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iPad – why does it need macOS?

Finally, I can have my say…


iPad and iPadOS is an argument that I’ve not been able to enter into – until this week.

That’s right, last week my first proper iPad arrived – a 13-inch M4 iPad Pro with all the boxes ticked (other than the cellular one) and it’s a beast. At the start of the week, old habits were hard to break and I instinctively kept reaching for a Mac – muscle memory and all that.

Over the weekend though, when I had a little more time on my hands I started to force myself to use the tablet. Initially, everything was slower, felt alien and was frustrating. But in the old Lewis fashion, I stuck with it – I knew it was me and not the iPad.

On Sunday I didn’t even touch a Mac – and that hasn’t happened in I don’t know how long!

There were a few sticking points that got me scratching my head but with some lateral thinking they all got sorted – well nearly all…

iPad writing woes

The first problem I came up against last week was that Grammarly wouldn’t work. I’ve used the app for ages and swear by it – it’s brilliant but it just wouldn’t play ball. I deleted it, re-installed, re-booted the iPad, checked it was the iPadOS version I was installing – I did everything I could think of, but no joy.

It’s a known glitch with iPadOS and external keyboards – even Apple’s ones. The issue is resolved – I’ve already written about how it was solved – but frustratingly, much as I’d love to say I’m writing this on the iPad, I’m not.

Even when Grammarly is working, you have to check your work manually which is not particularly productive, but the problems don’t stop there. I write in Ulysses which uses a markdown method for writing. It’s great as it’s distraction-free – but guess what…iPadOS doesn’t seem too keen on markdown!

On a Mac, for instance, I use the option/hashtag keys to write H2 or H3 subheadings – but no matter what combination I try I cannot get it to work. The keyboard shortcuts I use all the time on a Mac don’t work on an iPad.

Writing should be the perfect fodder on here – can’t you picture me sitting in a coffee shop plodding away, but it’s not to be. I’d be doubling up my work – I could write it in Ulysses on the iPad, but then I’d have to go to a Mac to check it with Grammarly and finish the headings, etc., so it’s simply not worth it.

I might be overlooking something – and I hope I am, but I can’t think what it might be I’m not seeing!

But that has been the only negative I’ve encountered over this past week – and let’s admit it, that’s a pretty user-specific problem anyway.

But what of this problem I kept hearing about with iPadOS? As far as I can tell there is not much of a problem.

Proof in the pudding

The attach rate of Mac users who own an iPad is shockingly high – over 50% which suggests two things – Mac users like iPads and aren’t confused about which device they should reach for.

Being a newbie last week placed me in a great unbiased position to judge what both OS were like to use. Coming from a Mac gave me a head start – if there was a problem I kind of had an instinctive idea of how to overcome it.

MacBooks, desktop Macs and iPads are different beasts all linked by one cohesive ecosystem that glues everything together – but make no mistake they are different intentionally and I think Apple is happy enough with that situation.

To say iPadOS is broken or doesn’t work is plain wrong – this past week has proven it. Outside of writing, video and audio production, everything else has been done on the iPad.

In time even the video editing may change – I downloaded the updated version of Final Cut Pro and it looked familiar enough. I reckon if I needed to I could assemble a timeline on the iPad now and then carry on with it on a Mac (I think that workflow is possible now in this version). Sure, I wouldn’t want to do a full edit on it – you can’t use plugins anyhow, but I could now make a start on a new project if I was only packing the iPad. And iPadOS is broken – err – how?

iPadOS working

So tell me what it is that can’t be done then – Is it multi-tasking?

Multitasking on this 13-inch screen works just fine. I can have emails open to one side and say YouTube Studio to the other and if I’m at home and it’s hooked up to the Studio Display things get even better!

With Universal Control I can even use the mouse if I want to rather than the trackpad and the whole thing suddenly takes on a desktop feel – honestly! Let’s face it, this iPad flies – apps open super-quickly and I can plough through virtually everything I want to in a breeze.

Stage Manager is only one of the options you have for multi-tasking anyway – if that doesn’t suit you you can switch to Split View and Slide Over anyway.

And you’re still telling me iPadOS is broken? What can’t you do – or to put it another way what more do you want it to do?

OK – there is no finder and file management is a bit different – but as I said before they are intended to be different. Apple has you covered if you want to work on a Mac and desktop on the fly with the M3 MacBook Air.

I thought I’d miss the desktop but in a week’s worth of work it’s proven not to be the stumbling block I thought it would be – all I’ve done is found another way to work. The Files app has become my desktop!

If I need to drop a PDF or screenshot somewhere to attach to an email I’ll just use that – it’s a case of 6 of one or half a dozen of the other. Both routes work and both options get the job done.

Final thoughts

Is it too powerful for what it can achieve? Possibly – but that may all be about to change at WWDC. The future is AI and who’s to say how that will play out and how central the iPad may be in Apple’s plans? Anyway, if Apple is guilty of anything it’s making a chip that’s too good – now that can’t be a crime, can it?

Don’t forget, history has proven that they don’t often get things wrong – it may take some time for the dots to join up but Apple have an uncanny way of working things out in the end. Spatial Audio only finally made sense with the Visio Pro…

Is there an overlap between the iPad Air, iPad Pro and MacBook Air – sure there is, but that’s called choice. If you are happier on a more conventional laptop no worries – go buy a MacBook.

But if you want something even smaller and even more portable but something that is equally as productive – then the iPad is for you.

When someone can tell me what I can’t do on this iPad because of iPadOS then I’ll be convinced it’s busted.

As it stands though it seems to be working just fine to me.

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