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Month: March 2012

Writing on the iPad

Writing on the iPad

During this month, iPads of March, one of the tasks that I have found brilliantly straightforward has been writing on the iPad.

20120319-135640.jpgI do quite a bit of writing: for this blog, and other personal and business websites, document and reports. I am also in the process of writing a book (or 2). Back on the Mac, I typically use the following writing tools:
– Pages (from the Apple iWork suite);
Scrivener;
– Google Docs;
Mars Edit;
iA Writer;
– TextEdit
Squarespace‘s custom CMS; and,
WordPress‘ custom CMS.

Moving to the iPad has been a fun journey. For reports and other documents, these tend to be done end to end in Pages. I am moving away from Google Docs, which is poorly supported on iOS anyway. I am frustrated by the lack of a Mac version of Pages that supports iCloud, but since I can print and distribute documents easily from the iPad, this isn’t as big a hurdle as I thought it might be.

One notable direction for me in recent times has been the adoption of John Gruber’s Markdown approach. This is an approach for writers to be able to focus on writing, and then be able format in an easy manner, then publish to the web or use apps that translate the formating into their own requirements. For web, thats HTML, while for other apps it varies.

Markdown allows a non-distracting environment to focus on writing, then worry about publishing later. Traditional tools like MS Word, and even Pages and Scrivener, kind of lead the writer to procrastinate with formatting, rather than focus on content. To paraphrase Kenny Rogers, there’ll be time enough for formatting, when the writing’s done!

There are a bunch of apps allowing writers to write on iOS in markdown, and then easily copy to their desktop later. For a while I’ve been using iA Writer on both Mac and iOS, and have been loving the simplicity. Its sports a great, non-distracting UI that really lets you focus on the task of writing. It supports iCloud to sync between iPad and Mac versions, and recently it has sported a brand new iPhone version. Seamless writing, everywhere.

So for my book writing, I would work on individual sections in iA Writer, then when done, copy over to Scrivener, which handles Markdown nicely.

For web publishing, this was a little harder, as I wanted to be able to publish from the iPad, but getting code translated from Markdown to HTML wasn’t straightforward, and I am not aware of a blog editor for iPad that accepts Markdown. I don’t think it’ll be long before someone comes out with something to suit.

Last Thursday, the good people at Metaclassy launched a new version of their Byword app for Mac, and also launched Byword for iOS (iPad and iPhone). This nice little app shares a lot of the best features of iA Writer (iCloud, simple UI, etc), and adds a couple of great features, including the ability to print from the iOS app (AirPrint or similar required), and importantly, the ability to export HTML from the file, or simply have the HTML output copied to the clipboard. This can easily be pasted into the Squarespace or WordPress iOS apps (which only supports HTML) for publishing. I can also copy and paste the markdown text from the Mac version of the app straight into Scrivener.

I am using Byword deeply now as my main writing tool on the iPad. To post this blog, I will simply copy and paste the HTML into the WordPress app, add this screen shot image, add category/tag info and publish. For book style writing, I work on the files in Byword, and then copy and paste completed sections into Scrivener back on the Mac.

I am loving Byword – it gives me just the right mix of simplicity and power. Its just about perfect in my work so far.

Its an exciting time in using the iPad as a primary tool. Not only is there a new version on the market, but there are a host of new apps that make mobile productivity even better. For writing, the iPad has truly come of age as a production tool, and is far than a simple consumption device!

Out and About During the iPads of March

Out and About During the iPads of March

20120315-225323.jpgMy iPads of March experience is swimming along nicely, and not only have I not needed to use my MacBook Air at all away from home or office, I’ve actually found that I haven’t been using it much at all. I am writing this now sitting at my office desk, using my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard. I haven’t even brought my notebook with me today.

Its actually nice not having to lug it around, and of course, among notebooks the MacBook Air is the pick of the crop when it comes to luggable power computing!

Yesterday I caught the train into the city for a couple of appointments, and a visit to the Apple Store. I usually drive, and not only did I get to avoid the 60-90 minute commute and stress levels that come with that, I actually got to do some work. I updated 2 documents and created a third from scratch, checked emails, worked on some spreadsheets and surfed the web a little, all while sitting on the train, and in a coffee shop before/after appointments.

For documents and spreadsheets, the Apple iWork apps of Pages and Numbers, coupled with iCloud, are fantastic. I had a short bus trip before and after one appointment, and it was brilliant to be able to keep working on the same document on the iPhone, as the bus was a bit too crowded and the trip a bit too short to warrant using the iPad.

All this work was done using the on-screen keyboard, as I didn’t really want to bring a bluetooth keyboard with me. I’ve found in the past that in my bag, the keyboard would sometimes be bumped and turn on and thus I’d lose my on-screen keyboard. I decided that I need a better way to carry a keyboard, and so my journey to the Bondi Apple Store resulted in the purchase of the Incase Origami Workstation (see photo).

I’ve only been using the case for 24 hours, and I love it. It makes heavy duty writing much easier.

So my iPads of March experiment is going well. I am finding that my productivity on the go is going well, and that there are few things I can’t reliably do using the device. The iWork apps are a great foundation, and the Incase case makes life easier. Over the next few posts, I’ll talk about further apps that make life easier. I have found a couple of "productivity gaps", and also plan to cover those.

The Canning of iWork.com

The Canning of iWork.com

According to MacRumours.com, Apple’s iWork.com services is being canned from 31st July 2012.

I am sure this is hardly a surprise to anyone, given that it has been a little underwhelming. I’m a pretty hardcore Apple / iWork / iCloud user, and I never really got what iWork.com’s use case would be, at least for me. I have used it once or twice, mainly for quick sharing of an iWork document from iPad, but that would be it.

I think iWork.com functionality is still needed for collaboration. Even if its not been heavily used at this time, such functionality has to be part of Apple’s long term plan for iCloud and iWork.

The timing of this is interesting. 31st July is “late (northern hemisphere) Summer 2012”, the timing Apple has specified for the full launch of OSX Mountain Lion. I somehow expect that there will be new functionality baked into OSX Mountain Lion and iCloud that will easily allow document collaboration between users.

As I’ve stated in the last few posts, iWork on OSX desparately needs iCloud’s Documents in the Cloud feature enabled. Until then iCloud is going to be clunky compared to DropBox for desktop users, though it does have the advantage for users that are predominately iOS based. For users that switch back and forth (like me, and most others I reckon), either solution is clunky.

I hope that Documents in the Cloud for OSX will be opened up soon – much sooner than 31st July. It certainly needs to be before MS Office is released on iOS.

But, I look forward to the concept of document collaboration between users being baked into iWork and iCloud, from OSX or iOS.

New iPad Launch and My Predictions

New iPad Launch and My Predictions

So the launch of the iPad 3 iPad H “new” iPad has come and gone, and we have an exciting new iPad on the scene. For a quick review, I should start off with my predictions for the iPad 3 launch, which I posted the night before the event. I’ll add some commentary to each of these on my initial thoughts.

1. iPad 3 with double pixel display, LTE and better cameras.

Almost 100% right, but fairly obvious. Of course, it isn’t an iPad “3”, and it seems only one of the cameras is improved. But it is quite “resolutionary“.

Of course, the LTE (4G) functionality will be brilliant for those who work out of a set environment (like I do regularly), and the personal hotspot feature may actually save money (one less device to carry around, and one less mobile broadband account to pay for). It will be interesting to see if Telstra will allow that feature…

The double pixel display (“retina display”) is going to be great for people who work in content. As I am writing this (on my iPad 2), I am also writing a couple of books, reviewing and preparing reports for consulting project clients, and regularly conducting scuba diving and first aid instructor programs. For all of these things, this is a great device.

There are of course other new features that are great, including the new Bluetooth capabilities.

So will I get one. Yes, but not immediately. I would pre-order one straight away if I didn’t have an iPad 2, but am going to wait and see a little bit to see what Telstra does, and to play with one in store. The new iPad is great, but my iPad 2 is still brilliant, and I am good with that for now.

2. iPhoto or Aperture for iPad

Nailed this one. iPhoto made more sense than Aperture, because it rounds out the iLife suite on iOS.

This is a great app, and I am certainly going to play with it, and probably do a full review later during my iPads of March. The (pleasant) surprise in this for me was the fact that it is an iOS app that works nicely on the iPhone. I particularly like the ability to be able to send images between an iPhone and iPad, via WiFi or Bluetooth.

3. Apple TV with HD Display

Again, nailed it. Again, this was pretty obvious.

I do like the new UI design. Apple is clearly bringing the UX on devices like the Apple TV (and Mac) much closer to the iOS standard found on iPad and iPhone (yes, I know Apple TV is an iOS device, but previously the UX was quite different).

This new UX seems to lay a better foundation for future third party “app-ification” of the Apple TV.

4. iTunes Movies (and possibly Television shows) in HD

Done. Its good to see Apple getting behind 1080p. Of course, the new iPad and new Apple TV made that necessary. And vice versa.

5. iOS 5.1

Done. Again obvious.

Downloaded to 2 iPhones, an iPad and an Apple TV. Working well all round. The changes are most noticeable on the Apple TV, but some nice tweaks on other devices.

I look forward to better battery life.

6. iWork ’12, featuring built in iCloud support

Should’ve been clearer that I was refering to the OSX version of iWork.

This was my “stretch prediction”, and sadly it missed. I have to believe that it must be imminent. If Apple wants to continue to make inroads to corporate and institutional customers, it needs this integration to be seamless.

And it needs to do that before the rumoured MS Office for iPad is released.

Final Thoughts

5 out of 6 predictions isn’t too bad, but I admit that 4 of those (other than the iPhoto one) were pretty obvious.

Apple is clearly setting the scene with the tablet market space, and competitors are struggling to compete. Whilst there are other, competent, tablets out there, I reckon the “new iPad” will maintain number 1 position, by a mile, for the next year, and iPad 2 will be the number 2. The iPad 2 is clearly being targeted to more price sensitive markets, such as education.

Apple also released a slew of new and updated apps yesterday, including all iWork and iLife apps on iOS, and a number of OSX apps, including iLife and iBooks Author. I like the look of the new configurator app that allows centralised control of a fleet of iOS devices. Again, clearly a play for corporate and institutional customers.

My iPad Launch Predictions

My iPad Launch Predictions

We’re less than ten hours away from the big iPad 3 iPad HD launch, and considering I am in my iPads of March, it’s a topic I am thinking lots about. So I thought I would make my predictions about what we might see. Of course, a lot of thesis just repeating what other, more knowledgeable people, have predicted, but what the hell.

So here goes:

  1. iPad 3 with double pixel display, LTE and better cameras
  2. iPhoto or Aperture for iPad
  3. Apple TV with HD display
  4. iTunes Movies (and possibly Television shows) in HD
  5. iOS 5.1
  6. iWork ’12, featuring built in iCloud support

Of these, 1, 3 & 4 are commonly predicted. I think photo management (#2) on the iPad is definitely something we want to “see. And touch“.

As for item 5, I reckon that’s a no-brainer. iOS 5.1 is going to be needed for items 1 & 3, and should e interesting to see if it has any secret new features.

Now item 6 is my stretch prediction. Maybe it’s because it’s something I want need to see. It’s high time that iWork on the Mac supported iCloud, and I don’t think Apple can afford to wait until the release of OSX Mountain Lion in 6 months or so.

So check back in tomorrow and we’ll see how I went.

The iPads of March

The iPads of March

I’ve had an iPad, and an iPad 2 since the day each was launched in Australia. My iPads have been fantastic tools for me around home, and on the road. But they’ve to date been secondary devices, with my MacBook Air or iMac being my primary computing devices.

With the steadily increasing number of apps taking advantage of the more powerful features of iPad, and more recently iCloud, it has been becoming more apparent to me that iPad has a very real potential to be a main device away from base. I can see a not-to-distant future where my computing needs will be served by a powerful machine such as an iMac, along with my iPad and iPhone while away from home.

I want to see how close this “reality” is. So a couple of weeks ago I decided that for a month I would use my iPad exclusively when away from office/home for a month (aside from my iPhone of course), and as the preferred device at home/office.

So, for me March is the month I immerse myself with iPad as my main computing device.

My business and pasttime activities are varied, and I use technology extensively across all of them. I teach scuba and first aid instructor courses, consult to businesses in and out of the recreational dive industry, teach karate, run a small business and am a partner in a business that is developing some apps. I am also president of the Australian Shorinjiryu Karatedo Association. In these roles, I give preparations to various sized groups, write reports, conduct research, edit photos and videos, watch videos and so forth. I am also in the process of writing 2 books.

I plan to blog regularly about my experiences in this, the iPads of March. I will cover successes, challenges and things where iPad falls down as. Primary computing device. Please follow this blog to stay up to date with my experiences.