Life with the iPad Pro
Some time ago, as an experiment, I decided to use an iPad Pro as my primary computing device. Expectations were low, so I kept my laptop in a drawer and gave it a chance for a couple of weeks.
Working on an iPad seemed ingenious and weird, and several people asked about how I was supposed to write code or do actual work on “that thing,” to which I replied, “I have no idea.”
Four months later, I have not missed my laptop at all. It took me a while to find the right apps and reinvent habits and patterns acquired from 25+ years of computer use, but except for particular situations where I needed to do serious coding work, I have not missed it at all.
I never imagined this would happen when I started to write apps for the Apple ecosystem in 2008, or 2 years later, when the iPad was released. These things were dumb content consumption devices, barely good enough to get the news, scroll through Facebook, or send a couple of emails. They were toys, not tools.
Things have changed, and my iPad Pro is slowly becoming my computing device of choice for regular tasks. It’s light, practical, fast, battery life is impressive (lasts a full day), the keyboard and display are great, and except for “serious” coding, I can do everything with it.
Today is a great time to buy an iPad, but I found that to get the most out of it, you will need a good set of companion apps. Here is my list for 2020.
Bear Notes [Free / $15 per year]
By far, the best note-taking and writing app for iOS. It’s flexible, full of features, and yet visually simple and extremely easy to use. I use it for everything from writing blog posts, to taking a quick voice note from my Apple Watch. It supports tags, links, is markdown compatible and secure, and if you pay $15 per year, it will sync over iCloud to all your devices.
If you got the Apple Pencil, GoodNotes is your best friend. It transforms your iPad into Digital paper, allowing you to attach images to your notes,, understands your handwriting making so everything is searchable, and helps you stay organized and in sync and available across all your Apple devices. (Yup, Mac included)
Siri Shortcuts [Free]
The native shortcuts app in iOS is immensely powerful and got better with iOS 13.3. You can automate actions on your iPad, and run tasks automatically or with a single tap. From shortening links to optimizing images to managing your HomeKit Devices and lights to triggering actions based on your location, activity, or devices. Plus, if you don’t want to create them on your own, there’s plenty of places to find great ones and learn how to automate your life, like ShortcutsGallery.com.
This app is simple but is the one I use most. Think of Yoink as a placeholder where you can put and collect anything. It works as a system extension and therefore is available in any app that can share data. You can add anything you want to it (images, text, links, files, etc.), and then drag and drop them into other apps on your iPad.
Things is my default ToDo list on all my apple devices. I’ve tried a million of these apps, including Omnifocus, Wunderlist, and all the other big names, but none compares to Things, and the reason is simple: Simplicity.
The app provides a straightforward framework (simplified GTD) that groups your tasks in “Today,” “Next,” and “Anytime,” so you can keep it simple. Still, it also provides very advanced features such as tagging, scheduling, alarms, projects, and areas (contexts).
When on your iPad, it also supports drag and drop and Siri. Just drag that email or note or ask Siri to add something to “Things.”
I have too many passwords, and there is no way I could live without a password manager. I have also tried a bunch of them, but have not found anything as good and perfectly integrated as 1Password. Their new version (now under a subscription model covering all your Apple devices) is more robust, fast, and better integrated.
Screens allow me to leave my Mac at home and the office, and just carry my iPad, as it allows me to access it via screen share from anywhere remotely. When on a good connection, Screens is fast enough to even do some heavy coding remotely from my iPad without issue.
If you need to manage or access remote servers, Termius is the best option. It is by far the best SSH client for iOS, and it also has a Mac version that syncs your keys and bookmarks across devices. I use if from time to time, when I need to access a server on the go. It’s the most significant advantage that it runs in the background, so your sessions will not be killed when switching apps.
If you are a developer, there is going to be a moment when you have some code to push, and the only thing at hand will be your iPad. Here is when Textastic comes to the rescue. It is a potent text editor supporting syntax highlighting for 80+ languages and can easily connect to FTP, SSH, and push files to Dropbox and Google Drive. It also features an internal WebDav server to transfer data from your Mac over Wi-Fi quickly.
Kindle & Pocket [Free & Free]
I heavily use my iPad for reading and studying, and these two are my go-to apps. Although I own a Kindle, which I use for leisure reading, I have most of my reference books on the Kindle app, a couple of taps away, and use Pocket to capture articles, videos, and other entertaining stuff during the day and read them later. Both apps sync perfectly across devices.
Pocket also has a premium version that allows you to read your entire collection offline and create a permanent archive of your stuff, but I don’t use it.
Specs & Accesories
Just in case you’re wondering, here is my iPad Setup:
- iPad Pro 12.9’’ @ 256Gb, Space Black, (October 2018 version)
- Apple Pencil 2
- Apple Smart Keyboard
- Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter - Apple (For USB, HDMI and passthrough Charging)
- Anker PowerPort Atom III @ 60W (Small size, fast charging & works with Mac)
- AirPods, first version.
Photo thanks to, Daniel Korpai