How to use your iPad Pro as a laptop replacement

Apple’s iPad Pro has evolved into a powerful productivity solution for enterprise users. Learn what equipment and software you need in order to use it instead of a laptop when on the road.

Apple, iPad, iPad Pro, iOS, enterprise, notebook, how to

I’ve been using an iPad Pro instead of a laptop for long haul travel since early 2017. In this series of reports, I hope to share some of how iPad Pros can be used to replace laptops.

Where we are now with Apple's iPad

Apple’s iPad opened up the enterprise for the company. Huge interest among business leaders led to wide adoption and opened industry up to approving use of iPhones in business. These days, iOS is rapidly growing share in the sector.

At the same time, UI, iOS, and engineering improvements mean Apple’s tablets are becoming more powerful productivity solutions even while developers create increasingly sophisticated apps that help you get things done.

The user interface is very different from the Mac, but it is important to remember that iOS is a multi-UI system, combining multiple inputs — voice, touch, Apple Pencil and shortcuts — you may need to spend time learning these.

In my experience, the biggest limitations tend to be when working with bespoke enterprise apps built by old-hat tech support teams who don’t seem to have been told that we now live in a heterogenous platform world.

Apple introduced new iPad Pros in October 2018, so it seemed a good time to write a little about using them as a laptop replacement. In the first part of this series of posts, we’ll look at the things you really should have if you decide to replace your laptop with an iPad Pro.

  1. Part OneiPad Equipment
  2. Part TwoKeyboard, Typing, Shortcuts, and Dictation tips
  3. Part ThreeHow to multitask on iPad Pro
  4. Part FourHow to use Apple’s Files app and tags
  5. Part Five: Useful utilities to help you get things done
  6. Part Six: iPad productivity tips

Part one: iPad equipment

Power supply

While I usually have few problems finding a power supply when travelling with an iPad, I do like to be prepared. With this in mind I always carry a power brick. I use one from Tylt, but there are numerous others to travel with.

A keyboard

While you can type on iOS, I find an external keyboard much easier to use when writing extensively. I like using Apple’s Folio Case because it’s small enough to use on a plane and also provides a little protection for my Apple tablet, but I do find the keyboard a little cramped when writing extensively. I suffer from a condition called Repetitive Strain Injury, so using a comfortable keyboard is important to me. I’ve tried several keyboards over the years, but I find using one of the Magic Keyboards I have lying around effective. You just need to pair it using Bluetooth.

A case to protect your iPad Pro

When you travel, you’ll need a case to protect your iPad Pro. There are literally hundreds of these from which to choose. I tend to look for a balance of style, price, weight, and the capacity to use the case as a stand so I can use my iPad at a comfortable viewing angle. Shock and impact resistance is mandatory, and water resistance (take a look at cases from Otterbox and Lifeproof) means you can more safely use your system at the beach or by the pool.

Virtual private network (VPN)

You’ll probably make use of public Wi-Fi when travelling. This also means you’ll likely be using email, messaging, and potentially accessing some enterprise services — everyone knows they shouldn’t, and everyone does it.

That’s risky because pubic Wi-Fi networks are havens for spoofing, phishing, and data logging attacks — which is why it makes sense to run virtual private network (VPN) software on your system, as this provides an additional layer of protection to what you do. I’ve been using NordVPN, which has an excellent reputation, but well-reviewed alternatives include ExpressVPN, TunnelBear, and CyberGhost. Prices, features, and services vary between providers, but I do note several are offering discounts at time of writing.


You’ll also want to stay connected. If you have a Wi-Fi + Cellular model iPad Pro then Apple has deals with multiple providers who can hook you up with temporary access when you travel.

Take note that when setting up a service in a new country, the experience can be slow and sometimes requires you pick up an email before sign-up is complete, which is difficult if you’re not online.

That’s why I recommend creating an account with the service provider(s) you plan to use for data before you travel. Apple has relationships with over 190 providers, including international providers such as GigSky. You should also become familiar with using the phone you travel with as a mobile hotspot, though do check how much your provider will charge you for data before you do — particularly when travelling internationally.

The basics

You also need the obvious stuff: An Apple Pencil is essential if you need to take notes, annotate documents or work in creative applications. I carry a 3-meter Native Union cable when I travel — how many times have you had to crouch on the floor when searching for power on the move? You may also need to carry some dongles if you want to output video from your tablet, use SD cards, or work with some camera equipment. At the risk of being obvious, do make sure to pack your charger and travel adaptor.

Don’t forget the apps

The apps you need to use will vary depending on what you want to do. Here are some of the apps I usually have installed on my system when I travel:

  • Microsoft Office: While Apple’s iWork is effective, enterprise users stick with Office.
  • NordVPN: (See above).
  • Pixelmator: A highly effective image editor that also works as an Extension within Photos.
  • Dropbox, Box, OneDrive: I use iCloud for most of my personal work, but if you collaborate with others on other platforms, a Dropbox or Box account is essential.
  • Netflix: Because, movies.
  • Shortcuts: Apple’s recently updated Siri shortcuts app will become increasingly helpful when you want to get things done.
  • Things: A useful project management app that grows with you.
  • Zoom: One of the top ranked business apps, Zoom is a well-featured meeting and collaboration app that also lets you share your iPad’s screen when making a video call.
  • Parallels Access: Use this useful tool to remotely access your Mac or PC. It’s not quite a computer in your tablet, but it helps.
  • There are numerous great utilities available that may help you get things done from an iPad Pro on the move. Take a look.

Read all the other episodes

  1. Part OneiPad Equipment
  2. Part TwoKeyboard, Typing, Shortcuts, and Dictation tips
  3. Part ThreeHow to multitask on iPad Pro
  4. Part FourHow to use Apple’s Files app and tags
  5. Part Five: Useful utilities to help you get things done
  6. Part Six: iPad productivity tips

I’ll let you know when I publish the next article in this series: Please follow me on Twitter and join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
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