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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?

Dan Miller (Editor, Macworld)

I do use the iPad for work, but not much. I could use it more, but frankly I see no reason to: I have a perfectly good (if heavy) MacBook Pro, which I don't mind lugging around and which I find better as a work tool than the iPad.

That said, I could use the iPad for more of my work if I had to. As others have pointed out, the bulk of my job involved processing text. For most writing and editing, I work primarily in plain-text format these days, for which almost any iOS text-editor would do. Ditto for taking notes in meetings and elsewhere. (I generally use nValt on my MacBook for this, syncing its plain-text notes via Dropbox.) For those outside writers who still use Word, we have iOS tools for that, too.

But I still don't like the iPad for writing or editing, largely because I don't like the iPad's onscreen keyboard. I'm a pretty fast keyboard typist, but I'm all thumbs when it comes to typing on glass. I could get a Bluetooth keyboard, but that'd be yet another thing to remember (or, more accurately, to forget). With the MacBook, I can just grab one thing and go.

Similarly, my image-editing needs are pretty simple--mostly resizing and cropping. I could certainly do that on the iPad. But, again, why switch? If I was actively editing and producing stories on the tablet, it'd make sense to edit their images there too. But I'm not, so I don't. And, as others have pointed, our particular work app, that content-management system, is unusable on an iPad. Perhaps Apple and IBM will fix that.

I do take care of off-hours work communications on the iPad (if I haven't brought the MacBook home). Email is great, as is Hipchat. The typing demands for those apps are lower, so that's not as much of an impediment. And the portability means I can reply to people from wherever--the bus on the way home, the couch at night, the breakfast table in the morning. But at work? Again, I have a better tool at hand.

Ditto for off-hours Web browsing, Twitter, RSS, and other sources of work-related information. I'll typically do a round of news reading first thing in the morning; I often do so from my iPad instead of my home Mac. It all depends on where I am when the urge strikes. If I'm walking by our iMac with coffee in hand, I'll stop there. If I'm near my shoulder bag, where the iPad lives, I'll grab that instead.

The fact is, I generally reserve the iPad for not working: After staring at a computer monitor for eight or nine hours a day, I'd rather not stare at one at home. So if I'm going online after hours--for Facebook, RSS, email, ebooks, or Netflix--I prefer the iPad then.


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