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10 Ways I’m Using the iPad Pro

I’ve been using an iPad Pro for more than three months, and while my MacBook Pro is my workhouse, the iPad Pro has found an essential place in my workflow. Since I’m a couple of years overdue on posting a numbered list, here are a ten examples of how I use it.

  1. PDF and Word, side by side. I often call up a PDF on one half of the screen, and a Word document on the other. I work on the Word document, while being able to review the information in the PDF file. The Mac is still my primary device for performing this sort of work – the screen size alone makes it better for this – but there are times when my Mac isn’t nearby, and the iPad Pro is at my side.

  2. Sign personal documents. The markup feature in Mail makes the iPad Pro perfect for signing documents sent to me by my secretary when I’m out of the office.

  3. Annotate PDFs. This is something I do perhaps more than anything else on the iPad Pro. Because of the size of the screen, documents on screen feel very close to an 8 1/2 X 11 piece of paper. Even better, the Apple Pencil is the perfect annotation tool. I highlight and redline, using PDF Expert. Handwriting in the app is a bit funky right now, so I hope an update improves the experience.

  4. Take notes during meetings and depositions. Perhaps the novelty of taking notes on the iPad will wear off, but I’ve been wanting to take digital handwritten notes for years. My handwriting on the iPad with the Apple Pencil looks almost identical to my handwriting on paper. Once you get past the different feel involved with writing on glass, the experience is much like writing on paper. I take notes in client meetings and depositions[1], and then dump them as PDFs into our document management system. I’m currently jumping between Goodnotes and OneNote for taking handwritten notes. Goodnotes has the least amount of lag of the many note taking apps I’ve tried with the Pencil, but I prefer the OneNote interface.

  5. Researching purchases. Over the last couple of months, I’ve made a couple of purchases that I researched extensively. In performing this research, I would jump between Safari and a notes app, intermixing clipped text, handwritten notes, and clipped web pages. Although I’d prefer to settle on just one app, I found that Apple Notes and Notability were the best tools for this sort of work, due to the easier manner in which you can get web content into them. I could have done this on the Mac, but my iPad was more likely to be nearby.

  6. Creating a portable Numbers spreadsheet. One of the aforementioned purchases got complicated enough that I made a spreadsheet in Numbers. The iPad Pro was portable enough that I took the spreadsheet with me, and referred to it when making my purchase. The large screen of the iPad Pro let me see my entire spreadsheet with no scrolling.

  7. A whiteboard during meetings. GoodNotes works well with the Apple TV and AirPlay. During client meetings, I use Goodnotes as a whiteboard or chalkboard of sorts, projecting a blank white screen from my iPad to the Apple TV. I can take notes and move around within the app, and the interface never shows up on the Apple TV – just my writing.

  8. A presentation tool. TrialPad is THE tool for litigators on the iPad, but you don’t have to be a litigator to find it immensely useful. I haven’t gone to trial since getting the iPad Pro in December, but I do use TrialPad with a large TV screen at least a couple of times a week in client meetings. In the past, a client and I hunched over the table to review documents. Now I use TrialPad for that, and don’t have to do quite as much pinching and zooming as I did with the iPad Air (although I wish Lit Software could figure out a way to get the app to detect when a document is in portrait mode, and let it fill more of the screen) . The callout feature is particularly useful.

  9. Writing blog posts. I have a confession to make. I’ve fallen in love with Apple’s Smart Keyboard. It certainly has a different feel than a traditional keyboard, but it only took me a couple of weeks until I was able to type on it just as quickly, and with as much enjoyment, as I could on a traditional keyboard. If I want to hammer a simple document out quickly, I’ll pick up the iPad instead of my Mac. And to top it off, the keyboard is thin enough that the iPad Pro is still portable.

  10. Pay bills. When I’m at my Mac, I’m usually getting bombarded with tasks for work. If I wait until I have free time on my Mac to pay bills, bills can slip through the cracks for a few days. The iPad Pro is perfect for making use of a free minute here or there. I find that I’ll often hop on the iPad to quickly pay those few bills that I haven’t set up for automatic payment. With Transmit, I can upload a PDF version of a bill to my Synology for posterity. The Mac is still doing the heavy lifting in the background, syncing with a Synology folder so I can perform Hazel actions on my bills before they get dumped into DEVONthink automatically. Unfortunately there are still some companies with websites that don’t play nice with iOS, making it hard to download bills.

The iPad Pro will never replace my MacBook. When you have to be reactive under fire, and can’t necessarily stick with a nice, predefined workflow, the Mac is better, simply because it is still a superior multitasking tool. Perhaps more importantly, though, I can’t imagine sitting hunched over an iPad for hours on end. Whenever I hear someone online mention that the iPad is her or her primary computing device, I can’t help but think he or she will be having some serious neck issues in the future.

That doesn’t mean the iPad Pro it isn’t a valuable tool, or that it can’t be a main computer for people who have different needs than I do. I was worried that it might be too big (and for some people, it might be), but the size has never bothered me. I can lay in bed with it, and holding it in landscape orientation makes it perfectly comfortable to use. And for some tasks, it can be even better than a Mac.



  1. Research has shown that many people retain information better when writing, as opposed to typing. A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop | Scientific American  ↩