iPad as Laptop Replacement


I use it as well. I didn’t actually realize it has all those shortcuts. I swear that e to archive has not worked for me recently but I will try it again. Yes, if they’d just add split view support, it would indisputably be the best client. Nothing else handles snooze and threads remotely as well.


I failed to mention that you have to go into Settings on the gmail app and turn on Keyboard Shortcuts


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  • Battery life

  • Screen (size and clarity)

  • Portability

  • Many iOS apps mirror 70 -to- 90+ percent of their macOS equivalents (but, Office is a bit degraded for the Mac, esp. Excel, so 70+ percent of an already degraded system is only “OK”)

  • EDIT: It is just a joy to use a basic text editor and my Logitech Bluetooth KB and type, in sheer bliss, in a coffee shop! … Did so recently and appreciated the extra focus it gave me. I tend to fiddle too much on my computer or phone.


  • Needs PopClip! (Gosh I love that app!)

  • Many tasks seem to take more steps on an iPad compared to laptop

  • Selecting and acting on multiple items is so much easier on the Mac (example, selecting and acting on multiple to-do items in OmniFocus … file examples not quite here yet, as file-management is only cloud-based)

  • I love Dropbox; but using it on the iPad causes me a LOT of trouble – More than once, I’ve been quickly dragging through folders, to get to the one I want, and things will stop for a second… I know it’s about to drag one folder into another one!! No!!! No way to stop it. … I know “I did it;” but, did I? … All I did was have a moment where my finger caught a little more friction on the screen…

  • File management not “real” yet (external device support and seeing all file types with browse, rename, edit, round-trip edit, etc.)

  • iCloud sync still not as fast as Dropbox and other services

  • Apple-made keyboards limit one to only a few viewing angles and is too close to the iPad (I use a 3rd party case and a Logitech bluetooth keyboard and have a much lower viewing profile to limit “shoulder surfers,” etc.)

  • Photo management is SO much faster on the Mac

  • Lack of mouse support – iPad needs mouse support across the board to replicate the speed and ease of some computer-only tasks and efforts

Quick example of a “head-to-head/live competition” between an iPad and a laptop:

I was just working with a friend over dinner at a restaurant. She was helping me sort the madness that is planning travel with multiple cities on the “far end” (“open jaw” or go to one city and return from another).

I brought my laptop and she brought her iPad.

I was initially envious because it was SO much more convenient for her on the iPad. The table was small and, in typical restaurant fashion, they wanted to provide good service and bring things rapidly.

I eventually had to close my laptop and give up. AFTER we were done eating though, her iPad did not work with all the travel sites, touch targets on destination dates and cities were causing her trouble, etc.

We had to go back to several sites via my laptop for them to even work.

I love my iPad, but this experience has made me nervous re: my pending trip, where I am attempting to go iPad-only!

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Perhaps this is a minor issue, but I’m still looking for a good iPad (or iPhone) app that can do an accurate OCR on a PDF file without hurting the quality of the image or vastly increasing the file size. Nuance Power PDF does such a better job that I keep going back to a “real” PC laptop for that task.



For me, I have below points to state about pros and cons of iPad as replacement of Mac/PC.


  • It is portable, even 12.9 inch one is thinner and lighter than MacBook Pro.
  • Battery life is really good, even when I fly from Shanghai to NYC, it lasts long enough for entertainment include watch TV series and read books , even connect Wi-Fi on plane.
  • Lots of useful apps, they are cheaper on iPad, I really can’t afford the Mac version: just list some examples here:
    • Things 3
    • Luma Fusion
    • MindNode
    • sPlayer
    • Scanner Pro
    • 1Password
    • Notability
    • Bear
    • All Apple Apps
  • Pencil is really good tool to replace mouse on iPad Pro, when I edit video, I use Apple Pencil rather than finger.


I am a tech enthusiasm guy, that is to say, I like to try to use lots useful tools.

For example: wireshark, Pytcharm, Xcode, virtual machine to run linux, command line.

But swift playground is really nice app on iPad for people to learn code.

Whatever pros and cons iPad Pro has, I still love this machine, since besides very professional task I have to sit in front of my Mac, I spent most of my time with my iPad to get good use of it.


My experience is with Scanbot’s IAP OCR option (good, not great) and Prizmo (handles complex documents and boxed text well), but I don’t know about all the apps out there today. For what it’s worth I usually resort to Scanbot for short documents, then clean up the OCR manually.

Zapier always has good overviews. They did one on this subject last fall:


Wow. Thank you for telling me about this. I am baffled as to why they’re optional like that, but Gmail on iPad is much better now! Now they just need to support Split Views and my wishlist is complete. :slight_smile:


I agree with this statement. Apps are also cheaper while it has almost or full-featured same as the desktop counterpart.

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Yes you are correct.


I’m on a 2017 12.9 iPad Pro, using a Brydge keyboard. At home I use my iMac 5K for most everything, except reading PDFs, but 75% of the time I’m iPad-only when I’m working on campus.

Sources of delight

  • Using the Pencil to scribble comments to students and colleagues on PDFs, especially because I can pinch out for more space to write in the margin.
  • Apps like PDF Viewer that follow Apple’s recommended implementation of “Open In…”.
  • Presenting with Keynote, with my iPhone connected to a projector and an HDMI-dongle and then holding the iPad in “Remote” mode, which allows me to scribble on the slide, use a pointer, and see the “next slide”. So, so cool.
  • Screen quality while watching Learn.MacSparky.com videos!
  • The Brydge keyboard is a complete gamechanger for me. Really makes it feel like I’m on my 2013 MacBook Pro (though I wish it were as easy to detach as Apple’s Smart Folio).

Sources of frustration

  • File management, in general, but especially Apple’s DISASTEROUS implementation of tags is. See my MPU Talk posting on what needs to be improved in tagging.
  • So little control over what is available offline. Especially for Photos albums, this is a total pain, but also for Files. Getting a cellular iPad has alleviated this a great deal, but for people on WiFi-only, this is a huge hassle.
  • Apps that fail to follow Apple’s recommended implementation of “Open In…”, forcing you either to use a proprietary parallel universe of file management or resort to “Open a Copy” (I’m looking at you, PDF Expert!)
  • Better search. I would love to have something like HoudahSpot on the iPad. In fact, the days I bring my laptop to work instead of just the iPad, it’s usually because I’m anxious I won’t be able to find files quickly.

Thanks. I’ve tried those, and I used them when I need to, but I have yet to find something that works as well as a desktop app, which just shouldn’t be the case given the power of the iPad Pro.



ABBYY has a good reputation, and their online OCR service (which of course has privacy/security issues that might or might not concern you) is likely to be more powerful than any app-only solution. You can try it out for yourself: simply by registering before using the (free download) app you get 10 pages scanned per month. Unfortunately, it’s expensive for anything more than that - the only pay tier is $149/yr, which gets you 5,000 pages/year.

If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription I know you could do OCR via Acrobat on Mac/Windows, not sure how it works with iOS though.

A free option would be to upload to Google (privacy implications) and convert to a Google Doc/Drive, but I’ve never done that.


Completely agree with this and your call-out to PDF Expert.

Yes! If iOS had comprehensive and robust search that allowed facet searching, complex queries and/or RegEx, across all file sources, apps, and everything else on device through spotlight and the search bar on Files, I would be thrilled. Finding, managing, and accessing files is one of the things I spend so much time doing, Right now, I can search for files that are in iCloud on Files. I have to go to the Dropbox app to search for files in Dropbox. I use FileBrowser or an SSH client to search for files on my network. It’s maddening.


One thing PDFExpert does well is sync with Google Drive folders (it might sync with DropBox, too, but I haven’t checked that in a while).

Since Google Drive is how my students submit work, and it’s also where I keep all PDFs of journal articles I want to read, that works really well for me.

But yeah, it’d be much better if it would also use “Open In…”


It does sync quite well with Dropbox.


I have a 12.9 2018 and before then a 9.7 iPad pros.

They are just not fit for my work. iPad after all are just very big iPhones.

My work requires plenty of writing, planning, preparing speeches, concept notes. I need to refer to plenty of background material when doing my work and the maximum 2 windows metaphor just doesn’t cut it for me.

As an example for writing certain emails sometimes I need to refer to 3 or 4 other background emails and there is no way to do that as there is no concept of window. Working with the iPad would force me to curate the reference content [copy and paste it in a single document] before I can actually work - it doesn’t strike me as particularly efficient way of working.

And some workflows are still too fiddly, such as file keeping without creating duplicates all over the apps.

In short if I need to work on the move I carry my 2013 MBA 11". If I happen to need to be working on holidays, then that will happen on the iPad or iPhone with some complaints and moans.

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Not taking away from your main point at all, but if you are in that specific email situation, you can use split view or a window overlay with Mail and another email app to look at email in one app while you compose in another app. It’s a hack, but it’s helped me out. Hoping we get a more advanced windowing/split viewing system in iOS 13.


It’s interesting that the amount of RAM isn’t really mentioned in our retrospectives. I actually had forgotten that I had the smaller 4GB until I saw a recommended thread here. I take this as an indicator that the 1TB should only be bought if you need the storage; 6GB is not at all needed to do a full amount of work on the iPad Pro.

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I’m pretty certain the extra 2GB make very little difference in the amount of RAM available to apps, it’s there to manage the storage.

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I have several trips coming up in April and June, two of which will involve a fair bit of travel by air. While I will be brining my MacBook, my goal is to not use it at all during any of these trips. I’ll count the number times that I swear due to iPad/iOS limitations and use that as a baseline for my “iPad as a laptop replacement” metric :slight_smile: