Working With Two iPads (Seriously)
Issue 31: Can dual tablets be an effective workflow?
Derek Jeter is a hall-of-fame baseball player and is synonymous with New York City, where he played his entire career with the Yankees. As a five-time World Series champion, Jeter is known for rising to the occasion during the fall. In the autumn of 2017, he made headlines for a different reason. Now retired, Jeter’s ownership group purchased the Miami Marlins. In a press photo In 2017, SB Nation and other publications noticed something peculiar about his office. The aesthetic can be described as minimal, only with a giant hand sanitizer by his desk, where two iPads sat.
There were so many questions. Why would someone use two iPads? Are wealthy people too busy to type on keyboards like us peons? Can you buy a baseball team on an iPad? As ridiculous as having two iPads in your office seemed, I was fascinated by it. Could two iPads be an effective workflow? I had to explore it.
Let’s start off the bat (heh) to explain why I even own two iPads. Early in my career, I worked in software development for iOS. We purchased a lot of hardware to test apps we built for clients to ensure they passed quality control. Despite Marie Kondo’ing my device collection, there was still a spare iPad Pro lying around.
My optimal workflow
When I was in school, time on the computer was sacred and you had to book time. It formed a habit for me to maximize my time when I was in front of a computer. I viewed the computer like a power tool—something high power that requires a lot of focus once you plan the work. As a result, I do a lot of work on paper or my iPad and use the computer like a computation power tool. In addition, I’ve always felt containing my view of one screen felt uncomfortable over time.
I require big blocks of focus time in order to do creative work. I'm not effective in small spurts or multi-tasking and I don’t like sitting in front of a computer not knowing what I need to do. Working on full-screen apps on the iPad encourages single-focus workflows (I don't use the multi-tasking on iPadOS with the exception of quick lookups). My work activities on the tablet are drawing, editing photos, scanning documents, reading research documents, watching videos, and writing.
After a few days of working in this manner, I discovered its effectiveness. Two devices with great screen real estate but easily movable made my workspace more versatile. For the last three years, I’ve used this workflow for pre-computation needs—one iPad focused on content consumption where the other one was all about content creation.
Now with many applications with cloud capabilities, access to small files between both iPads is quick. As much as I love mechanical keyboards, I found Apple’s magic keyboard the most portable while feeling pleasant to type on. I can use my fingers, keyboard, trackpad, and the Apple pencil to use as tools in this workflow which drastically improved ergonomics. There are so many permutations of workspaces you can set up without disrupting your flow state.
So, is it worth it? Depends on your budget and what you value. However, if you get two of the base iPads that are compatible with the Pencil, it might be cheaper than a laptop or a computer with a monitor. If you happen to have an extra tablet laying around, give it a try and see how it feels.
Thank you Mr. Jeter for the ridiculous inspiration.