iPadOnly – from experiment, to a book, to a lifestyle

A long, long time ago (it’s been almost six years!) I started using my iPad not only for consuming content but also for work. It started off as an experiment on April 8th, 2012, after I picked up my newly ordered white iPad 3 with Retina display, 3G and ZaggKeys Flex Bluetooth keyboard.

Initially, I wanted to give it a 30-day trial to see whether I could change the way I work by completing about 80% of my tasks on the iPad. Although that iPad was based on iOS6 (with all the limitations of that operating system), the experiment turned out to be a success. From that moment on, I didn’t want to go back to my old mode of working. I even convinced my friend Augusto Pinaud, who also uses his iPad for work, to write a book together with me. That’s how, a year later, on July 12th, 2013, the book “#iPadOnly – The first real post-PC book. How to use only your iPad to work, play and everything in between” was created.

In the book, we’ve laid out our philosophy for using the iPad for work and, based on examples of different kinds of apps, demonstrated how to accomplish the same tasks on the iPad that can be done on a normal desktop computer – often, more quickly and effectively.

Why go #iPadOnly? Why “force” yourself to use the iPad for work?

A lot of people questioned my decision to work almost exclusively on the iPad. Why do such a thing? Why make life more difficult and use the “worse” computer when you have a “normal” one?

My main reason for going iPad-only was that it offered greater mobility, weighed around a pound, easily fit into any bag, was always connected to the Internet (version with 3G), and was simply a pleasure to work with. Its touch-screen made work seem less tedious… And while much time has passed, most of these benefits still hold true!

Times have changed – where’s #iPadOnly today?

It’s been six years and, in the meantime, I’ve managed to test six different iPads for work – from Air to Pro… I’m writing these words in Ulysses on a 10.5-inch iPad Pro using Smart Keyboard. Isn’t it time to update the “iPadOnly” book? How would a 2018 guide to working iPad-only look like? I’ll try to answer those questions below.

It all started with the transition to the “cloud”

For me, the first milestone was moving to the cloud. Though in 2012 iCloud was just emerging, many cloud services were already running in full swing. In order to be able to access my resources not just on the Mac but on also on iPad, I decided to base my workflow on three “clouds”:

Cloud 1: Dropbox for files

Dropbox was already going strong, so I finally upgraded my free account to the Pro package for keeping all my files there. This way, I gained access to everything that was on my computer directly on the iPad.

I’ve been planning migration for several years but couldn’t make up my mind. The decision to go iPad-only ultimately forced me to make the move. It was a great decision. What’s more, the ability to access everything I was currently working on directly on the iPad gave me a sense of peace and control over my stuff.

Cloud 2: Evernote for notes

I’ve been using Evernote since its early days, so installing this app on the iPad was an “obvious obviousness.” The fact that I’ve always put all my notes, photos and scans there paid off. I gained access to all documents stored in Evernote on the iPad and Mac. Already back then, Evernote offered the possibility to have offline notebooks which gave me the opportunity to use up some of iPad’s 64GB storage space. Having Evernote installed on my iPad, I began using this app more frequently. I also started to use the iPad more often than my computer for taking notes.

Cloud 3: Nozbe for tasks

This one goes without an explanation – as the founder of Nozbe, I wanted to be able to use my app on the iPad. Unfortunately, at the time, our app for this platform wasn’t too good. I wanted to change that. Using it almost round-the-clock, I became its primary beta tester and, after a few months, we managed to improve our app for the iPad. It was worth the effort as soon we were able to offer our clients a better product – one that I could recommend to other iPad users.

Other clouds

As mentioned earlier, between 2012 and 2013, iCloud was in its infancy. Not much could be kept there. In turn, Google didn’t have any dedicated apps for the iPad, and though it released some over time, they’re still pretty miserable. Google Drive, Docs and Sheets are separate apps that run very slowly and don’t get along too well… Gmail still doesn’t support “split view” on iPad Pro… At the time, I used Simplenote for creating text notes. Currently, I’ve replaced it with Ulysses and use synchronization via iCloud. Back then (which, I admit, was pretty awkward), I kept my PDF files in iBooks. Right now, I store them in the iCloud Drive, which does its job very well. In short, much has changed since iOS6.

Paradigm shift – why is working on the iPad different?

Making the iPad my main computer changed my life in a lot of ways. It also made me realize that working on a computer may look completely different. The increasing utilization of the iPad for work-related purposes also pointed the direction of development for the IT industry. Changing my ways also allowed me to revise some, once obvious, “truths.” They’ve given way to new and a lot more interesting ones:

New truth 1. – The keyboard is optional

Though a keyboard may seem like a necessity, it really isn’t. As it turns out, while using touch-optimized apps or doing things like browsing content, reading books or analyzing documents, we barely even touch the keyboard. Sometimes, it even gets in the way while I’m doing things. What’s more, it’s also possible to master fast touch-typing on the iPad – you just need to practice.

I’m a big fan of the “Smart Cover” for iPad Pro – when I don’t need it, it “hides” itself inside the cover. When I need to write a longer text – like the one you’re reading right now – it activates itself instantly.

New truth 2. – The computer screen is horizontal

While laptops have a more “cinematic” display, iPad has kept the 4:3 aspect ratio. Additionally, it works in both horizontal and vertical mode. The latter one is perfect for reading articles, browsing websites and working on documents. Depending on the task at hand, you can flip the display either horizontally or vertically (which can’t be done with a “normal” computer). As a result, interaction with on-screen content feels more natural.

New truth 3. – Using a single app at a time ensures better focus

There are still no “windows” on the iPad. And even though in iOS11 you can open two apps side-by-side and float a third app over the top, these improvements don’t have a negative impact on productivity. When I started using the iPad for work, iOS6 enabled using only one app at a time. This approach facilitated reading and writing texts, as well as analyzing documents and viewing to-do lists.

The one-app-at-a-time concept introduced natural order, cleanness and minimalism into my work, allowing me to improve my concentration. I still use it while I’m working. For example, right now, the only app I have opened is the text editor, and my sole focus are the words you’re reading. No distractions whatsoever. Just me, the keyboard and iPad’s display. Zen.

New truth 4. – Websites are… apps?

Alongside the development of iOS’s ecosystem, a phenomenon, which I call the “Appification of websites,” was born. Many websites released their apps for iOS – mainly for the iPad. Though some of them were really poor, others were much better than their web-based equivalents. Already at the time, my favorite app was IMDB for browsing movie content.

The case was similar with travel-planning services. It turned out that Airbnb, Booking.com, Tripit or Expedia work much better on the iPad than they do in the browser. They had been able to use GPS signal for locating places even from their initial launch.

New truth 5. – A computer that has a 10-hour battery life, fits into a small bag and works “instantly”

Though laptops are portable computers, iPads are in a different league. Already in 2012, an iPad was half the size and weight of a MacBook Air and, what’s more, it had 10 hours of battery life. Now this is what you call mobility!

Furthermore, the tablet works “instantly” – you don’t need to wake it up. All you need to do is open the cover, and the device is ready for work. What’s more, I can hold it in one hand and operate it in the other. Try to do the same with your laptop… The leap in quality is incredible.

New truth 6. – A computer that’s always online

By default, iPad connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi, but I personally recommend opting for the more expensive version with cellular. It works like magic! The computer is always “online.” There’s no need to type any Wi-Fi passwords or find hot spots… it always has access to the web. That, in turn, reduces the entry barrier to the network and facilitates access to resources, thus increasing productivity. I can go into any coffee shop I want and don’t need to ask about Wi-Fi. I can just sip my coffee and start working… And now, with free roaming in the EU, the advantages of traveling with an iPad that has constant network access are even bigger.

New truth 7. – A computer that changes the phone into another computer!

Both iPad and iPhone have the same operating system – iOS – and, practically, the same set of apps. The result is that whatever kind of app I set up on iPad, it works nearly the same way on the iPhone… and my data are synchronized across both devices.

So, wherever I am, I have two computers with different screen displays at my disposal: a 10.5-inch iPad and 5.8-inch iPhone. And, in essence, these are two computers with the same data and apps.

I often go out without my iPad and sometimes need to finish or correct something on the go. The iPhone is ideally suited for this.

In 2018, #iPadOnly is a global trend

While in 2012 I was one of the “freaks” who insisted on using the iPad for work, in 2018, it hardly surprises anyone.

Apple has popularized this trend itself by releasing its series of iPad Pros. With accessories like Smart Keyboard or Apple Pencil, it proves that it’s a serious machine for work and has nothing to be ashamed of. The iPad is no longer the “weaker computer.”

It has also become much easier to automate things on the iPad. Back in the day, there weren’t any handy apps like Workflow, whereas IFTTT was taking its first steps. Currently, the iPad makes it possible to automate many processes, owing to which it’s a much more convenient tool for work than the Mac.

iCloud has finally matured becoming a tool users can rely on. In many cases, it offers better and more convenient data synchronization than Dropbox… and it just works ™. I’m writing this text in Ulysses, and my main synchronization channel is iCloud. iCloud Drive also works well – so well that it’s replaced several apps that I’ve been using for synchronizing files and documents.

The #iPadOnly mode of action is becoming an increasingly popular way of doing things. A natural one for kids and older people… and an increasingly attractive one for those “in between.” Given that apps for the iPad are getting better and better, it’s no wonder that its popularity is on the rise.

#iPadOnly book update – when?

That’s a question I often get. After all, it’s been almost five years since its first release! The short answer to that question is: “probably never.” Here’s why:

Federico Vittici does it better…

Back when I started writing on this subject, I was almost alone in the endeavour. Today, there are many people who use the iPad for even more advanced tasks than I do. For instance, Federico Vittici, the author of MacStories, does incredible things with the iPad and has established workflows almost for everything! What’s more, he writes for a living.

There are so many apps that tackling them all in one book is impossible

In 2013, there were already lots of apps for iOS… Now, it’s become a bottomless pit. Just look at text-editing apps – there are so many of them that it’s hard to pick out the best one. Because of that, I’m not sure whether a series of chapters devoted to particular apps as they were presented in the original version of the book would make sense today. For the same reason, it would be difficult to remain objective in assessing apps. An #iPadOnly book written in 2018 would simply be too subjective.

The iPad is no longer the “worse computer”

It seems to me that, owing to Apple’s promotional efforts and the sheer popularity of iPads, no one regards them as “worse computers” anymore. Though there’s still a lot of skepticism, the use of iPads is becoming more and more widespread among professionals across various industries – not just enthusiasts. iPad is slowly crawling towards the mainstream.

For some people – especially kids – the iPad is their first computer

My older daughter does amazing things on her iPad Air 2, whereas my younger daughter does crazy stuff on her iPad Mini 2. It’s the only kind of device they understand… and they know how to use it better than most adults!

Maybe #iPadOnly is mainstream but #NoOffice still isn’t

For this reason, if I were to write a book, it certainly wouldn’t be about working on the iPad. I would rather focus on remote work, as I know that’s something that could really improve people’s lives. Although I’m an iPad aficionado, the iPad is just part of the bigger picture, i.e. remote work: from any place on the planet, using any type of computer.

The best example are people working at Nozbe – but it isn’t limited to just them. While business owners and managers are slowly getting used to tablets, they’re still having a hard time letting their employees work from home. Typically, the first thing business owners do is rent an office and hire people from the same town instead of looking for the best specialists from all over the world or, at least, country.

Remote work in the #NoOffice mode isn’t easy… but it’s really great!

Working effectively as a remote team requires taking into account several nuances. At Nozbe, we’ve been operating in this model from the very beginning, so we’ve already managed to sort out (or are close to sorting out) many of these issues. In spite of that, we’re constantly developing and improving our work methods.

I feel that now is the best time to share my experiences with the world… However, as the day has only 24 hours, apart from running Nozbe and working on our app, I only have time for writing one book… and, unfortunately, it won’t be #iPadOnly 2, but #NoOffice.

I very much hope that the book sparks a discussion on remote work. The more companies that start operating in this model, the more people will benefit from it. I really believe that this working model should be popularized by, among other things, using the iPad for work.

Michael
Nozbe founder and CEO. He records a weekly podcast, writes on this blog, and publishes books to help modern knowledge workers get more done and have a more organized (and passionate) life.