iPad


Textastic Code Editor 9

I wrote about wanting an offline capable Visual Studio Code app for iPad yesterday, and while I haven’t found an app that I feel to be equal, Textastic does seem to be the best code editor app I’ve found for iPad.

How to use Visual Studio Code on your iPad

Thord D. Hedengren, shared a great tip on his Switch to iPad blog on using VS Code on an iPad:

One of the most popular code editors for web developers today, is Visual Studio Code, or VS Code for short. It’s made by Microsoft and is available for macOS, Windows, and Linux. Unfortunately, there isn’t an official iPad app just yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use VS Code on your iPad. At least not if you use GitHub to manage your codebase.

How you access it is pretty inventive:

Now, assuming you’ve got a GitHub account, and a repository, you’ll also need a keyboard. Any bluetooth keyboard will do, just as the Magic Keyboard if you’re on an iPad Pro.

Navigate to your repository in your web browser (you might want to use Safari to be safe), then press the period (.) key. Yep, that’s it, now VS Code will load up your repository, in your web browser window, just like that.

VS Code is an app I use a lot at my day job, for all use cases where I’m not using Xcode to write Swift, or IntelliJ to write Java. I also use it when modifying my blog theme, and playing around with random text files.

I’d love it if the app could come to the iPad as an app. It’s built on web technologies so it wouldn’t be fully native, but as much as I’d love to use the web version of VS Code, I don’t want to be reliant on an internet connection to edit a local file.

The M1 iPad Pro

20th April 2021

The new iPad Pro has been announced, and I've got a few thoughts on it.

Of course, the most significant part of the announcement was the addition of the M1 chip. It brings the obvious added power and increased efficiency that we've seen in M1 Macs. But I think it also signifies something bigger.

Because Apple could have easily just called the iPad chip the A14X or something similar, that's essentially what it is. But they chose to go with the marketing term, M1. And with the M1 name being associated with Macs and desktop computing, I think it shows what Apple wants the iPad Pro to be.

I could be reading too much into this, but my opinion is that we're going to see a much more Pro-focussed strategy for the iPad Pro. And I'm hoping that kicks off with some real Pro applications announced at WWDC, especially Xcode.

The iPad Pro also now comes with more memory, with the 1TB and 2TB options coming with 16GB, and the rest with 8GB. Both options are an increase from the 2020 models, which came with 6GB. I think this will be a significant stepping stone in getting more powerful apps on the iPad.

Then there's the screen. The new 12.9" iPad Pro has a "Liquid Retina XDR" display, which means 10,000 mini LEDs, sorted into over 2500 local dimming zones (The Pro Display XDR has only 576), 1000 nits of brightness with a peak of 1600 nits, ProMotion, True Tone, HDR, P3 wide colour, etc. All of this sounds very appealing and partially confusing, to be honest.

Most of the other features, while mildly interesting, aren't exactly game-changers for me. Things like the USB -C port gaining Thunderbolt support, the curios Centre Stage feature where your camera can follow you, and of course, 5G.

One other thing did pique my curiosity, and that's the new White Magic Keyboard. While my initial reaction was that it would surely wear out quite quickly and get quite visibly dirty. I feel that the White Magic Keyboard combined with a Space Grey iPad Pro could look pretty good together. Hopefully, I can see a picture of it before they're ready to order.

However, all of this excitement also relies on enhancements to iPadOS.  The hardware has never actually been the issue when it comes to iPad. That has been steadily improving over time, and it's been pretty powerful for a while now. However, it's now time that the software matched the same level, and I mean that from both an OS perspective and Apple's app offerings. Apps like Xcode, Final Cut Pro, and Logic surely have to be coming to the iPad in one form or another? I'm starting to see little reasons why they couldn't.

My Hopes for the 2021 iPad Pros

13th March 2021

I've thought about purchasing a 12.9" iPad for a while, but I kept putting it off, until the rumours started last year about new models being introduced in March 2021. After then my mind was made up, I was going to buy get the next big iPad Pro that Apple released.

I wrote in November last year about what the perfect iPad would be for me, and I concluded that the current Air or Pro models would probably suffice in terms of capability, but since I want the larger screen, I'd need to go for a Pro.

It's a bit of an odd situation, because I know I'm going to buy an iPad at the next event, no matter what gets announced. But I don't have an idea what the next iPad Pro models will be like.

There are rumours of a MiniLED display, which is good I guess, but I wouldn't say that's something I particularly care about. I can't quite recall any other rumours, apart from 5G support, but then again I haven't purposefully looked for any.

Nevertheless, there are a few things that I would like in the next models, and I think a lot of people would also appreciate them:

  • Longer battery life (similar to the M1 Macs).
  • M1 (or equivalent) chip.
  • 2 USB C ports.
  • Better front-facing camera, and positioned top-centre while in landscape mode.
  • Possibly an even bigger size than 12.9"?

I would also like a new Magic Keyboard to be announced since I think the trackpad could do with being a bit bigger. This is probably unrealistic but could be possible if Apple released a larger size.

Apart from that, the rest of my iPad wishes are software-based. So I'll have to wait until WWDC for those.

Another God Damned iPad Post →

5th February 2021

Matt Birchler, writing about how how he splits his tasks between a Mac and an iPad:

I don’t enjoy using a Mac nearly as much as my iPad. Literally everything else I do, which admittedly is less intense “work”, happens on my iPad. Writing this post, reading the news, doing my email, doing freelance writing work, editing my photos in Lightroom, recording and editing audio, creating my newsletter, managing the tasks for my YouTube projects, watching YouTube videos, talking with friends, task management, and even coding changes to this very website all happen on the iPad.

— Matt Birchler, Another God Damned iPad Post

He seems to have a very similar usage to myself, in that I use a Mac for my day job (which for me is programming), app development, and playing a few games. But everything else is on the iPad.

Mike Rockwell has similar feelings:

I’m pretty much in the same boat. I primarily use macOS for my work at Automattic and have a few personal applications/tasks that I use my Mac Mini server for — Plex, Channels DVR, and long-term local photo backups, to name a few. But the vast majority of my computing takes place on iPad or iPhone.

— Mike Rockwell, Another iPad Post ➝

It seems to me that these devices have somewhat swapped roles. Whereas before everyone was asking “What can I use an iPad for?”, now it’s more “What do I need to use a Mac for”. I think the iPad has become the default device, and the Mac more of a specialised tool.

Does Google Remember Wear OS?

13th August 2020

John Gruber, on his theory about Google being bored with Android:

Remember my theory that Google has grown bored with Android and doesn’t really care about it? That’s me talking about phones, which, in general, Google does care about insofar as they know that billions of people spend hours per day every day using them. With wearables Google never even cared in the first place, except for making goofy demo concepts like Google Glass. The customers who bought Wear OS devices care about them; the company that designed them clearly does not. If they cared, how could it be that you can’t listen to Google’s music platform on Google’s wearable platform?

He goes on to mention that it’s actually bad for the Apple ecosystem, since there’s no real competition. And even as someone who has stopped wearing an Apple Watch, I still agree that there is no real other worthy alternative.

I don’t think it’s just smartwatch market where Apple seems to be miles ahead of the competition as well. You just need to have a think about what the real options are for a tablet computer. Nothing else even comes close to iPad.

Furthermore, I think the problem is even bigger than just the smartwatch and tablet market. Because when you think about smartphones, there’s only two major players. Which means there’s no real need for innovation anymore, all you need to do is match and/or slightly out do the other player. I really want a third player to join the smartphone game, and have a real go at it. But then again, I can see why they wouldn’t. Apple and Google have both got massive head starts, and ecosystems already exist for both platforms. Sure, Android is bigger than just Google, and there are loads of companies creating their own Android phone. But that still doesn’t provide any real competition.

Combining Screenshots with Picsew

19th April 2020

When writing about apps, it’s very common that you’ll need to combine screenshots together if you’re trying to capture a rather long page. One common case of this is when you’re trying to capture a screenshot of a Shortcut, which is why I looked for an app like Picsew, when I was getting screenshots for my recent article about how I’m using Data Jar to help writing link posts.

I’ve used apps like Tailor or LongScreen before, but I found LongScreen to be hard to deal with, and Tailor only support the iPhone. So I explored the App Store trying to find a solution for the iPad, and luckily I found Picsew.

Similar to the previously mentioned apps, Picsew has the ability to automatically combine multiple pictures together. But it didn’t seem to work well with the screenshots I took of some shortcuts. This is where the more “manual” option comes in. And I think that option is actually much more impressive than the automatic feature.

So after you select the photos you want to combine (in the correct order), and choose either vertical or horizontal, you use a pretty cool editor to adjust the position of each screenshot where you wish it to join the next one.

It’s quite intuitive actually, and was much easier than I thought it would be. You just tap on the join you wish to exit, and “push” the content towards the join until you’re happy.

Video: Picsew Edit Photo Join

You can also crop the entire photo inside the app as well, which is pretty handy as when you get a pretty large photo, it’s hard to do fine adjustments in the Photos app.

Video: Picsew Crop Photo

Anyway, I found it to be a very handy utility. So if you’re looking for an app that can join various photos together, or if you’ve used another one previously, I’d recommend checking out Picsew.

Download Picsew from the App Store

iPad, 10 Years On

1st February 2020

Matt Birchler, with his 10 year review of the iPad:

10 years ago the iPad was “about to replace the personal computer.”

Today the iPad is “about to replace the personal computer.”

10 years from now I suspect the iPad will be “about to replace the personal computer.”

Meanwhile, people like me and millions of others will continue to work on an iPad, not really trying to prove a point, just trying to use the best tool for us.

When Steve Jobs debuted the iPad in 2010, he described it as a device that would live between a laptop and a smartphone. By that measure, I think the iPad has more than lived up to that positioning, and I don’t think anyone would disagree. It’s more capable than an iPhone, but not as capable as a Mac.

I’m with Matt on this one.

Whether the iPad can replace whatever “computer” you have currently, it doesn’t diminish its use for other people. Where I see the iPad now, is that it is simply another computer, just another option with different advantages and drawbacks. A few years ago I would have edged towards the perspective of the three devices (iPhone, iPad, and Mac) having a certain order of capability, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore.

The iPad has its drawbacks, sure, but it’s also a relatively young device. From where the iPad started 10 years ago, to where it is now, it’s pretty impressive in my opinion. Especially when you have people running their entire business from an iPad.

The Escape Key on iPad →

18th April 2019

Jeff Perry, writing at Rocket Panda:

This is just a quick little tip for iPad users out there. If you are like me and using the Smart Keyboard or any keyboard that doesn’t have an Escape key you can press command . and that will most likely work as a way to escape from any text input you are in.

I think I’ve heard of this vaguely in the past. But after seeing this post, I tried it in a few different places in iOS, and I can confirm that it’s probably the closest escape key alternative.

The escape key on a Mac does all kind of things. Such as cancelling a drag action, cancelling some kind of input, or closing a temporary window. This “escape key” is more limited, in that I’ve only see it escape from text entry. That doesn’t mean it’s not handy though, and I’m sure I’ll use this quite a bit.

My Opinions on the Comparison Between the iPad Pro and A “Real Computer”

9th November 2018

The new iPad Pro has been released, so of course it’s time for everyone to discuss how it can’t be used as a work device.

In my opinion a big part of the arguments stem from the idea of it being a laptop replacement. And this leads to a lot of comparisons of apps, and tasks that people do on their Mac, and how they’d accomplish it on an iPad. Some of the time, you find some really good discussions on where a Mac or iPad would be better suited, or things that could be improved. But most of the time I don’t find the comparisons to be very helpful at all, and the rhetoric of not doing work on an iPad, is for some reason, still a thing.

There’s quite a lot of things that I think cause this type of reaction, and hopefully I’ll manage to explain all of them, in this rant-style piece.

First of all, the reviews are not always being done by people who use the device full-time, or do a substantial about of tasks on it. I wouldn’t be able to review a windows laptop very well, simply because I don’t use one, or even know anything about them anymore. Therefore my opinion would be completely worthless, and would only provide inaccurate information to the debate.

Also, I think the comparisons between the devices are being done are mostly too high-level. The problem is being abstracted away so much, that what’s left is checking if a Mac app is available on iOS, or if a workflow can be done in the exact same way. They’re not trying to solve an actual issue, or ask themselves what else can this device do that I couldn’t do before.

This shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but macOS and iOS are different operating systems. And the way to do something is not always going to be the same. Maybe the question you have to ask yourself when trying to see if the iPad could work for you, is “How can I reproduce my expected result using the iPad?”. Instead of trying to replicate the exact process. It’s a nice thing to have if everything works the same, but it doesn’t devalue the iPad as a platform, just because the way it does things is different.

Another thing I see, and I think it’s becoming noticed by more people, is that reviewers tend to project their own situation a bit too much. For example if the reviewer couldn’t use an iPad full-time, or if a specific group of tech people can’t either, then it must mean the device is the problem, and that no-one can use it for work. A lot of professionals exist outside the tech community, and a lot of them happily use the iPad for their work. But a lot of reviewers tend to ignore these people. Not every person is in the tech community.

It leads to another misconception, that if you can’t do your work on an iOS, then the iOS platform is somehow behind. Sure, there are loads of places where iOS can be improved. One of my biggest wishes is some way to develop apps for iOS, on iOS itself, that would be a huge chunk of users that could then do work on the iPad. But it doesn’t necessarily automatically apply to all work. For example, does a farmer moan about his tractor because he can’t do his taxes on it? No. It’s just one of the many tools they use to do their work. And the iPad is just another tool that people can use.

My last complaint is what I regularly see on Twitter, and that’s when people want proof about how people use their iPad, and they want the people that do happily use them for work, to explain how other people can as well. I don’t like this. They tend to put blame on happy iPad users, why they can’t become one themselves. Maybe this stems from jealousy, but it’s annoying to see.

I’ll end on what my current situation is: I like to work on my iPad, and I’d like to work even more on it, but that doesn’t mean the iPad is necessarily bad.

If anyone wants to know about why they can’t work on an iPad, my answer is: “I like to work on my iPad, and I can do a great deal on it. If you can’t, then oh well.”