This is my research notebook. I'm an OSX / iOS indie developer. After 8 years of Objective-C I really enjoy Swift nowadays. Trying to publish all my research on Development, Swift & other technologies here.

Fri, 9 Dec 2011 #

How the iPad can improve focus

Lately, more and more people have written about how they were able to replace their Desktop PC or Laptop solely, or to a large extend with an iPad. Mark O’Connor even uses it for coding in Vim all day 2.

James Kendrick makes the case that this is due to the focused fullscreen approach of the iPad:

What makes the iPad 2 and keyboard combo so effective for my writing is the “one app at a time” nature of the tablet. The running app takes up the entire screen, and thus my focus. There are no distractions presented while writing, just inputting words on the screen.

This is liberating for a writer, and I find I can write more, and better, on the tablet system than on a “real” computer. There are no menu options competing for my attention, no updates needing to be run, just an app on the screen.

That’s certainly not wrong, but fullscreen mode is hardly an iPad specific feature. Most serious writing apps for the Mac have had a similar feature for a long time, not to mention Lion’s standardized fullscreen mode 1.

Nevertheless, I also feel much more productive when I am writing on an iPad, too. Even compared to writing in one of the aforementioned fullscreen Mac apps. So what is the difference? I think the main difference here lies in the energy required to distract yourself. The amount of work needed to loose focus is higher on the iPad since you can’t simply alt-tab away into the web browser and do other stuff.

Of course, with iOS5 Gestures this has become easier, but speed and usability for task switching are still below what Mac OS X offers.

Think about it: You’re typing away on your iPad, and then you realize you could check mail. Now you need to move your arm and your hand to the screen, perform a Gesture 3, select the right app, click again, and then you can finally read your mail. On your Mac, in the contrary, the Mail client is probably already running, and the only thing you need to do is hit alt+tab and you’re there.

Humans are naturally lazy. When I was young I realized that the best way to keep my desk clean was to have a trashbin so close to it that putting something in hardly required any movement at all. It’s the same with the iPad. The additional energy required to switch tasks makes us simply not do it until it’s absolutely necessary. Which is why it forces people to focus.

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  1. [More on](

  2. In many cases they use a Bluetooth keyboard though. I guess it is hard to argue that the on-screen keyboard, though very nice, can replace a hardware keyboard for serious writing.

  3. First, of course you need to know and remember it

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