The iPad Replaces my MacBook Pro. Finally!

Vibhor Chhabra
Sep 9, 2016 · 6 min read

Ever since I used the first iPad I have been infatuated with the idea of the iPad replacing my MacBook. I tried it with the original iPad in 2010, then with the iPad Air in 2013, and now with the iPad Pro. This is the first time I have used the iPad instead of the MacBook for a few months. I still use the iMac at home/Thunderbolt display coupled to my MacBook Pro at work but that is only because the screen size on those things is huge.

What changed since the iPad Pro launch that enabled me to sustain the transition this time around?

While still not at the level of sophistication of macOS, multi-tasking is now a viable option in iOS. Most of the apps I use support split-mode and this is one of the biggest enablers of my transition to the iPad Pro.

Having said that, the app switcher for multi-tasking needs to evolve to reduce friction. Scrolling through a single column of 50+ apps to find the right app is a poor user experience. Also, I would like to be able to drag and drop content between windows which isn’t possible right now. Instead you save content from one split view window to Photos/iCloud and then in the other window upload the content.

I love photography and my primary device not being able to import and process RAW images was a deal breaker for me. Now iOS natively handles RAW images, Adobe Lightroom allows me to process these images on my iPad, and the processed images are available on my iMac at home via the Lightroom cloud.

What I would like to see improved here is the speed at which RAW images are imported into the iPad from the memory card, and also the ability to directly import RAW images into Lightroom bypassing the Apple Photos app.

Smart Keyboard & Pencil
The Pencil was a no-brainer since I missed being able to properly annotate and draw on iPad. The real surprise was the smart keyboard. I had always resisted buying a keyboard for my iPad but once I did it made me a lot more productive. The shortcut bar that appears at the bottom of the iPad screen when you use the keyboard is convenient as well.

The one thing that Ihope Apple brings out in a future update is the ability to annotate/mark up any screen with the Apple Pencil. That would be super productive

iOS 10 Public Beta
I have become so used to iOS10 that it doesn’t feel new anymore but some of the changes with widgets, notification center enhancements, Photos, Maps, Homekit, and AI sprinkled across the device have improved my productivity in no small measure. Information is available at a glance and is actionable.

Other things that have enabled this transition but are not new…

Better Apps
Apps on the iPad are maturing and getting better. You have to pick the right set of apps to be productive. Apps like Evernote, Quip, Dropbox Paper, Apple iWork, Microsoft Office (surprise!) that have been designed for the mobile, touch interface are far superior to apps that have shoehorned the desktop paradigm into mobile.

Update: The upcoming iWorks collaboration features, along with the ability to live stream your presentation without a conference tool solves a big hole in this area.

Everything I do, I do it in the cloud. So that has significantly reduced my reliance on a 1TB+ disk drive. Although, I do sync my cloud fully to my iMac, and Time Capsule as a backup I could easily skip this step.

The biggest motivating factor from day one has been the portability of the iPad. It is unbeatable. Especially now that I have a 15” MacBook Pro at work which I absolutely despise since I have never been a fan of anything over 13” (cue the size jokes!).

I find the iPad to be much more secure than Macs. Whether it is just a perception or truth I don’t have the expertise to comment on that. The availability of Touch ID, Safari suggesting complicated passwords, and apps being able to hook into the iCloud keychain (not sure why this is so rare though) makes me feel good about the security.

Here is my setup… It took me a while to arrive at this.

Home Screen
I changed my home screen to all the apps I use at work since that’s where I am using my iPad most of the time now. There are the obvious apps for communication, content creation, task management. Then there are some interesting apps like Adobe Comp, and Paper by 53 that I use for scribbling down informal thoughts. Lastly, there is a work folder for all apps that I must use not because I am necessarily a fan of them but because they are the ones that Campaign Monitor has standardized on.

The second screen is focused on everything else: reading, photography, social, entertainment, and travel. These are apps that I access at least a few times a week.

And the third screen consists of apps I use infrequently but are still important.

Other thoughts…

Not Your Desktop
This is not your desktop so don’t try to mimic the apps you use on your Mac/PC, and how you use them. That will lead to frustration. Start with a clean slate and experiment with new apps and behaviors so you can maximize the value of this new device. That is how I found Adobe Comp, Lightroom, and Paper by 53. It changed my perception of Adobe being an old school stodgy desktop software maker to one who understands how people use a tablet.

Experiment to find what works for you but eventually pick a few solid apps and stick with them. Working with many similar apps, or rotating apps continuously is a huge distraction and becomes a drag on productivity. If you like an app don’t hesitate to pay for it. Most apps on the iPad are under $10 with very few touching the $50 mark.

I found separating work and personal stuff especially email allowed me to better focus on the tasks I was working on at the moment. The only place where this doesn’t hold true is calendar since I obviously want a unified view.

9.7" vs 12.9"
I bought the 9.7" since I wasn’t confident whether the iPad will be able to replace my MacBook given my past experiences and the 12.9" would be too big to read on when in bed. Now that I am buying the iPhone 7+ which will be fine for reading in bed/during commute I will transition to the 12.9" when the new version comes out.

What about the MacBook Pro/iMac?
I haven’t gotten rid of them but I won’t be upgrading either any time soon. I will be upgrading the iPad much more frequently. There are a few things that need to be achieved before I can dump the MacBook/iMac — improved multi-tasking, faster data transfer into the iPad and between apps, ability to connect to a large screen/projector, live presentations to remote teams using a conference calling service. Some of these will become redundant as disruption happens in traditionally painful spaces (conferences, meetings), and some of these are an absolute necessity.

The more I use the iPad the more I believe that how we interact with computers in the next 5–10 years will be very different from how we have interacted with computers in the last 25 years!

Vibhor Chhabra

Written by

Dad | Photographer | Traveler | Biker | Product Manager

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