Why I transitioned away from the Mac (mostly)

What follows is a somewhat longish post that I started as a blog post but thought would be worth posting here as well…

I had a chuckle late yesterday afternoon when I opened up the forum and found this thread: iOS and iPadOS are endlessly frustrating to me.

The reason for my amusement was that earlier in the day was one of the rare occasions I found myself at the keyboard of my Mac Mini and I found myself frustrated with the experience for most of the time. I had a few things I needed to do in the Contacts app that aren’t up to snuff on that app on the iPad. Also not great on the Mac but a little better. Side note, Apple needs to give the Contacts app on all platforms some attention. It’s been awhile since spent any time managing contacts and it’s not a great experience. (Cardhop on the iPad is fantastic, a much better experience and I could have used that but hadn’t checked on the Mac in a couple weeks so figured I’d check for software updates, etc).

So, as I was working on that I had a tech question texted to me from a relative that resulted, after a series of exchanges between us, in my checking my Time Machine back-up. Huh, no back-ups since January 11th. No notifications that it had stopped. Upon investigating I found an error “A disk you are backing up is case-sensitive, but the backup disk is not. Select a different backup disk or exclude the case-sensitive disk from backups.” One of those fun Mac power user exercises! I do some searching and no resolution. Fine, I’ll come back to that later. I’ve had issues with Time Machine for years. For some it seems to work very well, for me, well, this is just the latest in a long, long list of failures.

I get back to my task. A client is having issues with his Contacts app throwing up the spinning beach ball which is why I’m tooling around looking at options for possibly moving some of his workflow to Numbers spreadsheets for contacts relating mailings, class sign-ups, invoicing and various other bits of data tracking that he’s never gotten around to doing.

While I’m at the Mac this same client messages me with a few requested changes to his website. I instinctively reach over to the iPad attached to the Magic Keyboard and open Textastic in split screen with Messages to reference the text and images he’s sending. He also sends a hyperlink to gather additional images and text from a website so I tap over to Safari. I select some text with the Magic Keyboard trackpad and copy. Then I use my finger to tap and hold an image in Safari, then use another other finger to drag up the dock and open Files to navigate to my client’s website folder. I drop the image in. As my hands are already near the screen I use my thumb to drag the dock up and tap over to Textastic. I finger tap the images folder, then tap and hold the new image to rename from the contextual menu then rename it using the keyboard. The client wants another image that I have in my Photos library so I Command-Space and type “flowers” and from those Spotlight results I open Photos app which opens a search for my flower images. I tap the “moments” section of the photos search results which has groupings based on date and within a few seconds I’ve got the image. I tap the share icon to send the image to a shortcut that resizes and compresses the photo which I save straight to the website images folder.

Over the course of this 5 minutes of activity my fingers and hands have danced back and forth from screen, to keyboard to trackpad. I can’t say that I know exactly how I’ll do any particular task, whether it will be the trackpad or touching the screen, I just do it. If my fingers are already on the keyboard I’ll likely use the trackpad. But because they’re always close to the screen tapping is easy and often I find that I can go quite a bit faster because I can interact more directly with the screen via touch and with two hands - with the trackpad I am limited to one cursor. This kind of interaction isn’t possible on the Mac and I feel slower because of it. The Mac limits me to one cursor, one point of on-screen interaction with a mouse or trackpad. I have to drag that cursor, and aim it. Not so with the touch screen where I can much more quickly move a finger right to the place I want to interact.

Another place where the Mac slows me down is in the processing of mail. The iPad and a touch screen feels far superior when processing mail. When it comes time to delete and move mail around the two hand, multi finger process is excellent. My left hand goes up towards the left side of the screen and I use my thumb and/or other fingers to multi select multiple emails to drag and drop. Or I can slide delete or tap delete using a second finger on the delete key if I’m doing this with the keyboard attached. Lots of options and I tend to use all of them.

Same thing for files. I feel slower on the Mac with a trackpad or mouse. On the iPad, whether I’m in split screen with two Files windows open or just one, multi-touch file selection is fantastic. Two finger drag to select multiples is great. Almost everything feels faster.

Another area that I’ll mention is multi-tasking. It’s often said that multitasking on the iPad is cumbersome, difficult and still not finished. It is true that on a Mac I can have as many windows of as many apps as I want, all on one screen, placed free form wherever I want and overlapping as I see fit, and yes, sometimes that is useful. Sometimes, it’s just a complicated mess of windows.

After several years working on the iPad I prefer the iPad multitasking model of interaction, especially given the improvements of the past few years. Having a single app window open is generally fine and when it’s not it takes me no time to bring up a split screen and/or a slide over as needed. Dragging up from the bottom of the screen to get multitasking or using any of the new keyboard shortcuts, again, all of these work very well for me. I don’t need third party window managers to help me organize or keep my windows tidy. I just use the iPad as it is intended and find that it’s fluid and fast and fun to use.

To compare, I just hopped back to my Mac to see where I left things yesterday. A Finder window open and 7 minimized windows in the dock. I can run the cursor over those tiny minimized windows in the dock to get a label to identify them but it feels slow compared to multitasking on the iPad. On the iPad I can more quickly activate the multitasking view which gives me a view that’s much quicker and easier to navigate with less eye strain and cognitive load. Not only that, but I can more quickly get back to an app or task from further back in time right where I left off. This is especially true of the newer M1 iPad Pro with increased memory. I can often, with just a couple of swipes pull an app from multitasking right where I left off at some point earlier in the day or a previous day.

A few more ways that I find the Mac to be too restrictive are tied to the hardware limitations. I don’t know how folks can deal with a permanently attached keyboard. A MacBook Air is more flexible than a desktop Mac in terms of location but it’s still stuck to landscape mode and a keyboard/trackpad. Sure, I use my iPad with a keyboard/trackpad much of the day. But as needed I give the iPad a gentle tug and it’s free to continue using in landscape or rotated to portrait without the extra baggage. I can keep using my fingers to touch the screen directly or I have the additional option of using the Pencil. There’s a fluidity of form, handling and function that come with the iPad that I can’t get with a Mac that’s locked to a keyboard, trackpad and/or mouse.

I’m not sure at what point I began viewing the Mac as more of a hinderance and something I had to over-manage. I’m not certain if it’s the complexity of the OS, troubleshooting things like file permissions, window clutter or just the form factor that requires a cursor. But at some point around 2018 I’d spent enough time with the iPad as my computer that going back to the Mac was more trouble than it was worth. When I was younger I enjoyed the Mac more in part I think because I didn’t mind maintenance, it was a part of the fun. The iPad came along and matured at a rate that matched my own needs and inclinations I suppose. 12 years on and it’s not as simple (or limited) as it was in those first few years. But nor is it overly complex.

Ultimately we’ll all chose the tools we’re most comfortable with for various tasks, environments and at different times of our lives. I’m grateful that the iPad has been iterated in such a way that my mom can still have her easy to use iPad, mostly unaware of all of the new features that have been added. The same is true for my father and quite a few others in my family. For them the iPad is still that simple computer that they don’t have to worry about or spend time maintaining. But for me Apple has provided another version of this same device, one that is far more capable and yet, still, not cumbersome or overly burdened with troubleshooting or maintenance.

The Mac served me well for 25 years and while it will still have it’s place I’m happy to have moved on to the iPad.

I needed to recharge so here’s the iPad in desktop computer mode.


Interesting post - thank you

I am curious what your primary tasks are for “computing” with an iPad

The severe limitations in terms of opening multiple apps/windows simultaneously would be an instant showstopper for me to use an iPad

If your workflow is such that you only tend to use one or possibly two apps most of the time, yes an iPad might make sense. Even then the options for customization are limited.


To each his own. I will simply say that your 6th paragraph is the reason I stopped trying to use the iPad as my main device.


I can see how that description might seem a negative, complicated. But for me it’s a positive. It all feels natural, fast and dare I say, fun to use. I describe it as a dance but yeah, there’s a delight in the process for me. I can see though how others might not enjoy it or come to feel it is a burden instead. Perhaps it doesn’t settle into a natural feeling series of movements for some.

There are certainly tasks where my iPad excels. But my iPad also cannot compete with my MBP for certain tasks. By example, I prefer to shop on Amazon using my iPad. I prefer however to respond to forum posts such as this while attached on my MBP even though my BT keyboard could connect to my iPad.

How many of the aggravations that you note about using macOS probably disappear for most folks because you are operating at a higher level than normal? And how many folks are as adept as you at dancing through the variations in ways to use an iPad?

As the saying goes … YMMV.



Yeah, the whole finger dance thing on the iPad is what gets old really fast and takes me back to my MacBook.


My work is a mix of freelance… Podcast transcriptions, website set-up/design/maintenance, graphic design and layout. The podcast transcripting is two apps side by side. The website work ranges from 2 to 4 apps. The bulk of the work is done in Textastic but I’m often gathering, referencing material sent via Mail, Messages or pulling from Safari. The graphic design/layout usually involves 2 - 4 apps, again, reference material from Mail, Messages or Safari. Then the app I’m working in, Pages or one of the Affinity apps. Affinity Designer and Photo are both a pleasure to use on the iPad. Once Affinity Publisher is made available on iPad I’ll likely use Pages a lot less. Affinity Publisher is really the only app I still use on the Mac.

I think for many the multiple windows is a show stopper. They want all the apps in front of them at once. I’ve become very comfortable with a 2 to 3 app process and very good at switching as needed using a variety of available methods. Add in the use of the slide over window so sometimes 3 apps at once.

I should underscore, I do all this on the 13" iPad. I would not ever do this on a smaller iPad. I suspect even the 11" would feel too small. But in my case, the 13" just feels right which makes sense given that my past use of Mac laptops were generally in the 12" to 13" range.

In my use-case it feels natural, fluid and fun. Obviously that’s not the case for many and for them the Mac exists. But I don’t want the trouble or overhead of the Mac. And as pointed out above, it feels constricted to me at this point, hence my transition to the iPad.

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Au contrair. Some of us like split screen on a main (27in) monitor attached to our MBP screen. And then we enjoy flipping across spaces through a few such configurations, all with a swipe on our trackpad.

Well. Hum. Now you tell us the restriction. Just when I was setting up my limited budget to only an iPad mini and thought from your posting that this would rule my world. :slight_smile:



Nice essay! I thought you were going to talk about diving into the Windows world and was thinking, “if a Time Machine error is too annoying, he’s really going to be disappointed.” So the middle was a little twist that got me. :slight_smile:

I agree some things about file manipulation could improve, but I also like that sweet combination of creative and focused work that the iPad excels at. There’s a qualitative difference in results when the right tool is used.


You do commercial website design and maintenance and do not find tools only available on macOS which would help you in that work?

That’s your main computing role or just a small side gig?

Well, these are not huge corporate websites or anything really complex. I’ve been building what would likely best be described as small, static brochure websites for small businesses and nonprofits for going on 20 years. I’ve recently dabbled a bit in setting up WordPress for a few folks. For a small 5 to 10 page static site Textastic has been great. In previous years I’d used Panic’s Coda app on the Mac and then on the iPad. They moved away from iOS so I moved to Textastic.

All that said, I live a very rustic, simple kinda life in the woods. No kids, deliberately very low energy so my small side gig is my main gig and enough.


I’m glad that you’re happy with your iPad.

(That’s it. I was typing out a few “objections” until I realized most of those are personal preferences, just as most of your positive reasons are your preferences, and the number of problems I’ve faced with iPadOS are the same as the number you’ve faced with macOS, and the sense of limitation I feel with iPadOS is the same sense of limitation you feel with macOS. Happy that Apple makes products for a wide variety of people.)


I think @ThatNerd hits it — this comes down to personal preference, and if the iPad fits your workflow, that’s awesome. For me, it comes down to the iPad being a good tool for work I can predict, if that makes any sense — i.e., when I can plot which apps are going to take care of a job, assuming those apps are up to the task. Where it falls down for me is in “reactive” work, which is when I’m sitting at my desk, putting out fires, and need a more flexible system.

EDIT: Reading back over my post, my own words sounded familiar to me, and I realized I wrote about the exact same thing a few years ago, and my situation hasn’t changed.:


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I’m so glad that you’re finding joy in your work because of how the iPad! It seems to be the most right tool for you :slight_smile:

I would love to get closer to that place myself, but the enormous showstopper for me is that apps in the background can terminate. Much of my work involves web-based applications as much as I dislike that, the trend is in that direction), and they do not handle such termination gracefully at all.

For me, a truly pro feature for the iPad Pro line would be that background apps remain running as they do on Macs. It’s not something that I need much of the time, but when I need it, I absolutely need it. From a hardware capability point of view, there is no reason the latest iPad Pro could not offer this. It would be a game changer for a lot of people who are currently bound to the Mac.


I’d be interested to try running on the iPad only, rather than upgrading my MBA.

Right now I have to use Microsoft Word with Zotero in a way that can only work on MacBook, but that need will diminish soon, at which point I’ll mostly be using Safari, Ulysses, IThoughts and PDF annotation which are all available to me on the iPad.

Moving towards more analogue note taking also frees up the iPad which was my secondary device while using the Mac.

Are there backup solutions akin to Time Machine on iPad?

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Can definitely recommend the “shiftscreen” app when you use the iPad with an external screen.

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I enjoyed reading this post and I (partially) came to a similar conclusion as you: there are many things that I can accomplish just as efficiently on an iPad as on a Mac. The process may be different on the iPad and that takes some learning. Yet, once learned, the process is equally efficient in terms of time to accomplish something on the Mac and the iPad. I also enjoy the success stories of people who demonstrate how one can use an iPad as one’s main computer.

I, myself, could not bridge the divide in going iPad only for basically two reasons: software reliability and software robustness. I could theoretically work perfectly on my 12.9" iPad in MS Word with two windows open in SplitView. But the experience is terrible because the input focus will not remain in one of the MS word windows–so things that I type end up in either or both windows. It’s extremely irritating and I have no idea whether this is a iPadOS flaw or a Word flaw (I suspect that it’s Word’s flaw). So, while I could perfectly easily do the job I need to do on the iPad, the faulty software creates friction that makes the work impossible to do or needlessly frustrating. On the robustness side, sticking with Word as an example, there are a handful of Word features – e.g., comparing documents – that I use multiple times a day most days, but the feature is not available on iPad. Seems like it should be, but it’s not. (I’d just as happily abandon MS Word, but the rest of my office and my industry will not follow me, so I’m stuck.)

Let’s take a look at file management and file navigation on iPad. I find managing and navigating files using an iPad is just as easy to do as on my Mac – sometimes easier. Big batch processing projects (like bulk renaming files and the like) are still not efficient on an iPad. But where the iPad falls down is that the Files app does not work reliably. If I’m doing any work that involves Dropbox, the Files app has a 50-50 chance of accomplishing the task–at best. Many times it just fails, with no explanation whatsoever and I end up having to reset my iPad to get things working again. The idea that you cannot MOVE a file from one place to another makes zero sene to me. That is endlessly frustrating for someone who regularly moves files.

I share this comment not to take a way from your fine post. Rather it is to say that I could join you in using iPad as my main machine if some of these functional failures were fixed. Software reliability–particularly among legacy third-party apps–has to get better. (I note that third-party iPad first apps, like Paprika or OmniFocus, are gems on iPad.) File management on iPad has improved substantially but there is no excuse for it not being perfect. File management has been something computers have been tasked to do since, what, the sixties? A lot of software could stand to re-think their interfaces, especially to enable the iPad to be able to do more batch type work.

As I wrote in another post recently, I instinctively go to my Mac because it’s still a much more freeing environment for me to work in. It is also trustworthy (macOS does not surprise me daily with seemingly arbitrary unreliability problems).


The thing that really soured me on my iPad Pro is that it just can’t copy files to and from network folders with any semblance of reliability, especially once file sizes exceed 2-3 hundreds megabytes. I agree, this is endlessly frustrating.


I could not have said it better. This is exactly why I love my iPad. It just feels like an extension for my hands and brain, when and wherever I want.



I’m with you on the limiting to one cursor. I hop between Mac and iPad quite a bit and when I was for more than a few days on iPad, I get frustrated over not being able to navigate while dragging files, pic and co on Mac.

Great post!!!

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