Though I wasn’t particularly overjoyed when my aging MacBook Pro shuffled off its mortal coil, its passing has marked the start of a new, much more connected era.
After some chin rubbing and head scratching, I decided its place would be inherited by a Mac Mini. I reasoned that I seldom used the MacBook as a portable device, with it spending most of its days docked to my monitor on my desk. And as the Mini M1 was getting excellent reviews (and it was considerably cheaper than a Pro), I went for that.
And I’m delighted with it. To be honest, the fact it’s a Mini is neither here nor there. Yes, there are more cables and USB leads criss-crossing my desk now, but the real advantage it has brought is down to its currency: the fact that I now have a device that’s capable of seamless communication and transfer with my other gear (even, I’m delighted to say, my aging iPad Pro).
Head in the Clouds
I’ve realised the benefit of the cloud for years, but never actually appreciated it til now. Aging devices and operating systems aside, I let my Cloud storage clog up with all sorts of prehistoric rubbish and detritus that made it next to useless.
Now, with new gear and an impetus to have a bit of a digital declutter as a result, the benefits of having data and content stored and seamlessly synced to and from the cloud are many.
Now I can take a photo on my iPhone, edit it on my iPad (using the very competent iPad version of Photoshop), upload it to Flickr on my Mini and punt it on Instagram back where it began, on my iPhone. All without having to do what I did previously, which was email myself various copies of it and upload the wrong versions to the wrong places all the time.
My writing, music and art all benefit too. Composing melodies on GarageBand on the iPad, then mixing and mastering them on the Mini. Drawing something on Procreate then finishing it off in Photoshop or Rebelle. Writing stuff on the go on Scrivener for the iPad, then syncing that with the desktop version on the Mini.
Twenty years ago, it would have seemed like some magic-realised vision of the future. Twenty days ago, it seemed like too much effort that would have required an OSX upgrade that my MacBook wouldn’t have liked.
Today, it’s awesome.
Back on my aging MacBook, I read about Sidecar and screen mirroring with a tinge of jealousy. I knew my MacBook couldn’t cope with that, and I suspected my iPad Pro was too long in the tooth for it too.
I was right on the first count. But — and this is an absolute game changer for me — happily wrong on the second.
It was one of the first things I tried after configuring my Mini.
And it worked.
And my mind was blown (my mind is aging, it doesn’t take as much to do that as it used to….)
I can, at the click of a toggle, use my iPad Pro as a second monitor. I can have Plottr open on it whilst I write and edit in Scrivener on my main monitor.
I can have Lightroom — the full desktop version of Lightroom – displayed on my iPad, with full-screen editing in ACR and Photoshop at the same time.
But what’s even greater is that I can use the iPad as a mirror.
Not, fortunately, of my own face, but of my iMac.
This to me is the single biggest advantage of my whole new ecosystem that I’ve found to date.
It turns my iPad (and Apple Pencil) into a display tablet. It means I can draw and paint in Photoshop on screen, rather than through the proxy of my Wacom tablet. It is already making a huge difference to the accuracy and flow of my Photoshop line work.
Considering I was thinking about getting a dedicated display tablet for this very purpose, which would have set me back about three hundred quid, the fact my new Mini can facilitate the same solution via my existing kit not only makes the Mini great value, it starts to nudge it into bargain territory.
Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself …