Sunday, May 15, 2016

Adopting the iPad Lifestyle

I have been very interested in the ongoing discussion about the iPad-only lifestyle on all my favorite podcasts. It has made me think a lot about how I use my iPad and more importantly how I could be using my iPad for more tasks. A few weeks ago I bought a 9.7" iPad Pro with the intention of taking my iOS game to the next level. It has been an interesting experiment and has required me to rethink my usual workflow at both home and work.

The Dev Diary

The first thing to go was going to be my “Daily Dev Diary”. For the last few years I have been printing out a sheet of paper each day for keeping me on task and for keeping track of little things that happen during the day. Each morning I take my notes from the previous day, update the source document and then create the next day. The document has four sections to cover things I want to do over the long term, things I did yesterday, things I have to do today and random notes.

Migrating this process to include the iPad, was pretty easy once I settled on using Good Notes 4 as the primary note for note taking. I start by editing the master markdown document on my laptop and print the current day out to a PDF using Google Chrome. The PDF resides in OneDrive, which I use for all of my work file needs. I open up Good Notes 4 and import the document using the OneDrive integration. Once in the app I am able to use my Apple Pencil to markup the document as I had before. At the end of the day I export the document back to the OneDrive folder and voila it is ready for the next day. It was weird at first walking around with the iPad, but eventually it became natural and I don’t think I could go back to using the paper.

Secretary’s Day

One of my extracurricular activities involves being the secretary for the local youth baseball league, Merrimac Baseball. Due to my recent success with my dev diary, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I immediately ran into a problem with the first step in the process, duplicating an existing iCloud Drive document. I normally take the previous meeting minutes markdown file and make a copy, but there didn’t seem to be an easy way to do this in iOS. I opened up the iCloud Drive app, but it only provided me with a limited set of options. My markdown editor of choice, Byword recently added support for editing iCloud Drive documents, but I couldn’t figure out how to “Save As” or “Duplicate” the files. In the end I turned to Workflow for iOS and created a custom workflow that would let me select an iCloud Drive file and save it somewhere else. It took a few tries to get it right, but now I have it there to use whenever I need to copy a file. Once I duplicated the file it was all downhill from there, because I just used GoodNotes for my note taking.

After the meeting I had to transcribe my notes back into a markdown file, which I did using the new split screen feature in iOS 9. Byword had some problems displaying the full keyboard in split screen mode so that wasn’t great, but I did eventually figure it out. Finally after exporting the PDF to iCloud Drive I had to upload it to the baseball website. At first I wasn’t sure if it was possible, but once I clicked on the file chooser button on the web page in Safari, I was presented with my iCloud Drive directories and quickly found the PDF and added it to the site.

Learning the Ropes

So far the iPad lifestyle experiment has been successful for me because the device is so portable and I have found my original assumption about it being too much work to do things in iOS was flawed. There are definitely times when I have to put on my thinking cap and figure out the iOS way to do something, but in most cases it involves a simple solution, I will easily be able to apply in the future. I look forward to continuing this trend and expanding the amount of things I can do on this wonderful little device.

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