Replacing your Mac with an iPad: What apps and hardware you’ll need

“Can an iPad really replace a ‘proper’ computer? Can a ten-inch, 128GB tablet do the work of an eleven-inch 128GB MacBook Air? The answer is yes. Kinda,” Charlie Sorrel writes for Cult of Mac. “If your work involves having two windows sitting permanently open side-by-side, then the iPad might not be for you (although you might consider whether you need both windows open together).”

“For most other regular workaday work type work, though. the iPad is ideal,” Sorrel writes. “And here’s our guide to replacing your Mac with an iPad. Specifically a Retina iPad, but you might even manage with a mini.”

In the full article, Sorrel covers the following:

• Software
– Replacing Microsoft Office/iWork
– Replacing The Finder
– Replacing Photoshop
– How To Zip Files
– Replacing Other Utilities

• Hardware
– Replacing A Physical Keyboard
– Buying A Stand
– Handy To Have Hardware

Sorrel writes, “By definition, the iPad does some things better than the desktop, and some things worse. You’ll have to assess the tradeoffs to see whether an iPad will work for you, but be sure to do it with an open mind. Many people are wedded to their Macs just because they’re used to them, not because they actually need all that they offer.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: One thing we’d add, regarding physical keyboards for on-the-go use, is a choice we didn’t see in Sorrel’s full article, but it’s one we use (when we don’t just use the iOS on-screen keyboard) and it works well for us: Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad (US$99.99)

Related articles:
Logitech introduces ‘Ultrathin Keyboard mini’ for Apple’s iPad mini – February 5, 2013
11 must-have iPad accessories – April 19, 2012


  1. Got my son an ipsfd fot college & the biggest thing I noticed was that many of the textbook/classes still required use of FLASH i.e. MyMathLab, MySpanishLab etc–all Flash based. On a campus where over 60% of the students are using an ipad or some other tablet this is just unbelievable. Neither iOS or android support Flash–so why are the publishers & professors still pushing this?

  2. Even when you type on an external keyboard, the iPad is still a touch-screen device editing the text you type is still a slow and cumbersome operation at best. The iPad is the wrong tool for editing long documents unless you have unlimited time and absolutely nothing else to do.

  3. But you still need a computer to sync it with, right? So no matter what, it’s an addition not a replacement.

    I’d looked into getting one for my mother-in-law to use instead of her aging Mac. But the Mac is too old to be updated to Lion, so she’d need BOTH a new computer AND an iPad just for the convenience of the iPad.

    1. False if you are in the cloud: iCloud,iTunesmatch,Dropbox,Box… I tought I will never buy an iPad, I was wrong, I only use my iPad 3/64G since a few months, which they had an iPodTouch 128 for the music.

      1. Here is the problem. I am still running Tiger on an old G4. I got an iPhone 4S back in May of last year. Since I cannot run a later version of iTunes, I cannot sync my phone to my comouter hence iTunes and transfer my music onto my phone. I need to upgrade my Mac (mini) to run more recent software in order tosync with my computer and to transfer iTunes to iCloud, unless I am missing something.

  4. ‘But you still need a computer to sync it with, right?’

    Nope, not since iOS 5. You can set one up out of the box without needing a computer at all, and make backups to iCloud instead of iTunes.

    For casual users (email, browsing, gaming, videos and Skype/FaceTime) the iPad represents not just a replacement for a computer, but a more convenient upgrade.

  5. I love to use my ipad but it can’t do what my MBP can do and it’s got a long way to go before it will be able to replace my MBP. For the ipad to be able to replace a “real” computer it will have to run a full OS with real full featured software. The hardware simply isn’t powerful enough nor is the OS open enough.

    The ipad can also do some things better than my MBP. For one, I have all of the code books that I need loaded on it. I now always have them with me. Goodreader makes navigating them very efficient, much better than ibooks.

    What the ipad does, it does a great job at but to think it can replace a “real” computer is still just a dream. Anyone who thinks it can doesn’t have a need for a full featured computer.

  6. I hate to say it, but Microsoft has the right idea with the Surface Pro. One device that works well as both a tablet and a fully functional computer. Unfortunately their implementation leaves a lot to be desired. The tablet is uncomfortable and heavy for a tablet.

    Android’s solution is similar to that described in this article, except Android has easier access to the file system. Both Android and the iPad tablets are underpowered as a laptop. And printing is half baked.

    So please Apple – take Microsoft’s concept and do it right. Give us a Macbook Air / iPad hybrid that can do it all and do it well. The iPad solution proposed here may work for some, but not for the majority. And it certainly lacks elegance.

      1. Except to appropriate Al Capone’s methods of persuasion, which worked wonderfully in insuring a near-universal adoption of Microsoft’s services, at least until Eliot Ness showed up.

      2. Wow, you must be young. Don’t remember over a decade ago when Apple was near collapse and Microsoft ruled the computing world? Never used an xbox? Also, as much as I dislike Word (especially the Mac version), I have yet to find anything that can replace it adequately where I work. Microsoft is certainly struggling as of late, but you’re mistaken or a fanboy to state that they’ve never ever had the right idea.

        The Surface Pro is a fantastic idea. It just needs someone like Apple to perfect it. Weight, battery life, and ergonomics need work on the hardware side. On the software side, OSX would be a huge improvement over Windows 8.

        I’m sure Apple sees this. They always seem to come around. For example, a smaller iPad. A few years ago they said it wouldn’t be a good product. But in actuality it is a fantastic product even though that form factor was originally popularized on Android tablets. It’s better than any Android tablet. Second example is larger phones. You get the idea – someone beta tests the market for Apple, after which Apple perfects the idea and cashes in.

        Bottom line is that the idea of the Surface Pro is fantastic even if the beta unit comes from Microsoft – it just needs some Apple love to perfect the concept.

        1. dang Rick, you’re wrong yet again..but thanks for the implied youth compliment, but DON’T EVER suggest I have used an XBox, or I will track you down like a dog and pour a 55 gallon drum of whoop-ass all over your head.

    1. Here’s my proposed concept:

      iPad with a docking station. The docking station would have: USB, audio, Thunderbolt and power (and perhaps Ethernet), so you can plug a screen, a printer, external hard drives, and keyboard/mouse (if you don’t have Bluetooth).

      When you plug the iPad in, the interface switches to the Mac OS X interface, so it becomes a Mac. You can run your Mac development tools AND iOS software.

      When you unplug it, it becomes your standard iPad.

      Yes, I know it’s far fetched, but how cool would it be? iPad/Mac Mini combined in one. And with AirPlay, we could have iPad/Mac Mini/Apple TV in one device.

      1. Thought about that as well a couple of years ago. Mac Mini with iPad as the monitor. Would be a nice little system and as you say, iPad or OSX interface depending on its use.

    2. Microsoft’s Surface Pro is too heavy and thick to be a good tablet. In addition, it has poor battery life. When you add in the keyboard and other things, you might as well get an ultrabook PC laptop (or a Macbook Air!) and take advantage of a more integrated and optimized system.

      So far, the Surface Pro seems to represent a bundle of compromises that will appeal to relatively few people. The rest of us will use a full computer when one is needed, and an iPad or smartphone for most everything else.

    1. An iPad *is* a computer, at least according to commonly accepted definitions of the term for the past 30+ years.

      It’s somewhat more limited than some, less limited than others.

  7. The only issue I’ve had, which I’ve had since day one, was actually resolved in Windows RT (even though that OS sucks and I would never use it): the ability to save files locally, and then point to them in web forms or other upload areas. A good example is my online classroom, where I have to upload .docx and other office files through a browse/find local file/upload type process.

    If I could save files and then point to them, I would be missing literally no functionality that I use a desktop for.

    1. iCab (and Atomic browser) let you upload local files. You send from Pages (or whatever) into one of these then upload to your heart’s content. Doesn’t always work for all websites, but it does for the CMS we use and most other places I’ve needed to upload files.

    2. Agreed. Uploading files to web sites require some sort of file system. That’s something really missing in iOS. While some apps can do that, it’s not a standard issue in iOS. There has to be a way to make it easy and usable at the same time. Apple could solve it, the same way they worked on Copy & Paste on iOS, which works 1000 times better than in Android.

      Typing in Android is just painful.

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