2017 iPad Pro Main Machine
If you recently read my 2017 iPad Pro review than you know that I highly praised it for being my main computer. How is that, it's a tablet running a mobile operating system? I get it, iOS is not macOS and there will be people that agree/disagree with what I'm about to say. These are my own personal opinions and should be treated as just opinions but maybe they can help shed some light on how I use my iPad Pro and the incredible power it has to get my work done.


Let's dive right in with iOS. I've been using iPad Pro since it was first released in 2015. I highly praised the hardware and heavily criticized the software. Every iOS release since has slightly improved iOS on iPad Pro but it wasn't until iOS 11 that iPad Pro actually got to a point where most people (including myself) could actually consider iPad Pro a main computer. Many reviewers online say the same thing although they don't actually use iPad Pro as their main computer. I actually do and I have first hand experience what it is like to use iPad Pro as a main computer with its benefits and limitations.

As most of you know, iOS 11 has a completely new Dock for iPads. I went into depth in my iOS 11 review of how it works but the basic things to know is that you can pull it up in any application to access files and applications. This is especially useful when I am in one application and I wish to open a second application. It is worth mentioning that you are not restricted to just Dock applications for split screen and floating windows. In fact with the 2017 iPad Pro you can have two applications in a split screen, a floating window (unlike the 2015 model the 2017 model can have a true floating window), and a PiP video playing. That is technically four applications running on the screen at once which should be more than plenty for whatever you are doing. Even if an application does not support split screen multitasking, you can still have a floating window on top of it as well as a PiP video. Even with those four applications running on the screen you can still summon the dock and if you have applications like the Files app in the Dock, you can use the little Files widget to access documents. It is also great if an application supports the iOS system print tool then you can create a PDF of anything you can print and then either mark it up or save it to Files.

Like on macOS, iOS has something similar to Mission Control meaning that you can quickly see an overview of all your open windows. On iOS 11 if you have applications open in split screen then those applications will stay as a pair in Mission Control. So lets say you have Safari and Notes open and you switch to Maps. When you switch back to Safari, Safari will still be paired with Notes. What's also nice is that lets say you open Twitter along side Maps then those two applications will stay paired. These are just examples of applications, you can use any app you wish for split screen. These app pairings are what's called Spaces. In Mission Control you can see an overview of all your open windows and each app preview is called a Space. I know that sounds confusing but you'll quickly catch on as you use it.

iOS 11 also now supports Drag and Drop just like how any other PC operating system. This means you can drag something out of one app and drop it in another. A good scenario is lets say you find an image in Safari and you wish to send it to a friend. You can pick it up in Safari and drop it in a message in Messages. This works for images, text, links, objects, files, etc... just like on a Mac. You can also drag documents out of documents based application's widget.

A long running issue on iOS is a file browser. I remember something Steve Jobs said in an interview back in the early 2000s "Look at the Mac. It's the easiest to use computer of them all but things start to go south once they hit the file browser". It's no lie that Apple has been wanting to do away with the file browser and iPad went without one for seven years. Even in macOS 10.7 "Lion", Apple's iWork apps (or any apps that supported Documents in the Cloud) included their own document providers which was to detour people from using Finder. Response to this was not received well. I agree with Steve, file browsers are too difficult use for the average person but we've all had to learn them because we had to. File browsers on all personal computers contain both system and personal files. I don't necessarily want my spreadsheets to be in the same utility as my applications and the operating system but I don't want to have two applications that do the same thing only one is for system and the other for personal. So where does that leave us?

As of right now Apple does not allow any access to the iOS system files meaning they just had to build one application for accessing user files. Be honest with yourself, what practice purpose would you need to access the iOS system folder. Again this is my opinion and I don't see a need. The iOS 11 Files app is not perfect and is still limited. You still cannot mount external storage devices. It does not natively support file servers (it hardly supports macOS file servers). One of the big things it's missing is the ability to compress and decompress zip folders. It also needs improved selection keyboard commands. With its limitations in mind it is very powerful. It supports 3rd party document providers (they mount just like native folders). It supports drag and drop, folders, tags, local vs cloud document managing, sorting, search. You name it. Files also recognizes which kinds of files open which applications so if you edit a text file in one application then you open a different text file in another then Files will intelligently open what you want. It's also really nice that you can drag things into Files from other applications so let's say you find an image online, you can drag it into Files. Another really nice thing is if you select text in any applications, you can drag it to Files and it'll be saved as a txt file. Files also has an "On my iPad" section so if an application wishes to have a local directory on iPad than a developer can write to that location. Very very convenient, it has saved me a lot of steps. However I do wish Apple would allow users to make folders in there as well as save files. Seems like a lot of wasted potential. That being said you can download an application like Documents by Readdle which basically does what I just said. It's just nice to put a file in there and not have it upload to iCloud Drive. I use iCloud Drive as my main file service and I put everything on there. However when I'm working with large video files, I don't want those to use my bandwidth to upload those to iCloud.

Along on the Files topic, let's talk about the system save/open dialogs. Like on a desktop operating system, applications can elect to utilize the operating system's save/open tools. Let's say you're in an application that says "open from iCloud", that's usually an indicator that application will open the system open window. On older versions of iOS this would open an iCloud Drive document picker and now it'll essentially open a window similar to Files with all of your sidebar items, tags, 3rd party apps, folder structure, etc. This feels every bit like macOS'. Then on applications that say "save to iCloud Drive" will open up the system's save tool. Unfortunately iOS 11's save dialog box isn't as robust as its open. This will only display a list of iCloud Drive folders that can be expanded or collapsed. I have a lot of problems with this but it is slightly better than iOS 10's.

With the introduction of iOS 9, iPads received hardware keyboard commands. I use these all the time as I can switch between apps, return home, screenshots, and anything command that an app supports. What is also really nice is that if you hold down the Command key, iPad will display a window that shows every available command. So if you are curious what an app can do, just hold down command.


I have found some incredibly powerful applications that makes using iPad Pro as my main machine possible. Here is a list of those applications and what I use them for:

Affinity Photo: Photo and Graphics Editor
Pixelmator: Photo and Graphics Editor
Adobe Sketch: Sketching and Drawing
Adobe Capture: Vectorize Graphics (generates black and white only)
Adobe Draw: Draw Vector Graphics
Oil Effect: Create Oil Paintings From Graphics and Photos
Color Effects: Turn a Photo Black and White and Colorize a Subject

LumaFusion: Video Editor
Emulsio: Video Stabilizer

Ferrite: Podcasting
Voice Synth: Voice Synthesizer
GarageBand: Music Creation, Midi, Synthesizer

Textastic: Basic Code Writer/Editor
Workflow: Create Basic Application or Automations (Media Encoding, Strip Audio From Video, File Downloads, Gif Creation)
VNC Viewer: VNC Access
Team Viewer: PC Remote Access

Pages: Documents
Numbers: Spreadsheets
Keynote: Presentations
Family Tree: Family Trees
Notes: Taking Notes and Collaboration
Scanner Pro: Document and Photo Scanner
PDF Expert: Merging and Editing PDFs
Reminders: Tasks and Reminders
Calendars: Managing Calendars
Mail: Email

Documents by Readdle: File Browser
FTP Manager: FTP Access
Dropbox: Cloud File Browser

YouTube: It's YouTube
VLC: View Almost Any Video Format
Plex: Personal Media Server
TV: Aggravates All My TV Shows
Netflix: TV and Movie Streaming Service
Music: Music from Apple Music

Any Font: Install Fonts
SpeedTest: Network Speed Tests
Creations: Cookbook
Safari: Web Browser
Photos: Managing and Basic Photo Edits
Deliveries: Managing Packages


iPad Pro supports a wide array of external devices from 802.11 network, Bluetooth, Lightening, Mini Phono, and Smart Connector. I have an array of file servers I access throughout my day that I access though connected networks. Did you know you can also access hardwired ethernet networks on an iOS device? If you connect an ethernet adapter via lightening or USB (though the USB to lightening adapter) then iOS will connect via terrestrial ethernet networks just like a PC operating system. I also utilize external displays via AirPlay (wireless network based media protocol) as well as lightening to VGA/HDMI adapters. I also connect my AirPods (wireless ear buds) as well as my Apple Pencil (iPad Pro drawing instrument).

What is really cool is that Apple sells a Lightening to USB 3 adapter which includes a USB-A port as well as a lightening port. This allows you to connect USB devices to iPad Pro (even ones that draw power). Like mentioned before, iOS does not support mounting USB storage devices but the hardware does technically support it so maybe in the future... Okay well technically it works if you format the USB storage device and give it the same file structure as a camera and then Photos will only see photos and videos in that folder. I guess that's a cool work around but not too useful. What I use this for is to connect my Blue Yeti microphone. I exclusively record my podcasts on iPad Pro in Ferrite. It also works when I am recording my voice or an instrument for I am making in GarageBand. Essentially iOS will recognize that it is an external microphone and override the built in microphone. You can also connect USB speakers, typing keyboards, midi keyboards, cameras (importing not streaming), USB fans, USB flashlights, essentially anything USB that's not a storage device. I also connect an iRig to my iPad Pro through the mini phono port (headphone jack) so I can play/record my guitar in GarageBand.

As of right now there aren't too many devices that support the iPad Pro's Smart Connector. This is the magnetic port on the left side that can transfer data and power. This is a low power port so it's meant for a keyboard. That being said there is a dock for iPad Pro that connects to the Smart Connector that allows you to charge your iPad via the Smart Connector. This isn't an idea solution because like I said, it's a low powered port and your iPad Pro would use more energy then it is receiving. Meaning your battery will still go down even though it's plugged in. I also use Apple's 29w USB-C power brick with USB-C to Lightening cable as it charges iPad Pro significantly faster than the included power adapter.


At the end of the day, you cannot run unauthorized apps on iPad straight from iPad. You can connect your iPad to a Macintosh and compile source code you've found online to get unauthorized apps on iPad but it is a hassle. This really is just handy for illegal emulators and not something the average person will ever need. You cannot access USB external storage devices. Files is missing critical features. Not all productivity apps support the iOS system open/save tools. You cannot create contract groups in Contacts. Some websites are coded in a way that just will not allow scrolling from iPad (or any other mobile device), Some websites are laggards and still support Flash. You cannot adjust photo metadata in Photos. You cannot import music files into the Music app so they are added to your music library. You cannot change the document orientation of an existing document in Pages. You cannot select all messages in your email inbox at once. iPhone apps are still restricted to full screen and portrait, it would be nice if they could at least run as a floating window. This is mainly targeted towards Instagram because for whatever reason they just will not write an iPad binary. Not all video apps support PiP, that is targeted at every single network TV app (except Fox). Then the big one, the apps.

Macintosh has been around for over 30 years and it's software library has had time to mature. Developers still view iPad Pro as a media consumption device and not a productivity device. While incredible apps are being released all the time, they all mostly still lack features that their desktop counterparts have. Pixelmator is a great example, it was fantastic when it was first released but sadly has not gained that many critical new features since it was originally released. I absolutely love the Macintosh version but the iPad version lacks in so many ways but it still does some things very well and it's incredibly easy to use. LumaFusion is a fantastic iPad Pro video editor that actually allows me to make basic to moderate videos exactly I want them but it doesn't support compound clips (like Final Cut Pro), stabilization, motion video effects, and drag and drop. Ferrite is a phenomenal audio editor mainly designed for podcasts but unfortunately doesn't support encoding m4a audio files with chapter markings. I reached out to the developers and they said this is an Apple limitation as Apple does not allow encoding this kind of media on an iOS device. iPad Pro usually just gets baby software and in order for it to succeed, it needs full desktop class applications. If you read my 2017 iPad Pro review then you saw my comparison charts and just comparing base configurations of Apple's current Macintosh lineup, iPad Pro is the fifth most powerful computer Apple currently sells. iPad Pro also has the best price per performance score so iPad Pro has the power to handle more. It's just up to the developers to make that happen.

Even with everything I mentioned above, iPad Pro still just outshines my need to use my iMac. Don't get me wrong, I still love my iMac. It is still great at doing some key things but for 95% of my work I can just use iPad and I like using iPad because I can use it in bed. I like using iPad Pro because I can draw on it. I like using iPad Pro because it can reorient it's screen however I wish. I also really like iOS. Because of a lot of its limitations, there has been a lot of clever developers that do extraordinary things. Applications sold on the App Store are generally all made with Xcode so they all share user interface elements like buttons, menus, design, and inherit iOS features without having the developer to do any work. I wrote the The Apple Post iOS application and for the most part it is just displaying a UIWebView to show article content. Since I just used a UIWebView instead of making my own thing, you can hold any link and it'll allow you to share it, drag and drop articles out of the TAP app, scrolling, zooming, and many other things without me having to explicitly code them.

"The goal here is to eliminate 80% of the code that every developer has to write for their app because it's in common with every other app and let them focus on just the 20% of the code that is unique to their app" - Steve Jobs

"The line of code that the developer could write the fastest… maintain the cheapest… that never breaks for the user, is the line of code the developer never had to write." - Steve Jobs

I hope these help shed some light how you can probably do a lot of your tasks on an iPad Pro. Of course, there's nothing making you ditch your Mac for an iPad Pro! I haven't fully but on the flip side, I am not opposed to it. iPad Pro is actually at the infancy stage of replacing a personal computer whereas before iOS iPad was a good companion device to a personal computer. iPad as a product line in whole needs more time to grow and mature and I have no doubt that in a decade whatever tablet Apple is selling then will be 80% of average people's main computer. Just think, a decade ago Apple's most powerful computer was a Power Macintosh G5 and it received a Geekbench multi-core score of 1740 which means that iPad Pro is 9X more powerful than the Power Macintosh G5 and the G5 was considered a massive power house. It is worth mentioning that this was the Power Mac G5 Quad which is the fastest G5 (or Power PC Mac) Apple ever made. As a really fun comparison, the PowerBook G3 333 which sold in 1999 received a Single-Core (all it supports) Geekbench score of 174. I wish I could've compared earlier PowerBooks but this was the oldest one I could find that supported Geekbench. iPad Pro has a score of 9235 which means the 2017 iPad Pro is over 5 thousand times more powerful than Apple's professional grade laptop just 18 years ago. I would love to hear from all of you on your thoughts on this subject. What is iPad Pro missing for you (software and/or hardware)? Would you want a larger screen sized iPad Pro? Do you use iPad Pro as your daily driver or know of someone who does? Comment below or send me an email to yourgeekneeds@gmail.com.
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