iPad Pro + Textblade = one system to rule them all?

To lighten the air around here a bit, I’d like to relate my experience with my iPad Pro 9.7” I’ve been using for about two weeks now. After about a week I began to toy with the idea of using it as my main system, one that would do everything I’d need a from a computer - work, entertainment, hobby, I mean everything.

Thing is, I’m a closet neat freak with an OCD-like aversion to clutter, and am a minimalist by nature. Because of this I tend to try to downsize all my possessions. It’s a bit of a challenge as far as computers are concerned, mainly due to work work requirements, and because I’m also a gear-head with affinity for all things computers. I have four desktops that are on all the time, two laptops, three tablets, plus dedicated machines like NAS, virtualization server, HTPC, three Raspberry Pi’s, Odroid, and a Beagle Bone - all of which irks the hell out of the anal side of me.

To put some reign on this, I long envisioned having one computer for all my needs. And after using the iPad, I think that vision is near reality. I had thought my work needs were more complex but mostly I just need to ssh into remote servers which provide me with bash, the programming languages, editors and IDEs. The app called Prompt works very well, as well as Server Auditor which is free. For Python testing, Pythonista works amazingly well. Though I have an elaborate local development environment set up on my MBP, I’ve long abandoned reliance on it, opting rather to do pretty much everything on remote servers. Document management seems to work far better on the iPad than the MBP, especially annotating PDFs, with the Pencil. And same with Skype, with the better front-facing camera. I truly think the iPad, well the Pro line at least, has all the potential to be a productivity machine, as opposed to being a passive content consumption device that, until now, was only good for watching Netflix on the toilet. At least for me.

Speaking of which, entertainment has worked very well for the iPad from the get go. Netflix, Amazon videos have always worked flawlessly, and with the huge storage capacities they have now, I can carry enough movies and music to tide me over if I were to be stuck on a deserted island somewhere. And whereas I only played simple games like Angry Birds on my previous iPad, I’m amazed by how the more graphics intensive games, like battle and racing simulators, play on this thing. Apple said that it’s got an equivalent to an Xbox 360 on this thing, and after playing some crazy complex games, I believe it.

And I never realized how much I loved taking manual, handwritten notes, how that was a crucial part of my work and creative process, but one that was long neglected after I’ve come to rely on traditional computers and typing. So this iPad lets me run the full gamut of coming up with an idea, wherever that may happen, to fully crafting it into reality.

But despite all the virtues, the iPad is only a part of that ideal system. And as great as the Pencil is, it really needs to be paired with a keyboard for any practical work purposes. Tacking on a keyboard seemed ridiculous to me since, no matter what you get, it just adds another slab, negating its ultra portability. It can also limit you by locking you into certain orientation use and cause discomfort, on top of always having to have to carry additional bulk.

What it needs desperately is the Textblade, and with a nice, slim bag to glue all the parts together - the iPad, TB and the Pencil, perhaps the Bragi Dash (did they solve the BT connection problem yet?), along with the cables, adapters, etc. - this is finally the ideal system I’ve been looking for. Ultraportable, complete workstation, entertainment system, artistic canvas all rolled into one. I don’t think I can get rid of all my computers at home (would be my ultimate dream), but I’m confident I can toss out a few.

Anyone looking to do the same, especially TREGers using their TB with their iPad Pro? Can you see yourself discarding most (not all) your computers in favor of the iPad. What are your use cases (whether for work or play) that could/could not be fulfilled? What would be in your bag along with your iPad?



I have the 12.9 iPad Pro and keyboard and the pencil. Since I got them I have stopped carrying out both the MacBook Pro and Surface Pro that I used to carry all the time. Instead I now use the Pro and remote back into them as the screen makes that easy to do. The keyboard, being full sized means that I can type what I need and the Pencil is brilliant. On remote desktops I can get the precision I need but when I want to do handwritten notes, that I used to do with paper and a pen I now just flash up Paper by 53 and away I go.
I like the iPad Pro keyboard (full size) once you get used to it, you can get some serious speed up.
As of last Thursday, when I got my TREG blade, I honestly think that I have used it once and have done all my typing with the Blade.
I was researching today alternatives to the Apple cases that my Pro is currently wrapped in as I no longer need them as the TextBlade has made the iPad Pro keyboard redundant, for me at least.

I will have lost money on it when I put it on ebay but I might as well get something back for them as I no longer need the iPad Pro keyboard and the TextBlade at the same time.

I was impressed with the Pro keyboard, I think that it is far superior to the one on the Microsoft surface. They both pale into nothing compared to the TextBlade…

I really wish you folks get yours soon. As TREG folks, we really are doing everything that we can to drive things forward. The decision to ship is not ours and we are passing back anything and everything that we find be it issue or suggestion for improvement AFTER SHIPPING…


That’s great to hear.

The case is a bit tricky. I’d like something that’s thin, can accommodate the Pencil and have a kickstand. But this is the best combo I could come up with:

The gumdrop case is about the only minimal sleeve/skin type thingie I can find that has a place for the Pencil. And kudos for @Chimpboy74 for finding the Plinth kickstand. Unfortunately, both of them together will set you back almost $70. Right now, I just have cheap case/cover I got from a mall to tide me over until I was sure I wanted to keep the iPad. And this bag looks to be the perfect thing:

A beautiful bag. It has more room than I need, but not for my wife who carries more baggage (in more ways than one :slight_smile: )

She and I are both avid music listeners, and another forum member was kind enough to point out the Bragi Dash. But it seems all the reviews complain about problems with BT connection. Once they fix that, I think it’s a done deal as far as my ideal system is concerned.

As far as apps are concerned, I’ve been creating reams of notes with Notability. One user has suggested GoodNotes which also looks very good. Microsoft’s OneNote is fantastic, as is the venerable Word itself, which I didn’t know until now supports the Pencil well. I also purchased Ulysses for pure, distraction-free writing, which is also great. Works well across Mac, iPhone and iPad seamlessly via iCloud. But it’s a bit expensive as it’s $45 for Mac, $25 for iPad, and forget what it is for iPhone. But for writing, it’s the best I’ve come across.


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One thing to note about MS Word is that for 9.7" iPad users, it’s free in that you can save locally, whereas with the 12.9", you must subscribe to their Office 360. It seems to have something to do with their licensing to Apple which limits its free-ness to devices less than 10" or something ridiculous like that.

Thought it may be of importance to those who rely on Word and are thinking about getting the iPad Pro.


Can highly recommend Editorial on the iPad

Here is a free custom keyboard extension for your iPad Pro which will allow you to use your Apple Pencil anywhere you can use a keyboard.

MyScript Stylus - Handwriting Keyboard on the App Store

Yeah, has nothing to do with them and Apple though. That’s just how Microsoft decided to define the limit between “computer” and “tablet”.

They picked screen size, and the big iPad Pro is bigger than the threshold.

Office is free on any platform on the tablet sizes and requires a subscription on the computer sizes.

Seems kinda silly to me, too, but it’s great for the 9.7" pro owners :slight_smile:

Made a quick visit to the Apple Store after work, and tried the 12.9"'s keyboard. Though I wasn’t impressed with the one for the 9.7" the full-sized keyboard was quite nice, one I could get used to very quickly. The Textblade must be pretty damned nice for that to pale in comparison.


I’m an avid 9.7" ipad user. It’s not quite my main platform, but I’m getting there. It is when I travel and I’ve been using a nice logitech bluetooth keyboard for a couple of years. I was hoping the TB would replace the keyboard, and continue to hope :smile:
But I have recently ordered a 9.7" iPad Pro, keyboard, and pencil, since the arrival of the TB is still unpredictable (I’m not a TREGGER, but appreciate what that group is doing for TB). So hopefully one day my Pro keyboard will also be replaced :wink:

Hey Megapode,

Do you use any VNC programs with your iPad?

If you do, I’m curious, if you hook up your Textblade to an iPad and your iPad to a computer via VNC (or Parallels Access), are you able to type with the Textblade on the computer AND use the computer’s mouse at the same time?

I’m wondering because I frequently program on semi-custom hardware (a Jetson from nVidia) running Linux for which I’m sure there is no Textblade driver.


Great posts here.

The iPad Pro looks like a great device but I have to run custom x86 apps for work which forces me to stay in the PC world.

I do have a similar minimalist mindset with a tablet that does everything for work and entertainment. I use an Asus Vivotab Note 8 which has a Wacom digitizer. I’m a longtime (more than a decade) tablet-with-pen-OneNote user as I love the “organic” interaction with my tablet when it comes to handwriting and sketching. So the Note 8 is a no brainer as it straddles the line comfortably for me between portability (stow it in jacket pocket) and effective writing area (which feels like writing on size of junior legal pad).

I do need to go and try out the Apple Pencil some day. I’ve been a big fan of Wacom pens for a long time, especially the Carbon series.

I have a nice thin and sturdy case with it, similar to typical ipad cases that serve as a flipstand. There’s officially no place to stow a pen, but I attached a Leuchtturm Pen Loop (found on Amazon) as a solution. My goto travel Pen is a Samsung S-Pen with eraser which is about 4.5 inches long, so I put the Pen Loop on the short side of the case.

I was hoping for something like that organic user experience when the iPad was first announced. The first thing I thought was drawing and handwriting. It was after all a tablet! But instead all we had was binary drawing (no pressure sensitivity) and awkward typing on glass. What was Apple thinking? It took them six years before realizing that, rather than trying to bamboozle us into thinking it’s kinda sorta laptop, it’s best to let a tablet be what it should have been in the first place.

And the pencil IMO (w/pressure sensitivity) is a great first step toward that direction. It’s accurate, fast and pressure works great in apps that recognize it. But it’s not without faults. Minor quibble, but it’s a little thin for my hands (tad larger than average size); it fits my wife’s smaller hands perfectly. No eraser function on the other end, charge adapter is easy to lose, initial pairing is a pain. But my biggest gripe is that it’s really slippery when writing - smooth plastic nib on smooth iPad glass. I hope someone comes out with another nib that provides more friction.

A friend of mine who’s used Wacom pens for a while doesn’t like it, mostly for the above reasons plus no hovering (ability to see where it’ll write before you write), no buttons on the side to call up programs, and simple things like how it can easily roll of a table. But I have almost zero experience with Wacom or other pens, and I think it’s great.


For the rolling issue, I add something like this to my Wacom pens that roll:
Then I can hook it to the aforementioned “pen loop” that I affix to my case.

Some other things I like about the Wacom, I often replace the plastic nib with one made of hard felt and it gives me that “draggy” paper feel. Second, I like the variety of pens available, everything from heavy weighted, to fountain pen, to BIC like pens, to tiny ones that fit in phones.
I have almost a dozen of them. Most tablet PCs for the past ten years have used the same pen technology. So, if I search hard enough, I can find a “discard” on Ebay for a few dollars. Finally, I like how you don’t have to charge it or don’t need an AAAA battery (although you pay for it with more device battery usage required to power the digitizer)

One thing I don’t like is, depending on the pen and device, you might get an offset between tip and display that is large enough to be annoying.

From what I’ve been told, the Pencil is pretty good, and it will be interesting to see what the next iteration brings. Hopefully that will force Wacom to step up their game.

I happen to much prefer it this way, even possibly over a traditional pen. But we know that there are tons of pens and pencils to fit almost every writing style and preference.

For a good bit of time, I had a matte screen protector on the iPad, so know that you can change it to feel more rough on the paper if you find it too slippery now. Don’t remember which exact one I had, but it was great.

I can definitely get it to roll off a table if I try, but if I just plop it down on a desk or whatever it seems to be weighted funny such that it picks a side and doesn’t roll easily.

Ah, yes. I think I heard of this, called parallax, I believe? None of that on the Apple Pencil. But sometimes, because the point of the Pencil is white, if you’re writing on white screen, it could be a little off putting.

It’s excellent actually. And it better be, after paying almost $1200 for everything - iPad, Pencil and all the nick nack accessories for it. And I’ve already spent a couple of Benjis on apps, and probably a few more in the next 6 months. It’s becoming quite expensive to regain that primitive urge to write by hand. But I think it’s all worth it. I now feel complete :smile:

I have matte screen protector on my iPad mini retina. Got it from online place called bestskinsever.com. Yeah, cheesy name, but it’s held up great for two years on it. No finger smudges, no scratches, but you lose the glossy sheen. Highly recommended. And the Pencil feels great on it too. I’m thinking of getting it for the Pro, though I think a replaceable nib would be a better idea. Like a felt tip perhaps.

This is GREAT!!! Where have you been all my life??? What a find. Now I don’t have to dig out my Newton MessagePad. It recognizes my chicken scratch of handwriting. Brilliant!


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And if you look next time, the Apple logo always ends facing upwards. Its intentional. I too don’t have problems with it rolling off a table due to it being weighted.

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You know, I thought you were joking. But you’re right. I’ll be damned.



There’s a bunch of quirky Apple design features that don’t leap out at you.

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I also think the iPad 9.7 Pro with the apple pencil AND the TextBlade make a neat little package to get real work done on the go.

Especially when you want to use the pencil and the keyboard. In this use case I prefer to use the iPad with the lower cover position. With the apple smart keyboard you can use the iPad only in the more vertical position.

I hope the TextBlade will arrive before my vacation in July (Fingers crossed).

I am trying out my iPad Pro (12.7 inch) with the TB+pencil and finding it works well (although at time I would like a third hand to hold the pencil while typing). I am sure that the smaller iPad Pro with the pencil+TB will be even more suitable for mobile use.

For a stand I earlier this week acquired the plinth (from myplinth.co.uk) and found it seems to live up to its claims of being both small and light when ‘closed’ (it would easily fit in a top pocket of your shirt) and holding the iPad securely in a variety of positions when ‘open’. It is good enough that I have ordered another one already!

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