Occasionally, I have come across blog posts where someone has attempted to make their iPad into their "daily driver" computer (the computer they use every day). These posts are interesting to read; the ones written by software developers eventually seem to end with disappointment.

Many of these posts begin by extolling why they would want to have their iPad-as-computer:

  • great battery life
  • great screen
  • portable / small / weighs less than a laptop

This year we spent three weeks in Japan for a travel holiday. We tried to pack lightly. Instead of bringing a computer, I bought a second hand keyboard-case for my iPad and took it on the road. And since I wasn't a software developer for three weeks, I got a much more laidback, less-technical experience with it.

Overall, as a computer, the iPad stumbles, but where it excels is as a mono-tasking device. For me, multitasking on the thing is just slower, so I do it less, and then I seem to get more done.

Browsing with ads

The browser is probably the most distracting thing on any device, for me. Easy access to all kinds of procrastination materials. Using a browser on an iPad, however, means seeing ads (I think there is a way to block ads, but I haven't put the time in). I'm so used to not having ads on my browser on my laptop, that encountering the ad-ridden web scares me away from most unnecessary browsing.

I did discover a browser app, Orion and started trying it out. While it does get rid of some ads, it also renders some sites not super usable at this time. Regardless of which app you browse with, the act of browsing still feels a bit clunky on this thing, which is good for my ability to focus.

General UX

Between having customized keyboard shortcuts and everything laid out in a way that fits my mind, I feel as though I can navigate at the speed of my thoughts when on a laptop (it's 90% key commands, and the rest emacs).

On the iPad, alt-tabbing translates well from the computer world, but having two windows side-by-side is inconvenient enough to stop me from doing it unless I absolutely have to. Again, that means less distractions. Even the speed of changing apps is sufficiently slower that it seems to give my subconscious enough time to bubble up the thought of what am I about to do?

Boxed in by Apps

It's a little strange to me, but I think of "apps" on an iPad or iPhone differently that software run on a computer. Perhaps because the initial operating systems for these devices precluded any sort of file system or a flexible window manager (for a lack of better words) and maybe that has stuck with me? Regardless, when I open ulysses to write, I am in the world of writing, and I am not really jumping around. Same with using procreate.

I can't quite articulate this distinction; this isn't so different from opening an application full screen on a laptop computer. I think it must have something to do with the ease of jumping around; perhaps I have gotten accustomed to navigating a computer more quickly that being required to slow down (even if only a little) has helped me see some of the downsides of jumping around so quickly.

I also got this little cat that hangs onto the top of the iPad. Keeps me in line.

I'll keep writing on the iPad, and maybe make it into a "writing station" somewhere in the apartment.