I don’t yet own an iPad Pro. So this could all be a mistake. But for the past few months, I have been boring all my friends with my enthused commentary about Apple’s new tablet.
It’s been irritating to everyone, I’m sure.
My enthusiasm has I’ve often left me feeling in a minority. Yes, the new big iPad earned a thumbs up from Frederico Viticci:
My recommendation couldn’t be more straightforward: if iOS is your main computing platform, or if you plan to turn an iPad into your primary computer, you’ll want an iPad Pro. Its powerful hardware, multitasking interface, and extensible nature are superior to every other iPad. I don’t see myself using a Mac as my primary computer ever again.
But my impression from reading reviews is that many tech writers don’t get why an iPad Pro would be exciting. Many of these reviews proceed from the premise, advocated by Apple itself, that an iPad Pro is meant to replace a laptop. The reviewers express doubt, even annoyed doubt, that the iPad, as it currently is, could achieve such a goal.
However, I’m not particularly interested in whether the Pro can replace a laptop, as I don’t own a laptop. The Wallace household owns a desktop computer, an iMac, which sits in my very lovely office, and on which I do all my book designing, spreadsheeting, website managing, and a large portion of my blogging.
However, I don’t like that big computer so much for writing.
I find myself easily distracted on a large screen full of layered, floating windows, and while I’m aware there are full screen options on the iMac, for me, those options have never quite felt right. A desktop computer is designed for multi-tasking, with a potentially infinite number of windows and tabs only a mouse-click away. But when I want to work imaginatively, a computer based around multi-tasking is not the best option. I don’t want to be continually “cleaning” my screen of windows that have piled up in the background.
When I write, I want to be able to focus, first of all. The ability to switch easily between tasks is at best a secondary priority, and at worst a distraction. I want a writing environment that is robust, simple, and uncluttered.
The designer and developer for Adobe, Khoi Vin, says it better than I could:
… the iPad is a much more elegant system than my Mac. This isn’t to say that I have no use for my desktop (more on that in a moment), but that by and large iOS software is considerably more thoughtful, more carefully considered, and more visually polished than desktop software. If you think of your operating system as a workspace, and if you believe that the nature of your workspace—its affordances, its orderliness, its conduciveness to focus, its nimbleness—influences the work that you do, then you might agree with me that in order to produce your best work you would want the most elegant workspace out there. For me, that’s the iPad.
To me, a normal-sized iPad has two great limitations over a more traditional computer: there’s no trackpad or mouse, and multi-tasking is difficult.
First of all, the lack of a trackpad makes the iPad less good for tasks that require repeated and continual on-screen adjustment: I suspect that book design or spreadsheet editing, for instance, are naturally more suited to a desktop or big laptop. Even if Adobe InDesign appeared on iOS tomorrow, I still would probably prefer to use it on a mouse-based computer: the need to raise one’s arm over and over again to touch the screen, moving margins and scroll-bars a hundred times in one work session, would quickly become physically tiring.
But I’m fine with continuing to divide my tasks between two computers, so this is less of a worry for me.
Secondly, the iPad has historically been poor at moving from one application to another, and while my old iPad 3 can do some of the cool new iOS 9 stuff with multiple windows, my existing iPad is simply too slow to make rapid window-switching really enjoyable. Plus the screen is not quite large enough to pleasantly show two applications side by side, shrunk to half their normal width. This is a big problem for blogging, where I want to move rapidly between writing and reading and back again, and where I want to collect, copy, and paste a series of links from the browser to my post editor.
However, the iPad Pro’s bigger screen, and its more powerful multi-tasking, should remove most of limitation number two. I’ll be able to have my writing program, Ulysses, open in three-quarters of the screen, and Omni Outliner or Safari open in the final quarter. This is pretty exciting: it may finally enable the iPad to be a tool for blogging, and will thus remove half of my problems with the iPad.
I’ll let you know, when I finally get an iPad Pro, how it feels to write with.