How I Use iPad (And How You Can Too!)

September 3, 2012

This entry has been waiting to be written for a very, very long time. The fact that my iPad replaced my Mac has been something I’ve talked about for probably a year and a half in “real life” and online. I’ve either alluded to it or outright said it in blogposts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. If you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably read many tweets from me also covering the topic.

So, enough with the foreplay. We know that my iPad is my primary computer, with my iPhone secondary. We know why. But all of that is explicitly useless information without knowing how I outright replaced traditional computers with iPads. It’s time to publish something useful. This article includes four main parts:

  1. How I used my Mac, listing the apps I used to use regularly and what they were for.
  2. The iPad apps I use in place of the Mac apps and how well they work as replacements, with pricing info and App Store links to the iOS apps.
  3. The apps I use regularly on my iPad which aren’t “replacement” apps, and make the iPad better than a traditional computer in my eyes, with pricing info and App Store links to the iOS apps.
  4. The iPad’s present shortcomings compared to traditional computers in my opinion.

This is a very detailed article, and it is quite long. I’ve organized it in a way which makes it easy for you to skip what you aren’t interested in. Further, I need to make clear that this article does not exist to prove any point. I’m not setting out to tell people what is and what isn’t the right way to use a computer. This is purely the information that I can offer to people thinking about how they can use iPads. Please don’t mistake it for anything else.

Part I

As a student I used my MacBook Pro for typing up term papers (among other, general stuff) and designing Keynote presentations. I used it for media storage/viewing, and even very basic media editing. I of course browsed the web, and instant messaged and audio/video chatted with friends. And until iOS 5, I used my Mac to manage my iPods and iOS devices, among other basic things. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that my exact use cases aren’t uncommon.

So, the Mac apps which I used regularly:

  • Pages: School papers and word processing in general
  • Keynote: Keynote presentations
  • iTunes: Media viewing and iPod/iOS device management
    (iomega external hard drive: Storage)
  • Preview and iPhoto: Image viewing and basic editing
  • GarageBand: What I used to create terrible music
  • Safari: Web browsing
  • Mail: e-Mail
  • iChat, Live Messenger, and Skype: Instant messaging and audio/video chatting
  • Handbrake: DVD ripping
  • (Funny observation: Almost every one of those apps are Apple’s own apps)

    Part II

    This next part might come across as a little disingenuous simply because this isn’t my story about switching to iPad two years ago. I’m not going to cover the holes I encountered which have been filled — this is explicitly about the present. The whole story is mostly irrelevant to you.

    So, here’s the iPad apps which replaced the apps I regularly used on the Mac:

  • Replacing Pages

    Not surprisingly, Pages on iOS it what replaces Pages on the Mac, and is even better in some cases. Sure, the Mac version is more flexible, but Pages’ signature feature is how it handles media within documents. That feature is brought to life on the iPad in many ways — to begin with, manipulating images and videos is way more fun with your fingers than with a mouse pointer. But on top of that, the iPad’s cameras make Pages for iOS a killer app.

    A use case which I’m very familiar with is taking notes in class; all too often instructors write or draw something on the board which would take 1000 words to express. So what can you do when that happens? Well, if you’re taking notes on your iPad with Pages, just quickly open the Camera app, lift up your iPad, and take a picture of the board. Insert the photo right into your notes. That use case isn’t restricted to the classroom either. As an example, let’s say you need to create a flier about wildlife, and you want it to have pictures. Go out to a lake and create the entire flier there, pictures and all. Get home and be all ready to print it out.

    Edit: I wasn’t clear at all. Pages is a full word processor and can open and export Microsoft Word documents, and can also export to PDF. It’s native file type though is .pages, as with the Mac version.

    Also, if you have an AirPrint enabled printer, you can print your documents right from the iPad. It’s kinda cool.

    Pages for iOS: $9.99

  • Replacing Keynote

    Also not surprisingly, I replaced Keynote for the Mac with Keynote for iOS. Unlike Pages for iOS, though, which I adore — my relationship with Keynote for iOS is very love-hate. Keynote is my favorite app on the Mac by far, designing keynote presentations to deliver is my hobby. The featureset between the two is so different that Keynote for iOS should be called “Keynote Nano” or something. As an example, I like to time basically every aspect of presentations I design, and timing builds and transitions to go off at the millisecond I want them to is next to impossible on Keynote for iOS, whereas on the Mac I can actually do advanced work and make things perfect.

    Don’t get me wrong though, Keynote for iOS is immeasurably better than PowerPoint on any platform, it’s just that Keynote for Mac is immeasurably better than it. The best thing about Keynote on the iPad is actually delivering presentations. I hook it right up to a projector or TV, and press play. The portability of the iPad makes presenting easy and kinda fun, and if you’ve added “presentation notes”, they’ll show up on the iPad’s display for you to see while only the presentation is seen by the audience.

    Edit: By the way, Keynote can indeed import and export Microsoft PowerPoint documents, but it isn’t ideal at all. You lose so many things in the import it’s scary. It’s the same as the Mac version in that way.

    Keynote for iOS: $9.99

  • Replacing iTunes

    This is a relatively easy one. For media viewing, iTunes is replaced by the iPad’s built-in Music and Videos apps. I have all my music stored in iCloud with iTunes Match — callable at any time in the Music app — and I can bring up any movies I’ve previously purchased through the iTunes Store with the iTunes Store iOS app. Speaking if the iTunes Store app, it’s also where I buy new music. However… most of my music listening and movie watching is done through the Pandora and Netflix apps, respectively.

    To me, most of the movies I have “ripped” from DVD which are stored on my Mac aren’t ones I’d want to watch more than once. And in any event, I can rent movies in 1080p HD for $4.99, which is great quality and worth the cash compared to even my best DVD rips. As far as device management is concerned, my iPad (and iPhone) are backed up to iCloud, automatically when left to charge while connected to WiFi. Everything I previously managed with iTunes can be managed on iOS devices themselves.

    iCloud: Free. iTunes Match: $24.99/year. Pandora: Free. Netflix: $7.99/month.

  • Replacing Preview and iPhoto

    Also something that shouldn’t be too surprising, I replace Preview and iPhoto on the Mac with iPhoto for iOS on the iPad. The surprising thing is iPhoto on the iPad is outright better than iPhoto on the Mac. iPhoto on the Mac is quite irritating, it feels very out of place with the rest of OSX. It’s clunky, organization is funky, and it’s just a mess. iPhoto on the iPad is a pleasure to use and makes sense, it’s really hard to explain. Quick edits are easy, sharing is easy, and organization is great.

    iPhoto for iOS: $4.99

  • Replacing GarageBand

    Are you getting it yet? My iPad replacement for GarageBand on the Mac is GarageBand for iOS. GarageBand for iOS isn’t near as fully featured as its desktop sibling, but it’s way more fun. For example, playing the drums with your fingers is a lot of fun, and directly manipulating each track and loop you’ve created is great. Compared to the Mac version, GarageBand has a whole lot less pre-made loops and you’re limited in the number of tracks you can create per song. All in all, I’m not gonna lie, I’m a horrible, horrible, horrible musician. But being horrible with GarageBand on the iPad is so much greater than being horrible with GarageBand on the Mac.

    GarageBand for iOS: $4.99

  • Replacing Safari, Mail, iChat, Live Messenger, and Skype

    Safari and Mail really are a given. The replacement for Safari on the iPad is Safari for iPad, and the replacement for Mail on the iPad is Mail for iPad. As with the apps on the Mac, Safari and Mail come pre-installed on iOS devices.

    As far as web browsing is concerned, using Safari on an iPad is so much better than using any web browser on a Mac or PC. Manipulating entire web pages with only an invisible sheet of glass dividing you and the pages is brilliant, and you really need to try it yourself to understand why. A lot of times when I find myself at a Mac or PC, I try to scroll through web pages by touching the computer screen. It’s that natural.

    For Mail, the only major difference between the Mac and iOS version is that the Mac version supports filters. Why the iOS version doesn’t is one of the mysteries of life. But what do I care, I don’t really use e-Mail anyway. ;-)

    As far as IM services go, iChat on the Mac is replaced by iMessage and FaceTime on the iPad, both of which come pre-installed. It should be noted that iMessage and FaceTime only allow you to talk to other people with an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and/or Mac. And Skype for Mac is obviously replaced with Skype for iPad, which personally, I think is better than Skype on Macs and PCs. I’ve stopped using Live Messenger simply because no one I know uses it. Probably no one you know either.

    Skype for iPad: Free

  • Replacing Handbrake

    The replacement for Handbrake is no Handbrake. Even if the iPad did have a DVD drive, there’s no way I’d have any interest in watching a ripped DVD on my iPad’s 2048×1536 Retina Display. My eyes would burn. I don’t think anyone is interested in doing such a thing. The best thing is to rent 1080p HD videos from iTunes or to watch streaming Netflix movies, as mentioned way above.

  • Part III

    So, how about stuff I regularly use my iPad for which I never used my Mac for?

  • Games

    I’m not much of a gamer. I dig my Wii and DS, but I never really played games on a PC or Mac. Funnily enough, my iPad has made my Wii and DS collect dust. Here are the following iPad games I play:

    Jetpack Joyride: Free – Side Scroller

    Star Legends: Free – Sci-Fi MMORPG

    DragonVale: Free – Fantasy Puzzle

    Groove Coaster: $2.99 – Music/Rhythm

    osu!stream: Free – Music/Rhythm

    Words With Friends HD: $2.99 – Multiplayer Word Puzzle

    Sudoku HD: $2.99 – Number Puzzle

  • Another thing I didn’t do on my Mac was read books. Infact, I outright didn’t read books — I hadn’t read a non-textbook in probably 5 years. When I purchased my first iPad in 2010 I bought roughly $100 of iBooks books, and read them in less than a month. Flipping digital pages was entertaining enough to keep my attention, and since then I have been a reader. iBooks is also great for reading PDFs, and has been great for keeping all of them organized.

    iBooks: Free

  • My iPad also shines as a learning tool. I’ve written about the iTunes U app before, but a quick recap: Instructors at various universities upload course material — syllabus, video/audio lectures, slides, readings, homework — and people with an iOS device equipped with the iTunes U app can take full courses designed by these instructors, for free. I’ve learned more than I can express through iTunes U.

    iTunes U: Free

  • And finally, arguably the most interesting thing I do regularly, is blogging. The iPad is, undoubtedly, the best blogging device that there is. Ignoring the ten hour charge and the portability, the iPad is so great at consuming content, and it’s very easy to find inspiration for your own articles. The more information you intake, the more ideas of your own you have. While it’s not said much, content creators are probably the biggest consumers; relay that the next time someone dismisses iPad as useless because “it’s only good for consumption”.

    So, where do I get my information? My primary news source is Twitter, and the client I use and regard as the best is Tweetbot. I can also be found in the IMDb and TechCrunch apps. Obviously, Safari (already covered above) works too, but as far as news goes I use it for maybe three sites. The “Read It Later” app-service I use is Pocket, which is honestly the best Read It Later service I’ve used, and is integrated with many apps, including Tweetbot and TechCrunch. And for articles I catch in Safari, Pocket has a “bookmarklet” which, in short, is Safari integration. It rocks.

    And creating blog articles? It’s a breeze with the iPad. Going back to the ten hour charge and portability, I can be gone all day without a charger and get any amount of articles written in any amount of settings. The battery life and portability can’t be emphasized enough — it’s very valuable.

    The apps I write and publish with is iA Writer and the WordPress app, respectively. iA Writer is an amazing text editor, in writing view everything except the keyboard and text is hidden. No status bar or any distractions, just the keyboard, the text, and you. And the keyboard is custom, adding very useful keys which save you time. iA Writer is incredibly well thought out and it’s foolish for any iPad writer to not have it installed (Sidenote: iA Writer works with iCloud, so everything you write is automatically backed up in iCloud). When I’m done composing everything in iA Writer, I copy and paste the article into the WordPress app, preview and then publish. The WordPress app for iPad is actually better than the website, which I’m sure every WordPresser can appreciate.

    I also write for Unity Bond, and over there the service we use is Blogger. Unfortunately Google makes the Blogger publishing site suck immeasurably for iPad bloggers, and Google only makes a Blogger app for iPhone. The Blogger app works on the iPad, although it looks ugly “pixel doubled”, and it’s very basic. But hey, it’s better than nothing.

    Tweetbot: $2.99. IMDb: Free. TechCrunch: Free. Pocket: Free. iA Writer: $0.99. WordPress: Free. Blogger: Free.

  • So there you have it. That’s how I use my iPad, and more importantly, how I can outright replace traditional computers with it.

    And, finally…

    Part IV

    What are the iPad’s current shortcomings, to me? To get it out of the way, personally, I prefer the iPad’s software keyboard to a physical one (and keep in mind, if the keyboard wasn’t software, iA Writer wouldn’t be able to add those great custom keys). I can type roughly two times as fast on my iPad as I can on a traditional keyboard. I understand that I’m not everybody, however… If you didn’t know, the iPad works with the high majority of modern Bluetooth keyboards (Infact I’m not aware of any which it doesn’t work with).

    The only personal drawback which I can think of is that Apple hasn’t developed Xcode for iPad yet. Don’t get me wrong, I know next to nothing about app development, but I want to start learning, and as of this writing Apple forces developers to use Macs. Those jerks. However considering I don’t know how to develop at all at present, this is a nitpick. Oh yeah, and it would be nice if Keynote for iOS was half as good as the Mac version. So basically, I miss next to nothing about traditional computers.


    I hope that this article has been useful to you, be you an iPad user trying to figure out how to use your device, or if you’re thinking about getting an iPad wondering how to use it. Or even if you’re not, I hope you found this interesting.

    By the way, it’s like five minutes to midnight. I made the day’s deadline! Also, happy 50 posts!!!

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