iPad or MacBook Pro

I love MacOS. Until 2008, I had been using Windows at work and Linux at home. Then I got my first MacBook, and have been all in on MacOS since. I love the beautiful apps, the automation capabilities, and the underlying BSD operating system. I endured many years of terrible Microsoft Office applications on the Mac. My home computer is a hackintosh that does everything an iMac Pro can do at less than half the price. My last two MacBook Pros (Apple would probably say I should call them MacBooks Pro, but I’m not going to do it) have had awful keyboards, but I’d rather run MacOS on crappy hardware than Windows on great hardware. The moment Apple releases a 13″ MacBook Pro with a good scissor keyboard, I’m buying one.

I have had many iPads over the years and it’s always been a supplement to my laptop and my phone. They have all been in the 9 inch to 11 inch range, I’ve never had a big one or an iPad mini. I currently have an 11″ iPad Pro and it is a fabulous piece of hardware. I used to have the 10.5″ iPad Pro, and it’s excellent too. The Smart Keyboard makes me crazy. I hate the globe key which brings up the emoji picker. I would be eternally grateful if someone who matters at Apple mandated that all of their keyboards had a proper inverted-T arrow key setup with full size keys.

Many times in the last few years I have run experiments to see if I could use my iPad instead of my Mac. Although I hate the emoji key, it has never been the hardware that’s held me back. It was always the software. iOS was just not good enough.

This summer Apple introduced iPadOS with better multitasking, a desktop class browser, Shortcuts with parameters, and a massively improved Files app. After it was released this fall, I tried again to go iPad only. This time it was the apps that held me back, not the operating system. Many of my applications did not support key iPadOS features like Split View.

I feel sorry for app developers; I think the summer of iOS 13 has been the buggiest one yet, and it’s especially jarring considering how smooth iOS 12 went last year. Slowly but surely, app developers are getting their updates out that fully support the new operating system features.

Of the applications critical to my workflows, GoodNotes was the first to get updated, and they managed to ship a new version of their app the same week as iPadOS. iA Writer came next, and between these two apps I can now do all my writing and note taking on the iPad. Combined with the new desktop class Safari, I finally felt comfortable with a broad range of tasks.

But a few of my apps still weren’t good enough. Outlook on iOS is good, but not great, and still doesn’t support multiple windows. Which is a real bummer for a single app that has contacts, email, and your calendar. We use Exchange at work, so Outlook is almost a necessity. Microsoft says it’s coming soon, but it’s not here now.

In the last couple of weeks, I think I finally turned the corner. I started a new job, and we don’t use Microsoft stuff. So I didn’t need to use Outlook. I’ve long used Spark for my personal email. I started using it for work email too, and this week it got a nice update which supports multiple windows; finally you can write a new email while browsing the thread your are replying to.

The Omni Group also shipped OmniFocus 3.4 with support for multiple windows. Clearly multiple windows are a big deal for me. Of all the other capabilities these app updates contain — improved keyboard shortcuts, dark mode, parameterized shortcuts — it’s the multiple window support that makes me feel like I can get real work done.

I’m still missing a couple of important things. Neither Fantastical nor Calendars 5 yet support multiple windows. It would be really great to have OmniFocus and the calendar set up in Split View, while still having the full screen calendar available in a different space.

It’s great that we have a mechanism for third-party file providers, which allows any developer to integrate the documents from their app into the system Files app. However, several of the file providers I use do not support all of the capabilities of the iOS API. Specifically, I really wish Dropbox, Nextcloud, or Google Drive supported open-in-place. This would allow well-built apps like iA Writer to seamlessly read and write files directly to any file provider.

iPads have made great progress, and I can use one for much of my real work. I might even feel like I could use an iPad instead of a MacBook Pro. I’ll always want a desktop Mac for grinding out the company 2020 financial model, writing python code, and doing any music work in Logic or Finale. I also need my desktop Mac to organize and backup all my data: family pictures and videos, movies, and fonts.

But now, I think I have finally arrived at iPad or MacBook Pro, instead of iPad and MacBook Pro. That is, until that 13″ MacBook with a scissor keyboard comes out and I’m back to and.