Mac Power Users 438: Workflows with Matt Gemmell


I’d like to try my iPad connected with the external monitor but having to reach out constantly in lieu of an external pointing device defeats the ergonomic intent of using the monitor.


I have tried to edit text on iPad and find it so much worse than on a PC (including Mac in the category). I have to lift my hands from the keyboard and grab the iPad with my left hand, and touch the screen with my right hand index finger. This, I find so much worse than the combo mouse/trackpad and keyboard shortcuts.

Am I the only on feeling this way?

I have written quite a bit academical text the last couple of years and I love using together with (for references) on my 27" iMac.

Humbly Ylan


Nope. I also find heavy duty text editing much easier on the Mac than on the iPad.


I am not iOS only, but close. I manually backup my files and use iCloud to sync. Unfortunately, I do not have a Photos backup system yet outside of iCloud.

The only problem I have with the service is what it decides to download locally and what it ‘purges.’ In macOS we some control of what is synced, but on my iPad and iPhone the control is limited to what ‘bucket’ did you put the file. Also, iCloud Drive has one setting on iOS: On & Off, meaning that control over purging is nonexistent unless we move the file to another bucket.

I know that Photos can be backed up by multiple services on iOS as you take them by permissions in Google Photos, Dropbox, etc… Manual transfer is possible but very tedious and I find only worth it if your iCloud Photo Library can all fit on your device at once.


I really have no interest in using an iPad for their only computer. I have an iPad Pro 10.5 and use it for reading/ note taking along with a few other things but to replace all of my established workflows would take so to develop and implement. I just have better things to do with my time and I actually enjoy using my Mac. The two work well together and so all is good in the world. I only see that getting better.


I tried going iPad only last year, I can’t do it yet. I wrote up my thoughts about it on my site, but basically, there’s too much lacking still. I especially agree with the comments on ergonomics.


Notes apps I find really hard to choose. I’m iOS on iPhone and iPad but windows at work.

This means that if I went back to iOS Apple notes it’s of no use to me when I need to access notes in my work pc. Yes there’s the web app but that doesn’t feel right.

I’ve been using Dropbox paper but that doesn’t really cater for the windows side properly. I’m tempted to try Apple notes again. I’ve used simple notes but that’s not great. I’ve heard zoho notes is ok though.

Interested to know what mixed os users use for note taking. Drafts is awesome but not solely notes storage as iOS only.


Just listened to this episode , one item I was really hoping to hear about was what backup strategy was matt using, did everything just rely on icloud , I can imagine losing a book manuscript would be a huge disaster, or was he using another method of backing up his work ?


Matt uses Ulysses to do heavy lifting. Ulysses will make it’s own backups if allowed.

Perhaps Matt will chime in and answer your question.

My reponse is a as I recall type.


I absolutely agree with Ylan’s recommendation. I switched from Papers+Word to Bookends+Mellel about a year ago, after being badly bit by a bug in Papers (2 hours before a submission deadline), and haven’t looked back. Both apps are fast, stable, and very keyboard friendly

Best regards



Matt here — thanks for listening, and thanks for the great discussion.

As has already been noted, Ulysses creates its own backups archive, and also syncs via iCloud to other devices. I additionally back up my manuscripts regularly (as Markdown exports) to Dropbox, which itself keeps some recent backups/versions. Finally, I run a Dropbox daemon on my remote server, which in turn has its own off-site backups on a daily, weekly, and monthly rolling basis, plus ad-hoc snapshots.

Thus, by my my estimation, my current project will usually be:

  • On the iPad, in its current form.
  • On the iPad, in various backed-up forms within Ulysses.
  • In iCloud.
  • (On the iPhone, if I’ve used Ulysses there recently)
  • In Dropbox, in its current or very recent form.
  • In Dropbox, in several recent versions.
  • On my server in another country, via Dropbox sync.
  • In my server’s daily/weekly/monthly off-site backups, as appropriate.

I’m also fairly regularly exporting chunks/versions of the manuscript in assorted formats for editing and proof-reading, from which I could reconstruct the Markdown original if necessary, as a last resort.

I’ve yet to lose anything! Here’s hoping it never happens.