Using the iPad Air as my main machine

It is now a couple of weeks that I have been using my new iPad Air as my main computer – and I have to say I am loving it. This has come as something of a surprise to me. I have been a hard core Mac user for many years and have got a lot of pleasure from building up workflows, macros, keyboard shortcuts etc and frankly played my Mac like a musical instrument. I also didn’t get along with the first iPad. I tried but just couldn’t live with what I saw as its limitations, and to be fair it was MUCH slower, didn’t do multitasking, and didn’t have the amazing app ecology that now exists. So I have come along way and now find myself thinking of my MacBook Air as, to quote Steve Jobs, a truck.

I thought others might find it useful to learn what sort of apps and addons I am using, what I love about the experience, and the one or two things that I still need access to a “real” machine for.

Keyboard Case
I tried using the iPad with the onscreen keyboard, and didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would but as I am a reasonably fast touch typist I wanted a real keyboard. I started off with the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard that we already owned along with an Origami Workstation stand. This combination worked OK but I found the stand a nuisance to carry in addition to the iPad and wanted a keyboard that incorporated dedicated iPad keys. I settled on the Zagg Keys Folio which has a great keyboard, backlit keys, iPad keys, makes a great case, and didn’t add too much to the overall case. Am I mad carrying around a “pretend” laptop as I used to see them and should I have got a 11″ MacBook Air? Maybe – but it would have been about twice the price!

I have to say that Apple do, finally, seem to be getting things together with iCloud. Things just sync, docs get backed up, settings appear as if by magic and I am missing a folder structure less than I thought. To be fair this is partly thanks to Dropbox but I am using even that for less than I thought.

Too many wonderful apps to mention but to single a couple out.

I am writing this on Editorial, a wonderful text editor that handles Markdown, snippets, and even scripting using Python. I am really enjoying the interface and, with the great keyboard, find myself being drawn to write. If I was writing anything longer than articles or blog posts I would miss Scrivener more than I am but the promised arrival of Scrivener for iPad next year was part of what made me make the leap.

The other app that I am loving using is the blogging app from Squarespace. I can write in Editorial, copy the markdown into the blogging app, and send the blog post to Twitter or Facebook all with less clicks than it used to take on my Mac.

General Comments
I am enjoying the touch interface more than I expected – and in fact point at my Mac’s screen on the odd occasion when I revert to using that. I love the portability and the lightness of the iPad, even with the case. The only things I still need to do on the Mac are use some budgeting apps and podcasting (though even that I will do on the iPad when I get the right connection). It may just be the novelty that is making things feel so good at the moment but long may the feeling continue!

9 thoughts on “Using the iPad Air as my main machine

  1. Interesting – and it’s that "pointing at the Mac screen" that will probably lead Apple to make a Mac touchscreen.

    I’d use my iPad (not more, but actually use) if it supported a mouse ( can’t create diagrams using touch screens as my fingers get in the way and yes I’ve tried a stylus but don’t get n with it and in any case I’ve lost it) and if I could install custom fonts. Oh, and if it weren’t for the pesky security rules at the megacorp I work for that insists on using the so badly named Good for Enterprise as the email app and not simply active sync, and also I can’t access the internal servers with an iPad….

    …not that these last two points are faults of the iPad per se, but stupid IT decisions like this limit the iPad use ithin a rigid corporate.


  2. Euan, I left your comment but somehow it didn’t post ā€“ tried to do it from the iPhone while watching TV.

    What I said was that you are a true pioneer ā€“ that if anyone can show the way forward it’s you. Steve Jobs never lived to see his "post-PC world". I think we are getting a little nearer and perhaps my current MacBook Air will be my last. I do hope so.

    My default wordprocessor is Pages and the original IOS version was a bit primitive for editing and formatting. I haven’t checked out the newest version but I’m sure that will have been worked on.

    Anyway, keep on inspiring us. It’s perhaps symptomatic of my need for a main machine with a proper screen and keyboard that I came upstairs, fired up Dragon Dictate and am dictating this message and watching it appear on my 27 inch screen šŸ™‚

    Keep up the good work old chap.



  3. I tried that but I always go back to sitting in bed with my laptop and having a shedload of tabs open, watching video while typing comments while researching knitting patterns while dealing with my mails.

    Come to think of it that’s probably why I don’t get much done.


    1. That mouse looks interesting Garret but to be honest one of the things that has surprised me is how quickly I have become accurate with the touch screen and in fact moving my hand away from the keyboard to a mouse, or even the trackpad, takes more moves to locate the cursor and move it than it does to just use my finger.


  4. This past week was at a conferences for non-profits and in a room of more than 200 people about half taking notes pen and paper more than half keyboard and tablet (mostly Apple and quite a few Android, nothing else) and 3 laptops. This change happened really fast. One presentation said more than half of their workforce surveyed brought a touch tablet to work and used it for work (around 60%).


  5. Left my Origami in Seattle so out to find the Zaggs Key Folio here in NYC. Love the Origami set up, but it is a hassle to carry the second piece. Know what you mean about enjoyment of novelty. Felt that with increase in speed on iPad air and iPhone 5s.

    I am almost exclusively on iPad and off Mac Air, as well.


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