Federico, The iPad guy, uses MacBook and becomes prolific

After suffering for ten years, and leading many others down the iPad Only path:

Have I been able to get more things done lately thanks to the Mac?
The answer is yes. The past six months have been one of the most prolific periods of my career, as you may have seen from MacStories Selects, the Starter Pack, my coverage of Obsidian and Shortcuts, and the month-long Automation April event. It’s not just that I’m very inspired at the moment: macOS has allowed me to get more things done, more quickly, with less friction than before, on a computer that I adore. For the first time in a while, I feel like I’ve only been thinking about the work itself rather than how to get work done.

(Emphasis mine, links removed and italicized cause I’m a newbie)


When I read his post two days ago (ok, to be honest, I read the extracts others where providing…), I was quite bummed.

It always was a mystery to me why he was willing to put that much effort into working around the limitations of iPadOS. It just was not worth it to me. But he did. And he excelled in doing so! To this day!

The iPad is an awesome device for some of my use cases (one example: ForScore is the #1 thing that cannot be replaced with anything on a computer). But when it comes to working with files or working with the same data in multiple apps, it still is like “THE iPad guy” himself has described in his article:

… the Mac lets you have an opinion on how you want to use your computer; iPadOS still doesn’t. macOS gives power users more options and a flexible multitasking environment; the iPad’s software (the problem is not the hardware) still doesn’t empower its most loyal users to do what’s right for them on a computer they own. I hope to see major changes on this front in iPadOS 16.

And I do not think that we will ever see changes that will refine iPadOS into an operating system that could replace MacOS (or any computer OS, to be honest) for me. The big plus side for the iPad was the iPad. It is an amazing device. Then came the Macbook M1 Air…


That’s why I never went down that track. I tried the ipad as my main device for 3 months and it was an epic failure. Until Apple makes iOS a proper integrative operating system it will never suffice for the majority of computer users. Way too many limitations. It also demonstrates that even tech superstars get it wrong.


I am not so sure if I think that Federico Viticci necessarily was wrong or not (he just was happily using his iPad as his main computer), but I honestly do not think that there is one human being on this planet that never got something wrong. Including bloggers and other tech enthusiasts. Most of us get stuff wrong all the time. At least I do so - for sure… :wink:


There was no sleight intended against Frederico, apologies, if it came across that way. However his language now demonstrates that there were some extreme shortcomings with the iPad only idea, and anyone who’s looked at his iPad only stuff couldn’t help but notice the shoe-horning required with coding and other wizadry that he is so good at. His use certainly wouldn’t be possible for the average user. He is now recognising that all the extra’s needed in the iPad workflow are just not needed on MacOS.


I’ve been a fan of Macstories and Federico for almost as long as that site has existed. I’ve found his iPad journey moving and, at times, exhilarating. There’s nothing like watching a fellow geek push the tool to the limits. He’s been inspiring.

That said: every year, when the new version of iPadOS née iOS is released, I try to use the iPad for as much of my work as possible. I do my emails, writing, basic sketching, task management, etc, with the iPad. Every year, I give up after 20 minutes. For me, our iPad has become a glorified sketch machine (I’m a designer, so this is worth some expense to me and I’m not bothered).

But that means that, for about half a decade, I’ve read Macstories diligently and wondered when Federico will realize how much harder he’s made it for himself. At the risk of sounding like a butthead, I feel vindicated.

But I do feel bad for the guy. A platform he loves — a platform I want to love! — is left to rot by a team with seemingly no new ambition. It’s a sad story. The new Apple Silicon in Macs is its only saving grace.


Personally, I wouldn’t say it’s rotting. The iPad is good at what it is good at. The things it isn’t good at are exceptionally cumbersome.


I would disagree reading his article. Many iPad users over the years have argued how restricting iOS is and impossible to use for so many tasks. Frederico now echo’s those comments:

Most of the apps I’m going to cover here aren’t new to Mac users – in fact, these are excellent apps John has covered multiple times on MacStories over the years – but I need to mention them since each highlights how radically different (and liberating) the macOS experience can be compared to iPadOS.

His whole article reads like a newbie who has just discovered a mac. To say using macos is liberating, makes a real statement about how restrictive iPadOS really is. Let’s face it, all that it took to change his mind was a free M1 Max MacBook Pro. For a guy who’s made his bread and butter saying iPad only, this is quite some revelation, one that macOS users have been aware of for the past decade and more.


Same here. While there’s a lot that can be done on the iPad, the Mac still is the better tool. And you get results faster, since you don’t have to work around many limitations. And for a lot of stuff, you are limited by software (choice and availability).


I agree. Where the iPad is good, it’s really, really good, and the drop off when you reach its limits is very, very sharp. I have found that (for me) the best possible scenario is to use each where it excels, but I recognize that that’s not something that everyone can or wants to do.

If hit hard enough, a square peg will eventually go into a round hole.

It is not clear to me why there is this continuing fascination with trying to use an iPad as a Mac. (Yes, I would love to have a Mac in an iPad form factor. But that is a different discussion.)

My wife is a teacher, and in the lockdown year all learning was remote. And she was able to use an iPad in ways that were not possible with a Mac.

Use the right tool for the right job. And save yourself a lot of grief.


I agree with the most charitable version of this take. There’s a lot of value in having a passionate user push a tool to its limits, and I’ve been glad to see Federico and others demonstrate the iPad’s capabilities. I’ve also found it helpful to see them bump up against the constraints.

But, buttheaded or not @snelly, I also feel vindicated by the way the table(t)s have turned on the iPad recently.

Hopefully Apple intends on doing some lead user innovation here. We’ll see next week!


An interesting mental game to play when thinking about this topic is to imagine trying to use an iPhone as your only computing device for a significant period of time and then being given an iPad (with keyboard).

I’m not suggesting that anyone actually do this, but thinking about it this way helps (me) to shift the perspective to focus on some of the iPad’s strengths: I would not dream of travelling with my iPhone only (even though in theory, I could probably manage it), but I would be reasonably okay to take an iPad as my computer substitute.


Yes. I have an iPad which I use for marking up documents using my Apple Pencil, for media consumption on the sofa and for preaching from every Sunday in church. My MacBook Air would not be great for any of those purposes.

For pretty much everything else I use my laptop.

Apple could make changes to iPadOS to make it more Mac-like, but the simplest thing would be to allow MacOS to run on an M1 iPad. Can’t see that happening!


I think this bit right here really sums up how weird tech conversations can be. This strange adversarial thing. My tool is the best! Your tool doesn’t do this! Mac, Windows, Android, iOS. Rather than celebrate and enjoy tech it’s this constant competition kinda thing.

The iPad was introduced as an easy to use, simple computer from my granny. She didn’t need or want an iPhone but she also didn’t have a computer on the Internet. So Steve and Apple made her one. Cool. Apple nerds and tech enthusiasts got excited and then resentful. Some of those that got excited stayed excited and those that got resentful got more resentful. Something new to argue about!

As a Mac user that loved his Mac Color Classic (first computer) I went through Mac OS 7.6, 8, 9 (and the various iterations in between). I was super excited about Mac OS X. I became a Mac enthusiast and used one every day. While I had an iPod I skipped the iPhone for a few years but when the first iPad came out I jumped on it. My usage evolved. Everyday, a bit of both Mac and iPad. I loved both and used both. Eventually I started to use the iPad more. Maybe you didn’t. Cool. I feel no need to convince you (being the general you) or be resentful of your preference for the Mac.

It’s seemed to me for a long while that Federico would be better off with a Mac but that was his choice. As some have pointed out, he became known for his iPad use and pushing it. It became his thing and part of his identity and his income as a writer/podcaster. All that said, my granny used her iPad the way she used it. Currently, in my extended family, there are more iPhones being used than any other device. Cool. They are tools. I prefer an iPad, my niece prefers a Mac and my dad prefers his iPhone. But often times my niece uses her iPhone because she’s taking a photo and she tends not to carry around her MacBook Pro to take photos. Sometimes my dad uses his iPad, other times his Mac.

See, the point here is that there is an entire ecosystem of Apple computers that we can all use and enjoy at different times, different purposes. It would be more enjoyable to celebrate how fun and amazing they are rather than spend so much time critiquing others’ choices or the particular short coming of the current version of the OS (that will change in 6 months or a year). I guess my wish for WWDC is that tech enthusiasts would generally be more positive about what they have rather than what they don’t have. And that they would enjoy what they prefer rather than feel the need to complain about others’ choices.



As I’ve articulated elsewhere, the vindication comes from feeling like an idiot when I’ve tried to follow in yours and others’ footsteps only to find the experience frustrating. This piece from Federico, the biggest iPad proponent of all time, is like, “oh, actually, the iPad is kind of frustrating compared to the Mac.” That’s the definition of vindication!

What we’re actually discussing here aren’t personal virtues, but the design theories and principles underlying the tools we’re using. It is impossible to have a productive conversation about those topics without critique, but — as with any good science — that critique should be as focused on the theory and as removed as possible from the theorist. “Vindicated” doesn’t mean “ha Federico’s been a fool all this time.” It means “maybe the iPad is what I thought it is, after all… and the problem isn’t me, it’s the iPad.”

The resentment here is that “iPad influencers” have been arguing the opposite for years. Many of us have tried relying on our iPads to suit, to varying degrees of success. For those of us who haven’t had much success, seeing that perspective flip has to be satisfying.

It’s unfair to characterize this as “complaining about others’ choices.” We’re not commenting on others’ choices. We’re commenting on our own.


It’s vindicating, not in a sense where I’m judging Federico, but where he’s finally using the right tool for his job. And I have always felt like he was making this way too hard on himself, but saying that would get you jeered at by tech Twitter.

So yeah, it is kind of vindicating. And I am kind of being a butt head by saying it. But these are, as you correctly point out, tools. So whatever.

Edit: @ryanjamurphy put it waaaaaay better than me


If one was using tool-x when one needed to be using tool-y, and not having success, would the problem be with the tool or with user?


One might be a bit forgiving of the user if the purveyor of tool-x created a tool-x Pro and also ran an advertising campaign with the theme of, “What’s a tool-y?” :grin:


It’s a neat question, actually. Depends on where in the stack you’re landing with the term “tool.”

Is the tool the device, the app, the feature, or the workflow?

Is the user me? Is it us? Does a device use an app which uses a feature for a particular workflow?

I’m being cheeky, but also sincere. The true answer is that these things are “systems,” in that there is no standalone tool, nor is there a standalone user.

“We use our iPads, and they use us,” as Churchill put it.

As a result, the problem is tool+user. In my cases, I could’ve not listened to the influencers every time I tried to rely on an iPad and then “I” would’ve been the solution. At the same time, as I argued on MPU episode 636, if Apple had a less paternalistic approach to designing iPadOS, many of us would be able to use the iPad to do our most complex work with aplomb. Then the “tool” would’ve been the solution.

See also Latour, human-computer interaction research, design science… I have readings if you want 'em!

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