Friday, February 3, 2023

Touchability, Productivity, and Portability — Pick Two

Federico Viticci:

In simpler terms: what happens if you prefer the Apple ecosystem for UI and UX but you’re feeling hamstrung by it at the same time?


The problem is that an iPad, at least for people like me, isn’t supposed to be a companion to work that happens somewhere else. It is the work. And ultimately, I think it’s fair to demand efficiency from a machine that is supposed to make you productive. I feel this every time Stage Manager doesn’t let me place windows where I want on an external display; every time I can’t place more than four windows in a workspace; every time I can’t record podcasts like I can on a Mac; every time a website doesn’t work quite right like it does on a desktop; I feel it, over a decade into the iPad’s existence, when developers like Rogue Amoeba or Raycast can’t bring their software to iPadOS.


Maybe this has been true for a while and Stage Manager was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. You can’t separate art from the technology, but, at the end of the day, there’s also work to be done.

Jack Wellborn:

It’s foolishly optimistic to think that Microsoft or even Apple can make pointer interfaces as touch friendly as iPadOS without also destroying the very thing that makes them more productive than iPadOS — information density. Smaller controls means these platforms can disclose more information and interactivity to their users at once. That’s why a bunch of windows on even a 11″ MacBook Air feels natural while only four windows on a “large” 13″ iPad feels ungainly.

Conversely, it’s impossible to make iPadOS more information dense without sacrificing the very thing that makes it the best tablet OS — touch friendliness. iPad users want more information on screen because that will help them be more productive, but the only way to present more information in iPadOS without sacrificing touch friendliness is a larger display. Not only is a larger display not portable, iPadOS’s support for larger displays still sucks. There’s nothing Apple can do about large displays not being portable, but better support for larger displays? That’s a problem Apple can solve.


Update (2023-02-21): Jack Wellborn:

The lesson to take from this half decade of disappointing iPadOS and iPad Pro updates is not that the iPad platform is fatally flawed and that Apple needs to jump ship to macOS for its pro tablet OS. It’s that Apple’s been trying to solve what increasingly seems like an impossible set of constraints — touchability, productivity, and portability. It’s foolish to think Apple or anyone can move those same constraints and demands to a different platform and assume a better outcome. I am all for adding touch support to Macs, but that won’t satisfy the dreams of iPad Pro users who want the same touch first experience found on their iPads today. Furthermore, overhauling macOS to create a touch first experience would only introduce the same problems found on iPadOS today, and if that’s the case, then what’s the point?


8 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

Why does Viticci complain that the iPad isn't a Mac instead of just doing the logical thing and buying a Macbook Air?

Frederico Viticci finally coming around to the fact that the iPad isn't a full blown computer.

12 years late to the party.

"it’s impossible to make iPadOS more information dense without sacrificing the very thing that makes it the best tablet OS — touch friendliness"

You don't really need to touch the information, though. Leave the interactive bits big, make the information more dense. iPads have smaller screens anyway, they would benefit from more information density.

@Plume: In most productivity apps that I am aware of, the whole point is to manipulate the information, which on a mac involves clicking on it, and on an ipad, touching it.

Federico quest to prove that the iPad can be a good substitute for a MacBook to get actual work done was always a headscreatcher to me. Once you need to work with lots of text from different apps, touch interfaces just fall apart. It works Ok if you attach a keyboard. But then why not just use the MacBook instead 🤷‍♂️?

Also multitasking and working with multiple apps at the same time on the iPad somehow never clicked with me. I almost exlusively use it in full screen mode as a consumption device. The only exception are slide-over apps that hover over the main content. Those are actually quite useful to make quick notes of a few words or to answer a message.

In other news, square peg doesn't fit in round hole.

The iPad *is* a professional device for productivity; just not in exactly the same way as the Windows/macOS/Linux desktop or laptop PC that we’ve been used to. It’s not suited to certain professional tasks like software development or music making (if you’re used to a powerful DAW like Logic, with plugins and automation). You *can* write software and make music on it, but the experience is not great: it’s like wading through treacle.

But the iPad is used extensively by airline pilots and doctors, two very serious professional use cases that are not well served by even a light laptop. All said, though, it was designed as a user-friendly content consumption, and light creation, device – and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s almost like it fulfils the Mac‘s original purpose of being “a computer for the rest of us.” And if you need a ‘traditional’ computer OS, you should just use one, and not stress about wishing the iPad was something it’s not meant to be.

The Mac and the iPad are equally respectable tools for different contexts of work.

The Mac is like having a full garage, workbench, storage and the capability to wire in every tool you could ever imagine. You can do anything with the tools that best fit your skill and tastes, and if you know those tools may be far more productive... But you might be tethered to doing your work just there, or having to labor to bring the right tools to a worksite when you have to travel.

The iPad is a modular multitool that can transform to nearly any tool, but it might not do every task as efficiently as the ones in your shop (if you can afford the cost and space of maintaining a shop), and you might have to learn to do things in more opinionated ways than more generalized tools.

Getting away from the metaphors... I carry a recording studio, a movie studio, a print shop, a unix terminal, and nearly every other computing-task I could imagine, plus a huge library with a screen that's great to read on, in a single couple-pound slab of glass.

I can't locally execute code from every language, for the rare times the onboard cell isn't enough to send code for execution, but I have local implementations of python, ruby, Lua, javascript, clojurescript, scheme, and swift that will all compile and run with reasonably full featured standard libraries and in most cases have device-specific libraries to extend the hardware/OS.

I can't use generic VSTs in GarageBand, but there is an extension library and a TON of instrument/effect apps that use it, and I can plugin a portable USB midi keyboard, or adapters for 1/4" plugs on my guitar(s), and play through it.

Affinity's new graphic design suite gives me access to every tool I have for art on the desktop, with the addition of the pencil for detail work...

Not everything works the way I've done things on the desktop, but if I am willing to bend to use the tools there's barely anything I *can't* do.

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