My year of the iPad, six months in

In early January I wrote a post about “Why 2014 will be the year of the iPad for me.” Rather than let that post die of loneliness I thought I’d write a six-month update. For the most part it’s gone pretty well. In this post, I’ll focus on the apps I’ve found myself using, what has worked well, and where things need to improve a bit.

In what may be a bit of moving the goal posts, the original post contained this paragraph:

For a long time, I never thought I’d be able to give up my Mac as my primary personal computing device. But thanks to some advances in hardware and third-party app development, I’m ready to center my personal computing around the iPad.

There was a bit of wire-crossing in that statement. As I clarified later in the post, I do not envision a Macintosh-less future, but over the past 6 months, the iPad has become central command for my personal computing.

The apps I use


The above image is my current home screen. There are the usual suspects of social media, reading and productivity. My home screen is the top apps I use almost every day. Subsequent screens are broken down by productivity, games, music, and reading.

Byword is my primary tool for writing blog posts. It has an excellent Markdown editor and I’m able to post to my personal site easily. All of my Gigaom posts originate in Byword on my iPad, but I copy the Markdown into WordPress on Safari. As I mentioned before, Gigaom’s WordPress setup doesn’t play well with blogging apps.

Word is my primary long-form writing program, at least until Scrivener for the iPad is released. I am trying my hand at fiction and Word on iOS does a better job at handling smart quotes than Byword and Pages. Unfortunately, Word and OneDrive don’t really have an easy way of downloading files for offline work. If I’m planning on writing without an internet connection, I’ll have to cache the files first. Pages automatically downloading all updates via iCloud was a nice feature.

OmniOutliner I use to outline said longer works. I’m outlining a few technical books I may self publish later this year. Since my needs are basic, I’m still using OmniOutliner 1 and haven’t paid the $29 for OmniOutliner 2 yet.

Evernote and OneNote are my main note-taking apps. OneNote I use for taking notes at meetings at work, and yes; I know I can outline my fiction in OneNote too. Evernote is a general storage place for articles I find on the web that I want to store. While I do use Pocket as my read it later service, generally what I save into Evernote is an article I’ll be referencing for a while; Pocket is more of a DVR for the web for me.

GoodReader and PDFpen are my main PDF reading apps. Almost all of my GoodReader content is synced from either Dropbox or OneDrive; PDFPen is used for a few form-filled PDFs that I seems to handle better than GoodReader.

OmniFocus is my general task manager. My work and freelance assignments are all tracked here and I use the Forecast view to take a look at the deliverables I have coming up.

Six months in: what works (and doesn’t work)

The only reason my Mac has left the house recently is because I am beta testing some Mac software and I want to test it out during work (it’s a work-related app), so I’ll bring my Mac in. Early this week, I thought my much-beleaguered 2011 MacBook Pro was going to need to visit Apple again, this time for a trackpad issue. If this happened, or if it died completely, my iPad would be forced into service as my main personal device for the foreseeable future.

This did not fill me with the fear it may have earlier this year. Yes, my days of playing 3D games would come to an end. That’s because I’m finding for most tasks, I can accomplish them on the iPad – with the obvious disclaimer that my day-job work is done on a day-job computer. Even then, I’m clearly using my iPad for day-job tasks (outlining, reading reference materials, writing and reviewing documents). There are few non-day job related tasks that I haven’t already shoveled off to the iPad, making it a sort of System of Record for my life. I tend to manage my instant messages and emails my iPad. For instant messages, I pretty much use IM+Pro7, but also use Google Hangouts because it syncs across all platforms. I write, post, organize my thoughts and communicate with my friends just fine with my iPad

Where the wheels fall of the bus is anything that requires either access to a file system. I can’t upload images to a Gigaom post on my iPad. If I create a book in Word and want to publish it, I can’t get the file to Kindle Publishing or the iBookstore. What I would love to see Apple release is an iBooks Author for the iPad. Since GarageBand and iMovie are available on the iPad, I’d be surprised if iBooks Author doesn’t make an appearance.

Bluetooth Keyboards and the iPad still feel an odd pairing (no pun intended). I know I’ve beaten up on smart quotes a lot in this article. Word automatically uses them on either the virtual or physical keyboard. On Pages, I have to tap the “?123” button and then press and hold on the quote key to select which quotation style I want to use. When writing fiction, that tap dance gets old fast.

What can Apple do to help?

A friend of mine was recently thinking of getting an iPad and the inability to upload files to job search sites was something that made him rethink the purchase. Accessing data between apps needs to get a lot better (please, please be part of the WWDC keynote). Rene Ritchie over at iMore has the same opinion I do: some sort of is needed. The concern I have is since Apple really loves sandboxing and there are valid concerns over what happens if an app corrupts the file, this feature will never see the light of day. It’s worth noting that Eddy Cue also noting that Apple doesn’t want iCloud to have a face isn’t leaving me overly optimistic

Andy Ihnatko recently noted on his podcast that there isn’t much of a price difference between a 128GB iPad Air and a 128gb MacBook Air (about $200 if you get the wifi only iPad) and Apple boasting the A7 is a desktop class processor. That’s too close a price point to not expect your iPad to upload files or access a file in more than one app.