iPad Pro 10.5 as my Main Computer – Part 3

Now that I had my new iPad Pro, it was time to load it up with apps and develop and refine the way I work.

In Part 1, I talked about my thoughts about iPad (and later iPad Pro) and my reluctance to upgrade up until the announcement of WWDC17. Then, in Part 2, I shared my thought process behind choosing my setup. After months of deliberation, I finally took the plunge and purchased my 10.5-inch iPad Pro, fully intending to replace my laptop with it.

So what was I to do next? Well, setting up the iPad itself was a fun experience. I quickly got used to the Smart Keyboard (and a couple of weeks later I can safely say it’s a fantastic piece of kit and more than capable of handling any typing task) and found the Pencil exciting to use.

My first step was to load the thing up with apps I thought I’d need, knowing that things would evolve over time. Here’s what I went for initially.

Here’s my home screen. I can see it moving around over time, but for now this is what I’ve got.


App Choices

Productivity

I find keeping To-Do lists the best way of keeping track of my tasks and projects, be they work related, personal projects or just (ugh) chores. For me, Things by Cultured Code is the perfect app. It lacks collaboration which some people need, but since I don’t, I find it by far the best GTD app available for Mac or iOS.

Calendaring

I’ve settled for Moleskine’s Timepage app for my primary calendar viewing. It has a beautiful, fluid UI which utilises gestures and features smooth animation. The way it shows you the day’s weather is super-intuitive and I enjoy the level of visual personalisation it offers through themes. Occasionally I like the traditional month view, though, and for this I love Fantastical. Again, it has a beautiful UI and — like Timepage — integrates directly with iCloud Calendar.

Social

I use Facebook for my ‘real life’ social connections, and other networks for my hobbies and interests.

The Facebook app is, to put it bluntly, a crock of shit on iPad; not optimised for the screen and clunky to use. I do not use the Facebook app, but instead the full website in Safari. It works perfectly well. In honesty, I use Facebook more on my phone anyway. I have the Facebook Messenger app, though, as it’s well designed and simple.

Tweetbot for Twitter is the best Twitter experience on iOS in my opinion, and has pride of place on my iPad homescreen. The official Reddit app caters just fine for keeping up with my subreddits, too.

Instagram I can access in the browser, and has a decent web UI. Like Facebook, it’s one of my Favourites in Safari which means it’s a tap away when I open a new tab.

Design and Coding

As a web and graphic designer, I knew this would be the trickiest part to adapt to on iPad Pro. What I was not prepared for, however, is how straightforward (and joyous, actually) this transition would be.

I immediately purchased Affinity Photo and I don’t regret it one little bit. It is a desktop-class application, packed with pretty much every feature you’d want (apart from perhaps vector capability). I have designed over 100 logos on the thing in the last two weeks, created rich posters and branding concepts, and find the interface an absolute joy. It has a minor learning curve in so far as finding out where everything is, but it’s an incredible — and essential — app for me. I also enjoy using Pixelmator for iPad, though Affinity has in many ways usurped that app in almost every way.

I used AnyFont to install my entire font library on the iPad (I’d dropped the fonts into iCloud Drive on my Mac along with everything else I thought I’d need for the device). I can use any of my fonts in my large collection in apps on the iPad, from Affinity Photo to Pages.

For local coding and editing websites on servers, I use Panic’s sensational Coda app. I can start a new project with the code on one side of the screen, and have a live Safari preview on the right which auto-reloads when I save the HTML or CSS file. I can edit Wordpress themes on the fly using Coda too, thanks to its built in FTP support. I may run into a few issues doing cross-browser testing on iOS though, since the device lacks a web inspector or the ability to preview sites in, say, iPhone 7’s portrait orientation, but I’m going to cross that bridge when I get to it.

When it comes to photo editing, it is rather annoying so few apps support the iOS Photo Extension framework. Also, my favourite iPhone app (Darkroom) hasn’t got an iPad version of their app. I have found one for the meantime, though, in the form of Fotograph. It’s got a nice set of filters and adjustment tools, and can be used from the Photos app via the extension. Until Darkroom comes to iPad, this is my go-to app for minor adjustments to photos.

Note-taking, Text and Creativity

It’s nice to write notes using the Apple Pencil sometimes, rather than using a keyboard. For this, I’ve found Penultimate to be a good experience. It features an awesome zoom mode, where you can write a line in large type and the view moves as you write, at the speed you’re writing. When you reach the end of a line you press a button to move to the next, a little like a typewriter.

It also works great just writing small, normally, and you can have many notebooks. The Pencil latency seems a bit laggy though, which makes me think it’s not fully optimised for the new iPad Pro, so I’m not convinced it’s definitely the best solution for me yet. I’ll keep looking at options.

For sketching and painting, it has got to be Procreate. What an app! It’s beautiful, fluid and a true joy to use. The brushes are all wonderful and so easily customisable too. I’ve sketched so many logos and website ideas in it and had fun trying to draw people and things as well. I love it.

For long-form writing and text notes, I absolutely adore Ulysses. It’s a beautiful app, offers tons of granularity, and is enough for all my needs. I have groups for my various (unfinished and in progress) novels, blog posts, poems and even a journal now, which I have a Workflow action to start a new entry in (complete with the current date and time)!

Entertainment

Obviously I have the usual suspects there for if I’m in the mood, so YouTube, Netflix and Podcasts. I have a large book collection in iBooks which I’ve now organised into collections based on genre. Reading on iPad Pro is a joy, especially highlighting with the Apple Pencil.

For Music, I have an Apple Music subscription. I also have the Spotify app which enables me to still listen to Discover Weekly without a subscription (I just have to endure ads). If I like a song, I add it manually to Apple Music.

Workflow

I’m quite new to Workflow, but from my usage so far I’m finding it absolutely amazing. At present, most of my Workflows are Apple Music related. I can, for example, tap on ‘Play Top Songs by Current Artist Next’ when listening to music, and it’ll queue up 10 of the current artist’s top songs to play next. Or I can play the current album from the start of the song I’m on. Or I can play a random mix of my library, with songs I’ve played more than 10 times. It’s the closest we can get to Smart Playlists on iOS. I love it!

As mentioned earlier, I also have a ‘New Journal Entry’ Workflow which creates a new sheet in Ulysses in the Journal group, complete with a date and time heading and ready for an entry title. It makes writing a new journal entry a total breeze and saves a lot of time.

I have a few others too, like a Zip/Unzip Workflow and an Image Optimisation Workflow.

Exploring, refining and broadening my use of Workflow is part of my greater plan for my iPad life. I can tell I’ve only just scratched the surface, and I hope Apple continues to develop it.


Next steps…

So far, I’m absolutely loving the iPad Pro. I’ve barely used my laptop at all. I’ve found that there’s pretty much nothing I haven’t been able to do. Frankly, the standout experience for me has been Affinity Photo. I’ve been able to do everything I did before on my Mac (other than vector/shape work) and it’s actually made me more creative with my ideas.

I can see me running into a few issues with web development though, especially when cross-browser testing is taken into account. I’ve got a web design project coming up, and will see how I go coding on it and how far I can go without using my Mac.

Finally, I really want to develop my use of the Workflow app to include more quick actions and shortcuts. I can see it being a really useful way to get more done with less work.

Thanks for reading my series. If you have any questions, feel free to Tweet me (here’s a link). I may write more in the future but for now, this is how it’s gone.

The iPad Pro has truly surpassed my expectations, which were already high. I adore it and can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

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