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TIMO ZIMMERMANN

balancing software engineering & infosec

One week with iPadOS

posted on Friday 5th of July 2019 in , ,

Last week we reached 40°C, or how some of you might call it: 104°F. Sadly the times where you could just go home around 11am because of temperatures approaching something over 30°C are long over. So I still had work to do. But powering on a Xeon system with 5k screens means a lot more heat in my office. So I did the only sensible thing after eyeing the iPadOS beta for some time… I put a beta software on my iPad and started using it exclusively for my daily work. Luckily it was mostly writing specs, reviewing code and doing some work on deploying a new software on an EC2 instance, so all within the realm of iOS capabilities.

While all of the above has been possible with iOS for a long time, iPadOS added so many awesome new features that it made a huge difference during daily usage. While the full set of new features is fairly well documented across the usual news sites and Apples developer page introducing iPadOS, there are a few that really stood out to me using them, especially since I did not consider them to be such a big deal.

Managing my inbox, which has the tendency to significantly fill up over time, became a lot more enjoyable and easy thanks to the new action menu. This seems like a pretty small thing when all you do is hitting reply and write a few lines, but the moment you need to flag, move and organize mails, this actually makes a difference.

The new share sheet also makes life a lot easier. Especially the quick access bar for most recent or relevant contacts – skillfully hidden with all my editing skills – helps a lot when browsing the Internet and finding something you quickly want to share with someone.

Safari is actually one of the biggest improvements, but also still subject to a few inconveniences. You really get a full desktop experience, including a desktop video player for example, which is horrible to use on a touchscreen device. I always preferred the iOS native one over lets say YouTubes bastardisation that did not even support proper fullscreen.

The preview including quick access to downloading, new windows, sharing,… really makes it pleasant to use and a lot easier when you are doing some research for example. The download option is also pretty neat when dealing with PDFs you have to edit anyway or want to read later, at least it feels a lot faster than opening the PDF and saving it to iBooks.

Siri suggestions are actually a lot smarter than I thought. When someone is sending you a link via iMessage it shows up when opening a new tab. This is, again, one of the small things you do not think about a lot, but once you start using it you really appreciate it. The screenshot is, well… I am sure Siri hat a reason for suggesting this link. When there is no special context going on the suggestions sometimes are a bit random.

Being able to resize the keyboard for one handed use is great, with swift typing it is amazing. This is likely the most buggy part of the whole OS right now. Sometimes there are rendering issues, swift typing is as bad as on other devices or third party keyboards when typing German or a mix of German and English and some input elements do not understand the floating keyboard pretty well and are simply hidden behind it – even Apples own ones like iMessage.

Is it ready yet?

As I mentioned I was using the iPad as my only device for a full work week. Media consumption is still amazing on it. Writing and drawing as well. But the rendering bugs can get a bit annoying. I did not have any crashes so far and all third party applications are working. Widgets on your regular home screen are awesome and one click to dial into a hangout or webex call is really nice, if the widgets do not forget to load and display data.

If you rely on less well maintained third party applications – some from banks for example, which constantly seem to cause problems – or want a fully polished experience you should definitely wait.

I did a quick experiment with an external screen connected via HDMI and an USB mouse via AssistiveTouch. It actually worked. It was usable and made the whole thing feel less like an iPad. Mouse input still could use some work as well as an option to use a cursor not designed for people with poor vision. And while I actually like typing on the iPad Smart Keyboard, the moment I had a real screen in front of me my first thought was to pair another Bluetooth keyboard.

All in all I am really happy with the direction of iPadOS and I hope they will iterate a lot more on iPad specific features where it makes sense.