Why my iPad is NOT my laptop.
I’ve read a number of articles recently about using your iPad as your only computer, about all the wonderful text editors for iPad, and all about all the work getting done on iPads.
The problem is that writing, posting to a blog, and reading blogs are some of the tasks that an iPad is perfectly suited to do. So there seems to be no end to the number of writers that can tell us about their iPad productivity. It’s a bit of a self selecting bunch, though.
These articles aren’t very useful to folks who need to do things the iPad is not very well suited to do. And while the iPad is indeed a magical thing, there are still many things it can’t do well.
So, this is my counterpoint to those articles.
Speaking personally, my job revolves around: writing and debugging software, manipulating production graphics design, and supporting customers. I’ve tried to do all of these tasks on an iPad, and while all are possible, at least in part. There isn’t any task that’s made easier by the iPad. And most are made much more difficult.
There are almost as many text editors as angry bird rip-offs on the App Store. But while many are great for editing Markdown prose, there are just a few that are descent code editors. And, let’s face it, comparing them to BBEdit or TextMate, none rise to that level.
After trying a couple, I changed tack and just went old-school. I used an ssh app to remote log-in to my Mac and used vim to edit code and compile on the command line. In theory, I can do just about everything short of submitting to the App Store from the command line.
I’m a force to be reckoned with when using vi and bash is my friend. Nonetheless, vi and bash are no match for the efficiencies of Xcode’s code-completion, header indexing, and many other Obj-C specific improvements. I love working in vi, but I have to face facts, I work much faster in Xcode. We all switched to IDEs for good reasons.
While there are a number of good iOS tools for manipulating photos and a few for creating design from scratch, there is no rival to CS5 or CS6 on iOS. That may be a high hurdle to clear, but even if we give iOS a handicap and pose the question, “Is there any single design task that’s more efficient on iOS?” I think the answer is still no, but I’m optimistic that this is temporary.
The last one is a bit more debatable. I suspect there are some that can do email support from an iPad. For me, the challenge is task-switching. My email support requires bouncing between an email app, several tabs in a web browser (support queue, customer database, paypal, etc.), and the customers file/app/screenshot/website. Even with iOS 5 4-finger gestures, and dropbox on my side, I find switching between more than a couple modal tasks in iOS to be painful at best. And when it also involves a few tabs in Mobile Safari, and it’s seeming random cache flushing behavior, my frustration reaches critical mass.
A MacBook Air may not have nearly the pixel count of an iPad 3, the battery will not last half as long, and there is no LTE. But what it lacks in hardware it makes up software that does far more and does it far more efficiently and the ability to multitask with grace and ease.
I don’t think this situation is permanent. For now, though, the iPad remains a very nice web browser, book reader, and doodle pad. That is, when I can pry it away from other family members, who think it’s a great portable Wii.