iPad Pro – Desk Setup

I love me some iPad Pro! I already enjoyed using it for the majority of my computing, but I was also using an awesome 12″ MacBook (2016 – max specs) along side the iPad. I recently had a strange issue come up with my MacBook. The battery started acting weird (Battery showed full before hitting 100% and shutting off before reaching 0%) and didn’t seem to be charging. This turned out to be a defective battery 1. Long story short, rather than getting my MacBook repaired, I ended up with a gift card for the full value of my MacBook. The process took about a week and during this time, I was using my iPad Pro for 100% of my work.

After receiving the Gift Card, one would assume that I would order a new MacBook. However, historically this is the time of year when new Apple Products are announced and it has been a good amount of time since new laptops were released (with the exception of the MacBook). Due to this timing, I really have to wait and see what may come in the laptop arena at the next Apple Event. Because of this, I am going to sit on the gift card and just go all iPad all the time!

Apple Gift Card
Apple Gift Card

Using an iPad for all my work meant my desk setup needed to change a bit in order to fit this new setup. So here we go with what I am doing for an iPad Only Desk Setup!

What iPad Pro Am I Using?
Size: 9.7″
Color: Rose Gold
Wireless: WiFi + Cellular
Storage: 128GB

Attaching Stuff
Logitech Base: This is the piece of the puzzle that transforms your iPad from ‘mobile’ to ‘desktop’. This handy little dock holds your iPad at a good angle while at your desk, and removes the need for using a Smart Cover as a stand. It also has charging capability through the Smart Connector which makes it not only easy, but leaves your Lightning port free for other uses. Simply sit down at your desk, pop in the iPad (it has magnets to align everything) and you are good to go! You can also now sit the iPad + dock on top of something on your desk to bring the iPad up closer to eye level.
Apple Pencil: Possibly the best feature of the iPad Pro. Definitely the first hand writing instrument to actually feel ‘right’ on a digital device.
Game Controller: If you like games and like using a controller, the SteelSeries Nimbus is the one to get for mobile iOS gaming.
Apple Magic Keyboard: When typing a lot, no mobile keyboard will ever compare to a full sized keyboard. This is my favorite bluetooth keyboard out right now. (The only keyboard I like more is the 2016 MacBook)
Apple Smart Keyboard: When you need to be a little more portable, but still want to type a good amount, this keyboard / cover works great. No external power needed and ultra portable.
29W USB-C Charger: Good fast charger for the iPad. Bonus if you use a 12.9″ iPad, this charger will speed charge that device!
USB-C to Lightning Cable: Pairs with the above charger, and gives you good range for charging.
Bose Headphones: When you need to block the world out, no one’s noise cancelling tech is up to the level of Bose. With these headphones now being Bluetooth as well, they are a must buy.
HDMI Out Connectivity: Whether you are giving presentations or sharing video content, this little dongle gives you HDMI out plus the ability to charge simultaneously.
Dealing With SD Cards: Importing photos? No problem. This dongle allows you to import direct from SD card to your Photos library.

Charge Status Dashboard
Charge Status Dashboard

  1. The FruitJuice app gave me a heads up on this and showed that the battery was going bad even when the system info showed it as being healthy. The degraded health level matched what the Apple Store showed after they ran a system test. 

iPad Pro: Medium or Large?

Some asshole (Thanks San Francisco) stole my iPad Pro 12.9” (along with ~$3,000 of other gear) last week. ☹️

I ❤️ the iPad Pro so much and use it heavily in both my work and personal life, so replacing it as soon as possible was a must!
Stolen iPad: 12.9” iPad Pro – Gold – 128GB – WiFi
Replacement: 9.7” iPad Pro – Rose Gold – 128GB – Cellular
*There wasn’t a 256GB option when I got the 12.9” at launch, but after using that device for the time I did, I found 128GB to be a good size for me, and I didn’t feel the need to get the newly available 256GB option.

Why the change? There are a couple of reasons:

  1. After dealing with a bunch of different MiFI devices, I decided that ultimately, having cellular built in was a more convenient option. And, with the Apple SIM that comes in the iPad now, I can switch carriers around as needed for signal strength purposes or travel. One other really important factor with cellular is that an always on connection makes Find My iPhone much more useable. My stolen iPad never showed up on WiFi so I couldn’t make use of the feature unfortunately.
  2. The 12.9” screen is absolutely wonderful for split view, watching video, and when using it as a surface for hand written notes using the Apple Pencil. The problem is that using a device that size can be a bit unwieldy. It’s not really possible to type on the device if you are standing, but you can quite easily with the 9.7”.
  3. A byproduct of getting the the 9.7” option is that it’s a little bit cheaper than the 12.9” configuration. This made the jump to the cellular model a bit easier to stomach. Plus, this gave me a little extra money to go toward replacing some of my other stolen stuff.

Both of the devices are really great, but they each have tradeoffs, and most of the tradeoffs are directly related to their physical size. I don’t regret my decision so far, and do find myself pulling out my iPad more often now that it’s a bit easier to wrangle. With the 12.9” I would default to my iPhone unless I was in a situation that lent itself to using the large device (e.g sitting somewhere with a flat surface in front of me). With the smaller iPad Pro I can now use my iPad in more situations. Either way you go (9.7” or 12.9”), you are getting a kick ass powerhouse of a computer!

MacBook + iPad Pro

The iPad Pro 12.9” is a fantastic device that replaces much of what I might need a “traditional computer” for. As I used the iPad Pro, I found it replacing a lot of tasks that previously were done on my 13” MacBook Pro. I still had both devices though, so if needed, the MacBook Pro was not out of reach. Well, at least until that one day…

I was sitting at the airport on a Monday morning, heading out for work travel that would be a full week on the road. As I sat at the gate typing on my iPad Smart Keyboard, I came to the realization that I forgot my MacBook Pro on my desk at work, when I left the previous Friday. Because I have my iMac at home, I was in the habit of not bringing my laptop home from work unless I needed it for travel. Except for this particular week, I guess!

I wasn’t terribly concerned that I would be without a laptop, but who knows what would come up during the week. Even though I use my iPad Pro A LOT, I have always had my trusty OS X available just in case. Not this time!

Time to find out if it was possible to use only iOS for work and personal stuff for an entire week, and while on the road. This is about the most extreme test you can do, so let’s see how it turned out.

While on the road, I have a wide variety of things I need to accomplish, and here is how the iPad Pro did in each area.

Email: I really like doing email on the iPad. Big full screen mail.app to plow through the stack of mail that accumulates throughout the week.

Conference Calls: We use Zoom for conferencing, which is fine, but their app is not updated for the large iPad Pro, so the interface is kinda wonky.

Video Edits: I didn’t need to edit anything video related on this trip, which is good because I really need to look into this as a capability of the iPad Pro while I have Final Cut Pro around, before I dive into the deep end on this one.

Photo Edits: iOS has a really nice selection of photo editing applications for almost every occasion. I generally need to work on product photos for work, and for that I use the awesome Pixelmator.

Document edits and creation: I love me some Pages, Keynote, and Numbers! Unfortunately, I have to use Word for a lot of documents, because of Word specific features. The good news is that Word on iOS is actually better in many ways than Word on macOS.

Project Management: I track all my own tasks using Wunderlist. For tracking and managing projects at work with teams we use Teamwork which does have an iOS app, but I prefer the web browser version since that is what I use on the Mac. This works well enough in Safari on iOS.

Watching videos: The iPad is basically the perfect device for watching vidoes! Also with the new picture-in-picture mode, I can watch videos while still working on other things.

Listening to music and podcasts: I use Apple Music and this of course works great on any iOS device. For podcasts, I go back and forth between different apps. I have used Overcast, PocketCasts, and the Apple Podcasts app. I am currently using the Apple Popdcasts app because I subscribe to a mixture of audio and video podcasts, and this lets me have both in one app, and gives me the ability to sync my podcasts between every device I have.

TelePresence Calls: MyMeetingVideo App is my only option here, but it works! Great for testing calls with room endpoints when needed.

Downloading files from medical devices: I used a Lexar JumpDrive M20i that has both a standard USB connector and a Lightning connector.

Downloading files from CD: Nope, not happening even a little bit.

Bottom line, there is still plenty of room for both iOS and macOS in my life, so here is what I ended up doing:

In the end, I decided to replace my MacBook Pro 13″ with the second generation MacBook 12″ (maxed out specs!!) This gives me the best of both worlds. I now have my 12” MacBook + 13” iPad Pro. This is a really killer combo for me, and also because they are each so light, I can carry both of them without even noticing.

Using The iPad Pro: Keynote Presentation Advancer

I have been moving more toward using my iPad Pro as my full time mobile computer, both personally and at work. Every so often I come across an activity that is not easily done on my iPad. I give a lot of Keynote presentations and love using my iPad pro for this. The problem however, is advancing the slides. You either have to walk over to the iPad and tap the screen, or use the Keynote remote app on the iPhone or Apple Watch, both of which I have found to be awkward and unreliable.

Enter, the Satechi Aluminum Wireless Presenter. This advancer uses bluetooth rather than a USB dongle to communicate wirelessly, and can be used with tablets and computers alike. It has a minimal sleek design and is very light weight, making it comfortable to hold for long periods of time. It has the features you would expect from a device such as this; forward and back controls, as well as a laser pointer. The laster point is red and not the best one I have ever used, but it gets the point across.

If you would like to present from your iPad, this is a solid and inexpensive way to do it.


Using Apple News.app

RSS has been my news collection and curation tool since the beginning. Throughout time, RSS as a technology has been pretty stable and it was the job of the reader applications to bring features to the curation. At it’s core, you add feeds to a list and then those feeds are checked on a schedule, and this allows you to view many different sources of information from a single entry point. As time went on, we got better tools to help shape the way we were consuming the information from a rapidly growing set of data. For the most part, RSS works very well, but it does have some downsides. The biggest one is simply the shear volume of information that is available and having to parse through it all. I have filters and rules to aid in not viewing duplicates from multiple sources, but too often I still ended up with the Inbox “1000+” problem. This would often result in a click of the “Mark All As Read” button. At that point why even bother with it at all?

I looked at alternate means of staying informed when it came to the topics that interest me. I tried Nuzzle as a single source, but found it to be too hit or miss. I looked at Flipboard, but found the interface and navigation not to my liking.

Finally I looked at Apple News which was recently launched with iOS 9. Apple News caught a lot of flak when launched as not being that good. Truthfully, when I first looked at it, I didn’t really find it appealing. Then I realized the problem. People were opening the app, finding that it wasn’t showing them the exact news they wanted, closing it, and saying it sucked. However, Apple News is just like every other news app in that it doesn’t read your mind. I sat down and spent about 30 minutes getting the feeds added that I enjoy most and looking through the “Explore” section to add things I may not have known about. After doing this small amount of work to get it customized to my liking, I found Apple News to be a really great interface for keeping up with stuff that interests me.

Apple News is currently only on iOS, so there is no way to view items on your Mac. At first I immediately marked that as a con, but it has turned out to not affect me, personally. Outside of work, my primary computer is my iPad Pro, so it makes sense for me.

It definitely seems that for some reason if an application comes preinstalled on a device, it is somehow held to a higher standard and should be exactly perfect for your exact needs out of the box. If you download an RSS reader app and don’t add feeds, it isn’t very useful either. Of course, Apple News is not the end all be all News consumption app for everyone, but, what is?

If you were curious about how Apple News might work for you, take a couple minutes to get it setup with your likes and see how it works out!