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.
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
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.
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?