Musings about my macOS renaissance

Continuing the discussions from 523: State of the iPad, Ten days iPad only, and What are your biggest barrier(s) to going iPad only or primary:

Since, I guess, around October, I’ve been spending much more time on my Mac than on my iPad and I wanted to share some observations and see where you come out on this. It’s been so much fun that I’m calling it my macOS renaissance.

Those of us who really want to do more work on our iPads often talk about how freeing our iPads are. But, what I’ve realized over the past several months is that macOS and my MacBook Pro actually provide much more freedom.

I forget sometimes how easy it is to do just about everything on a Mac. The software tools are fully functional–and when you use powerful software tools to solve a problem, it’s nice to have the full-feature set at your disposal. Window management, utilities, keyboard shortcuts, scripting, and the command line are nearly frictionless to use. Moving information (like text) from one place to another is still so much easier on macOS than it is on iOS.

Don’t read this as an anti-iPad post. It’s not my intention. My iPad is powerful. But being able to get so much done on my Mac and get it done so easily has been refreshing.

Maybe some of you have enjoyed a similar renaissance?


I had more of a withering use of iOS than a renaissance of macOS. I sold my iPad mini in anticipation of the last-gen of iPad Pro… but then had trouble finding a strong use-case for it (at a time when iOS hadn’t been updated) so I have been iPadless for a couple of years.

In the interim iPadOS has evolved considerably and I’m intrigued by it so I’m likely to pick up a new 11" iPad Pro when it’s announced (soon?), but I still won’t be able to use it for much of the creative work I do on my Mac (photography editing/printing, Ableton Live, long-form writing). It will, however be useful for reading ebooks and Apple News+ magazines in bed, and I’ll probably use the heck out of Sidecar with Lightroom. For me that will probably be enough.

I think the iPad is evolving in fits and starts as a real, powerful alternative to PCs for most people. But it still seems to be a ragged experience for many specific use cases, and there’s little evidence Apple is looking to fill in many of those gaps, perhaps because there are so many other little and big fires that are prioritized.

Once Apple empowers use of the Magic TrackPad (full use, not the watered-down pointer support under Accessibility) I’ll start to think they are serious about getting more pro users to consider the platform for primary use.


I’m trying to do more on my Mac because I’m tired of thinking about what to do on what device and how to do it. It’s some weird mental overhead and ultimately became a distraction for me.

I still love the iPad Pro but I’ve stopped trying to force it. I use it when I need the pencil or sometimes when I’m away from the office.

It’s also opened up great Mac apps that I wasn’t using because they don’t have iOS counterparts.


Well put. That’s what I felt like I was doing sometimes. Now, I’m finding specific places where the iPad excels and using it for those things (note taking, PDF annotation, some domain-specific work, etc.). Ironically, now instead of iPad being a replacement for anything, it’s just another tool in the box.


I agree with this. While we are often looking to needed improvements in iPadOS as the bottleneck, I think the real limitation on iPad is that a lot of third-party software is less capable than it should or could be. (Note bene: I don’t really know if the issue of reduced-functionality apps actually the developers’ fault. It may be OS limitations that are not obvious to me as a user or a tough business model–i.e., it’s hard to get people to pay real dollars for what they consider a mobile app.) Either way, I think that is the hill we must climb.

We don’t fret or complain because we cannot put a chain saw chain on a reciprocating saw. Why do we find it hard to believe that some macOS software will just not work well on iOS? How often do we hear the refrain … I won’t use this because it does not have an iOS counterpart? How infrequently arises the counterpoint … I am glad this software is designed well for macOS and it would be foolish to try to fit it on iOS.

My MBP does the power work it is designed well to do. My iPad Pro does the power work it is designed well to do. Sometimes I cut down thick pine trees. And sometimes I trim up the brush work.


1 Like

I agree with your general proposition, but that is not a counter argument to the point that I was making here. This is not a thread whose purpose is to either fret or complain. Here @bowline was offering the observation that the iPad is evolving along a certain path. I added my observation that the evolutionary challenge right now is that certain developers have designed apps for iOS that are promising but are currently not fully capable to get the job done. Using your analogy, the iPad is a chainsaw and is being used as a chainsaw, but the chainsaw would be performing better if it had a carbide-toothed chain and tool-free chain tensioning.

On the other hand, your point aligns nicely with the one made by @KevinR about not forcing iPad to be something it isn’t or do something it cannot (do efficiently or what have you).


Other than that I meant the iPad as a reciprocating saw (not a chain saw), I follow and respect your sentiments.


1 Like

I can state with some definitive certainty that my iPad does not function particularly well as either a reciprocating or chain saw (and also not as an iPad anymore).

More seriously though, I find that even for the same work (usually back-end development) that my decision as to which device to use comes down to whether the quick convenience of the iPad outweighs the its inherent limitations. Very often that means I’ll get an idea, reach for the iPad, work on it for a bit, and if it’s something that shows promise then move over to the Mac where I have multiple displays and such.

The iPad is also a stellar travel computer.

1 Like

Shoot! I’m sorry for having reversed your perfectly good analogy. It makes much more sense for the iPad to be the reciprocating saw than the chain saw in your analogy.

Between the iPad Pro and the MBP, I have evolved specific use cases for each. As a professor, I use the iPadPro + pencil primarily for reading and/or editing manuscripts and theses, grading papers and other stuff where I want to read and/or jot all over a document. I hate track changes and other document editing strategies on MacOS or on our university’s web-based learning management system - clunky and awkward and I have to type too much to get the same message across. Reading and jotting were always more natural to me as pen and paper tasks and I don’t adapt well to computer screen and keyboard there. I will do some quick email answering or simple photo edits on the iPad also. So huge kudos to the iPadPro for taking over those particular workflows.

I use the MBP primarily for developing lecture content, emails requiring more than a simple message/reply, video and audio editing and conversion/compression, some local data analysis, ssh into servers for “big data” analysis and other “traditional” computing activities that require multiple apps and access below the GUI to files and directories. Having started as a jurassic era programmer in FORTRAN on punch cards, for me, the iPad isn’t a contender for “traditional computing tasks” even if there is a way to approximate it but I tried to integrate the iPadPro more in the emails, video/audio manipulation and lecture content aspects which are a significant part of the workflow mix and pulled back.

The main barrier for me is “old dog, new tricks”. I cannot keep track of the myriad of fingers/gestures + short/long presses required to unlock the power in the iPadPro. I find the UI too touchy [pun intended] with small and/or unexpected sweet spots for gestures to work if I do remember what the gesture is. I don’t find gestures or long press submenus with their “junk drawer” (credit to ATP for that term) approach to hide the ugly bits of the UI intuitive. In the end, the iPadOS UI is limited in scope compared to the possibilities with keyboard + trackpad/mouse. When I try to push the boundaries of my use of the iPad, I often resort back to the MBP in a state of frustration. I’ve tried keyboards on the iPad and that didn’t help me enough. A couple of other podcasts (ATP and Adapt, sorry David and Stephen, you’re not the only podcasters in my life) have had recent discussions of the challenges of the iPadOS UI and I don’t feel so stupid anymore because I’m not alone in my challenges.

So to distill the take-home message from this lecture (can’t help it - comes with the territory) - the iPadOS UI is my barrier and what pushes me back to MacOS when working on tasks requiring more than one app or a UI needing a keyboard + trackpad/mouse. When I can get one app that does the bulk of a workflow especially if the pencil can be part of that workflow, I prefer the iPad.


Until a few months ago I had more of an iPad focused setup. Both an iPad and a Mac. But, the iPad was the more powerful iPad Pro 11" and the Mac the less powerful (in Mac terms) MacBook Air.

However, I found myself reaching for the MacBook far more often than the iPad. As others have mentioned, although the iPad OS has come on a lot in the last couple of years, often it just easier and quicker with my Mac. Text entry, working with spreadsheets, cut 'n paste, etc.

Fast forward to today and I now have a new MacBook Pro 16" (love the new keyboard) and an iPad Mini (5th gen). Most of the time I am on the MacBook and just use the iPad for a bit of reading or as a quick reference device on my bedside table.

Another plus point, for me, of the 16" is that it easily runs Windows 10 in Parallels for some Tower Defence games, which there are far more of on Windows than Mac.


Last year, right around WWDC, I began thinking of moving from a mixed-ecosystem setup back to all Apple. We upgraded one iPhone so we were all iOS 13-compatible, picked up 2 Apple Watch 3’s after they went on sale, and ordered a MacBook Air and Mac Mini, both refurbs. Since the wife decided she never used her laptop, she inherited the iPad. As a very fast touch typist a laptop works better for me. As much as I was looking forward to messing with iOS Shortcuts, I’ve found very limited use cases for that.

On the laptop, however, I have embraced my touch-typing primacy and made moves to limit touchpad use. Keyboard Maestro and Alfred now rule and my Dock is empty. I have mostly replicated this setup on the Mac Mini as well, even though it mostly serves as a host for external drives and media center.

I rarely use the iPad any more…

1 Like

Exactly this. The UI is in the way of getting things done.

I imagine that you missed a word there.


Apart from consuming media, nope.

And, let’s not forget …

  • creating presentations on the fly in a lecture / seminar (ZoomNotes + AirServer)
  • keeping hand-written minutes of meetings (ZoomNotes)
  • annotating PDF documents for editorial changes (PDFExpert)
  • tagging annotations on PDF documents (MarginNote)
  • brainstorming the development of an idea (iThoughts)
  • graphing analytical functions (Graphing Calc)
  • having a classical guitar score on hand for practice (forScore)
  • letting my spouse know my plans at the moment (Messages)

And while these are perhaps “media consumption”, they are not passive media consumption (with its possibly negative connotation).

  • reviewing literature in the field (Researcher, Bookends)
  • reviewing bank accounts (your bank app)

You make what you want of the iPad. It is however not absolutely true that its UI is entirely getting in the way to to get things done apart from consuming media. Indeed, for some cases above (e.g. ZoomNotes), the inverse is true: the macOS UI “gets in the way”.


For my workflows, I need:

  • editing and managing those edits for photographs as they go back and forth to a central DAM
  • annotating drawings (CAD), and managing those edits
  • actually drawing in CAD
  • writing emails
  • layout out complex documents (I use quark)
  • tabulating data and keeping track of data (I use an old version of Excel)

I find typing on an iPad a chore, multitasking on an iPad a chore, and otherwise, I don’t do any of your workflow items.

My workflow items don’t – yet – work with iPad. Maybe one day; I’d love to ditch the keyboard for an Apple Pen.