One notebook to rule them all.

At WWDC, I picked up a new MacBook Air. This machine simply changed the way I thought about computing entirely. I have never loved a Mac as much or used a laptop with the same feeling of absolute freedom as I have with this computer. In fact, I love the MBA so much that I thought about getting rid of my iPad entirely instead of trying to find places for it. The combination of the Air and the iPhone was powerful enough to handle almost anything I could throw at it. This fall, as the new iPads were launched, I marveled at how nice they were, but resigned myself to not buying one. After all, I was happy with my new workflow and saw no reason to complicate things by adding more moving parts. Then I used the iPad Air.

The iPad Air has reinvigorated my love of the iPad line. It’s obviously the fastest iPad I’ve ever used, but the size and weight change make the largest perceivable difference in my opinion. It feels only slightly heavier than the mini. The bezel reduction takes it from feeling enormous to feeling quite manageable. Its proportions are so much more favorable now. When I first used one about a month ago, coming directly from the mini, everything felt cartoonishly large. I got over that in about a day. Having a retina screen again is divine, too. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I started using it again. I really loved the first generation mini, but there’s just no substitute for those extra pixels. Everyone’s already said it, but it bears repeating: there are no tradeoffs with the two new iPads, it’s simply choose your size and go to town.

The new objective: full integration of the iPad into my day as a work device. I have no games on it, no movies, and only a few leisure (read: Twitter, ADN, read later, etc.) apps, most of which would provide no distraction while I’m trying to get something done. I intend for the iPad to replace my paper notebook (which I do love, but is limited and great at certain things but not many others), but also to become something more robust – a device that allows me to do the things I was previously doing and extends my ability to do more, easily. It will allow me to leave my beloved MBA docked at my desk, attached to my second display. I can AirPlay docs and demos to the Apple TVs we have in the office, I have all my notes, docs, and anything else I can think of loaded up and synced, and my home screen is organized for maximum efficiency. I held off on getting the Logitech keyboard case I loved so much with the iPad 3 only to give the incredible weight reduction of the Air a fair shake. I’ll probably get one because it’s a terrific addition to the device, but for now it’s a Smart Cover and that’s it. I do have a few standalone Bluetooth keyboards, one of which I’m using right now, so maybe I’ll stick with them.

I’ve been doing more interface sketching as I work on projects, and I’ve enjoyed allowing myself to just sketch rough ideas quickly instead of waiting until they’re solidified mentally first and then going directly into a document. These usually live in my paper notebook as well, but I’ll be doing this in Paper on the iPad (yes, ha ha, isn’t that adorable) which is my preferred drawing app. I’ve tried tons of them, and keep coming back to Paper, because it just feels the best. I’m intrigued by the development of that custom stylus for the app as well. I have a Bamboo stylus currently, but I’m hardly a fan. Having something that makes the act feel even more natural and less gimmicky is a huge plus for me.

The other things that I’m looking forward to are the great music apps that come along with iOS. GarageBand and AmpKit are two that I really love to use, and there’s a host of other drum machines and sequencers/synth apps that are surprisingly good. I’m going to dive into Audiobus more this time around too, I think, and see how I can chain things together, ultimately ending in GarageBand for now (so I can move files back to the Mac in some cases). Granted, this is more of a secondary use case than the day to day productivity stuff, but it plays into the concept of the global notebook – a device that I always have, to capture and document (and in some cases expand on) my ideas.

I find that these things go in phases for me, so this may just be a new (old) phase. Either way, this device has incredible potential. I don’t think I’ve ever made a dedicated effort to use the iPad like this – I’ve always stopped short of going all the way. It’s important to note, though that I have no intention of replacing my Mac(s) with iOS; rather it’s a matter of choosing not only the right tool for the job, but the best tool. I’m excited to give it a shot with the Air.

Author: Seth Clifford

I'm here for the open bar.