Changing My Computer


When Apple unveiled their new iPad Pro line in 2018 I made up my mind that this would be my hardware upgrade of choice in the coming year. My MacBook was older than my first generation 12.9 inch iPad Pro – but the computer still worked fine and, to be honest, the most recent MacBook upgrades have been less than appealing 1. The 2018 iPad Pro, on the other hand, made my OG iPad Pro look like a snail.

I purchased my iPad upgrade in January 2019, and it is the fastest computer I’ve ever owned. Working on it is a joy. In fact, there have been only few things keeping me back from using my iPad as my full-time portable computing device.

I really like iOS. I’ve used Android and, while the system is wonderfully geeky, the user experience just isn’t anywhere near what iOS gives. But iOS is, at it’s core, a phone operating system – this has limited it in some respects. Things like multi-tasking have improved over time, and the addition of the Pencil was a huge boost to productivity, but iOS always felt like it was holding the iPad back. A huge struggle for me has been the lack of file system access. Apple’s Files app was very nice when it launched, but it got a bit frustrating when people came up to me with a USB key and I couldn’t pull files on to my device. The inability to mount an external drive for video editing, especially when the 2018 iPad Pro can do some serious 4k video editing without even working up a sweat, seemed like a missed opportunity. And only being able to work with a sub-set of my Photos, even if I had my external drive with my library on it at hand, just seemed dumb.

But my frustrations are about to change, because iPadOS is going to be released to the world come September. This will include improvements to multitasking, better keyboard support, and… the ability to mount external drives! Ever since’s Apple’s announcement in the beginning of June I’ve been watching videos of the developer preview in action. They gotten me more and more excited to have my iPad running the new system.

Even with the limitations of iOS I already do most of my daily computing on my iPad Pro. I enjoy the smart keyboard cover, I love having the pencil at hand when it need it, and it’s incredibly portable. But there’s always been the hump of software limitations and no filesystem support. This, hump, however, is shrinking. Apps like Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo brought full-featured versions of desktop applications to the iPad 2. Luma Fusion brought multi-track video editing to the iPad 3. The iWork suite has also continued to improve on iOS. Many of the limitations which used to exist on the mobile versions, like the inability to create templates or set background images, are no longer in place. Apps like these are showing just what can be done on iPad, and hopefully more and more developers will follow their lead.

As I was pondering the implications of iPadOS this morning, I considered the computing tasks I do which remain MacBook dependent – the list is short.

  • A few modules in Accordance Bible 4.
  • Compiling my large writing projects in Scrivener.
  • Laying out multi-page documents 5.
  • Digital Assets Management.

To be honest, I could compile my projects in iOS Scrivener, but the process isn’t anywhere near as powerful 6. I could also have a Digital Assets Manager if I wanted to pay for Adobe’s cloud storage, or move my photo/video management to Apple Photos – but neither option appeals to me. I could even do some basic page layout in the current iteration of Apple Pages if I really wanted to 7. So, for most of my “MacBook dependent” activities, I’m really only dependent because I’m particular about the experience of computing, as much as I am about the end results 8. Those activities don’t provide a good experience on iOS, so they are stuck in MacBook land.

And more and more I’m seeing this just doesn’t need to be. Apple is supplying an operating system which will finally allow developers to overcome the limitations of iOS. I can imagine Affinity Publisher with Pencil Support, a full-featured compiler in Scrivener 9, and a DAM which works from external local storage, and it makes me happy. More and more I’m seeing an iPad that lets me work without any artificial speed bumps in my way, and I like it.

  1. The only thing I’d really like is a bump in processor speed and 16gb of RAM, but to get that I need to spend a rather large sum of money. 
  2. And I like the iPad layout of the apps better, to be honest. 
  3. And with the 2.0 release the number of tracks has increased from three to six video/audio and six audio only tracks, that’s insane. 
  4. Like the Atlas and Timeline modules. 
  5. Until Affinity brings Publisher to the iPad, that is. I’ll wait. 
  6. And I can’t export to eBooks. 
  7. I just don’t want to. 
  8. On the Accordance modules I’m just stuck, but I’m hopeful. 
  9. Though Keith, the creator and lead developer, is working on the Windows version of Scrivener 3 right now. I’m not expecting a massive update for iOS any time soon.