6 Months with the iPad Mini (Gear and Apps)

When the 2021 iPad mini came out last September, I immediately purchased it and thought it would be the perfect research companion. I wrote all about it here. Now that I’ve had it for about 6 months (and the birth of one child), I thought I’d revisit that post and discuss the gear, apps, and workflows I’ve implemented.

iPad Mini Gear

Since I get this question the most, I’ll answer it first: what gear am I using with the iPad mini? Here’s a list:

  • First, I got the Purple iPad mini with 64GB. I’d probably upgrade the storage if buying it today, knowing how much I use it.
  • Apple Pencil (2nd generation) is an absolute must-have for me. I constantly take notes and sketch.
  • Paperlike Screen Protector is a polarizing product because it’s expensive and kind of hard to apply. But of all the screen protectors I’ve tried that give iPad screens texture, I like it the best.
  • iPad mini Smart Folio, which I also constantly use. I made a tactical error in getting white (purple and white are the colors of my alma mater), but the purple is very light and the white gets very dirty.

In the original post, I also mentioned a couple of keyboards I was trying. Since then I’ve mostly abandoned trying to use a keyboard with the iPad mini, but I still keep the foldable iClever keyboard around. And I’ve tried a small Apple Magic Keyboard with Studio Neat’s Canopy. But most of my writing is now done on my laptop.

Reading and Content Consumption

Every morning I wake up around 5:30 am so I can shower and get some coffee before my kids wake up. I also like to catch up on RSS feeds, saved articles, and the news. The iPad mini is absolutely perfect for this.

I’ve been trying to use that instead of my phone in the evenings. I really love the way it feels. The iPad mini is the perfect size, very light, and great for one-hand use.

Replacing the Kindle Oasis

It has even replaced my Kindle Oasis for reading Kindle books; my wife is the happy owner of that now.

The main reason for the switch is Apple Notes’ Quick Note feature. Usually, I’ll have a note docked on the side while I’m reading to take notes, highlight and copy text, and keep general thoughts all in one place. I no longer have to switch devices (like from Kindle to Phone) or keep a separate notebook.

Other Reading Apps

Aside from Kindle Oasis, I use Reeder (hooked up to Feedbin) for my RSS, and I really enjoy the new Substack Reader app for the newsletters I’m subscribed to there. The Athletic, Books, and PDF Expert are also there for more niche uses.

I also have a specific “Reading” focus mode that kills all notifications and hides every home screen except for one with the above apps on it. It makes focusing on reading a bit easier (though I would love if I did go out of it every time I hit Safari).

Watching Videos

The iPad mini has also become my primary device for watching videos and TV shows. It’s a lot more convenient and even though the Paperlike takes some of the shine off the screen, it’s still a good experience.

Usually I’ll throw on my AirPods Max and watch stuff after the kids go to bed, but this iPad also has a dedicated spot on my nightstand.

Note Taking, Idea Capture, and Research

While media consumption is great, the main event for me with this iPad is the note taking, idea capture, and research. I use several apps for this.


Craft is my main note-taking app, and I keep everything in there. I’m even writing this post there! I have lots of folders, sections, and spaces (that I will likely elaborate on in a different post). I also have a “Dashboard” section with links, ideas, and a swipe file.

There are also several shortcuts I use in conjunction with Craft for quick capture, including:

  1. Adding a link to the “Quick Links” dashboard note
  2. Creating a new blog post
  3. Writing or dictating a new idea, which gets added to the Ideas dashboard note.

While Craft is used on all of my devices, it gets a lot of love on my iPad because I will write in it, as well as triage notes and the Dashboard.


GoodNotes is the app I use when I want to take hand-written notes. I will then generally export those as a PDF into Craft for safekeeping. I love writing by hand (and love pens and paper), and GoodNotes is the perfect app for me.

The reason I use it, instead of just writing directly into Craft (which has an infinite canvas), is GoodNotes uses iOS’s handwriting recognition so the notes are searchable. This is another reason I’ll generally use the iPad when it’s nearby. With analog notes, I’ll still take pictures and put them in Craft, but they’re a lot less searchable.

GoodNotes is also good for drawing wireframes and other simple sketches.

On Research

The iPad Mini is a great little research companion, and I’ll usually use a combination of everything above, as well as Safari, to do research. I’ll use Reeder to store articles, Good Notes to handwrite notes, PDF expert to make highlights, and Craft to store everything.


Other Uses and Helpful Apps

Something I have on both my iPads is a widget-only home screen, which serves as a sort of information dashboard. These widgets include:

  1. Calendar widget with Fantastical
  2. Weather widget with CARROT Weather
  3. Task list widget with Todoist
  4. Common shortcuts I use
  5. A Tweetbot stats widget

I also use Tot for quick notes — kind of like a scratchpad — which I’ll send to either Craft or access on a different device.

Concepts is a great not for sketching and bigger drawings…not that I do too much of those.

That’s Everything!

So there you have it! A pretty comprehensive look at how I’m using the iPad mini. Thanks to this, my iPad Pro 11” basically has a permanent spot on my desk as a “second monitor.”

Do you have an iPad mini? How are you using it? Is there anything else you’d like me to take a deeper look at? Let me know in the comments!

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