iPad

Drag and Drop on iPad: by Readdle by Erin Wade

At the World-Wide Developer's Conference (WWDC) on June 5th, 2017, Apple made a number of announcements, among them significant changes coming for the iPad in iOS 11.

One of the changes garnering the lion's share of attention is the upcoming addition of drag-and-drop capability to the iPad. This isn't entirely new - there has long been the ability to drag around items within a given app, but not between them.

This represents a significant advance for the iPad in general, and is particularly exciting for those of us who work at or near an iPad-only status. Unfortunately, it's mostly a tease at the moment. iOS 11 won't come out until the fall, and while it is possible to sign up for early beta's of the software, working with an operating system still in development on one's work devices simply is not the wisest of choices.

However, if you are looking to get some experience with how drag-and-drop works now without taking the risk of using a potentially unstable operating system on your production machines, Readdle has you covered.

Their announcement likely got a little lost in the excitement of WWDC, but back at the end of May, Readdle announced the capability to drag and drop files between their apps - specifically between Documents, Scanner Pro, PDF Expert, and Spark. I use all of these apps except Documents (PDF Expert largely replicates the capabilities of Documents while adding the PDF functionalities), and I'm pleased to say it works extremely well.

Say you've received some documents via email that you want to review and mark up. Open your email in Spark, and open PDF Expert in a split window, and simply drag the files from the email across to the folder you want in PDF Expert. It's that simple and straightforward. You can see it in their video, below:

The utility of this is quickly obvious, and Readdle has just about the perfect family of apps to use it with. Their is a brief explanation in their blog post of how they are doing it - servers opening and such - which would make it seem like something potentially clunky and slow, but it's seamless in application. The only limitation here I've seen thus far is that, because it relies on off-site servers, it doesn't work if you don't have an internet connection. Under those circumstances the file you are dragging simply stops at the window split. If you have, or go get, these apps you can test that yourself by putting your iPad into airplane mode.

Readdle has a fairly long history of developing applications that recognize and address some of the limitations in iOS, and this is a nice example of that. I actually feel a little bad for them that the announcement of this capability came such a short time ahead of the WWDC announcement, which takes Readdle's drag and drop capability and applies it system-wide. WWDC also announced a Files app, which appears to largely do everything that Documents does. Still, Readdle puts on a brave face on their blog entry about WWDC, indicating:

It’s great to see Apple focused on unleashing true iPad potential, while adding some tremendous improvements to the dev tools and kits. People will enjoy the new experience on the App Store, get more apps, and do more stuff done with their iOS devices.

We will dig deeper during the week and come up with awesome ideas on what we are going to do with iOS 11 and Readdle apps.

Based on their history thus far, I suspect they are up to it.

iPad at Work... by Erin Wade

For those like myself who use their iPads for work, it is always helpful to find out how others are using their devices. As time goes on the list of people doing this has been getting longer.

Over recent months Serenity Caldwell at iMore has begun looking into starting a column interviewing folks who use the iPad Pro for work. She interviewed herself for the first iteration of this, and gave some insights from the perspective of a person who does creative work as well as more traditional tech journalism.

Matt Gemmell, a tech writer and novelist has recently returned to the road of working on the iPad only, and has documented that series under the category iPad-only website. Like Frederico Vitticci has done over at MacStories, he chronicles both his experiences over time, and discusses using the iPad for different tasks.

I've also come across Denny Henke, writing at Beardy Guy Creative, who has put together his own ongoing series on the iPad at work, under the category iPad Journal.

For anyone looking to understand how to get more out of their iPads, and/or understanding what can be done with them and how, these sites are a good place to start, and to bookmark for future reference.


Update: The newest article in Serenity Caldwell's series on the iPad Pro at work is now out. Enjoy!

Another Step Away from the Desktop: QuickBooks Online by Erin Wade

Bookkeeping software is a pain in the ass.

One of the tiny handful of things that has kept me running a desktop machine over the past couple of years is the bookkeeping software that I've been using.

Sometimes people keep using older systems because there is something they love about the old way. People profess their love for paper books despite the presence of electronic options; I maintain a fleet of fountain pens for writing by hand despite three quarters of a century or so of advancement in terms of other options.

This is not the case with respect to my desktop bookkeeping software. Not even a little bit.

A couple of times per year over the past two or three years I'd find myself wistfully googling for alternative options, trying to find an option that would meet my small business needs, would not put a vast array of unneeded complications in front of me, and would, ideally, work on my iPad.

Oh - and that would not be QuickBooks.

You see, several years ago, after years of happily using a version of Quicken Home and Business that was two or three generations behind the then most current version, I clicked the wrong button and triggered an unwanted update. In a fit of pique I declared myself finished with any and all bookkeeping products offered by Intuit and went in search of alternatives.

One of the best ways to make your decisions about things that have a large impact on your personal and professional life is to make a rash decision in the middle of a tantrum.

Despite that, the drive to search for alternatives maintained itself for quite some time. For personal finance tracking I switched to Mint, an online application that offered the ability to connect to and track all of your accounts in one place, and would do a fair-to-medium job of categorizing your transactions for you. And it wasn't an Intuit product.

...Until 2009, when Intuit purchased it. More on that below.

For professional purposes I searched high and low for an option that would meet a variety of needs, including tracking of expenses and invoicing. I ended up using a product called AccountEdge. Never heard of it? Neither had I. But it was available for Mac (and Windows), had reasonable reviews, would sync across multiple machines, and otherwise seemed to meet my needs. I took the leap.

My relationship with AccountEdge has been... complicated. While time has blurred the events somewhat in terms of timeframe, at some point relatively early in my use of this app I found that I needed a feature that AccountEdge Basic did not have. So I upgraded to AccountEdge Pro.

The perception of the small business bookkeeping world seems to be that you will want your business to become an international corporation shortly after founding it, and AccountEdge Pro appears to be set up to make you feel like that's already happened in your bookkeeping software.

But not, you know, in a good way.

Setting up things like invoices in AccountEdge Pro requires thinking like a database developer - in most cases you cannot simply type something into the invoice directly - rather, the database consists of fields that have to be filled from information you have entered elsewhere. This means developing reference "lists" for everything - clients, jobs, activities, vendors. Want to do a one-time activity for a client? Gotta enter it on to the activities list, where it will remain forever despite its one-timeness. And AccountEdge offers an app that supposedly syncs with iOS devices and offers some functionality, but I've found setting it up to be inscrutable.

I remained with it for quite a while longer than I wanted, but I was often contemplating straying. Every few months I would find myself searching the App Store and google for iOS bookkeeping software. QuickBooks was always the top hit, but there are other options. Still, the hurdle of moving to something else always seemed to big a hill to climb.

While it would be tempting to think I was lost in the sunk-cost fallacy - I did spend a lot of time setting AccountEdge Pro up. But ultimately it was prospective cost, in terms of my time, that I was concerned about. I've set up these systems multiple times, and they are typically complicated to learn and time consuming. Most programs offer a trial period, but really understanding how they will work for you means setting up your entire business in them, a daunting prospect just to try something out.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to make a change if your fiscal year mirrors the calendar year. As 2017 rolled into focus and I had a bit of time off for the end of the year, I found myself looking. And, of course, QuickBooks showed up at the top of each search. But I still wasn't using Intuit's products out of principle.

Principle can be a funny thing. When the state of Illinois rolled out their Ipass system (it's called "EZ Pass" in the rest of the US) and MLW picked up a transponder for her car, I made a bold statement about how I wasn't going to use such a thing. Why would I agree to put something in my vehicle that allows me to be tracked? And it was clear the system could be used to track speed between tolls and to then issue tickets. It was just a matter of time! I would not be duped into entering into such a situation.

...About the third time I asked to borrow MLW's Ipass "just this one time" she suggested I might be a touch hypocritical. I have my own Ipass now.

And you know how I mentioned that Intuit bought Mint? I wasn't pleased about that, but I was already bought in, and Intuit mostly seemed to leave it alone, so I left it be. In the intervening years they've developed iPhone and iPad apps, and it remains one of the easiest ways to quickly see what is going on with virtually everything in your financial life. It still works just as well, if not better, as it did back when it was an independent product.

Plus, I never actually stopped using TurboTax. There are other tax prep options, but TurboTax is very familiar, and works very well for me.

And when I needed to start producing 1099's, and could not sort out any easy way to do so with AccountEdge, I ended up holding my nose and going on Intuit's website, setting up an account that not only allowed me to make them, but also to send them electronically to contractors and to file them electronically. So convenient and straightforward... felt a little like getting the first hit for free...

So, yep, I realized I'm using an awful lot of Intuit products for a man engaged in a principled stand against using products by Intuit. I set my prospective cost concerns aside and went ahead and took a shot at the 30-day trial.

About two hours in I had all of my account information set up and was ready to design invoices. By early afternoon I was able to send out my first invoice, complete with the option for customers to pay electronically (an option I've explored but have never cleared the hurdle of setting up before). Some of the setup - like designing the invoices - had to be done on the desktop - but it appears virtually all of the day-to-day activity can be done on the iPad or on an iPhone. And it may be possible that all of it can be done on an iPad, as invoice designing can be done in a web browser. I didn't try this option - I had invoices to send out and, while I am writing this for you, I tried out the software for me .

If you've never set up financial software before you might think this description sounds like a lot of time was taken to set up. It was about six hours across the course of a single day, to be sure, but that was learning completely new software and getting almost entirely up and running. In the past - as with AccountEdge - this has been a process that can take days to accomplish. I was astonished at how quickly everything came together.

It's early days, of course, and I haven't done everything yet - I have yet to need to print a check, for example. But initial experience is positive. I often prefer to go with smaller, independent software company options when I can find something that will work for me. Still, there are times when the combined experience and expertise of an established company pays real dividends. And assuming everything continues to go well, I'm one more step away from the desktop.

iPad Pro Keyboard by Erin Wade

 iPad Pro set in portrait orientation on the left, iPad Air 2 (in a BookBook Case) in landscape orientation on the left.

iPad Pro set in portrait orientation on the left, iPad Air 2 (in a BookBook Case) in landscape orientation on the left.

I have had an iPad Pro now for a couple of weeks. I have had some difficulty incorporating it into my workflow. I knew that having it was going to be useful, and I have some ideas about how, but it will take some time to fully integrate it.

One of the more frustrating things is how long it is taking some of the app developers to update their apps for the device. In particular this means apps don’t take full advantage of the features of the device, and I am particularly struggling with the failure to integrate the iPad Pro’s new virtual keyboard (which is, in and of itself, pretty awesome - it’s essentially a full keyboard).

In part, this presents an issue because it will take me a bit of time to learn the new keyboard. After five years of typing on glass with the 9.7“ iPad I have a lot of habits based upon that device’s keyboard. For example, I use a lot of dashes in my writing, and I have a habit of hitting the little ”.?123“ button in the lower left-hand corner in order to access that item. But two things are different on the new keyboard. First, there is now a dash on the main keyboard, right where you would expect it on a typical physical keyboard. Second, the Pro reverses the location of the ”.?123“ button and the emoticon button; this means that I keep accidentally accessing the emoticon keyboard when I intend to access the ”.?123" keyboard.

One of non-updated apps in question is Day One, the journaling app I use to do the overwhelming majority of my writing. This means that, when I set the app up in landscape format, I get a comically-large version of the keyboard from the 9.7" iPad, which is spaced all wrong, making typing a challenge.

To better incorporate the new iPad Pro I considered actually pairing it with a Bluetooth keyboard, something I haven’t actually done since the first-generation iPad[1]. And then I remembered something: the size of the iPad Pro is frequently described in articles as being, in landscape, about the size of two 9.7“ iPad screens side by side. This also would mean, that in portrait the iPad Pro is about as wide as a 9.7” iPad in landscape.

Which means that the portrait version of the old keyboard on the iPad Pro is almost exactly the same size as the landscape version on the iPad Air. So I turned Day One to portrait orientation and started typing. This entire entry has been typed on the iPad Pro in portrait orientation. It’s worked quite nicely.

This won’t last, of course. Eventually Day One and the other apps I use will update to put the new keyboard in, and I will be writing on them in Landscape, and learning the new keyboard. But it’s nice to have found a work-around in the meantime.


  1. When the iPad first came out this was exactly how I pictured using it - with a keyboard paired, writing in that format all over the place. But, as often happens when a new system presents itself - in this case, the virtual keyboard - I became curious about using the new thing instead. It turns out that it’s quite possible to type very quickly and effectively on a virtual keyboard.  ↩

iPads at Work by Erin Wade

It's like clockwork, like some anti-celebration: Every year about this time folks come out with a series of articles about how one cannot do actual work on an iPad (or, as a variation: the iPad cannot replace a laptop). This is perplexing to me, given that I've been regularly doing my work on an iPad - which replaced my use of laptops - since the device was first released back in 2010. I wrote about it back then, and it continues to be the case.

This spate of articles came my way via Daring Fireball this past week. John Gruber linked to this article by Joanna Stern in which she makes an attempt to use several different tablets in place of her laptop. And one wants to give her a bit of credit, in that she actually tried each of them out. Allowing for that, her article still presents with some fundamental flaws. The first is the Turkey Bacon Problem (TBP) - the mistake one makes of trying to use something to replace something that it is not. A tablet is not a laptop. Yet in this article she is clearly trying to use each of the tablets in exactly the same fashion. In many ways this is like a carpenter purchasing a pneumatic nailer to replace his hammer, but using the device by trying to drive traditional nails and complaining that it doesn't work as well.

Additionally, she clearly doesn't have a full understanding of the capabilities of her iPad. In her section on multitasking she notes:

...using the iPad, which displays one app at a time and requires you to press the home button twice to switch apps...(Emphasis added)

Actually no - the iPad doesn't require you to press the home button twice to switch between apps. You can also turn on multitasking gestures in the settings to allow a four finger swipe to move back and forth between recent apps, and a four fingered swipe up to get to the app menu. Admittedly, this is somewhat of a power-user approach, but so is the use of alt-tab - the command combination for which she is pining - to switch between apps.

Which brings up my final point with respect to her approach. Ms. Stern indicates that, to write this article she borrowed the tablets in question (though the article suggests she does own an iPad Air). This would suggest that her evaluation of each item came from a relatively short time with each device. This shows in her evaluations of the keyboards, in which each and every one comes up wanting:

There was a tie for best keyboard. I was able to type 82 words a minute on the Surface Pro Type cover and the Galaxy Note Pro's keyboard cover, slightly down from my usual 92 words a minute. The Samsung keyboard was the closest in size to my laptop's, though my fingers felt most at home on the Surface's firm, backlit keys... I typed 80 words a minute on the Nokia keyboard case, and 72 on the iPad's Logitech cover. All of these let me type faster than on a screen. (Again, emphasis added)

Along with the Turkey Bacon Problem, there appears to be an expectation that there will be no learning curve when moving to a completely new tool. Not to beat the carpentry metaphors to death, but this is a little like buying a circular saw and manually moving it back and forth across the wood, and then proclaiming that you can cut faster with your trusty old hand saw.

I'm happy for her that she typically types at 92 words a minute (pretty specific number there - 92, not 90... But I digress). I suspect that's on the keyboard of a laptop with which she is extremely familiar. A few hours, or even a day or two of practice on an unfamiliar device is unlikely to gain the same results.

There is also an inherent assumption here that I see made over and over again:

All of these let me type faster than on a screen.

There has been a long-standing assumption that use of a hardware keyboard will always be a faster input option than typing on-screen. This was an oft-repeated trope when the original iPhone was released, and it persists in relation to the iPad. However, it seems to me that this should be taken as an empirical question, rather than something accepted a-priori.

Back when I first got my iPad I compared my typing on glass to my typing on the iPhone and on a mechanical keyboard, and found that it was faster than the iPhone, slower than the keyboard, but improving over the month or so that I had owned the device. It's been nearly four years since I first wrote that review, and I've been using iPads on a daily basis since then. This article made me curious to see where I was at with all of that practice under my belt.

In the interest of brevity those results - including the methods of measurement - can be seen here. By way of summary, let me note that I came out with the following average wpm on each device:

  • iPhone - 57.50 wpm
  • iPad - 74.17 wpm
  • iMac -79.33 wpm
  • iMac corrected for errors - 74.67 wpm

A couple of items stand out to me here, and are relevant in context of Ms. Stern's article. The first is the level of improvement between 2010 and 2014. My performance on the iPad is considerably higher than back in 2010 - 74 wpm compared to about 64 back then. But it should also be noted that my performance on the iPhone is also considerably higher - 57 wpm compared to 33 in 2010.

I say this not to pat myself on the back (though yes, my arm is a little sore from doing so), but to point out the practice effect from using these devices on a daily basis over the past several years. One is going to be more proficient with a tool - any tool - used with regularity than with one that has just been picked up.

The other thing I noted was that my current results on the iPad are comparable to my results on the iMac with its hardware keyboard. In particular, when the iMac results are corrected for errors - relevant here because autocorrect on the iPad significantly decreases my error rate - the results are nearly identical.

In fact, when I ran a second test - using the same website for both iPad and iMac - they were even closer: 74.83 and 76.50 respectively.

I am, of course, only one person - an n of 1 - but as Andy Braren at thinkertry can attest, there are others who have found similar results. We fall short of real science here, but these results clearly suggest it is possible to learn to type as quickly on glass as on plastic, mechanical keys.

To be clear, people should use the tools and devices they want to use, the ways they want to use them. It's when information is presented as fact when it is clearly opinion based upon limited experience that I balk.

I suspect we are approximately one generation away from all of this being a non-issue. Children being born now are likely to wonder why we tied ourselves to these hulking devices - desks, big screens, keyboards - when we could have been comfortably working on things in our laps, laying on couches, etc.

Laptop Free Since 2010 by Erin Wade

As we stand on the cusp of a new Apple announcement PC Magazine's Eric Grevstad steps up to tell us Why the iPad 3 Won't Replace Your Laptop.

He offers several paragraphs in support of his case, but for me the answer is much simpler:

The iPad 3 won't replace my laptop because it was replaced by the original iPad in the spring of 2010.

In early April of 2010 I spent my time in hell (standing in line at Best Buy) to bring home an iPad on day one. My intention out the gate was to replace the MacBook I'd been hauling around for work since late 2006.

A month in I chronicled my experience. With the iPad 3 set to be announced on March 7th, it seems a good time to follow-up on that original review, and discuss what some others are saying about their experience using an iPad for work.

Essentially, in that original review I was very happy with the device. It was smaller, lighter, and had phenomenally better battery life than my MacBook, enabling me to forego carrying power cables along with me. In addition to document management and editing options, it was a feature-added experience, with reading and video options that exceeded the capabilities of my laptop.

But, as with anything, it was not perfect. The first version of Pages made some truly odd decisions with respect to the editing tools:

...

the formatting tools are only available in portrait orientation, making it very cumbersome to format as you write, which is my common practice (to italicize as you go you must stop typing, orient the device to portrait mode to get the toolbar to show, select the word in question, tap the appropriate tool button on the screen re-orient to landscape, and return to typing)...

 

...And with respect to document management:

 

There has been quite a bit written by actual reviewers about the issues with file handling in iWork, so I will only summarize here: In essence, it's a pain in the ass to get your files on to and off of the device.

 

The oddity in the editing tools layout was addressed fairly quickly with updates to Pages. The document management issue has been much slower to resolve. Changes to the DropBox application for iOS have made it easier to move documents around, but extra steps are still required, and these involve either routing through iTunes, emailing documents to yourself and then uploading to the Dropbox app, or using a third party solution like Dropdav to go directly from iWork to Dropbox. These solutions are effective, but still a bit fiddly. I'm pleased to note it appears this issue will finally be completely resolved with the transition to Mountain Lion.

I wrote that original review a month after getting the iPad. Within another month or so I'd completely mothballed my MacBook and subsequently sold it to a colleague. To be clear: My work tools now consist of an iPad, an iPhone, and a new 27” iMac. There are no laptops in my kit.

It seems unlikely that I am alone in this, and yet there are people like Grevstad who continue to struggle with the iPad:

 

That’s because, for all the talk about whether the iPad 3 will have a quad-core processor or a retina display or a VW Beetle bud vase, we already know one thing about it: It won’t be a laptop. And we know, if we’re honest, that the iPad is no substitute for a laptop. Never will be. Isn’t supposed to be.

 

This is something that can even affect Apple-Centric folks. Dan Moren, in his recent three-part series at Macworld, comes to the following conclusion:

 

Is the iPad ready to be your only computer? It’s not quite ready to be mine, but I doubt that’ll be the case forever.

 

I've spent some time trying to understand why these authors have had experiences that vary so much from mine. Ultimately, I think they may be having a Turkey Bacon Problem (TBP).

The TBP comes into play when one tries to plug a new, distinctly different item into the same role that a different item once played. Turkey Bacon in the place of real bacon aside your scrambled eggs; Fat-free sour cream on your baked potato; Boca burgers in place of a Quarter Pounder. Anyone who has tried these things has had the experience of them paling as they attempt to fill the role of their predecessors - it's just not the same. Honestly - show me a man who says he enjoys fat-free sour cream, and I'll show you a person who is lying to you... And to himself.

If you approach the iPad as if it's supposed to be exactly the same thing as a laptop you are bound to be disappointed.

But although fat-free sour cream (which is truly an abomination) has no place in nature, the iPad actually calls into question the paradigm that a laptop forces upon us. Despite the name they are not comfortable (nor especially safe) to use in the lap. When I see them in use in coffee shops and the like, I rarely see them in a lap. Usually the laptop user is tethered to a table and, when not - when actually using the devices atop their thighs - people rarely look comfortable.

I notice these things from my position in the comfortable chair at Starbucks. My comfortable chair in which I sit, working on my iPad.

I don't use my iPad as my only computer, as Daniel Moren suggests. Rather, it's the mobile extension for my desktop system - which is always how I used a laptop as well. The reality of this, though, is that I spend the overwhelming majority of my work time on the iPad, as I am mostly away from my main desk. But when I am away from my desk I find that the iPad can easily meld to my environment, the type of work I am doing, and the environment I am in. It's very comfortable to write with the iPad in my lap in landscape orientation while sitting in a comfy armchair, for example, and I prefer to write presentations on the iPad, since I tend to pace as I think my way through how the presentation will go. And, since the iPad can easily move with me - from desktop to pacing to comfy chair - I find myself able to work longer, in a wider variety of settings, with less fatigue.

And note - none of this work involves the use of an external keyboard of any sort. It is the heart of overgeneralization to assert that the only way anyone writes on the iPad is using a separate keyboard. I'm sure there are those who prefer that approach. Others - like myself - tried hauling around the extra keyboard at first, but then found it - despite Grevstad's protestations to the contrary - to be as effective to learn to use the on-screen keyboard. In fact, portions of this post were written on my iPad, and those that weren't were written on my iPhone while I was waiting for my iPad to render the video from my daughter's gymnastics meet.

And this is the rub: these folks talk about trying to replace their laptops but really seem to be trying to replace desktop replacement machines. Perhaps this is why Grevstad appears to be afraid someone is going to come and take his laptop away from him.

Unfortunately, in expressing this fear he comes across as a nonagenarian talking about the dawn of the horseless carriage:

 

Meanwhile, people who contend that the tablet is destined to replace the laptop tend to overlook a couple of things: Laptops have been around, and proven themselves in the portable productivity marketplace, for decades, and they've continuously evolved and gotten better.

 

Insert ”automobile" for "tablet", "carriage” for "laptop" and "transportation industry" for "portable productivity marketplace" and you'll see what I mean.

It's okay, Eric - I'm sure Dell will continue to produce low quality laptops for you until they finally descend into bankruptcy.

Tonsure /= To Ensure... by Erin Wade

Okay, I am certainly not the first to notice some issues with the auto-correct software in iOS devices. But what I find especially puzzling are some of the decisions it makes.

This afternoon I'm typing the words "to ensure" on my iPad and, as is often the case, I somehow miss the space bar, leaving the two words together - e.g. toensure. The iPad then, as now, offers to replace it and, because I type relatively quickly on the iPad, it happens before I can make a decision about it.

The word it selects? Tonsure.

Now, I fancy myself a relatively well read and educated person, with a fairly decent vocabulary. Still, here I find that I am - not for the first time, mind you - having to look up the word that iOS has elected to replace my text.

Incidentally, tonsure refers to the shaved crown of a monk or priest's head. Look it up yourself if you like but, honestly, why would I lie about this?

When you do look it up, you'll find it to be a word first encountered in the 14th Century, derived from old French and Latin. As I gaze at this in the definition I wonder once again what algorithmic logic went into making the device assume that it was somehow more likely that I wanted to make reference to a friar's bald pate than simply having accidentally tied two correctly spelled words together.

I write on the iPad often, and while I dearly love my device, this feature is routinely the most frustrating aspect of using it. Among the things I write are psychological reports, and the word "pattern" features prominently in them. For a long period of time I had problems with hitting the "o" instead of the "p", which the iPad would then helpfully correct into "oat tern", apparently believing that I was writing about grain farming near the sea. Every time I add an additional "s" to the end of the word "was" I get "Wasserstein". What's more, while it offers these miscorrections routinely, it continues to resolutely leave the word "fir" in place each time I type it accidentally instead of "for", thinking either that I'm writing a newsletter for the American Evergreen Society or perhaps that I am writing dialogue in a western novel.

What I don't get here is how it makes those decisions. It clearly has some capacity to learn - I don't see "oat tern" any more, despite my continued errors with the word "pattern" - but it seems to make poor decisions in regard to the likelihood of a given word. What is the likelihood that I actually was trying to write "tonsure", a middle-ages relic of a word instead of, well, anything else? While I appreciate that these words are in the dictionary on the device - and that I learned a new and interesting word today - it would be great if Apple would perhaps re-think the words it offers based upon some calculation of the statistical probability of the word being correct.

Another alternative would be to allow the autocorrect to be turned off, while leaving the spell check turned on (this does not currently appear to be an option). Because the autocorrect puts in real words for relatively fast virtual typists the end results are sometimes rather strange, and more challenging to detect because, though the words are wrong, they are spelled correctly. This option would be helpful tonsure the errors would be caught when the piece Wasserstein proofread.

The iPad Review by Erin Wade

As I write this it's been exactly one month since I brought my iPad home. I mean, it just looked so cute there in the store, blinking up at me from it's little cage - how could I not bring it home with me? And just like that metaphorical puppy, it's been a joy, but there have also been a few messes along the way.

I've been keeping notes on the device over the past four weeks, as I apparently have this insipid need to share my impressions of it with others. Let's start with the good news:

When I purchased the iPad it was with the intention of being able to largely replace my laptop - a three year old MacBook - with the device. To understand what this entails, it's probably helpful to understand how I use my computers. These are primarily work machines, and I use them to conduct data analyses for assessments, write reports, do billing, keep in contact with clients via email and Google Voice, etc. As much as possible we try to be an entirely virtual operation, and people typically send me information electronically. To accomplish the heavy lifting for data analyses and reports I use a 20" iMac with a second 20" Samsung monitor. I have documents synced using both Windows Live Sync (yes - it works with Macs, and its awesome) and Dropbox (also awesome), and email and calendars synced across all of my computers and my iPhone using Apple's Mobile Me. I am on the road several days each week, and it's my way to get things done when I am away. With these systems in place my MacBook has largely functioned as secondary workstation - in essence, when I fire up my MacBook on the road I have access to everything work-related I need just as I would on my iMac. The perfect remedy to the need to do things on the road.

Enter the iPad. It's role is to take up the job of the laptop on the road. As I mentioned in earlier discussions about the device, I was looking forward to it in particular because it promised to weigh significantly less in my backpack, require considerably less by way of additional fooferall in the form of power cords and cables, and still perform most of the tasks and activities I need from a laptop. In many ways it has done this exceptionally well.

Battery Life

The promised savings in weight and bulk come from couple of different sources. Firstly, the device is significantly lighter than a MacBook: 1.5 lbs for the iPad vs. 4.5 for my 2006 vintage MacBook. It's also considerably smaller, in all dimensions.

Secondarily, however, there is the question of the need for power cords. When I take my MacBook along I never do so without the power cord. Its battery is good for perhaps three hours of actual use before it's begging for the electric teat. That cord is big and bulky, taking up space and adding weight to my pack.

Typically the battery life predictions of electronics manufacturers - including Apple - are irrationally optimistic. The claims for the iPad were in the 10 hour range. I'd hoped for something like eight.

My results, like those of so many others, were very pleasantly surprising:

April 7, 2009

Today was the first real day "at work" with the iPad. I went to work today and took it along. At work it was tethered to my MiFi, sitting on my stand of proprietary design, acting throughout the day as a digital picture frame when not otherwise engaged checking email or activating google voice. My work day started at approximately 9:30 this morning. It's now 8:39 in the evening, and I am still above 20% battery left. While this perhaps does not represent continuous use - for example, this includes the half-hour drive from Dixon back home - in my typical real-world use of this device I am now running past 11 hours of use. At this point it is clear that the iPad can be expected to make it throughout the entire workday without needing a recharge. What's more, it also continues to retain sufficient charge for me to do some reading, web browsing, or writing such as I'm doing now.

In a conversation with the delightful Lanie Lee this morning she asked what I thought of the iPad. I answered honestly that it usually takes me a while to warm up to new devices - particularly when they cost a large chunk of change. I had similar experience with my first iPhone.

But today I had the iPad running as an email/calendar/google voice center and, quite frankly, it excelled at these functions. It was small and unobtrusive, but - paired with the MiFi - extremely effective at these functions. This task is primarily what I requested of my MacBook at work. It's always done this adequately, but in a way that was bulky and screamed "I'm using a laptop at work".

9:02 PM - 20% warning

10:33 PM - at 7% and still going. We're at 13 hours ladies and gentlemen!

Yes - 13 hours of battery life in real-world use. What's more, my experience is not atypical. Several reviewers have achieved similar outcomes, running the device playing video continuously. And apparently MacWorld's Chris Breen tried to find out how long it would run just playing audio (e.g. not running the screen), and gave up after when he still had over 70% battery after 48 hours.

I've put this less formally to the test since, and have yet to find a need to recharge before I get home. I have gotten to the point at which I simply do not carry the power cord with me when I take the iPad along. I have no fear that I will run out of power.

Reading on the iPad

A big component of how the device was talked about in the media was as an ebook reader. In fact, this was a source of frequent debate amongst the neck-beard set on the tech blog comment boards, with vehement proponents of e-ink claiming that reading on the iPad's LCD screen for extended periods of time would cause one's eyes to fall out.

I must be unusual in that my eyes have resolutely insisted on remaining in my noggin. I do, in fact, find that I read considerably more on this device than I have read in several years. Due to an insanely busy work schedule (which was just going to be for a short time when it started...), most of my pleasure reading has consisted of scanning websites while sitting in front of the TV in the evening. I have read a handful of long-form books on my iPhone, including Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach; Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by frequent Wait Wait... panelist Charlie Pierce, and Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham - and enjoyed the experience. However, much of this reading has been in down time - weekends up at the cabin or when taking the train to a conference - as I've found it very difficult to remain focused on reading in the evenings (whether on paper or on the iPhone), distracted by the combined pairing of fatigue and the television.

I've discovered that I seem to prefer reading on the iPad. It is, for some reason, easier to focus when using the device, even with the television running in the background. This is true for the printed word, but even more so for....

Well...

...for comic books. That's right, I said comic books! If an august personage such as Andy Ihnatko can let his geek flag fly in this respect, I can too! So there it is!

There are multiple comic book readers for the iPad. And these existed for the iPhone as well but, while I tried them on the iPhone, the comic reading experience on that small screen was interesting as a proof of concept, it was not something that called me back for repeat engagements. But Marvel Comics came out with an application and it all went something like this:

One application that I absolutely must give credit to is the Marvel Comic app. Being a fan of comic books by history I decided to give it a try. I downloaded two freebie issues of The New Avengers from 2004. The application works exceptionally well, allowing quick alteration from either a full-page presentation (the traditional comics page view) or a close-up panel to panel view. Either presentation is gorgeous, and the panel to panel view has the added bonus of not allowing you to see what's coming in advance.

The application is also available for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and it's based upon a user account. This means that, similar to the Kindle experience, you can have your comics with you wherever you go - they aren't in a single location. The iPhone isn't an ideal device for reading comics, but it's a nice option to have available when you are standing in line at the Sam's Club checkout.

This all was unfortunately done so well done that I was reminded that I actually like comic books quite a bit, and discovered that I needed - needed mind you - to know what happened after the second issue. I got out my wallet in preparation for engaging in the typical tedium of entering my name, credit card info, height, weight, blood type, etc, and tapped the "purchase" button. Much to my surprise the application asked me for my iTunes username and password instead.

I ended up buying the other four books in the series that were available in the application. The only complaint I would have at this point is that the number of comics available seems small. I am sure this will change as time goes on, but I really want to know what happens after New Avengers #6.

I later became aware that the Marvel app is actually based on Comixolgy's Comics app for the iPad, and that all of the marvel titles, plus titles from multiple other publishers, are also available on that application. I discovered, for example, that Matt Wagner finally got around to putting together the second section of his three part Mage series (apparently over a decade ago), and that there are a variety of other titles - Wanted and Bad Ass, among others - of which I was unaware. However, mostly I discovered that it turns out - apparently - I still like comic books.

Video on the iPad

As might be expected, video playback on the iPad is excellent. This is territory - video playback on portable devices - Apple has had well in hand for some time, and it's no exception here. With the 64gb that the device has available I have more than enough room on it for a few TV shows in case I'm on the road with nothing to do, as well as (and frankly more importantly) video for the little one to watch while traveling. 'Nuff said here.

Research, Email, Reference Access

A large part of completing the work I do includes doing research and reviewing documentation that has been provided for me. Typically this information arrives via email, or its available online. And again, in this respect the iPad excels. Whether one is doing research online, or reviewing documentation through a protocol such as Dropbox, the device works exactly as hoped, providing a exceptional web searching capability and very good document reading options as well - it will allow the user to open most major document formats for reading purposes. What's more, this option works as well as it does on any laptop, and the screen is frankly much easier to read than the one on the iPhone (which has frequently served this role for me).

Similarly, I keep in touch with many of my clients via email. I do a lot of basic emailing from my iPhone, but will haul out the laptop for longer form conversations. The email program on the iPad is exceptional, and more than meets this need. It's comfortable to work on, and the screen very nicely allows the writer to see what he's said - extremely important for longer emails (assuming one actually reads what one has written before one sends it...).

And speaking of writing...

Writing on the iPad

When I first got the device I bravely predicted that I would probably be primarily using a Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad. I did, in fact, pair up an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard with my iPad. What's more, this was an effortless activity:

Day 3 - sitting at my desk with the iPad hooked up to an Apple Wireless (bluetooth) keyboard. Took seconds to hook up, works flawlessly as I type this. Makes me wonder if I should take a typing test with this keyboard just for comparison (I think it would be too depressing).

The reality has turned out to be quite different than my prediction. As I did with my iPhone when I first got that device, I decided that I was at least going to give the software keyboard a try as I would have to have some familiarity with it for occasions on which I did not have the Bluetooth keyboard immediately available or in which it was simply not convenient to use.

As this is just a blog, it would likely have been perfectly acceptable to give you my impressions of whether the on-screen keyboard was good enough for day to day use. However, as it is my personal blog, those who know me well will know that there must be data. What you see in the heading picture is a measurement of my typing speed on the iPad's on-screen keyboard over time as compared to my rate on a standard Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and on my iPhone. Source for all of the speed tests was the iPhone typing test website.

The first, most disheartening thing I learned doing this is that I'm not as fast on the standard keyboard as I thought. Back in typing class in high school I seem to recall typing around 90 WPM. I've told people a number of times in the past that I type 90 wpm. In fact, a considerable amount of my personal self-worth was wrapped up in that number....

Ahem...

The upshot here is that, with about a month of practice I am now nearly as fast with the virtual keys as I am with those that are solid and real. I no longer carry along the Bluetooth keyboard, and I've comfortably written multiple page documents - including this entry - all with virtual keys. I would write my novel on this device.

The Bad

There's always a downside, and this device is no exception. The downside, for me, comes from a surprising source: the iWork suite.

iWork is an office suite written by Apple specifically for its devices. They came out with the desktop version several years ago now, and these programs are surprisingly good. Pages and Keynote - the word processing and presentation program respectively - are in my opinion considerably better products than their Microsoft Office counterparts. Numbers, their spreadsheet, isn't quite as good as Excel for calculations and graphing, but it's serviceable enough. Importantly, these products provide a means to reliably translate documents from iWork formats to PDF and MS Office format, removing most of the concerns about compatibility that come with using alternative office productivity software. I use Pages and Keynote almost exclusively when writing reports or doing presentations.

It was with this experience in mind that I downloaded the three iWork applications for the iPad quite literally on day one. My initial impressions - mostly of Pages - were really pretty good. It was easy to write on - particularly with the device in landscape orientation and the virtual keyboard activated. There were some odd User Interface (UI) decisions made - the formatting tools are only available in portrait orientation, making it very cumbersome to format as you write, which is my common practice (to italicize as you go you must stop typing, orient the device to portrait mode to get the toolbar to show, select the word in question, tap the appropriate tool button on the screen re-orient to landscape, and return to typing) - but I assumed these would be non-issues as I would typically be writing with the Bluetooth keyboard...

But these are frankly minor issues, and ones which I am confident that Apple, with it's relatively rapid software update pattern, will address in the near future (I would vote for them making it an option to put the tools palette on your iPhone via Bluetooth similar to the way the Scrabble app for the iPad works, but I'd be happy if they'd simply put the modifier keys down a level or two into the virtual keyboard as well). The major issues surround file handling and translation.

There has been quite a bit written by actual reviewers about the issues with file handling in iWork, so I will only summarize here: In essence, it's a pain in the ass to get your files on to and off of the device.

We make heavy use of a file-sharing product called Dropbox (which I also mentioned - several times - above). This is a wonderful program which syncs files across multiple computers and also makes them accessible on the web. It makes it possible for me to work on a report at home on my desktop but then stop, run my daughter up to gymnastics and, while waiting, I can pop open my laptop and pick up exactly where I left off on the report. There is no need for me to think about what files I want to take along, no preparation of flash drives, no need for virtual networking applications to work back to the desktop. The file is simply there. It just works.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work the same way on the iPad. I can access files on Dropbox either through the web interface or through their new iPad app. I can open a document in Pages and edit it quite nicely. However, I cannot save that document back to Dropbox. Or to anywhere else except to Pages on the iPad.

This is not to say that I cannot get the document off of the device - I can export it through iTunes, send it to iWork.com, or email it out. But at that point I now have two versions of the document - the original on Dropbox, and the new copy. Keeping track of versions is a problem that anyone who has been using computers for this type of work is aware of - carefully reviewing each copy to make sure you have the "right" version of it. It is definitely something that no longer should be an issue, and stands in stark contrast to other programs on the device:

As I sit here in my chair this Sunday evening reading Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work I realize a couple of things:

- I've spent more time reading this book combined today then I have in the prior three weeks or so since I got it. And;

- The way the kindle and marvel comics apps behave - that ability to sit-down at, or pick up, any connected device - my iPhone, my ipad, or the iMac on my desk - is precisely why the file transfer issue in iWork is so very frustrating and disappointing. They know how to do this, and do it well. Apple is supposed to know how to be at, and beyond, the cutting edge of user convenience. They should already have figured out that having the files updated and accessible wherever we are was a primary feature.

The other thing I've come across - which I haven't actually seen mentioned by any other reviewers - is problems with document translation to PDF. Specifically, we will distribute reports to clients as PDF's over email, and the iWork suite on the iPad offers this as an option in all three of the productivity programs. Unfortunately, I have found that eroded PDF's, distributed via email, are unreadable for the recipient under some circumstances. These seem to be very specific and include:

The document has been imported to the iPad from a desktop (e.g. It was not natively written on the iPad).
The document contains graphics.
The recipient is reading the document on a PC running Windows.

In fact, some investigation into this suggests that it may be folks using older versions of Adobe reader that are having trouble reading the documents (I've found that I can read the same documents just fine on all of my apple devices). But many of my clients are in social service agencies which are likely not to have recently updated their computer hardware or software, making this a pervasive problem for me. I've found workarounds to prevent this - not emailing documents as PDF's from the device, but rather waiting to distribute when I get back to the desktop works, and it's necessarily part of my workflow because of the file handling problems - but this adds additional steps that I didn't have before, which is certainly not something that I wanted from a new device.

In sum

Aside from the file issues I absolutely love the device. And, frankly, the downsides really stand in sharp relief because it does everything else so very well. I am reading more long-form writing (e.g. not webpages) than I have in years, and have re-discovered my love for comic books. It's an excellent device to research and do work on, and in most respects meets the promise of replacing my laptop. Most days of the week my Macbook doesn't join me at all, with only the iPad and my iPhone keeping me company. This is a significant improvement in terms of reduction of both weight and bulk, and I'm very happy with it. Happy enough, in fact, that I carry it and contend with the file transfer issues rather than bringing along the MacBook which would allow me to avoid them.

There's been lots of debate about what this device is - a big iPod Touch, a Netbook or laptop replacement, an ebook reader, or something different entirely. I'm on record as being perfectly happy with the idea of it simply being a bigger iPod Touch. However, after a month with the iPad I fall into the latter category - this is something new.

It, in fact, operates as a better portable device than any notebook I've ever owned (and I've owned several), and without the compromises that the iPhone requires. It is an extension of the desktop for work purposes, while also offering multiple entertainment options for down time - my books, my comics, my tv shows and movies can be with me whoever I go, and reading or watching them is a no-compromise proposition. I purchased the iPad instead of updating my three-year old MacBook, and a month into it I have no regrets with respect to that decision. It's quite simply the case that a notebook is far more than I need on the road most of the time. I doubt I am alone in this case.

Once the issues with iWork are addressed (and I'm relatively confident that they both will be addressed, and that it will happen relatively quickly, given Apple's typical product update cycle), there will be virtually no reason for me to have a notebook computer at all.