I’ve been running an iPad Pro as a travel device for about six months now and I though I would make a quick post that details some of the ways i’ve added it into my workflow and a few of the apps that I use on a daily basis.
I’ve had a few iPads over the years ranging from the first iPad in 2010 and an iPad mini 2 that has served as my travel entertainment device for a long time. After toying with the idea for some time I decided to opt for the 11 inch iPad Pro (https://www.apple.com/uk/ipad-pro/) as a replacement for my old and tired iPad mini, but also perhaps something that could serve as an in-between when I was in confined spaces (planes/trains) or didn’t have my laptop.
The iPad as a piece of hardware is pretty incredible and with the removal of the home button has oodles of screen real-estate. The Face ID functionality has been flawless for unlocking and payments, however the camera is in a bit of annoying place when using the iPad in landscape mode. The number of times, i’ve held my iPad by the side and accidentally obscured the camera I can’t count.
The battery life has been pretty stable and with moderate usage and 4G the iPad will quite happily last the entire day with plenty of battery to spare. Additionally with the inclusion of USB-C I can charge the iPad with the same charger as my MacBook Pro in a very short period of time. One additional feature that has been very useful is the ability to use a USB-C to lightening cable and have the iPad charge my iPhone whilst on the move.
Finally, the Smart Keyboard Folio works as a fantastic keyboard for a good few hours of typing and makes using the iPad a lot more like using a laptop (along with expected keyboard shortcuts e.g.
command-Tab). The one complaint with the Smary Keyboard is that it only protects the front and the back, however three sides of the iPad have no protection so it’s quite easy to aquire scratches and marks.
The small form factor means that the iPad can be used quite comfortably even on the most budget of “budget flights”, the image above is from a Ryan air flight where I happily could edit various files.
My day to day technology stack is pretty average for most enterprise companies and luckily there exists pretty good replica iOS applications for the iPad:
- Office 365 apps (Outlook)
- Google drive app / Google docs
All of these are “good enough” for medium-to-light usage when a laptop and the “full fat” application isn’t present.
My typical day-to-day tasks usually require the management and usage of a variety of remote systems, there are a few native utilities on the iPad that really make this easy. Two of the best applications for this are by the same developer (https://panic.com/) and it really shows that they know what they’re doing when it comes to different types of remote workload.
For handling SSH into various remote servers, I’ve found that Prompt is pretty much unbeatable for handling stable connections for various servers. It also provides a fantastic UI for managing multiple connection information for being able to re-connect to saved sessions upon restarting prompt.
Coda could perhaps replace Prompt as it does support SSHing into remote hosts, however its main focus is being able to access a remote host over SSH/SFTP to provide a great way of manipulating files on the remote filesystem through the Coda UI. I typically use if for editing both markdown files and various source code files, Coda provides the capability to provide source code highlighting based upon the file extension and more importantly (for markdown) a preview function that will render certain files. Once a file has been opened the first time within Coda it can be edited and saved locally (on the iPad and within the Coda app) and can then be saved back to the remote file system once connectivity is restored.
I would love this to eventually become a native application on the iPad, however until then the only option is to access Visual Studio Code through a web browser using (https://github.com/cdr/code-server). Once code-server is up and running the iPad can access it through the safari web browser, however there are a few things that can make it a little easier to use:
To access Visual Studo Code in full screen on the iPad it will need adding to the home screen. Open code-server in safari and press the button next to the address bar, then navigate to the “Add to Home Screen” button. This will now create a button on the iPad Home screen that will open code-server directly with things like the address bar hidden, providing Visual Code in full screen.
When typing in Visual Studio Code iOS will keep popping up a bar with commonly used words and shortcuts that can limit the screen real-estate. To disable this open Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts (disable).
For accessing either my macbook or hackintosh VNC Viewer with the “Bonjour” capability makes it fantastically easy to find macOS desktops that are being shared through screen share. The VNC Viewer tool is perfectly designed for use with the touch screen with “pinch” and scroll and makes using a full desktop pretty straight forward.
I presume that “Sidecar” will remove the need for an additional app (https://www.macrumors.com/2019/06/06/macos-catalina-sidecar-limited-to-newer-macs/) but currently the Duet application has been pretty great for turning the iPad into an external display for my Macbook. The performance is fantastic for the software having to handle all of the external monitor functionality, although it sometimes will take a few app restarts for the iPad to appear as a second display.