I don’t know how anyone can stand to use the new MacBooks out there, or why they would spend that much money on a computer. So, this is my quick guide on how to use an iPad Pro full time in a general computer sense (i.e. not for niche uses like Audio/video/photo editing or anything of that nature). Follow this guide and you can leave behind the world of overpriced computers that you will never fully utilize and instead enter a happier place.
And the first thing you need to realize, is that you likely spend most of your computing time using your smartphone to begin with — so this shift is less about moving away from a traditional PC and more about embracing what you are already using the most. And moving to a larger screened version of that.
Which brings me to the first topic: mindset.
This, contrary to popular belief is going to be the biggest hurdle you will face in switching to an iPad Pro full time. Once you get over it, you will be able to clearly tell if a blogger actually gave an iPad a fair shot (spoiler, they didn’t) because to use an iPad Pro full time represents a shift in your mindset.
For instance: you are going to be frustrated to no end that you cannot view multiple apps in a messy window arrangement. You are going to be super annoyed the first time you need to edit a bunch of text. You’re going to feel like your hands and fingers are working against you when you want to use the touch interface to do things which would have taken you a fraction of a second with a mouse or trackpad.
All of these things will happen, and will continue to happen for at least the first two weeks. But, they are temporary, of this I know for certain. And, if you actually do make the shift, something really stupid will happen: you’ll lose the ability to understand why every screen is not multi-touch and using a pointing device like a trackpad will feel disconnected — it goes both ways. This is a mindset issue, not a functional issue, and if you can accept that, then you can move forward, but if instead you would prefer to blame the tools rather than adjust — you need to stop here, as this won’t ever work for you.
Because the truth is, for everything a Mac does better the iPad has something it does better. It is an argument that cannot be won on checklists alone. So instead I will be very clear with you: what the iPad does better, are the tasks that you actually spend most of your time doing. Not the theoretical tasks which you contrived to justify yourself being a power user and thus needing a MacBook Pro instead of a MacBook Air to crank out those PowerPoints.
What’s better on an iPad? Things like:
- web browsing
- video chatting
- note taking
All of those are better on the iPad, not just better than on a Mac but also than on an iPhone. Yeah, I mean that.
I have tried hard to come up with a way to help people better accept this mindset shift, but there is no ‘one weird trick’ I can present you with. Instead, like with working out, you have to form a habit of using an iPad, and once you form that habit your mindset will change without you realizing it.
And there is only one way to form habits: repetition. Decide to use the iPad, and use it, don’t stop no matter what obstacle you face until you truly exhausted all options to work it out on the device. There are only a handful of things which I can tell you right now are not currently easily done on the iPad and better off done on a Mac:
- iOS development, it can be done, but you won’t want to do it.
- PowerPoint: the app is shitty on iOS.
- Automating via scripting. (To this I will add, as someone who previously had a lot of scripting going on when they used their Mac, this has not actually been an issue for me in practice.)
So, accept that you will feel at times like you can no longer computer well, and persevere past your current mindset.
Side Note: Forms Will Crush You
I hate them with a vengeance, but they always show up to crush my soul. Specifically, if you are buying or selling a house it is not easy to fill out Word Docs and PDF forms on iOS. It is simply much easier on a Mac. That said, here’s the most practical way to handle them: fill them out with your Apple Pencil. Forget about trying to toggle check boxes or type in attributes. Write them in by hand, and you can thank me later, because it will infuriate you to do it any other way.
Ok, moving on to the fun stuff, the tools or accessories that I recommend you get for an iPad full time setup (for this I am assuming a USB-C iPad Pro, but you could translate this easily for the lightning models as well):
- USB-A Adapter: get something cheap.
- External Storage: save yourself the trouble, and pay for iCloud storage and use the heck out of it. Nothing else integrates as well, and using an iPad is about having a better computing experience — don’t add friction by trying to use Dropbox or Google Drive.
- A Case: I like the ESR case, it’s cheap and awesome.
- A stand: I would get this one, but also I have this one and love it.
- Extra cables
- Battery Backup
Six things, that’s it. There is of course a ton of other shit you could buy, but it would be unnecessary.
This is a massive section, so to detail this out I have done so for members here. The only app I think is crucial that you need to make sure you get is: GoodNotes. You can make do for most things other things with the stock apps.
I’ve wavered on this in the past, but I believe it is crucial to being happy with an iPad Pro that you have a Pencil. Again, don’t go get a new iPad Pro because you want the new Pencil — it is not a game changer. What makes the Pencil a crucial component is that it fundamentally gives the iPad something the Mac doesn’t have: your hand writing and doodles.
It is freeing to be able to plop the iPad down and work through an idea by scribbling stuff all over the screen, and even better that I can prop that device back up and get back to work when I am done. It is not cheap to add a Pencil, but worth every penny.
The Smart Keyboard cover is only a smart option if $200 is a trivial amount of money to you — like if you found $200 in your couch you wouldn’t think much of it type of trivial. Assuming it’s not trivial to you, then don’t waste money on it. Apple has really missed the mark with that accessory.
Instead there are better options for you. Here are some:
All of those are better options than what Apple offers, and besides you won’t always want to have your keyboard attached.
Cellular or Not
Your money saved on the Smart Keyboard would be better spent here, but it’s not necessary to have cellular. I opted against it, but I also found that I rarely need it. WiFi is ubiquitous and tethering is always there as a fall back. However, you should know that tethering, even on a great connection, is never fast because the carriers tend to limit the throughput for tethering.
So if you know that you often go places where you cannot get WiFi, then get the cell modem. They are really handy, but only if you pay for the data and don’t wait until you need it.
A better use of your money would be to sign up for a good VPN, and just use any WiFi network you find, protecting yourself with the VPN. That’s what I do.
What size iPad Pro should you get? 64gb is fine, for real. I know that it can be hard to agree with me on this one, but you do not need a ton of capacity for an iPad Pro if you follow my advice to use iCloud for storage. Right now I am only using 42GB of storage on my iPad Pro, and I have videos downloaded on it for when I travel.
I have nothing against splurging for more storage, as you can see that I have done here. However, I will repeat: get an Apple Pencil before you buy more storage. There are many ways to work with a small storage capacity on an iPad Pro, but only one way to get an Apple Pencil. (This is, perhaps, the most practical advice I have ever written.)
This isn’t a hard thing, get the stuff, and commit. You need at least a month before you decide if the device is right for you or not, any shorter is a waste of your time.
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