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Tuesday
Apr202010

My iPad Review, Part 1: writing, reading and drawing on the iPad

ipad-case-type-tea.jpg

As some of you already know, I've been excited about the iPad for a long time, even before the hype began. As a birthday gift, my husband pre-ordered the Wifi-only 64 MB iPad, and we picked it up while we were in Columbus earlier this month. For those that missed it, here's my report of the day I got my iPad.

(Disclosure: A couple of friends of mine work at Apple, and one did some work on the Apple iPhone and iPad.)

WHY I ORIGINALLY WANTED AN IPAD

I've been reading e-books regularly on my iPhone, mostly purchased from Fictionwise. I've bought quite a few books from Fictionwise since I got an iPhone. While I don't mind reading them on the iPhone screen, I was excited about the prospect of having a bigger screen on a device as portable as an iPad.

ipad-hand.jpg

I was also hoping that I might be able to use it to do some short session writing when I wasn't at home, a lighter alternative to carrying my laptop.

TYPING ON THE IPAD

Learning to type on the iPad was much easier than I expected, at least in landscape mode. I was thrown at first, not having the physical cues of the keys to guide my fingers.

ipad-case-sideview.jpg

I bought the thin Apple case, whose front cover folds to prop up the iPad at an angle, making it easier to read the screen as well as type. I haven't yet tried typing for a period longer than about an hour on the iPad to see how at feels, but I will report back when I do. I also want to try out a Bluetooth keyboard, but ideally I would love to be able to just take my iPad on its own.

I mentioned that I had no trouble typing in landscape mode. It's more awkward typing when the iPad is in portrait mode, because of the smaller keyboard space. I have heard that people with larger hands type on the iPad with their thumbs, iPhone-style. With the weight of the iPad, however, I'd find this difficult.

ipad-case-type-tea2.jpg

I'm using My Writing Nook for my iPad writing right now. I like it because you can change the font and font size, but I wish it was possible to create hierarchical folders to make it easier to organize different writing projects. Also very much looking forward to getting the iPad version of WriteRoom. I'm sad that there won't be a Scrivener for the iPad but understand the developer's reasons (not enough resources).

Editing on the iPad is much more laborious than a regular keyboard because there are no arrow keys or easy way to navigate around the screen with shortcuts for cutting and pasting. I wouldn't use my iPad to do any heavy revisions, but it's fine for first drafts as well as minor edits.

However, who knows? Maybe someone will come up with an app that makes this easier, or perhaps using an external keyboard with my iPad will make editing shortcuts possible. I'll investigate this and report back in a follow-up.

ipad-reflections.jpg

WHAT ABOUT THE GLARE ON THE SCREEN? CAN YOU READ THE IPAD IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT?

With the shiny screen, glare from lights behind and above you can potentially be a problem, depending on your environment. I found it a bit distracting at first, but I don't notice it much anymore, at least indoors. Not sure if this is because I've learned to adjust my iPad position to lessen the problem, or if it's because I've gotten used to it enough that I automatically focus on the screen rather than the reflection.

I haven't tried to do much reading outside yet because it's still a bit too chilly in Toronto for outdoor reading, but I'll write a follow-up report when I do.

The shiny screen also makes finger smudges and dust much more noticeable, and I'm constantly wiping it clean. The Apple case isn't great for this, because dust tends to accumulate under the edges and is impossible to remove without taking the iPad out of the case first.

DO I REALLY NEED A CASE FOR MY IPAD?

Originally I didn't get a slipcase for my iPad but went back to the Apple store to get one because the iPad felt way too slippery in my hands. I wish Apple had given the back casing some texture to make it easier to grip.

WHY I OPTED FOR A WIFI-ONLY IPAD

I already pay Rogers a monthly fee for an iPhone plan and wasn't crazy about paying for a second plan. I also figure that if I find that I really can't survive without 3G, then I can sell this iPad and upgrade.

So far, though, I'm happy with my choice. Sure, there are moments when I'm away from Wifi and automatically open Google to look something up only to remember that I can't, but I can always use my iPhone if I -really- need to get online.

Not being able to access the 3G network has made me more productive in my writing when using the iPad outside of my home.

ipad-case-drawing.jpg

USING THE IPAD AS A SKETCHBOOK

I had never considered being able to draw on the iPad well enough to use it as a sketchpad. Draw with my finger? Too awkward! However, I find that a bit of practice and familiarity with the drawing software makes a huge difference.

My favorite drawing app is Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. The interface is easy to use, with three finger shortcuts to bring up the brush and color palettes, layer window, undo and redo. In only a short time, I got used to using the pinch gesture to zoom in and out so that I could work on fine details as well as being able to see the whole drawing. I can export my drawing to the iPad photo album as well as e-mail it or post to various services.

You can see more of my iPad drawings at http://ipadgirl.posterous.com.

ipad-pogostick.jpg

I've also been experimenting with using the Pogo stylus. It's not pressure sensitive like my Intuos Wacom Artpad, but it feels like a regular pen. I'm wondering how long it'll last with regular use, though...the sponge-like material at it's tip doesn't strike me as particularly durable. I hope I'm wrong. With the $14.95 price tag, I'm not crazy about having to replace the pen too often. I've noticed that cheaper alternative solutions are already being posted.

USING THE IPAD TO DISPLAY PHOTOS

This is one major advantage that the iPad has over the Kindle. It's been years since I've taken any print photos, and eventually I'd like to replace all the boxes of print photo albums with folders of scanned images on my laptop...or iPad.

Converting to digital photography has saved me a ton of money in terms of hassle and print processing, but it means that the only way friends and family can view my photos is by going online or looking at them on my laptop.


I've set up my iPad syncing to always sync with the last three "events" in my iPhoto library as well as any other albums I specifically select. The other day, my father asked about one of my niece's school productions, for example. Instead of having to e-mail him a URL or drag him to a computer, I just whipped out my iPad and let him flick through the photos himself. I could also have set up a slideshow to display my photos that way.

READING ON THE IPAD

This is the main reason I wanted to get an iPad. I rarely go anywhere without at least one book or magazine with me, and read e-books regularly on my iPhone. The idea of being able to read books and magazines on a bigger screen of a device so easily carried around hugely appealed to me.



Sadly, the iBookstore is not accessible to Canadian customers yet. However, from this Apple job posting, it sounds as if Apple does plan to open its iBookstore to Canadians eventually.

I knew this before the iPad launch, but figured that at least one of Stanza or eReader would be launching an iPad-optimized version of their e-book reading software. I was wrong. Amazon-owned Stanza has gone silent on the topic and Fictionwise support responded to my query with "Currently at this time, there are no plans to update the iPhone eReader app for iPad." Fictionwise was acquired by Barnes and Noble.

Sigh.

I can run the iPhone eReader or Stanza apps on my iPad, but either they look too small:


or I blow them up to fill the iPad screen and the text is blurry:


So before you decide to buy an iPad, I strongly suggest you go through all the apps you're counting on and make sure there are iPad-optimized versions available in the iTunes store. I find it deceptive that ALL the apps in the iTunes store say "compatible with iPad" --- many people won't realize that this just means that the iPhone apps will run in their smaller format on the iPad screen (as shown above). To find out if a particular app is iPad-optimized, make sure that the app page has screenshots of the iPad version.



However, even if I knew this ahead of time, I would still have gone ahead and bought my iPad.

UPDATE: Thanks to Christopher Davis for posting:

Apparently Barnes & Noble’s version of eReader will be ported, though, and (with a little work) you can load your old Fictionwise and eReader.com purchases into it. (I’m not surprised, really; they added ePub support to the B&N version but not the Fictionwise/eReader.com version…making me think that the latter is dead-ending.)

The trick: put your files on a webserver somewhere (Mac OS X’s Personal Web Sharing will do nicely) and then make a page of links to them, except start the URLs with bnereader:// instead of http://.

Then click on them in Mobile Safari; they’ll be loaded into the B&N eReader app.


I'm going to try this! Meanwhile, I'm use the e-reader app from Kobo, which is partnered with Chapters-Indigo. Most books at Kobo are available for Web/Mobile/epub.


(Sketching on my iPad. Photo by Walter K.)

USING THE IPAD AS AN EXTRA SCREEN

I find that I've started using my iPad as an extra screen in my home office. I usually keep my To Do list or Calendar list open as I work, which helps keep me on track for what I want to accomplish and to keep my time priorities straight.

HOW IS THE BATTERY LIFE?

This is an aspect I haven't fully tested yet. I've noticed that if I'm just writing, the battery power goes down very slowly. Surfing the Web and playing games uses power more quickly. Apparently many writers have found that their iPads gave them more than the promised 10 hours on a single charge. Gizmodo drained the iPad battery in about 6 hours by alternating between streaming video and playing graphic-intensive games, with Wi-Fi on, brightness at its highest, and the speaker at its loudest setting the entire time. It takes about four hours to fully recharge.

Some other questions some of you have asked...

WHAT IS IT LIKE TYPING ON THE WIRELESS KEYBOARD?

I haven't tried this yet, but will post about it when I do.

ANY SPECIFIC DRAWBACKS OR NEED-TO-KNOWS FOR CANADIANS BUYING U.S. IPADS BEFORE THEY COME OUT HERE?

Rogers has announced that it will offer iPad price plans for all models from the end of May in Canada, but hasn't yet given any numbers.

The iBooks store and iPad Apps Store are not yet available to Canadians, and there's not yet any official word about when they will be available. This means that we Canucks aren't able to buy certain apps like Pages, Numbers and Scrabble, and we can't buy apps directly from our iPads. I currently buy iPad apps through my laptop from the iTunes store, then sync to my iPad.

Because the iPad isn't available in Canada yet (at least I'm assuming this is the reason), the Apps part of the Canadian iTunes store still doesn't have a separate section for iPad apps, categorized by app type. As more iPad apps are added, this makes it more and more of a chore to browse iPad apps. I currently browse iPad apps by searching for the term "iPad." I also check the iPad section of AppShopper, though some of these are unavailable to Canadians.

Some e-books are unavailable to Canadians, even when purchased through the Amazon Kindle shop.

OUR DAUGHTER WANTS A KINDLE FOR COLLEGE. SHOULD WE INSIST ON AN IPAD INSTEAD? IT'S THE DATA PACKAGE THAT IS MAKING ME HESITATE.

Hm, tough question. It depends entirely on what she wants to use it for, plus you should definitely do some data package comparisons. My experience using the Kindle is also very limited.

=

(Photo by Walter K.)

Wow, this review is way longer than I intended. I'll continue my review after I've had a chance to use my iPad a little while longer. Feel free to post any questions you'd like me to answer next time in the comments section below.

I post iPad-related comments, cartoons and info in my ipadgirl Twitter account and iPadGirl blog.

Retro typewriter iPad app

Above: fun retro typewriter app for the iPad. Realistic old-fashioned typwriter sounds, working carriage return, and you can e-mail the retro look typing or just the text. $1.99 in the Apps store.

Reader Comments (20)

That's a really in-depth review. I didn't notice how long it was because it was broken up by pictures and also it was interesting. I love the photo of you drawing!

I also love the look of that retro typewriter app.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfairyhedgehog

Very interesting. It was a great look at the Ipad. Although I'm not interested in buying one right now, it's good to know that Canadians don't have access to everything at the moment... I know for sure if I ever did get one, I'd wait to buy one until we could do everything.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChibiDoucet

Great review, as always, Debbie.

I agree about disappointment on the app front. I know it's new, so I'm hoping more developers come up with optimized versions of apps, rather than just compatible ones that sit in the middle of the screen looking tiny.

I really would love good Twitter and facebook iPad apps. Sigh.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Great review, Paula. I'd love to know more about how you're using the iPad for cartooning/illustration. is the work done on it simply a sketch for later revision, or does it have enough resolution to stand alone?

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Hill

Um, I mean Debbie. Too many emails/tweets/blogs open.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Hill

Thanks for this great review and for covering so many different aspects of the iPad. I've had my eye on it as an e-Reader, but I would love to be able to do writing on it as well (I'm a coffee shop writer.). Wasn't sure how that keyboard would work, though.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I'm curious what your experience is with the Kindle app on the iPad. Also, are you able to get to google docs easily? Can you edit docs there? (Mobile versions of docs don't let you edit, so it doesn't work on the iphone or Kindle).

To the person asking whether to get a Kindle or an iPad for their daughter for college, the important thing is what it's going to be used for. If she's already going to have a laptop, I would go with the Kindle. It's easier to read on for long periods of time, and also discourages gaming more. If it's going to be a laptop replacement, though, definitely the iPad. Kindle can't do a lot of things that the iPad and a computer can, including games, writing, etc.

I'm glad to hear the iPad works well for writing. I've been trying a couple different things to work on making my writing more portable, and haven't had much success. Problem is, the number of games available would probably just be more of a distraction for me.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTuxGirl

Great review - thanks for sharing. I'm wondering what program you're typing in - Pages? We bought the bluetooth keyboard before the iPad got here, and I fell in love so have stolen it as my main keyboard. I suppose I should try it WITH the iPad - ha! Sorry for the unavailability so far, hope that is remedied soon. Did you know I have an iPad app? Lula's Brew. She looks so awesome on that screen! And I'm with you on Sketchbookpro. Very fun although not quite the digital sketch book I was hoping for. It's promising though - I see something very cool on that front in the next 2 years or so.
Anyhow - from one Geek to another - live long and prosper.
:)
e

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Dulemba

I've been coveting an iPad, but will likely wait for a new version before I break down and buy. This review was very helpful to me - I appreciate reading about the things it can (and cannot) do. I didn't realize that there was potential for drawing - love that. Thanks!

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKris

Thank you very much for this insightful review!

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdragonpearls

Re. the lack of cursor keys for editing -- can't you just mark text using your fingers (or the stylus)? That would seem a natural way of marking it and in keeping with the 'gesture' oriented nature of the iPad. If not then it seems that someone has really missed out functionality. One of the things I do like about the iPad idea is that of actually doing screen-based activities like marking, moving, zoom, scroll, etc. actually on the screen instead of by moving a bit of plastic a foot or so away, I've been suggesting that sort of thing ever since I first saw a light-pen and screen demonstrated some 30-odd years ago.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris C

Thanks for this review. I look forward to hearing more about your experience as you play, err work, with it more. I was wondering about the functionality with PDF documents and documents from mobile me. I read a lot of journal articles since I am a grad student and store them on my idisk so I can read at work or find a specific document on my iphone if I need a quick reference. With the iPad, do you have the ability to highlight or make comments on the PDF documents like you do on a computer or it still read only (if that) on iPad?

If they get enough textbooks going on the iPad, this would be much more useful for students who are considering Kindle or iPad. However, this means you can't sell back your books. :(

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

My husband is an app programer so we got an iPad but I haven't played with it yet. I have a laptop so I don't see what the fuss is about but I do want to draw on it. Thank you for posting that stylus as drawing with my finger is too awkward.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiz H Allen

Re: Kindle vs. iPad, it really depends not just on what you're planning to use it for, but also for how long at any given time. Having spent a little time with an iPad (not mine, just one I got a chance to play with), within a few minutes I had a)wrist problems, and b)eye problems. Now, for full disclosure, I have major problems with both my wrists and my eyes. I own a Kindle, and haven't had problems with either while using the Kindle. It's much lighter, and the unlit screen really helps when reading for long periods of time, which I love to do. What I was looking for in a handheld device was an e-reader and no more, and for that, I've found the Kindle to be superior. For anything else... well, the Kindle doesn't really do anything else.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIrina

Paula,
Fantastic review! Thanks for doing all that hard work so we don't have to - lol. I haven't gotten an iPad yet, but I am tempted. I tend not to be an early adopter on things like this because I like them to get the kinks worked out. Maybe in a year or two...

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Hedlund

I've been a little confused about WHAT exactly the iPad is. Is it Apple's version of the Kindle? Or is it a computer? Or something in between?

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Stop with the iPad reviews! You're making me edge closer to wanting one!

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristina Rodriguez

Oh, that iPad looks so pretty. So remarkably beautiful. Sigh.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate Fall

I wonder how much this costs???
It looks really cool, and a nice thing to carry to be able to type more outdoors. :)

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEzmirelda

A company called Power Support (www.powersupportusa.com I think?) makes an amazing anti-glare screen protector for iPad. It's the best thing you will ever buy for your iPad. I have this brand's same screen protector (also anti-glare) for my iPhone & iPod Touch and it's great. Seriously. Buy it. You won't regret it and you'll love your iPad even more. It's also easy to clean and barely even needs much more than a small dust-off. It's worth the $$. Hope that helps.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Todoro

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