A couple months ago I broke down and bought the tech toy I have been craving since November – the iPad Pro.
Reading other people’s blog posts, I get the sense people are confused about the iPad Pro. It’s a beautiful looking device, but tech b;others everywhere can’t figure out “who the device is for.” . I’ve seen a lot of people cry ‘It’s not a computer replacement!’ and wonder why it doesn’t run the Mac OSX. “It’s too big” others complain, and “only a small number of artists and creative types would really use it!
I’m not sure who Apple intended to make the device for, but I have been using the 12.9 inch pro for the last 2 months and it has fit beautifully into my work flow.
In my case I was never looking for a computer replacement – I love my laptop, it’s light, portable, and has a tremendous battery life and a keyboard that I love. For this reason I didn’t even bother to buy the keyboard attachment for the iPad Pro.
My hang ups about the pro’s size lasted for about 10 minutes of use. For me it feels like I finally have the “Desk” computer promised me in Ender’s Game and other sci-fi books from my childhood. The tablet is sized large enough that documents are essentially the same size as they would be printed on paper, and that is a great thing for me. Apple recently released another, smaller, version of the pro – the same size as the regular iPad.
For me, the real benefit of the pro, compared to any other iPad or tablet I have used, is that the handwriting really is that good. I’ve used some really good styluses before, I’ve used some really terrible styluses before, but the Apple Pencil is the only one that I have ever used that lets me write in real time. No lag, no drag, writing is just as easy as it is in a notebook.
In answer to the question “who is this iPad for?” I offer up this list of ways I use my pro as a PhD student.
1. Reading PDFs
I was always someone who liked to print out journal articles by hand to read. This led to binders full of paper covered in highlights and notes…and I could never find the paper again when I needed it. I tried reading on the computer but something about the combination of computer screen and using my mouse to highlight meant that the information failed to reach my brain.
In my new iPad system, I mark up the PDFs on the iPad. In portrait mode the paper is roughly the same size as as a piece of letter sized paper, and the Apple Pencil fulfills my need to hold a “highlighter” in my hand. By zooming in I can write notes or draw diagrams in the corners, mark things as important, and file the PDFs in a way that allows me to find them later. After reading the paper I can also split the screen and while looking at the PDF, write up handwritten or typed notes to summarize the key points. These can all be filed together so that I remember the important things!
2. Meeting Notes
I no longer carry paper with me. I take my iPad and my Apple Pencil to every meeting, scrawl my notes by hand, and save them to my Evernote account so that I never lose them. My handwriting is searchable and I don’t have stray loose leaf hanging around the bottom of my bag anymore.
3. Diagrams, flow charts and mock-ups
Sometimes you need to doodle to get things out of your brain right? While later I might use a designated program to do up good copies of these things, my first draft is now almost always on my iPad.
4. Presentation Notes
When I have to give a talk, I love to take my iPad up with me. I can have any notes I need in front of me, and if necessary, manipulate the whole thing with one hand.
5. Multitasking (and wasting time) like a champ.
Did you know that with the iPad Pro you can downsize a movie or tv show to the bottom of the screen? Answering emails and looking for papers on PubMed was never so much fun before.
Of course I do a suite of other things on my iPad too – read books and magazines, manage my calendar, track my budget, and save interior design photos for the ream house I don’t have yet – and you can do those things on any iPad or tablet. Without the Apple Pencil though, the iPad wouldn’t be half as useful for my purposes. With the pencil it becomes my searchable brain dump of everything I need to know or remember.
Oh, and I wrote this whole post on my iPad, on an airplane.
*EDIT* I should note – I have one complaint about the iPad Pro: it gets covered in finger prints in a way that my previous iPad Mini never did. Not sure why, but annoying if you are far away from a screen cleaner!