652: Where Does the iPad Fit?

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I steer my friends to the Macbook Air now instead of iPads… if they really want one for content consumption, I recommend the cheap one. iPads just do not cut it for me now. I have the 11 inch “Pro” (M1) and its the least used device in my house.

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I don’t doubt that. I have never met anyone, other than than the graphic artists I used to support, that needs the horsepower and ram that appears common among users of this forum.

When I retired in 2018 I was using a 2013 13" MacBook Pro with 8gb ram. It doesn’t take much to run office apps (email, safari, excel, etc.). I do all that on my iPad Pro as well as edit photos and video. Most days I let my Apple Watch keep me on schedule and my AirPods Pro and iPhone keep me informed and connected. When I need to do more than send a text or short email I pull out my iPad. The only thing my Mac at home does is run backup. Things change.

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There is a bluetooth finder in the App Store that will help you find your Apple Pencil. Of course, I cannot get it to work right now. HA!

One thing people seem to miss is that Apple DID make a Pen Mac. It was in the late 90’s and it was based on the Powerbook Duo Laptop. The pen did have a battery in it and it was actually pretty nice to use. It had a custom gesture interface - so to open a folder, for example, you would check mark the folder. One thing I liked about the Pen over the Pencil for the iPad is that if you hovered it over the Screen, it would track the mouse. I hope the Pencil 3 supports hover over which would enable mouse-over functionality. In general, I wish the Pencil had more precision.

I know about the PenDuo because my father worked on it when he was at Apple back then, and some of the algorithms used, such as screen rotation, evolved it’s way onto the iPhone/iPad. This was my computer during my high-school years - and when I got home, I docked it into my Duo Docking station and became a full blown desktop. The docking station was way cooler than anything I’ve seen today. You basically pushed the PenDuo into the dock, and it sucked it in. I wish I still had it, but my brother borrowed it and lost it at some point. The other one was lost during a move. I do have a patent for it, however, in case anyone doesn’t believe me. Perhaps @ismh would be interested in this.

Do I want a PenMac today? No. The iPad is my only computer and I love it. It’s sooooo close to being full blown, but held back - perhaps intentionally.

FYI - an interesting story - Michael Spindler killed the Pen Mac. I heard that the Pen Mac Team was so angry they started throwing all the Pen Macs down the stairwell and rooftop, destroying them. My father, instead, took 2 of them home.

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Use my 2018 Pro all day, every weekday. Nothing serious, but my work setup is a Dell, so my iPad sits on a stand below the monitors with a wireless keyboard off to the side. It’s my podcast/music player, YouTube screen, calendar, note-taking, and Safari machine. It fits that role perfectly.

I will buy this year’s new pro model over the regular iPad because of the screen and speaker improvements.

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This sounds really interesting, have you got an image of what the device looked like? Or did it look exactly like a Powerbook Duo except for this one bit of integration?

The last iPad Pro that I purchased was the original 12.9 and used it for a number of years through my final years in graduate school, and it became my number one note-taking device. I sort of lost the need to use it as a researcher afterward, as data crunching was all done on my Mac or a PC in one of the labs, and I was not doing as much hand-written note taking after finishing my degree.

For the last 2.5 years iPad Mini is the only iPad I’ve owned, and having recently picked up the Mini 6, I doubt I’ll ever buy another iPad in any size any time soon.

Thanks to Universal Control, the iPad Mini now mostly resides under my monitors as a media device. I have it connected to a set of Bose desktop speakers, and use that as my primary media station while I’m working from home.

Thanks for that piece of history. I never heard of the Pen Mac before.

I work as a software developer, so it has never been possible for the iPad to replace my Mac. Even the latest Swift Playgrounds does not make it possible. It has always been a complimentary device for me and I was never frustrated or had the negative feelings expressed in this episode.

I find it to be a superior device for reading documentation and books on development. I’ll sit down with my iPad and Apple Pencil and highlight key passages or take notes. I also find it to be a great tool for quickly sketching out ideas. For example, I was trying to figure out how a piece of code was working. It involved a complex data structure, I used the Apple Pencil to draw a picture that helped me figure out the way it worked. Now these things are possible on the Mac, but they are so much better on the iPad.

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Enjoyable episode!

This partial screenshot from my iPad home screen sums it up for me. There is plenty to do here that still leaves the desktop work for the desktop.

I love all the random art that shows up in my Photos from children using lock screen Notes and the Pencil, too.

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Managed to find a 5th gen 12.9" 512GB on eBay for a ridiculous price a while back, with an Apple Pencil thrown in for good measure (I’ve been VERY fortunate with eBay purchases over the years). This was before news of Stage Manager etc, so stars aligned. It’s now my daily driver and pretty much all I need, day to day.

Prior to that, the 11" 2018 Pro was my goto— good balance of screen size and portability. I’ve held onto it, but I’ve been spoiled by the extra screen space, and even when I’m away from my home office the 12.9 is more likely to be the one I pack. I still have an iPad Mini for meetings and teaching/facilitation.

I started experimenting with an iPad as a primary computer from the very first generation. Not by choice: my unibody 15" MacBook Pro had died, an the iPad was all I had. That did not work well, but I tried again with the 9.7 Pro and spiralled from there.

I pair my iPad with a split ergo mechanical keyboard and a Cheerpod mini trackpad/“air mouse”. Can’t stand combo keyboard cases. I spend most of my work time in Drafts, alongside GoodTask, Calendar/Fantastical, Spark, iThoughts, Thunk and a bit of Notion and Google Drive/Suite for collaborative projects. A bit of hobbyist creative coding in Pythonista, Textastic and Runestone. Reeder, Overcast and UpNext for “content consumption”. And a handful of other apps for managing files, producing weird audio experiments, etc.

I have a legacy 2015 MacBook that I keep around for occasional convenience— in the past month or so, I’ve powered it up to update some firmware on my keyboard and access Zencastr for an interview I’d been invited to. I also have a relatively high spec 2012 Mac Mini (again, legacy) that I keep around for things the iPad can’t do that demand more power than the MacBook can provide. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve only powered that up to record a dialogue with a digital artist in Second Life.

Funny— I still consider myself to be a Mac user, although with my current needs I don’t see myself buying a new Mac any time soon. I started as a PC guy in the late 90’s; moved to Macs because (among other things) I wanted to spend more time getting things done than managing my computer. I think my shift to iPads is paradoxically both an extension of that drive AND the fact that I don’t mind refining/challenging my workflows. For sure, iPadOS has its gotchas and shortcomings. Depending on the type of work they do, it may not fit everyone’s needs beyond entertainment/consumption. For me, it works well enough to stake my every day on.

I do get a bit sad when I see the “iPad Sucks / iPad is inadequate” posts. More often than not they’re written as an indictment of the iPad, rather than an acknowledgement of the discrepancy between what the iPad currently offers and a particular user’s needs. I try not to take such posts personally, but it’s hard to quiet down that voice in the back of my head— “are you trying to say that what I do isn’t real work?” I’m very much against the “grow up and get a real computer” vibe, particularly since I remember very similar sentiments espoused by PC people about Macs back in the day.

My one fear for the future is that the powers-that-be and/or independent developers tune in on all the “iPads are only for entertainment/consumption” ire and fail to allow for further development of serious tools. But with developments like being able to connect my iPad to a monitor on the way, I’m still looking forward to the way the iPad and iPadOS might evolve.

(Wow. This one turned into a long post. Thanks for reading, if you’ve got this far!)

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I kick myself for not taking a picture of it. All I have is my memory. It was a prototype that was molded into a tablet form with the display on top, like an iPad, but with the same thickness and mold of the Powerbook Duo. You can’t lift the screen to open it - it was kind of fused with the body. The prototypes kept evolving a bit but I remember mine having basic white polycarbonate that was not painted. The pen, as I mentioned, had a removable battery (I know, so unlike apple of today), and it also had a button on it. It was pretty cool to use different gestures to use the UI - which  was experimenting with.

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The iPad has become an essential tool for me as a writing teacher at a university. It definitely doesn’t replace a Mac, but it serves as an increasingly indispensable tool. I might even describe the relationship between the iPad and the Mac for my workflows as symbiotic. I use iPads, heavily, for reading (student work and academic texts) and giving feedback on student papers; I do all of that electronically, and the iPad, along with the Pencil and keyboard, makes it feasible and efficient.

Just to keep things interesting, I bring two into the classroom: a 12.9 Pro with the Magic Keyboard—this one gets connected to a projector with the HDMI adapter and I use it for everything I want to share with the students—and an iPad mini. I use the mini to take notes, quickly glance at my lesson plans, and generally do/refer to stuff that’s not intended for consumption by the entire class. Sometimes students ask me about it: why two iPads? But I have an annual budget for professional resources, and getting a ‘computer’ (i.e., desktop or laptop)requires paperwork and approvals; tablets don’t, so that helps to explain things.

What’s not efficient, as MacSparky has mentioned, is file management. Sure, I can move files around iCloud Drive or DEVONthink on an iPad, but I can do it so much faster on a Mac I always opt to do that kind of work on a Mac. I do appreciate apps that have achieved a relative parity with their Mac counterparts—Craft, Drafts, the OmniFocus 4 beta (starting to seem like a huge improvement to me), and Ulysses are some I’ve come to rely on.

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Still loving my 12.9 Pro 2018 and using it daily. Looking to upgrade if there is a M2 based one in the coming line-up. As I use a Mac Studio as my main machine (and an iMac before that), the iPad fits me perfectly for so many uses. One key feature for me is that the screen is NOT attached to a keyboard. This allows me to have a good separation of space between the two, giving me superior ergonomics over a laptop. That new MacBook Air would be a great machine for work though, but alas, my company is standardized on Dell…

Yes, file management is STILL lagging - I really hope that gets addressed soon. I get it as a “feature” for many consumer users, it would be more than enough for my parents, for instance. However, on a device with a Pro label, you’d expect close to Finder-level file management and a similar eco system of file utilities as can be found on the Mac.

The Pencil though - simply brilliant!

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At one time NASA turned to people like Katherine Johnson to verify the calculations from their mainframe computer. A few decades later I knew several people who were reluctant to give up their DOS computers. It’s hard for some to accept change.

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Not quite fair. When something sucks for someone it indicates that the device isn’t appropriate for their workflow.

There are a lot of contexts where the iPad sucks, but also where the mac sucks. This has nothing to do with resisting change, but pure pragmatics.

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Does a screwdriver suck because you can’t use it to drive nails? If a device isn’t appropriate for your workflow say so. It’s not the fault of a device if someone makes an ill-informed purchase.

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It is when it could and when it’s sold as if it could.

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I have a 16" MacBook Pro M1 Max and a 2012 12.9" iPad M1 running iOS 16 beta.

I love both devices, for very different reasons.
I can do ~90% of my job on my iPad with extreme portability with integrated 5G
I can do 100% of my job with my 16" MacBook, but with a weight and connectivity penalty.

My view is that I love that these are different devices, and shine in different areas. I still need a MacBook for many workflows (I would be happy with the M2 Air, 14" or 15" Pro), however I still need an iPad for portability where a 16" isn’t usable (indispensable for flights in economy & when travelling extensively) and for reading and personal media.

The big win for me is when I’m at a desk somewhere, Universal Control & Sidecar for me are changers, that gives me a unified portable multi computer/screen setup that I need.

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