iOS and Mac Synergy Makes all the Difference

A Story of Two Apps


In the past, I have written about my attempts to throw away my laptop for an iPad. In my case, it never works because I’m simply too dependent on a keyboard and multitasking. However, this is not to say that the iPad or iPhone cannot have a valuable place in my workflow. Indeed, the beauty of well-designed iOS apps is that they overcome the problems I have described, creatively functioning without the need for keyboard or other applications to be simultaneously accessed. Panic’s Prompt app for iOS makes this point perfectly, offering a traditional SSH/Telnet shell client with support for code snippets and bookmarks. But this is just the start of a good iOS app. In the end, I still need deep integration (dare I say, synergy?) with my computers upon which I depend daily.

So, after using Prompt on my iPad, I was somewhat devastated to learn there was no companion application for my Mac. On the Mac side of things, I have long used the Terminal and SnippetsLab to do remotely maintain servers. Terminal provided access to the remote command line interfaces and SnippetsLab stored and organized all of my frequently-used code. Using Prompt made me realize that I should be using an application that marries the functions of Terminal and SnippetsLab. If I could do it on my iPad, certainly I could do it on my Mac.

Unfortunately, Panic does not make a Mac companion application for Prompt. I was hoping the Mac version could sync all of my credentials, snippets, and hosts to its iOS buddies, but alas. This then led me down the path to find an app that might live up to my hopes. I ultimately found vSSH - a multi-platform application that does it all on all of the devices I use.

vSSH is not as pretty as Prompt, but it’s ability to cross platforms makes it (and my iPad) truly useful to me. The lesson is that for consumers like me (Mac-loving geeks, nerds, and dorks working in IT), an iPad is only truly useful if it leverages the power of a full fledged computer. Again, it would take me a long time to manually type in all of the code and credentials into Prompt. It is much easier to get this info in vSSH via my MacBook and then sync with my iPad. In this way, the iPad is an extension of my computer.

When I think about it, all of the apps I use on my iPad really are extensions of my other computers. Apps like Dropbox, Evernote, Gmail, iA Writer, and CloudMagic all have companion apps on the Mac. The iPad’s portability is truly useful, especially if I need to review something I have already prepared on my computer. When used in this fashion, the iPad really becomes a luxury item because it does not really do anything I cannot do using a laptop. However, good iPad applications add something to the mix that cannot be done in the Mac counterpart. For example, I can swipe through emails much quicker on the iPad than I can with a keyboard on the Mac.

So, take from this what you will, but for the iPad, or any tablet, to make it in my workflow, I need synergy between the tablet and my computers. That last sentence makes me want to throw up, but I spew the truth.