From the moment I clapped eyes on the original iPad in Steve Jobs’s mitts, I was smitten. Where others saw limitation, I was excited by possibilities.
Naysayers slammed the iPad for being a massive iPod touch and not running OS X. But I loved the iPod touch and iPhone and was thrilled at the prospect of similar innovative touchscreen apps and games on a bigger canvas. I reasoned we didn’t need a MacBook with the keyboard sawn off.
I bought an iPad immediately, importing it from the USA. And despite an Icelandic volcano attempting to thwart swift shipping, I eventually managed to write two books about the tablet, while gorging on apps and games.
Few days passed when the iPad wasn’t in use, and I upgraded several times. But as productivity apps arrived – despite people claiming “you can’t do real work on an iPad”, having moved on from “you can’t do real work on a Mac because control requires a DOS command line” – I never fully made the switch.
I still sit before an iMac to do the bulk of my writing work. When on the road or away on holiday, a wheezing old MacBook Pro in desparate need of an upgrade is wheeled out.
In part, this is down to habit. I know Macs inside out, and I’m fast with them – something that’s important in the increasingly demanding and competitive world of journalism. I weld all kinds of workflow cruft to macOS – utilities designed to make me more efficient.
At least, that’s the theory. Recently, three of my four Macs (an old iMac, about to be put out to pasture; its new and shiny replacement; and a curmudgeonly old Mac Mini) went to the local Mac doctor, for some SSD installation magic.
Suddenly, I had a weirdly empty desk, but also a morning of work to do. With the old MacBook Pro being in the hands of my wife and my iPad practically screaming at me for attention, I figured it was time to experiment.
Change of scenery
I plopped my iPad Air 2 in an old Griffin A-Frame stand, atop a small pile of books, thereby ensuring it was at eye height. (Years of RSI and back pain means I wasn’t going to flip the bird at ergonomics, even for a single morning.) I quickly connected my new iMac’s keyboard via Bluetooth. And then I got to work.
I store current work in Dropbox, and so that was all readily accessible. As for writing – the vast majority of my day job – the iPad is more than ably catered for by some seriously good apps. Want to write long-form text? Try Ulysses (RM104.90). Tapping out shorter articles? iA Writer (RM16.90) or Byword (RM12.90) do the business.
What hit me the second I started properly working (rather than just faffing about with a game or entertainment app) was that way in which the device becomes the app. Yes, there’s full-screen mode on a Mac or PC, but it still doesn’t compare to the iPad experience.
On Apple’s tablet, there is just enough friction to stop you wanting to flick between apps all the time. Split View enables a two-up view for working while checking out research, but procrastination options are nonetheless reduced.
By contrast, I realised my Mac is in reality a machine of distractions. The menu bar alone is peppered with icons that demand attention. And it’s so easy to switch to Tweetbot or Safari, and then fall down an internet rabbit-hole that consumes hours of my day.
With the iPad, I blazed through an entire commission in half the time I’d have expected – and I imagined this wasn’t novelty, but the nature of the device itself.