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Learn all about iPad automation from Brian Foutty

You might know that I did a series on this blog about using iPad as your only computer. In order to make that a success, you need some power tools. Automator has always been such a work horse on macOS. The app (yes, it is on your Mac too!) allows you to create menu actions, small apps and workflows to automate lots of tasks that would otherwise consume a lot of time. Renaming files, cropping and resizing pictures, combining PDFs, …

Apple never made Automator for iOS, but three young guys did and they named it Workflow. The app was recently acquired by Apple and they made it a free download from the App Store.

Fellow ADE Brian Foutty collects an amazing collection of Workflows on his blog that can seriously speed up your work on iPad. My all time favourite is the YouTube Downloaded. I know this is against YouTube regulation, but …

Not only does Brian list these Workflows, he also explains what they do. By doing that, he thus also teaches how to create your own workflows or tweak existing ones.

Read more about Workflow here.

Go to Brian’s website here.


Oh, and don’t forget to read his blogpost and Chromebooks and the new iPad!

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iPad Keyboard Tips and Tricks


Lots of shortcuts you might know from using a Mac will work on iOS too. Some examples:

  • cmd+space opens up Spotlight
  • cmd+tab makes you switch between your previously opened apps.
  • cmd+c, +v, +x is copy, paste and cut just as you expected.
  • In Safari cmd+t and cmd+w opens a new tab en closes the active one. ctrl+tab lets you switch between the opened tabs.
  • Obviously, marking text in bold was done by using cmd+b.

Super tip: hold down the cmd-key for a moment and a pop-up will show you the shortcut options specific to the app you are using.

Use the on screen keyboard as an extra keyboard

Do you want to quickly add an ? Press the eject key on your keyboard and the on screen keyboard will show. You can now switch to the emoji keyboard and get your smiley in your text.


Navigate your text

Selecting text will also go much quicker with a BT keyboard. iOS 9 added great functionality for the on screen keyboard by transforming it into a trackpad, but if you know how to navogate and select text with the keyboard and arriows on a Mac, you can now use it in iOS too.

Bugs and some tricky things

If you change the on screen keyboard into another layout (QWERTY on screen and your BT keyboard has an AZERTY layout), your typing will be incorrect. Let’s hope this bug is fixed very fast.

Autocorrection wont work when you use an external keyboard. Mac and iOS users are spoiled since OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 7 corrects their sloppy typing. When using a BT keyboard, you have to pay more attention. My feature request has been sent!

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Can iPad be your only computer?

Wednesday Apple released iOS 9, the most recent version of the operating system for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. This release brings a lot of new productivity features to the platform. For iPad, Split View and new keyboard abilities boost workflows. Does this mean the iPad could really become what Steve Jobs envisioned in 2010, the iPad as a PC replacement?

Time for an experiment. I will try to use my iPad as the only computer for one week. People who know me will confirm I use my Mac most of the time for computer driven tasks. This week will be a challenge!

What will my apparel be this week?

  • iPad Air 2 (64GB) running iOS 9.0
  • Apple iPad Smartcase
  • Apple wireless keyboard
  • iPhone 5 (16GB) running iOS 9.1 bèta

This blogpost is obviously authored on my iPad. I’m using the WordPress app.
I started the experminent this morning and so far have been able to keep my Mac out of business, except for one thing: my iPad was running the bèta version of iOS 9.1. Since this is not a stable release of iOS, I needed to downgrade to the public iOS 9.0 release. This is only possible with a Mac running iTunes. I think it’s safe to state that this task is not a common one. Only developers who run bèta software need to do stuff like this.


Day 1

What have I done on my iPad during this first day of my experiment?
Actually, a lot:

  • Read the newspaper
  • Read on Facebook and Twitter and updated statuses
  • Read and respond to email
  • Compose a letter and send it as a PDF
  • Book and pay for concert tickets (and add them to Wallet on my iPhone.)
  • Check the rain forecast to see if it was a good idea to take the baby for a walk
  • Apply for a visa
  • Respond to and compose messages on our schools online learning environment
  • Make some phone calls (Handoff from iPhone)
  • Watch Frozen on Netflix with my daughter
  • Author and publish this post

 To be honest, I did not encounter any major problems. Split View was very convenient in the visa application process: the form and mail with instructions were both on screen. Twitter in Slide Over is also very handy.


Day 2

On Saturday we try not to work too much. Nevertheless, I made an extra blogpost on using iPad with a paired keyboard.. You can read it here.
But I did encounter a minor issue during the authoring of that post: my blog is bilingual and I use a plugin to accomplish that. This plugin is not supported in the WordPress app, unless you write your post in HTML. That should not be a big issue, but not everyone is that familiar with HTML tags. But then again, not everyone maintains a bilingual blog …

After that, I had a rather long chat with a colleague on Facebook Messenger and did a lot of research in Safari, annotated and shared screenshots and watched a review video on YouTube using the new picture-in-picture feature.

Oh, and I did updates and app installations on iPads remotely.


Conclusion day 2: no pc used.


Day 3

Sunday, so not a lot of work to do. Just the usual social networking and reading through the newsfeed.

But I wanted to use this space to give another tip. When working on the couch (yes, I do work a lot in the evening in a somewhat more comfortable position), a notebook computer is very easy to use. Hence “laptop”. An iPad can be wobbly when you need to keep it upright on your lap. I use a bookseat (see on my knees. Perfect for the job!


Conclusion day 3: no pc used.


Day 4

Is the weather too good today or do I have limited computer tasks to do? We moght never know, but I didn’t do a lot on a computer today.

So what did I do?

  • Searched for a travel itinerary for tomorrow (by train)
  • Filled in PDF forms, signed them and send them to the correct persons.
  • Lots of browsing!

At the moment, I’m almost getting to the point that a major part of my work happens in Safari.

Tomorrow, I’ll attend a professional development session on Windows Server. It will be difficult not to touch any pc …


Conclusion day 4: no pc used


Day 5

As I mentioned yesterday, today I had a full day of professional development training on Windows Server. My school has a Windows Server, so we need to know how to operate it.

For my experiment, this is a nightmare. You can not install Windows Server 2012 on an iPad (fortunately). It was therefore absolutely necessary to use a pc.

Once again in my experiment, the iPad was a very usefull tool. I used it for all task except the server administration. So what did I do on the iPad?

  • Notetaking
  • Additional online research
  • Scan the paper course (go paperless!!)
  • Answer mail and messages during he boring parts.

Besides from the workshop itself on Windows Server: No pc used


Day 6

I thought that providing tech support at school would be pretty difficult without my Mac. But I tried and I must admit it was not easy. Old habits are hard to get rid of, but it worked!

My iPad proved to be a full force power horse: with headphones connected to it, I connected it to our school telephone system and I even did some server work with a VNC connection.

On the other hand, there were some very job specific things that needed pc access: stuff like a device management console that only runs on Windows and merging big PDF files into one

Another thing that emerged is battery life: when paired to a bluetooth keyboard all the time, you will need some additional charging somewhere in the late afternoon.


Conclusion: today was a little difficult, but I managed to

Day 7

Big challenge today: send a mailing out to our 1500 students and parents. Our school uses mailchimp for mailings. Here was an issue with importing copied rows from a spreadsheet in a web interface so I did it on my Mac. Afterwards (I was working against a deadline, so lacked the time to experiment), I used another method (import a cvs file) and that worked flawless on the iPad. That means all tasks could be completed on the iPad. Sending bulk mails from an iPad? It just works!

In the evening I had to do some developing in Xcode. Yes, you get it: that only works on a Mac. Here the iPad was very helpful: with Duet app, it functioned as a second screen.

I am looking forward to Apple making Swift open source: I hope this will give developers the opportunity to build iOS apps to build iOS apps: why not write your Swift code on an iPad and compile it in a cloud version of Xcode or on the workhorse iPad Pro?


Conclusion day 7: Almost no pc used. I’m getting good at this!


Tomorrow: Final verdict!![:]

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iTunes U courses by ADEs (and me too!)

The iTunes U catalogue contains some fabulous lesson ideas made by Apple Distinguished Educators.At the ADE Global Institute in San Diego last summer we were asked to design one great course to publish to iTunes U.

In the last weeks these courses are coming available here. Yesterday I received a very nice message saying that my course ‘Building Blocks of a Song‘ got published too. In this course, you learn all the necessary steps to record a pop song all by yourself. It cost quite some effort to get this thing ready. For me, it was a great experience to be part of a worldwide publishing.

Screen shot from iTunes U

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