My Blogging Workflow: iPad, Ulysses, and WordPress

I took two days off work and got two YouTube videos out…this trend is unsustainable, but I’ve loved doing it! This video was shot on a OnePlus 6 (I’m using the iPhone next time) and edited in LumaFusion on the iPad.

And as promised in the video, here’s the shortcut I use to take the selected text, page title, and URL and create a new sheet in Ulysses in seconds: New Link Post Shortcut.

So, About that Original Apple Pencil Design

Me, 7 months ago:

Now I’ll admit, the Pencil can look a little silly when it’s sticking out of the side of the iPad when it’s sitting on its side, but it comes with some serious benefits as well. Let’s take a look at Apple’s options for charging the Pencil and see how they stack up.

I wrote that article in defense of the first Apple Pencil’s charging method. Yes, it looked silly, but when considering the other options people bright up, I didn’t see those being better. I still stand by many of the things in that piece, but I wrote it with the perspective of the old iPad Pro design.

Regular wireless charging was brought up, but the tech to make the wireless charging coils we have in phones work in the Apple Pencil were impractical and using the existing smart connector didn’t work because (a) you couldn’t charge as you typed, (b) all cases covered the smart connector so you’d need to take any cases off, and (c) the sides of the iPad were too rounded to make the Pencil connect securely.

I didn’t like the other solutions presented, but I did end up suggesting this:

The way I see making this work is for Apple to release an iPad Pro with 2 Smart Connectors. One is on the left side and one on the right. This would let people connect their keyboards either way, and use the second connector for their Pencil. This also assumes the iPad and Pencil are updated so that the Pencil can make a solid connection when laying down on a table. It also assumes that Apple puts some super powerful magnets in the side so that the Pencil stays on there securely.

I was actually super close! They did add a second connector (not a smart one, though), they did change the iPad Pro sides to accommodate this, and they added some super powerful magnets to make it stick securely. My biggest miss was thinking that Apple wasn’t going to do this.

So anyway, I stand by the idea of the first Apple Pencil having good (or at least good enough) design considering the limitations of the previous iPad Pro hardware, but I’m happy to see Apple make the changes to both the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil needed to make the product better. I will not argue the old method was better than the new one, but I do think it was better than many people give it credit for.

Related, people aways talked about the old method as making it basically guaranteed that the Pencil was going to snap off the iPad because it was pointing out so far. Did this actually happen to anyone or is it just something that could theoretically happen but never did?

It’s Almost Poetic

November 19, 2015: My Next “Mac” Could be an iPad – BirchTree

I am due to upgrade my Mac in 2016 sometime. I was looking at the 13 inch MacBook Pro ($1,499) or the 5K iMac ($1,799), but now I’m thinking the iPad Pro ($949) might be the best upgrade I can make. Not only will it let me work on the platform I prefer, but it will cut my investment nearly in half. I’ll just keep my Mac mini running for all the little things I still need it around for. It’s an exciting prospect, and I’m very happy that we’ve gotten to the point where I can seriously considering upgrading my Mac with an iPad.

It’s been almost exactly 3 years since that post, and it’s kind of funny to look at today in 2018. I ended up balking on the iPad Pro then and got a MacBook Pro.

Today I’m selling that MacBook Pro and will use the cash I get from that to buy the latest iPad Pro, and that Mac mini is still kicking and will continue to serve the role of “backup Mac.” It’s interesting how these things go.

Apple Computer Sales Since 2015

Apple separates out Mac and iPad sales in their earnings reports, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that the iPad is a computer, so I decided to combine the company’s Mac and iPad unit sales numbers together to see how their actual “computer” sales have done over the past few years.

The result is relatively flat, and actually displays a slight downward trend. I’m not a financial analyst, so I’m not going to suggest I know what this means, but it’s interesting data. One would hope that number was increasing, but it’s does not seem to be the case right now.

The iPad Excels at Long Form Writing

Using iPad for Long-Form Writing - Joe Cieplinski

So why, then, am I typing this with a mechanical keyboard on my iPad? Well, because I discovered that for prolonged periods of typing, where I want to do nothing else but type thousands of words for a blog post, a combination of Apple’s Magic Keyboard and iOS can actually be a better choice than my MacBook Pro.

I was using the Magic Keyboard with my iPad Pro, but recently switched to the Smart Keyboard and am quite happy.

The Smart Keyboard is really satisfying to type on (fight me 😉) and benefits from being built into the case, which makes the iPad + keyboard feel more like a cohesive unit than a loose Bluetooth keyboard. I was also frustrated by the fact that I had to manually turn off the Magic Keyboard every time I took the iPad away from the keyboard. Otherwise, the keyboard would remain connected and the virtual keyboard would not come up when I needed to type, even though the keyboard was in the next room. Since the Smart Keyboard only communicates over the smart connector, it disconnects immediately when I pull it off the iPad.

Advancing the iPad

What I Wish the iPad Would Gain from the Mac – MacStories

The iPad is already proving a formidable Mac-alternative for some users – what happens if it continues closing the gap by adopting the Mac strengths I've listed? If the iPad offered support for multiple instances of an app, was available in a more diverse array of hardware, allowed apps to get things done persistently in the background, was home to Xcode, Final Cut Pro, and Logic Pro equivalents, and became a proper shared device with multiple user accounts – why would people continue using the Mac?

This is a great collection of suggestions for the iPad. What I like about this list is it is very achievable. These are not pie-in-the-sky suggestions, they're as realistic as anything we'll see from Apple at WWDC this fall. I look forward to seeing how many of these turn into reality this summer.

Holy ****, the iPad Pro

About one month ago I got an iPad Pro. It is my third iPad, after owning the original iPad in 2010 and the iPad Air 2 in 2014. After much deliberation, I decided the 10.5” model was right for me, as the 12.9” was just a bit big for my uses1. After a month with this thing, and finding I spend almost no time with my MacBook Pro anymore, I can safely say “holy ****, the iPad Pro is a beast!

First up is speed. There is nothing I can throw at this thing that it does not do basically instantly. I was a little apprehensive about getting an iPad with an A10X processor when my iPhone has a newer A11, but those fears are (at least for now) unfounded. The A10X is blazingly fast, and all the apps I throw at it run perfectly. Whether it’s editing a podcast in Ferite, editing RAW image files in Lightroom, or multitasking with up to 3 apps on screen at a time, the iPad Pro keeps up. As many have mentioned before, the bottleneck on the iPad Pro is software right now, not hardware.

Another part of the iPad Pro I love is the Pro Motion display. For many years, we described 60fps animations as the buttery dream all software should strive for. Now with the 2017 iPad Pros, 120fps now feels like the benchmark, and my god is it nice. I mentioned above that the iPad Pro has a one generation older system on a chip than the iPhone 8/X, but the iPad Pro often feels even faster than the iPhone because of the fluidity of the animations. Seriously, it is an absolute joy to use a computer with everything moving with this level of fluidity.

Finally, despite all it’s flaws, iOS 11 is a game changer for the iPad. The dock is a great addition, and the multitasking view is miles better than what we had last year. The split screen options are better than ever, not only because the zippy iPad Pro loads multiple apps with ease, but because you can now more easily manage your multiple apps, and you can even have a third app on screen at a time with a swipe in from the right gesture. I use this all the time and it makes me treat the iPad more like a computer built for getting things done than ever before. I’d love to see Apple continue to move the needle this year with iOS 12, but the advance we got last year is fantastic, and Apple should be credited with making the iPad leaps and bounds better than any other tablet computer.

The iPad Pro is not for everyone, but it feels like it was made specifically for me. It’s a marvelous machine, and one that I can’t see giving up any time soon.

  1. I need my iPad to be great on a desk, but also for lounging on the couch, and the 12.9” just felt a little too big for the later use case. 

Computers, iPads, and other computers

An interesting take by Matthias Breuer on what we call a “computer” these days:

[W]hat makes a device a “real computer” is not its day-to-day versatility. It is the ability to write your own apps and even extend, modify or replace the underlying operating system on the device itself - which requires a degree of access to the system that iOS simply does not provide. Sure, the iOS App Store may have an app for whatever you need to do. That’s convenience. But on a “real computer” you could write your own code, that hooks into any level of the system, to do anything you could dream of doing. That’s power. You may argue that your typical user (or even very technical users) may never avail themselves of this power. That’s undoubtedly true, but beside the point. It’s irrelevant to the semantics of a “real computer” whether any given user has the skill to fully use it or the inclination to learn. What matters is that the potential is there if you want it.

This piece was written in part as a response to my What is a computer? article from last week, and while I think Matthias has an interesting argument, I don’t feel like this addresses the argument I made in that piece, it just changes some nouns.

The piece talks about the separation of “general purpose computers” and “computer appliances.” Windows, macOS, and Linux computers are classified as “general purpose computers” and iOS and Android computers are classified as “computer appliances.” If we accept those classifications, them my argument changes to “general purpose computers are becoming less and less compelling options for most people and computer appliances will continue to grow.”

I personally don’t really care about this distinction because it turns a practical discussion of what actual people will buy to accomplish their tasks into an esoteric debate about the meanings of very specific words.

Getting hung up on people calling an iPad a computer because you can’t unlock the bootloader, can’t access the file system with root permissions, can’t run Xcode on it, and can’t install Linux on it are arbitrary benchmarks that only impact a tiny minority of people. These are things that I would guess 99% of PC people never do, and that 98% of people didn’t even know they could do. Not to say that those things are not useful to some, but if you’re trying to help someone decide whether to buy a Lenovo laptop running Windows or an iPad Pro running iOS, the arguments above will have no impact on nearly all computer purchasers.

To argue about the name we give these computers is to have a totally different conversation, and I’m not entirely sure what it accomplishes. If a person has $1,000 to spend on a new computer, I’m 99% sure that issues of bootloaders and root access won’t come up because they’re not something people even want in a computer in the first place. The few people that do want or need those features will continue to purchase “general purpose computers” but most people will realize that they don’t need those features and they never needed them. That is not besides the point, that is the entire point.

My thanks to MDM Deals for sponsoring BirchTree this week! MDM Deals helps you find fantastic deals on fantastic apps & movies. As a particularly fantastic deal, Daisy Disk is on sale for $5.99.

My Mac workflows that will never, ever work on iOS

It's high time I acknowledge my web development workflow will never work on the iPad. Likewise my video editing workflow will never work on iOS at all, nor will my podcasting process. Unless Apple forsakes some of the major pillars of what makes iOS so great in the first place, these workflows of mine will never work on iOS.

Ah, that feels good to get off my chest!


I also think that I will be doing all 3 of those things on iOS exclusively on iOS within the next decade. No, not because iOS will finally offer a traditional file system, deliver the multi-window UI of macOS, or because it will allow apps to be installed from anywhere, but because there will be better workflows on iOS; workflows that are simply not possible on the Mac.

It's important to look back at history to see how this has happened over and over again as new computing paradigms come into play. Mobile operating systems iOS and Android were essential drivers in the rise in social media apps. Twitter was puttering along until the iPhone came along and brought Twitter to the phone. It made sense on the desktop, but it was perfect for your pocket. Facebook was successful years before the smartphone, but today 91% of their users use mobile, and 54% of Facebook users are exclusively using it on their mobile device. Likewise, Instagram and Snapchat have taken off as exclusively mobile services. Instagram has a worthless website for viewing your feed, and Snapchat simply has no web UI at all, and yet these are two of the most popular services in the world.

Focusing more on productivity, phone/tablet-based email has taken over, task management is often easier from a phone or tablet than a PC, digital art, and word precessing for many people is easier and better on iOS than on macOS/Windows. There are plenty more examples, but we'll leave it there.

Going even further back in time, you can look at the conversion from DOS to Windows, which had the same sort of heated debate we're having today. "Professional" users and "serious" people said that the GUI was nice and all for arty stuff, but real work needs the command line. People still use the command line today, but how many people do you know who do all their work in there? The answer is ZERO. Some people (basically only developers) use it for some things, but most work happens in GUI apps that people once said could never handle real work.

So when I say my web development, video editing, and podcasting workflows will never work on iOS, that doesn't mean I'll never do them on iOS, just that no one has yet to devise a workflow that's better than what I have today. Some of this is due to limitations that Apple has put on iOS developers so they can not make the tools we need to replace these older workflows, but a big part is simply a lack of anything thinking up a totally new way to do these things well. From where I stand, it's not a matter of "if" but a matter of "when."

The Difference Between iOS and macOS

Matt Gemmell has been using the iPad as his only computer for a month.

Most of all, the iPad feels like a tool. The MacBook is much more like a machine, that needs maintenance and expertise. I feel like, on the MacBook, I need to learn how to do something; looking for this configuration, or for that app — monolithic units of capability.

I love this breakdown, as it perfectly sums up something I have tried to vocalize many different ways. In some ways the maintenance is part of the appeal of the Mac (and Windows, for that matter), as that's how you can unleash the full potential of the platform.

"Power users" can tweak and dig into the cool things on a desktop PC, but I would contend that the vast majority of people can do more with an iPad than they can a Mac.