I have been thinking a lot about how I use my iPad for writing because I don’t have my iPad right now. After an incident with my son and some hot chocolate, it stopped charging, and I had to send it home to Cupertino to get fixed, and I can now recognize how much I have come to rely on it as a writing device.
I was always an iPad early adopter. My friends and I got the original iPad when we were still working on iOS apps and webapps for mobile devices, and we were in line to get the first ones available at SXSW in Austin. Since the first one, I moved to an iPad Mini, the original (gigantic) iPad Pro, the smaller iPad Pro, and finally the iPad Pro 11”. Along the way it went from a fun diversion, to my constant 2nd device, to my primary device for everything except my day job (which is done on a company-issued 2020 MacBook Pro). In the last six months, though, the iPad most importantly became my main writing computer.
With few exceptions, I wrote every blog entry since the relaunch and my entire novel manuscript on my iPad Pro either early in the morning or late at night. It became my safe space when I needed to be away from development or client problems. More importantly, it was a context switch that I could make by intentionally not grabbing my work computer when I shouldn’t be working on that stuff. I could set it on top of my mechanical “typewriter” keyboard (see my blog article about it), plug in my headphones, and the iPad became a sheet of paper showing only my words with no other distractions.
So, now I’m writing this on my MacBook Pro and wanting to list out some of the great things about writing on an iPad:
- It’s a giant screen. It becomes whatever app is open. It can be a big piece of paper when I have Ulysses open for writing, a place to read PDF versions of my story without distraction, a high-res comic book with Comixology for relaxing, or a big screen showing Netflix on my porch for turning my brain off. It adapts to whatever is on the screen without any opinions about being a computer or a piece of paper.
- I can easily use any of my keyboards. I have a mechanical keyboard for my laptop that I use all day, but that required being at my desk with an external monitor and being in “work mode.” My iPad follows me out to the porch, where I can quickly attach any of my keyboards and get to work.
- The pencil is magical. The ability to edit a PDF just like it was printed out with all of my scrawled handwriting and big highlighter strokes is something I can’t replicate on MacBook Pro of iPhone (I got a tiny stylus for my phone to survive the past week, and it’s not even close).
- It gives me a context switch. This one is personal to my setup, I know, but the ability to leave my computer behind at my desk and switch to “writer mode” whenever I grab my iPad has been a survival technique while writing for hours a day before and after a very busy workday.
So, I’ve already seen that Apple is about to send back my replacement, and I’m overjoyed, but I had to take a few minutes to sing the praises of my iPad in its absence. I just hope that other people can have a writing tool they appreciate this much.