Thursday, November 18, 2010

On iPads and Productivity

So, as both of my readers likely know already, I recently acquired an iPad. I'd been planning to hold out for the the second generation, likely due out in April, but I just couldn't wait anymore. It actually turned out to be a win for everybody, though, because I raised the funds for the iPad by selling a bunch of junk that was just sitting around my house, unused and collecting dust. I cleared out a bunch of old books and CDs and all three of my old video games systems (a Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and N64). I also sold my NOOK e-reader, intending to read on the iPad (this I did with some trepidation, as I was worried about eye strain from reading on a backlit screen instead of the very lovely e-ink display of my NOOK, but so far, so good). So I effectively traded a bunch of crap that was taking up space for something I would use often and would take up considerably less space. Win all around.

The interesting thing is that I really thought I was just buying myself a toy. I figured I'd surf the web, maybe watch some videos, play some games, and read books on it. And in fact I do all those things, even more than I expected to. What I didn't expect - apart from the Spanish Inquisition - is how much of a productivity tool it would become. I do read for pleasure on it, in fact I'm working steadily through Brandon Sanderson's excellent The Way of Kings right now (well, not right now; you know what I mean). Additionally, though, I find myself doing a good bit more school-related reading than I expected. When researching for a paper a couple weeks ago, I collected several journal articles in PDF form. With the help of Dropbox (which I highly recommend, by the way) and an app called PDF Expert, I was able to get these PDFs onto my iPad and annotate them. Of course, you can read PDFs in Dropbox or iBooks, but PDF Expert makes it easier to mark them up, which is usually a necessity for me when I'm reading something for school - I have to have either some way to make separate notes or to mark up what I'm reading. Once I started writing said paper I was able, thanks to Scrivener 2's external folder sync feature and Notebooks for iPad, to work on it even when I not actually at my computer (not extensively, though, as Notebooks only edits plain text files - which means no italics or footnotes - and until iOS 4.2, there's no Greek keyboard on the iPad). Now, if I could only get the good people at Accordance to get it in gear and release their iOS app, I'll be set.

So, long story short, it turns out the iPad is actually more useful than I expected. Though if I were really interested in just being productive with it I would not have downloaded Plants vs. Zombies. Or Angry Birds. Or Fruit Ninja. Or Cut the Rope. Or Solitaire. Yeah.

P.S. If anybody's curious about my take on the various e-reader iPad apps, here it is: iBooks has the best user interface by far. The Kindle app is a distant second, only just marginally ahead of the NOOK app. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble, though, have a vastly larger selection of books than the iBookstore (and I'm finding Amazon's selection to be better than B&N's in some respects, most notably books related to my field of study). Most of my reading is done in the NOOK app, since I built up a not-insignificant library over the course of nearly a year owning a NOOK reader.

P.P.S. Pretty much everything Apple tells you about how spectacularly awesome the iPad is is true. What they don't tell you, however, is how much harder it is to keep an iPad's screen clean than an iPhone's. Especially if a certain grubby-fingered four-year-old likes to play with it.

1 comment:

Deniz Bevan said...

I am *this* close to getting one, if only for Scrivener. Claire's forum post the other day about being able to import song files and videos *into the document itself* as you work on it, got me all excited...