How the iPad is saving my sanity

Fan girl

I’ve had an iPad since the day it was released in the UK. I bought it because I’m a fan girl. I admit it. I could pretend that I wanted it to take to conferences or use for testing or when I didn’t need a laptop when I went to visit clients. In truth, I only go to one or two conferences per year, I’ve not yet made a site that needed an iPad-specific site and when I go to visit clients I always need my laptop. I was simply justifying my desire to have something shiny.

When my iPad arrived I was in love with the glossy screen, the simple gestures and the idea of all the tasks I could now complete without using my laptop. Thing is, it doesn’t run Photoshop or Coda or any of the apps I actually need for working. It may suit other people who just need a word processor, spreadsheet or presentation software, but when it comes to specialist tools the iPad isn’t the device.

Workaholic

Yet more and more I’m finding that the iPad is stopping me from going mad. Being a freelancer that works from home, it’s very difficult to switch off. I often have days where I sit at my desk til six, then just move my laptop to the TV and carry on working until it’s time to sleep. This is a really bad habit and just leads to all-work-and-no-play and a big fat stress-face. Many wise people talk about keeping normal office hours and being equally productive and there’s a lot of truth in that.

Now I leave my laptop when I’m finished working, turn it off and engage iPad. I can’t work with the iPad, so I won’t. I can read e-mails, but if I reply from my iPad I won’t have a record of the reply on my laptop for reference (so I rarely do that.) I can visit as many websites as I like, but I won’t be writing any HTML or CSS. I can sketch and doodle ideas and even make brainstorms but I won’t be creating any graphics.

The result is a total separation of work and play. The iPad fulfils all my casual browsing needs and I’m a more sociable and less stressed being.

Playtime

There’s added bonuses to this too. There are plenty of cool apps on the iPad to keep me entertained.

iBooks

A couple of weeks ago I read my first full book (albeit a reasonably short 200-page one) using iBooks. To all those saying it doesn’t beat a real book, I say stop being so old-fashioned. If you’re used to staring at a screen for 12 hours a day, your eyes won’t particularly complain. I set the settings to large-ish text, changed the colouring to sepia and turned the brightness down. My eyes were very happy.

The Prince of Mist on iBooks

The Prince of Mist on iBooks

The books are a little bit pricey, being a few pounds more than their paperback friends, and there’s certainly not everything in the store. It’s not much of a problem for me as I rarely have time to read more than a couple of paperbacks a year (though I see that changing with iBooks) and a boyfriend who is being driven mad by the quantity of books I insist on keeping.

Reeder

RSS feeds are no longer a case of me fighting a losing battle. Reeder is a beautiful feed reader and now I love spending spare time catching up on feeds without stressing about reading them when I’m at my desk.

Reeder also gives you loads of ways to make use of the articles you read so they’re not just lost in the ether of my bad memory. I’m a serial Delicious user so I can tag and save the useful bookmarks straight into Delicious. I also use Instapaper Read It Later (Instapaper on iPad just doesn’t feel right) so I can save the longer read-it-later articles to there. If I want to add a cool image to Zootool, I just open the link in Safari and lasso it from the browser.

actions on Reeder for iPad

actions on Reeder for iPad

WordPress

So now I’m typing this on WordPress for iPad. It’s perfect for those wifi-less moments when you can’t access your WordPress admin. You can have drafts that are just local to your iPad or sync your drafts across to the web. It’s a fairly minimal interface, relying on HTML if you want to include any kind of formatting, and you can only attach images at the end of a post.

WordPress on iPad

the keyboard takes up a lot of space on the screen, but otherwise it’s very usable

However, if you’re like me and tap away at a few blog posts at once, dipping in to edit them every now and again, WordPress for iPad is great for a distraction-free environment.

Twitterrific

Many people would agree that Tweetie is the most native-style mac Twitter client. I used Twitterrific for mac before I was a Tweetie fan and it just feels too Adobe-Airy. It doesn’t feel native, it doesn’t quite look right, there’s something a bit flimsy about it.

But Twitterrific on iPad is a revelation. Landscape mode is totally where it’s at, it has the extra column/menu down the left hand side. Easy to browse, packed full of features (maybe not so many as Twitter for iPhone or the so-ugly-I-seriously-can’t-stand-it Tweetdeck) but for a casual addict it feels just right.

Twitterrific on iPad

Twitterrific on iPad

When you’re writing a tweet or replying you get a lovely huge box to work within. A particularly cool feature is that it shows the tweet you’re replying to as well for reference.

Replying to a tweet on Twitterrific

Replying to a tweet on Twitterrific

The little popup boxes are great too, you can instantly access all the relevant details about a person including their recent tweets from a few taps.

Profile details on Twitterrific

Profile details on Twitterrific

CropSuey

It’s pretty disappointing that there’s no iPhoto or iMovie style tools for iPad. Alongside a cheap way to import your photos (I haven’t tried the official camera to iPad cable yet,) it feels like a missed opportunity. The iPad is great for viewing photos you’ve transferred from iPhoto on the mac, but that’s about it.

When I started writing blog posts on my iPad, and taking screenshots into the Photos (the only way to directly get images into Photos on the iPad?!) I needed to rotate and crop the images so they looked right on my blog.

I did a bit of searching on the App Store and came across Crop Suey HD. This app is simple but does exactly what it says and with incredibly intuitive tools. With straighten, rotate, flip and crop you can easily get your images looking much neater and save them back into the library for use with other apps.

Crop Suey on iPad

The incredibly simple Crop Suey interface ensures you see mostly the image itself

Finding Apps

The downside to the iPad is app discoverability. Despite Apple selling so many devices, there don’t seem to be many iPads around. People aren’t constantly talking about new iPad apps on Twitter like they do with iPhone apps. There’s very rarely that word-of-mouth way to happen across a cool app.

So you have to rely on the App Store. Unless you’re after a top 10 app, or a random Staff Pick that’s been sitting there for a month, you just have to search and hope. You can wade through pages and pages of mediocre apps in the Categories trying to find that rare gem. It’s incredibly difficult to be paired up with something you’ll like, use, and will be worth the relatively high cost of often £5.99+.

Appsfire’s App Stream is trying to solve the discoverability problem. A stream of small app icons rotate around the board. You can tap them to see more, basically all the info you get in the app store. If you like it, you can tap again to view and purchase on the App Store.

App stream by Appsfire

App stream by Appsfire is useful but not totally beautiful

Unfortunately this really relies on you judging a book by its cover. The slickest, prettiest icons are most likely to catch your attention and you’re most likely to assume the apps with duff icons are going to have a rubbish app design. Whilst it’s pretty likely, I feel like this random stream of icons is as bad as trying to filter through App Store listings. It’s a bit faster to load, but you’re not even getting any contextual category or ranking information.

As the Apple app stores get huger, there’s going to be a much greater need for discovering the best apps for the individual. I can imagine there’s a lot more startups getting into these areas and I’d love to hear if anybody out there has any recommendations for me! I want to get even more out of my iPad time!

9 comments

  1. @laurakalbag Great post! Do you play many games on it? Also for books, have you tried Stanza?

    Reply

  2. logorrhoea

    @laurakalbag Nice post. I generally agree with what you say. (This tweet written in Twitterrific on my iPad.)

    Reply

  3. great account of ipad ownership. think i might tradeup a netbook and old iphone for the pad.. regarding your not being able to have reference of your sent email on your mac if you send from your pad, if you set up mail using imap, the you can. i find this useful as i flit between iphone, netbook, work mini and mbp.

    Reply

    • Laura

      I’ve tried to set up IMAP but never seem to be able to get it to work. I must be doing something wrong somewhere, or maybe it’s that I have POP set up to? I’m too scared to delete POP and then add IMAP in case I lose a load of e-mails in between!

      Reply

  4. Just a quick point on the email thing… if you use IMAP or Exchange to access your email, the sent items folder should be synced to the server and back to your laptop.

    If your email provider doesn’t do IMAP or Exchange access, set up Google Apps for Domains – it’s free for up to 50 users, has migration wizards and even allows you to setup your own branding in GMail (as well as Calendars, Docs, Sites and more!).

    I switched to Google Apps a year or so back and haven’t looked back!

    Reply

    • Laura

      I never knew that IMAP would sync Sent items, that’s so clever!

      I tried Google Apps as a setup for IMAP, but it doesn’t work and I have no idea why. That being said, I’m certain it’ll be human error. I struggle a lot with any Google interfaces!

      Reply

      • Yeah, it synchs the lot! I use Google Apps via their exchange connection on my iPhone and it works perfectly, including push email. I literally can’t fault it.

        If you have skype, add me (I’ve set my username as the bit before the @ symbol in my email address) and I’ll be happy to walk you through it / help you out setting it up. The only problem would be moving your existing email, as I haven’t done it before, but it should be quite easy.

        Reply

  5. Dan

    Good post thanks… I too struggle with app discovery… A good resource for this is http://app.itize.us which is a curated list of the best designed apps… There’s some gems in there I wouldn’t have known about otherwise… Hope this helps :)

    Reply

    • Laura

      Looks like it’s curated by some proper old-school designers, all those apps have a real graphic designer feel to them! Thanks for the link, I’ll definitely keep my eye on that.

      Reply

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