Can I really replace my computer with an iPad Pro? My Experiment

Today will be an experiment on working only on an iPad Pro for one day.  I am going to attempt to do everything I would normally do on my laptop, but on the iPad Pro.  I am using a 12.9″ iPad Pro and as I type this I have it plugged into a Logitech base and am using an Apple Bluetooth mouse to type.

Job One – log into Sametime

Easy enough.  Once logged in I pressed the home button to go back to the home page knowing that Sametime is running in the background.

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Job Two – Checking email

This is an easy one.   Using the split screen view in the iPad, I can type this document while
looking through the email and working on it.
I prefer using Apple’s mail client rather than IBM Verse client because I can more easily move emails into a folder, and it makes better use of the larger screen on the iPad.
The other nice things about the Apple mail experience when moving emails to folders is that it offers you the last folder you used as a default, which means if you are just doing some tidying like I am, then its quite productive.
If have also noticed that applications which support split screen view maintains the split ratio – I.e.  I have Evernote in a 1/5 width window at the right hand side, with mail currently taking up the remainder of the space.  I am going to now do my telephone expenses, and because Safari supports this split screen view, Evernote stays in place and Mail is replaced with Safari.

Job Three – chatting on Sametime

Sametime doesn’t support the split screen experience, so I need to switch to use it exclusively on the screen.  It’s also not optimised for the larger space so the text is large, but it is still usable and seems to work well.  It just runs in the background most of the time and a notification window pops up if someone sends me a message.

Job Four – Creating a Presentation in Keynote

I am trying to not use Microsoft products as we seem to have become so dependent on them that the world is now blind to other better solutions.
I tried to use Connections Docs to create a presentation but the response speed in Safari on the iPad is poor and its a very frustrating experience.  Keynote, on the other hand is of course designed for this task, so we’ll give it a go.
I’ve found it easier to group all the productivity apps together in a group on the dock of the home screen, than have them spread all around on different pages.  I say this because although it obviously makes life easier that you don’t need to remember where everything is, when you ALT-TAB on the iPad you can now select the home screen but it always takes you to the first page.  Putting all your productivity apps in a group on the dock makes it much easier to quickly get to the apps you want.
Selecting a template was easy, but I thought I would have a problem with graphics.
I wanted to paste a picture from Google Street Map into the presentation, so I went to Safari and found the image I wanted.  I used the Screenshot facility of the iPad (Home + Power) to capture the whole screen and then used the image template slide in Keynote.
I tapped on the image and used the Paintbrush icon at the top right to change the image and adjust the mask so that only the part of the image I wanted to display will appear.
Managed to do all of the presentation, which admittedly was mostly text-based, using Keynote.  It’s not quite as quick to use as PowerPoint on a desktop computer, or probably Keynote on a desktop computer, but I got the job done and as it is my first attempt at this it’s probably OK.
I have tried out the instant collaboration option with Christian Guedemann to see if he can co-edit the document while I am doing it – so we will see if that works.
I am sure a few more practices with Keynote and perhaps also using the Pencil will make graphic manipulation a bit easier.

Job Five – Sharing Files (from Keynote)

It was easy to share a copy of the Keynote as a PDF or a PPT to Box, by clicking on the Share a Copy option:
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Job Six – Updating the look and feel of the Keynote presentation

I wanted to add a nice graphic to the background of my black slides, but could not find a way, having made my presentation to change the background or similar.
I also had a pre-existing image on Box that I wanted to use.  I found Keynote made it easy to add a graphic.  By default it wanted me to pick from the photo library, but you can choose “Locations” and then choose “box” and navigate through it to find what you’re looking for.
Having found the graphic I wanted to make it darker and make it the background to the slides.  I couldn’t find a way to make it a background, but tapping on the graphic and then using the paintbrush, I was able to move the graphic behind everything else and adjust the opacity to it went dark.  Copying the graphic in that state to the other slides was easy, and the nice thing was that each time I pasted it, it put the graphic to the back and kept the opacity settings.  This is not the most efficient way of achieving the result, but it works.
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Job Seven – Checking email, the weather and my schedule

I decided to try the Hey Siri option on the iPad to check a number of things without leaving the set up I have running.
After training it to hear me say “Hey Siri” I then asked:
“Hey Siri, what’s in the news”
“Hey Siri, when is my next appointment”
“Hey Siri, what is the weather like”

Job Eight – Add People to the Hackathon Community

I got a couple of emails from people who want to take part in the Hackathon on Monday.  To do this I need to use Safari as the connections application on iOS does not let you change the membership of communities.
That seemed to work quite well too, as I switched from having Evernote in the side bar to having email, and opening Safari, so I then had both the community membership and the email addresses I needed in the one place:
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This work highlights that there are some shortcomings with the Connections application, and that for the most part its better to use Safari.  The downside of using Safari is that the user interface is quite fiddly for a finger to use.  I’ve found using the Apple Pencil to work on websites seems to achieve a happy compromise, although I confess I really miss using a mouse or touchpad with the iPad, like you can do with devices like the Google Pixel C.
In terms of performance, the iPad has worked flawlessly all morning.  Nothing was slow, or stuttered or anything like that.  Jumping to a website on the IBM Intranet worked seamlessly and listening to music, etc in the background with the iPhone headphones (wired variety) that you get with an iPhone 6 means that you get comfortable headphones, decent sound but you can still hear what’s going on around you.  I tend to use my red Beats in-ear headphones when travelling but these completely isolate the sound so that you can’t hear yourself speaking.  The Apple ones, while quite willing to fall out of my ears if I move around are so light that you barely notice them being there, plus you can still hear what is happening in the room.

Job Nine – Preparing for a WebEx Web Meeting

I have a presentation to give later today so I wanted to make sure that I was ready and knew what I needed to do to be able to present from the iPad.  Basically it turns out that all I need to do is share my content, which I have uploaded to Box.  I have saved the presentation I was working on in Keynote as a PDF and thus will share the PDF with the people who attend the web meeting.
As normal with WebEx I will use Computer Audio as the voice means of communication, and I can also ask it to record the session, and download the results later.
I’ve also changed Bluetooth keyboard from the newer “flat” key keyboard with the USB charging port to the older double AA battery type.  For me this is a much nicer Apple keyboard and I can type on it faster and more accurately.

Repetitive Strain

My neck has started to hurt a bit, looking down at the iPad screen.  The Logitech stand I am using only permits one viewing angle, which is has been fine so far, but I am noticing that the back of my neck is starting to get a bit tense.  For this afternoon I have put the iPad on top of a laptop table I got at IKEA.  This brings it up to a much better angle for viewing and also makes for a better angle with the FaceTime camera.  I need to lift my hands further to tap the screen, which is not so great, but funnily enough, I have found that I can actually work with the keyboard under the laptop table, letting my arms stretch out a little more, and have the iPad at a good distance for reading.
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Job Ten – Presenting in WebEx

WebEx is really good on the iPad and although at first it seems a bit sparse in terms of functionality, it is actually all there.
I was initially having some problems getting the presentation I had shared from Keynote as a PDF and uploaded to Box to appear as shared content in WebEx, but I found that the better approach is to:
  1. In Keynote select Send Copy To,
  2. Choose PDF
  3. Choose WebEx
  4. WebEx then comes up, and asks if you want to share the content.Choose yes, and bingo – there it is.
Another nice feature with WebEx is that it too supports split-screen view.  That means I can be presenting on one side of the screen and taking notes on the other
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The web meeting went well enough, but there seems to be no option in the iOS version of WebEx to find recordings you’ve made.  Trying to open the IBM WebEx site website with Safari redirects to the WebEx application.
I have had to open my laptop to get to the IBM WebEx website which then lets me download the recording, which was sitting there all the time.  That’s a bit of a pain and I will try using Chrome or Firefox on the iPad to see if I can get past this restriction.
Installing Firefox lets you request the desktop site and then you can access and download the recordings.  Safari doesn’t seem to allow this.
The trouble with using Firefox more frequently is that the IBM VPN set up through the F5 gateway seems tied to Safari – and not any browser.  Thus, Firefox can’t reach inside the intranet for simple things like single sign on.  In some areas, like Box and WebEx the single sign on function seems to be outside the firewall and hence it does work.  But if you want to access, say, Connections Cloud, you will need to either use the mobile app, or Safari as the authentication needs an intranet connection.
It seems a strange omission from WebEx that you can’t access your recordings from the mobile application.  Funnily enough IBM’s own Connections Cloud Meetings application lets you do this easily.

Job Eleven – Print out itinerary and boarding passes

The British Airways website has a useful feature where you can print out your itinerary for upcoming flights.  I like to leave a paper copy of this at home so people can easily locate me if needed.
Thankfully our very cheap Canon MX530 printer is AirPrint enabled, so simply hitting the “Print” button on the BA website brought up all the details I needed and I was able to print out my itinerary.  No drivers, no hassle.

Job Twelve – Record a voice over for a presentation

On a Mac or PC I would use QuickTime Player or Camtasia to record me speaking when doing a presentation, so that the end result was produced as an MP4 file.  I couldn’t find any option in PowerPoint (bah) or Keynote on the iPad so I had a look around to see what else might be able to do what I wanted.
I came across the free Presentation Recorder https://appsto.re/gb/nPAOW.i which does exactly what I am looking for.  You send the presentation from Keynote (or any other application) as a PDF and Presentation Recorder then displays it.  You move through the pages by tapping on the right hand side of the screen and it records you speaking as you go.
I found the best results by using my trusty iPhone headphones again.  The result is saved to the camera roll as an MP4 file which is easily opened in iMovie or anything else to allow editing.

Job Thirteen – Write a document to accompany slides

Split screen view to the rescue again here.  I opened Keynote on the left hand side, and Pages on the right – works just fine on the big screen iPad Pro:
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Job Fourteen – Grab a graphic from a page and tweak it so I can use it elsewhere

I wanted to use the icon graphic used in a community on Connections Cloud as a folder icon, but for some reason was unable to simply tap on it and save the icon as a graphic.  So I decided instead to do a screen-capture (Home and Power).  This drops the screenshot into the photo library.  I then reached for my other trusty killer app – Pixelmator (Pixelmator by Pixelmator Team
I have Pixelmator on the Mac, and it seemed sensible to get myself a copy for the iPad.  Opening Pixelmator, I was able to open the photo library, get the screenshot then use the crop tool to reduce the whole screenshot to just the icon I wanted:
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I then saved it back to the photo library and was able to use it elsewhere.

Job Fifteen – Write a complicated blog post for Connections Cloud

In the run up to Connect 2017 I wanted to write a blog post which would appear on the day I was doing my announcement about the curriculum for NewWayToLearn.  I want to do the work now and then have the post automatically appear after I have delivered my presentation.
The Connections mobile application has a nice blog editor, but I couldn’t find a way of postponing the publishing of the post without posting it, and then going into Safari to in-post it and set a date for publication.  If I did this, it would negate much of the benefit of using the mobile app.
The alternative therefore is to directly edit the blog entry in Safari like I would using my Mac.  The trouble is that Connections Cloud is quite heavy for Safari to run as a full screen desktop-style application, and while it works its a bit slow and of course the user interface is designed for a mouse, not a big thick finger jabbing at the screen.
I also prefer these days to apply my rudimentary HTML skills to the formatting of the text I write for blog posts.  I find our own built-in editor puts a lot of redundant (from my point of view) formatting information in.  Thus, I usually edit my posts outside of Connections Cloud In a text editor and then create a new blog post, change to HTML view in Safari and paste all the HTML in.  That way I get a consistent result.
To create my HTML I used Textastic (Textastic Code Editor 6 by Alexander Blach
https://appsto.re/gb/1LLI-.i), but there are other good HTML text editors for the iPad out there, such as Coda (Coda by Panic, Inc.
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Writing a blog post this way might be a bit much for some people, but it works for me.  The result:
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On the road to making the above blog post I needed to access a spreadsheet me any my colleagues have been working on as a shared spreadsheet in Connections Cloud.  Some colleagues have been editing it in Docs online, others downloading, editing in Excel, and then re-uploading.
To get to the file I opened the Connections Mobile app again, and navigated to the file in the community it lives in:
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Great – so let’s tap on the spreadsheet and open it in Numbers so that we can do some editing.
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Hmm.  Why? It’s the IBM CIO who has set a policy for Connections to act this way.  Your implementation will not do this! So I opened Connections Cloud in Safari, navigated to the same place and downloaded the file, saving it in Box.
IMG_0018
Why have we imposed an artibitrary restriction on our own application?  I can easily work around it and bypass whatever security concern that caused it to be put there, so why not just lift it?  If we want more IBMers using our own products, we need to get sensible about the security policies deployed which seem to penalise our own products.

Job Sixteen – The last one and a failure

My last job was to download the responses collected on Forms Experience Builder for people signing up for the Connect Hackathon.  Despite my best efforts, FEB in a browser does not want to play at all with Safari or even Firefox.  The best I managed was to get a table of results to appear in a tab which I hoped I could copy over to Numbers:
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Alas I could not get this to work successfully and I was forced to open the MacBook Air and download the results using Safari on the Mac, copying and pasting the results in Numbers and then saving it back to Box again.

In Summary

I hope I have shown that living in the “post PC era” as Steve Jobs put it is possible as an IBM employee.  My experience may not be typical, but it has certainly proved to be mostly successful – for me at least.  I hope this gives you some inspiration and some confidence to try a New Way of Working.
I found it has taken me quite a bit of time to get up to speed on the different way of working which you might use when using Windows or OS X compared to iOS.  That said, when you get used to sharing content from one application to another rather than saving then importing as you would do on a desktop computer then it does begin to make sense.
To really remove the frustrations I would like to see a desktop model appear on iOS where you can simply tap on open applications as they appear on the desktop.  Split screen mode is fine but is still quite fiddly and alt-tabbing between apps is something I find breaks my concentration.
Anyway, it can be done, and so if you fancy changing how you work, and using some fantastic and mostly free applications without the need for living in a Microsoft-dominated world, then I hope this has been of some use.
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2 thoughts on “Can I really replace my computer with an iPad Pro? My Experiment

  1. Interesting post! Did you try using the Connections Editors, separate app downloaded from App Store. I think the CIO blocks some of,this stuff because since there is no file system, apps tend to copy files to their own system, which could be anywhere.
    Also, the Connections app does allow you to modify community membership.

    For me, I’m not sure there is any advantage to an iPad Pro for work.

    Chris

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  2. Great stuff, Alan! My experience is more or less the same as yours, unless I use IBM Verse for business email and Apple Mail for private. What I do miss though is the ability to sync iCal with the Calendar in Verse as my family all uses iCal and I have to check their calendars before I book business meetings and travels.
    I have always used Keynote as a presentation tool and now I will also use Numbers as standard for spreadsheets. It is a pity that Connections and Box does not support the Apple document formats.. 😦

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