve on the iPad Pro – it’s about time I put my money where my mouth is on that front.
That’s also why I haven’t given up on the whole iPad-only thing. I still have faith that it’s possible with a bit more effort on my part and acceptance that plenty of compromises are required.
I’d love to hear from you, though – what’s stopping you from going iPad only? Get involved in the comments!
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What’s stopping me? I think you summed it up nicely, “I still have faith that it’s possible with a bit more effort on my part and acceptance that plenty of compromises are required.”
Effort and Compromises.
I think the most compelling reason to switch to iPad only right now is “because it’s there”. It has some interesting ideas, and I do enjoy my iPad Pro for content consumption, but it offers more compromise and pain than benefit in prolonged, real-world use.