Its been just over a week since my iPad has arrived, and I thought it was time to give you all the ‘low-down’ on what roles the iPad has played, and where it has slotted into my life. I shall also give a brief overview of the applications I use, with more in-depth reviews coming over the next few weeks. The iPad has three main uses; communication, work, and entertainment.
Communication With World
Communication with our fellow-man has changed dramatically over the last 100 years or so. News used to be delivered via newspapers, today it’s delivered online via RSS. Communication with friends and family once was by telegram, now its by email, twitter and Facebook. The iPad is perfect for a communication device, allowing you to easily send/reply to emails, consume your daily intake of news, and keep your online presence on twitter.
RSS has been covered in a previous post, however to sum it up in a few words, it’s a method of aggregating the news that interest you. With the large bright screen, the iPad is a pleasure to read, therefore my RSS feeds tend to be read using the app NewsRack. It syncs with Google Reader meaning once a story is read, all applications show the change so that you don’t read the same story more than once. Stories can be marked as favourites to read later, or shared by email or twitter with just a few taps.
Instapaper is another method of reading online content when you have more time to do so. A bookmarklet can be added to any web browser, which once pressed saves the content to your Instapaper account. Then using the iPad (or iPhone) app, the information can be read at a time that suits you. Instapaper support is also built into many other programs such as NewsRack and Twittelator, so that never does an important news article or tweet go un-missed.
Twitter, the method of communicating with the world in 140 characters or less, used to be a form of social interaction that I just couldn’t understand, or indeed want to get involved with. Several months later I can’t get enough of it, proving to be a very useful distraction day and night. A few days ago I wrote an in-depth blog post (click here for post) on the twitter client which I had started to use, Twittelator, and my app of choice hasn’t changed. The iPad is perfect for tweeting on, and when you find the client that suits your needs your love and joy of twitter will be rekindled.
The telegram has been replaced with email. Apple’s email app will receive an update in OS 4.0, however as is it’s a perfectly acceptable method of replying to, or sending emails. The design is clean and uncluttered, displaying pictures within the email just as the sender intended. Users with an iPad and desktop computer should ideally be using an IMAP solution so that all changes and mail are available from all their devices. This blog post explains my current mail setup.
You may have gathered that i’m an avid blogger. My blog has very little requirements as to what the subject of the post must be, with me posting anything from university issues, to my latest opinion in the technological world. I used to write all my blog posts either in front of my mac, or iPhone (yes I know what was I thinking), however with the iPad it’s all changed, as I now write my posts in BlogPress. My WordPress blog integrates seamlessly with this app allowing me to write the all important text, add images, categories and tags easily. Since I have acquired my iPad, all my blog posts have been written on my iPad, saved as a draft then viewed on a desktop machine to insure that all formatting is as it should be. The portability and size of the iPad means that when ever an idea of a post comes to me, I can type it out without any problems, the perfect blogging companion.
When spending over £499 on a device, it makes sense that it integrates well with your job, after all this is where we tend to spend most of our lives. Many of us have reports to write, presentations to give, excel documents to edit and send-off to clients. Apple ported the very popular iWorks suite over to the iPad. Pages takes care of word documents, Numbers looks after spreadsheets, and Keynote the delivery of presentations. These Apple designed solutions fulfil and indeed can handle their Word, Excel and Powerpoint Microsoft cousins, however unlike their counterparts they are simple to use, with every document template looking different. I have used all three of the iWork iPad apps, writing a report, creating a spreadsheet and set of slides; and even though the process is easy and straight forward it can get a little tiresome on the iPad screen after a couple of hours. My view is that this collection of apps is best used to make changes to an existing document or deliver them to a client. That is not to say that I wont write out a full report on the iPad, it is to say that I will leave the tweaking of the formatting to a fully fledged desktop application.
Of course getting documents on your iPad is a question which many have asked and pondered about. You can of course sync documents through the iTunes interface however this method isn’t pleasant at all, and besides I have more documents that I need on the go than I care to think about. Enter in Dropbox and SugarSync. Both these services are free and offer cloud space for you to store your documents. SugarSync allows the selection of folders whose contents are stored online and synced down to folders on another machine. I use this for example to access my university documents, as the folder ‘University’ is stored within the My Documents folder locally. SugarSync looks at any changes made and mirrors them to the cloud. Dropbox on the other hand has to have the files/folders within its sync folder in order to be uploaded to the cloud. I use this for miscellaneous documents that I will need on the go, as only the contents of the Dropbox folder is synced, meaning that documents have to be kept within this folder.
Task management is the job of OmniFocus, the iPhone client keeps me organize on the move which conveniently syncs with the mac client. Allowing tasks to be categorized into contexts and projects. I use it to organize my revision, daily errands etc. Sadly there is no iPad version of OmniFocus available yet, meaning that I am running the iPhone version. This is the only non iPad native application that am running on my iPad, and for good reason, it looks awful. The moment OmniFocus for iPad comes out I shall be pressing the ‘buy’ button, so that all my tasks are organised in lovely HD quality. Luckily I shouldn’t have to wait long, as OmniGroup have suggested that the launch date will be shortly after WWDC, which takes place on Monday (7th June). This is perhaps the most anticipated iPad app, so bring on the release!
Note taking, perhaps one of the reasons I purchased an iPad. Lecture notes, notes at work, notes on a blog post, any task in today’s world needs notes taking on it. For typing notes I have started to use Evernote another free service. This syncs notes with the iPhone and desktop clients allowing the printing of notes. Notes can be placed into notebooks depending on their category, tagged and even geo-taged with your location. Browser plugins are available for Firefox allowing any information on a website that takes your interest to be instantly clipped to your notebook, and synced with your devices. What happens if you want to draw a diagram or a chart? This can’t be done with a keyboard, luckily the iPad has a touch screen, which when coupled with a stylus (or finger) and a copy of Penultimate handwritten notes can be taken on plain, lined or graph paper. These notes can also be organised into notebooks, with either one page, or the entire contents of which can be emailed in PDF format to be printed.
Suppose you need to access your computer when at work, or downstairs, or from another country what do you do? iTeleport has the solution. A client sits on your computer which interacts with a gmail account to insure that a connection is always maintained even when your IP address changes. It uses VNC technology to display your monitor (or monitors) on your iPad, the keyboard pops up when required and disappears when not required. Mouse movement is of course actioned by your finger on the iPad screen. The experience of the remote connection if of course dependent on the connection speed at both ends, however with broadband (or 3G) speeds being blisteringly fast this is usually not a problem.
Passwords, software licenses, credit card numbers; all pieces of information that we need on the go yet we insist that they remain secure. Users on the mac platform will already be aware of the solution 1Password, allowing the creation and storage of unique random passwords for websites in an encrypted database. Many iPhone users will also be aware of the client available for their phone, and some iPad users will be aware of the iPad app. This £8.99 piece of software is vital in todays technological world, it stores (and syncs) passwords used for websites, and using the inbuilt web browser makes inputting these passwords a couple of tap process. Even if you don’t own a mac, and are therefore not able to use the mac client, I strongly recommend that you purchase this application to store/generate strong passwords for websites, especially if you are the person who has the same password for all sites.
All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy, after all you want to enjoy your new £499+ toy, and as fun as spreadsheets can be sometimes you want to use the HD iPad screen for something more relaxing and enjoyable than calculating your tax return. Perhaps a racing game is what you are after, or maybe TV is more your cup of tea, or catching up on the latest magazine is your thing. Luckily just as there is an app for all your work needs, there is an app for all your play needs as well.
Who doesn’t love TV? I love TV, and probably love it a bit too much. I want to watch the programmes i’ve missed as well as the programs on now, but how do I do that when the iPad doesn’t have a TV tuner in it? You stream it of course! There are two sites available, the first is BBC iPlayer whose iPad version is still in beta, and shows the past weeks worth of BBC programs, perfect for the BBC program you have missed. If you want to watch a program which has just started, and are either not at a TV, or all TVs have been taken, look no further than TVCatchup. All freeview channels are streamed live with sound and picture quality being as crisp as a full 32″ TV set. iPhone and computer versions of the site are also available.
Sometimes music isn’t what I want to listen to or watch, an informative podcast updating me on the latest tech news is what im searching for. My iPhone takes care of all the audio podcasts but its small screen isn’t designed for video, especially when an iPad is in the house. The iPads screen coupled with an HD podcast can only be described as breathtaking. My favourite podcast is ScreenCasts Online, produced by Don Mcallister. His shows give details and instructions on how to use the latest mac, iPhone, iPad apps, the shows look fantastic on a computer, however even more so on an iPad. So much so that I have started to watch his podcasts on my iPad in preference to on my mac. If you are new to any of the Apple platforms, I strongly suggest that you take a look at Don’s podcasts.
Videos look just as fantastic on the iPad as podcasts do, however even if you are as lucky as me to afford the 64GB version, you will not be able to store every movie that you own on it. The only solution is to stream it, enter Air Video. A client sits on your computer and streams selected files of movies to your iPad. If the format isn’t iPad compatible not to worry, Air Video converts the file in real-time with no lag at all. Sound is clear, the picture is crisp, so much so that you wouldn’t be able to tell that the movie isn’t stored locally on your iPad, and is in fact being streamed and converted.
According to Willy Wonka, TV rots the brain and kills imagination dead, so reading is also advised as an occasional method of entertainment, with users being able to choose between a book and a magazine. iBooks looks after books available from the iBooks store. Books are displayed either one page per screen, or dual page per screen, with text size and screen brightness configurable from within the book. Reading is a pleasurable experience, and with the screen rotation lock means that reading in bed is now an option. I have downloaded a couple of books and contrary to popular belief reading on the iPad doesn’t hurt your eyes. I would love to see more academic books available on the iPad, so that carting a 600 page textbook for university is no longer a back breaking exercise. The more scientific amongst you will have already heard of the Wired magazine app, there is one word to describe this and its ‘sensational’. The magazine has interactive features, videos, audio clips embedded into the text articles. This is the first copy of Wired magazine that I have read, and I for one will be subscribing to it when a subscription plan becomes available. Reading on the iPad is no longer a one sense experience, it’s an interactive one taking advantage of both sight and sound.
If you enjoyed games on the iPhone you will enjoy games ten times more on the iPad. Just like its smaller brother, the iPad has an accelerometer built-in so that driving games such as Asphalt 5 are truly interactive. The large screen coupled with HD quality means that you aren’t simply playing the game, you are within the game, using touch and motion to get high score. No matter what kind of game you are after there are several available at various price points and levels of interactivity, check out my Apps Page to see which ones I have and am playing.
Photographs are viewed within the Photos app within the iPad, sideshows can easily be created and using the camera kit photos can be taken off memory cards and stored/viewed on the iPad. There are several photo editing programs available for the iPad to allow quick touch-up such as cropping and level correction, however these are relatively basic. I would like to see something more professional, perhaps designed by Apple, does Aperture HD sound like an app worth purchasing, to me it sure does!
My First Week
The first week of having my iPad has been a mixed one. Its been a process of trial and error as I find which apps I need, and how the iPad best fits into my life. Buying the iPad is a relatively cheap affair compared to the amount of money that can be spent on apps in just a few clicks. The applications which I have listed above and shown on my apps page cover my needs, and I there don’t foresee any other purchases needed any time soon. But just as the iPhone saw amazing apps released on a daily basis I see this being the case for the iPad, so may have to go back on my word and download a few more apps.
Several people (including myself to begin with) were highly critical of the iPad, saying that it’s just an iPhone on steroids. It’s true that the iPad is a large iPhone as it runs the same OS and apps, however that is where the similarities end. The larger screen make it more of business tool and mobile computer than the iPhone, meaning that both consumption and creation is a more pleasurable experience. Many of my followers on twitter and friends since reading my blog have since gone to an Apple store and played with an iPad, and then eaten their words. The iPad is so much more than a large iPhone, it’s a type of device that falls into a new category which no other device falls, and needs to be experienced before judgement on its use is passed. Therefore before being critical of those who have got one, ask to play with theirs, see what its like to feel the web, be sucked into a game and absorbed into a magazine; and then pass judgement, it will save eating a large portion of humble pie.