iPad, My Primary Computer

I’ve been an iPad user since day one and loved my experience with Apple’s stellar product. I’d definitely say I’m qualified to talk about the iPad, owning the first-generation iPad and, more recently, the new iPad. In fact, I’ve got all three generations here at my house after making excuses not to sell them as I’ve upgraded each year.

For nearly two years I’ve been an iPad user and, with the arrival of my new iPad, I’ve been trialing it as my primary machine. In this article, I’ll be explaining a bit about my experience and discussing some of the apps I’ve been using.

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The Backstory

The iPad is actually what converted me to the Apple ecosystem. One Wednesday morning a friend mentioned Apple announcing a “slate”, so I decided to watch Steve Jobs’ keynote that night. I was amazed by the device, and knew I’d end up buying one, even after the over five month wait. Since this was my first Apple product I’d previously been a Windows user and, over about a year, I replaced much of my computer usage with the iPad, from web browsing to gaming.

Then, just over a year ago in March 2011, I bought a MacBook Air, my second Apple product (excluding some iPad accessories and an iPod shuffle). Again, that device started to replace my iPad in much of the same way as the iPad did to the PC. My iPad 2 didn’t really get used as much as my first-generation iPad.

My next Apple purchase will be a MacBook Air (either 13″ or the rumored 15″) when they’re next refreshed. However, I recently sold my 11″ one to my aforementioned friend and now my only Mac is a desktop. With no portable Mac in my possession, I’ve noticed a return of the iPad in many of my common computing tasks. I believe I could even go as far as to say it could easily be my primary computer.

The Setup

In my trial, I haven’t been using the iPad alone. It’s certainly possible to do everything I’m going to talk about on the iPad alone, but I should point out the equipment I’ve been using.

Obviously, I’ve been using an iPad, currently a third-generation white Wi-Fi model. I’ve been using this in conjunction with a Bluetooth Apple Wireless Keyboard because, while the touch keyboard on the iPad is pretty stellar and I can type quite quickly on it, the physical keys add that bit of extra accuracy. Although the majority of articles I write deal with screenshots rather than photographs, I also use the iPad Camera Connection Kit to import photos from an SD card. If you don’t like carrying around an adapter, the Eye-Fi WiFi-enabled SD card series are worth checking out.

My iPad writing setup.

The Apps

Of course, this is AppStorm so you’re probably interested in what apps I’ve been using. My day-to-day computing involves a number of things, one of them of course being simply browsing the web. Naturally, there’s a great stock app, Safari, for this and I use the native, Retina-ready Twitter app for my social networking.

I’d class myself as a writer, contributing across the Envato network and on a handful of other blogs across the web. I contribute to most of them through WordPress, and I used to find it a big problem to do anything but write text for any of them on my iPad. Fortunately, developments in both WordPress itself and third-party apps have made for a more pleasant experience. The default WordPress dashboard got a nice overhaul a recent revision, introducing responsive design which allows it to perform significantly better on devices like the iPad.

If you’re looking for something more native, you’d do well to skip the official WordPress app. I’ve personally been using Blogsy, a neat $4.99 app that allows you to manage and compose blog posts on your iPad, with key features like image uploading (that the official app lacks). I’ve been using this as my blogging tool of choice, although a lack of custom field integration is noticeable, which means I still need to open up the web app to fill that information in.

However, perhaps the biggest issue is image resizing. While relative image resizing is possible, I’ve found it impossible to resize an image to a specific pixel value without also having to calculate the height value too. This is a vital flaw to my work being possible on the iPad, and trust me, I’ve tried out quite a few apps for this (if you’ve found one, let me know in the comments).

Blogsy for iPad, editing my review from last year.

One of the other things I do a fair bit of is movie editing. When I say that, it isn’t anything extensive, but simply pulling together various DSLR-shot clips together with a bit of audio. I’ve found the $4.99 iMovie app to be more than satisfactory, which, when coupled with the iPad Camera Connection Kit, acts as a fantastic resource for video editors on the go. In fact, I’ve found the end results to be of higher quality than those produced with iMovie on OS X, which loves to add in a load of image noise unnecessarily.

iMovie for iPad. In some cases, it's better than iMovie for OS X.

I also work with HTML files on a regular basis, and the iPad’s been surprisingly accommodating for this. The $9.99 Textastic app does a good job at editing markup files like HTML, and, perhaps more interestingly, can sync with your Dropbox account. This is particular cool because it allows you to sync files between all your platforms, so you can make any necessary final touches on your [secondary] computer.

Textastic for iPad (don't worry, you don't have to use it in this colour configuration).

Yeah, It’s Possible

Hopefully I’ve explained that it’s definitely possible to use the iPad as a primary computer. There are a few areas, such as image resizing, which it severely lacks, but there are cumbersome methods to achieve the desired results on the tablet. From a technical standpoint, I could use the iPad as my primary computer; there’s no question about it. I’d like then to have a Mac as a secondary computer, for those times I do need to add some final polish to something, but even that could be put aside in favour of the iPad.

I haven’t found much issue with productivity either. The iPad’s Retina display is fantastic, and it’s lack of side-by-side apps (i.e the traditional Mac OS X setup) means you actually end up focusing more on the work in hand, because there’s nothing that’s distracting you across the screen. Coupled with a physical Bluetooth keyboard, the iPad can be a real productivity device.

I’m finding new ways of using my iPad more, allowing me to justify the annual cost. Do you use your iPad for work? Is it your primary computer? (Could it be?) Let us know by sharing your experience in the comments.

  • Ian C.

    My work is writing embedded software, designing PCBs, writing support programs for PCs, as well as the normal customer activities of spec changes (spreadsheets), bug fixes (emailing files), etc.
    All this is hard or impossible with iPad – I do use LogMeIn sometimes but accessing my 27″ iMac screen on the iPad is limiting.

    However outside of work, my iPad is used 95% of the time. My home iMac remains on at all times, primarily as an archive of all my photos.
    I will use the iMac in preference to iPad when updating one of my blogs, if there are many photos to post – as you say, posting photos with the iPad WordPress App is painful.

    When I do WordPress on iPad, I use PhotoGene to pre-size the photo but it’s still painful to include a medium size in the blog entry and link to the full size photo.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      I’m sure that one day Apple will bring Xcode to the iPad with full resolution output to a large display. Other than that, I’m sure there will be some way to code in Visual Basic, C++, and other languages of the day eventually. You just have to give the system some time since it’s only just beginning.

  • Raffael Erhart

    For image resizing there is OneEdit by Tiger Ng.

  • Al

    The only thing I need my MacBook pro for these days is programming Apps.

  • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

    Even though you did explain what you set out to in this article, I felt that it was cut a bit short and you could have given a better look at things. Yes, we understand a bit of what you can do using your iPad, but you only explained three of them in little detail. What about more advanced tasks like true CSS and HTML editing or some of the other capabilities of Blogsy that help you to get through a day of blogging? I’d like to hear about those.

    As for the one and only issue you described, which was the image resizing for your articles, that is easily solvable with a calculator like Calcbot. It’s actually a painless solution that takes a few extra minutes out of your day to use — not bad, really. Don’t you have any other issues though? There must have been something else that irritated you during your experience.

    I think that overall it doesn’t sound like you were using your iPad as a primary computer. At least, that’s how it’s coming across to me. Try to explain a bit more of the daily things you do besides basic tasks that we already assume.

  • Sean

    I recently bought the new third gen iPad as my first ever foray into tablet computing, and at this point it’s been amazing. I’ve been told by some colleagues and friends that it’s as if the device is surgically attached. I’ll admit I am using the device far more than even I thought I would and I was expecting heavy use. I opted for the 16Gb Wi-Fi version because the 4G version was entirely out of my price range. So, while out and about and in need of data I opt to use my iPhone 4’s personal hotspot feature. I’m constantly finding more and more uses for it, and even with right at 11+ hours of near constant use per day, over the span of the first week or so, the battery has not let me down. My only nagging complaint regarding the iOS lifestyle is that for some reason I still find that throwing down $5+ on an app that I can’t demo in any way hard to swallow. I managed to do so with GarageBand and a select few others because the concepts were genuinely cool. However, most apps and games I come across in my jaunts through the AppStore seem like they’re being marketed and promoted by less than scrupulous devs and I would rather ensure that what I’m buying is something worthwhile. All in all, since purchasing my iPad I can honestly say that it has been the computing device that has been my proxy for the majority of my digital lifestyle, much to both the pleasure of my fellow apple users and the chagrin of the Android/Linux/Windows stalwarts in my circles.

    PS: for the record, my digital ecosystem:
    Phone: iPhone 4
    Tablet: iPad (3rd gen)
    Home Computer: Win 7 ultimate / Ubuntu Linux (custom built)
    Others: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS

  • Ruairi

    Loved this piece! Hopefully sometime in the future you might do a more in-depth one!