Monday, July 5, 2010

The iPad: Why I love it, and why I don’t write on it

I have been contemplating what the best ways are to increase the speed with which one writes and this is connected more or less with the tool one uses in order to amplify one's speed. And as we all know there are as many writing tools as there are types of writers, so here I am asking the good people that I know to share their interaction with the modern and classic tools. First post id done by Adam Christopher and covers the brand new space technology that is the iPad.

---

The iPad: why I love it, and why I don’t write on it.

It’s perhaps no surprise that as a writer of science fictiony stuff (sometimes) that I’m something of a gadget freak. Well, that’s not true. I don’t like tech for the sake of tech, and while the smell of a freshly unwrapped bluetooth keyboard is something divine, any gear I choose to get must have function and utility. I’m also one of those writers who has to put up with a day gig at the same time as getting my daily wordcount down, so I’m on the constant look-out for things to make my life easier, simpler, and to allow me to make more efficient use of time. Because time, my friends, is what I’m short of.

I’ve been waxing lyrical over the iPad since I got my hands on one back at the end of May. I’ve got a desktop computer, an iPod touch, and a laptop, but the iPad filled enough of a gap in my device ‘repertoire’ that I thought it would be an essential purchase. As it happens, I was right, and I’m now inseparable from it. But not for the reasons I expected.

What I find useful about my iPad is its utility as a planning device, rather than a writing device. I don’t think it’s a laptop replacement, but nor do I think it’s just a big iPod touch/iPhone. It is, however, now an essential writing tool for me, even if I don’t actually do any writing on it.

Getting creative

There are numerous apps for the iPad that allow it to be used as a writing device, from Apple’s own Pages app, to the built-in Notes app, and a myriad of office-like, notepad-like apps. The touch-screen keyboard is actually extremely pleasant to type on, but if that doesn’t suit you can always go for a bluetooth keyboard, or the iPad keyboard dock.

However, I haven’t written any fiction on the iPad, and I don’t think I ever will. The touch-screen keyboard is nice but not fast or accurate enough for me when I’m in full-flow – I’m fortunate in that I’m a very fast typer, which is handy given that I think faster than I type, so at least my fingers have some chance of keeping up! On the iPad this just leads to frustration – while a prodigious words per minute can be achieved with practice, it’s just not quite what I need.

I’m also in the fortunate (some say) position that I work from home, so on the rare occasions when I have had to go out and about with the iPad, the thought of carting a Bluetooth keyboard or keyboard dock around with me doesn’t appeal, although for those with a long commute, say by train, I can see how this is less of an issue. When I’m at home, I write on my iMac. When I’m out, I’m rarely out for long enough with the iPad to need to commit to any serious writing time. Editing and planning and plotting, sure. But the iPad is just too much of a hindrance to actually write any fiction.

Planning makes perfect

So what do I use the iPad for if not writing? Well, as it happens, I think the iPad is the perfect planning device.

Now, a caveat here: I didn’t fork out £600 for a snazzy, if heavy, glass filofax. As an on-the-go mobile internet device, it is second-to-none. But that’s for another discussion. I’m talking here about using the iPad for writing, and as a writing tool, the iPad is my planner. Allow me to explain.

On one hand, I’m a classic geek who likes his routines, but on the other I’m terrible at time management. The iPad has changed that fundamentally – the combination of the Calendar app and the ToDo listmaker from Appigo has, quite frankly, revolutionised the way I plan my work. But that’s just basics. Here’s a couple of apps I’ve found incredibly useful, if not essential.

Corkulous

A virtual corkboard, Corkulous is now my one-stop shop for novel planning. As I research a book, developing the plot and characters, I usually collect interesting snippets – photographs, artwork, little bits and pieces of info. Before, I used to just have all this in a folder, unordered, and would frequently forget what nuggets I’d hidden. In Corkulous, I create a corkboard for each project and just start sticking things to it. It’s identical to its real-life counterpart, but the advantage being I don’t need to give up an real wall space!

DropBox

This is the daddy of amazingly useful apps. DropBox is a free cloud storage service that is rapidly becoming the essential online backup tool for writers, Mac and Windows alike. Having access to my DropBox on the iPad has been a real boon, allowing me to work mostly on edits while out (as I said, I don’t do any writing, but editing documents in Pages is fine). Unfortunately not many other apps will save back to the DropBox, which is not such an issue as I just email files back home. Not a perfect solution by any means, but one that will hopefully be addressed over time as more apps adopt DropBox as a cloud storage option.

So, that’s it?

This may be a list of a whole entire two applications, but their utility in helping me write shouldn’t be underestimated. As far as planning goes, Corkulous can’t be beaten, and DropBox allows me to stay productive even if its not for actual writing.

Are there any solutions to my iPad writing problem? I’m not entirely sure. I think I’ve reached my maximum typing speed on the touch-screen, and I have no real need for an external keyboard. The lack of pointer is another issue entirely, but once you add a mouse and big keyboard you’ve got a laptop, which is precisely missing the point.

---

ADAM CHRISTOPHER
was born in Auckland, New Zealand. In 2006 he moved to the sunny North West of England, where he lives in domestic bliss with wife and cat. When not writing, Adam can be found drinking tea, reading Green Lantern comics, and annoying friends at his local fencing club by being incredibly bad at épée.

4 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I wondered about writing on this. I kind of figured that about the keypad.

Harry Markov said...

We do not have access to that light years ahead technology here and I imagine it being a decade before the prices drop to something more affordable. By that time I am positive the technology would have moved on...

T.S. Bazelli said...

I never thought of using the IPad this way, but you opened up a bunch of new possibilities. I like the idea of being able to do edits anywhere, and the Corkulous app sounds like something I could use right now.

But I don't have an IPad. I'll just have to keep lusting over it for now.

Harry Markov said...

It sucks not to have one. I for one am a sucker for the whole touch screen concept. It's very futuristic and I can imagine being on board of a spaceship. Heh, geek moment I guess...