This November is for Editing

img_0237Depending on who or what you follow online these days, you‘ve likely seen NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) mentioned as the month of November approached. With things having kicked off on November 1st, the progressive daily word counts are now beginning to appear in my social media feeds. To those participating this year, I wish you every success, and to those “I’m already behind” tweets – where there is a will there remains hope – a thought which worked for me a few years ago.

While not diving into the full NaNo experience myself this year, I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach (though I’m not sure whether to suggest its an easier or more difficult one), and revise the 55k words I committed to pixel and paper in 2014. At the time, I wrote a couple of posts on the tools I used to get there, and a quick search of the term NaNoWriMo on this blog will pull up a few posts outlining how I managed to fall over the 50k word deadline before month’s end.


Memories of how November went in 2014 fall somewhere on a continuum between I never want to do that again and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Where my thinking lies on that continuum varies day-to-day, however one thought always remained – I never quite finished it. Sure, the actual story or first draft is finished – it has just never been revised and edited. You know… finished.

Have I not had the time over the intervening three years to read, revise and improve on that initial effort? Absolutely. Just couldn’t do it. I even started a couple of times only to be thwarted by some innate inability to read my own work, let alone embrace the apparent enormity of the task.

So why now? A very good question, though perhaps not as good as the one which asks: what makes you think you can do it this time?. To be honest I’m not entirely sure I can, however in my own mind am a little more definitive about giving it a go this time. After all – I have a plan!

Three years on, the statute of limitation seems to have expired on those feelings of oh wow… I can’t read this, so away we go I guess. Besides, is it not the least I can do after having put my mother through proof reading and editorial duties the first time around?

The Plan

Diving into a river of bad grammar, poor punctuation, and let’s face it – a somewhat dubious plot line and story structure requires some sort of plan.

I have 55,000 words over 32 chapters, so the common sense approach would seem to be about one chapter per day. With reference to my Tools below, I plan to make a first pass through each chapter making corrections and notations by hand, subsequently transferring those to digital form.

Being relatively confident I will get through the initial markup, my fear is becoming bogged down in rewriting and larger changes. Should this be the case I think I’ll leave any major section rewrites to a later time if things head too far in that direction (says he who sets himself up for failure: hmmm…yes, that’s too time consuming – I’ll just do that bit later…).

The Tools

With reference to those previous posts about the tools used in creating the first draft, I might simply argue if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, however that would be oversimplifying things a little. The fact is I tend to proof and revise things far more efficiently and effectively in a very different format to what they were written in, and am of course far from alone in this way of thinking.

At the very least this takes the form of a text editor’s preview pane or say, Marked 2, in an entirely different theme to the editor pane itself. Better yet, with the physically printed word I am able to hold and manually scratch, scrawl, and mark up or annotate by hand. I don’t believe I am necessarily in the minority with this type of approach either, however perhaps a generation of digital only writers, editors and reviewers are now on the scene, and I would be considered a “throwback”. If not the case already, that time certainly cannot be far away.

In any event, given my reticence to get stuck into this task in the past, I’d suggest I am in need of selecting not only the best tools for the job, but those most likely to maximise my chances of success.

Pen and paper

For all of the notebook and paper reviews I’ve done extolling the virtues of my favourite types, the manuscript is printed out on standard office copy paper. Yes I know – I thank you for your kind thoughts and commiseration, however do believe I’ll cope. Strangely enough, my previously abandoned attempt at this task found the paper – while nothing to write home about – certainly usable.

I cannot recall the pen I was using, however the J. Herbin Orange Indien ink feathered just a little, and demonstrates some show through, however I’m simply taking anything I can see through the page as a sign of progress. I’m here to mark up, and can see it’s mark up I’ve done – a positive approach I’ll run with as far as it takes me.

This time around, I’ve settled on Montblanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red, ably distributed by a Pilot Custom Heritage 91 and its FM nib. The Shakespeare is my most recent ink acquisition, and seems perfect for the task in that it isn’t too bright, yet stands out from the printed black ink. I’ll leave it to your imagination whether I’m perhaps trying to channel some other form of inspiration with this choice as well…


The pen? Well it really could have been any of a number of choices, though in the end the FM nib squeezes my corrections and notes in and around those tighter spaces, as well as minimising feathering given its relatively restrained ink flow. The maroon with silver trim simply seemed like a good fit for the ink colour – or perhaps I thought it would set a creative mood?

MultiMarkdown Composer

If I’m to make a permanent record of any of these planned improvements, a digital element to this process is rather important. The choice here was easy, despite the significance of throwing 55 thousand words in a text editor, needing robust iOS syncing (I’m using Dropbox), and trusting my hard work will be safe, saved and ready to go anywhere over the next 30 days.

You may be thinking I’ve said the choice was easy given my loyalty to Ulysses for writing over the past three years, however given the title of this section, clearly that isn’t what I mean. I began using Ulysses through the promo trial for NaNoWriMo back in 2014. Fitting then that I’ll be testing something different this time.

My reference to the choice being easy, simply relates to a recommendation from a very good online friend who has helped immeasurably in much of my Mac related development over the past couple of years. I still maintain the best thing to come out of this blogging caper are the people you become acquainted with as a result. So, when someone whose opinion you highly respect makes an app recommendation, I feel it is well worth trying out.


MultiMarkdown Composer’s Table of Contents based on header levels

Armed with the Pro version of MultiMarkdown Composer v4, I am ready to work through and make any necessary adjustments or rewrites. As you can see, I have dropped the text into a Markdown file, and MMC4’s Table of Contents provides me with a nice sidebar view of my chapters. Although arguably possessing a few less bells and whistles than Ulysses, MMC4 provides everything I need for the task at hand. It’s a robust and powerful text editor, and if that isn’t what I need for the task at hand then I’m clearly approaching this all wrong.


…he was actually editing his work

I’m also interested so see how the iOS Files app handles Dropbox syncing when I use Byword on my iPad to squeeze in a few updates at lunch time. A few days in I can report so far so good. It would however be remiss of me not to mention encountering more than a couple of Byword crashes when using Copied in split view on my iPad (Air 2 running iOS 11.1) putting this post together.

Signing off

Enough talking, as the time to commence reading, critiquing and rewriting has already passed. I’ve indeed made a start, however am yet to convince myself that my will is strong enough to push on and get this done in a month. I’d like to at least think I can make one complete pass through with pen in hand – even if the rewriting comes a little later.

To all of those creative and motivated souls who’ve dived headlong towards the 50k word target, I wish you well. While its fair to say I have a certain reticence towards fully editing my first draft, I’m certainly glad I managed to create it.

Anyway – it can’t be that bad. My mother wouldn’t lie would she…?


Ulysses 2.6 – An Update to My Favourite Text Editor

Ulysses-iOS-1024Regular readers of the site would be aware Ulysses has been my writing tool of choice for over two years now, and I must admit that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. The latest update to this Apple Design Award-winning app released a few days ago adds some great new features in version 2.6 which are likely to appeal both to current users or those on the fence about giving Ulysses a try.

Ulysses 2.6 adds direct publishing to WordPress (in addition to Medium which has been a feature for a while now); Dropbox support on iOS (in line with what already existed for the Mac); Quick Open via Global Search on iOS; typewriter mode on iOS; and full voiceover accessibility.

This is certainly a fantastic update, and is perhaps a game changer for some, though given how I currently work in Ulysses, for me it merely adds a little more icing on the cake.

Dropbox support

Having used iCloud syncing without issue during the past couple of years, improved Dropbox support across devices is indeed a nice addition however my writing will continue on in iCloud. At this juncture its also worth mentioning “my writing” amounts to what you see published on this site at somewhat irregular intervals. With the exception of one large project two years ago which incidentally brought me to Ulysses in the first place (syncing perfectly at the time I might add), everything else remains short to medium form blog posts.

That said, I do know there are those for whom Dropbox integration is a deal breaker, so it is perhaps a big addition in some quarters. I can say though, a quick duplicate, drag and drop will be nice to create a Dropbox version of each post in addition to my iCloud “published” archive. Said duplication on iOS to this point having been managed via the Workflow app.

Direct publishing to WordPress

Of those new features, for me, direct publishing to WordPress will probably be the main change to my day to day use of Ulysses. Admittedly, I never really found my select all-copy as HTML-paste into the WordPress editor overly difficult, however also remember the days of hitting the publish to WordPress button back when I was writing in Byword. Given that was about three years ago: (a) it has taken Ulysses some time to get there (as acknowledged in The Long Overdue Update moniker given to this release); and (b) clearly I haven’t missed it much either.

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 6.03.47 AM

Direct publishing to WordPress

Of course depending on the particular method of publishing to your blog, there may be larger benefits to the WordPress support. One of the more detailed explanations of such a change is seen in this piece by Ben Brooks — longtime champion Ulysses and now working exclusively in iOS for publishing to The Brooks Review:

This one feature has made Ulysses the only iOS app I truly need in order to blog. So cool.

Typewriter Mode


Typewriter mode has never been a big thing for me, however I must admit to enjoying the increased serenity of a highlighted sentence (or line, or paragraph — choices within the typewriter mode settings) I’m working on, as the previous text fades into the background. Personally I prefer sentence highlighting, which also serves as a nice real-time reminder of just how each one is growing as you write.

Quick Open

Quick Open is also a handy addition, however I typically don’t have more than half a dozen sheets in each of four different folders going at any given time, so finding where I need to be isn’t generally too much trouble.

In closing

I’ve intermittently shouted from the rooftops about Ulysses before, which is perhaps why I haven’t warmed up my voice too loudly about this update — despite some fantastic additions this time around. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love the app, and haven’t really considered shifting since my first month or so of using Ulysses, so it’s all cream on top for me now. Of course I also do not wish to be overly flippant about the efforts developers put into these types of improvements and updates, on what is a rock solid, stable, and brilliantly efficient app.

Truth be known, at this point of Ulysses’ evolution, continued refinement and iteration on top of that rock solid base suits me perfectly. No doubt however in a couple of months if I stop and think – I’ll probably wonder what I ever did without the direct publish to WordPress feature, and as I finish the latter half of this post on my iPad — that typewriter mode really is killer.

Bravo The Soulmen — love your work.

The Handwritten Draft

2016-06-26 handwritten_post

With so many digital tools at our disposal these days, handwriting often seems so far behind us. Of course many of the individuals whose work I read online are more likely to keep the faith than others, however when the words generally end up as pixels, perhaps it can be hard to justify transferring them from one to the other.

Some time ago I posted a picture on Twitter containing a page of handwritten words with a caption noting the (blog) post was now complete. In response, one commenter stated there was no way they had the time to perform such an undertaking. Another was surprised the proportion of posts I wrote this way was not higher (which I believe I estimated at around 30% at the time).

At the time I considered this for a little while and then didn’t really pay much attention to the thought — until more recently, when I realised the number is now reversed, with around 70-80% of posts you read here written longhand in their draft form1. A complete reversal of that proportion is a significant change, and for such a change to occur without a conscious plan to do so, suggests there are factors at play which perhaps warrant a little more thought.

My typical digital writing workflow

Looking back to the first couple of years of writing here, it is not hard to remember how things went. Ideas were kept in Evernote (often appended to the one note via a Drafts app extension); stimulus and/or reference material gathered online was largely stored in Pocket; and occasional post outlines created as mind maps using MindNode.

Sure, some handwritten notes were made in various pocket notebooks or slightly larger variants, however things were largely digital, and as I think back on it, the proportion was perhaps even higher than the estimated 70% of my original estimation. Even those handwritten ideas soon became text in Drafts or Evernote.

So the digital basis for a post was created, and all that remained was perhaps for some from of outlining and a first draft to follow. As I mentioned above, planning (on the rare times it occurred) was generally undertaken as a mind map, followed by writing — initially in Byword, and since 2014’s NaNoWriMo: Ulysses.

This process seemed to work for a good while, and I was happy enough for it to continue.

Why the change?

Well, in many respects, the following from Steven Pressfield which I linked to in last week’s Wiser Web Wednesday rings true:

For years I dove in on Page One, put my head down and started hammering keys. That’s not always a bad idea. Sometimes it works. But what usually happened for me was I’d get halfway through before it hit me that I was totally lost. Or I’d finish completely only to realize that I basically had to tear the whole house down and start over.

I’ve alluded above to the “rare times” post outlines occurred for good reason. If we take, say, 70% as a reasonable estimate again — that is about the proportion of posts which were written by sitting in front of the keyboard and writing. No real plan or outline other than a few random notes perhaps. That is not to say these posts were necessarily of high quality having been written this way, simply to say I may not have necessarily completed them all with a different approach.

As time has passed, I’ve found this an increasingly difficult way of getting words down on these pages at an acceptable quality and rate. On the surface I am not entirely sure why that is, however suspect (and hope) my writing has at least improved to some degree since commencing this blogging endeavour in the first half of 2013. Like many (I assume) — I don’t tend to go back and read many of my previous posts, however there is probably immeasurable value in doing so. If we then assume I would like my writing here to continue improving, a little more structure was needed.

Part of that structure began with increasing my use of those mind maps, and more recently, outlining in Workflowy. Perhaps there is something in the outlining versus mind mapping debate as far as which suits my style of planning best, however that is a post for another day.

Additionally, a gradual increase in the use of pen and paper to jot down some thoughts, turn them into an outline, and expand into the first draft seemed to improve the process immensely — and certainly did not go unnoticed. In considering how this change had come to be, and whether I should throw more effort into handwriting these posts, I received an article from a friend on this very topic — by author William Boyd, writing in The Guardian:

One great advantage of a longhand draft is that, in transferring it to the computer, every single word is written at least twice. Then the computer draft can be endlessly revised.

When you write in longhand you’re unconsciously aware of aspects of your prose – such as sentence length, cadence, rhythm, repetition, prolixity – that I find keyboard writing doesn’t alert you to in the same way. Also you can see all the litter of the progress you’ve made that day – the scorings-out; the arrows; the insertions; the bubbles; the second, third, fourth choices. The page reflects the mental effort that the screen doesn’t. It’s a toiling, messy business writing a novel.

Now of course I am not talking of novels here, and am always loathe to make comparisons with those who are actually writers (even though I’ve now done it twice in this post already), however the above quotes state quite succinctly what I believe to be occurring here — particularly the thought on every word being written twice, and the possible advantage to that type of approach.

So, in changing how I approach my writing here, where have I now ended up?

My writing process now: analogue first, digital later

For all of the words you’ll read in this post, here is where things are decidedly uncomplicated — probably a very telling point in itself I believe.

There is a pen. There is paper. They have a simple job in getting words on a page, and typically perform it admirably without interruption, syncing, charging or crashing. Save for a few ink refills, once I’m up and away, I’m well…up and away.

That said, I always think it is a little disingenuous to compare pen and paper directly to the digital tools at our disposal these days. After all, there is a heck of a lot those digital tools can do — and do extremely well, that our humble analogue favourites cannot. Once those words are transferred into the digital realm, they are available to me everywhere; are searchable; editable; and eventually exported and published.

As I mentioned earlier, a post starts as an idea, is expanded into an outline (which may equally occur in digital form), then written as a longhand first draft – all very simple.

Sure, those original source containers remain, in places such as Pocket, Safari, Notes, or even web-captured PDF’s, however you’ll find a good many more on scraps of paper or in pocket notebooks as well. Put an outline in Workflowy into the mix, displayed on my iPad beside me, and the handwritten words simply flow.

For those who perhaps may be interested in the specific tools, let’s just say it is a team effort — with many of the fountain pens, inks and notebooks I own all playing their part. You may have previously read about some of them — or may indeed do so in the future.

Of course, some of you reading this will have no doubt been writing this way for a long, long time — particularly pen bloggers and the handwritten review, to which none of this is particularly ground breaking — a fact I readily acknowledge.

Advantages of writing in longhand

Now, I’m sure we’ve all seen various articles around the web reporting on the benefits of taking notes by hand as far as retention and learning, however that is not what I’m talking about here.

In slowly transitioning to writing a larger proportion of posts this way, you would be correct in thinking there must be some underlying benefit. For me, the benefits are two-fold: more enjoyable writing, and more effective writing.

As far as more enjoyable writing is concerned, there would hardly be a pen lover amongst us that would not enjoy using their favourite pens and inks on a more consistent and frequent basis. Fountain pens are drained, more inks are sampled and notebooks filled. Contrasting inks are used for editing and revision. It is not so hard to see the benefits here.

I’m a little suspicious that somewhere in the recesses of my mind I seek to continue this cycle of more pens, more inks and more notebooks — though I am hoping for perhaps a more noble conclusion about this improved writing process.

How about more effective work?

Explaining the benefits I see in this aspect of my writing is perhaps a slightly more difficult proposition to those heavily invested in digital workflows for such a thing. The fact I have written many more drafts this way which remain unpublished is a victory in itself — for the more I write, the more I’ll eventually publish. As I’ve written about before, unpublished posts remain so often due to topic rather than process or quality, though of course not publishing garbage is also an ongoing aim.

So just how is writing in longhand more effective for me? Quite simply in the flow words onto the page. I’m a bit of a tweaker really, and when writing digitally at a keyboard, tend to stop, think and edit a little as I go, which on a first draft, ends up taking an eternity, given the amount of editing and rewriting which occurs. When drafting in longhand, I stop, think, and then continue writing — saving the editing and revisions for a few inserted notes, highlights or strikethroughs later, followed by an automatic editing stage as the handwritten words are transcribed digitally the first time.

I find I am far more effective at actually getting from start to finish, and by the time the first digital draft appears in Ulysses, it has been reviewed and has been rewritten as it is transcribed.

A final read through and revision is (usually) all that is then required before publishing. Conversely, with all the stop start editing, a post beginning its life in digital form may see a two-fold increase in the number of edits and revisions made prior to posting, for I believe no great improvement in content or quality. Even the “just jump in start writing” approach was in the past more effective than the constant “write and tweak” which tends to occur the longer I have a post in my Ulysses drafts folder.

Put simply — drafting in longhand sees more writing and less endless tweaking. A win for me by any measure.

Pitfalls of this approach

With any approach to something like writing, things will never be perfect, and yes — of course there are some disadvantages to writing this way.

One such disadvantage I’ve found is in covering some of the same ground twice. At times I don’t always have the same notebook with me, and in picking up where I left off (or at least thinking I am), I’ll occasionally rewrite a section.

Why I do that is anyone’s guess, and you could validly argue why on earth wouldn’t I remember where I was up to — and to be honest I cannot really answer that. Of course this is simply a process fault which could be easily rectified by ensuring I do have a specific notebook dedicated to this process which is always available when I need it. The reason that perhaps won’t happen is that I’m often trying out different notebooks and enjoy a little variety what I am using. In any event, yes it may be wasted time in some respects, however on the plus side I do get to then choose from the better draft, and I’d also refer you to the more enjoyable writing paragraph above.

To a lesser extent, even when I do use the same notebook, given these drafts often occur in fits and starts over a number of days, most sections of the posts have other material interspersed on pages between them, so there is a little flipping backwards and forwards at times through the actual notebook. Not a big deal, and assisted by reasonably consistent indexing and notations of page numbers.

Finally, and probably most obvious to many who write digitally — time. Yes, this approach would of course take far longer than an exclusively digital form of writing, with syncing across multiple devices and ease of editing, rearranging and rewriting those words. If that is how you write, you’ll hear no argument from me, and I’m certainly not advocating throwing away your keyboard.

Things have simply changed a little in how I approach my writing, and I am finding it far more enjoyable these days, so thought I’d share a little about the changes, and my thoughts around these processes.

Signing off

There is nothing like sitting down and outlining, drafting and revising a post such as this one, to point yourself in the direction of possible improvements in some of these processes — and this one is no different.

It looks as though I may need another notebook or two, some more ink, and maybe even another pen. Such a shame. If my new-found longhand writing process requires a few more tools and a broader experience in using them — I’m all for it.

While you may not end up reading them all, I can guarantee there will be plenty of writing going on, and for that I couldn’t be happier.

  1. Of course here I exclude the Wiser Web Wednesday link posts, which are generally put together via the iOS share sheet extension and sent straight to Ulysses ↩︎

In Praise of the iPad Air 2


Image courtesy Apple

With the release of the 12.9 inch iPad Pro late last year, and more recently the 9.7 inch version, much of what I’ve been reading recently has centred around the virtues of that larger 12.9 inch screen, or equally since earlier his month, the benefit of the “pro features” — namely the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil support for both sizes of the device.

I’m happy to admit in my links post two weeks ago, I myself extolled the virtues of “newest and shiniest”, however when it came to an actual purchase, common sense and a little objectivity thankfully ruled the day.

My previous iPad? A mini 2 – or as it was known at the time I bought it in November 2013, the iPad mini with Retina display (a 32 GB WiFi model). The mini served me well for over two years, until I made the decision late last year a little extra screen real estate and additional features of iOS 9 (read Split View) were probably something I could utilise quite well on my iPad. Having made the decision to upgrade, I was very tempted to immediately pick up an iPad Air 2 (64 GB) from the Apple Refurbished stock at a pretty decent AU$619, however given the timing, decided to wait until March this year to see what a new release might bring in the way of features and processing.

With that decision made, I had a few months to think about what I really needed in a mobile device, and with a pretty firm commitment to the Apple ecosystem these days, it was always going to be a 9.7 inch iPad. The only question being whether that would be a newly released version, or a pretty compelling iPad Air 2 on a reduced price tier. I was, of course, excited in anticipation of the “new”.

Exactly how do I use my iPad? In summary, I’d say I am a moderately frequent, yet low demand user. By that I mean it certainly gets a good deal of use, however most of that use relates to reading, writing and research; followed by email & social media; with some video content consumed on the way home during my afternoon commute (there’s no better way to wind down after work than with an episode of House of Cards or Vikings). Most of this use typically occurs on the couch at home, at my favourite cafe, or on a bus. By low demand, I simply mean I do no video recording or editing, gaming and only perform infrequent photo editing, with no actual photography. All activities which might be a little more demanding on the processing capacity.

Perhaps I’m mistaken, however I’d like to think this pattern of usage is not unique to me, and I think you can probably see where I am heading with this post.

What they’re saying

The larger model: iPad Pro 12.9 inch

Firstly, a comment on why I so easily ruled out the larger 12.9 inch iPad Pro. For what I use this thing for, it’s simply too big. A tonne of added features mean nothing if it won’t fit where you want to use it. I’m almost at the point where I laugh upon repeatedly hearing “I could never go back to the smaller size after using this 12.9 inch screen”. Well, if it fits where and how you use it — why would you? When was the last time anyone chose to buy a smaller TV unless they absolutely had to?

Believe me, I get it that Split View gives you two “full size” apps side by side; the 4 GB of RAM and A9X chip are fantastic; the Apple Pencil is great; and that keyboard — once “I got used to it”, works really well.

For me however, ruling the 12.9 inch size out was pretty simple, and in fact, it was never really in the hunt in the first place. Great device yes — just too big for how I want to use it, and at a base price of AU$1249.00, never really a consideration.

The smaller two: 9.7 inch Pro and Air 2

The recent release of the 9.7 inch iPad Pro, has brought even more comparisons between screen sizes on the Pro line, and to a lesser extent, between the iPad Air 2 and the corresponding Pro version. A quick scroll down the iPad comparison table on the Apple website will highlight the main differences between the two 9.7 inch iPad models, and my aim is not to provide an exhaustive listing here.

What I would recommend however, is when scrolling down said list, for every difference in specs or dashed line in the Air 2 column, ask yourself whether that will really make a difference to how you use the iPad. And I mean real differences — not just nice-to-haves.

A case in point for example is this, from CNET, admittedly not my usual tech reading source, though many have expressed similar thoughts. Here we have five reasons to pick the iPad Pro over the Air 2, stating “it’s what’s under the hood”. The article then cites:

  • More storage (32, 64 and 128 GB vs 16 and 64 GB for the Air 2)
  • Apple pencil support
  • That “Smart Connector” (with the Smart Keyboard it “means no more bulky batteries in keyboards”)
  • 4K video shooting, better selfies
  • Better audio

We then read, almost as an afterthought, about the A9X chip and M9 coprocessor with Hey Siri capability, and the True Tone display.

Writing on Macsparky (more like my usual tech reading), David Sparks, in a comparison with the Air 2, cites the better processor; the “pro features” (Pencil and Smart Connector); the camera; and better colour and sound. Also acknowledged here are the levellers — being the 64GB Air 2 storage and 2 GB RAM on both models, and introducing the article with the comment that neither is a bad choice.

Looking at the bigger picture, I don’t necessarily disagree with any of the above. Any review of a new device or model will always highlight those new features — otherwise what is the point of it at all. Again, objectively consider what sits before you, how you will use it, and the value proposition it presents.

Which is exactly what I did — before picking up a pretty good deal on a 64GB iPad Air 2 at AU$687.00 last weekend.

Ending up with the Air 2

With reference back to my use case above, let me outline a little further on how I ended up with the Air 2.

Firstly, the Pro model’s A9X/M9 chip/coprocessor. For me, this could have gone either way. Of course, for longevity of performance in future years, faster equals better. The 2GB of RAM (the same as the Air 2) probably swayed me towards the Air 2 a little here. I’d also note, for the way I use the device – I’ve never had any performance issues with the A7 chip on my iPad mini 2. Yes, the Air 2 is significantly snappier across all aspects of usage by comparison, however somehow I don’t think I’ll be hardly done by in choosing the A8X of the Air 2 over the newer A9X.


Ulysses and MindNode in Split View

Next: go and draw a line through everything which is identical between the two devices on that iPad comparison page — it’s an awful lot of lines. Only a few things remain, essentially those listed by CNET above. It is for you to decide whether they are worth it. I’m simply here outlining how for me, they are not.

I am certainly no tech writer (pretty clear), however what I am is a consumer with a budget, who carefully considered the options and ultimately purchased the best device for my needs at the best available price — I’d imagine the same as anyone. Given these considerations, what follows is simply my thought process before I ultimately made the purchase. Whether or not they able in your case is another matter of course, however I could not be happier after using the Air 2 over the past week.

The Numbers

Any real comparison surely must look at the numbers (read price) to some extent, and if the difference we’re talking was $50 or $60, or even say $100 then I wouldn’t be suggesting there is much of a decision to be made. That said, I also understand new technology comes at a cost. For reference, in Australian dollars, we have:

Model iPad Pro 9.7 (WiFi) iPad Air 2 (WiFi)
Storage 32 GB 64 GB
List Price $899.00 $729.00
Apple Pencil $165.00 N/A
Smart Keyboard $229.00 N/A
Total cost $1293.00 $729.00

Consider that final figure for the iPad Pro for just a second — particularly in the context of many reviews holding up the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil as some of the main reasons you should invest in the Pro model. It then isn’t “just a couple of hundred bucks” more is it? I say go for it if those are two accessories you could really get a lot out of, though to suggest the price is not much more, and have those as some of the main arguments for the Pro model I find a little misleading, and in many ways a little disrespectful — particularly to consumers prepared to spend the money if required, yet for which it would be a considerable stretch to do so.

I hear what you are saying — no one is forcing anyone to buy anything, and the cost of these accessories can be spread out, yet the tone is often one of you should, or in many ways it would be a mistake not to buy them. In this case, I simply don’t agree.

Of course I have not included the 16 GB Air 2 as the comparison above, which can be picked up even more cheaply, and there are a few very good discounted deals on the 64 GB model available at the moment.

Those points

So in looking at the points made by CNET above, were there compelling reasons for me to go with the Pro rather than the Air 2? Perhaps I have erred after all?

Remember – my thoughts based on my use case.

As far as storage is concerned, the Pro has more storage, yet at the same time less. I have never needed more than 32GB on my iPad mini 2, having never come close to the limits. If anything, it would have been the 32 GB model for the Pro, yet all of a sudden, I now end up with 64 GB and refer you back to the price comparison above. Not a bad deal, of course I could argue just as easily there will be quite a few GB wasted on me, though for the price, I’ll take it.

Regular readers of this site will of course realise, I love my pens and notebooks. For my handwriting, I am firmly embedded in the analogue world, however when it comes to drawing, I am utterly hopeless. My point? Apple Pencil support brings nothing to the table for me as far as features go. Given my fairly jarring lack of creativity with a standard pencil, the only possibility was taking digital handwritten notes with the Apple Pencil. Set aside my pens for that? Not for me.

On to the Smart Keyboard, which I admit to looking a little longingly in the direction of, though again, at the end of the day I cannot justify a purchase here given the price (remember we are talking the combined price of the Pro itself and the Smart Keyboard just for the benefit of this specific keyboard). I do use an external Bluetooth keyboard with my current iPad mini (laughable to some I know), essentially for the extra screen real estate it gives me when writing, however also find it more comfortable to so.

As far as my pattern of use is concerned, when out and about in my lunch break, if I know I’ll be sitting to write, the keyboard is attached just before I leave the office. If I’m not, or prefer to write by pen and notebook that day — it won’t. All other times it is Smart Cover only, as I prefer the iPad as thin as it comes. Although it is minimal, the added thickness of the Smart Keyboard doesn’t appeal to me as an “always on” cover, and I suspect I would find myself swapping it on only when I planned to sit and type as I’ve outlined above. A pretty expensive proposition for a three or four times per week occurrence.

The most likely scenario? Were I to indeed buy the iPad Pro I would most likely have purchased the Bluetooth keyboard I am planning to buy for the Air 2 anyway (at a third of the price), with the Smart Connector left out in the cold. True, there may be additional accessories which will utilise this capability, yet I cannot imagine any over the next few years that I’ll be kicking myself for missing out on.

As for the 4K video and better selfies? I’ve not too much to say here, having never taken a photo on my iPad mini let alone a video. I have nothing against those who do, and a better camera would no doubt be a boon for said people, however I am just someone who has always used my phone. Further I cannot remember the last selfie I took on either device, which is probably a similar boon for any of my followers on social media.

I also mentioned in my Wednesday links post a couple of weeks ago that if the Pro was my preferred purchase, the camera bump would be a non-issue, and after further consideration in writing this post, I’m even more certain on that point. If my iPad lays completely flat when not in use, it is face down on the Smart Cover, and when used, the flattest it will ever get is at the lowest Smart Cover elevation. I cannot come up with a scenario in my daily use where I’d notice it.

I have no doubt the four-speaker audio is a significant improvement on the Air’s two, however in the last 6 months I’ve listened to the audio on my iPad without headphones probably once or twice, and that’s because I was too lazy to get of the couch and go and get them. Again, just not something I’d use.

Finally, I don’t use Siri on my iPad, so the “Hey Siri” option doesn’t afford much benefit, and although I absolutely love the Night Shift feature in iOS 9.3, the True Tone display (while a nice touch), also isn’t a big drawcard.

In conclusion

I seem to have rambled along quite a bit here, however my intention was simply to say: if you are anything like me in how you use an iPad and are considering an upgrade, there is an awful lot to like about the iPad Air 2 in the context of the current iPad line up — particularly given the price. With my main criteria being able to access Split View, at a minimum the Air 2 was needed, however now two options (at the 9.7 inch size at least) are available if you are considering something similar.

For me, the iPad Air 2 is the perfect mobile device to get a few things done, as well as serving up everything else I consume online. The iPad Pro 9.7 inch? It would of course be the perfect device for the exact same thing — it’s just that some things are a little more perfect than others, and at $729.00 (or less with a good deal) for the Air 2, there’s never been a better time to pay a little bit less for that.

An Apple Morning


Of course there are plenty of other sites to give you the run down on this morning’s Apple event, and the following sentiment from Benny Ling writing at AppleTalk Australia summed things up for those in this fair country:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I will proceed to light my credit card on fire, thanks to how poorly the Australian dollar is doing

So, although this is not the blog for in-depth analysis, I did have a few thoughts as things unfolded, and here they are.

Order of Appearance

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is a non starter for me at the current time, therefore no big excitement here. With my current priorities and the status of my tech world, it just doesn’t really have a place. Of course that doesn’t necessarily infer it isn’t a great product, with some love given by Apple in the form of watchOS 2 and some updated watch colours and bands. I’m sure watch owners – current and future – will be pleased come OS 2.


Well the iPad Pro looks like a powerful monster, however is just a little on the large side for how I tend to use mine. All that power? Well, probably wasted on my text editor, web browsing, email, social media and an episode of The Americans on my afternoon commute. As I do write more and more on my iPad, an Air 2 is looking like a reasonable upgrade from my iPad mini 2 for a little more screen and iOS 9’s split view.. I’d imagine going from mini to Pro would be rather…well…jarring. Not a common transition path in any event though I expect.

Apple TV

The new Apple TV? Yes, thank you. Our second TV has been crying out for some content assistance in the form of a little streaming, and what better opportunity than to grab a new model Apple TV. The Siri remote looks pretty handy, as does the revamped UI which will now include Apps. I can confidently say this will definitely be a starter in our household in the not too distant future.


Then there were the iPhones of course. Having upgraded to an iPhone 6 last year – that is where I’ll stay, however my wife’s 5s is due for handing down to the kids, so I certainly had an interest in what is in store. The usual improvements in camera and phone internals, along with more enticing features such as 3D Touch (with an awful lot of Peek and Pop going on) and Live Photos1. Of course the new Rose Gold colour also made its debut, so eloquently described on a special early morning edition (by geographical necessity) of the Reckoner Podcast:

…the new colour pink – they call it Rose Gold but its pink

And finally, lets face it – my complexion is crying out…just crying out I say, for the new Retina Flash on the front facing camera. I’m sure I’ll look a lovely shade of rose gold.

So in the end, given the pre-event rumours, you’d probably say not a lot of surprises, however nice to see it all finally unleashed.

In Short

Australian Release Dates:

  • September 12; 5:01pm: iPhone Pre Orders
  • September 16: iOS 92 & watchOS 2
  • September 25: iPhone on sale
  • September 30: OS X El Capitan (?)
  • October: New Apple TV
  • November: iPad Pro

Pricing? Well apart from the iPhones, nothing to report here as yet, although I would add the paid iCloud storage tiers will improve in value — though where exactly they will land in $AUD per tier is still to be announced.

Further reading

Of course anyone can rabbit on precisely in the vain I have done above, however might I point you towards some more seasoned analysis (emphasis indicates sites which carry the Australian flag):

Reckoner: Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program Dissected (A new iPhone every 12 months – hmmm… the possibilities)

AppleTalk Australia: Apple’s September 2015 Event Wrap Up, Never-Have-I-Ever Edition

MacStories: iPad Pro: Our Complete Overview

MacStories: The New Apple TV: Our Complete Overview

six colors: Notebook: Apple’s newest product announcements

Or, if you prefer – by podcast:

Reckoner: Special Episode: Apple September 2015 Event

Upgrade: #53: Everything is Off The Charts

Clockwise: #103: TV Sandwich


  1. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d say a little more storage space will be required for photos; I might as well use Apple Photos and iCloud; better upgrade my iCloud storage plan to cope; Apple makes up the drop in iCloud pricing at each tier through increased volume. Um…but I’m not. ↩︎
  2. I am hopeful the revamped Notes app will relieve me of my increasing disillusionment with Evernote ↩︎