Posts about iPad

Capture One iPad Preview

Over the past four or five years, I’ve gone back and forth between Lightroom and Capture One many times with my photography work. I find C1 takes me a little longer to work with, but I often prefer the results I can get with it — especially with regards to colour accuracy.

That’s why I was curious about their recent Capture One for iPad preview. I’m impressed with the work they’ve done on the UI. It’s clearly early days — this is still a preview — but I’m more interested in editing with this on iPad than I am in editing with Lightroom CC.

What that preview video confirmed for me is that I just don’t like working on iPads. I watched as David danced around the iPad UI and couldn’t stop thinking about how much faster all these edits would be on my Macs.

So Capture One for iPad looks very impressive. I have a lot of questions still: how are photos synced? Where are they stored? How can I manage the synced photos and edits between machines? Does this work well for catalogs, or is it meant for sessions? Etc. It’s exciting progress, though. My congratulations to the Capture One team for thinking out of the box and designing a UI that is specifically tailored for a touch interface. 

But now I have a different question, unrelated to Capture One, but very much related to the iPad: For years, my assumption was that the software was holding back the iPad. But with software like this, the software won’t be the problem. The problem is just that my human fingers are not as precise or fast as a dialled-in mouse or trackpad.

If Apple announced a new version of iPadOS that somehow fixed all the issues I have with file management, window management, and other productivity features on an iPad, would I want to use an iPad? 

I’m starting to think I will always prefer the mouse-and-keyboard paradigm.

Can I use an iPad Pro for professional creative work?

Every year around this time, just before Apple unveils the latest versions of their operating systems at their annual developer conference, I like to re-evaluate whether or not I can use my iPad to get work done.

The iPad Pro is really a perfect portable machine. It’s small, insanely light, and easy to use in almost any situation — even tight plane seats. You can even get a cellular-equipped iPad if you want consistent and reliable internet when you’re away from a wifi connection. (And the new Magic Keyboard is a wonder.)

I really like using my iPad, and I always wish I could use it to get more work done. And every year, I ask the same question: can I use it as a laptop yet? Can it be my only portable device?

There are a lot of people I know, follow, and admire who use the iPad as their only machine, or as their dedicated portable device. I trust each of these people; they each represent a different class of person who is well-suited by the iPad’s strengths. They are writers, photographers, and entrepreneurs. The iPad is great for those people.

Writers are blessed with the iPad. There are more writing apps for the iPad than I could count. It is the best writing device I have ever used.

Photographers can almost complete their whole workflow on an iPad. With apps like Affinity Photo, Photoshop, and Lightroom on the iPad (and the USB‑C connection on the latest iPad Pros), it’s never been easier to use the iPad for photography[^1].

And for entrepreneurs, it’s easier than ever to use the iPad as your only computer. It’s great for project management and email, and the cellular model makes it easy to manage your business anywhere.

For many people, the iPad is all they’ll ever need. But I am a designer, photographer, and writer who codes websites. This adds several wrinkles to this setup.

Somehow, the iPad is ten years old, and there still isn’t a great web design app available. Sketch and Figma are noticeably absent from the App Store, and Adobe seems uninterested in porting XD to the iPad.

On that note, we don’t have any great print design apps either. InDesign does not exist for the iPad. (I use InDesign on my Macs all the time.) Its competition, as limited as it is, isn’t on the iPad either. Publication design and professional page layout on the iPad is a non-starter. 

Even if InDesign or its competition arrived on the iPad, those apps require so many other simultaneous computing contexts that I’m not sure an iPad experience would ever be great. (I often have Photoshop, Finder, Illustrator, and InDesign open at the same time, all working on the same publication.)

Speaking of Photoshop: while you can edit photos with an iPad, I’m not sure anybody should manage them with it. The only DAM available for photography on the iPad is Lightroom. If you use Capture One, DxO, or any other alternatives, you can’t manage your photo library on the iPad. I’m currently a Lightroom user, but I don’t want to be bound to Adobe because of my hardware. (I’ve been considering Capture One for some time now.)

This isn’t necessarily about avoiding Adobe’s subscription fees. I am happy to pay for the tools I use to make a living. But as a working professional, I don’t want one option from one company. Competition breeds creativity and makes all the tools better. Philosophically, I don’t want Adobe to ever be the only option.

Finally, it’s also difficult to get web development done on an iPad. It’s not impossible, but without a desktop-class web inspector, and without local virtual machines or code compilers, the job becomes an arduous series of gotchas. (And the desktop-class Safari” on iPad works until it doesn’t. Without hover states or anything else we take for granted on a PC, the internet is a lot harder to use.)

Most people do not have jobs with requirements like mine. I’m sure many people can use an iPad every day for all their computing needs. And I’m sure there are some people in my situation who choose an iPad, and jump through its hurdles to use what is admittedly a more tactile device. 

But I just want to get work done. 

The real problems are edge cases. Many small tasks take much more effort on an iPad than they do a Mac. 

The other day, I made some quick edits to a Markdown document for a client. I needed to export the document as rich text and attach it to an email. This takes two clicks on my Mac; on an iPad, I had to fumble around for a few minutes until I got it done. 

My sister is a teacher. If she needs a new machine, she could very well use an iPad. However, if the website she uses to track student attendance and report grades doesn’t work on Safari in iPadOS, then it’s moot. She won’t install iCab to get the job done. She’ll be rightly frustrated, return the iPad, and get a Mac instead. 

I love my iPad. I genuinely like using it. I wrote this post as a way to talk myself into using the iPad more, but it slowly morphed. Here’s my basic problem, in a nutshell: if it’s faster to accomplish basic tasks with my laptop, I’d rather use that. I remain impressed by folks who use the iPad for their work every day, but for people like me, the iPad makes enough tradeoffs that I don’t think I could make the switch.

You can throw all the Magic Keyboards and Apple Pencils you want at this thing; it doesn’t make it any better at running the tools I need to get my job done.

[^1]: Because Lightroom CC relies on cloud storage, I’m not sure most professional photographers could rely on the iPad as their only computing device, but it can certainly be the mobile solution.

Affinity Designer comes to iPad

Holy smokes, this looks amazing. I don’t do a lot of design work from my iPad, and I think I might be too reliant on Typekit to make this work, but Serif has put an incredible amount of polish into this app.

If you want to get a good overview of what this desktop-grade design tool is capable of, check out the tutorials. It’s insane.

I still can’t do design work on an iPad

Last week, Apple made a big splash with its latest iPad offering, the iPad Pro. Featuring a massive screen with insanely high, pixel-perfect resolution, a nearly-perfect don’t-call-it-a-stylus digital pencil, and an incredible amount of computational power than surpasses the overwhelming majority of laptops in the wild, the new iPad should be a no-brainer for a creative professional like myself. I want one so badly. But I still can’t use it for work. 

With that explosive, perhaps controversial lede out of the way, I should clarify: I think a growing number of people can use the iPad for work, particularly with the split-screen features of iOS 9. If you tend to work a lot in the Office suite and send a lot of email, I think the iPad could easily replace your laptop. 

But for the creative pro that Apple is pitching this to, I think it’s a dud. 

To begin with, there’s a dearth of applications in the creative industry for the iPad. Adobe has made a couple, but they’re designed for mobile and meant to get us started with our ideas. If we want to finish them, Adobe is pretty clear that we need to do so in a desktop application. You still can’t run Xcode on an iPad. You still can’t make a proper mockup on an iPad. 

Part of the problem is the App Store. My preferred mockup app on the Mac, Sketch, won’t be coming to the iPad any time soon. Emanual Sa explains:

But the biggest problem is the platform. Apps on iOS sell for unsustainably low prices due to the lack of trials. We cannot port Sketch to the iPad if we have no reasonable expectation of earning back on our investment. Maintaining an application on two different platforms and provide one of them for a 10th of it’s [sic] value won’t work, and iPad volumes are low enough to disqualify the make it up in volume” argument.

Yikes. I don’t believe that app trials would fix everything, but I think it’s time Apple threw developers a bone. Unsustainable software businesses won’t entice great software developers to invest in your ecosystem. 

The other problem is that iOS is still a sandboxed environment. You can have a great app like Coda running on iOS, but it’s pretty limited: no external servers, limited language compilers, etc. I spend a lot of my day coding in text editors. When I can’t do half my work on a device because there’s no possibility of an app in that product category being available for it, that’s very constraining.

With all that being said, even when there is an app available for iPad that I could use in my workflow, I’m not sure I want to use it. 

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with the beta of an app called Protosketch. It’s similar enough to Sketch that I can get some work done with it. But doing some of this work without the precision of a mouse is cumbersome, particularly on my first-gen iPad Air (whose single gigabyte of RAM is really beleaguered while running the app). The larger iPad Pro might make it better, but it’s not worth spending $1,000 to find out. 

If you want my hot take on when iPads will kill off desktops, it’s pretty simple: desktop computers lose their usefulness when the software available on the iPad becomes more valuable than its hardware. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I hope the iPad Pro helps spur us along. Like I said, I want one.