iPad Pro 12.9

Spending Time with iPadOS 13

I have been running the beta of iPadOS 13 for almost a month now. iPadOS 13 ships this fall and is the first version of iOS that Apple is branding iPadOS because of its focus on features unique to the iPad. At first you might think this to mean that Apple is adding ‘desktop’ features to the iPad, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that the iPad is in many respects growing into a platform with its own unique set of strengths. Here are my favorite features so far.

New Home Sceen!

The first thing I really love is the new home screen. You can fit way more apps on it now, and they stay oriented the same way in both landscape and portrait because it is a 6x5 grid in either orientation. This wastes way less space on the screen and allows you to cram a lot more apps into a smaller space for extra productivity!


Also useful is that you can pin your widgets to the left of your apps. I can now see my OmniFocus tasks, upcoming calendar events, recently accessed Files, and notes, every time I return to the home screen. For OmniFocus, I have it showing my Priority perspective, which shows all due items, soon to be due items, and flagged items that are tagged ‘Today.’ This is one more tool to help make sure I don’t let stuff slip through the cracks. The same could be said of the Calendar widget. Having the Files app display recently opened files on the home screen sure does feel a lot like being able to treat the home screen the same way I do my Desktop on the Mac.

desktop safari

The thing that is surprising me the most is how much the new Safari update transforms the way I use my iPad. Safari now runs like the desktop version. This means that websites operate as you would expect them to on the Mac. No more taking out your MacBook for those few websites that just never quite worked right on iOS. For me this is going to change the way I use a lot of my school district’s mandated learning management software, which would often not work correctly, or as reliably, on my iPad.


But what is really great is that I can now access the full versions of Google Docs and Squarespace from my iPad. Google’s apps on the App Store are still a little nicer, but they have never had the full feature set of the web apps, and now this is nearly a non-issue. Apple and Google need to find out some way to better let users choose if a document opens in Safari or Google Docs/Sheets/Slides, but I expect that to be eventually ironed out.

Even more exciting is that I can finally use the full toolset of Squarespace to update my website on the iPad (just one of the few things that would keep me taking my Mac out of my bag). So far, Apple has already done a nice job with these features, and they are not even ready for public release yet. There are some issues and unexpected behaviors, but not nearly as much as I expected. Desktop Safari has turned out to be the biggest productivity boost of all the new features. And did I mention there is now a download manager!?

multitasking and pencilkit


There are also some improvements to multitasking. Notice above that I am using two apps open side by side with another one floating in what Apple calls Slide Over view. iOS 13 now adds the ability to manage multiple different apps in Slide Over at once. The implementation is great. It works like multitasking on an iPhone X or higher. You can swipe the little handle on the bottom of the app left and right to page through recent apps, and you can swipe it up and to the right to see all recently opened Slide Over apps. This makes it much easier for me to manage the few apps I am using often in this mode: apps like Tonal Energy Tuner, Messages, and Twitter.


I now also appreciate that you can have more than one instance of the same app open at the same time. Notice above that I am viewing two notes side by side. When I mentioned that iPadOS is growing into its own specific identity, the pencil tools on the right side of the screen are what I was thinking about. They have been brilliantly updated. And Apple is releasing them for use by third party developers in an API called PencilKit. Here’s to hoping that it is widely implemented so that using the Apple Pencil feels more consistent across apps.

See below also. Swiping from the lower left of the screen with the Apple Pencil allows your to quickly mark up whatever you are looking at. And if you are in Safari, you can now clip an entire website, not just what fits into the screenshot. You can highlight, annotate right from this screen and then send it somewhere like Apple Notes where you can search the article by text.


For me it is becoming clear that PencilKit is a feature that is going to widely shape and define the iPad as a particular tool for certain jobs that a Mac or an iPhone is not as useful for. Apple is bridging the gap a little by introducing a feature for the Mac called Sidecar, where you will be able to send windows of Mac apps to the iPad to be able to take advantage of the same pencil precision editing tools.


Overall, iPad OS is shaping up to be an awesome release. I didn’t even mention half the features here. And even some of the ones I am most excited about will not reach their fullest potential until third party apps take advantage of them (like PencilKit) or until more people are on iOS 13 (like iCloud shared folders). If you are an iPad user you have a lot to look forward to this fall. If you want to try the beta, you can go here. It is pretty risky though, and I am admittedly very unwise for doing it.

Raw first impressions of the new iPad Pro

I am all set up with my new 12.9 inch iPad Pro. Here are my gut thoughts on the process of purchasing the device and the first few hours of use.

I ordered the 11 inch device on day one and then immediately regretted it once I heard reports of the 12.9's lightness. This mixed in with the fact that the 11 inch still runs apps in a different size class than the 12.9. For example, when you run Mail and Notes side by side, it is possible to see the list of notes/messages and the contents of the note/message on screen at once in the 12.9 model.

I went in to the Apple Store today with the idea in mind that I would test both out, most likely buy a 12.9, and then return the 11.

Things I tested in the store:

-Holding each device in hand with and without Keyboard Folio attached.

-Running two productivity apps side by side in 50/50 split view on both devices to see how much content was visible.

-Typing an email on each keyboard.

-Looking at sheet music on one half of the screen while taking handwritten notes on the other. (In landscape and in portrait)

-Fitting each device in and out of my back pack.

-Taking handwritten notes in Apple Notes while holding the device in the other hand.

Making the decision

It was a hard decision. I really miss watching movies and reading books on the couch with my current 12.9. It's too big. It is also too heavy for me to hold in one hand at length. Still, I purchased it. Because I don't want to miss out on any software features now, or down the road. The fact that you can put 15 apps on the dock of the 12.9 and that you can run apps with more features in split view was enough to sell me on it. Apple could add those features to the 11 inch later through software. But Apple could also add new features to just the 12.9. Another tie breaker was the keyboard. I just can't type on the 11 inch keyboard as comfortably. I don’t think I will regret this. An honest look at my iPad use over the past year reveals hours and hours a day reading sheet music from far away while viewing a seating chart on the other half of the screen. Can I just have two iPads? The thought crossed my mind and then I realized how needlessly complex that could be. My wallet rejoiced.

First thoughts

The inductive charging pencil that snaps to the device is brilliant. It is going to make the pencil feel so much more delightful to use.

Pencil only attaches to the top while in landscape. Bummer.

It will take some time to retrain myself to swipe up to go to home screen and double tap the pencil to change tools. These are superior methods, but habit is habit.

Using the pencil with Apple Notes is a dream. Combine the higher refresh rate (my first time experiencing this since I own the first gen iPad Pro) with the feel of the new pencil, along with the responsiveness of "tap to wake," and you get as close to paper as I can imagine. Tapping the pencil tip to the sleeping iPad screen instantly gets you handwriting in the Notes app. This feature has existed before, but it is so smooth now, that... you really just have to try it to believe it. It's so good that I am already thinking about how to work Apple Notes back into my note workflow (I can’t ever seem to avoid using less than three or four note apps at once). I was so compelled by this idea that I sketched out some workflow ideas in Apple Notes with the new pencil. I have to conceive of note apps with a healthy dose of metaphor.



12.9 is lighter but still too heavy to hold in one hand with ease. It actually feels grippier to me when the case is on. Less like I am going to drop it.

New Keyboard Folio is way easier to unfold but harder to detach from the iPad.

Apps that aren’t optimized for the screen are currently letterboxed. I don’t mind it as much as I thought I would.

This device is going to feel so much better to use all around, but as many members of the tech press have stated, it is still powered by a limited OS. iOS hasn't seen features to differentiate the iPad since iOS 11. Rumor has it that iOS 13 is going to bring a lot more iPad productivity. Until the other shoe drops, I wait in eager anticipation for what this iPad could become.

Features I would need from iOS to allow me to use my iPad for 99 percent of my work (that are within Apple's control)

-Trackpad and mouse support

-Open two instances of the same app side by side

-Faster animation when I press Command+Tab

-Desktop-ier Safari

-Improvements to the Files app (I need more control in iCloud Drive over which documents are stored in the cloud vs. local to the device. Third party providers like Google Drive do not show up in the search results when I search in Files app or in Spotlight.)

-Default apps. Not just for stuff like Mail and Maps. I need to be able to specify which app a document opens in when I tap it in the Files app.

-Ability to manage my iTunes Library.

-Logic Pro (they have to be working on this, right?)

-Bonus point: Ability to have more than one audio in or out running at the same time.

-Bonus point: some sort of rethink to the home screen. I would love to be able to launch a file or a folder from there. A widget with recent notes wouldn't suck either.

-Bonus point: three apps 33/33/33 percent at the same time.

-Extreme bonus point: keyboard intent to allow TextExpander to work.

-Extreme bonus point: extension for apps to put a window in the middle of the screen that allows for viewing or editing content. Example: a quick note function, or the ability to add a task to OmniFocus.

I think about half of the things I did not label as Bonus could happen in the next year. I would be disappointed if they don't, but fortunately, I bought the new iPad for what it is, not what it will be. And what it is is an extremely powerful iPad that is 100 percent more delightful to use in every respect. I can't wait to test this thing out in the classroom tomorrow.