What to do with your new iPad
Congratulations, one of the most important decisions is to start something new and your decision to buy an iPad is the start of something good that can provide you with hours of enjoyment and accomplishment. When it was first introduced the iPad was misunderstood and compared against the specifications of previous computers. Since then it truly has ushered a breakthrough in how we interact with computers and as the software has developed the debate over whether it was just good for consumption of games, movies, books, and music vs. also being capable for creative productive work has been answered by the improvements in the iWork and iLife software from Apple and the many third party apps in every category you can imagine. New innovative apps are introduced every day to make the iPad a multifunctional multisensor device that truly provides new ways of expression and enjoyment.
Buying an iPad
First you have some decisions to make regarding which model to choose:
– iPad2 vs the new iPad which I will call iPad3 or even the rumoured iPad (Mini or Air model available this fall?)
– Wifi only or Wifi with cellular
– Amount of storage (16GB, 32GB, 64GB)
iPad2 is still sold for people who want the currently most affordable iPad. If this is the most important criteria for you then you might want to wait and see if the rumours of an iPad Mini/Air introduction this fall are true. The iPad mini is rumoured to have a smaller 7" screen and a price which might be as low as $200. The iPad2 is available for $419 but when compared to the iPad3 it is not as fast, doesn’t have as high resolution screen, and can’t run Siri which is Apple’s new voice control technology that is the start of another new way to communicate with computers. The iPad3 is $519 in the base configuration with 16GB storage and Wifi networking.
Your second major decision is to determine whether you want Wifi only or also want cellular networking for $200 more. Cellular networking has advanced to use Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology which gives you broadband speeds when roaming about the city. This will cost you about $20 per month for a data plan on top of what you are already probably paying for an iPhone cellular contract. What this gets you is mostly ubiquitous always on connectivity as opposed to connectivity only when you are at home or at some fast food and coffee shop hot spots.
Your third decision is how much storage you want. Usually the more the better especially if you want to store a lot of apps, music, photos, movies and documents. If you have a desktop computer you can reduce your mobile storage needs somewhat by shuffling information back and forth between computers. If you are thinking ahead to reselling your iPad when a new model comes out each year it might actually be beneficial to get the low storage model because it is easier to resell to late adopters who want the lowest entry price to the iPad experience.
What is Included
What really makes the iPad tablet so useful is that it allows you to use a touch interface to interact with software more directly and the iPad itself at its best recedes into the background as a thin piece of glass that acts like a window into a dedicated software app. Out of the box you have:
– Safari web browser (this is a top mobile browser whose usage is a testament to its effectiveness on mobile devices)
– Contacts (basic but functional database for organizing people and company information)
– Calendar (schedule events and also will list your todos)
– Reminders (list of todos that can notify you when they are due)
– Maps (search for locations and get directions for getting from a to b; Apple version replacing Google version in IOS 6)
– Mail (integrated mailbox for managing multiple email accounts)
– Photos (Organize view and show your photos)
– Camera (snap photos or videos with the camera that is always with you)
– Notes (basic note taking that syncs to Mac and iPhone)
– Messages (texting and messaging which can work with or replace text messaging from a cellular carrier)
– iBooks (only one book included although some additional ones are available for free)
– YouTube video player (although this will be replaced in the new IOS6 software this fall with a Google version)
– Music (this app has the functionality of a premium ipod)
– Podcast (create your own custom radio station with this app that was recently separated from the music app)
All in all the iPad has enough software for it to be quite functional in its original configuration.
There is a lot of software apps available in the app store for free or at a small cost which usually ranges from $1 to $5 dollars. There are three categories of software:
– iPhone software
– iPad software which often is referred to as the HD version
iPhone apps will work on the iPad either in their original size or doubled to fill the iPad screen but it is preferable to purchase the iPad optimized version when available or the universal version which can be run on both devices as a single purchase.
The recommended systems approach is to document your requirements so you can use these criteria for picking the app that best meets your needs. Although there are lots of inexpensive or even free apps in every category, each app you try and have to learn to be proficient with it carries a time cost that can be significant even though iPad apps tend to be easy to use and mostly intuitive. An example of an app feature comparison is Brett Terpstra’s exhaustive text editor comparison. The iPad has a very rich selection of text editors to chose from. This allows you to use the best tool for the job but it is desirable to simplify your workflows by limiting the number of apps of each type that you use.
There is a lot of software to choose from in the app store and one of the weaknesses of the store is that it is hard to find the best software because there is often multiple choices for each type of app and they can have similar names. Some really excellent software is available for free:
– Simplenote is an enhancement of the notes app that can sync text documents with versions on the web and other computers
– Instapaper lets you save pages for reading later and improves the reading experience by removing visual clutter that distracts from the content
– Evernote can save fully formatted documents that include pictures and keep them in sync with versions on other computers
– There is a wide variety of fitness and food apps of which my go to selections are MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, and SportsTap.
Paid for Software
Some iPad apps can be purchased outright and others have free versions with in-app purchases to upgrade to a premium version or to pay for extra features:
– Keynote presentation software that now syncs with the Mac version using iCloud
– Pages formatted document app that now syncs with the Mac version using iCloud
– Numbers spreadsheet app that now syncs with the Mac version using iCloud
– iThoughts HD is a very powerful and flexible mindmapping outliner for organizing and viewing ideas
– OmniFocus is a premium ($20) task manager to organize and tracks thing you want to get done
– OmniPlan is a full fledged project management app
– OmniGraffle is an expensive ($50) premium diagramming app
– OmniOutliner is a outlining app for organizing documents
– Textexpander touch lets you type in abbreviations that expand into frequently used phrases – saves typing
– Launchcenter Pro is a way of activating app actions with a couple of taps – very efficient
– Scanner Pro usese the iPad camera as a scanner and Docscanner provides iPad Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
– GoodReader, iAnnotate, PDFpen all let you manage, annotate, and work with PDF documents
– iPhoto and iMovie provide the capability for editing photos and movies right on your iPad
– Soulver does text and calculations so you can document the rationale for your calculations
– Bento is a general purpose database with all sorts of templates you can customize to your needs
– Mr. Reader is an attractive RSS reader with an interface that effectively utilizes the iPad’s strength as an article reader
– Diet Coda, Blogsy, and Posts are all very capable for publishing to your blog or web site
– Facebook, Tweetbot, LinkedIn, and Google+ are apps for social networking with your iPad
– Audiomemos, Dragon Dictation, GarageBand, Magic Piano, and Soundslate are examples of audio apps in addition to many writing apps that have built in audio support.
– YNAB and iBank are my favorite financial management apps
Many more apps could be listed as Apple says, “There is an app for that”. The examples provided are some of the ones I have found to be most valuable.
In February 2010 SharpBrains did a review that gave the iPad a thumbs up for brain fitness value. The iPad has matured since then with two new hardware versions and several software revisions including the introduction of a large number and variety of quality apps in the Apple store. It has realized a lot of potential as a tool to expand the mind and create all sorts of productive digital works. Here are the original criteria that were used to evaluate the iPad as a brain fitness tool:
– Powerful personal task manager (basics included and powerful versions from 3rd parties e.g. OmniFocus, Things)
– Graphic Organizer (notable 3rd party example is OmniGraffle and Apple has provided Keynote)
– Powerful outliner (notable 3rd party examples are OmniOutliner and iThoughts HD)
– Several dictionaries/thesaurus (e.g. Wordbook XL, Blends, Terminology) are available from 3rd parties
– User activity monitor (this area still needs improvement but there are several 3rd party apps like Toggl for time tracking)
– Integrated self testing system: Third party app Mental Case is a learning system utilizing flash cards that can be developed or downloaded from online sources
Major Cognitive Features:
– System Integration and syncing (this has improved over time especially with system software upgrades and iCloud)
– Rich annotation framework (Pages has improved and there are many PDF markup apps)
– Collaboration has been enhanced with the syncing capabilities and sharing features of recent IOS updates.
– Attention protection (this is an area that has new features in IOS 5 notifications and more planned in IOS 6 like do not disturb)
– Affordable rated content (There is a lot of content available from the iBook store, iTunes University, and Amazon)
The main areas where improvement is needed are:
– System Integration and syncing: iCloud has been improving and has largely been incorporated in Apple’s own apps but it is notable that many 3rd party developers have not yet included iCloud syncing or have already developed their own syncing technology. Information transfer was a weakness of the original iPad which was limited to iTunes tethering to a Mac or transfer of files through email. Over the air syncing has been developed for Apple apps and iCloud has been used by some developers (e.g. IAwriter and ByWord) but others, most notably the OmniGroup, have yet to develop their own document sync solution because they don’t see iCloud as meeting their requirements. Another example is the recent revision to the Drafts app which chose Simperium syncing as implemented in the Simplenote app. Other apps have used DropBox folder syncing technology.
– Annotation Framework: Annotation has been limited by lack of standardization in the use of PDF. Not all PDF annotation is recognized in all PDF apps. Annotation also could be improved to be more interoperable and social for eBooks which have different formats such as Apple using epub and Amazon using mobi. This is also complicated by digital rights management protection which creates silos of content that aren’t easily transferrable.
– User activity monitor: Privacy is a concern so this area has probably been avoided in order to sidestep privacy complaints. This has lead to the currently clumsy and highly manual time/activity tracking processes due to lack of system support.
– Collaboration has been complicated by Apple’s initiative to simplify the filing system and to create application silos and sandboxing for security. The challenge is to retain simplicity and security while still having the flexibility to share information between apps.
– Interface evolution: Siri is an important part of expanding the interaction that can be done through voice recognition. Currently Apple’s version of voice dictation is very limited by only being able to do short segments at a time and the rollout of Siri has been restricted to the iPhone 4S until IOS 6 when it will be available for the iPad 3.
Although the screen keyboard is quite functional and works well for portability there are many keyboard and stand accessories available when extensive typing is planned. An excellent combination is the Origami case/stand with the Apple bluetooth keyboard.
Two recommended references are the “iPad at work” ebook by MacSparky which provides in depth descriptions of software for doing real creative work with the iPad and the SCOtutor video tutorial series by Don McAllister which provides training on how to use the iPad and IOS software most effectively.