Someone stole my Mac and it was the best thing ever (an iPad Pro love story)

I was young (6 months younger to be exact), I was stupid (well, stupider), and I unknowingly left my MacBook Pro in the back seat of my car.

As I rushed off to catch a show, the last thing on my mind was common sense. After an amazing set, my ears still ringing from Local Natives finishing with Sun Hands, I discovered that my car had been broken into.

A few days later after all the insurance paperwork had been taken care of, it finally hit me that I needed a new computer. This was...

Great news!

For months now, I had been pouring over iPad Pro reviews, going to the Apple Store to hold the new MacBooks, and customizing Surface Pro 4s on the Microsoft site. Although, because my tried and true MacBook Pro was still running fine, this was all just window shopping. But now, a thief had changed my situation...and I was in the market for some new technology.

If you are are considering replacing your laptop with an iPad Pro, this post is for you...

A Shortcut to My Heart

From day one, I was pleasantly surprised by how well keyboard shortcuts are supported by iOS. It made the transition from my Mac to the iPad Pro that much easier. Here are my most used keyboard shortcuts on the iPad Pro.

command + tab

My most used shortcut for quickly switching between apps

command + spacebar

This brings up Spotlight Search and Siri App suggestions which are super useful if I need to open an app that's not already in the task switcher.

command + h

This is the shortcut that takes me to the home screen. I mostly use it when I have finished a Pomodoro session, as a way to visually show myself that it's time to take a break.

In-App Shortcuts

For almost every app that I use now, it's always a good call to press and hold the command key to check what in-app shortcuts are available. Here are some of my favorite app-specific keyboard shortcuts.

Safari: command + n

While nothing out of this world for mac users...having two safari tabs running side by side is amazing!

Anitmation of two Safari tabs side by side on iPad

Pages: command + shift + w

Word Count...a writer's best friend? I use this shortcut to bring up and hide word count. When I'm in a writing flow state, I quickly get rid of word count to increase focus. Then when it's time to edit, the shortcut allows me to swiftly bring it back.

Slack: command + shift + m

Like many other teams that are spread around the globe, at focus booster we rely heavily on Slack. This keyboard shortcut quickly lets me run through all of my @ mentions to stay on top of things.

Gestures

Alongside keyboard shortcuts, I also really like to use the following multi-touch gestures to move around iOS.

Slide Over

Since I currently run focus booster inside a safari tab, I often use slide over to quickly glance at how much time is left in my Pomodoro session.

Animation Showing Slide Over on iPad

Four Finger Gesture

When the keyboard is tucked away, and I want to switch between apps, the four finger swipe is my go to.

Anitmation Showing Four Finger Gesture

Two Finger Cursor Mode

I think of this as the iPad's secret trackpad. When manipulating text, you can pull two fingers down to move the cursor around as if you were using a trackpad on a Mac. I use this feature the most when I'm in editing mode.

Animation Showing Cursor Mode

What a Camera

Compared to traditional computers that lack a rear-facing camera my iPad Pro 9.7" features such a high fidelity camera that it allows me to use my computer in brand new ways.

The app that I frequently use the most with the camera is Scannable. As a student, Scannable lets me quickly digitize any physical handouts I may get in class so that they are never lost. Scannable has also saved me hundreds of dollars on textbooks.

Every two weeks I make the journey to the campus library to check out all of my textbooks and scan the chapters that I need. With the auto page detect feature in Scannable, scanning multiple chapters is a breeze. From there I export a PDF of the scanned chapters to my preferred PDF reader Notability

The Apple Pen is mightier than the sword

When reading, I learn best when I highlight, draw arrows, make diagrams, and write comments directly on the text. With the Apple Pencil and Notability, I can do just that with anything from scanned textbooks, documents, and even websites. No longer needing to print anything out to annotate is just amazing and very environmentally conscious.🌎

Animation of Highlighting on iPad

While I use the Apple Pencil the most when reading, I also use it a lot in lectures. I used to take notes exclusively using a keyboard (I type fairly fast). But after coming across study after study showing that longhand note-taking leads to better retention of information compared to note-taking on keyboards I decided to switch to good old pen and paper myself.

Before the Apple Pencil, this meant carrying a bulky Moleskine notebook and hoping that I would get around to digitizing the notes at a later point. But now the notes go directly into my app of choice.

My three favorite Apple Pencil enabled note-taking apps are:

Apple Notes

This is my default app for note taking as it provides the most fluid writing experience with the Apple Pencil. I use it the most for brainstorming sessions and while I'm at conferences.

Notability

Is my go-to app for taking class notes, because of how easy it is to markup PDFs with the Apple Pencil. Especially useful for classes that provide a PDF of the lecture slides ahead of time. In the dark times before the Apple Pencil, I used to have to print out these slides ahead of time. Now I quickly download them as the lecture is starting. Being a great student has never been so easy!

Evernote

This is where I have kept my personal journal for many years. The integration with the Apple Pencil is not as smooth as the previous two apps, but it's good enough.

Smart Keyboard

The Smart Keyboard provides the best typing experience I have ever encountered. Typing on it feels like something in between popping bubble wrap and typing on a mechanical keyboard. Oh, and the sound it makes... is just perfect.

I hesitate to call the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil "accessories," because they are so critical to the iPad Pro experience. These "accessories" are what really make the device what it is. One has to question the thinking behind Apple's decision not to include these items in the box of every iPad Pro.

Tradeoffs

Here are a few more things Apple dropped the ball with when it comes to the iPad Pro.

Charging the Apple Pencil

Even though the Apple Pencil is by far my favorite part about the iPad, I've never felt dorkier with an Apple product than when I'm charging the Apple Pencil directly from the iPad Pro's lightning port.

A sad iPad

It might be because of my constant use of the pencil, or it might be from the tiny battery stuffed inside its cylindric body, but the Apple Pencil always needs to be charged. My workaround to avoid being the guy with an Apple Pencil sticking out of his iPad is...an Apple Pencil charging dock. Yup, it's a thing, and it's on my Amazon wishlist.

Lack of Mouse Support

I had let this one go for a while, accepting the fact that the big A needs some separation in their product line. Or that mice were so early 2000s? But when the iPad Pro Samsung Edition, err I mean Galaxy Tab S3 was announced recently. I remembered that Android allows users to connect mice. I don't see Apple allowing mouse support anytime soon, but one can hope, right?

Desktop Browser Support

In a perfect world, every website would be able to run flawlessly on mobile. This is not that world. There are three kinds of crappy websites in the world.

1) "I sort of work"

This kind of website may not give you the "full experience" that one is used to. But no worries a simple press and hold on the Safari refresh button quickly converts the website to desktop view.

2) "I sort of work, but I hate Apple"

This kind of website does not play nice with Safari at all. For these, it's time to launch chrome in desktop mode. This usually fixes the problem.

3) "Hey, you coming to my Y2K party?"

These (usually older) websites require launching Puffin browser. Which tunnels me into chrome running in a virtual machine. Puffin deeply integrates with iOS and allows me to upload files directly from iCloud Drive.

It's All Good Baby Baby

Even with the setbacks, nobody is perfect after all; the iPad Pro remains my favorite computer of all time. Actually, at this point, it has transcended "computer." It truly just feels like a blank canvas that can transform into just about anything.

iPad Scrolling Through Apps

Just don't leave it in the back of your car.


Thank You!

First of all, thank you for making it to the end of this article. Each of you makes it possible for me to continue writing about productivity.

As always If you liked what you read, please share this with two people in your life who also enjoy the masochistic ritual that is procrastinating on work by reading about how other people work.

Also a big thank you to CGP Grey and Mike Hurley for inspiring me to give the iPad Pro a shot. Check out their podcast on being productive while self-employed.

Lastly, I want to announce that the much-requested iOS version of focus booster is just around the corner! Click here to find out more!