Thursday, December 23, 2010

The iOS 4.2 experiment

The other week, I tried to work exclusively from my iPad. Yes, iOS 4.2 for the iPad finally lets you multitask. Eureka, it actually worked! But it was far from perfect.

I'm a writer by profession, something a lot of people seem to forget. My love for tech has some confusing me for a developer or a programmer. Even at work, some people think I'm a designer. I just wanted to set the record straight: I'm a writer. Lugging around a mid-range laptop is overkill for me. I do my writing on Apple's TextEdit program. Even Microsoft Word is too much for me. Sometimes I revert to pen and paper. It helps me to think.

Laptops are heavy. Given the chance to lighten my bag, I figured it  was worth a try. The iPad is by no means a laptop replacement, not even a netbook replacement, so I was really pushing it by trying to get all my work tasks done on an iPad.

First things first, I got myself a Bluetooth keyboard. The iPad virtual keyboard is useful, but I needed a BT keyboard for serious writing over long periods of time. Apple's BT keyboard is pretty, small and compact, works every time, and the two Eneloops I stuck inside last forever. But it's not cheap.

My original review of the iPad found it lacking because of the absence of multi-tasking. Now with iOS 4.2, multi-tasking has arrived. Things are vastly improved all around. The iPad now feels like the device it was meant to be. The question now is "Can I work on it?"

Below is a list of tasks and programs that I need to do my work. I have all these apps open at the same time.

The built-in email app works nicely. For some reason though, push notifications weren't working properly so I couldn't tell if I had new email or not. This push notification problem happened across all apps, so perhaps my work network was blocking it. I've yet to get to the bottom of this.

File Access
All my work files are on Dropbox, which syncs my work folder to the Internet. Through the Dropbox app, I can access all these files and send them to Pages, or Docs To Go, or Keynote. Sharing is one way though. Once the file is in Pages, for example, there's no way to get it back to Dropbox.

Word Processing
My word processor of choice on the iPad is Pages because it's the least cluttered. Once a file is done, I can easily send it via email, or sync it back to my laptop.

Part of my job is being on Facebook a lot. (Great job, I know!) So I always have a Facebook window open in Safari. Skipped the Facebook app for now because it's for the iPhone and I don't like magnifying apps. No Flash is definitely a bummer. I use Flash sites rarely enough, but sometimes those Flash sites are sites that we made, so I absolutely have to see them. No go on the iPad.

I'm not a fan of Twitter, but I have to say that Twitter for the iPad makes it much more useful. I love how there's a window that opens links automatically.

Instant Messaging
For now, I'm using IM+. (I prefer Fring, but there's no iPad app. IM+ isn't bad.) Because of the push notification problems I mentioned, IM is rendered useless.

A word on multi-tasking 
Double-clicking the home button shows all the apps that are currently open, and you can switch between apps easily. This workflow is a massive departure from the icon-desktop environment that work is usually done on. And it makes my head hurt. Really. I found myself double-clicking far more often than I needed to. There's something unintuitive about it. Maybe it's a paradigm that I'll get used to, but as of now, I find it troublesome. Going into apps to see your files is just weird.

Yes, you can get work done on your iPad. But not much. On a day full of meetings with perhaps a few hours in front of the computer, it's ideal. On those hellish days when you have to plug away for hours on end, you'll find yourself reaching for a laptop -- even if you have all the perfect iPad accessories like a keyboard, stand, and whatnot. I'm back to my laptop for now, heavier bag be damned, as work piled up. Looking forward to iPad days...

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