April 4, 2020

My changing attitude about the iPad as a real computer

Jobs, in 2010, said Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical.” and I agree with him still. He was mostly right, anyway.

I’ve not been shy about dismissing the iPad as a real” computer.

Sitting with a 12.9″ iPad Pro on a desk with a keyboard has always been an exercise in frustration. Close, but nope. I find that having to reach up and out in order to do nearly anything on the screen is tiring and slow after just a few minutes. Those claiming that editing any significant amount of text using touch is a decent experience must be suffering some version of Stockholm Syndrome. Seriously, I hate it.

A touch screen’s 1:1 mapping between hand movement and what happens on the screen is heralded as intuitive”, and it may be, but it’s also a lot of work. Using a keyboard and mouse or trackpad enables tiny movements of a couple of fingers or my wrist to have an amplified effect on what’s happening on the screen. I much prefer that to reaching up using my entire arm just to tap a button or scroll something.

I know, I know, I’m old and wrong. You don’t have to tell me that. But I’m also kind of not wrong.

This isn’t meant as yet another get a real computer!” rant. In fact, it’s the opposite. iPadOS 13.4 introduced full-fledged pointer support and it’s fantastic. It’s transformed the way I feel about using the iPad. It makes me want to use it.

Most of what I do on a computer involves text. The ability to use a trackpad to select/move/copy text is world-changing. The implementation in iPadOS is terrific. What we had before was bullshit. What we have now is great.

I’m writing this using Ulysses on the iPad and I have no real complaints. I’m not even using a trackpad, I’m using an Apple Magic Mouse and it’s, dare I say it, very nice. I can’t wait to try the new Apple keyboard with built-in trackpad.

Of course I do lots of other, non-text-related things on a computer, many of which I don’t know how to do well on the iPad.

Now that I don’t hate doing the thing I do most often on the iPad, maybe I’ll be patient enough to learn how to do those other things. I’m going to find out which of those I can either learn how to do in iOS, which of them still suck, and which I don’t actually need to do (e.g. how can anyone live without a decent terminal at the ready?).

Now, if could somehow figure out how to use all those crazy, undecipherable iPadOS multi-tasking features I might be onto something.

Apple iOS Hardware Workflow

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