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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?

And when I'm working at home, I'm much less likely to be using the laptop (unless I'm specifically writing or editing a story). Instead, my iPad springs into action: I read and respond to a huge amount of email, check my calendar, schedule and reschedule meetings, and use Twitter endlessly. I can also keep up with colleagues with the HipChat app and, of course, Messages.

I could do almost everything involving my job on my iPad if I had to, especially if I had access to an external keyboard. The administrative part of my job is all email, Excel, and Google Docs; these days, the Microsoft Office apps for iOS and Google's excellent suite have eliminated the barriers to editing those documents on the iPad. (Google's Sheets app has transformed my use of the iPad; I have Google spreadsheets for roughly half a billion things in my life, personal and professional.)

The writing part of my job can be solved by any of the countless number of iOS editors out there, though these days I prefer Editorial, which has a bunch of nice built-in macros and the ability for me to build my own. I can (and do) write articles in Editorial using nothing but the iPad's on-screen keyboard, but for really motoring through stuff fast, an external keyboard is essential.

The big problem for me with using the iPad full time is that, in addition to writing, editing, and management, I am a podcaster, and iOS just isn't quite there yet when it comes to podcasts. To record a podcast, I use Skype and Call Recorder (which saves Skype audio) on my Mac. I've yet to find comparably solid tools for this on the iPad alone. When I'm recording my show, I'm also usually streaming it live, viewing listener comments via IRC, consulting my notes, modifying my live-stream server via a terminal window, and more. My little 11-inch MacBook Air can handle all that with aplomb. (Hooking up an external monitor certainly helps.) My iPad just can't, at least not yet.

Surprisingly, one of the areas where my iPad can cut it in terms of podcasting is multitrack editing. I've used the Auria app to edit a podcast, and it really does do the job. But it's much slower to edit a podcast with touch controls than it is to use a keyboard, a trackpad, and Logic Pro X. I can edit a podcast on my iPad, but it would take me way too long, so I don't.

So podcasting aside, why I don't I used my iPad more often? For the most part, it's about speed. I'm faster at most tasks on my Mac than my iPad, and when I'm heads-down, cranking away at a story, I need all the speed I can get. Also, an 11-inch MacBook Air isn't that much less portable than an iPad, especially with an external keyboard.


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