Monthly Archives: July 2017

If the 12.9″ iPad Pro is a computer, is it no longer a decent tablet?

Choosing between iPad Pro sizes

There’s a definite trade-off between size and portability when choosing between the two sizes of iPad Pro. The 10.5″ version is lighter and more portable—it’s essentially the same as the familiar 9.7″ model. The 12.9″ version is heavier and has a larger screen, and, unfortunately, has larger bezels as well (it is the same size as the prior 12.9″ model).


The smaller iPad Pro is nicer to hold in your hands for long periods of time. Even more importantly, if you read books on it in bed, where the screen is only about 12″ away from your eyes, as I do, it is easier to read on. Because you can focus on the whole screen at once, you don’t need to move your eyes as much. It is small, but it is perfectly usable for productivity as well as videos and reading.


The larger iPad Pro is, in my opinion, an even better size for getting work done. The 12.9″ screen, when paired with a hardware keyboard, feels like a computer screen for productivity apps. It’s barely smaller than my old 13.3″ MacBook. There is plenty of room for multitasking and slide-over. It also feels even better for handwriting and drawing, because the usable screen area is basically the same size as a standard piece of paper (i.e., A4 or Letter size), which feels natural.


Does the additional size and weight make it less useful as a tablet? In short: yes, but only a little.

The 12.9″ iPad Pro (2017 model) weighs about as much as the iPad 4th generation (about 1.5 lbs), so weight is not really a problem for handheld use, at least when held without a case. Apple’s Smart Cover comes off easily, so you could just take it off to read with for long periods of time, and put it back on when you want to protect the screen. Also, the weight is very well balanced, so you can hold it in one hand comfortably despite its size.

As for reading in bed or in an easy chair, the larger model is slightly worse. It’s more natural to read such a large screen at an arm’s length away, rather than perched on your stomach or thereabouts. The large screen has the same DPI as the smaller iPad Pro, so crispness at that distance is not a problem. It’s just too big to focus on the whole thing evenly, unless it’s about as far from your eyes as your laptop screen normally would be. (This is, obviously, a very small problem in the grand scheme of things.)

It’s easy to have no trade-offs when you can just have both

One reason behind my purchase of a 12.9″ iPad Pro was that I realized that I didn’t necessarily have to give up my old 9.7″ iPad Air after doing so. Sure, it might be the smart thing to get back $100 or so by selling it, or it might be nice to give it to someone else in my family, but it is still worth a lot more to me than it is to somebody else. (I admit, it does help that my kids are too young to care about electronic devices.) This decision made it much easier to go for the larger-sized tablet.

So, if you already have a smaller-than-12.9″ iPad, like I do? Honestly, if you can get away with it, keep the old iPad around for reading and use the new, larger one for desktop use.

Starting a blog in 2017

Why did I start a blog in 2017, when nobody reads blogs anymore?

Simple: I want to own my content.

I want to write posts, and to have something that reflects myself and my work on the Internet. Plus, it’s nice when Google Searches for my name turn up something more interesting than my LinkedIn profile.

I care more about writing right now than reaching the largest audience. I’ve found from blogging in the past that people eventually find your best content; you just have to put it out there. So I’m not going to worry about social networking and search engine optimization. I’m just going to write.

Upgrading to the iPad Pro, generation 2

When iOS 11 and the new iPad Pro were announced at this year’s WWDC, I was very excited and more than a little confused. I was excited because the hardware looked fantastic, and I knew I was going to buy one. I was confused because iOS 11 made me no longer know what the iPad was for.


Long before WWDC 2017, I decided I would use some of the earnings from my iOS app and Mac app (todo.txt task lists, under the name SwiftoDo) to upgrade my iPad Air 2 to the newest model—whatever Apple would release next. I had hopes for a larger-screen, smaller bezel iPad, which ended up being the 10.5″ iPad Pro.

Even though the tech press has decried slow iPad sales for years now, I absolutely love the iPad. I use one for music, podcasts, videos, writing, Twitter, web browsing, and reading at least 8 hours every day. (It helps that I work from home.) I love the screen. I love the touch interface. I love driving it with a Bluetooth keyboard. I love how native apps can deliver a superior experience to web pages. I even love developing apps for the platform.

Since I purchased my 2013 MacBook Pro, I have bought three iPads (not counting the Pro model I was considering) and zero MacBook Pros. This year I was not really due for an upgrade, but I use the iPad so much, I decided it was worth it.


Despite my general iPad Pro excitement, I was also confused, because iOS 11 looked to me like a computer operating system, rather than a tablet operating system. iOS 11’s new app launching dock, file-oriented architecture, and extensive drag-and-drop support gave me the impression that it made the iPad more like the next generation of Mac, rather than a tablet.

This is important because, to me, and iPad is way more intimate a product than a computer. I read on it at the breakfast table and in bed. I listen to music all day at work, and sometimes just have it display a big clock or the blank text area of a note-taking app. These are things I would never dedicate an entire laptop to. But a tablet is small, low power, and low stress.

I installed a developer beta of iOS 11 on my iPad Air 2 to get an idea of how the new UI worked. I also visited my local Apple Store to look at the 10.5″ iPad Pros the day they were released. I actually walked right right past them; the store had replaced all the 9.7″ models with 10.5″ models, and I could barely tell the difference. After a minute I found the 2017 9.7″ iPad (the new budget/consumer model) and a new 2017 10.5″ iPad Pro side by side. The difference in size was more slight than I had imagined. The larger size was obviously an improvement over my iPad Air 2 screen, but it didn’t feel like a big enough difference to warrant an upgrade. I was actually a little upset, because I really wanted to upgrade to the newest iPad, but the 10.5″ model did not seem much better than the iPad Air 2.

A surprising decision (at least to me)

What dawned on me at the Apple Store was that iOS 11 would make the 12.9″ iPad Pro, which I had previously thought was ridiculously oversized, very attractive. With a keyboard, it would be a much better desktop computer than the 10.5″ model. Without a keyboard, and indeed without a case, it would light enough to hold while reading in bed, and not really too large for that either. It would have better software and require less maintenance than my MacBook Pro, and would be a lot more fun to use. So I played with one for a while and decided to buy it.

Now I’m writing this blog post on it, and plan to write more about the other hardware I bought to go along with it, and the changes I made to its software. It’s a wonderful device, and is clearly, with iOS 11 on the horizon, the next iteration of the Mac.

Coding something new

Somewhat to my surprise, I have started coding a new text editor for iOS. I usually have no ideas for new apps. This month, however, I suddenly have ideas for a galaxy of related projects, all of which support the concepts I developed and wrote about several years ago in Plaintext Productivity.

My goal is to write an app that is very simple, configurable (by normal people, not JavaScript programmers), and rock solid, which will be useful for me for planning and tracking things at work. In some small way, I wonder if I am working on something that will end up like Drafts or Editorial, only specialized for people who don’t want to configure anything too much. Even if that’s the case, that’s not such a bad thing to create.


First posts are often hopeful paeans to blogging, and promises to post regularly. This isn’t such a post. This blog is a project, or small set of projects, and that is all. Like all things, this stream of thoughts will eventually run its course.

I was inspired to start a new blog by Manton Reece and Daniel Jalkut, who discuss blogging and Apple programming on their excellent podcast “Core Intiution“. I hope to tie it to sometime soon, once that service launches.

So, here it is. There is more to come.