Weighing in: can the iPad replace a Mac?

It seems as if everyone and their dog is making YouTube videos and writing blog posts about whether or not the new iPad Pros can replace a desktop system, and despite myself, I keep consuming the posts. Even though I have my own answer (no).

I want the iPad to be able to replace my Mac: I mean, fewer things to charge, maintain, and sync, right? I have a new 10.5-inch Pro running the public iOS 11 beta, and I love it. Even on my last iPad, I rarely opened my MacBook Pro. I’d like to say that now I just never need it and won’t be replacing it, but I can’t.

For probably 95% of the stuff I would do on a laptop, the iPad is as good as or better than a laptop for me. I say better because of portability and availability. Just as the best camera is the one you have, the best computing device is the one you have. I’m never going to haul around a computer everywhere I go, but the iPad is small enough to put into my bag.

For the other 5%, I just can’t make it work. I’ve geeked out with Workflow and tried day-wasting workarounds just to see if it could, but alas, I end up scuttling back to my laptop. This complicated 5% includes

  • iTunes,
  • Hazel,
  • Macros,
  • Blogging, and
  • Scanning.

iTunes exists on iOS, of course, but it’s really limited. I have Apple Music and a bunch of smart playlists, and I like to monkey with my music based on play counts, skips, and other strangeness that you just can’t access on iOS.

Hazel, macros, and scanning go together. I try to put everything through my ScanSnap and do away with having towering piles of paper everywhere, and I use TextExpander and Hazel to keep everything organized so I can find it later. This involves scanning the thing, renaming it with my own conventions, and letting Hazel work her magic.

You can scan stuff over the air with a ScanSnap now, but I’ve found the implementation rickety. By the time I fiddle with it and get it to work (again), I could have just opened my laptop and gotten four times as much work done.

You can rename PDFs in iOS and put them in other places. Manually. I’d rather let Hazel do the heavy lifting. The new Files app may help with this, but there will still be an efficiency issue.

You can implement Workflows to do the work of a bunch of automated tasks that a laptop would handle, but I have a few that I’ve given up trying to transfer over. These are mainly monthly maintenance tasks, so I don’t need the laptop very often for them, but I do need it.

You can blog on an iPad, and I’m writing this post right now on mine. If I didn’t use SquareSpace, I might be able to exclusively use my iPad for blogging; however, I do, and SquareSpace is like the Hotel California. You can check in, but you can never leave. But that is a rant for another day. They have an iOS app, Blog, which I’ll probably use to post this. It does the job if you’re posting text and maybe one image that can float at the bottom of your post. Otherwise, forget it. Back to the laptop for the complicated Web interface, which chokes and dies on even my slick new Pro powerhouse.

So there you have it. I won’t be getting rid of my MacBook Pro anytime soon. I will, however, most likely keep it until it dies rather than replacing it when it gets a little slow. I don’t need a super-slick machine for the stuff I use it for now. The iPad has totally become my primary computing device: it just can’t be my only device.