Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Finding my way around iOS roadblocks

As I wrote earlier this month, I ended up finishing my Six Colors Report Card story on the Mac because I ran into several roadblocks when I tried to finish the project on my iPad.

The point wasn’t that these tasks were impossible on the iPad, but that they were inconvenient enough—requiring me to research a bunch of apps or figure out workarounds or write scripts—that I was better off just going back to my Mac and doing the work there, primarily in BBEdit and Numbers.

I complained about not being able to do grep searches in my iOS text editors of choice, and while that’s true, several people pointed out that there are iOS apps that are capable of them, most notably Coda by Panic and Textastic Code Editor 71 I own both of these apps and while I don’t like writing articles using them—they’re development tools more than writing tools—they absolutely support grep and I will use them in the future when I need to do pattern-matching searches on iOS.

Textastic
I wouldn’t want to write in Textastic, but it greps well.

I also lamented the lack of BBEdit’s Sort Lines feature in any of my chosen iOS text editors. I still don’t have an answer for this, though I get the distinct sense that if I spent a few hours teaching myself a bit more JavaScript I could figure out how to write some scripts for 1Writer that would do the trick.

The biggest impediment to finishing my work on the iPad, though, came from the fact that I needed to generate a bunch of charts in Numbers—and they use a non-default font, Proxima Nova, that wasn’t installed on my iPad. How do you install extra fonts on the iPad?

It turns out, there’s a way—just a spectacularly inelegant one. Several apps will do it, taking font files transferred from the Mac and wrapping them in custom configuration files, then emailing them to yourself, at which point you can install them via the Settings app. I tried the free iFont 2 and it worked perfectly. Installing via the same kind of custom configuration file you’d use to install VPN software or to opt in to one of Apple’s beta-testing programs is not intuitive in any way, but with the help of iFont, I was able to get my charts to display on my iPad identically to how they display on my Mac.

Behold, Proxima Nova in Numbers on iPad.

This is perhaps my final lesson from this process 3: That I can work around most, if not all, of the roadblocks that iOS places in front of me. It might take an app I’ve never heard about, a feature of an app I rarely use, or hours of hacking together scripts based on code samples found in Google searches, but I can probably make it work. That’s not necessarily an endorsement—in the end it was far easy for me to go back to the Mac, where I’ve assembled all the tools I need to do my job over more than two decades. It’s a reminder that as appealing as working on my iPad is, there are still rough areas that I’m much more comfortable handling on my Mac.


  1. Hat tips to chanomie and Dave. ↩

  2. Thanks to iFont developer Cameron for pointing it out, and to Donkey for pointing out Anyfont. ↩

  3. Or not. Posting this story was delayed because all of my Shortcuts for resizing and uploading images broke in the latest iOS update. ↩

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