With an expanded range of apps and other features, Apple’s 2017 iPad Pro (combined with the Apple Pencil) is a piece of technology that should find plenty of use with architects and designers, especially in off-site situations.
With the ability to use apps such as Procreate, Morpholio, Magicplan and Newforma, the 12.9-inch version of this tablet runs on iOS11, and comes with features such as management tools for apps and extra functionality, making the iPad Pro geared more towards the professional user rather than the recreational one.
Architectural firm BVN, which is fast moving to become what it has coined as the ‘Paperless Architects’, has been extensively testing this iPad version over the past few months.
Craig Burns, BVN’s practice director says, “After a year of running this experiment, I have not generated any paper for my own use (either sketching or printing) and I do not have an assigned desk.”
“Initially, the iPad Pro was a very useful accompaniment although I was still using my laptop for a number of tasks, largely those which were based around our network,” he says.
“Over time though, I have handed in my laptop and now use the iPad Pro as my only computing device. A couple of things have helped facilitate this, the most obvious being the adoption of Citrix across the office."
"As the real computing grunt of our tasks are taken care of remotely, the device we use is really just an interface,” says Burns.
Apps and iPads have a symbiotic relationship, as they do with some architectural firms like ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects, who co-designed an app called Virtual Window Design which helps integrate a range of window designs with the outside surroundings.
In terms of the 2017 iPad Pro, there are a number of new and upgraded architect-centric apps, including:
- Procreate (drawing)
- Morpholio (drawing / sketching)
- Paper by 53 (drawing / sketching)
- Concepts Smarter Sketching (drawing / sketching)
- Readdle Documents (document management)
- Newforma (document management)
- Citrix (admin)
- Magicplan (creating floor plans)
- Sun Seeker (solar path analysis tool)
- BIMX Pro (BIM tool)
- ArchiSnapper (Field report management)
- Harvest (time tracking)
- Construction Master Pro (Solve construction-maths problems)
- AutoCAD 360 Pro (view, create, edit, and share AutoCAD drawings)
The three main programs that architects and designers would use on a regular basis-Procreate, Morpholio and WORD, all require the Apple Pencil to be used in different ways.
While Procreate is geared towards freehand drawing, using the Pencil gives more options with brush thicknesses for example, although for architects, unless they are doing a lot of freehand sketching, this program would not be overtly useful.
On the other hand, Morpholio is more ‘architect-friendly’ and was developed specifically for the iPad.
It also allows architects to draw virtual spaces and then upload them to whatever site/email they wish.
When drawing in Morpholio, the Apple Pencil takes a bit of getting used to but at the same time, it’s superior to using an old version stylus although still not as touch-responsive as a human finger.
Other features of this app include the ability to sketch instantly over any image and erase the background in order to isolate objects and apply clean overlays, a function than architects should find helpful.
The Apple Pencil can also be used with EXCEL, and while not made explicitly for this program, it is responsive enough to provide a level of functionality that is more or less similar to a mouse.
However, BVN’s Burns says that one of the Pencil’s main drawbacks is it’s charging method.
“You either plug it in to the iPad lighting port which is cumbersome, or you attach a little adapter to it so that a standard lightning cable can be used. This works well but the adapter is small and fiddly and easy to lose,” he says.
For architects and designers, and also builders, Apple’s iPad Pro has a number of useful features, especially for those working regularly in the field or away from their desks.
As Burns says, “this represents an interesting philosophical moment in the relationship between architectural practice and design technology”.