iPad as Laptop Replacement


  • Different form factor than a computer is a nice change of pace.
  • Typing on a magic keyboard with just the big piece of glass in front of you is nice for writing.
  • Reading books or documents
    Sitting and sketching out idea boxes or a mind map to help you think through something.

Not so good:

  • Friction for some tasks like how do I download a video from YouTube and stick it in Keynote. You might be able to do it, but I would have to figure out something that takes a few minutes on my Mac.
  • Getting stuck. I approve faculty contracts by logging into our online college system. The page never loads completely, no matter which browser, or requesting desktop site, etc. I have to go through Citrix (see “friction” above). These kinds of things worry me, I have to be able to do my whole job on the iPad if I want to leave my laptop behind.

What started my migration to Apple everything was the iPad. Maybe it was the iPod touch. Mainly the iPad Air that I bought in July 2012. I was using the iPad and a netbook computer running windows 7.

The netbook died, the iPad took on a bigger role. I’m on my third iPad with the current air 2 being 4 years old.

The limitations have already been addressed. I look at the Microsoft Surface tablet. It is touted as a two in one device. It is running Windows 10… which is ubiquitous in the PC world.

I was hoping when the iPad Pro was introduced that it would have taken some cues from Microsoft. If iOS and macOS were more aligned or offer the iPad Pro with macOS it would outdo the Surface Pro. It would quash the limitations listed above.

I am due to replace my iPad or get another. I’m thinking iPad Pro. I was at my Apple retailer and they had a used MacBook Air for same money as an iPad.

I’m a graphic designer for the most part of my career and shifted to UX Design recently since my RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) has gotten worse over the years. That means, it’s hard for me to do my job as a graphic designer as I used to and work longer hours.

When I got an iPad Pro 12.9 (2017 edition) with an Apple Pencil, I slowly started neglecting my personal MacBook Pro at home that I used for my personal projects and does most of the stuff on my iPad Pro. I only transfer to my Mac when I need to do some long-form typing otherwise, the iPad Pro is my first choice. I even did some of the design work first on the iPad Pro before transferring on the Mac to finish it off. The iPad pro gave me the freedom I need from RSI. I found my 2015 MacBook Pro aging and unused so I sold it so I can buy the latest iPad Pro 12.9 (2018) with the Apple iPad keyboard and new Apple Pencil. I upgraded with the latest iPad Pro because of the Apple Pencil charging feature. I always find myself having to charge my Apple Pencil when I needed it the most. Now it’s always charge and accessible.

What delights me:

• Lightweight and easy to carry. I also find this cheaper than my old set-up of buying a MacBook Pro and a Wacom tablet. I can just carry the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil and work anywhere I want.

• I find it much more ergonomic to draw and annotate with the Apple Pencil than using a Wacom tablet.

• It lets me focus on work rather than multi-window set up on the Mac.

• Editing images, voice recording, and video is faster than on a Mac.

• Battery life is also superb. Pair it with a USB-C charger it charges faster and I can just plug it in with a power bank.

• The FaceID is a really big upgrade to the iPad Pro. I didn’t think it’s one of the biggest features that I would love with the new device.

• I love taking down notes writing down than type it down. This replaced a physical notebook for me.

What disappoints me

• The Files app really needs more feature. It’s hard to search for files. I really love how it organizes my files but doing a task such as renaming or moving files is a nuisance.

• No easy way to download files. I have to use a 3rd-party browser to do this.

• With so much power, mobile Safari is holding it back. Why can’t I use modern web apps? The iPad Pro would have been nice if I can work on Figma on Safari.

• no backlight keyboard on the Apple iPad keyboard.

• I wish the iOS 13 would let us use a secondary monitor for other apps rather than just for mirroring. Sometimes I need more screen space when working.

• Shortcuts is no Hazel. I wish I can just easily automate some task.

• Shocking news for me. I thought I can reliably work on websites on Squarespace with just my iPad Pro. I had to take home my work Mac to be able to reliably work on Squarespace. Posting is easy but not modifying your website.


What delights me:

  • The form factor
  • Taking notes with the pencil
  • Being able to easily view my shared PDFs and documents/books on Acrobat Document Cloud
  • Battery Life
  • Portability
  • Lots of amazing apps
  • Being able to use reference materials while lecturing and showing presentations on my MacBook

What disappoints me:

  • iOS file management is nothing but frustrating in every way
  • Most corporate websites I’ve tried refuse to work on mobile Safari (including Blackboard which is the most used web app in my workflow)
  • I cannot use professional-grade applications like IDEs for development, Adobe Illustrator, and Final Cut/Logic Pro for audio and video
  • Web browsing is unpleasant in general even on sites that work, most sites haven’t been built for touch
  • Editing in Keynote and Numbers is frustrating and clumsy and much more time consuming than on a desktop
  • Selecting text is much slower than with a trackpad
  • I cannot access external drives or even USB pen drives
  • The keyboard case looks ridiculous, like an old Windows foldable laptop
  • Excel and Word are both missing essential features

In general, the hardware is amazing but iOS is not up to par with MacOS in many ways.


The iPad is very important to me as I use the iPad for work every day, and only use a macbook/imac when I am at home or when I need to do some really file intensive stuff.

I don’t do video or photo editing, coding or any other file intensive stuff usually, so for me the lack of external storage (with tethering and icloud / dropbox) is a non-issue. Even if it were available, there’s really nothing I would use that for. iCloud works perfectly for me.

To me the iPad is the perfect tool to do my job as it keeps me fully focussed and extremely flexible, and there’s nothing more I really need.


  • Fast
  • Focussed, one (max 2) apps on screen
  • Perfect screen
  • LONG battery life
  • Pencil support (could not live without it)
  • App eco system + the professionalism of the app developers making the apps a joy to use (f.e. omnifocus / scriptable / DT to go)
  • Shortcuts app (though iOS automation could be improved a lot)
  • Portability


  • Spreadsheet work is not all that good, but that is a software not iPad issue imo.
  • File management on device could be a bit better
  • iOS feels a bit long in the tooth on the iPad. It’s perfect on the phone, on the iPad however…

Once I sat down to think about it, there’s lots I would like to see happen on iOS but, including those described, really only very few disappointments.

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More about using the iPad Pro as a replacement for a second desktop than as a laptop replacement, but potentially relevant:

I want to add some thoughts here, without repeating the issues that have been raised already or the ones I’ve raised in the past, which I link below for convenience.

I want to gush about the iPad without being too gushy: I think this computer is amazing. I have so much fun using it and it does so many things perfectly it’s really wonderful. This is especially true for someone who started programming computers on an Apple IIC as a second grader and who has gotten to enjoy watching how computers have evolved.

I’ve tried cases to a jury with nothing but an iPad. I take depositions with my notes and documents only on an iPad. I have my entire trial notebook for every case on my iPad. I once did three hours of work on my iPad sitting in an Uber from L.A. to San Diego and back. I didn’t even bring a charger.

That’s just for work. My whole life is accessible to me no matter where I am because of iPad.

Tell me, please, that the promise of this device is not absolutely awe inspiring?

On the “how do we improve” iPad side of the equation, there is much to be done. Rather than repeat what I and so many of my friends here have identified. I wanted to try to organize my concerns into broad themes.

The overarching one for me is that I should be able to take a task from start to finish on an iPad without needing any other computer. This cannot be done right now because the OS has too many restrictions/limitations and because many third-party app developers are not investing in making fully functional iPad apps. I’ve experienced the promise of iPad using the few third-party apps that I have that are professional grade. This theme covers things like e-mail processing, file management/browsing, and even having a desktop-class web browser.

The second theme is that doing things on an iPad should be as efficient or more efficient than working on a macOS computer. There are lots of things that are already so much better to do on an iPad. But there are plenty of things that take 20 steps on iOS but can be done in three on macOs. What we need are the powerful utilities and efficient workflows we have on the mac. We need Hazel. We need better Siri Shortcuts that are more fully integrated–I agree with John Siracusa’s analysis about scripting from his guest appearance on The Automators – https://talk.automators.fm/t/automators-18-terminal-automation-with-john-siracusa/4186?u=ipersuade. We need things like mission control and spaces for when we connect to an external display or two. We need more robust and reliable text selection and simple things–problems that have been solved on desktop for decades.

I’m not one of the people critical of multi-tasking on iPad or on the absence of the mouse. I hope a mouse never comes. I want the smart engineers at Apple to find a more appropriate way to solve the type of problem a mouse solves on a desktop/laptop in an iPad-specific way. As far as multitasking, I would love things like tabbed views/split view and multiple instances of apps (I’d like to be able to have different pairs of apps that I could switch between). But-generally speaking–the combination of spit view and slide over enable me to get my work done without challenge.

The third theme is freeing up the iPad to be a “complete” computer. You should be able to do everything on device. That includes having a compiler so you can develop software for the device on the device. As it stands, iPad is just like an Arduino board. You need to plug it into another machine to build the software. Until that changes, I think iPad will always be limited.

In a single sentence: iPad is great, but it needs to be unshackled.

THV Prior Posts


As many have said already, where things start to fall apart is when it comes to the swapping data back and forth between apps. For me, a few of the problems / solutions would be:

Paste & Match Style - I am constantly taking data from emails, or flight confirmations and having to paste them into spreadsheets as well as paste them again later into itineraries. It is incredible frustrating when you paste in a confirmation number and it ends up being different font, size, color etc etc. I do realize there are work arounds (share sheet export, and I even made a shortcut to process text and spit it back to the clipboard in the format that I want, but it is an extra step and hassle that is better to be avoided. Better solution would be something like how pop-clip does it on MacOS or just have the ability to shortcut key it to paste and match, or even have the touch pop up give you the option to Paste and match style

Pinning Apps to their Task Manager Screen - I would love to be able to pin apps in place in the task manager screen. This would keep them in place when I return to that screen rather than them getting moved further and further away as I open other apps.

Built in Native TextExpander use - While iOS does have it’s own version, it is a far cry from the TextExpander app. While you can use the TextExpander keyboard, you cannot use it with an external keyboard. If they can let 1Password get as native as it has become, surely this is possible too.

File Downloads should be easier. Yes there are workarounds, but it just doesn’t need to be as complicated. While I may be in the minority, I cannot stand the files app. I am firmly entrenched in the dropbox world. While files is getting better, it is just not even close when doing anything more than just the basics

That’s a few for now

I completely agree with this. I’ve tried mightily to use the TextExpander keyboard, but frankly, it’s horrible. I only use it if I absolutely have to. And, as you pointed out, you can’t use it with an external keyboard anyway. I’m grateful that OmniFocus, OmniOutliner, and Drafts have hooks into TextExpander, that helps.

Chris, I don’t do many presentations but the few I’ve done I use the iPhone with Keynote installed as the remote and it has worked very well for me.

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IPad Pro 10.6” with Apple Smart Keyboard and Pencil.
I really can use it for nearly everything that I used to do with my 2013 MBP Retina 15”.
The biggest obstacle to making it a complete replacement? Better photo editing (although I use Photos, I prefer using DxO Optics Pro and On1), and external storage/management.
For everything else, I’m just as happy with iPad as with Mac, and in many cases, even happier. Netflix, Amazon Video, and Comcast/Xfinity are much better via their dedicated apps than via the Mac’s browser interface.
Google Docs (used a lot at work) are the caboose on the train… :frowning:
Keyboard shortcuts are a must for me, and I wish Apple would add a keyboard shortcut to invoke Control Center, etc.
But it’s so closed to replacing my Mac that if I get a Mac at all to replace the aging laptop, it may be a new Mini or iMac to stay upstairs in the office, while the iPad takes over for the laptop.

My iPad is my primary device. I still have a Mac as a media file server, FileMaker server, and for the occasional InDesign project. All else is now done with the iPad and it’s the device I use everyday to earn my living doing freelance web and graphic design.

The form factor. As simple as a visual computer could be when I want it to be: just a beautiful screen that never heats up, runs in complete silence and with a fluid responsiveness that seems nearly flawless. Also, that I can use in any orientation is a very nice feature.

When I need to type I flip the backside of Apple’s Keyboard Folio down and I’m typing on a keyboard I really love. The Folio is a huge improvement over the previous design and I immediately noticed and appreciated the greater stability when using it.

In my experience the multitasking is excellent. The many gestures are second nature to me. Flipping and pulling, I often feel like a magician as I effortlessly work with split-screen windows, slide-over and drag and drop of files.

Built-in LTE and a long lasting battery means I can just go out for a day with no concern about my connection or power.

The Pencil. As many have noted, the new 2018 charging/storage has made the experience so much better. I used it before, mostly with apps such as Affinity Designer and Photo for layout and design. But I find that now that it is always charged and within reach I also use it a bit more for just scrolling around. It’s not a need but can be a nice change.

FaceID is fantastic. Works with no delay and with no errors. So nice to never have to deal with passwords once they’re set-up!

Honestly, I know this isn’t a perfect computer but it is, by far, the best and most enjoyable I’ve ever used. The friction is lower with this device than anything before it. I don’t every really feel disappointment with the iPad but I’ve got a few things that I’d like to see improved.

  • OS level font installation and management
  • Support for a second screen or mirroring without being confined to the native resolution. As much as I love the touch screen, I sometimes have projects such as document layouts which would be easier to complete on a much larger screen, preferably widescreen and/or not just a mirror of the iPad. If I could plug in a display and have it work as a second screen that would be fantastic. Of course, in order for this to work reasonably well this also means…
  • Support for an external mouse or trackpad.
  • Alternatively, if Apple were to sell a large touch-screen display that an iPad could connect to.
  • Files is so much better since iOS 11! But sure, it could be improved. Tabs and/or side-by-side windows, file renaming when saving, search of document content (not just file names), more access to metadata, etc. Basically, more of the features found in the Finder.
  • As many have said, desktop class Safari. I rarely have problems but every now and then something comes along. But it definitely seems to be a problem for many other people.
  • External file support - I don’t really need this often… almost never, but I’d like for other folks to have it.
  • The ability to have documents of the same app open side-by-side. I think this one is pretty important to anyone that is doing work with the iPad.
  • Siri. Two things. One: I’d rather Siri not take over the whole screen when invoked. Two: easier access. With HomePods “Hey Siri” on other devices becomes less functional as the HomePods almost always win. The hardware button works okay for activating Siri but I’d also like to have access maybe via a swipe, keyboard shortcut or on the dock.
  • Smart folders in Mail and Contacts, group management in Contacts and generally bringing those apps to Mac feature parity.
  • One last thing, an improvement to multitasking in split-screen mode. Setting which app is active can be difficult or impossible. I’m split screening with Safari right now, typing this in Notes. But if I want to scroll Safari with the arrow-down key or space bar I can’t. If I tap Safari’s window or Command-Tab to “activate it” Notes maintains control of the keyboard. The only way to do it is to tap into the url bar to activate that text field. Then Safari get’s control.

I love my iPad Pro, I have two 11" and 12.9" … so delights are many and probably said.
I will share my disappointments on a typical office job need.

  • Cannot work charts in PPT nor do dynamic tables in XLS
  • Cannot sync docs for offline use like a Mac. It is a problem that every time I need a file it needs to download or I need to manually sync. Airplane travel is stressing since you need to remember to download the files before taking off.
  • Impossible to use at least 2 windows of the same software
  • Needs an optional pointing device (mouse…). When you doing anything that is not text related (presentations, charts, tables, etc.) it is quite unconformable that the only way to point is using your finger on the screen. This is not efficient since you lose time every time you point. Also sometimes it is imposible to be precise.
  • More keyboard controls, use screen touch as less as possible
  • No WhatsApp … I use plenty the MacOs version for work. We need it here too.
  • Optional but annoying; no instagram horizontal view.

Hope I have contributed.

Best regards,

Your points are the same as mine. For “docs for offline” I moved to OneDrive so that I can save individual files or folders for offline use. I used to dislike OneDrive, but it improved a lot. On the Mac you can now also see folders in finder without saving those files on your Mac. That’s a really nice feature comparable with how it works on iPad.

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Me too! Love OneDrive so far. I moved over from Dropbox to save money since I have an Office365 subscription. Works great on my devices.

I love my 11 inch iPad and would like to use it for more. Two reasons I will remain an iMac/iPad lifestyle: iPad’s lack of direct access to external storage and lack of Hazel-like capability (I’m mostly paperless).

Such good food for thought from people in this thread.

For me, with recent iOS versions, IPad Pro 10.5 and now 11 has become so useful that it’s no longer a passive consumption device, but a valid member of the desk team of tech thingies. As a result, recent MBP update has been to a 13 not 15 - so much smaller and lighter, it’s a big treat to dump off all that weight from the 15. Cloud syncing now so good that I multi-screen across both devices at the same time. Really useful.

Form factor / portability / moving thru airports without unpacking devices
Being able to do so much more on iPad that often - but not always - it’s possible to travel/commute iPad only
Frictionless operation of things like creating Keynotes, or researching in Notes (dragging with fingers rather than clicking on keyboard makes it feel so much less like work).
Speed and robustness of operations.
Neat multi-screen management (to the point where have installed Moom to MBP in imitation of iPad’s approach to this.

Less crashing and full-version software eg Keynote and Microsoft suite.
Even better Files - open new folder in-line, etc, easier ways to get things into iPad Files without them being abducted by, for example, Photos or iBooks.
Multi-window operation like Safari for other apps
21C Apple Mail - dark mode, delayed send, snooze, etc etc


I think others have covered the delights pretty well. My personal laptop use is down to about 5% of what it used to be. System-wide AirPlay 2 and room support is lovely. How we work needs to catch up to the iPad and iOS just as much as the other way around.

Disappointing me:

  • quirks with the keyboard (like the disappearing cursor, the delay before keystrokes register)
  • OmniFocus outline entry/manipulation lags behind the Mac (mentioning because I use OF so much.) I shouldn’t have to switch to the Mac just to nail down a project outline
  • too many apps don’t support split view or cmd+n for a second window, and I think iOS needs to just display those apps that way whether they want to or not, especially on the 12.9” where both views are full portraid orientation iPad apps. :slight_smile:

Feature requests (not disappointments since I didn’t expect them!):

  • Limited support for apps to register global keystrokes (e.g. cmd+ctrl+space for OF inbox entry.)
  • Secure clipboard history API with permissions required
  • File improvements like passing a file between applications and folder watching/background processing
  • Opening up permissions a bit for IDEs, ideally announced in conjunction with XCode for iPad
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I was late to the iPad party, and didn’t purchase my 12.9" until the 2017 update. It was a difficult purchase to justify to myself at the time, but nearly two years on I find that it would be difficult to imagine not having it around. It still feels as “snappy” as when it first arrived, too.

That’s good because I don’t tend to upgrade my Apple hardware very often–which is to say I am still using an iPhone 7 with no immediate plans to upgrade in the next year or two (probably when I can’t update iOS anymore…). I have a 2012 21" iMac back at home in Australia, but, as I’m sure I have written elsewhere, am currently living in Spain so it is currently no use to me. I brought with me a 2011 Macbook Air (old enough that I can’t upgrade it to Mojave) and so, have found myself more reliant on the iPad than I might otherwise have been. The Air is struggling and in fact I also purchased and brought with me an AU$300 Dell laptop to get some work done while I am here. I’m sure there’s an upgrade in my future when I return as I don’t think I can switch to iPad-only (at least not yet).

Off the top of my head, sticking with what seems to be the established structure for the thread…or at least trying to (there is a bit of overlap).


  • Automation. I keep adding new Shortcuts to my workflows. I use them for lesson planning (pretty proud of this one actual), time tracking, OF templates, travel workflows, etc etc. While obviously there are extra features we would all like, this has become a huge part of how I get things done on my iPad (and my iPhone) now. (I do wish, in particular, there was a solution that worked on Mac AND iOS. A Shortcuts/Keyboard Maestro combination would be fantastic…)
  • Portability. Even though I have the big iPad, I pretty well carry it with me everywhere here. I’m working as an English teaching assistant in a school and I don’t have my own printer here, so everything (worksheets, conversation question lists, etc etc) goes on here and I can refer to it easily. It’s really unobtrusive to have a list of conversation questions or similar to work off in class (I can’t imagine doing this with a laptop) and, if I find suddenly that a class doesn’t need me that day, and I have a free period, I can connect to my phone’s hotspot, and knock off a couple of quick tasks–paying some bills or writing some emails, or even just browsing feeds. It’s easy to take travelling, too.
  • Using the iPad as a second display. I have been using Duet for this and have been super-impressed. I had assumed I would need to purchase a second monitor to use with the Dell laptop once I got here but I’ve found the iPad to be completely adequate.
  • Media/consumption. It’s just awesome to be able to sit on the couch or in bed and scroll through RSS feeds, browse the internet or watch Netflix. Obviously not terribly productive, but very satisfying.
  • A4 size. For most things, I imagine a smaller iPad would be fine–and more portable. But looking over PDF documents at full size? Or, more importantly, sheet music at full size and all the functionality of ForScore? Well worth the loss of portability to me.
  • The sound. I didn’t bring any speakers with me and I find the iPad speakers surprisingly good.
  • Also a random shoutout to ‘The Room’ series of games which is really neat on the iPad. I’m not a gamer but I really enjoyed these and I can’t imagine playing them in any other way.

Disappointments (or maybe just ‘challenges’–disappointments feels too loaded to me!)

  • Apple Pencil. Don’t get me wrong, I think the pencil is great–but I am working with the old version (and I’m cheap, so not planning to cough up for the updated version too soon). It has shortcomings. Mostly: I use it infrequently (another reason for not wanting to upgrade) and almost every time I do it is flat. Of course, it’s quick to charge but this is a bit annoying. I have a case with room for it so losing it isn’t a problem for me.
  • Software. Although they seem to be getting fewer and fewer, there are just a few things I haven’t found a suitable solution for on the iPad.
    • Budgeting/finance software: This is a temporary problem for me, I think. I’ve used YNAB for years and the envelope-based style of budgeting makes complete sense to me, so when I worked out I needed something that handled multiple currencies better I was a bit stuck. I’m using Banktivity on the Mac, but I don’t like it. YNAB has a pretty good iPad app so probably once I’m back home I’ll be back in that camp, even though I’ll miss the bank feeds. Fingers crossed this will solve this problem for me.
    • Hazel rules. Just can’t do it on the iPad, obviously. I still run these but not having an always-on Mac at the moment makes these a little less efficient.
    • Remote desktop. I still am working for a company back in Australia and need to access their RDP. In theory I guess I could do this on the iPad but the lack of a mouse is problematic and I do really need a second screen. Jump Desktop has a mouse option but they are pretty expensive and I don’t think this would be worth it for me. (Although I am using the Dell for this at the moment, when I had the option I much preferred Jump Desktop which is included with SetApp on the Mac.)
    • Programming-type work. I’m trying to learn web development (slowly but surely) and because my Air is just not up to it I’ve been relying on the Dell for this. I don’t think the iPad would be suitable, but honestly I haven’t looked too hard for solutions. I always find myself with three million windows open anyway (“why is X not working?” searches everywhere)
    • I also have a couple of Keyboard Maestro macros that I may be able to move to the iPad. But I haven’t tried, honestly–I run them infrequently or at times I’m already at my Mac, so I haven’t bothered.
  • File management could be improved; I don’t think that’s any secret. I don’t have any frustrations that I run into regularly, really, but it does kind of annoy me that if I need to take a file into school to print, I have to put it in iCloud, then wait for it to sync, open my Macbook Air, and copy it to a thumb drive. This is not super-fun and makes late-night last-minute lesson prep that much more annoying… (I think there are special thumb drives you can buy to do this, but did I mention I’m cheap? Also I’d rather not do this and then have the ports change on me.)
  • I would like just a little more keyboard-friendliness. I don’t have a keyboard case–I literally carry around a spare Mac keyboard that I had–but I find that fine. I just always feel like it would be good to reach up and tap the screen a little less often. Part of this is me needing to get better at keyboard shortcuts; part of it is there needing to be more keyboard shortcuts. Also to repeat what has already been mentioned above: that disappearing cursor is super-annoying!

Overall, I don’t think I will be losing my Mac and going iOS-only anytime soon (mostly due to Hazel and logging into RDP). That said, depending on how iOS progresses there’s a chance I won’t need to replace my old iMac for some time. When I was back in Australia I found myself using it less and less.

As well, now that I am working remotely I have taken the chance to move my work tasks out of Outlook Tasks (which worked OK, but obviously didn’t allow for templates, checklists, and basically anything slightly complicated) and into OF. I suspect when I get back I will have an iPad next to me in the office to maintain my task list and possibly deal with many emails. The OF3 release is really what has made this possible as it’s now so much more useable on iOS. Hopefully it continues moving in that direction; and I’m definitely looking forward to more automation in the near future…


Hey just read your post, agree with all your points.

In terms of the finance app I can recommend MoneyWiz for cross platform. Used for a while and pretty decent.