Setting up My iOS Only Environment

I’ve talked a bit about how I am using each of my devices, and why I went ahead and got a second iPad Pro. Now I want to talk more specifically about how I am accomplishing some of the key tasks that could end up being stumbling blocks for many people.

Remote Mac Mini

I want to get this out of the the way up front: I do still have a Mac in the mix, in the form of a Mac mini being hosted at Macminicolo.net. This is the machine I host all my email, and which I host all my websites from. I do not, however, regularly find myself VNCing into the machine so that I can ‘use a Mac’. I do, however, leverage the fact that I have a remote Mac to expedite some tricky things I cannot do on iOS.

  • Spam Sieve: I am a huge fan of Spam Sieve for junk mail filtering and since I run my owner server — I have no robust Gmail like junk mail filtering. Instead the remote Mac runs Mail.app and Spam Sieve 24/7 to catch and process all of my incoming email. This works insanely well for me and is one of the primary reasons I have yet to move to a “real” email host.
  • Photos.app: I store all my photos in iCloud Photo Library, and set the remote Mac to download all originals. My hope is this provides me with at least a decent backup of every image I take, on the fly. So far it has worked perfectly.
  • File Storage: I have terabytes of files stored on the Mac, and access them with Transmit or BitTorrent Sync. These files actually used to sync with local hard drives, but now I need to find a new sync (duplicate backup) solution for them.
  • File sharing: I use Dropshare to share large files with people. It’s an excellent app.
  • Recording GoToMeeting: The iOS app does not allow you to record a meeting, and twice a week I have staff meetings which need to be recorded. I fire up the app on my Mac and hit record, then participate on the iOS client. This is a shoddy solution at best, but it does work.

That’s all I am currently using the Mac for outside of normal web hosting. GoToMeeting notwithstanding, I would rarely need to ever VNC into the machine.

Pythonista

When I started blogging, the hardest part to get down was the use of images in blog posts. And though I still use images sparingly, I do need to be able to run my images through a workflow:

  • Resize
  • Compress
  • Upload to Rackspace
  • Get the sharing URL

That four step process on my Mac required three different apps and a lot of dragging and dropping. As luck would have it, Federico Viticci uses more or less the same workflow as I do, and he knows Python. He wrote a script, which he shared, to do all of those actions as an extension inside of Photos.app on my iPad. Even when I still used a Mac, it was easier to get images ready for my blog on the iPad.

This is all I use Pythonista for at the moment, but I couldn’t live without it.

Workflow

Workflow is interesting. As a huge Keyboard Maestro fan, Workflow was a natural fit for me, but while the construction of workflows is much easier, they are also much more limited than what you can do with Keyboard Maestro.

As such, I have a ton of workflows, but use very few. I primarily use:

  • My morning brain dump workflow
  • Tweet workflow (I publish tweets to WordPress first, sometimes)

There’s a lot more I could be using it for, but nothing which has yet to reach the pain point where I have built a workflow.

The Pencil

The Apple Pencil has also become an amazing tool for me. I use it for editing a lot of written posts submitted by team members, or friends. I also use it to sketch out rough ideas I have for clients, designers, or developers. While my sketches still are not good, they are quickly shareable and easy to get out of my head.

The sheer lack of friction I experience by having the Pencil, makes it worth the price tag.

The Rest

Some notable apps which simply make iOS only life better:

  • 2Do: I think the Mac variant of 2Do is really barely passable, but on the iPad this app is a pure joy.
  • Blink: Easy iTunes affiliate links.
  • Associate: Easy Amazon affiliate links.
  • Ulysses: With the current beta supporting WordPress publishing in exactly the manner I want and need — well if I blogged full time this would be essentially the only iPad app I need.
  • AnyFont: It’s a pain in the ass, but the best way to make sure my iPad has the corporate typefaces installed and accessible on it.
  • Readdle Documents: Sometimes you just need to deal with zip files.
  • Readdle PDF Expert: Still the best PDF app, and I am in it all the time.
  • Transmit, Prompt, and Coda: the web tools dream team.
  • iCab: for those piece of shit websites which don’t allow you to do something on “mobile” devices.
  • OmniOuliner: For all those moments when I am like: shit where should I jot this down. Yeah, this is home.
  • 1Password: amazing tool.

I will also do my duty to shame Google for the utter shit support they have for properly working on the iPad.

Patience

Using iOS full time takes patience, but don’t misconstrue that as a statement that things are not as easy, or fast, as on a Mac. Patience because iOS requires you to retrain your natural instincts of how you should go about things on a traditional computer.

You have to be patient enough to stop and think: how do I do this on iOS? If you can take that pause, you might find that many tedious tasks are dead simple on iOS. That’s certainly what I have found.

While there remains some tasks which are annoyingly complicated, or outright not possible, on iOS — there are far more things which are simply faster, better, or easier on iOS than they are on OS X.

Hold Me Now

The last thing I want to say about my iOS setup is that you have to be willing to hold your device. Like with laptops, if you never take it off your desk, why get a laptop? With iPads: if you never pick up your device, if you never switch orientations, why bother with an iPad?

This took some training, but now I am very accustomed to reading with my iPad in my hands, portrait orientation, and my feet kicked up on my desk. At first this didn’t feel like I was taking my work seriously, but then I realized just how much more attention I was paying to the document at hand.

I know many iOS only users who walk around while they read, or are constantly shifting locations. This is a huge benefit of iOS and it is worth the time to start holding the device more often. Like with the occasional times you might try to tap the screen on your Mac, you’ll likely find frustration in the fact that you cannot just pick up your Mac, and rotate it to read a long document.

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Article Details

Published
by Ben Brooks
6 minutes to read.


tl;dr

Some insight into how I am working iOS only.