What Mac will I need? Can folk on this forum help me? Will an Air meet my needs?

I am not inclined to ask for advice other than on this forum or among power users and that ‘community’. So here goes, I appreciate anybody who reads through my rather long post which is also slightly discursive at points.

I have really narrowed my focus in recent years. I don’t anyway podcast or have any heavy duty data processing in today’s terms; eg video or sound editing; no real number crunching either. I don’t run a business from my Mac though my wife really runs hers from an iPhone now!!! I don’t know how.

I use my Mac mostly for browser, mail and document production, some blogging maybe which I intend to do now I am in semi or full retirement.
I have the LaTeX suite which I probably need still, though most of my writing is done in Ulysses. I read a lot of papers which I store in Devonthink. I access some sites and read papers and articles on line of course. I now use the native bibliography on LaTeX and find it sufficient with Devonthink. I just had a interchange with tjluoma here regarding the fact that we seem to need far less apps these days. I find having less apps has upped my game.

I have enjoyed my mid 2014 15 inch MacBook Pro and it is working fine. I am a nerd of course and love not only productivity apps like Keyboard Maestro but sheer raw Apple power. I think I am attracted to far more than I really need though :wink:

I hope my 15 inch will be ok for a year or two and things will change by then no doubt; but if I were to get a new machine now would any of you recommend that I get a MacBook Air; would it, in short, meet the needs I outlined above? I will add that the butterfly keyboard could well delay my decisions on the timing of any changes. Cost is, of course, a factor, but not a big one. I was tempted by the iMac Pro but quite obviously it is way beyond anything I can possibly need and well… there are things in life besides Macs :slight_smile: … they say!!

I see myself as relying on my apps and tools rather than hardware these days if I can express it that way: do you folk see what I mean? Since Mac has really raised the bar on basic computing and hardware. Which is now straightforward compared to the green screen days?

Should work just fine. Future proof yourself to upgrade the memory to 16GB and the amount of storage you will need.

1.6GHz Dual-Core Processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz

256GB Storage
Touch ID


Thanks, straight away here some reliable advice! You read my mind re 16GB and storage. I have found that, to my surprise 256GB is enough for me. I have some stuff on cloud and dropbox, very little and I don’t store photos or vids or much audio even. :+1:

If you were to replace your 15" MBP right now, it seems like the Air would work fine for you (I agree with @MacExpert on 16gb RAM and at least 256gb SSD). However, it doesn’t sound like a replacement Mac is urgent. If you can wait, rumor is there may be a new, non-butterfly keyboard coming in the future. And, of course, there’s the perpetual rumor of an ARM Mac coming somewhere down the pike.

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Maybe the iPad Pro would be a better choice for these sorts of tasks? I’d say the 12.9". With iPadOS 13.



The Air’s are pretty sweet machines. Based on your description it would probably be fine. Areas where I prefer a MBP involve video processing and other tasks where even a 15% speed boost is valuable.

If you are interested in an iPad Pro, there is an app called Texpad that has some LaTex features but I’ve never used it and I don’t know how it would fit your workflow. Maybe there are others as well.

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Thanks @ronguest I do have Textpad on my Mac. I didn’t even know they have an ios version; that is useful to know so thanks. It streamlines LaTeX production quite well. It works well for me. I use a fairly narrow band of LaTeX capacity I must say. I would say that Textpad is a good app. I have used a couple of LaTeX editors. I can’t even remember their names. They tend to have names that sound similar!

Thanks @KVZ. I will bear that in mind, I re listened to @tjluoma’s MPU show and it seems he has taken that route too. My wife works, emails etc. really well and quick on ios. Her phone even she doesn’t need an iPad. I can’t thumb type at her speed and unlike her I never got used to dictation. Well guess you would say I should learn? Maybe that is what I should do.

A majority of my customers have switched to iOS as their main computing platform.
Their iMac and MacBooks are collecting dust. This shift is causing me to change my business model…

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Don’t need to thumb-type on an iPad Pro - there’s the on-screen keyboard and numerous external keyboard + case options. (Lots of opinions on these elsewhere in this forum.)

Of course, someone with really large hands and Rachmaninov’s hand span could probably manage thumb-typing on an iPad Pro 12.9. :star_struck:


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Certainly what happened to my wife as a matter of fact. Withouth thinking about it hardly. She said yesterday that she hasn’t opened her Macbook in months. Her office is still Windows but mostly cloud based now. The owner of the enterprise has still to be convinced. The cloud altered that trajectory a lot anyway, she has clients on Macs. She had a lot of help during her conversions from a Mac Geek in Oregon, no longer in the support business I don’t think. Russ Alman, he called himself Macsomething or other too!


I am working with LaTex about 80% of my non-leisure computer time, so let me put my 2 cents in.

TexPad does have an iOS version, and if you subscribe to their own sync system, you can access your LaTeX projects reasonably well, and their typesetting engine is pretty good (make sure you download the packages you need on wifi ahead of time). There are a couple of other iOS apps – TeX Writer and VerbTeX – which sync with Dropbox and some other standard cloud services, so you don’t need to subscribe and pay for any additional ones, and you can collaborate with others. (I am not sure where their integration with Files and iCloud currently stands.)

However, I personally find LaTeX on iPad to be very clunky. I find that I really need to have source and pdf windows side-by-side (when I am at my desk in front of a larger display), or, when on a laptop screen, I need to be able to tile them, and switch between them with a keyboard shortcut or a trackpad click very quickly, preferably with a two-way position sync between them, without lifting my hands from the typing/trackpad surface. Perhaps this is specific to me – I really believe in the old copyeditor’s adage that you should proofread your writing using a different font/layout than what you used to actually write, so I always look to the pdf to review what I had just written in the source file, or confirm that the edit I just made makes sense. That’s even more true when there are mathematical expressions involved in what I am writing. The iPad 12.9" screen is too small for me to have both windows open at once, and the last time I checked, the apps don’t seem to provide a quick way to switch back and forth with keyboard shortcuts (this may have changed recently), and switching windows with position sync would always require touching the screen (unless you incorporate the iOS 13 accessibility features and use a mouse).

Moreover, if your documents include a non-trivial number of \include statements, and/or figures, having a Finder to make sure all the files are in the right place is invaluable.

Among my current computers are a 2016 MacBook and a 2013 MacBook Air – not a lot of horsepower. For LaTeX, they are perfectly good (I use TexPad for shorter, less complex documents, to take advantage of its real-type typesetting engine; for longer, more complex ones, I use TeXShop). I don’t know how resource-intensive DevonThink is, so I can’t comment on that.

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FYI, although I don’t use LaTex, I know that MyScript Nebo does output to it.

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Very useful reply. I had started, given @MacExpert 's reply, to really think about ios. Your comments have really been helpful. I am likely to use my iPhone a lot more following @MacExpert’s train of thought and advice. However you provide a corrective for me. In fact I have veered, on the basis that iphone and notebooks, which I still use, serve me well enough when away from my study, even in libraries etc. now, towards an iMac desktop. Fact is that when I priced the current airbook it was only 500$ less than the 27" nerd dream, lots of real estate, desktop that should last years and meets the kind of desiderata you outline.
I think I have heard something along these lines re LaTeX before: thank you for taking the trouble to amplify and make the points so clearly and so well. I think the sacrifice of real estate and my reliance on keyboard shortcuts is pushing me towards the iMac, even, if I feel cheap, at the 21" scale! I doubt it, the 500$ extra will probably feel ok to me when I get to the decision.
I am light on formulae and figures however, as you know too well probably, that can change suddenly and unexpectedly.

I don’t think Devonthink is very resource heavy. It might depend on what you do with it and how much stuff you have in it. I feel at present, some fields, are required to cite, use and store ridiculous amounts of papers and articles. That is another story though! My usage is relatively small. Its AI is superb and I hardly need to organize my papers though I do out of habit and custom. I don’t find it uses a lot of resource. Devonthink is the final resting place for most everything I do, personal and otherwise now. I still keep an email archive in Mail.


Consider carefully if you will enjoy a smaller screen.

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Just out of possible interest to some of you, a kind of footnote on LaTeX; I could manage without it probably, professionally and otherwise. I never will though and being able to use it is an essential consideration in my choice of computer etc… So it is OSX for my main machine…

It is almost an aesthetic decision. I consider LaTeX a ‘thing of beauty’. I admire Donald Knuth immensely and his independence of thought and story of how he went about LaTeX was an inspiration to me. Could he have done it in today’s context? I know of no other app or program that I feel like that about: the iPod Classic is a kind of hardware equivalent, though I am comparing Apples to Oranges here?

I know basic ‘philosopher’s logic’, nothing much beyond that and never programmed or coded really, not professionally anyway. I am old enough to be at the tiny intersection of ‘know some logic/math’ and ‘never coded or programmed’ :wink: I insist on using LaTeX though and at some point I still might have reason to write one or two formulae.

I liked the point @mepelman made about copyediting too, made me think. An unintended benefit even? One that I had often seen as an inconvenience, not withstanding what I said initially :slightly_smiling_face:


Hear! Hear! All hail \LaTeX! :smiley:

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Yes, I heard you. I gave this a lot of thought. Glad somebody else said it. It turns out the bottom line is that I won’t. Do you, just out of interest speak from experience?

It’s funny that the question of screen size comes up just now. I just got a 2019 Air to supplement my main machine, a 2017 15" MBP. The Pro is always used docked and connected to two external monitors (at work and at home). I find it too large to use comfortably on my lap and too small to replace a desktop display.

The Air, on the other hand, is the perfect size for lap use. I love the size of the display as a portable (I use it in its highest scaled resolution), which has the number of scaled pixels at the 15" at its default resolution.

This is not to convince you that the 13" is better than the 15", only that I was struck at how much I really love the 13" size in a notebook. If I could get a 13" Pro with the same specs as a top-end 15", I would get that instead of the 15" in a heartbeat.

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It’s personal. I have a 27" iMac (with a smaller, older, vertical Dell monitor alongside), a 15" MacBook, and an iPad (~9" i think). My best “work” is on the larger screen, just like in the old days my best work was on a wooden desk that had plenty of room. My best “writing” is on the 15" Macbook while in the local coffee shop. My best “reading” is on all, but I guess the 15" Macbook while in my favorite chair with a north-facing window is the best.

I can’t, for me, feel if I had to chose one machine (and I’m lucky I don’t!), that I’d be happy with the size of the smaller laptops. Just me.

I’m just saying you should think carefully yourself and decide yourself, regardless of other’s success and reservations. It’s personal.