iPad - Use Cases and Workflows

iPad - Use Cases and Workflows
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(Justin DiRose) #1

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been an iPad owner since the beginning. I had an original iPad, an iPad mini 2, iPad Air 2, and now the 2018 iPad. My major struggle has been to find a way to incorporate it into my workflow, as I always struggled with that.

As a result, this post is going to serve two purposes: to outline my current use cases for the iPad, and to discuss yours so we can share ideas.

Current Use Cases


Apps used:

I will use Good Notes for taking notes basically anywhere in my personal life. Bear will eventually be the long-term repository for these notes exported to PDF.

OneNote I use for handwritten notes at work. I extensively use OneNote for my job, so this integration works perfectly, versus trying to copy/paste items in, or scan sheets of paper.

Portable Writing Device

Apps used:

Sometimes, when I want to focus away from my computer and do just one thing, I’ll take my iPad and write. Easy as that. The major holdup here is the cramped Bluetooth keyboard I end up using. (Side Note: I use an Ergodox EZ when typing at my desk, and typing on anything else for more than 10 minutes causes my forearms to light on fire.)

iPhone Distraction Access

Apps used:

The idea behind this use case is to offload anything I don’t want to regularly look at on my phone to my iPad. I don’t have as big of a problem getting distracted by Twitter, RSS, or email when it’s on a device other than my phone.

Work Task Management Access

Apps used:

I’ve been playing around with using OmniFocus again, and since I don’t have a Mac for work, I need something else I can use to access OmniFocus. Having it on the iPad is not ideal in all cases, but it works for one: reviewing and accessing my lists, which is what I primarily need it for at work.

What are Your Use Cases?

That’s really all I have nailed down, but I’m interested to hear more. What use cases are you using iPad for?

Do you launch automation from your iPad? Do you heavily use multitasking? How do you do those things?

Let me know in your replies below, and be sure to talk about what apps you’re using and how you’re using them.

(Curtis Spendlove) #2

This is excellent timing. I’ve been thinking through this myself lately. In fact, I was going to leave my laptop home on a weekend trip and just take the iPad, but when I was checking my keyboard I realized it was a Logitech proprietary dongle keyboard. (There is probably a way to get that working with the camera adapter kit, but meh.)

Regardless, when I fix the keyboard issue I’m trying to move as much as I can from my Mac to my iPad. If I can make this work reasonably well I think I’m going to upgrade to a 12.9” iPad Pro.


Project Management (Issue Triage and Assignment)
Code Reviews

These tasks should largely just require Safari (unless certain products have apps—such as Trello). I’m also investigating Working Copy.

Coding (Jekyll blog, Node, Rails)

These tasks require fairly extensive reimagining of my workflow. The largest are that iOS still prohibits most language engines from running on the platform and its file handling is still not fantastic for most development projects.

Working Copy helps quite a bit with the repository management. But there is still no way to natively work with a Jekyll site (due to not being able to run ruby).

So, this requires a server component. I’m experimenting with Digital Ocean droplets and a POSIX-compatible console app (currently OpenTerm and Blink).

This is essentially “connect to a remote server via ssh”. But it works fairly well if you don’t mind vim.

It is not as awesome as a posh local setup with a traditional desktop OS.

(Wilson Ng) #3

Maybe I’m not a power user? My personal computing needs don’t need a high-end workhorse. I typically do office type work. I don’t think I need the full capabilities of a MacBook Pro 13" or even the 12" MacBook.

My use case and workflows center around OmniFocus and Fantastical. I don’t need to be tethered to my desk computer. I can be anywhere on the sales floor and still have access to my appointments and projects.

Ulysses has been very smooth when it comes to writing when I’m on the go.

I have a capable app called Moon Invoices that works on both MacOS and iPad.

The Camera app has allowed me to quickly take photos and incorporate it into my reports easily.

I do have news apps on my iPad but I intentionally turn notifications off. I don’t need to have my iPad ringing constantly for news alerts.

I can also run the shop’s Facebook page with the Facebook Page Manager.

I think the only time I need to turn to my Mac is if I’m creating flyers and advertisements for the shop. That’s when the larger screen works well. But for almost everything else, I can run nearly everything on the iPad.

(Mike N) #4

I use an iPad Pro as a primary device, so sometimes it is difficult to separate out unique workflows.

The driver behind my switch was related to travel and some health issues. Due to some nerve damage I had to reduce the amount of weight that I carry around in a bag for awhile. My day job provides a cinder block mascarading as a laptop. They don’t allow you to bring your own device for a pc, but they do for tablets.

Enter the LTE enabled iPad Pro.

A couple items:

Type to Siri: this in combination with a text expansion program allows you to take advantage of a tremendous amount of automation without getting into Workflow. The main keyboard I use has a dedicated Home button. Holding that opens type to siri. Type in whatever commands, hit enter, hit home again and back in the app I was working on.

Processing Drafts: I use Drafts heavily for capture when I’m out and about on my iPhone. I often dictate while driving. I do the marjority of the processing on the iPad itself.

Ulysses: Ulysses is my primary writing environment, note storage, cold list storage, etc. Nothing terribly exciting there until we consider that my work laptop runs windows. Ulysses has the option to allow you to use Dropbox as a library, which would resolve the issue, except we have a policy to not allow dropbox installation. We can use the service, just not install it locally.

Enter StackEdit.io. This tool allows you to edit text files in dropbox from the browser. There are some setup & use considerations here, but that has been a game changer. It also allows me to segment personal vs. work notes.

Other ulysses thoughts: Cmd+O should be your best friend. Sending an outline to MindNode and having it convert to a mindmap is useful if that is part of your workflow. The folder focus feature is a dead simple way to create an “active” and “archive” setup in Ulysses. Create tags in the text using ‘@‘ vs. keywords to allow you to do partial tag searches & filters.

Reviewing / Marking up files: I review and respond to documents on a frequent basis. I use LiquidText and the Apple Pencil to do the reviews. Incredibly powerful piece of kit. Worth digging into and maybe worth the price of admission of an iPad Pro if document review is a regular part of your life. Leaning back in a chair with your feet up while performing this task is the correct way to do it and not really possible with any other form factor.

Handwritten notes: I use Goodnotes, notability, and Nebo depending on the use case. Goodnotes is generally what I’ll use. I’ll often type up meeting agendas / questions beforehand (putting the text on the Goodnotes page), write notes with the Apple Pencil during the meeting, and then export the text back to Ulysses and / or Quip depending on the context.

Configurability / Form Factor: I commented the following on another topic: Most folks seem to act like they need one perfect setup for this i.e. a specific external keyboard. The beauty is that you have an incredibly flexible form factor. At home / office I have a stand that puts the iPad at eye level and use a bluetooth mechanical keyboard, treating it as a normal workstation. On the go, I have three different keyboard combinations depending on the days expected work. A lot of typing - then I’ll bring a heavier keyboard (like the Ramsem or Brydge keyboards) that effectively converts the iPad into a laptop. Less heavy typing focused work or a need to travel light - the standard smart keyboard cover. Then you add the pencil.

It is the key piece. I also mentally consider my iPhone & iPad one device, just different inputs / form factors.

My home setup looks very similar to Matt Gemmell’s [https://mattgemmell.com/room-to-think/]

SmartSheet: This is the primary project management app we use. Solid iOS application. The main gap here is lack of offline sync.

Quip: We use quip for a variey of collaborative editing situations. The iOS app is solid and syncs offline. The web version allows the embedding of smartsheet sheets, which works well for project tracking. That feature isn’t viewable in the desktop / mobile applications yet.

Multi-Tasking: I use this on a daily basis, similar to how you would have two windows open on a pc. I would caution that one of the inherit benefits of an iPad is the lack of screen real estate, so you are almost forced to focus. Dragging / dropping in concert with shelf apps like Gladys is a pretty common occurrence.

Communication: My four primary forms of work communication are WebEx based calls, skype for business chat, email, and a surprising amount of SMS. Responding to text messages with a full keyboard as if it were any other chat client is a win.

Gif Based Communicaton: I like to keep a large library of appropriate gifs in Copied and tied to a custom keyboard, so I can let other people better express my reaction.

Bonus app - NotePlan: This app doesn’t fit my workflow, however if you want a very simple notes, task, and calendar app all in one, it could certainly fit the bill.

If you are going to be using an iPad heavily, reading MacStories & listening to the Canvas podcast are in your best interest. Federico Viticci is your guru.

What I don’t do on the iPad

Heavy video production / editing: This is about 10% of my role and I’m nearly always at home when I need to do this task. The iPad does have really solid video editing options, however it isn’t well integrated into my day job’s workflow. It is also a situation where multiple monitors has value. I do smaller / simpler videos regularly on the iPad.

Number crunching: When I need to really dig into reports (primarily in Excel), I’m forced back to a pc. There are two challenges - screen real estate and application limitations. The first is obvious, the second is due to the weird decision by Microsoft to not allow you to use certain formulas on the iOS version of Excel. It will calculate if the formula was in the sheet already, but you can’t add the formulas in iOS

Web dev: I’m not a developer by trade, however I occasionally build / maintain simple projects. I do this so infrequently now that I have not invested the time to setup a functional environment. I do write scripts regularly that I just pass over to my pc to implement.

(Justin DiRose) #5

I’ve often had questions about doing this myself. I’ve heard Coda, Prompt, and Working Copy may be a fantastic trio, but I’ve never tested it out. Sad that Apple still doesn’t allow to run Ruby locally. My personal blog is Jekyll as well, and I’ve considered moving away from it simply to have easier mobile management of it.

Let me know what you come up with, as I’m interested.

I think this is most peoples’ use case for iPads unless they’re really doing heavy lifting, like coding or video editing.

I’d be interested to hear more about how you use Ulysses for taking notes. I wasn’t able to wrap my mind around that one. I’ve also never caught on to the mind mapping thing, but the ability to push outlines around like that between apps is frankly amazing.

One item I’ve been working through is a new use case: iPad as Automation Hub.

I’m looking at building out a lot more use for the following apps: Drafts, Editorial, and Workflow. Are there any other major automation app players I’m missing?