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Summary:

It’s been a little over a month since I’ve introduced the iPad to my digital workflow and I’m now convinced that I had an iPad-sized hole in my life. The iPad is a device I rarely leave the house without.

It’s been a little over a month since I’ve introduced the iPad to my digital workflow. In a post last year, I wrote, “I’m not saying I don’t think there is a market for a device that’s larger than an iPhone but smaller than a MacBook …” and lo and behold, that is how Apple billed it.

I did have an iPad-sized hole in my life. For me, a MacBook is weighty overkill. I have two jobs: the corporate-level one that pays the bills and my writing gig where I blog, freelance, and work on personal projects. The day job comes with its own Windows laptop that I lug around. I try to maintain a separation between the corporate job and personal work, so there’s very little in the way of personal data on the work machine. My commute is almost four hours round-trip. Most of it’s on a train, but if I wanted to write, I’d need the MacBook with me.

For personal work, my needs are modest. I need to write, research ideas, and read a book or watch a video. Simply put, I just need a tool to let me put words down. I don’t care about how they look when I’m composing on the iPad; just want to get them out of my head and onto what passes for paper for these days.

Productivity

A month in, I find Pages whelming. I felt Pages was about one patch from elevating itself from “merely OK” to “good,” and the 1.1 patch did that with support for landscape toolbars. I find myself to be fairly proficient with the virtual keyboard. While I am clearly faster and more accurate with an external keyboard, the iPad doesn’t seem to handle swapping between virtual and physical keyboards well, so I tend to stay with the iPad’s.

What I wasn’t expecting is, even at home, I prefer to write on the iPad. I think it comes down to a fantastic screen and, oddly, the single-tasking nature of the device. Pages gives me enough of a distraction-free environment that I can focus on writing.

For an in-depth look at Pages for Mac, view Pages 101 (subscription required).

I’m going to be giving a talk in a month or so, and as much as I try and tell myself I can do it on the iPad, the fact is, I can’t. While I tend to use my own fonts for my talks, I can design an effective presentation for the iPad using stock fonts, but I don’t want to be chained to the podium with no remote control.

The presentation issue pales to getting files to and from the iPad. Original rumors hinted of some sort of a shared-pool for files, but that never came true. Instead, each app still has files isolated to its own sandbox. You can use iTunes to transfer files into the sandboxes, but it’s a pain. Since there’s no true syncing, I can’t really work on a file on a desktop and get it back to the iPad without feeling like I’m playing a shell game. My ideal solution would be to have a Documents version of Photos. Apps could read and write to that sandbox to their heart’s content and there would be  OS-level integration of MobileMe iDisk.

These issues, while frustrating, don’t make me regret my decision to buy the iPad at all. I’m getting more done with the device, so that’s a win

Recreation

Like most writers, I read. A lot. I probably read about 30-40 books a year, not counting assigned reading for class and the like. I also am somewhat of a magazine junky. The iPad is indispensable for consuming this type of media.

Amazon’s Kindle app and Apple’s iBooks are both fine readers. Amazon’s selection is better, but I like the flexibility in iBooks’s presentation; the ability to change the order of my library is huge. However, when I’m researching, Amazon’s note tool wins out.  One small thing iBooks does is tell me how many pages are left in a chapter. That’s great for reading in bed and deciding if I want to commit to the next chapter.

I find the Zinio app fine for reading magazines. Recent updates have significantly improved page load times. As with the Amazon app, my chief complaint is not being able to arrange the library the way I want it. Deleting magazines seems undoable, also. I’d love an archive feature like the Kindle’s. I have a few subscriptions that thoughtfully provide DRM-free PDFs and GoodReader is my choice for reading them.

3G vs Wi-Fi

This was one of the hardest decisions I made regarding the iPad. In the end, I chose the Wi-Fi because it was out sooner. A close family member was having some major surgery and hospital stay before the 3G came out. I’d had some luck using the iPhone during a previous hospital visitation, but knew the iPad would be better. I also knew I’d be weak and keep the $30 data plan going and didn’t want the expense. While there have been times I wished the iPad had always-on Internet, I don’t regret my decision.

Final Thoughts

A month later, like my iPhone, the iPad is a device I rarely leave the house without. Its excellent battery life means I don’t need to worry about charging out. A heavy night of writing, surfing and game playing barely takes 30 percent of the battery. I like that I can get a creative idea and be writing it in less than 30 seconds. I do see an anti-glare film in my immediate future. It’s almost unusable outside, and a frequent place I use it has a fluorescent light directly overhead.

How about you? One month later, what are your thoughts?

  1. You might want to proofread the article before it becomes too popular. Feel free to delete this comment if you do.

    what passes for paper for these days
    so I tend to say with the iPad’s
    before the 3G game out

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  2. Use Dropbox for your file storage. They just made a iPad update yesterday that will allow files to be exchanged with certain programs like iWorks and photo Sounds pretty snazzy and it is a easy way to get files from your PCs, Macs, and iPad…

    I can send you an invite if you would like (I get more storage with referrals :-) )

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    1. I have a drop box account. Stuff I need to sync with work goes on Dropbox, personal stuff is on iDisk.

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  3. I love my iPad. It is addicting. Always end up looking for ways I can use it than my laptop and its been a while since i carried it home. Handy. It is a killer!!

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  4. I pretty much agree with your assessment, except that I don’t move files around using iTunes at all and find iWork to be quite serviceable for that.

    The huge problem I’ve run into is that documents edited in Pages and exported to Word are not only butchered (headers and footers), but when one tries to copy something out of one of these Word files and paste it into an email, Word very reliably and fatally crashes. Mail.app is none too happy about the experience either!

    Until the iWork suite is as good at this as it is on the Mac, the iPad is not going to work for my routine workflows, and will remain a disappointment.

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    1. Tom, I’ve heard from other sources that Pages is useless on the iPad. What about the other apps, Numbers and Keynote?

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      1. Pages is far from useless. I like it a lot. (Being a journalist, that ought to count for something.) But I have found Numbers to be the most useful of the three, and I’m pretty much spreadsheet illiterate.

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  5. Heh—”iPad sized hole”. And I’d have to agree, really. It’s the datebook I’ve never used until now, the iPod in my car, the note-taking app I’ve always wanted, and the way it opens apps so quickly—it’s a single purpose, do anything device. It’s also become the one computer I don’t mind letting people use, due in part to it’s single serving nature. Normally, I’m concerned when I let people use my MBP because of the sheer amount of things I have open (with most of it not backed up). Should they accidentally close something, shut down the computer, or otherwise fuck something up, I would cry (I think. Hasn’t actually happened yet to that extent). The iPad changes this.

    Boy oh boy do I love my iPad! I am Jack’s playful, consumption-oriented computer that gets work done.

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  6. @Unlimited Whilst getting data onto the iPad is a kludge, it’s getting it off that is the real issue. Dragging or e-mailing to myself is so last century. When I can save back from iWorkPad to Dropbox, MobileMe or anything else, I’ll be happy.

    Come on Apple the cloud IS the answer.

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    1. Yah, this is a mess. Right now, to get it back on the cloud I e-mail it myself, open it in Goodreader and move the file to the cloud.

      About three steps too many.

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    2. A service like Dropbox is one answer to that problem. Install Dropbox on your Mac or Windows computer. Install the Dropbox app on your iPad (or iPhone/iPod Touch). Save files from your Mac to Dropbox and they are synced to the cloud service. Open and edit them in the Dropbox app on your iPad. Save back to the cloud. Syncs back to your desktop. Think of Dropbox as a network drive where network = Internet.

      Link: http://blog.dropbox.com/?p=492

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  7. I love the iPad! In fact, it replaced the wife’s computer, so I have one less macbook pro in the house (which freed up a 30″ display, KB, and magic mouse for my use!). She only needs access to the web; email, web sites, and daily news, so it was a simple move for her. The one requirement was a real keyboard, so I got the dock with the keyboard and now the iPad sits conveniently and prominently displayed in the kitchen, always charged and with a real keyboard.

    As stated before, it is easy for visitors to check their mail, or browse some site when they’re over, as I don’t have to lend them my main computer (MBP 13″) or disrupt whatever work I may be in the middle of. The kids use it browsing, mail, games, etc as well, so it is the most used “computer” in the house by far as it is always available, on the couch, in bed, etc.

    At night, she grabs it off the stand and brings it to bed where she can read her books, play her games, catch up on email, and browse the latest news. Once she’s asleep, I grab it to do the same as it’s much lighter and more convenient than a 13″ MBP in bed.

    I have the WiFi only, as I wanted it on day 1, but the only time I really miss 3G is when on a long drive (like the one we just made from NY to FL) where a large map would be nice for navigation; the iPhone still fulfills this duty, but in a much smaller screen.

    Overall, the iPad will never fully replace a laptop (which did replace all desktops with the addition of external monitor, KB, mouse) for me as I need applications like Photoshop, CAD, Windows, dev environments and more, but the iPad is the most popular “PC” in the house and certainly has won a permanent place there.

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  8. Have you tried Evernote for moving stuff around? I love it because I can clip just part of an article or web page to remember exactly what I need.

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    1. yeah, I have.

      I have a hell of a time getting the iPhone client to sync properly.

      I’m an Evernote premium customer.

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  9. Wow good article!

    Check out my site that compiles the latest news from Apple

    http://theecogiftsource.typepad.com/apple_ipad_iphone_and_ipo/

    -paul

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  10. There is no better tool for surfing the web than an iPad. When I’m at home (I have to carry a laptop for work, so my iPad is mostly for my wife and I to use at home), I never bother to get out may laptop; it’s just too cumbersome. I’m a Scrabble fan from way back and the iPad version is addictive – I play a game almost every day.

    One thing I’ve never seen reviewed about the iPad before is the total lack of HEAT. Watching a movie on my MacBook Pro is painful, I have to find something to put between me and its heat. The iPad can play video for hours without heating up at all.

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