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iPad vs MacBook Air

I don’t use my iPad as much as I used to.

Ironic, given that there a lot of writers out there that I respect a lot who are using their iPads a lot, even for plying their craft.

The appeal of the iPad is obvious. It’s light, small and the battery life is off the charts. Shawn Blanc does a great job of enumerating all of the great ways the iPad can enrich you life and be a great platform for creative endeavor.

I just can’t seem to get away from the power and control I have over my MacBook Air. Part of that is because the Air is really good at the things the iPad is bad at.

  • I can switch tasks at the drop of a hat
  • I can open new applications with the touch of just a few keystrokes (thanks to Launchbar)
  • I type really fast on my laptop. I’m not one to whine about how hard the iPad keyboard is to type on and I can hold my own in that regard but I have to be very deliberate with hand placement and I often make mistakes hitting the spacebar either too much or not enough.
  • OmniOutliner and all of the workflow elements I have built into my note-taking system over the last year or so (using TextExpander, Keyboard Maestro etc) make me more effective at work.
  • Despite the design and utility of the iPad version of OmniFocus, the larger screen size really benefits how I use OmniFocus (not to mention setting up Perspectives)
  • Byword on the Mac is really good. It makes writing posts like this one so much easier and all of the link-handling Markdown stuff that Brett Terpstra has introduced make it even more efficient. I can’t get this type of efficiency on the iPad.

All of these things really add up over time. I can’t see the iPad, despite the amazing advancements in application design over the last two years, ever surpassing the laptop for things like that, mainly because many of those things run counter to what Apple (and many others) envision as the true sweet spot for the iPad as far as functionality goes.

Having a device for reading, watching, light note-taking and document creation, all untethered by wires and being largely unconcerned about battery life are what most users purchase iPads for. Ubiquitous connectivity is a huge plus as well.

I use my iPad daily for reading the news and nightly for reading books. If I am going on a short day trip where I will be in coffee shops working on posts or answering email, it’s likely I’ll take the iPad. If I need to do a lot of task switching and fast typing, the MacBook Air is a workhorse that, for now at least, is pretty much impossible to replace.


For another interesting viewpoint on this discussion, I just ran across this post by John Carey which is definitely worth a read.