Francisco Tolmasky on the iPad Getting Graded on a Curve

Francisco Tolmasky, in a tweet thread:

The frustrating thing about the iPad is that I constantly feel that I need to be buying into a philosophy. There’s rarely a good reason for why I can’t do something other than me “not getting what the iPad is about”. This never happens with the Mac or the iPhone.

The limitations of the iPhone feel earned due to the nature of the device. You can get away with a lot because it feels amazing that I can get this much done in this form factor to begin with. But the iPad form factor is basically the same as a laptop, so it deserves no slack.

This thread resonated deeply with me, and gets to some of the UI design issues with iPadOS I’ve been trying to express recently. I think he makes one mistake — he mixes in complaints about the Magic Keyboard accessory with complaints about iPadOS conceptually. (He’s frustrated that you can’t fold the Magic Keyboard open like a book, like you can with the Smart Keyboard.) Without putting words in Tolmasky’s mouth, I think he lumped in a critique of the Magic Keyboard on the grounds that the ways the it makes you more productive on an iPad ought not require a heavy, expensive, inflexible keyboard stand to achieve. But to me it waters down the basic argument.

Two things I’ve noted with irritation this week, while trying to do more daily work on iPad:

  • The Command-Tab switcher only shows the 8 most recent apps. Why? It’s surprising how often I bump into this limit, trying to switch to an app that has bounced off the end of this short list. (On my MacBook Pro, where I’m typing this, I currently have 33 apps in the Command-Tab switcher. Is that excessive? Sure. But MacOS just shrugs its shoulders.)

  • On the Mac, just about anywhere you want to be able to search for text, you can search for text. ⌘F invokes a search field in almost every app that displays or edits text. On iPad, it’s rare. Notably, Mail. Why in the world can you not search for a string of text within the current message in Mail? Mail on iPad is phone-class email, not desktop-class email. But it’s not like Mail is some unusual exception to this — on iPad the exceptions are the places where ⌘F does work. To borrow Tomalsky’s phrasing, iPad deserves no slack on this.

  • Bonus third gripe, related to the second: What you can search for in Mail on iPad — searching not within the current message but across all messages — stinks. “Your next computer is not a computer” is catchy; “Your next computer can’t search for email messages” not so much.

Update: More from Tolmasky, following up on my post here.

Thursday, 30 April 2020