The Big Switch – 1 month of the “iPad Lifestyle”

Last month, I wrote about how I plan to start using my iPad Pro exclusively while I travel, and leave the MacBook back at my desk. Well, at least I’ve managed to follow that pretty religiously. Thanks to mostly living on the cloud, I have managed to segregate my devices depending upon where I am.

  • At work – The 12-inch MacBook is the primary workhorse. And when I leave work, I leave the computer behind as well.
  • At home – I have a mid-2011 Mac Mini at home (upgraded to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB Samsung Eve Pro SSD) that mostly doubles up as the media server. Whenever I’d need macOS to get some work done, this is the one I’d go for. I mostly end up on it when I might need to work on a spreadsheet, or manage the media server. Sometimes, just for the novelty of working on a big ass monitor ????
  • Everywhere else – You’ve guessed it right. It’s the iPad Pro. Well, lately I picked up a iPhone X, and thanks to the large screen a lot of my reading has shifted from the iPad to the iPhone, be it Reddit, Medium, Pocket, or even e-books on the Kindle.

To understand how easy, or hard, the switch was, I must first give an outline of the various kinds of tasks I usually try to achieve on the laptop:

  1. Various Instant Messengers – Slack, WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram etc.
  2. E-mails – My primary e-mail app is Newton. A big shoutout to Umesh Gopinath and his team to come up with this brilliant e-mail client.
  3. Office Suites – I tend to stay away from the MS Office suite, even though I continue to pay for Office 365 (the wifey needs it). My primary drivers are Google Docs & Sheets, however I exclusively use Keynote for making presentations. I somehow find myself a lot more productive on Apple’s Keynote, over PowerPoint or Google Slides.
  4. Task and Project Management – I use Todoist to manage my task lists, and JIRA (from Atlassian) for project management. Both of them have robust apps for the iPad, so it wasn’t much of a pain either.
  5. The Terminal/Console – I work at a IT services company where we sell Infrastructure-as-a-service. So, the tryst with the terminal, with multiple tabs and windows, was a given. And this was what I found the toughest to achieve on the iPad. Well, thankfully, it wasn’t impossible, and Coda came to the rescue. The solution is still a bit crippled, but takes care of 95% of my jobs, especially when I am traveling. The app is damn expensive though.
  6. The browser – Well, for everything else.

The Experience

One of the biggest changes I noticed, when I started working on the iPad, was the lack of ease with which one can switch between the various apps. Sure, there is Cmd+Tab. Sure, there is split screen. And yet, it is nowhere close to the level of multitasking one is used to on a laptop. However, in about a week or so, I realised that it is more of a boon in disguise. Especially when I try to do some focused work. Let me elaborate.

Project Management – More often than not, I end up being on JIRA, and sometimes referencing documents in Google Docs. Whenever I am on the laptop, planning the same set of tasks take much longer because I am often disturbed by a ping in Slack, or a notification from Reddit, or even another e-mail. It’s not rare that often I have multiple apps open on the computer, with tasks/conversations left in between on most of them. Well, you can say that I get distracted too easily. However, the good thing is the iPad helps me mitigate that. When I am on the iPad, working on a document, I stick to that document even if I get a few notifications because it’s actually takes longer to switch context than on macOS.

Writing – The focused way of working on the iPad has impacted my writing the most. The fact that I decided to start writing again, on Medium, would not have been possible had I not switched to the iPad. It is very common to find me at a Starbucks outlet, typing away on the iPad. Something very similar to the image on this post. I use iA Writer for distraction-free writing on the macOS. However, on the iPad, no matter which app you use, even a traditional word processor, will automatically be distraction-free. If you are someone who gets distracted easily, and haven’t tried out the idea of distraction-free writing, I’d highly recommend you to do so.
Travel Planning – This is something I often struggle with, on the iPad. Especially when I am planning a trip with my wife, or friends. There are 2 major issues:

  1. WhatsApp – The fact that it’s become the de facto standard of instant messaging in India, coupled with the fact that they aren’t truly cross-platform, is a serious pain in the ass.
  2. App Switching – Even for those friends (and wifey) who are on iMessage/Telegram, life isn’t all that better. When you are trying to identify flights and hotels, you end up checking a plethora of services for the best routes and prices. Now, there is no guarantee that all of them will have iPad apps, that they will allow split screen, or will even have a responsive web design that will allow one to use those services effectively with split screen. And then there are many apps that still don’t support drag-and-drop. My favourite travel website, Cleartrip, still doesn’t support the landscape mode, or even a way to share flights/hotels via the Share Sheet. Well, you get the drift.

Just to summarise, iOS 11 still hasn’t reached the stage where it will be easy for a regular Joe to replace the computer with the mobile OS. However, the silver lining is that it’s getting there. And one is adamant enough to overcome the friction on the way, it’s somewhat possible.

For my future posts, I’d try and focus more on individual set of tasks that I manage to achieve on the iPad, the kinds of apps and workflows I use, and more on how the iPad lifestyle works out for me. It’s encouraging that I have already started to garner a small set of readership. If there are any specific questions/solutions you’d like me to write about, don’t hesitate to do the same either.

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