iPad adventures, days 2-3

Had to do a bunch of work on my laptop the past couple of days, because I needed a program (FileMaker) that there's no app version of. But I did manage to take the iPad out for a spin at a local coffee shop to do some grading; I simply love reading and grading on this thing, since it's so much more flexible than using a laptop for the purpose! And for some bizarre reason, even though I was only in the coffee shop working for an hour or so, and I could have brought my laptop and done this almost any time, it never really occurred to me to try it. My laptop has become almost like a "portable desktop," if that makes any sense, and packing it up to take it someplace strikes me as too much trouble. Now the iPad, even though I have to sync pdf files to it before I go out to work someplace, just feels so much more portable it's not funny. I think it's the battery life -- even though my MacBook Pro can get 3.5-4 hours pretty consistently, the fact that the iPad gets like 12, and the fact that I have only now plugged it in for the first time since Monday (which was two days ago), gives a little psychological boost: this thing runs forever, or at least for the practical equivalent of forever, so one need not think about running out of juice. That's nice.

Not so nice was something I discovered when trying to show someone a web page I'd been browsing before: I'd thought that the page would be cached, and would continue to be available even though I was now in a place without wi-fi connectivity (I haven't purchased the 3G data plan yet, still resisting that temptation). Apparently not. After I got over the mild embarrassment of the situation and made it back to someplace with wi-fi, I discovered a lovely little free app called Offline Pages, which does what the name implies: allows you to grab web pages (and even pdf files that you download from the web, since the iPad doesn't stick those in a folder that you can subsequently access with a pdf reader like GoodReader) and view them when offline. Problem solved, at no cost.

I'm also discovering first-hand the perils of autocorrect, and the need to proofread carefully before hitting the send button on an e-mail. The autocorrect engine sometimes guesses right, but sometimes it guesses bizarrely, and I can't tell if it's learning from my activity or not. Time will tell, I suppose, and in the meantime there's nothing to do but to check carefully before sending things out. Probably good practice anyway, but I hope that the autocorrect system's accuracy improves as it gets my input to chew on.


iPad adventures, day one

I actually received my iPad last week, but today is the first day I began what I am thinking of as the Great iPad Experiment: leaving my laptop asleep at home, and trying to do my daily academic work off of this remarkable little piece of machinery. I intend to post some reflections on how things are going every day or two.

At the moment I am typing on one of Apple's little Bluetooth keyboards, which I unpacked today and synched to my iPad in about three seconds (and the keyboard even comes with batteries included, which is excellent -- works right out of the box, literally). The iPad is lodged in an iPad dock on my desk, and the keyboard is on my lap; I have music playing through my computer speakers, which are plugged into the dock. (Note to readers: volume level on the iPad dock is line level, not headphone level, so if you have your speakers turned up far when you plug in the iPad it's very loud at first!) The Apple dock only supports the iPad in portrait mode, so the text as I type here is kind of small; the upside is that I'm a lot faster inputing text this way than I was with the on-screen keyboard. That said, the on-screen keyboard was more than sufficient for me to enter comments on the papers I was grading this weekend using the iPad; the external keyboard simply allows more flexibility in seating positions.

[Just as an experiment I turned the iPad sideways into Portrait mode and liked the text size much better. So, note for the to-do list: investigate an iPad dock that allows portrait orientation while the iPad is docked.]

The major issues I have observed so far with the iPad are the lack of footnote support for documents, and the inconvenience of having to reach for the screen to make edits (since there's no mouse or pointer). I think that the solution to the latter problem is to only use the external keyboard for entering massive amounts of text -- say, taking notes at a meeting -- and then proofread later; otherwise, the on-screen keyboard seems to work best. But the former issue is a real downer, especially for an academic. Apple has used its "quick view " technology to translate Word documents for iPad viewing, even if you open them in the app version of Pages, so no footnotes period unless you view them in a pdf. For the time being I have converted things that I want to read in the iPad to pdf, which works fine, but when someone sends me something as a Word document I can't really just read it on the iPad natively. Of course, if everyone sent things in pdf this wouldn't be so much of an issue, but there's a lot of common practice to overcome before that would stop happening.

Haven't signed up for a data plan yet. Wonder how long before the temptation to do so -- or the periodic reminders to do so that crop up on the screen -- gets the better of my determination to use as much free wi-fi as possible rather than paying for connectivity.