Apple’s Vision Pro may replace my desktop monitors

Over the years my digital workspace has transformed through the viewport of various screen sizes. I started my career with a 13″ CRT monitor as a teenager. At 15 I bought my own 15″ laptop. At 19 I purchased two 22″ Acer laptops and put them on a desk. I had it made.

Later I bought an LG Ultrafine 5k (27-inch) and when that died dropped back down to a 14″ MacBook Pro. That’s where I’m sitting now. Everything I design and craft is through that screen, alongside my iPad mini for low-fidelity sketching.

With Apple’s Vision Pro announcement I was interested in one thing: could I realistically use this in place of a single or dual-monitor screen situation.

The answer, based on the keynote today, is maybe.

Having large screen real estate in a virtual space could be a big deal. Being able to open apps, draw, sketch, design and have large reference screens beside me, all those things could be game changing.

The challenge is how it all works together.

Here’s an inventory of the apps I use right now:

  • Figma
  • Freeform
  • Bear notes
  • Safari
  • Things 3
  • iCloud Drive
  • Zoom
  • Notion
  • Audacity
  • Chrome (for podcast recording)
  • Illustrator

These apps make up 95% of my usage on a Mac. So if I can use the Vision Pro as a secondary monitor situation for the Mac, and connect my keyboard and Apple Mouse, then it feels like a no brainer to buy.

I’m curious about focusing. Will things feel shaky when I’m trying to adjust pixels or sketch?

I have so many questions, but I’m excited. Will this replace larger monitors?

Going to spend far too many hours over the next year analyzing that question and figuring out if this is for me.

Freeform is the best iPad sketching app

Freeform was the most exciting to come out of WWDC. I saw its potential immediately, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

I’m a software product designer, and sketch out all of my work on the iPad as a starting point before moving into Figma.

Here’s an example:

I work with several founders at a time, sketching their apps and helping to improve their products. It’s critical that I have an app that I can rely on to create hundreds of sketches.

My app of choice used to be Miro, and before that Linea Sketch, and before that Paper 53. I’ve tried every app that’s available for the iPad, and written about them in the past.

A few months ago I started trying out Freeform as a potential replacement for Miro. I just checked and I now have dozens of projects in Freeform. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago I realized I had transitioned 100% over to this new app. So, I canceled my Miro subscription.

I’ve been listening to other tech and Apple enthusiasts talk about Freeform, but haven’t heard anyone make the case that meets my needs.

Here’s a few more examples:

This app was made for folks just like me. I need a large canvas, need to hand draw my work, and it has to work on my iPad.

The app is good. It’s an amazing v1.0 of an Apple product, and it’s immediately beaten out every other app available – for my use case at least.

I’ve been keeping an eye on things I don’t like and do like, and have been meaning to write a piece on how cool this app is.

I’m taking the time to write this because of how much I already love the app. It’s passed the requirements for using it, and I can trust it in production with real client work. It’s fantastic and has become my most important design tool (along with Figma).

First, let’s start with the good.

The good

  • Palm rejection works – This has been my biggest challenge with Miro over the years. If they changed one thing about their iPad app, I’d love to have a little toggle to only allow inputs with the Apple pencil. Palm rejection is horrendous and makes the app unusable at times. On Freeform it’s much better, worlds better in fact. Sometimes I run into issues of jittering with my Apple pencil, but after coming from an app that made me sometimes want to chuck my iPad across the room, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
  • The canvas – Freeform has a large canvas, and allows for a lot of work. That’s a must.
  • The tools – The tools for drawing are good. They work as expected, and I’m able to get my work done.

The bad

  • Lag – Many of my UI pages start to get big. I’m sketching out entire app flows after all. Once I have the equivalent of 2-3 pages of an app, Freeform starts to lag a bit. The biggest area where this is a problem is in duplicating elements. If I draw a page of an app, and want to duplicate it, Freeform immediately freezes up and struggles with the request. Miro has some issues in this as well, but just limits my duplication to a certain amount of elements at once on the iPad. It might make sense for Freeform to do something similar.
  • Naming files – This is a small issue, but it’s very annoying. Because of the duplication lag, I often duplicate entire files as a workaround, to save my previous work. However, when duplicating the files I want to rename them. But while naming I don’t know if the name I’m giving the file is a duplicate of another. So I enter the file name, and Freeform says it’s a duplicate – then asks me to start over. I wish the app didn’t do that, just throw the error, keep my text in the input field, and let me modify it myself.
  • Duplication – Freeform struggles with moving large groups of elements. I can design an app, duplicate it and move it around, and many of the elements will shift on screen and get out of place. It’s unusable in some cases.
  • Contextual menu popups – When I’m duplicating and moving elements I often run into issues with the contextual menu appearing when I don’t want to. I haven’t sat on this one long enough to figure out exactly what’s wrong, but it often shows up when I don’t want it.
  • Weird zooming – Zooming in and out is choppy in the app. It’s nothing like the fluid pinch to Zoom I love from Miro and Figma. It’s almost like the app has to pause in between zoom sizes.
  • Bonus: Zoom on the Mac – This is very weird. It’s so different from how most modern apps (like Figma and Miro) work, I have to click a button to zoom in or out. Feels like I’m back in 2005 with software.
  • Selecting – A big part of UX design is sketching things, dragging them around, and playing with them (I really should write more about my process at some point). When I select a group of lines, and then want to move them around, I have to select the an area that is actually filled in. If I accidentally tap on the canvas of the selected area I have to start all over again. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially when I’m drawing with thin lines.
  • Cross platform – I cannot trust Freeform cross platform. When I draw on an iPad, then pick up a second iPad or my Mac, and try to view the files, often 20-50% of the liens I’ve drawn are moved around. This has caused a bit of freaking out on my part as I’ve worried I lost data. Thankfully whenever I go back to the original device it looks ok, but I don’t have any confidence in cross device compatibility. This is a big deal for me as I like to switch between my iPad Pro 12.9 on the desktop and my iPad Mini on a reclining chair or on the go. I can’t do this though, I have to only use the iPad that corresponds to the Freeform file I created. It’s annoying.

Ok, so that’s the good and the bad. Now I’d like to get onto my wishlist for the next version of this app.


  • Projects – Or some kind of organization. this is done well on Figma and Miro, and I’d like something similar on Freeform.
  • Changing default brush colors – Unless I’m missing something, there’s no way to change these colors, so I have to modify them each time I open the app.
  • Shortcuts to undo – I’m used to tapping two fingers to undo. Every other drawing app (except Notes of course) does this, I’d love quickly undo without breaking my flow and having to find the button.
  • Setting defaults for brushes – I’d like to set the default sizes and colors for the tools.
  • Constrain resizing – When I go to resize elements I’d like to force constraints. I’d actually even prefer that if it was the only option.
  • Horizontal and vertical flip – Quite useful when I sketch something out and realize it’s facing the wrong way.
  • Ruler – I don’t need a ruler exactly, but I’d like some kind of way to draw a straight line (Linea handles this pretty well)
  • Grouping – Being able to group and ungroup objects would be really helpful in moving things around. I see an option to Separate, but haven’t been able to figure out what that does.
  • Exporting – I wish there were more export features. Adding PNG along with PDF would be fine.
  • Move to front and back – I don’t need layers per say, but like Miro I’d love if I could move objects to the front or back of the canvas.
  • UI assets – I love how Linea Sketch has a few background assets, such as a template for an iPhone. It helps save a lot of time.

I’m hoping this tool continues to improve, I’m loving it already and feel like it’s made my job easier as a designer.

One final example:

Getting my first Apple Watch

I’ve been intrigued by watches my whole life. While I wouldn’t consider myself anywhere close to an actual enthusiast – I know just enough to realize I know almost nothing about the industry – I’m quite interested in watches in relation to their impact on technology as a wearable. I’ve often been curious how they could change my life.

As a kid I was gifted cheap watches for birthdays, and also bought a few at Walmart over the years. However, they always seemed to break within a week or two, requiring me to return to the kitchen stove to check on the time throughout the day.

At 16 I was gifted a nicer watch. I don’t remember the exact brand, but I think it was a Casio, and it wasn’t cheap. It had a few fancy features, and even had a small section to painfully add notes.

The story with all of them was always the same. I’d try one on for a while, play with all of the settings, and appreciate the awesomeness that a watch brought into my life. Watches were a bit of a superpower, enabling me to connect to something more than just my direct environment.

But I could never quite make a watch work longterm. First, I hadn’t found one that felt comfortable to wear. The bands pulled at the hairs on my wrist, they never fit well, and over time most of them wore out.

Finally at 19 I gave away my last watch, and for the most part never looked back. There were been a few times in my 20s and 30s that I tried again, but I was never happy.

I didn’t like the general design of most watches I found.

Analog watches are, to this day, hard for me to read.

Most bands suck. The fit is usually off.

Typing with a watch feels weird since it raises my left wrist off the keyboard; this is probably a bad ergonomic habit on my part, but still I’ll count it.

I often bumped my watch hand against stuff, since I wasn’t used to having it as part of my body.

With those frustrations came another element. I got an iPod Touch in 2010 and it instantly made a watch irrelevant in many ways.

Then the iPhone came along. While I was a late adopter – getting my first model in 2013 – it changed everything for me. A watch just didn’t make sense, and I didn’t like the ones I’d tried.

I bought a jawbone step counter, I tried 3-4 different Fitbit devices. But they never lasted.

Finally, in 2022, I bought my first Apple Watch. I picked the Series 8 in 45 mm, and chose the velcro sport band. I’ve been sitting on this watch for a few months now, trying it and seeing how it fits into my life. In short – and time will tell if I still feel this way in the future – it seems to address all the problems I’ve had with a watch.

The band

Even though it’s velcro, the band is fantastic. It doesn’t pull at the hairs on my wrist, I can adjust it to just the perfect size, and it has a low enough profile to not throw off my wrist while typing.


I mentioned not liking analog watches. I found a digital time that works for me, and I can finally check the time without pulling my phone out.


I had a worry that a watch would make me more connected to the internet; something I’m actively pushing against these days. Instead the opposite has been true, so far at least. I keep my watch and phone set to do not disturb most of the day, so my watch isn’t constantly buzzing or pinging. Instead I keep the small red dot indicator on, so that I can check if any new notifications have come through. That’s enough for me, and actually means I check my phone less now.


I’m just starting to learn about the world of watch complications, and so far I’m all in. I’ve chosen the Modular watch face, and picked the following complications:

  • Activity – I like seeing how I’m doing on my steps for the day.
  • Time and date
  • Calendar – I like seeing what events I have coming up at a glance, again reducing my need for checking my phone so often
  • Things 3 – Having my todo list close by at all times is a must, as I’m often adding things to it throughout the day, being able to do this from my wrist now is fantastic; even if the keyboard typing is slow.
  • Timer – I work in 25 minute pomodoros, and having that on my wrist helps separate the timer from the computer or phone. I love it.
  • Weather

That’s a lot, and it’s just perfect for me. Many of the use cases for checking my phone are now gone, and I can see so much of that data right on my wrist at a glance.

None of these are infinity wells (not my original term), where I get sucked into messages, catch up on email, or browse the web. Instead these are all complications that help me move throughout my day and ensure that nothing is lost. I love it.

A note on LTE

I bought the LTE model, hoping to use the watch on my daily runs. So far I haven’t been able to set it up, since I ran into some kind of an infinite connection loop with my phone carrier. Because of that I can’t speak to how well it works away from the phone.

So far I’ve found the watch a useful addition to my life. I like seeing how well I’m doing on my runs, I like checking text messages without opening up my phone, and the audio controls that pop up while listening to books or podcasts are useful.

The area that’s been a disappointment is in using the watch as a primary device. I knew I couldn’t do that going in, but I thought I could do more with the watch. My dream situation is to go into town, or on a run, with just the watch and AirPods, and nothing else. Instead I find I keep needing to bring my phone.

My attempts at loading music, books, or podcasts directly to the watch all failed. I tried Overcast, I tried Apple Books, I tried Audible, I tried Apple Music. In theory all of them should be able to load up audio to sync directly to my AirPods, but nothing just worked. Instead I fiddled with the apps a number of times, rechecked to see if they’d downloaded something, then finally quit and played audio directly from my phone. In this area the watch has been a disappointment, and I hope it’s something that can be solved in the future.

In terms of the size of the watch, I really like the 45mm. It’s big enough to read a lot of text, and it doesn’t feel large on my wrist. I was tempted to get the Apple Watch Ultra, but couldn’t justify the additional cost.

I’ll see how things feel a year from now, but so far I consider this a positive thing to add to my list of daily electronics.

Figma: Designers designing

Adobe announced an intent to acquire Figma for ~$20 billion today. I’ve had mixed feelings thinking about it throughout the day, while also trying to get work done with my projects.

On the one hand I’ve grown to value the tool and all that it allows me to do as a designer. My career started back with much older software. Macromedia Flash 4 was the first application I used to build websites, illustrations, and print graphics. Yup, you heard that right. To this day it still stands as my favorite tool for manipulating bezier curves. But, thanks to my high school ROP teacher, Ms. Jane, I moved on and converted to Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign respectively. I also picked up Dreamweaver, and eventually Fireworks.

Sketch came into the picture years later, but my brain couldn’t quite process how to fit it into my workflow. InVision came and went, along with Marvel POP, Balsamiq, and everything else I could get my hands on. So many fantastic tools, so many amazing teams. Adobe XD also floated through for a period of time.

Flash forward to 2022. Figma is one of the core application in my work for building out interfaces and designs.

It is, however, just a tool. The most important thing I’ve learned over the years, as tools have come and gone, is a way of thinking. I still haven’t figured out, in fact I feel like I know less now than years in the past.

Now, when I’m working with a team to build an application or workflow, I approach the project with an absence of tools in mind. That means holding off on Figma for as long as possible, even holding off on wireframes or mockups. Instead, I ask a ton of questions to try and understand what the software accomplishes already, where things need to go with the business, and what users need. This stuff is the heart of building great software, and it’s where I can see pushing myself and continuing to learn for decades to come.

Only after the work of understanding and shaping the software, after sketching out flows and drawings, after going back and forth and writing up How Might We statements, Jobs to Be Done, Acceptance Criteria, etc., after all the other things have been thought through, only then will I crack open Figma.

By the time I have a screen up in this fantastic app I already have an idea of the UX, a high level understanding of the components for UI, along with a million questions that still need to be answered.

Where Figma helps come in is in converging toward shipping something, and getting things out into the world. Even then it’s sometimes not necessary. Some fantastic engineers I’ve worked with will just take sketches and move them directly into code.

Now, I’ve spent some time talking about what I do without Figma. Does that mean the tool isn’t valuable? On the contrary, it’s enabled a way of thinking and working that was near impossible five years ago. I can collaborate live or async with product teams around the world. Like Google Docs, but for designers, it’s helped push the speed at which we can get things shipped. I love it, and I hope this tool is around for years to come.

My point, and the one I try to share whenever possible, is that good UX, good product design, comes with the thinking and asking, not so much with the tool.

Congrats to the Figma team! And, I’m excited to see what other tools appear in the space.