Friday, April 9, 2010

Trying the iPad

I tried an iPad briefly last night (with just enough time to take a photograph). My impressions:

The display is beautiful.

Typing — with the iPad propped up at an angle on a low table — is easier than I had expected but still tedious. I was reminded of what it’s like when I catch and correct typos on a cellphone. Because I’m looking at the keys and not the screen, I don’t see typos until I’m well past them. Tedious.

The touchscreen is not as intuitive as I had imagined. In Pages, for instance, swiping a finger across a stretch of text seems not to highlight that stretch for copying or deleting. The iBooks application does allow for highlighting and bookmarking a passage with a swipe but does not allow for annotating (according to the Apple employee I asked).

Web pages display slowly. I wondered for a moment whether there was a wireless problem. The lack of speed and the absence of tabs — it’s one page at a time — might make the iPad well suited to limited, purposeful browsing — check e-mail, check news, check stats — but I can’t imagine using this device to go surfing down rabbit-holes.

Nor, as of now, can I imagine buying an iPad. Maybe later.

¹ What? You don’t correct typos when texting?

comments: 5

Elaine Fine said...

I tried it too.

I found it useless for the one thing I would like to use it for: reading music PDF files. It won't allow you to switch from landscape to portrait when reading PDF files, and the window is just too small to fit more than a few systems of a piano score. Sure, someone will find a way to make money by creating ipad-specific music (actually, they have), but the machine is useless for using the hundreds of thousands of high-quality pieces of Public Domain music that are already in free archives on line.

I'm not holding my breath, but I do hope that some clever musically-minded hardware developer will create something mac-friendly that is truly useful for music. My wish list would include a viewing area that is at least 8 1/2 x 11, readability under all stage conditions, silence, a page-turning option (a button on the lower or upper right-hand corner of the device would do--with options to turn forward or back to account for repeats). It would be great if it were light weight and as thin (or thinner) than the ipad.

jw said...

Just a short note about two items you mentioned: highlighting and tabs.

The manner of highlighting text on the ipad is the same as on the iPhone, which, while it does take a few minutes to figure it out, is really no less intuitive than the mouse-based system you're accustomed to. Neither is actually intuitive, really: double-click to select a whole word, for example, is easy but by no means obvious.

For tabs, mobile Safari uses a different metaphor to achieve the same end. If you note the doubled-square icon on the menu bar, that switches between open pages, all (like tabs) filling the same area of the screen. There is a defined limit, so unlike tabs you can't have 50 open at once, but I don't imagine anyone being productive with 50 tabs open anyway. This is another case of different-but-not-worse.

I expect I'll someday purchase an ipad; I expect we all will. Today isn't that day for either of us, it appears.

Michael Leddy said...

Elaine, maybe someone is working on it right now (but it’ll cost).

JW, thanks for the clarifications. What puzzled me with Pages is that I didn’t see text highlighted, so I couldn’t figure out what, if anything, I was selecting. What’s keeping you from buying an iPad?

jw said...

I've got three reasons why an iPad isn't ideal for me at present:

1. I'm two weeks from my PhD candidacy exams. I don't need a shiny new anything to distract me now.

2. While I'm sure that once an iPad made its way into my house I'd think it an indispensable part of our life, that isn't apparent yet. And without that motivation, our budget sees an iPad as a luxury rather than a necessity. And there's no place in our budget for $500 luxuries right now.

3. There's no mechanism at our house to keep a device like the iPad from becoming community property, and I'm not ready to put something so expensive into the hands of the destructive young that inhabit my house. An iMac we can keep on the desk and keep (mostly) free from ruination, and my iPhone stays in my pocket; the iPad is neither pocketable nor anchorable, and so my kids would either (a) destroy it or (b) fight incessantly over it.

Number 3 is the easiest to overcome, since it's really just my sour-grapes explanation that shifts the blame away from me. After my exam, however, my wife and I will have A Serious Discussion about it.

Michael Leddy said...

If I had an iPhone, I’d find it harder to see the iPad as a possibility. (Two devices to carry?) But as it is, I’m happy as a marine bivalve mollusk with just my MacBook, so far.

Best wishes for your exam and the subsequent discussion.