Real work on the iPad

I only took iOS devices with me to Indianapolis last week for Release Notes. My iPad Pro with smart keyboard, for writing and podcasting; an older iPad Mini, for reading on the plane; and of course my iPhone SE.

A couple of months ago, Dan Counsell wrote about the iPad as a poor choice for everyday work:

I know a lot of journalists use the iPad full time, and that’s fine. The reason they can use it full time is that typing text has very low system requirements. However as soon as you need to move files from one app to another or unzip a document the iPad starts to make your life more complicated.

Part of the issue is that out of the box, the iPad can’t do everything that a Mac can do. The iPad needs apps. As Ben Brooks wrote about Dan’s ZIP file example:

It would be great if iOS expanded zip extraction as a built in tool, but it doesn’t, and yet a tool to do unzip is easily found, safe, and free.

iOS doesn’t have the Mac’s Finder. I could actually see a third-party iOS app centered on file management first, instead of just as an extra feature on top of text documents or photos — an app that blended a little of document providers, iCloud Drive, and app launching. Kind of in the spirit of the Finder-replacement PathFinder.

There are iOS apps to do pretty much anything. What often makes iOS slower to use is there’s less glue between apps and documents than on the Mac. No drag and drop between apps on iOS. Fewer keyboard shortcuts.

I love how Workflow sidestepped these issues with automation. I use a workflow for posting Instagram photos to my own blog. And Federico Viticci uses Workflow extensively. In a recent Club MacStories newsletter he shared how he used Scrivener and Workflow to write and prepare his iOS 10 review.

Another simple workflow I’ve used is to convert a podcast to MP3 from Ferrite. Every episode of Timetable was recorded on the iPhone or iPad. At WWDC, I edited Core Intuition on the iPad with the help of Ferrite and the web app Auphonic, which Jason Snell has also written about:

I was able to export and upload The Incomparable while sitting at a comfortable table in an Ashland pub, drinking their beer and using their free Wi-Fi. Auphonic did the rest, re-encoding the file as an MP3, tagging it properly, and uploading the result to both my Libsyn account and to The Incomparable’s FTP server.

When I was visiting a new coffee shop every day for 30 days, I loved taking the iPad with me because it was a lightweight, focused writing environment. With the right apps and workflows, it’s a fun computer to work on. I didn’t miss my Mac while traveling last week, and I expect iOS to serve me well on future trips.