Getting the iPad to Pro

Craig Mod writes a brilliant assessment of the iPad: Getting the iPad to Pro

These new iPads may be gorgeous pieces of kit, but the iPad Pros of 2017 were also beautiful machines — svelte and overpowered. In fact, the iPad Pro hardware, engineering, and silicon teams are probably the most impressive units at Apple of recent years. The problem is, almost none of the usability or productivity issues with iPads are hardware issues.

On a gut level, today’s iPad hardware feels about two or three years ahead of its software. Which is unfortunate, but not unfixable.

At the recent October 2018 Apple Event where the new iPad Pro's launched, the iPad Pro was repeatedly described as a "real computer". The hardware is, but iOS is not. Extensions are brilliant, but you can't open two documents with the same app. Split-screen is awkward at its best, and usually not worth the hassle. IOS is fundamentally application centric, Any workflow which requires multiple apps to complete is frustrating and inefficient, especially one which requires you to process multiple documents. There are dozens of small nits which you can't work around because there aren't tools like Keyboard Maestro or Hammerspoon. The emoji key on the Smart Keyboard is in maybe the worst possible location. My beloved ⌘-D to forward delete doesn't work in iOS, even though ⌘-A, ⌘-E, ⌘-F, and ⌘-B all do.

Third party iPad software is slowly making progress, and there are some real standouts. I think OmniFocus 3 is better on iPad than it is on macOS. Fantastical, Outlook, GoodNotes, Drafts, and iA Writer are compelling and robust. PowerPoint on iPad is a mess, and not ready for serious work. Downloading files in Safari almost never works.

The major iPad focused enhancements in iOS 11 were a real turning point for my usage of the iPad. The Files app, the Dock, and the improvements to Split Screen were a major leap forward. I'm anxiously awaiting iOS 13 and hope it closes the gap between the software and the hardware.