My mobile working setup

I recently changed my working setup for work. I’d like to document it here.


I like writing during travelling. I did, in the beginning, use my smartphone together with an Apple bluetooth keyboard and liked that setup for its simplicity. There’s not much more to do on the phone then the application currently at hand, it is small and usable.

Back when I first tried it out, application support was horrible though. Because of Apples neglectance of sharing more then files between applications made even managing of work difficult. So I ended up getting my notebook out for most stuff again. Also, the setup always had the problem where to keep the phone…

That has changed with iOS 9 and after tipping my toes in the water again, I decided to try things again and am quite happy with the setup.

I don’t want to code using the setup, but get a reasonable preview of my writing.

The keyboard

After quite some research, I opted for a Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard. The keyboard itself is suprisingly hard to get on short notice.

The keyboard has settings for working as a Windows, Android or iOS keyboard. It is a standard keyboard with some additional keys for locking, volume/audio control, and searching. The build quality is great.

It comes with a rubbery cover that can hold the device you are using while working. The cover is quite heavy at first, but once you start using it, it shows why: it holds rock solid. The rubber effect of the cover also means that the whole setup never moves, neither on a table or your knees. The device, be it a table or a phone, holds great within the cover and cannot be pushed over. It can also be adjusted to two angles.

Microsoft advertises 90 days off standby off one charge and I haven’t managed to run out of battery.

If you are reading this just for inspiration for a similar setup: make this piece your cornerstone.

Device: iPad Mini 4

I had bad experiences with the very first iPad and never used a tablet since then. After some back and forth, I still decided to get one instead of using my phone, mostly because of the larger size and seperate battery from my phone.

I opted for not considering an Android device because I already did my applications research and doing it again would have cost me additional effort. If you are currently used to Android, possibly getting an Android tablet of similar proportions is a good way to go.

The split screen mode took some getting used to, but I really love it! Most applications I use support it well, making editing a text and working with a git client alongside a matter of sliding to the left. The constrained model of having one main app and exactly one secondary fits my mental model of working really well. If Linux had a tiling window manager like that, I’d be with you in a second.

Handover between applications works good, although it has some weird things you need to get used to. The git client I use can only export the current repository it has open to the text editor I use, which (after some getting used to), I also enjoy. It means all my applications are focused on the same thing all the time. It’s not for large-scale use, but great if you want a setup to flip open and get working.

There’s a few flaws though. Sometimes, my text editor completely forgets about the data it had open from my git client and I have to reopen it. That doesn’t incur data loss or something, but is a bit of a nuisance. It has a straight-forward solution though.

Finally, keyboard integration in iOS proper is really good, providing shortcuts for many things and even a macOS style application switcher. The only major nuisance is that you really want to set the key repeat timing down, and switch of auto-correct. A thing to get used to is that Backspace works differently in iOS then on macOS. It expects a long keypress to activate and then takes long to repeat. The idea behind that seems to be to encourage you to use mark and replace more often and it definitely works for me after getting an hour of work time with it.

I tried to use Swype keyboard with that setup, but it has bugs that I cannot understand, like keys suddenly stopping work. Switching back to the stock iOS keyboard helps.

Battery life is good.


Text editor: Textastic

Textastic has been with iOS for quite a while and it shows. It is easy to use, and it is definitely set up for serious use. It comes with an additional keyboard row for easy access to special character (should you forget your hardware keyboard), has a nice enough file browser and has a project manager. On top of that, it can run a webserver to provide preview of rather complex pages in Safari. I currently use it for a rather complex presentation using reveal.js, and it can provide a full preview setup of that.

On top of that, it has quick preview of popular markup languages, like markdown, built-in.

Git: Git2Go

Git2Go provides a good interface to Git(Hub), though my main motivation for buying it a while ago was that it was the only client that could handle GH accounts with access to more then 50 repositories (one page in the GitHub API). But it handles project, branch, and commit management good, along with being a provider for the data to other applications. It does allow preview and seeing commits. It works great as a side application.

GitHub: iOctocat

As a heavy user on the iPhone, I also love iOctocat on the iPad. It provides a great overview of everything that happens around you and is my goto application to get up to speed. My only gripes are that it cannot create pull requests and it is not available in the sidebar.

Browser: Firefox & Klar

Firefox for iOS is a great browser that replaced Safari for me very quickly. I can additionally recommend Firefox Klar, which has a great, focused exerience for looking stuff up: no history, just one tab, always in private mode. Does not clutter your history.

Game for in between: FTL

FTL (Faster than Light) is still one of the best tablet games ever build. Complex, well tuned for touch input and in that case, touch controls have that certain Star Trek feel to them.

Problematic App: Chat Secure

Chat Secure is nice and great, but has weird layout issues on an iPad mini, especially in split screen mode.