Tapping and Typing

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I wrote a few weeks ago that I was going to stop carrying the iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard everyday, and I’ve been following through on that. I also carry a laptop to and from work, and the combination of the two devices is more than a 15″ MacBook Pro and charger.

I have been trying to do a better job of just using and not over-thinking the iPad Pro. That definitely happens naturally at home. I hate to repeat it, but it is a fantastic content consumption device. I use it almost daily for Netflix and podcasts, and I have pretty much stopped using my awesome UE Boom speakers because the iPad Pro already sounds good enough for music in the kitchen.

But when I’m out and about and want to handle longer form writing and messaging, this is where the iPad Pro slows me down when compared to my Retina MacBook Pro.

I’ve been waiting for holdouts like Hangouts and LINE Messenger to finally update their apps for Split View, and those simple updates still have not arrived. I really enjoy Split View, but the more I come to rely on it, the more that these holdout apps stick out like a sore thumb. It really is inconvenient to have Hangouts take up the entire screen, when all I’m doing is idle chatting with friends.

One of the other big issues I have with Split View is that the keyboard app switcher doesn’t let you switch focus between two active apps. If I’m writing in Ulysses and have Safari open on the other half of the screen, Ulysses will take over all of the keyboard shortcuts, until such time as I tap on a text field within Safari. This makes keyboard shortcuts a lot less useful for real multitasking on the iPad Pro, because they still rely on touch to start things off.

I do still believe in that idea that Apple sold years ago: that there is something magical about touching content through the screen. It is genuinely fun, and it’s for that reason that I wouldn’t give this iPad Pro up easily.

However, for productivity, this large tablet is feeling more niche for me, and I’m starting to look back towards the land of laptops for everyday usage. Matt Gemmell, one of my favourite writers, has actually just swung the opposite way. He has abandoned his 12-inch MacBook and has gone 9.7″ iPad Pro only, with just a Magic Keyboard for typing. Matt recently wrote a piece about “Lifting the mouse” in which he discusses the enjoyment he gets from tapping on the iPad, instead of navigating with a trackpad or mouse. The former just feels better and more natural to him.

For a little more carrying weight, I feel like I’m rediscovering the joy of the mouse pointer for longer work sessions. Yes, it is a contrived mechanism when you look at visually, but the huge bonus is that my hands can just stay mostly in one position, and I can quickly jump across the screen to access controls, without having to physically reach up and tap them. The iPad Pro is decent for shorter work sessions, but I haven’t been enjoying it when I need to juggle more than one thing at a time. I’ve jumped between apps for the past year and I would love to make more use of Split View, but the keyboard support and 3rd party developer support still aren’t there.

So instead of simply waiting for a saviour update to come out in the Spring, I’m going to just adjust how I see the tablet in my own workflow. My iPad Pro will be what the 12-inch MacBook is to travellers: a lighter computer, but not the main computer (which is what I’d hoped it could be). For everyday usage and carry, I’m returning to my MacBook Pro.


Thomas

My name is probably Thomas (yes, it is). I'll be able to help you figure out why Evernote isn't syncing, or recommend your favourite new RSS reader to you. That's partly because I am enamoured with the iOS ecosystem and hardware, but mostly because I'm Canadian.

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