Apple’s WWDC21 Inches iPad Forward

This week, Apple’s keynote at WWDC21 showcased a wide array of iterative and innovative software enhancements to its ecosystem of digital devices. The iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac are all becoming better, yet there are signs of feature creep. If true, it’s unsurprising and unfortunate, but I’m excited for some of the new and improved things. Apple’s overall focus and purpose, perhaps the theme of WWDC21, is privacy; the company wants your personal data to remain private. While overall this is a good thing, my focus is iPad.

Apple announced a tall and wide stack of stuff in the opening keynote. A big question and expectation going into the keynote concerned the evolving stance of iPad. Would Apple finally remove the training wheels of restriction from iPadOS and let it ride freely as a “real computer?” Many tech geeks, like me, had waited and wondered. Answer: it depends on who you ask.

I saw promising upgrades to iPad that I’m happy for, and if it persists as more of a tablet computer and less of a “real” computer, that’s fine with me — Apple, and others, still sell real laptops and desktop machines too. The most important changes to iPad affect its multitasking system; it’s being somewhat simplified with visible buttons in addition to its invisible gestures. Users can see windowing options (they’re discoverable) via a new button and choose one with a simple tap. No longer must normal people become power users and memorize a convoluted bunch of finger gymnastics to invoke multi-window layouts.

That said, since the previous multi-tasking methods remain intact, the new button set-up, though simpler in itself, is an addition atop an already complex system of windowing on iPad. This is construed as feature creep and upsets the balance between simplicity and capability. Such imbalance introduces complexity, antithetical to iPad, which threatens to become more convoluted and less elegant. Apple continues to slowly yet steadily evolve iPad to become “more” or “better” yet keeping its position between a smartphone and a laptop. Adopting the best of both ends of the mobile computing spectrum while mitigating compromise is a tricky endeavor. Failure incurs disdain with labels for iPad like, “just a big phone” or “not a laptop replacement.” Conversely, the better Apple succeeds, the more magical iPad becomes.

iPad has other new tricks up its sleeve. Like on iPhone, one welcome change lets widgets be placed anywhere. There’s also a new bigger sized widget that makes better use of iPad’s large display, letting users see more content at a glance. How useful this is remains to be seen, but I think it will aid productivity. iPad now has the App Library too. Like its phone cousin, the auto-categorized groups of apps appear in a full screen array when a user swipes past the last homepage. The App Library can also be quickly accessed from any homepage via the Dock, which is great for easily selecting any additional app for multitasking.

Other new features coming to iPad match those new to iOS 15 for iPhone. Some faves I’m excited for are: tags with custom smart folders in the Notes app, EXIF metadata in the Photos app, live locations of family in the Find My app, and tab groups in Safari to name a few. Inexplicably, the Weather app and the Calculator app remain missing from iPad, as if to offset feature creep with feature disparity.

The popular tablet designed in California is getting incremental updates this year, which isn’t half bad, considering it’s already a fantastic computing device. Prior upgrades gave iPad full mouse and cursor control, making it more computer-like than ever. Apple’s ongoing progress with iPad while maneuvering it along the mobile computing midline is laudable. Though imperfect or slightly disappointing to some tech enthusiasts, Apple’s overall strategy is sound and admirable. I miss my iPad Air 2 and plan to buy a new iPad later this Summer.

Pay More With Surface Duo

Are two screens better than one? Microsoft thinks so. You can now pre-order Microsoft’s new device called Surface Duo. It’s a phone. And a mini split-screen tablet. And it’s quite possibly the coolest new gadget this year. Unfortunately, it will cost all your dollars.

The Duo is an Android phone with dual-screens and an overt friendliness to Microsoft apps. What makes it special is how apps utilize the screens both separately and together in various ways. I’m super intrigued by it. My wallet, though, is laughing at me. Nope, not buyin’ it.

Do More. And Pay More.

Microsoft is pushing the idea of, “Do more with Duo.” Or, “Do to the power of two.” See and do more with wide screens and multiple modes. You really must watch the demos of the device to understand its versatility. The Duo is marketed as a new productivity device. I’m guessing this includes creativity as well.

Half-joking, one reaction I have to the “do more” push is my push-back, “Do I really need to do more?” Don’t I do enough already? My Android phablet and my Chromebook let me do a lot! And I’ve been working professionally for the last 17 years using Windows PCs with Microsoft Office, among other programs. What more do I need to do?

Maybe I could be more productive and less busy – efficiency! But production must be balanced with recreation. For you know, all work and no play…not cool!

Half-joking aside, the Duo does appear to enable more, or at least better, ways to do-all-the-things in a device that fits in your pocket. Again, it’s very intriguing. I’m looking forward to upcoming reviews after people get real-world hands-on daily usage of it.

But no matter how cool or productive the Surface Duo is, that $1399 price tag is an anvil around its neck! For that amount of currency you could instead buy:

  • iPhone SE $399
  • AirPods $159
  • iPad $329
  • Smart Keyboard $159
  • Apple Pencil $99

This totals just $1145, so you’d still have $254 left over! Could you be as productive with an iPhone and iPad as you could with just a Surface Duo? How much more could you really do with the Duo?

Or how about this set-up?

  • MacBook Air $999
  • iPhone SE $399

This is equivalent to the price of the Surface Duo by itself at $1399. Is a Duo more productive than a combo of iPhone and MacBook? I doubt it.

Microsoft has a hard sell here. Despite that, the Duo seems compelling to me. It’s likely my tech-nerd bias though.

I like productivity and gadgetry. But I also like frugality. And I know firsthand how well “budget” devices work and how much you can do with them. My current set-up is a fair-enough example:

  • Moto G Power Android smartphone $249
  • HP 14” Chromebook $299 (I actually got it on sale for $179!)

I can do plenty with 2 portable devices that set me back a mere $428! But if you’d like to step up your Google device game, you could buy:

  • Google Pixel 4a $349
  • Google Pixelbook Go $649

That totals $998, still $401 less than the Surface Duo! And all the combo options I’ve listed, even the iPad, include a physical keyboard to type on for basic productivity, unlike Duo.

The point of all this is to say no matter how swank the Duo gleams, whether you’re all-in with Apple tech or Google swag, you can buy productive gear for less money than the Surface Duo.

And let’s not forget that all the devices I listed above can run Microsoft Office mobile apps or web apps. Do they work as well on said devices as on the Duo? And if not, do the Duo versions of Office apps justify the high price tag? Time will tell.

Maybe by its 3rd generation, the Duo will lower in price and increase in value with even better features. But until such a time, I think the Duo will remain a niche gadget.

Do you think you could do more with Duo?

What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Unblocking The Block Editor

A Blockade

If you are a blogger on WordPress, then I’m sure you noticed that well over a year ago, this new thing called the Block Editor arrived. So began the push against the old-school, I mean ‘classic’, editor. I resisted; you probably did too. But I knew it was futile, like telling the Borg to leave you alone. So here I am, being assimilated to the blocks.

Word Blockage

Blocks are fundamentally awesome. Because Lego! By their nature, blocks are for building things, like a website or, maybe, a blog post. But bloggers are not builders, they’re writers. Right? We pour words into a draft. Then we edit them. We don’t edit blocks. Except, I guess, now we do.

In late 2018, when I checked out the shiny new editor of the blocks, I thought it was interesting, but I did not see its potential. I just thought it made plain writing harder. Like, everyone knows Writer’s Block is not a good thing. That’s why we writers like a distraction-free blank canvas to allow for maximum word outflow.

Now in early 2020, I started refreshing my blog theme. Besides writing only articles, I decided to try adding shorter blurbs called “Asides.” This was a bit of change to my blogging workflow, so while I was at it, when I opened the editor and it asked me to convert to the new blocky one, I figured it was time to get on that train. It was an avalanche of change.

The Unblocking

Once I made the mental shift towards accepting the Block Editor, then it was simply a matter of time and attention to learning and practicing it. A key issue I had to resolve first was whether or not I could still use my normal writing workflow…without being blocked. (I prefer intentional puns.) To my relief, yes, I could!

In a nutshell, I write all my article drafts in Google Docs, then I upload directly to my blog using the WordPress Add-on. It looks like this:

Google Docs Add On

I’m happy to report that this great Add-on works with the Block Editor. By some tecno-wizardry that would make Gandalf proud, my Google Doc Draft Template gets converted to all the blocky things. It just works! (Knocks on wood, crosses fingers, and prays.)

The ABC’s Of Blocking

What about all those blocks? Why are there so many? What do they all do? What’s with all the new buttons? How does it all work?

Hold on, change is hard, but it’s okay.

First, you must embrace the fact that the Block Editor is going to steamroll you sooner or later; it is inevitable! Once that melodrama eases up, then you may begin playing with the blocks like you’ve got a pile of Lego. Let your imagination and creativity go with it. Just start snapping the basic blocks together. Set aside time to do this; you’re gonna wanna focus.

Second, repeat. That’s it! All it takes is a little time and practice. For the most part, when it comes to an actual blog post, you won’t really need a whole buncha fancy blocks anyways. Your bestie will be the Paragraph block. You might also wanna try the Header block. There are a few blocks for writing, and maybe a few for layout, that you’ll want to get familiar with.

Now Blocking. I Mean Blogging.

The Block Editor is not bad. In fact, now I think it’s pretty cool. It does offer more capabilities than before. And yes, more features often means more complexity. Yet it works. I’m still learning all the ins and outs, but I have not run into any block-busters (ok that pun is kinda weak). And recently, WordPress shared some good new info about the creative abilities of the ever-improving Block Editor; I found it helpful.

For straightforward writing, I think the block paradigm is kind of overkill. You really just need a blank page and maybe some text formatting (WYSIWYG) when you’re ready to polish and edit. But for website and blog building, the Block Editor is really good. Maybe over time, I will come to learn how beneficial it is to writing.

Give change a chance.

Are you a Block Editor hold-out like I was? I get it! Have you been assimilated? Me too! Add your comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Apple Evolves New Computer Breed

Since Apple’s recent WWDC19 keynote, I’ve processed many web articles, podcasts, and tweets about all the iPad things. And although the idea in my head is still a bit fuzzy, I’m starting to see what looks like a growing distinction, maybe even a division, in iPad.

iPad Evolves

Apple’s avalanche of announcements made a lot of good noise in the tech-sphere. And among those who, like me, use iPad as their computer, the epitome of new features is summed up in the name, iPadOS.

Let’s back up a bit. iPad debuted in 2010. It defined what a tablet is and does. It went through a few iterations, but it mostly remained as the best tablet money could buy.

Then, in 2015, the iPad Pro was released. Having the “Pro” moniker plus the new keyboard and pencil accessories introduced a distinction. Apple was making a declaration: iPad is a tablet; iPad Pro is a…Pro tablet. Or maybe it’s a tablet computer.

Now for 2019, Apple once again is pushing iPad further into computer territory with iPadOS, since it brings so many definitive Mac-like features to the tablet form factor. In effect, Apple is pushing the distinction to a division.

Users and Power Users

The thing I keep noticing after WWDC is all the examples of features that enable iPad to do computery things like never before. Most notably, they’re the kinds of things only a certain class of people, power users, take advantage of.

For example:

  • App Exposé
  • Slide over app switching
  • Multi split-screen apps
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • New multi-finger gestures
  • Mouse support
  • USB drive support
  • Built-in Shortcuts app
  • Files app advancements
  • Downloads manager

In contrast, most users look at iPad and think, “Great tablet!” because iPad excels at web surfin’ and YouTubin’.

So if it wasn’t clear before, it’s crystal now: Apple is evolving iPad from mere tablet to the newest form of The Personal Computer.

Apple’s distinction of iPad between tablet and computer is also reflected in the blurred distinction between iPad or MacBook, as shown by the new Brydge Pro keyboard:

iPad Identities

I guess what I’m wondering about now is, what happens next? Does this mean the regular $329 iPad is a tablet and the iPad Pro is a touch-screen computer? Will Apple just shock everyone with the next iteration being a clamshell laptop running iPadOS?1

The debate about iPad being a good consumption device versus a productivity machine might continue. Yet that’s talking about iPad as if there is still just one version of it. There are now at least two distinct versions of iPad.

In fact, there’s enough distinction to make a clear divide: the low end iPad is a tablet for the casual user. And the high-end is a computer for the power user. Meanwhile, the recent mid-range iPad Air is the hybrid device! It serves as both a consumption tablet and as a productive/creative workhorse when you need it.

Our so-called post-PC era positioned the traditional desktop PC as your “truck” and the iPad2 as your “car.” But with the state of iPad now, your “truck” could be a 12.9” iPad Pro computer that lives on your desk with a keyboard at home, and your “car” could be an iPad mini tablet that goes with you everywhere.

What’s your opinion? How do you use your iPad? Comment below or message me. Thanks for reading!

  1. Would it be called “iBook” or “Apptop” or “AppBook” or something else?
  2. Tablets are the car. But what tablets exist besides iPad, really?

A Daily Writing Habit

A few months back, I found myself in unusual circumstances. I was able to get a lot of writing done. And it led me to schedule many blog posts. I even found my brain more apt to write most of the time – my writing muscles were flexed. Then life kinda happened. Now I’m struggling to find time, make time, to type stuff up.

I need a daily writing habit.

A Writing Tool

I think one reason my mind is writing less is because it’s in learning mode. It wants to take in info and process it all at once.1 I had heard of a writing tool called Ulysses and decided to finally give it a try.2 This has me reading a lot of stuff to learn it!

So far, I like Ulysses a lot. Here’s just a few off-hand reasons why:

  1. It helps me organize my writing better
  2. It gives me better ways to write, making it easier
  3. It helps motivate me with writing goals
  4. It gives me more and better options to publish

I’ll leave it at that for now. It will take quite some time for me to slowly re-wire my 3 pound brain, adjusting my workflow through Ulysses. Prior to this, I wrote all my notes and private journal entries in the Notes app on iOS. And I wrote all my blog drafts directly in the WordPress app. But anything about the blog3 was separated out to the Notes app. Now that’s changed.

Guess what? Change is hard. Even when for the better. But I’m sure you know that already.

A Writing Time and Place4

Last year, I read a book called, Rest. Here’s the link. In it, I found awesome motivation to implement a daily writing habit. Part of that was to slog it out by picking the same time and place each day to just show up with the mind ready to write Shakespeare. Or dreck not worthy of a Facebook post. The point was to just start writing!

So that’s what I did. And it was great! I often got into the flow of writing. Just letting the words pour forth on the digital page. I was in a nice quiet space, a rare time of solitude before anyone else was out of bed, and I had my first cup of coffee. Sounds like a dream, but it was real. Also amazing, I was able to write over 1,000 words a day on some of those days; hitting 500 words was easier.

Guess what happened not long after that? Life hit me. I got sidelined by anxiety. At the time, I was still not far removed from a period of life in which anxiety or panic attacks were frequent. After that, I just couldn’t or didn’t want to attempt early morning writing again.

Well, I’m back at it again, trying to resume such a daily writing habit. Because I need to. I can’t let life just happen. What I mean is, I can’t hope to find time to write. I might as well buy a lottery ticket if I’m hoping to get lucky. No, I need to take time or make time, at least just a little, so I can practice writing5.

Writers Write. Right.

The goal is to cultivate a good habit of writing in order to get better at all forms of it, especially blogging. Yes, I have dreams of someday writing a fiction novel! But blogging is, for present lack of creative juices, my bread and butter.6

Writers write. Bloggers blog.

So…I’ve got a good tool, I’m gonna take time, and I’ve got a place to write.

Let’s see how it goes!

Am I missing anything I need to write more or better? What about something like Grammarly? Would you say my blogging has a “voice?” Comment gently below, or send me some electronic mails. Thanks!

  1. Input mode instead of Output mode.
  2. Don’t get me wrong though. Just like buying a DSLR won’t suddenly make you a pro photographer, I don’t think using “pro” software to write will make me a pro writer. I love that fantasy, but I know it’s not reality.
  3. I call this blog related info “Meta.”
  4. I can’t decide; should I say “writing place” or “writing space?”
  5. I can always use more practice writing!
  6. That could be a good blog post title: The Bread And Butter Of Blogging.