Article: Working with the iPad

by on February 8, 2012

I came across a three-day experiment by Macworld Senior Associate Editor Dan Moren in which he uses an iPad as his primary computer for everything work-related. It’s a pretty fascinating look and got me thinking about how the iPad has replaced my MacBook Pro quite a bit in my own workflow, not just as a content consumption device. Obviously, each person’s requirements may be different, but it is a notion that’s starting to gain some traction.

Moren explains the experiment and his needs:

On a normal day, my job involves some combination of reading and writing email; using Web-based tools to manage, develop, write, and edit stories; communicating with my colleagues via instant message and an online chat room; and reading RSS feeds and Twitter. Of course, I also spend a lot of time browsing the Web and listening to music. I also take care of bits of personal business, like emailing and chatting with friends and family, or paying bills.

I already do a lot of these things interchangeably on my Mac and my iPad. In fact, I find browsing my RSS feeds in Reeder on my iPad more pleasant than reading them on the Mac. Likewise, reading Twitter using Twitterrific feels more natural on the iPad than it does on my Mac. But using the iPad as my sole work machine would require some adjustments.

I generally find myself using my iPad for those same tasks, and agree wholeheartedly that Reeder on the iPad just feels better than any RSS reader (including Reeder) on the Mac. I also use Twitterrific (although I might be switching to TweetBot for iPad after today’s launch) and find the interface on the iPad make Twitter seem more immersive than just a little window on the corner of my Mac’s screen or a browser tab. Although I do get quite a bit of email, the iPad’s client handles it enough that managing my inbox on the iPad doesn’t feel unnatural or frustrating.

Strangely, writing on the iPad felt the most foreign of any of my work tasks. As counterintuitive as it might sound, I’m used to having a lot of things going on while I write. That’s one of the reasons I like to work in cafés: The background noise forces me to focus. When I’m presented with nothing but a blank page, I find it harder to concentrate; my mind wanders; I wonder what’s going on behind the scenes that I’m not paying attention to.

This is one area where I’ll disagree with Moren, but it’s mostly personal preference. I use iA Writer and love its simple interface. I do enjoy things surrounding me that give atmosphere, but aren’t too distracting, much like why Frank Chimero likes Starbucks. Furthermore, it’s easier to stay on-point with what I’m writing about, whether it’s a product review or opinion article. News stories are often tricky, since the information is coming from a source other than my head, but that’s often a four-finger swipe back to Safari.

Still, without giving away the details of the experiment, Moren hits the nail on the head in the iPad vs. Mac debate:

It’s not that the iPad is better or worse than the Mac; it’s just that different things are hard to do on each device.

I’ve tried to do everything I do on my Mac with the iPad. Some things, like reading, writing, social media, and media consumption work quite well. Others, like image editing and podcast production still have me reaching for my Mac. It’s not that the iPad couldn’t do these, but certain things are limited to its lack of a user-accessible file system or just that the tools haven’t been developed yet.

I find my Mac to be best with heavy lifting tasks and managing all of my files and media. My iPad is best at specific tasks, and my attitude is similar to what it was about a year ago, although with things like iCloud and iOS 5, it’s further making a case to be a sole computing device for many users:

Right now, I see it as the fun, small two-seater sports car paired with my big SUV MacBook. It seems that others have seen a similar dynamic. It’s not quite a computer as we are used to, but everyone who describes it tends to jump on the ‘tablet computer’ nomenclature. Technically, they’re right, and once we start embracing that, the iPad will continue to grow. Right now, it’s much like the early laptops—a great companion for some sort of full-blown computer, but eventually, it could be the more popular product.

If you do have some time, I do recommend all three parts of Dan Moren’s experiment.

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