A Short Glance at My iPad Pro Usage
As a professional, I am enjoying my iPad Pro. I have encountered a number of conversations across the web where people are trying to understand how this device can be part of their life as a professional, or if it’s simply too limited. So I thought I might comment about my experience so far.
I prefer to do my serious work on my desktop iMac. It’s incredibly powerful and has a wonderful screen. My posture is vastly better than with any mobile device of any kind and I have a huge amount of screen space to spread my work around when needed. There is no notebook of any kind that even remotely compares to this working environment. That said, my employer does furnish me with a 15” MacBook Pro (retina) that is currently running a fresh install of 10.11 and stowed away on a shelf. I never use it.
All that considered, I do like to get away from the desk from time to time. As a work-from-home Senior Software Engineer and technical lead, it’s easy to find one’s self head down in work for 15 hours at a time several days in a row. It’s important, even if you’re very busy, to get away from the home office or you will, in fact, go crazy.
So here is a list of points related to the use of iPad Pro by an actual professional who does not do art for a living:
- I don’t want to maintain a second working environment just to step away from the desk now and then. Even if I grabbed a notebook to head to the local café or library, I would still use splashtop or RDP or similar tools to work with my existing desktop environment. It’s far too much work to maintain an environment this complex across two computers reliably.
- I like iOS. I don’t care what size the device is for that opinion. I like the stability, the fluid nature of the apps in general, the touch experience, and many other things about it.
- I do sometimes have tasks for work that involve drawing, mainly diagrams, and the ability to do that with my own hands is so much more enjoyable and human than using a mouse. Having tools like OmniGraffle that work with the pencil but also compensate for my awful drawing skill (shape recognition) is just awesome.
- In my work, it’s normal to find myself typing quite a lot so first party support for a hardware keyboard that is lightweight and easily portable is really nice.
- I have used iPad for these purposes before, both iPad Air and iPad Mini sized devices. I even used iPhone Plus this way for a while. What I learned is that the screen size is extremely important and for my work, bigger is absolutely better without a single touch of subjectivity involved in that assessment. This is especially true when working with an app like SplashTop into a desktop environment. It’s simply better to have a screen that is bigger to do less panning and zooming while working.
- Over time, more of my work can be performed with native apps. The nature of my work (large scale data analysis targeting Windows Azure) means that I’m always connecting to remote systems. The better the tools for that get, the more I can do without remote access to my workstation. Things like minor code edits with Working Copy that I push into the repo triggering continuous deployment, or just managing resources through the Azure portal, are better on this device thanks to—not only the larger screen, but—more RAM mainly, and the more powerful CPU to handle more apps running at once. There are actually some tools built for iOS specifically for working with Azure, though, they could be improved. I’m considering writing some myself if I can find the time.
- Finally, I’m also a human who does not work all the time. I enjoy leisure time with the iPad Pro. Yeah, it’s big, and it isn’t the device I would use in bed if I was going to do that. I use my iPhone for reading as I’ve always preferred that over any iPad. It’s a simple fact that narrower width text is easier to read and follow, and the phone is just crazy light which makes it ideal for long fiction reading binges. But, for most everything else, I’m going to cozy up on the couch and nestle iPad Pro into the nook of my arm and poke around at the net, experiencing all those dank memes and fantastic cat photos that the cool people are always sharing. Maybe I’ll stream some twitch.tv while playing Hearthstone to kill some time and win a few games by complete chance? Maybe I’ll finally catch up on the X-Files while wearing my Jabra Revo BT headphones which, through some magic on iPad Pro, keep up with video just barely well enough that I can tolerate watching it. Anyway, anything involving multitasking on iOS is better on the larger screen.
Of course, that’s only a portion of what I do with this thing. Just yesterday I conveniently received, filled out, signed by hand, and returned a ballot for my local HOA without ever planning to be able to do that, all on my iPad Pro. How nice. Even on my Mac that process is more tedious. Notability made it streamlined. Open DOC in Notability ⇾ fill out form and sign ⇾ share with OneDrive to keep a copy ⇾ reply to mail with Mail.app and attach from OneDrive to return the ballot.
Anything you ever do with a computer required someone at some point to make a tool to do that. Computers do literally nothing useful at all without software to provide the service. It’s great to have general purpose tools to make up new workflows, but, in the end, real productivity comes from specialized tools. The one and only legitimate complaint I can see against iPad for any workflow is the lack of such tools. For some people this will not be a real issue, for others it will be a showstopper, but, for a surprisingly large number of professions, it is a matter of investigating what exists and putting it all together in a way that is useful to you.
You have to consider what you value. I personally have been very much on the fence between iPad Pro and Surface Pro, but, in the end, I hold vastly greater value for the stability and consistency of iOS as well as the extremely better build quality and quality control of Apple products. I value the silence of the device. I know there is a silent version of Surface but its CPU is pathetic compared to iPad Pro. And the reality of that product line is that it’s in shambles in terms of software quality. There are numerous problems. Maybe Microsoft will fix them all. I don’t want to wait. The extremely minor quibbles on iOS are nothing in comparison.
So, for what I want my lightweight (both in physical and metaphorical terms) companion device to do and how I want it to work, nothing in the world compares to iPad Pro right now.