From the moment I bought my iPad pro, I fell in love with it.
At first, I thought it would be just another iPad with a faster processor and an attached keyboard.
However, I discovered that the iPad Pro is a performance beast and a perfectly appropriate tool to work if you are a blogger, writer, developer or even designer. Even to the point of completely replacing your MacBook or laptop.
In this “Working on an iPad Pro” series, I want to discuss how to use the iPad Pro as your only work tool.
Embracing the iPad Work Lifestyle
There’s something absolutely fascinating about the iPad Pro for me. Apart from a blogger, I am a developer, writer, musician, and entrepreneur, so I use it for quite a diverse number of things.
I have the smart keyboard and I find it really comfortable for typing, even for long periods of time. Also, it works surprisingly well not just for casual writing, but for source code too.
The fact that you can carry it in your hand and its light weight makes it also a winner for digital nomads.
Thus, as soon as I started to use mine, the unavoidable question came to my mind: can you work on an iPad Pro and get rid of your laptop completely?
As this question can be answered from so many points of view (blogger, writer, developer, entrepreneur, podcaster, musician…), I’ve decided to devote a post to each of them.
This first post discusses working on an iPad Pro for Bloggers. Let’s go!
Working on an iPad Pro for Bloggers
In order to be able to work as a blogger, you need at least the following:
- Access to an application or a web interface that will allow you to add and edit posts. This is obviously a must.
- The ability to capture, edit and add images to your posts. Optionally, working with video too.
- Access to third party applications that are important for the professional blogger, such as your newsletter or social media management tools.
First, let me talk about the different blogging platforms, and the tools they offer to work on your blog on an iPad Pro.
I like to have control over my blogs, so I have always gone the self-hosted route. If you really want to blog professionally, I would not recommend you going for Medium or a free blogger or WordPress account.
We have several options for self-hosted blogs. By far, the most popular and widely used is WordPress. Then, there are static page generators such as Jekyll and Ghost.
In this post, I am going to focus in the two that I know better: WordPress and Ghost.
Hosting Your Blog
Fortunately, I am a proficient developer and IT geek, so I know how to manage a VPS (self-hosted virtual private server). I have used Digital Ocean in the past and have no problem recommending it. These days, I use Linode. They have great machines for affordable prices, and you can have your dedicated server for your blog up and running for $5 a month.
If you have the technical knowledge and can afford it, I would recommend you to go that route and stay away from things like Bluehost or Hostgator.
Even though they may be ok when you are just starting, if you really care about your website and want to blog professionally, they are just not good enough.
To access your VPS, configure and install everything, I can recommend you Prompt for iPad. It’s expensive but works beautifully. I will write more about this in the “Working on an iPad Pro for Developers” article.
If you are not an IT guy or know nothing about servers, the matrix, dark terminal screens with green characters on it and whatnot, I recommend you to contact someone who can help you here. Even paying someone to setup your blog once. You won’t regret it.
I have worked for years with WordPress. It’s an awesome tool, and one of the most popular and widely used blogging platforms all around the globe.
If you have little or no technical knowledge, WordPress is a perfect choice for you.
It’s easy to install and, once it’s up and running, can be completely managed from a nice visual user interface. It has also a rich set of plugins, both paid and free, that can add to your website any kind functionality you might ever need, from newsletter opt-in forms to image sliders and everything in-between.
However, WordPress has some disadvantages you must be aware of.
Generally speaking, WordPress blogs are slow and clumsy when compared to other platforms. The more plugins you add, the slower your site will load. Additionally, some plugins might present conflicts with some other plugins and cause problems on your website. As a result, you need to be careful with which plugins you install and enable on your site.
Also, the technology used by WordPress, the fact that it’s the most widely used blogging platform, and the plugins (that come from diverse developers) make WordPress a somewhat insecure platform for blogging. Vulnerabilities appear frequently, both on WordPress itself and on many plugins, and you should make sure to update them all regularly.
Ok, so now that you know the pros and cons of WordPress, how easy or not it is to blog on an iPad Pro using WordPress? Until recently, it was next to impossible. However, WordPress updated its App recently, including some changes that make it possible to blog on the platform.
You have two options for writing and editing your posts in your WordPress blog: the web interface and the native iOS app.
The web interface
The WordPress web interface works great on your laptop. It is relatively clean and flexible, you have all the options you might need to format and style your post, and also all the advanced functionality from plugins (like SEO, categories, the visual composers…).
However, this interface works terribly bad on an iPad Pro, to the point of being completely unusable. As an example, if you try to move up or down, left or right inside the post using the arrow keys, the interface will jump to the bottom of the screen, outside of the editing window.
The iOS App
WordPress has an iOS App too. I have to admit that the App has a nice and clean interface. Minimalist, I would say.
Up until just some weeks ago, the formatting options of the iOS App were absolutely limited, to the point of being unusable for a professional, serious blog. Indeed, something as essential as adding a heading was not available. However, WordPress introduced the new beta editor, that includes a lot more formatting options, including, yes, headings.
While the new editor makes the experience of editing a post on your iPad almost as good as on your laptop, it’s not quite there yet. As an example, take the image above. You can see one of my posts about Augmented Reality with ARKit for iOS. On the left, you can see the main editor view. Halfway through the first paragraph, I included a video from Vimeo. As you can see, it shows as “[IFRAME]“. In the middle, you can see the Preview mode, with the video displaying correctly. While in the web interface you will see the video directly just by copying and pasting its URL, in the iPad interface you need to go to the source code view (on the right) to insert or modify it.
Not a major problem here, but can be a deal breaker for people without a technical background.
Of course, the iPad interface also misses all the functionality provided by the plugins. As an example, I use Yoast SEO quite regularly and enjoy being able to check some things while I’m writing my posts. With the iPad interface that’s not possible at all.
Third Party Apps
There is also the possibility to use third party apps. I concretely use iAWriter a lot to write, both for the book that I am finishing right now and for my blog posts.
iAWriter allows you to elaborate your posts in Markdown and then export them directly to WordPress by means of a plugin called Jetpack that you have to install in your WordPress blog.
What is Markdown, and why it’s so awesome?
Markdown is a plain text formatting syntax that allows you to write documents directly on text, but using some tags and symbols to apply format to your document. As an example, in the image above you can see the text on the left side and how it translates to a visual document representation on the right side. The real power of markdown is being able to focus on what you are writing, ignoring all the formatting and visual appearance considerations. You just add your tags, and keep on writing.
I will talk about iAWriter in depth when I write about working as a writer on an iPad Pro but, for now, just take into account that there are options apart from the official WordPress apps.
In summary, while you can use your iPad Pro to blog using the WordPress platform, it’s still far from perfect, so I wouldn’t dare to affirm that you can replace your laptop completely with your iPad Pro.
Ghost is a new blogging platform belonging to the “static generator” group of blogging platforms. Its main virtues are its lightweight structure -based on node.js-, its minimalist, elegant aspect out of the box -allowing you to focus on content instead of on themes and plugins- and its markdown edition system.
Precisely the markdown editor is the winning feature here. The editor works flawlessly on an iPad, and you have all the format and styling options available to you thanks to the markdown syntax.
Ghost has no native iOS App yet, but its web interface is perfectly usable on an iPad. All in all, writing in ghost on an iPad Pro is a pleasure, and allows you to focus on your content and move through it with the smart keyboard easily.
Now the cons.
First of all, Ghost currently only works for a very limited and special system configuration. Namely, you will need Ubuntu as your operating system and Nginx as your web server. You can try other configurations, but then you won’t be able to easily install it or update it at all.
This is really unfortunate, as previous versions of Ghost could run without problems on diverse system configurations.
Additionally, Ghost is a lot harder to install and modify. If you want to do any customization beyond the basics and what your current theme offers, you will have to do it on the command line, which is probably out of reach for most non-IT people.
Also, even though Ghost is focused on blogging, and does that amazingly well, you don’t have the awesome collection of plugins that WordPress has, so you are out of luck if you need a special functionality not covered by the base system.
Jekyll and Others
There are other platforms out there like Jekyll (developed by the Github guys) that follow a similar concept to Ghost. They all are faster and more minimalist than WordPress, run smoother and are easier to edit on an iPad Pro via the markdown syntax. However, most of them are also as hard to install and maintain for a non-IT person as Ghost.
So, WordPress or Ghost?
It depends… If you just need a blog, have the necessary technical background, and your server runs Ubuntu and Xginx, I would go for Ghost. It will allow you to work more comfortably on your iPad Pro thanks to its markdown editor.
However, 99% of the times, you would probably want to install and use WordPress. It’s easy to install on most systems, including all Windows, macOS and Linux distributions and can be completely managed via its visual interface.
Also, if you are building a site that is not just a blog, but an e-commerce or a membership subscription site, you should use WordPress. Ghost or Jekyll would not be a good option in those cases.
Nevertheless, take into account that if you opt for WordPress, you will need to overcome an app interface that’s not as mature as its web interface right now.
Another important aspect of blogging is the images and visual elements of your blog.
Images were a bit tricky for me at first. The iPad photo editing tool doesn’t allow you to crop or resize to specific dimensions. Thus, finding a good tool for editing the photos was my first challenge.
Cropping And Resizing
After some research, and trying some free and paid tools, I settled down with Crop Size.
Its interface is a little bit ugly, and they could improve its usability a lot, but generally speaking, it allows you to perfectly control the size of the images, by finely cropping and resizing them to the pixel.
Additionally, you can perform other editing operations on the images like rotating them or altering their brightness or contrast.
In order to compress your images (and you are compressing the images of your blog, right?) there are many online tools available.
The Whole Process
I have a shared album where I upload all the pics I take from my camera, iPhone or iPad.
Then, I use CropSize to resize and crop them to the exact width and height that I need.
Next, I compress the images by using one of the previously mentioned online tools.
Finally, on the Ghost interface, just write
!() and a rectangle will appear. Click on that rectangle and upload your image.
Unless you need high-quality video editing, you should be fine working with video as a blogger on an iPad Pro.
You have free awesome tools like iMovie available to you, and you can use the iPad to record, edit, and upload your videos to Youtube or Vimeo.
If you are serious about your blog, you certainly need some extra tools to take care of tasks such as managing your newsletter or your social media presence.
Newsletter Management Tools
Given that most newsletter management tools are web-based, you should have no problem using them from your iPad Pro. I have no experience in AWeber or ConvertKit because I use exclusively MailChimp.
For this blog, I create all my campaigns from my iPad Pro. I did the initial design on my MacBook Pro, yes, but I uploaded it as a template and I modify it from the web interface for all subsequent campaigns.
There are certainly many awesome templates I might have used from MailChimp, so I would say that working on an iPad Pro for bloggers, as long as newsletter management is considered, is perfectly doable.
Forget about the MailChimp iOS App. It’s great for checking your campaigns and getting the reports, but it won’t let you add a new campaign. Use the web interface instead.
Social Media Management Tools
Both Hootsuite and Buffer have pretty usable iPad applications, and in the case of Buffer, their web interface works beautifully on an iPad Pro too.
Thus, social media management tools should pose no problem for a full iPad Working Lifestyle.
There are myriads of other useful online tools for bloggers that you can use to make your work easier. Take Canva, for example. It can really help you generate awesome visuals for your posts with little effort. Another great tool is TypeForm, to generate surveys for your readers.
Is it possible to completely replace your laptop with an iPad Pro if you are a blogger?
I would say yes, it is, but of course it depends on so many factors, like the purpose of your blog (general blog, e-commerce, membership site, etc…), the platform you are using (WordPress, Jekyll, Ghost, etc…), and your specific needs that might be dependent on desktop tools.
In my case, I run several blogs. This blog you are reading right now runs
on Ghost, and I write all my posts from my iPad Pro now back on WordPress. Even though I can edit many of my posts from my iPad Pro, I still find it easier to work from my laptop on posts that require videos or special features.
However, I still write a lot of posts exclusively on the iPad Pro. Also, I code all my MailChimp campaigns using the iPad Pro too and manage all my social networks from either my iPad or my iPhone.
Regarding my other blog, Digital Leaves, I run it also on WordPress. I hope that the Beta editor will be improved so that I would be able to write completely from my iPad Pro.
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