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iPad for Architects

Transitioning from analog tools to digital often requires adjustments, especially regarding software. However, for the sake of time efficiency and improved workflow, I inevitably had to make this shift.


I thoroughly enjoyed manually sketching with paper and pencil. There's a delightful experience in creating lines on paper. However, I encountered challenges when coordinating. I had to photograph my manual sketches and send them to colleagues via messenger apps like WhatsApp or Telegram, which felt inefficient.

iPad Untuk Arsitek
Analog vs Digital. Image by Adityuwana

Why a Tablet?


A tablet is not a PC replacement but rather an additional tool that facilitates remote work for professionals like me. There are several reasons why I chose to use a tablet.


Firstly, a tablet is a mobile paperless office. In the architecture profession, where paper is frequently used, a tablet eliminates the need to carry piles of paper. It can be used for sketching, checking images, presenting designs, and more, tasks that, if done manually, would require a significant amount of paper. All I need to do is synchronize data, and all necessary documents are on the tablet.


Secondly, it saves time. As mentioned earlier, a tablet makes it easier for me to coordinate with the team. I can save time in creating and sending digital sketches, which, if done manually, would require taking photos first. I can also save a lot of time by not printing images for client presentations—simply open PDF files or a BIM viewer.

iPad Untuk Arsitek
Presentation through a tablet. Image by Adityuwana

Thirdly, a tablet is an excellent tool for sketching. The architectural design process always begins with sketching concepts, and a tablet greatly facilitates this. It's especially noticeable when creating site plans. With a tablet, I can use layering, which is a bit cumbersome when done manually with tracing paper. I can also directly sketch interior designs from existing photos taken with the tablet's camera. It's practical and efficient.

iPad Untuk Arsitek
Digital sketch. Image by Adityuwana

Fourthly, due to its portability, a tablet is more versatile than other devices. I can write blog articles while lying down or sketch on a larger screen than a smartphone while comfortably lounging. Sometimes, during online meetings where the camera doesn't need to be on, I can participate while reclining.


Why iPad?


So, why choose an iPad? There are many tablet brands, but since I am accustomed to working with Apple devices, the iPad was the natural choice. Additionally, several reasons influenced my decision to opt for an iPad.


Firstly, the Apple ecosystem. This ecosystem makes it easier for me to work between devices, such as transferring files and data between a laptop, tablet, and smartphone—AirDrop handles this quickly. For example, as I write this article, I can easily transfer it (via copy-paste) from my iPhone to my Mac without needing any additional software. It's a time-saving feature.


Secondly, the Apple Pencil. This is subjective, but I was curious about this Apple device, and after using it, I found it to be intuitive, accurate, and comfortable. It feels almost the same as using a pencil.


Thirdly, software or app choices. Some essential apps I need are only available for iPadOS, such as Morpholio Trace and especially Procreate. I use these apps for conceptualizing, sketching, and revising designs. For other apps architects may need, you can read about them in the article "15 Mobile Apps for Architects."

iPad Untuk Arsitek
Sketch and graphics app. Image by Adityuwana

I use the fourth-generation iPad Air, but the latest version, iPad Air Gen 5, is now available. I chose this model because I found its specifications and features to be sufficient. It outperforms the 2018 iPad Pro but falls below the 2020 iPad Pro released in March 2020. Compared to iPads in lower series, the fourth-generation iPad Air has several advantages, with one of the most crucial being its laminated screen. This means there is no air gap between the display and the glass cover. Small details like this make a significant difference when sketching. In lower iPad series, the tip of the Apple Pencil might feel like it's not touching the sketch lines. In my opinion, this device offers a good price-to-performance ratio compared to the Pro series. I can use the price difference to purchase additional accessories.


Shortcomings


After using the iPad for several months, I've identified some shortcomings.


Firstly, as mentioned earlier, the iPad is a secondary device. As an architect, I can't make the iPad my primary device to replace a laptop or PC. Some apps, especially those based on CAD and BIM, are less optimal on the iPad and other tablets. Except for SketchUp, most of these apps are essentially viewers and cannot be used as they are on desktop versions.


Secondly, some apps are not available. Some apps available in the iOS version are not accessible in the iPadOS version, such as Instagram and WhatsApp. In such cases, I use the iOS version of Instagram with a smaller display on the iPad. For WhatsApp, I use the web version, which has had no issues so far, requiring only a few additional login steps when opening the app.


Additional Accessories


The iPad itself is a powerful device, but some additional accessories are necessary for architects to optimize its use. Here are some accessories I use and recommend:

iPad Untuk Arsitek
Additional accessories for the iPad. Image by Adityuwana

1. Paperlike. For those not accustomed to drawing on glass, Paperlike is the solution. It not only protects the screen but also gives the iPad's display a paper-like surface. It makes the experience of manual sketching more authentic.

2. Apple Pencil Gen 2. Undeniably, this device is a must-have for iPad users (regardless of the series), especially for architects. The Apple Pencil is the primary tool for sketching. Apple has released both the first and second generations of the Apple Pencil. It is comfortable and intuitive to use, whether it's the first or second generation.


3. Magnetic Case. To protect the iPad when traveling. The back cover is magnetically attached to the iPad's back case, while the front side has three folds for viewing and typing modes. It also includes protection for the Apple Pencil on the side.


4. Apple USB-C to VGA Multiport Adapter. This device is essential for me. I use it to deliver lectures and presentations through a projector using a VGA cable. It's a bit pricey for an Apple product, and alternatives such as the Vention multiport, equipped with an HDMI socket, are available.


5. USB Flash Drive. A flash drive for transferring data between my iPad and PC. Considering that the iPad has a Type C port, I chose the  Sandisk Ultra Dual Drive Go OTG.. This device is also useful for transferring data from my colleagues' devices to my iPad.


6. Drawing Gloves. For some reason, my hands tend to get damp when sketching. I use these gloves to ensure comfort while drawing on the iPad.


7. Apple Pencil Cover. To protect the Apple Pencil if it falls. I use one made of silicone that provides a comfortable grip and prevents the Pencil from slipping.

The iPad has indeed made my workflow more efficient. Sketching, coordinating with the team, and presenting designs have become much easier, and most importantly, productive activities can be performed anytime, anywhere using this device, despite some of the shortcomings I mentioned earlier. If you work more with CAD or BIM to create drawings, you may not find it necessary. However, if you already have a PC, need high mobility, frequently develop concepts, and present design ideas, a tablet may be considered as a secondary device.

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