September 21st, 2020

Apps That are Better on iPad

I regularly get asked why I reach for my iPad as much as I do. What apps and tasks are “better” or “easier” on iPadOS? Today I’m going to walk you through the apps that make me long for my iPad when I’m on macOS.

If I’m trying to do any of the tasks that these apps perform while on my Mac, I feel handicapped by macOS and set free by iPadOS.

Productivity

Shortcuts

The most obvious app that gets me on my iPad is Shortcuts. Yes macOS has Automator, Keyboard Maestro, Hazel...and many other automation applications but none of them feel as intuitive as Shortcuts does. I have tried all the macOS automation options and always had trouble with them. From getting them running, to having them break every few weeks...they were a pain in the ass.

On my iPad I have Shortcuts to automate pulling markdown into a format that Google Docs likes. I automatically send myself and a my wife medication reminders for our children. I build my YouTube description and pull links out of a markdown document. I duplicate projects in TickTick...and many other things.

When it comes to automation, I reach for my iPad every time.

iA Writer

My preferred writing app is iA Writer. Sure it offers a macOS version, but it feels much harder to use than the iOS variant. Specifically, it’s much easy to move files between folders on iOS than it is on macOS. iA Writer doesn’t expose the folders that you’ve told it to monitor in a way that makes it easy to move files from my “Writing” folder to my “Edit” folder on macOS. In iOS, I long press (or 2-finger tap on my trackpad) and then select move and the folder I want to move to.

Yup, this is possible on macOS, but it always feels like walking through sand to make it happen with iA Writer on macOS.

TickTick

My task manager of choice is TickTick, which has a few key features available on iOS that don’t exist on macOS.

I have a course on TickTick on SkillShare if you want to learn how to get the most out of your task manager.

First, the day view in TickTick let’s you “resolve” appointments on your calendar. This action removes them from the things you have to attend to for the day. On macOS, they sit in the view of your tasks for the day amidst any tasks you scheduled leading to a more cluttered interface.

Second, and a much bigger deal, is that TickTick’s own project template structure doesn’t exist on macOS. Yup you read that right, you can’t create a task template or use templates in TickTick on macOS. You need to head to the web, or iOS, or Windows or Android to use templates.

Finally, as I’ve already mentioned, you can take TickTick automation much further on iOS by using Shortcuts. This functionality doesn’t exist on macOS.

Editing Media

Affinity Photo & Affinity Designer

It’s been years since I used Adobe apps at all, and I’m happy to not have a stupid bill every month for an app that is 99% full of features I don’t need. Instead my “big” photo editing application is Affinity Photo. If I need any illustrations I reach for Affinity Designer.

I’m waiting expectantly for Affinity Publisher to get an iPad version which should be coming sometime in 2020 according to statements made by Affinity staff in their 2019 live event. We’ll see what happens to that timeline with world events, but to be able to design a brochure on iPad or a book...dreams.

As it stands, I never reach for my Mac when I have photos to edit or graphics to build.

Darkroom

The second piece of my photo editing workflow is Darkroom. This app integrates directly into your Photo Library on your device and allows you to correct pretty much anything you want in your photos. Need to change the tint, not a problem. Adjust white balance...easy. A quick crop...done with a bunch of presets for sizes that are common.

LumaFusion

The final creative app I reach for almost daily is my video editor of choice, LumaFusion. While you may see some screen captures on macOS, they’re all pushed out to my iPad for editing and posting on YouTube. Every time I have to render anything on my Mac (maxed out Mac Mini with 32GB of RAM from 2019) I grumble at how much slower it is than my iPad Pro (2018 12.9” 1TB). Many times I’ll start a render out of Screenflow and while that runs I’ll import footage from my 90D, render the audio out to Brusfri. Run Brusfri to kill extra noise in my audio. Then I’ll render the video and audio together into a single unit with the good audio in 4k.

Given all that time to render a screen recording, I’ll still be waiting for macOS to finish giving me a 4k screen capture.

Consumption

Music and Sonos

Unless I’m recording you can expect some type of music playing in my office. Even when I’m doing video editing, I have music playing softly in the background via my Sonos One (Gen 2).

Yes, macOS should be able to play music to this via AirPlay. In daily use, the integration sucks. It’s full of latency and dropped audio. Sometimes it plays for 20 minutes fine and then thinks the audio is playing fine but silence comes out of the speaker.

I have no idea why this happens, but it does. The best way I’ve found to fix this issue it to play the audio out of my iPhone or iPad via AirPlay to the speaker. This connection almost never has any issues.

Unread

I read a bunch of RSS feeds, and the best way to do that is Unread 2. As I said with Unread 1 and then 2, this app has become the one that I use as the gold standard for reading experience. Any other RSS client I test I try to mimic the reading experience that Unread provides, and I haven’t been able to match it ever.

Add to that, stellar keyboard support and a great experience and you have the only RSS client I want to use. Sometimes I open my feeds on macOS, but it’s never the place I want to read.

Things I Didn’t Mention

One big thing I didn’t mention was Blink Shell. Yes I code lots on my iPad, but I SSH into a server and use Vim there to code. That means my coding experience on macOS and iPadOS are the same. While I do value tho mono-tasking setup that iOS provides because it means I’m less likely to get distracted, the coding experience is the same on both platforms.

There are other coding tasks that are easier on macOS, but we’ll save those for another post.