Monthly Archives: July 2017

iPad Journal: Transitioning from InDesign to Pages

Anytime I’ve written about my transition to iPad for more of my work I always note that one of the few reasons I have for returning to the Mac for client work is InDesign. While the company that makes Affinity Photo also has a publishing app in the works that is intended to replace InDesign it is likely a ways off for the Mac and even further away for the iPad. But there is hope to be found in Apple’s Pages app and with a recent update to the app I’ve been giving more thought to how I might transition more of my InDesign work in that direction. Can Pages handle it?

Yes. Yes it can. Sometimes.

On the Mac side of things I’ve been using InDesign and Pages since they were released. In that time I’ve used InDesign for the projects where I felt Pages was lacking in some way. For example, I’ve worked with two different community newspapers and newspaper layout isn’t something I would ever do with Pages. Actually, I believe I did one issue using Pages and it worked out okay but I felt more comfortable with InDesign for that kind of work. Also, any project in which a client wants more than a printable pdf, specifically when they want an InDesign file well, obviously, that’s the app I use. I’d say my use of each app was about 50/50. Though I generally used InDesign for larger more complicated documents I found Pages worked very well for flyers, posters and smaller newsletters as well as Annual Reports. In 2014 I helped a friend publish her first book and that was done with Pages and turned out very well.

For years both of those apps matured until 2010 when the iPad was introduced by Apple. They also introduced a version for the iPad and then a couple years later rebuilt Pages on both its platforms, Mac and iOS, to be much closer in compatibility. It was a step forward for the iOS version but a big step backward for the Mac version which lost many features. In my own workflow I resorted to keeping the older version of Pages around as it still worked fine though it was no longer being updated. Users howled and Apple responded by gradually re-adding many of those features but it has taken time. It took a few years but the result is that we now have Pages on Mac and iPad which is near feature parity and which has been re-built into something much closer (in features) to the original Mac version of Pages. In many ways it is much improved as it has new features such as real-time collaboration and a web version that works on Windows via iCloud.

What’s still lacking in the iOS version of Pages? Sadly, there are a few important things. Creating and editing styles is not an option. I can apply a style but I cannot edit a pre-existing style. To do that I have to be on a Mac. If I’ve created a document and decide to change the page orientation after the fact I’ll need a Mac. If I want to create a document using a custom page size or change a document to a custom page size I’ll need a Mac. These are some pretty basic and foundational features and should not be missing from the iOS version. This is especially true give than Apple markets their “Pro” iPads as computers powerful enough to replace traditional computers. That said, Apple is consistently updating the app with new and important features. For example, the most recent update released in the summer of 2017, reintroduced a feature which had been removed in the above mentioned redesign of the app: linked text boxes. This is a feature that is an absolute necessity for many multi-page documents.

Where is Pages for iOS lacking in comparison to InDesign. For starters, the above mentioned ability to create and edit styles. InDesign has many advanced typography features lacking in Pages. Just one example: You can’t change the character spacing (though this does work on the Mac version of Pages). There’s no work space (usually called a pasteboard) around a Pages document for temporarily placing things while working. Want to reorder pages by their thumbnails? Nope The header or footer of a Pages document are the only places you can add page numbers and it’s all or nothing. Not much in the way of customization. If I’m doing a cover page or a table of contents I don’t want those pages to have a header with a page number. For small documents, say, a 6 page newsletter, it’s not a huge burden do create my own headers with page numbers added manually. Most of the documents I do are less than 10 pages but it’s worth mentioning the limitation.

Even with these limitations Pages on the the large 12.9″ screen of the iPad Pro is very powerful and a pleasure to use. It has a few features that do not exist on InDesign. For example, charts which are almost always a part of any annual report. I can do a table in InDesign but it’s far easier to do in Pages. Of course, adding objects and flowing text around them is something InDesign does but Pages does it so fluidly. Also, the styling options for objects in Pages, while a bit more limited also seem more powerful and are easier to apply. Perhaps the best way of summarizing the difference is that working with Pages means fewer features by comparison to InDesign but what it does do, Pages does very well and with little friction. A last point: when I consider the features I need for a newsletter or annual report job, Pages almost always has what I need.

So, to summarize, InDesign is, without a doubt, a far more powerful application than Apple’s Pages. It is a truly “Pro” application… for the Mac. It is not available for the iPad. But if my end product is to be a newsletter or annual report, either of these apps will allow me to produce a visually attractive, well designed document. Were I to set out to create a similar design using each app, for the sake of comparison, it is very likely that they would, in most cases, be indistinguishable from one another. Put another way, were I to send you 10 pdfs of the usual sort of newsletter or annual report that I’ve produced and ask you to determine which of the two apps was used, you would probably not be able to.

Pages is obviously not the most powerful or the best page layout tool for designing multi-page documents on the Mac. But on the iPad, as far as I am aware, it is the best option and it’s one which I’ve used many times with great results. I’ll keep InDesign around for the projects that require it but going forward if I can do a job on Pages I will.

July 13, 2017

Noticing that iCloud Drive does not update as quickly as DropBox. Problem on both Mac & iOS.

iPad Journal: Multi-touch on the iPad 12.9″

I’ve been using the larger iPad for nearly a month now and continue to consider it the best Apple device I’ve ever used. For casual browsing of the web via Safari, Reeder and Twitter it is essentially the same experience as with the iPad Air 2, just bigger. I probably use split screen more for that. But that’s not why I wanted the larger iPad. I wanted it for work and as a work device it is everything I hoped it would be. And that’s with iOS 10. I expect it to get even better with iOS 11. Managing client websites with Coda while split screening with apps such as Mail, Messages or Safari is a much easier task with the added screen space. Using the recently released Affinity Photo for designing several client postcards and posters has also been a much nicer process with the larger screen. It will be better when they add split screen to it as I often need text and images from other apps while working.

Something which was unexpected: I’ve noticed is that there are times that I’m now actively using more than one touch point at a time. Put another way, I am now using two hands, two fingers on screen at the same time, to do certain tasks. In part I think this came about as a result of the bigger screen. But it was also a result of thinking about the coming changes with iOS 11 as a multi-touch operating system. The idea of using two hands and multiple fingers wasn’t something I’d really thought about before when using the smaller iPad Air 2. But between learning about iOS 11 and multi-touch features and having the larger screen iPad I think something in my brain clicked. Along with this is a more general use of two hands. I may not be actively touching the screen with both hands at the same time but I’m finding now that I am much more likely to have both hands up at the screen, coordinating actions back and forth. Which brings me to Dan Counsell’s recent post to his blog, Minimal Path, Apple should release bigger iPads:

If Apple wants the iPad to start making serious inroads into the pro market, and I believe they do, then they are going to need to release even bigger iPads. That may sound crazy, but hear me out.

For starters, I’d like to see an iPad around the 15-inch mark, akin to the MacBook Pro. Hell, maybe even 17 to 20-inch versions. If you spend a large amount of time working at a desk you don’t need a system to be super portable, you just need more screen real estate and more power.

I agree completely. Personally, I’m very happy with my current set-up of Mac-Mini for desktop and iPad Pro for mobile. I’ll need to keep the Mac for InDesign and as a media server for Plex. But I can definitely see the usefulness of a large, 23 to 27″ desktop iPad. I’ve been hoping Apple would make such a beast since Microsoft unveiled the Surface Studio. Would be fantastic for video editing with a new version of Final Cut Pro for iOS1 as well as design work with Affinity Photo and the upcoming Affinity Designer and hopefully, one day, an Affinity Layout app. An “iPad Studio” would be the perfect device to showcase working with the multi-touch capabilities coming with iOS 11. Until then I’ll happily continue using my iPad Pro.

  1. Or the recently updated LumaFusion video editor. I just started using this today and as many have already said, it is as close as we currently have to Final Cut Pro for the iPad.

July 6, 2017

9to5Mac has an excellent post about benefits of using Apple’s Smart Keyboard with iPad Pro.

In short, when you want a laptop experience it takes only a second to dock the iPad. When you want a tablet just undock it. When on the move you have a very thin, lightweight Smart Cover!