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.