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How the iPad Pro made my writing work more mobile

Apple’s iPad Pro is the perfect tool for a freelance journalist. It’s light, powerful and has a battery that lasts all day. Pay extra and you can add a decent keyboard.

To my surprise I’ve found I’m  often more productive writing on the iPad Pro than on a Mac.

This has a lot to do with the physical hardware. It is also down to iOS 9 which forces distraction-free mode on users.

Nothing pops up to distract me while working. I’m rarely tempted to switch screens unless it is necessary. Trust me, this enforced focus writing is just what I need.

Yes, you can configure a Mac to work the same way. But the iPad started life as a single-focus device. Distraction-free is part of its DNA.

I get paid by the word and can often, not always, write more words per day on the iPad Pro. It’s that simple.

iPad Pro great for writing

Today’s iOS writing tools are excellent. There are many options to choose from, they take a range of approaches. At one point I had seven different apps installed I can use to manipulate words and sentences.

At first sight Apple’s iPad Pro Smart Keyboard Folio doesn’t look promising. It was the standard option before Apple introduced the iPad Magic Keyboard.

In practice I can touch type on the Keyboard Folio all day. I’ve no idea if my iPad Pro typing speed matches my MacBook typing speed. What I do know is the iPad Pro writing set-up is productive.

My only niggle is that sometimes I must lift my hands from the keyboard and touch the screen or the Touch ID button. This doesn’t interfere with productivity, but it doesn’t feel like a natural action. Not yet[1].

The iPad Pro has earned its place. This post was written using the 12.9-inch model. I’ve taken my iPad Pro around the world two or three times, used it from airport lounges, hotel rooms, on a airplane tray table and in conference venues and at exhibitions.

Not everything

Although I can do all my writing on the iPad Pro, it can’t do all the other things I need to do.

Apple’s iCloud works well (so does OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive), yet the iPad Pro is not ideal for making local file copies. Physical back-up may be an anachronistic security blanket, but I depend on it. I learned the hard way about backing up and don’t plan to stop. You can back up an iPad to a drive, but in 2015 it remains tricky.

Last month I had to install new firmware on a home wireless router. That meant downloading a zip file, decompressing it then installing it on the router. There’s no way I know of to do this using the iPad Pro[2].

I’ve invested a small fortune in OS X and Windows apps. In truth, there are few desktop business apps that I find essential. I use Acorn to manipulate graphics files but there are good iPad apps for this task.

The iPad Pro handles most web design work. Downloading and editing HTML, CSS or PHP files is tricky compared with the Mac. I can’t see how I can run local development versions of websites on the iPad. Maybe there are tools, I haven’t found them yet.

Missing in action

Where the iPad Pro misses most is with leisure software. That’s strange given its consumer origins. Here I’m talking about specialist apps. I use sophisticated music composition software on my Mac, it doesn’t run on iOS. Having said that, I have found some great alternative iOS music software.

Games are another matter. I’m not much of a gamer, but on wet weekends and home alone evenings I might want to unwind. Although there are iOS versions of some of the games I play, they are not a patch on the OS X versions.

The iPad Pro is the best thing for watching streaming video content. Premier League Pass is wonderful on the Retina screen. Movies are wonderful and the display is big enough for two to snuggle up and watch together.

Can’t drop the Mac yet

Despite this, I’m still going to need a Mac of some description for some time. The question is which model?

Until I used the iPad Pro, Apple’s 2015 MacBook was at the top of my shopping list. It’s small and light and has a great screen. That sounds just like the iPad Pro, except I now know I work better with a Pro.

My MacBook Air is two years old. The battery doesn’t last quite as long as it did when it was new, the power cable wore away and needed kludging. I was planning to look for a replacement about now.

Thanks to the iPad Pro I can relegate the MacBook to a secondary role and extend its life. Maybe when it gets more tired I can replace it with a Retina iMac. Or maybe another MacBook Air.

  1. I’ve noticed with the iPad Pro and all the touch screen PCs or Hybrids I’ve used that excessive touch screen use gives me a little upper arm pain. I’ll let you know if this becomes a problem.
  2. This has changed since 2015 when the story was originally written.