iPad as Laptop Replacement

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.

Thanks. I checked it out a while back (pre-Banktivity) since it’s part of Setapp but it didn’t click for me. I think it was the budgets that didn’t work—I couldn’t work out how to get a “zero-based” kind of envelope budget like I can get in YNAB. Perhaps I’ll take another look.

Edited to add: yep, I don’t think it’s for me unless there’s some clever trickery with the budget side of things I am missing. I just wish YNAB would add multi-currency support (and I wouldn’t mind support for Australian bank feeds either)!

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I was iPad only from the iPad 4 until the 2015 12.9 iPad Pro then I got a 2017 21” iMac from work. My iPad (2018 12.9” IPP) is my main mobile device.

Where it excels
Battery life
More full blown desktop like apps (affinity designer)
Pencil support in apps

Where it lets me down
Apps that lack features
For example: Pages is missing several tools that allow me to design like I would on the desktop. (Kerning mainly)

That really is my main gripe. Maybe lack of ability to hook up an external storage but that’s about it. I started down this path with the iPad 2 and you couldn’t even print back then so the iPad has come a long way.

I love my iPad Pro 12.9”. It’s the only laptop I carry for my every day work as a consultant (IT project manager mostly) moving between multiple client offices and the consulting firm I work for. These days that’s mostly in my home city but it would work just as well if I were travelling out of town like I’ve done a lot in the past just not in the last couple years.

That said, my iPad is often more of an easy use screen, keyboard and mouse for a remote Mac or PC. I mostly use Jump Desktop for that with some Parallels Access. Jump Desktop with one of the specified mouse they support works very well.


  • Battery life While I carry a charger I very rarely need to use it. E.g. today I’ve used it pretty much most of the day and the battery is sitting at 38% just after 6pm.
  • Mobile data means I can instantly be online almost anywhere. Wifi is increasingly available but not pervasive enough yet around here.
  • Instant on Open it up (I have mine in clamshell mode with a Brydge Keyboard) and it’s instantly on and stable. That’s not been my consistent experience with macOS and Windows laptops as I find you need to reboot them too often. I reboot my iPad weekly for hygiene but it’s probably overkill.
  • Lightweight Even with Brydge Keyboard. Although there are laptop options now that are both light and have reasonable battery life (eg new MacBook Airs).
  • Cloud storage has liberated me from a local file system. Without it I’d probably still be stuck on a laptop. I still have my files sync’d to my Mac and PC at home, but mostly to enable backup etc. Other than that the cloud meets my daily file management and storage needs now. Until recently I’ve been a heavy Dropbox user but am about to migrate my historical files to OneDrive (1TB storage with Office 365). I only use iCloud file storage when I have to. Most of my clients now use SharePoint so most project documents etc are stored there; it works fine despite its reputation.
  • I use native iPad apps when I want the benefits they bring. There’s some excellent and mostly functional enough iPad apps but only being able to have one or two apps open at a time means it is really only good for doing one thing at a time e.g. writing. While iOS multi-tasking is useful it’s not as powerful as a full windowed OS like macOS or Windows but they become increasingly confusing the more apps/windows you have open.


  • No mouse or trackpad Except for when I’m using Jump Desktop which sees the mouse connected to the iPad via Bluetooth and passes it through to control the remote Mac or PC. Needs to be a specific mouse model though.
  • Slide over is clumsy and simply gets in the way. I haven’t found a use for it yet. And when I mistakenly put an app into slide over mode it’s a nuisance to get it out of there.
  • iPad apps still lack some key features available in Mac or Windows apps. E.g. I use Pivot Tables a lot in Excel but you can’t create them on the Excel iPad app.
  • I’m often comparing two documents in Word or Excel but on their iPad apps I can only have one document open at a time.

I agree with a lot that others have written. A major problem for me is how bad Google Apps are on iOS. Many websites on Safari are also problematic. Otherwise, it makes a good laptop replacement for me.

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@MacSparky I don’t know if you are looking for people using the iPad as a Mac replacement, or just looking for people with opinions about it. :slight_smile: If the latter, then this may be relevant:

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Oh, yes, this is a big one, especially for email. I just want an app that has email snooze, properly handled Gmail threads, push notifications and keyboard shortcuts. Why is this so hard? :slight_smile:

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Agree with almost everything here. One delight I may have misse is the instant on aspect of the iPad. I am at multiple meetings every week where everybody else around the table is waiting for their laptops (mostly Windows based) to boot and wake up.

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Especially when combined with FaceID.

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My situation:

I use a 15” MBP for my main work computer (TB3 docks and multiple monitors at home and at work, so that computer really only travels between those locations). Most of the work that I do is not remotely possible on an iPad, so this will be my thoughts about how my iPad (11” Pro + Pencil + Keyboard Folio) compares with my travel computer (an original 12” rMB).

Delights with the iPad:

  • Instant on, always ready, nearly always at hand (the best computer is the one you have with you)
  • Exceptionally portable, usable nearly anywhere
  • Fast
  • Cellular networking, always connected
  • GPS
  • Fantastic travel computer for reading, watching, writing, communicating
  • Coda and Blink mean that I can do software development on my couch or on an airplane (if there’s working WiFi), or just about anyplace
  • If what you need to do can be done with a single app, it’s usually a great experience (continued…)

Frustrations with the iPad:

  • (from delights…) The instant you need to share documents or data between apps the experience is somewhere in the range of mildly annoying to unbelievably frustrating to practically impossible.
  • Related: Getting large data sets onto and off of the device is an exercise in frustration.
  • Selecting, copying, pasting text
  • Multitasking: There are times when I need apps to stay open, active, and connected when they’re in the background. (For example, ssh sessions that have things running in them, web apps)
  • Safari that’s not desktop class and no real alternatives (they’re all wrappers around Apple’s web components)
  • Automation: Automation on iOS is like training wheels on a bicycle; it’s easy to get going but it feels bolted on and the implementation is very limiting very quickly
  • (edit to add) The Facetime camera is on the side instead of the top (I know that it’s on the official top, but I’m willing to bet that the cumulative number of hours that iPads spend in landscape orientation far exceed those of portrait)

That looks like pretty harsh criticism of the iPad, but I don’t really intend it that way. In reality, I spend at least 20 hours on my iPad for every hour on the 12” rMB, and for the most part the iPad is an absolute delight to use. For 95% of my mobile computing needs, the iPad has become my go to device.

However, when I travel, I still always cary the little MacBook with me, because if and when the brown stuff hits the fan back at home base, it’s a slow but full-fledged Unix workstation and I know that I can do the things that I need to do on it and do them without jumping through hoops or using byzantine workarounds that seem to be the hallmarks of more complex iPad workflows.

Have you tried the latest version of the IOS gmail app? It now has snooze, etc. and keyboard shortcuts on iPad (with external keyboard)

I prefer it to mail.app