After spending much of 2022 and 2023 not using my iPad that much outside of watching YouTube videos and running Zwift for bike training, I’ve started to make the move back to using the iPad as my primary writing and RSS consumption place. One of the issues that had me move away from the iPad as a regularly used computing platform was my speed issue with Obsidian. I’ve managed to solve the lagginess of Obsidian on iPad now so I’m back to researching and writing on my iPad.

Another big change with the iPad in 2023 has been with Stage Manager and the fact that it works now. I still wish that I could add a new window to the space I’m currently working in without needing to remove my hands from the keyboard, but that’s a minor gripe in the face of how poorly Stage Manager was executed prior to iPadOS 17.

One other big change came later in iPadOS is how it handles audio. For a long time I had to run a special Shortcut to get my iPad to play audio to my speakers if it was plugged into an external monitor. Now you can send your audio to any source you want, from the iPad speakers to AirPlay sources to the monitor. Realizing that this change had come to iPadOS was the final straw in reducing my frustration with the limitations of the operating system and getting my to start using my iPad far more than I had been.

My Setup

One of the features of my iPad desk setup is the VESA mount I made years ago for my iPadPro. I have my iPad mounted on my left side so that I can use my Apple Pencil on my iPad screen when a pencil input is the most efficient for the work I’m doing. The VESA mount hasn’t changed at all from the first one I made and it still works flawlessly.

My monitor is the LG UL27500, which I’ve reviewed in the past. I actually have 2 more of these on my desktop workstation. No it’s not the fanciest monitor out there, but it is a nice monitor and after years of using them I have no complaints.

As I write this my keyboard is the 8BitDo Retro keyboard. While this keyboard looks cool, once I review it I will stop using it and it will become a piece to go on my bookshelves. I’ll talk in a bit about the keyboard upgrade my iPad desk needs.

For a trackpad I still use the Apple Magic Trackpad in black. Over the years I’ve tried other pointing devices for the iPad and Apple simply makes the best ones. They’re so far ahead of the competition that I haven’t bothered to try a new pointing device for my iPad in at least a year.

To connect devices I use the CalDigit Element Hub attached to the back of my VESA mount. I’ve had this for a few years and it just works all the time. I still have free ports and this does everything I need so I don’t see switching it out any time soon.

To get ethernet into my iPad I use a USB C Ethernet dongle. Mine is from a company called Insignia, but I recently had cause to swap USB C ethernet dongles around and the spares I had from UGreen worked just as good. Without the ethernet connection I get around 100mb down and 50mb up. With the ethernet connection to my iPad I get 250 to 300mb each way.

Things to Improve

For 2024 I do plan some upgrades to the iPad desk setup, specifically around the keyboard. My all day keyboard for work is the Moonlander, and over the past decade I’ve spent far more time on ergonomic keyboards than on standard keyboards. As I’ve been typing more on my iPad I’ve found that any of the standard keyboards I have make my wrists fairly tired during work sessions over 30 minutes.

I just received my Glove80 to test on my main desktop work area so my Moonlander will get a dedicated home on the iPad desk now.

The other keyboard I’m interested in is the Voyager from ZSA. It doesn’t tent as much as the Moonlander, but I’m hopeful that it will be enough to help out with my wrist discomfort. At the very least getting my hands directly aligned with my shoulders will alleviate some of the poor ergonomics that typing puts on me. I’ve also seen 3D printed parts that would allow for more tenting, and the Voyager has tripod style mounts available which would really let you customize the position of the halves of the keyboard.

Outside of that, I have no complaints with my setup though I do have some accessories that I’ll be trying out to see if I can optimize my iPad setup. I’ve purchased a Lab22 Infinity Adjust iPad stand to try different positions, specifically mounting my iPad below my main monitor.

I also just purchased the Brydge Max+ keyboard to test how I may feel about a revamped iPad keyboard that may have a more laptop like function as reported in the Apple rumour mill.

I will take a look at any new iPad Pro that Apple releases in 2024 though. I have a 12.9” M1 iPadPro and while it works fine I’m interested in trying an 11” iPadPro. It would be just as powerful as the 12.9” counterpart if Apple holds true to their current configurations, but it would be a better tablet because it would be more portable. Since I have a desk with a large monitor to use with my iPad, I sacrifice little productivity by using a smaller screen.

What I Do with my iPadPro

Finally, what is it I do with my iPadPro? Mainly I write and research on it. I answer a few emails, but my main work of web programming isn’t suited to using the iPad. In the past I have shoehorned the iPad into a web development station, but I’m tired of forcing it to be a device that it’s not really.

What the iPad is best at is being a very capable desktop replacement for many jobs and being a modular computer. I love being able to take my iPad to the chair in my office so that I can write away from my desk.

The other thing I’m thinking about getting back to on my iPad is editing my videos. The first year or two of my YouTube journey was edited on the iPad with LumaFusion. Then I had some frustrations with the software so I moved over to Final Cut on my Mac Studio, then tried Davinci Resolve. Now I mostly use Fedora on my Framework laptop, and while kdenlive works on my laptop, it’s not nearly as nice as any of the other tools I’ve previously used.

I’m interested in trying out Final Cut on the iPad, though I’m not all that interested in a subscription to use the application. I do a lot of the production of my videos during capture via OBS Studio or eCamm Live. Often I’m doing little more than some audio clean up and cutting out bits where I made a mistake, that doesn’t take powerful video editing software so I’m going to try LumaFusion again and likely give Final Cut on iPad a try.

Overall, after a few years of not being excited about where the iPad was at, I’m very excited about what the future holds for not only the iPad Pro, but for the entire iPad line. In many ways it feels like it’s finally starting to hit it’s stride for professionals that want to make the iPad their only device.

2 responses to “iPad Focused Desk Setup for 2024”

  1. Dan Binns Avatar

    It’s always super interesting to see how others are set up; this is particularly true for this post as I’m starting to realise how central the iPad is to everything I do that *isn’t* my day job. Keep up the great work Curtis!

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Thanks Dan. I also always enjoy seeing how others have their setup. Federico’s iPad modifications, which was published this week at MacStories, are always interesting if over the top for me.