🔗 Christopher Tells You EVERYTHING You Need To Know About Working Off An iPad

I don’t often share link posts here at The Dent, but a video came out today that I just had to share with you all.

YouTuber, Podcaster and all round awesome guy Christopher Lawley dropped a video he’s been working on for some time, that aims to tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about working off an iPad. While this may sound like a bold claim, Christopher does indeed do a fantastic job of detailing some of the common, yet powerful use cases of an iPad, but he also unearths some real gems.

I consider myself a bit of an iPad Power user but there were things here that I didn’t know were possible, such as dragging an address bar to the side in Safari to open a split view (two Safari pages open on screen at once, not across two or more tabs). Whatever level of iPad user you consider yourself, I can almost guarantee there will be something in this video for you.

The thing that impressed me most of all about Christopher’s video, beyond the excellent production value, is that he was able to explain some, at times, complex operations in a very concise and easy to understand way. The beauty of the iPad, whether you’re using a ‘Pro’ device or not, is that you can use it for such a wide range of tasks. You can keep it very basic, if that fits your needs, or pull off some impressive productivity tricks. I don’t like the patronising term some bloggers and podcasters use to describe normal / non-techy users, but I do believe you could show Christopher’s video to the full spectrum of iPad users and all of them would both fully understand, and appreciate the excellent tips, advice and guidance. I would highly recommend you share this with anyone that uses an iPad from day to day, whatever their use case or level of skill.

You can find the video on Christopher’s YouTube channel or via the embed below:

 

🎙 22: Does Apple Have a Hive Mind?

In this weeks podcast I had to vent a little of my aggravation about the recent news about the FaceTime bug on iOS and why I think those reporting on this need to put things into perspective a little.

Some of the more click-bait heavy publications had a field day with the news, as you’d expect, but even some of the (usually) more level headed podcasts I enjoy have taken some very odd stances on this particular ‘issue’.

You can find links to the show below:

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You can also find a direct link on the podcast page.

🎙 21: Getting My Game Face On!

So far, 2019 is shaping up to be the year of gaming here at Dent Towers. Join me on this weeks podcast while I take you through some gaming aspirations for the coming months.

I briefly discuss the new Dent Gaming channel, where you can find me on an occasional stream and clearing out my Switch backlog.

As I mention on the show this week, I’m considering adding a bit more Gaming related reviews, news, stories, and thoughts onto The Dent. If you have any thoughts on this, be they positive or negative, please do get in touch and let me know.

You can find links to the show below:

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You can also find a direct link on the podcast page.

🎙 20: A (Delayed) Look Ahead To 2019

This week I finally get around to sharing a few of the things I’m looking forward to seeing in 2019 and also take a look at some of my favourite blogs, podcasts and content creators I’m looking forward to watching continue to grow and put out some really interesting content over the coming weeks and months.

2018 was an interesting year, and I’m looking forward to what 2019 will bring.

You can find links to the show below:

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You can also find a direct link on the podcast page.

19: Are You Positive?

After a bit of a break for the festive period (apologies!) I’m back and ready to kick-start 2019 as I mean to go on, with some positivity!

I share a quick look ahead at what to expect from The Dent in 2019 and beyond. Leave your negativity at the door, please.

You can find links to the show below:

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You can also find a direct link on the podcast page.

I Wrote A Book … Sort Of

My daughter started school back in September and, since doing so, her love of reading has grown exponentially. Now that she has started learning to read to herself, there’s no stopping her. Her school has started sending some simple books home for her, and her classmates, to learn with. The problem is, these books are a little too basic for her, because currently they only have one word per page, and she was keen to try more.

As is always the case when I need something, my first port of call was Amazon, but this proved to be a fruitless exercise. Given that Amazon started life as a book store, it’s surprisingly bad to use when trying to find a book in 2018. I quickly gave up on this idea.

I moved onto Plan B.

This will likely come as a shock to you, but I adore my iPad and when I get a chance to use it for yet another task I’m a happy camper so I thought that it may just be easier to try and make something myself …

Now, I should start by saying that J.K.Rowling has nothing to worry about when it comes to my book writing ability. This isn’t a post to brag about how I’ve become a skilled novel writer overnight, it’s more about highlighting another fun thing you might enjoy using your iPad (or iPhone for that matter) for.

There are multiple ways of achieving the end result here, I’m sure, but when creating my master piece I took advantage of the following apps:

First things first, I used Pages as a basic tool for creating the basic design of the book. I’m not entirely sure how long they’ve been there, but the current version of Pages on iOS already has nine basic book templates to choose from. One of them, simply called ‘Story’, is already a basic children’s book, which is useful!

After loading up the Story template, I removed the placeholder text and began crafting my manuscript. This was, again, made for a four year old, so it’s no War and Peace …

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I duplicated each page, to keep the formatting the same, and just updated the content. All simple stuff so far, though it was obviously looking pretty bland. Given the target audience for the book, a bit of art was needed. I included the disclaimer above regarding my lack of novel writing prowess, but I’m afraid I am now going to have to include another. I cannot draw to save my life. This will be clear once you see what comes next.

A quick search on DuckDuckGo (yep, I’m a search engine hipster) and I’d found some great images to be the star of my book, Poppy. Given I will, clearly, not be selling the finished article, I was essentially free to grab a few images that I needed.

Once I had my images, I imported them into the excellent Pixelmator for the simple task of cropping out the background, leaving me with a clean image ready to use.

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Next up, the newly cropped image was copied to my iPad clipboard and I moved onto Linea Sketch to paste it into a new canvas to create the scene for the book. Linea is a really great app which is both simple, and powerful, at the same time. It’s in no way as powerful as something like Photoshop, but it’s not trying to be. Its main function is for drawing, but it does also include some basic laying functionality which was ideal for my needs. The panda images, which you can see below, were simply pasted from Pixelmator into a Linea canvas and I then added new layers for the background colour and then more for other things I needed to either also copy in, or draw, like the microphone (which was pasted in) or the expertly drawn hat.

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Once done, I had a selection of images that fit with the text I wrote early so I, once again, jumped back over to Pages to finalise things. I opened both Pages, and Linea, in a multitasking view and copied each separate Linea canvas and simply pasted the image directly into each page of the book. After a little dragging around to line things up, it was essentially done.

As a final little cherry on the top, I exported my creation out of Pages, into Apple Books, as an ePub for my daughter and I to enjoy at bed time.

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Generally speaking, my daughter doesn’t use an iPad much, especially at bed time, but on this occasion we did take the new story for a spin and it went down very well. She was able to read something herself that stretched her more and I had the satisfaction of both being able to give her what she wanted, whilst also getting even more use out of my iPad. The above process took about thirty to forty minutes to complete, at most, yet I’m pleased with the results. The book itself, on it’s own, looks pretty hideous, I know, but the fact I was able to make it so quickly was great, and the actual look was largely irrelevant to a child that just wanted to have some fun reading.

I can see a lot of potential for taking this idea further down the road, where we can maybe write and illustrate the book together next time. I’ll be sure to share some details of our next best seller as and when the big launch comes around next!

For now, however, you can breath easy J.K. your crown is safe.

Home Is Where The iPad Is

I’ve previously mentioned, in my post about getting things done on the iPad, that one of the main factors in making the move to an iPad as my primary computer was space. Or lack thereof. This particular issue changed for me, about a year ago, and I’ve since setup a cosy little working space for myself in one of our spare rooms. While the room is, admittedly, pretty horrendous for podcasting (I literally have to cover myself with a blanket when I record …), it’s a great area for getting other tasks done.

I posted a couple of shots on Twitter a few days ago of my current setup, which seemed to get quite a bit of interest. I know I, also, really enjoy seeing, and hearing about, different people’s setups so I thought I’d go into a little more detail about what I’m using currently.

The iPad Pro

I’ll start with the most used item first, which is of course the iPad Pro. Essentially everything else on the desk is there to support or enhance my usage of the iPad.

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The iPad itself is the 12.9″ iPad Pro (2018). As I mentioned during my review, one of the reasons for moving up to the 12.9″, from the 10.5″, was so that I could use the device on the desk more, and it hasn’t disappointed. I’ve seen a lot of people, quite fairly, saying that the 12.9″ is, despite the body size reducation, far too big of using away from a desk. I, personally, disagree with this, and find it very comfortable in any position or circumstance I can throw at it. It is, however, so very nice on a desk. I will refrain from gushing over the device too much more, however …

When I’m using the iPad away from my desk, I use the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio. This accessory has had some negative reviews, given its pretty crazily high price point, but for me it’s as much a part of the iPad Pro as anything else. I’ve never been big into large, noisy, mechanical keyboards, so the low profile really fits my use case and preferences very well. It’s a joy to use, and I like that it now covers the entire device.

In a very un-Apple like move, the Smart Keyboard Folio has absolutely no Apple logo across the entire product. While it makes the device very clean and minimalist looking, it is extremely boring. I’ve never been a big fan of putting stickers on my devices, even accessories, but the Folio is just so dull I had to give in. I saw Daryl Baxter tweeting about some retro 6 colours Apple logo stickers he’d recently purchased so I picked up a set from Amazon. Once received, I placed the sticker on the back of the Smart Keyboard Folio, in the orientation Apple themselves should add logos to iPad devices, in landscape.

When I’m sat at my desk, particularly for some writing, I will switch things up a little. I place the iPad itself in a smart little stand, the AboveTEK Elegant Aluminium iPad Pro Stand (catchy name!) which I highly recommend. The stand comes with 2 clamp like attachments, one for each iPad size, which can be swapped out without too much hassle, should you need to. If, like me, you treat your technology with kid gloves, you’ll be happy to know the clamp itself has some soft, rubberised, padding inside, so it feels secure, yet gentle, when holding the iPad.

The stand itself looks very much like the foot of the iMac, which is another nice touch. Like the iMac, this base is nicely weighted, so even when you’re pressing on the screen it feels very secure. The clamp can be tilted back and forth for better viewing angles, and can even twist so you can use the device in different orientations, if needed. The only down side, which is pretty minimal, is that the way the stand holds the iPad, you can no longer connect, or charge, the Apple Pencil. Luckily, I have a solution for that too! Back when I had the first generation Apple Pencil I would often find myself nowhere to put, or store, the device, so I picked up little accessory called the Belkin Stand for Apple Pencil. Despite the fact I now have a home for my Apple Pencil 99% of the time, this little stand is still on hand for when the iPad is clamped into the stand.

Now that the iPad is comfortable in its snazzy stand, I can get on with getting things done. When using the iPad in this configuration I use the ‘Space Grey’ Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad. There isn’t much more to say about this accessory, really, other than that I really love typing on it. The key travel is limited, which is exactly what I want, and you can’t deny that it looks rather pretty …

The podcasting setup you can see in the image above, along with the details behind this, was again detailed in my Getting Things Done on the iPad post, so feel free to check that out if you want some more information on this front.

Now that the iPad Pro has moved to a USB-C connector, I decided to fully embrace this, and grab a dongle which can take advantage of it a bit more. I picked up a Lenovo USB C Hub, after zero research online. It’s proved to be fairly competent, however, which I’m pleased about. With this, I can charge the iPad, connect my external microphone, connect an external monitor, among other things. I’ve been pretty happy with it so far.

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The Monitor

As soon as I started getting my new office / study setup I decided that I wanted to get a 4k monitor on there. My initial rationale was that, despite external monitor support on the iPad being a little (very) half-baked, I thought it would be a good device to still connect to an iPad when watching films (which actually do take advantage of the screen). Beyond watching films, I will sometimes connect my iPad to the monitor when playing games, or even when writing if I need an even larger screen to work with, though this is less common to be honest.

As we all know, all work and no play makes anyone a dull boy, so I also have my old Xbox (which has been replaced by an Xbox One X) hidden away under the deks, which is also connected to the monitor (which has built in speakers) from when I need to unwind.

The Elephant In The Room

I can already hear the comments coming in about the little square device to the left of my desk:

But, Andy, you said you were iOS only …

Well, that is still true. When the study / office was ready, I was still using the 10.5″ iPad Pro as my main device. The new models were still 6 months, or more, out, and I started to get itchy feet, so to speak, because I had already picked up the monitor. Cue an evening of some browsing of the Apple Store website and a little deep dive into the refurbed Mac section … I came away from that visit with a low end 2014 Mac Mini on order. When it arrived, I realised I’d made a terrible mistake.

The HDD on this old model was beyond showing its age. It literally took about 10 minutes to power up, and hung constantly. It was, essentially, unusable, especially when coming from an instant on, massively over-powered and quick iPad Pro. Not one to ever stop throwing good money after bad, I picked up an external SSD and enclosure and have since been running macOS off this. To be fair, this seemed to speed things up considerably, and it’s now far more usable. The issue is that, now that I’m so invested in iOS, I have almost nothing I would need a Mac for. Right now, and I kid you not, the Mac Mini is fired up once a month, when I get a new book from Audible, so I can download it, add it to iTunes, and then manually sync the file with my iPad and iPhone so I can listen to the book in Apple Books instead of the Audible app. Yep, that right there is £600 (for the Mac Mini + SSD + enclosure) well spent …

The Lights

The light panels at the back of the room always get quite a good reception, whenever I share an image of my room, so I didn’t want to neglect detailing these a little also.

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They are the Nanoleaf Light Panels. You can place them in any configuration you want, providing they are connected. Given that each separate panel is a triangle, your design choices are slightly more limited, but you can still come up with some interesting designs. The light panels are HomeKit compatible, which is a must for any Smart Home stuff I buy currently. You can colour each panel separately, if you wished, colour them all the same, or use some of the presets to produce a really nice, vivid, almost moving, texture across the entire set. I highly recommend these lights, particularly in a space like this. They really bring the room togehter!

So, that’s it! I’d love to see some of your own office setups, so please feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter with what you’re currently working with!