How I use my iPad

I was asked by a colleague how I use my iPad effectively and what the apps are that I use to get work done. I sent him an email, but thought I would expand on it here. Also, I must admit, that lately I have been going back and forth quite a bit between my iPad Pro and my MacBook Pro … it always seems to be that way when Apple releases a new version of MacOS.

At any rate, here are my top apps, outside of mail and calendar (which by the way are Apple Mail and Timepage):

I use Evernote to keep all of my notes organized. I don’t type many notes, but I do draft a ton of emails and memos in Evernote. When I take notes in meetings I do it by hand with …

Penultimate … this is the note taking app I use with the Apple Pencil. It connects to Evernote automatically so any and all notes I take in this app also show up in Evernote. It allows for searching, even within hand written notes. If I get paper handed to me in meetings that I want to keep I use …

Scannable … this lets me take a quick picture of the pages and it converts them into searchable attachments that also show up in Evernote.

Office365 apps … Word in particular is a constant. The whole Office suite on an iPad is really quite amazing. I pay for O365 out of pocket at the moment, but will obviously switch to the UChicago instance when we go live.

1Password is the way I manage my passwords on all my machines. On iOS, without an integrated password management tool I would be completely out of luck.

Google Docs is also a must for me as several of my colleagues use Docs as the way we write and share.

Box is also a heavily used app for me, but you could easily replace that with iCloud Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, etc depending on what cloud based storage option one might be using the most.

WordPress … I maintain a few blogs and find writing in the native WordPress app on iOS to be a pleasure. As a matter of fact this was written on my iPad.

Concur … doing approvals for travel and expense reports is so much easier on iOS than on my laptop, so I typically do all that from my iPad.

I’ll lump Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Flickr together … I maintain contact across the social web on most of these platforms with varying degrees of engagement, but ultimately I find all of them easier and faster on the iPad than on my laptop.

Finally, for reading I keep Feedly, Medium, and Apple News in play most of the time. I do RSS with Feedly, but lately have been spending a ton of time in Medium.

With all that said, the introduction of the Apple Pencil has really changed the way I use my iPad — I never used to take digital handwritten notes, but now that I have the Pencil it is my preferred method. That has allowed me to leave my old school, paper-based notebook at my desk.

Maybe it is the Apps

I continue to be amazed at how the iPad Pro is pulling me into the “Post PC Era” that Steve Jobs promised many years ago. Now that I have a Smart Keyboard I can do nearly everything, as a matter of fact I think yesterday may have been the first time since getting the iPad that I took my MacBook Pro to the office … and that was because I knew I had to present at a board meeting. Looking back, I could have easily presented from the iPad with my HDMI adapter.


Since I’ve gotten it, I have traveled with it, designed with it, written with it, read with it, built presentations with it, worked on far too many Excel spreadsheets with it, and everything in between. I know my use cases are my own and your milage may vary, but it is an exceptionally powerful computing device for the kinds of things I do. This morning I was catching on some reading at Medium (on my iPad) and came across a similar sentiment penned by M.G. Siegler …

In fact, my biggest takeaway (tech-wise) from the trip may have been just how little I used the MacBook. I brought it more or less “just in case” — because, how can you possibly travel for three weeks without an actual computer? Well, turns out you can. Turns out, your tablet and even your phone are computers. And turns out you can almost for sure do everything you need to on those devices.

via Post-Post PC — 500ish Words — Medium.

And that is what I am finding, I just don’t use my laptop all that much. I should say that at this moment I am sitting in front of a traditional computer at home, looking at an old fashioned Safari window on a nice big 27″ monitor. I still do a ton of work on that and my iMac at work, I am finding that I am losing a place in my mobile routine for the MacBook. All of this makes me wonder what our collective computing needs might be in the next two years? If my use is any indication then the ability to work in front of a large display when you are rooted at a desk may stick around, but I am betting as more of what we do while moving will transition to thin panes of glass that have purpose built apps to do the things we do on traditional machines in more efficient ways. As a quick example, think of the difference in speed and ease of using Concur on your computer in the browser versus using it on something like an iPhone or iPad (I don’t have an Android device, but I would imagine it is similar). It is usually a tap or two to approve expense reports on my iPad or iPhone, while it is a long process to log in, navigate, approve, verify, and log out on my Mac. Imagine when more of what we do multiple times daily that grinds 5, 10, 15 minute distractions into our routines become simple taps on purpose built apps — we will be more efficient and more effective. More and more of what I do can be done faster on my iPad Pro and even on my iPhone as more purposefully built apps emerge that support my business workflows. That exact set of scenarios makes me do the same thing each morning, again following what M.G. says …

So this leads me back to my bag of gadgets I carry around on a daily basis. It has always been sort of insane, but now I’m the one who can actually see it. So the past few mornings when I’ve gone to put the MacBook in my bag, I’ve stopped for a second: why do I need this thing again?

What I am wondering is if we focus on apps that can make our business run more efficiently, will our purchasing habits change? Will Universities start putting devices like iPad Pros onto desks of various members of the staff community instead of the traditional Mac or PC? What would the support costs look like on devices that are inherently more secure and are potentially easier to manage through MDM? I believe when we have more use cases like the Concur one I shared, the efficiencies gained will be well worth the transition. But, hey, that’s just like my opinion, man. What’s yours?

iPad Pro on a Plane

I’m sitting in a bulkhead seat on a flight from ORD to Reagan Interntional so my tray table is unusually small. I’ve spent the last hour watching episode 4 of Amazon’s, “The Man in the High Castle” that I downloaded via the Amazon video app prior to departure. That experience has been outstanding. But I also wanted to try and get some work done. I don’t typically buy the inflight wireless, so the work I do on flights happens to be of the type that can be done locally. 

The ipad itself is big on the tray, but there is still room for my beverage and I’m able to type. While cramped, I can do it rather effectively on the glass surface of the device. If I had a bit more elbow room all would be well. It is not a problem with the size of the device itself, in fact I find that the larger target points of the virtual keys to be an advantage. 


Make no mistake, this thing is big for travel. That is part of the allure however. I’m traveling to a CIC CIO meeting at the University of Maryland and all I am taking is the iPad Pro. I don’t yet have the Apple Keyboard Case so while in flight I am restricted to typing on the glass. It’s actually not that bad, given the cramped quarters. For full disclosure, I did bring along an Apple Magic Keyboard for the inevitable evening email catch up sessions. 

As an additional test, while I am at the meeting I have to find time in the evenings to finish up a presentation for my advisory board, BCAS. That will push me to create with Keynote, something I usually do on my Mac. I’ve done it before, but leaving a high pressure presentation to being done on a tablet has me a little nervous.  I expect I’ll be able to do about 90% of that work from the iPad Pro, leaving the last mile for my Mac. That is just a guess at this point.

Here are my impressions for this device inflight. The thing is a very good alternative to lugging a laptop and with the built in LTE it is an even stronger travel device. While it is big, it isn’t too big, in fact with a screen the size as my 13″ MacBook Pro, it takes up less room on my tray. The screen is exceptional for writing in the WordPress app as well as playing a game or watching video content. The new multitasking features of iOS 9 make using the Pro a dream compared to a generation ago, but the larger screen makes it even better. I’ve not yet landed, but so far I am enjoying flying with the iPad Pro.

Mobile Publishing

I’ve been playing around with WordPress over the break since the changes the WP team have made to the .com offering. The one thing that has me interested in it now more than in the past is the discovery that I can write in the new .com dashboard and publish to my own, self hosted site. That got me wondering if the mobile app for iOS provided a similar functionality. One of my complaints in the past with my utilization of the EduBlogs WordPress service was an inability to use the actual WordPress mobile app. It always made using WP on the iPad a bit of a pain. If this works, the words you are reading were typed on my iPad Pro in the mobile app that is connected to UChicago Voices via the JetPack plugin.

iPad Pro