iPad drawing late 2021

The iPad is a lot of things, but for me the number one purpose is using the Apple Pencil. Over the years I’ve tried the larger iPads, mainly the 12.9” Pro, and put them to the test as full computing devices. But, and again I’ll state that its specific to my needs, it fails at being my primary device.

And so I enter the awkward state of needing both a laptop and wanting an iPad; a large one at that. This beautiful piece of aluminum and glass is useful for a lot of things, in theory. But in practice it functions best as a pen inputing type of device.

Software for the iPad is not great; at least in comparison to the things I like to do on a Mac. Whether I’m using JIRA, Github, the entire Google suite, Slack, or web browsing, all of those experiences are subpar compared to working on a Mac. Sometimes I’ve tried to ignore that fact and go iPad first. The turning point for me was thirty minutes of wasted time trying to get a specific type of document to my banker via their custom portal. True, that’s a unique circumstance, but it highlighted my constant challenges with not having the right tool for the most common jobs I run into.

Writing on the iPad has been another job I’ve attempted. As a writer I like the idea of a separate machine; something different from my work device, so that I can have a mental shift in context. For several months I used the iPad, but got stymied time and again. At first it was the lack of ergonomic options. I like to write with elbows at a ninety degree angle, and wrists straight on. In addition I prefer the screen at eye level, and without bending my neck down or up too much. To date these things are near impossible to accomplish on an iPad. The Magic Keyboard isn’t enough, although it has some great benefits, and the whole iPad stand ecosystem is severely lacking when it comes to any contraptions that can get the screen close to eye level. It’s ridiculous, and I’ve often pondered how I could make a stand myself. There’s plenty of great laptop stands, such as the Roost, but nothing like that for the iPad. I digress.

Next up, and the nail in the coffin for me with writing, is the bad software. I like to use Ulysses for writing that extends beyond a few thousand words, it helps organize my thoughts and keep things running forward. Ulysses on the iPad is okay, and looks great from a design perspective; however the syncing is severely flawed. Each time I load the device, even if Ulysses on the iPad was the last time I wrote in the app, it feels the need to re-sync my entire database of content. In practice that requires sitting around for a few minutes waiting for everything to load, then checking for conflicts. That doesn’t work when I only have about 15-30 minutes per day for writing.

None of these problems exist on the Mac, all of them have been solved long ago.

The iPad is amazing, but for writing or working my day job, it fails.

Now we come to the reason I like the iPad, and why I keep the largest size around at my desk, and in my laptop. When it comes to drawing the iPad is king. And a bigger screen is better. A friend has got my interested in trying the iPad mini again, but for now I’ll stick to the largest size.

I love the Apple Pencil as an input device, and bad palm rejection not withstanding, the act of putting lines to a digital page is a delightful experience.

And so we come to the point of this post; Linea Sketch’s latest update.

Linea is an amazing app for the iPad. It’s almost perfect. Over the years I’ve shuffled between a number of drawing apps, depending on whether I’m illustrating, sketching, drawing, white boarding, or painting something digitally. Each has their strengths, and many have weaknesses. Despite some of the setbacks with Linea, which I’ve highlighted elsewhere, I keep coming back to it for work. When I need to ideate through a software idea, or new feature, I’ll jump to analog paper and pen, or pull up Linea.

Apple Notes, Procreate, Moleskine Flow, Miro, and a dozen others (I need to check out a recent recommendation from a friend for Vectornator, so the jury is still out there), all have their place; but Linea keeps hovering between my favorite and second favorite.

A recent update solved one of my biggest requests. Before I get to that though, let’s go through my wishlist.

Better syncing – iCloud on Linea Sketch is a nightmare. Similar to Ulysses I often have to wait several minutes to get my previous drawings loaded up and synced to the device, even when that iPad was the only place I opened up before. It’s ridiculous. Last month I disabled iCloud entirely on Linea, a huge risk in itself, and the app became usable again. It’s fine – so long as I remember to manually copy my designs to the Mac.

Larger artboards – The artboards in Linea are too small. At the moment its limited to the size of my screen, which forces me to open up new artboards or shrink things down to fit. I’m not asking for unlimited canvas sizes, but wish there was a method to go bigger, even 4x the current size would be a huge help.

Better palm rejection – Lately I’ve been getting a lot of errant scribbles from my palm, it’s not a deal breaker, but it’s annoying to have to erase them. This is a hard bug to track though, so I don’t know how it would be fixed.

Better resolution zoomed in – Because of the small artboard I often zoom into the designs, which shows off the horrible pixelation of my pen strokes. This could be solved by larger artboards, or just doubling the resolution of the current screen.

With those concerns out of the way, I’m really excited about a new feature announced in the 4.0.1 update: Watercolor brushes!

This is a specific request I had in the past, and it may win me back over from Moleskine flow. Though a lot of my design work is simple and sketch like, watercolor brushes help to quickly make things come alive. I haven’t tested this fully yet, so look forward to a new post soon with my thoughts.

Note: I’m not sponsored to say any of this. I have no affiliation with Linea other than thinking they’re awesome.

Not knowing

It’s okay if you don’t know everything. For many years I’ve understood this in my head, but it’s only recently that I’ve started to internalize it at a deeper level. Not knowing doesn’t mean that you’re intentionally ignorant, nor does it offer an excuse to play dumb all the time. Instead it means that you’re willing to speak up and say the parts you understand, but pause right at the cliff; right at the point where you want to speculate and look smart to the room. Instead, take a breath, call out the uncharted territory that you’re about to enter, then step forward.

This happened recently in a critical meeting with several team members. I presented on a topic, one which I’d prepared for and understood well. However, during the meeting questions came up outside the happy path I’d planned. At first I was tempted to push forward and speculate, to cover up and pretend. However, I had a reminder floating around in the back of my head, telling me everything was going to be fine. I took a deep breath, called out to the team that I wasn’t sure about the questions, since they were an area I hadn’t thought about or explored. However, as a fast followup, I then shared some ideas that came to mind in the moment.

That both allowed me the room to be candid, to be vulnerable, and also opened up the space to move into unknowns, to speculate. That balance is critical, and building trust with your team can lead to transparency and openness.

At times I’ve been criticized for not knowing, for admitting I didn’t understand something. However, those times are very rare and I could likely recall them on a single hand. It’s possible that I was self-ingratiating, and my attitude in the situation showed through. Or it’s possible that the person I admitted vulnerability with didn’t know how to handle that, and based on their own insecurities used it as a weapon against me. Those examples though aren’t worth the walls that I’d be tempted to throw up just to protect myself from a few uncomfortable situations.

My recent call helped to further cement in my brain the value of not knowing; when combined with doing your absolute best, bringing everything you have to the table, you may be able to open doors to new opportunities.

No spoilers

I don’t like having a book or movie spoiled. If there’s an outside chance that I’m going to watch or read something I don’t want to know ahead of time any major plots or twists. In fact, telling me that a great show has an unexpected twist – even without revealing details – is itself a spoiler. It’s quite endearing when someone is trying to share details about something and realizing they can’t share the reason why.
Because of my sensitivity on this front, I’ve started to convey why I liked a thing without explaining what happened. It’s a bit tricky, but it gives me the chance to share about interesting stories without giving away the plot.
This is a great challenge in a way. If I want my friend to watch a show that I loved, but I don’t want to spoil it for them, I need to figure out a method for explaining why it’s worth their time based on what I know about them.
The biggest tip I can suggest, if you want to do this yourself, is to focus on how you felt about a story, rather than explaining what happened.
For me this often comes down to whether I thought the ending of the movie was satisfying, or if the mood of the book matched my interest level.
Sometimes I get lucky, and I forget the spoiler by the time I read the book. That happened with the red wedding; I knew something was going to come up in the books, but didn’t know who it would happen to. The shock was still just as strong as if I knew nothing.

Magic Grips for my Magic Mouse

Several years ago I stumbled across Magic Grips, a fascinating silicon accessory to the Apple Magic Mouse. For those who prefer more ergonomic mice, or are used to a trackpad on a computer, the Magic Mouse probably looks like a weird contraption that is more form than function. After many years of use I can attest to the absolute value of touch functionality on a mouse. I love it. I can’t go back to manual click buttons, and I just don’t like the trackpad for my precision design work. However, I like to find ways to protect my hands over the long haul, so I’ve sought a compromise.
The Magic Grips are amazing. They help to make my mouse feel more hefty in my hands, more sturdy in a way. Each time I’ve installed the grips – we’ll get to that in a minute – I’ve preferred the larger size and found that usage of the mouse just feels better. My hands can hold onto the silicon bits and movement is more comfortable in my hand. That, combined with an awesome mousepad from UgMonk, makes moving across the screen a near delight. Pro tip on that point: I like to increase the speed of my mouse to whatever max the system allows.
The problem though, is the adhesive. About two days a week I travel into a Coworking space. That helps me switch things up a bit, and not always work out of my home office. I put the mouse into my backpack each time, inside a specific compartment. I’m pretty sure that the stress of movement is a problem for the grips. After about a year of doing this the adhesive starts to come off. I’ve tried to figure out a good way to fix this, and asked the company if I could just buy replacement adhesive strips. So far I haven’t had any luck on that front. However, to their credit Elevation Labs has been awesome on customer service (their absolute lack of any help with my adhesive problems on the DraftTable V1 notwithstanding – but that’s another article), sending me full product replacements several times. That gets tiring though, and makes this product less than perfect for my use.
Going forward I’m going to need to live without the grips, buy a second mouse just for travel (sans grips), or find an adhesive that I can more readily re-apply whenever the grips start to fall off. The last option, and I have spent a small amount of time looking, is to find a case designed for the Magic Mouse + Grips. No luck on that front yet.

M1 Max battery update

The reviews and analysis have started coming in for battery life on the New MacBook Pros with the M1 Max and M1 Pro chips. I feel partially vindicated in that I wasn’t going crazy, but questions still remain. The 14” Max model is the worst of the entire M1 line in terms of battery life. In every other regard it’s an absolute beast, and a joy to use; no matter what I throw at it, the computer doesn’t even break a sweat. However, the thing I was used to, not thinking about plugging in or needing to be aware of a charging location throughout the day, is no longer an option.

At one point I switched to low power mode for a cycle, and tried that out. It helped, improving battery usage substantially. However, and this is a deal breaker for me, screen scrolling became worse. I noticed it after an hour or so, and had to switch back.
I haven’t learned the exact reason, but I think power usage is related to the higher performance chips sipping battery regardless of user activity. Some folks speculate that Monterrey, the operating system update that shipped with the new devices, is responsible for some problems as well. If that’s true then there could be resolution to this in the near future.
As mentioned before, it’s also interesting to use a device that gets warm. The MacBook Air stayed cooled all the time, and in the Winter it offered little support in warming my hands. Now, I’m reminded of the old days where the device is capable of heating up my legs when I’m using it as a laptop device for several hours. It’s a minor point though, since it doesn’t reach the scorching – burnable – levels of my 2010 MacBook Pro.
All things being equal I’d be tempted to try an M1 Pro chip, but the process of switching devices – especially since I already sold my Air – is not an easy one. This is supposed to be my three year laptop, at least, so I’ll be curious how I feel when the M2 chip starts to ship in the redesigned MacBook Air. Either way, I’m glad that battery is the only thing I’m talking about now. My one year with the Air may just have been a wonderful anomaly.