When better tech means more focus
Excuse for me the love letter to Apple, but I’d kind of missed it these past 18 years.
I used to be a Mac person. Through and through. (Other than that brief affair with a lovely Commodore 64 in the early 1980s, I mean.) Mac was all I would work on. I find the interface easy to navigate, almost instinctive. Yes, I do realize that’s how they’re designed and built, but as you’ll know if you’ve ever tried using the Canada Customs app at Pearson Airport, not everything that’s designed and built to be instinctive and user-friendly actually is, you know, instinctive and user-friendly.
Mais bon, passons.
Mac, then. That was my brand. I would do everything on it, including building websites in the early 1990s. Yes, sir. In old-fashioned HTML that was as clunky as it was inelegant. But we persevered, and - you’re welcome. Progress has been made, and not just a little.
But marriage intervened to ruin my blissful relationship.
The fellow I married was - and still is - a Windows enthusiast. Why, for a while there he even owned a Windows phone. Not for very long, because they didn’t work worth beans, but he gave it as good a try as anyone would. When I moved in with him, in late 2000, I had two Macs. A laptop and a desktop, and I won’t bore you with stories about how long and cumbersome it was to keep my files synced. Because I kept an apartment in Montreal I left the desktop there and brought my laptop to his place in Ottawa. But eventually, because we wanted to be able to share computers and files between same, it became necessary for one of us to switch.
That one of us was me, because he was too invested in Windows. He had more expensive programs that only ran on this platform - at the time, it was the wonderfully quaint Windows 95, which was way better than Windows 2000 and only marginally inferior to Windows XP. We eventually got through Windows 2003 and Vista then Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 and ultimately Windows 10, which works reasonably well to be fair about it.
But. Now that we don’t share computers or files or a life anymore, and especially now that most of my work is in the cloud using apps and programs that aren’t platform-specific and sync files all by themselves… you see where I’m going.
I’ve been working on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 for the last four years. Again, to be fair, it’s a great little machine. It lets me do all sorts of stuff, including editing heavy video files and what have you. But it’s four years old now, and a few months back I started to think about what I should get as a replacement when the time came. The Surface was still working quite well, but you know how these things go and I didn’t want to get stuck without a working machine and/or having to make a decision super quickly because suddenly I was computer-less only to regret it later.
I thought and researched and looked around at just about all the options. I don’t do a lot of video editing these days, but I wanted a machine that could deal with that, just in case the bug comes back. I do, however, use Lightroom every day to edit my pictures. Photoshop too, sometimes. And I write lots. The rest of my work is web-based and pretty routine.
One of my favourite features about the Surface is that it’s light and eminently portable. I wanted that again because laptops are so 2012. Touchscreens are pretty much mandatory, too. I like to be able to use a pen because I have delusions about one day being good enough a visual artist to justify drawing and sketching on the screen. OK, so the pen is not strictly speaking necessary. But I like it.
There are tons of options out there, as you’ll know if you’ve been outside the house at all this year or browsed Amazon, but nothing seemed worth the effort. Except for getting a newer Surface Pro, I guess. The price is right, and the machine works well.
I was in the process of slouching towards that lukewarm decision when, on a shopping trip with Eldest, we went to the Apple Store for no good reason at all, which is of course always the best reason to go there. I saw the iPad Pro and oh my, love.
I’ve had iPads in my life, starting with an original purchased wayyyy back in 2010, an iPad 2, and an iPad mini. I’ve also had nothing but iPhones for the last dozen years or so. But this Pro machine was different, as it promised to be as powerful as a computer but as light, convenient and portable as a regular iPad. It’s more expensive than a regular iPad, but in the same general price range as the Surface.
Made for me, you could say.
It doesn’t have USB ports (my files are on external drives) or the ability to use a mouse, which almost triggered an anxiety attack, but other than that it’s about all I ever wanted. Could I transfer my files to a different form of storage? No doubt. I’ve got iCloud and it’s working fine. Could I live without a mouse? Maybe…
I played with it a lot in the store, and slowly warmed up to it. What really got my attention was that - as with the phone - you can add a keyboard in French and type in French using a QWERTY keyboard. On Windows if you switch to the AZERTY layout, which is too much for my brain and fingers. I want to write in French without switching back and forth between keyboard configurations. Over the years I’ve had to kludge my way to bilingual sort-of happiness using shortcuts for French accents and ignoring the spellchecker going insane, or sometimes just using my iPhone to write something in French. This iPad Pro would be like my iPhone except much bigger with a real keyboard.
I was sold. But my computer was still working… I waited very patiently until it started misbehaving in weird ways a few weeks ago and I am now convinced its impending doom is not too far away. Time to purchase. I did this week, and it’s a beautiful little tool (NOT a toy) I got myself.
Of course, like a phone or regular iPad, it’s mostly app-based. And multitasking is less convenient than on a computer especially when you’re a wiz at mouse handling like yours truly and take perverse pride in handling 16 open tabs in three different browsers at a time. But you know what? Within hours of using the iPad Pro I noticed something weird. I wasn’t multitasking nearly as much. And I noticed something else, too: That not multitasking nearly as much was a wonderful thing indeed for my concentration and focus. Probably for my productivity as well, but the sample study is too small right now to be sure of that.
So anyway. Not that Apple needed my endorsement to stay in business. But wow am I glad I’ve resumed my love affair with it. So long, Windows.