Unintentionally Moving My Workflow to iOS

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 2 min read

I've been pondering the iOS-only lifestyle for years now. I originally went 100% iOS in 2011, when I took a week off from my Mac and did all my work on an original iPad. It didn't go great in 2011, but this has gotten easier over time. iOS has gotten more robust, and improved hardware has made working on Apple's tablet more practical every year.

Earlier this year I wrote a series of articles on how you can do real work in a few different categories, and the results for each scenario was basically "yes, but there are limitations." But now just 6 months or so after trying to move my workflow to iOS, I find myself doing more work than ever on my iPhone and iPad and less on my Mac. And I didn't shift to my work based on a desire to write a blog post, I did it because it naturally happened after I got a keyboard I loved.

Now that I have a nice keyboard, writing is more enjoyable on the iPad. SO much so that my macOS copy of Ulysses is mostly sitting unused these days. My email and support workflow is all on the iPad and iPhone now too, with Airmail being a super powerful mail app that I find more useful than anything on the Mac. And then old standbys like web browsing and media consumption remain great on iOS.

But then there's my white whale: web development. I love iOS and think it's incredibly powerful, but it just has not been there fully for my needs. On my Mac I have Atom as my text editor, which is infinitely extendable, so I can make it behave basically exactly how I want. I have MAMP which allows me to run my sites locally and develop them them on my Mac, knowing they will behave the same on my server. I use the Chrome's incredible developer tools to help debug my code as I go, and I use Safari, Opera, and Firefox to test cross-browser functionality. And I use the Terminal to SSH onto my server so I can modify files, run my Sass compiler, and manage a few server-side components.

This flow has never worked on iOS, but I was on the couch a few days ago and wanted to do something really quick on my site and decided to give it a shot on the iPad I had in my lap.

I used Coda for iOS to connect to my server via SFTP βœ…, SSH'd into my web directory to install a Node module and run my SASS compiler βœ…, wrote a bit of CSS and PHP βœ…, and uploaded all changes to the site when I was done βœ…. I sat there for a second after doing this, realizing that this was just as fast and easy as it would have been on the Mac. Admittedly, there are aspects of my workflow that don't translate to iOS yet1, but what I'm able to do today with very little friction is quite impressive.

  1. Mainly a local server environment and source control options. Not to mention it's just a bit cramped to do everything on a 9.7 inch screen. My Mac's 23 inch monitor is a more comfortable work environment for longer sessions.