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How much of your job can you really do on an iPad?

Macworld Staff | July 22, 2014
Tim Cook recently said that he performs 80% of his work on an iPad--and he thinks everyone should do the same. But is that really realistic?

I'm sure with the iPad I could do all of this. It would just take vastly more time, and make me way less productive.

Dan Frakes (Senior Editor, Macworld)

Most of my routine writing and editing happens on my desktop Mac. But I do use my iPad a good number of hours each day--in the morning, at lunch, in the evening, and during writing breaks--to read my innumerable RSS feeds, triage email, and perform other tasks that don't require the complex workflows and multitasking I get on my Mac. For these tasks, the iPad is simply a better tool for me.

That's not to say that I couldn't do more on my iPad during the work day. I always have an external Bluetooth keyboard handy, so longer bouts of writing and email are easy enough. (In fact, I'm writing this on my iPad with Logitech's Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-on Keyboard Cover.) An external keyboard is great for serious email correspondence, too. (Alas, I find editing on an iPad to be a chore because of iOS's fiddly text select/copy/cut/paste mechanism.)

Dropbox and Google Docs make it easy enough to work with documents on my iPad, and to transfer them to and from my Mac. I'm also able to use the iOS versions of various communication apps (HipChat, Slack, Messages) to keep in touch with my colleagues.

In fact, when it's time to go portable, such as on a business or family trip, these days I bring my iPad and an external keyboard instead of my (now lonely) MacBook Air. I've found that I prefer doing enough things on the iPad, and I'm able to do enough of the other things, that I haven't taken my laptop on a trip in over a year.

For me, the biggest obstacles to being truly productive on the iPad are the aforementioned multitasking limitations, the lack of automation capabilities, and an in-house tool (the CMS) that's unfriendly to iOS. Most of my work requires the use of multiple apps simultaneously--say, a Web browser, an image-editing app, and a text editor--and iOS makes that kind of quick task-switching frustrating. (Sadly, sometimes iOS "multitasking" means opening one app on my iPad and another on my iPhone.)

I've got my Mac set up with utilities such as TextExpander, LaunchBar, Keyboard Maestro, Automator, and more, which collectively allow me to automate repetitive tasks, script tedious or difficult ones, and initiate many of those tasks using custom keyboard shortcuts. I can approximate some of those workflows on the iPad using apps such as Editorial, Launch Center Pro, and Drafts, but even when I do, I still feel like I'm working one-handed. That's just one reason why I'm really looking forward to seeing what developers do with some of iOS 8's features.

 

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