Flaky Goodness

The iPad Productivity Paradox

June 9, 2018

Let’s assume for a moment that, whatever your “real work” is, it is possible to get it done on an iPad. Let’s also agree that this work is more fun to do on an iPad. But the process is slower, especially when you’ve got a lot of it to do.

I’ve been trying to make a meaningful go of moving as much of my non-development work as I can to an iPad Pro 10.5” recently. This includes e-mail, pulling down and annotating PDFs from various places, interacting with online services including JIRA, GitHub, etc., moving files around the web, web research, scanning and filing paper documents, buying things online, writing, communicating on Slack, social media and so on.

I can do most of this an iPad, and I enjoy the process. But it’s slower. It feels slower, and the more time pressure I’m under the more it feels like moving through molasses. It seems irresponsible to indulge in this tap-and-drag lifestyle.

In no particular order, keyboard shortcuts/navigation/remapping, automation and scriptability, incredible text editors, large monitors, windowing, a shell, clipboard history, Hazel/Alfred/Quicksilver/whatever: on the Mac I can crank a lot of virtual widgets very quickly.

My workflows are evidently not ready for post-PC computing. It would help, for example, if more websites behaved properly in mobile Safari or Chrome. Or if the legacy apps I need to use inside Windows VMs had good native iPad or web-based options. And they will eventually.

I bet that much of what I do will morph into some combination of server-side cron jobs, AI-automated processing, and maybe progress on what we as a society expect from a small business (not much faxing in my workflow anymore). But right now it feels like I’ve become the human glue to tie these things together with taps and drags and incessant rearrangement of window splits.

This is fine, even good, when I’m sitting on the patio with a proverbial glass of Chardonnay, twirling my Apple Pencil in my off-hand. But when the heat is on, my iPad gets put aside.