Over the past six months I've been writing a good bit more here and much of it has been about various aspects of using iOS. Back in May, after a seven month blogging hiatus, I wrote about my shifting computer usage. At the time I'd noticed that I'd almost accidentally shifted towards iOS. But then the accidental shift became purposeful as I also realized that not only was I getting more done with iOS but I was also enjoying it more than I had in previous years. This was in part because I had learned to use it better which meant using it with less mental friction. Along with that were features such as extensions and split screen that made it more powerful. In short I could do more and that doing more was happening without me having to think about how to do it. iOS had begun to click for me in the same way that the Mac had so many years ago.
The Mac. I've been using a Mac for 24 years. Since 1998 I've rarely gone a day without using one. Most days I've logged several hours at a Mac keyboard. With each operating system I happily learned all the new features. After so many years the Mac seemed so natural to use. It was an extension of me. I knew the operating system and my usual apps so well that I never had to pause to consider how to accomplish any task unless I was learning a new app or skill. The toolset provided by the OS and apps were there to help me get my work done with less effort.
When iOS entered the scene not only did it present a radical departure in form factor but the OS itself seemed far too limited. And it was. If it was an extension of me it was an extension bound in an awkward and uncomfortable cast. I wanted to love it and I did use it on several versions of iPad. Sometimes I even enjoyed it. But it never quite clicked. I always felt I was working harder jumping through hoops and taking extra steps. All of general use apps for reading the web or books, email, calendaring, and to-dos worked well enough. But any sort of specialty app ended up being a disappointment. I think some of that was, no doubt, the limitation of the OS. But it was also just my lack of comfort. (Update: Just as I was nearing completion of this I came across a twitter conversation between Matt Gemmell and Ben Brooks and I think it fits perfectly in this post).
I don' think it's about being scared so much as it is the comfort of long practice as well as very real constraints of apps and OS. In May I turned a corner and I suddenly found iOS was just as easy to use as the Mac1. Not only that, but many tasks were actually quite a bit easier or seemed so. Some of this was iOS. Some of it the improved quality of apps. Some of it was just me having settled in to this new home. Even better, as the mental friction slipped away I came to more fully appreciate and enjoy the iPad form factor. This may seem silly but at some point in the spring I decided to start using the iPad without the smart cover except for the times I needed to prop it up for typing with an external keyboard or going out with the iPad. I've always used a case or cover but there's something very nice about using an iPad bare. With just the metal and glass in my hands the iPad is at it's lightest and thinnest, it just feels better.
I'm not iPad only and won't be anytime soon. The Mac still has some uses for me that I cannot duplicate on an iPad. The biggest of these is layout on InDesign. It's something I need to do for clients once or twice a month. Much of my graphic design is also on the Mac but I can see this moving over to the iPad and I'm actively working on that. But I'm still surprised at how little I'm using the Mac these days. I suspect I'll keep one around for a long time. No doubt it's still a great operating system and I'd never want to use any other desktop OS but it just doesn't feel like home anymore.
- I can imagine a scenario in which a young person of today, having grown up using an iPad, eventually finds themselves at the keyboard of a Mac. They'd likely endure a period of adjustment and discomfort. ↩