A year with an iPad: How it's changed me

InfoWorld's mobile columnist reflects on how using an iPad has changed how, when, and where he works, reads, and entertains himself

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Since getting an iPad, I find myself touching lots of screens, such as the checkout terminals in grocery stores and ATM screens. When they don't respond, I'm taken aback -- but I've noticed more and more now responding to finger touch.

The easy navigation certainly simplifies media consumption, but the scalable text in most apps has an advantage my nearly 50-year-old eyes appreciate quickly: Rather than squint or fumble for my reading glasses (likely nowhere near me), I can adjust the text in books, magazines, newspapers, and Web pages so that they're readable. As a result, I read much more than I had before -- because I can. And when a website or app -- such as Google's search pages or Apple's Mail client -- don't let me enlarge the text, I get really annoyed.

I've reached the point where I've converted nearly all my magazine and newspaper subscriptions to digital-only, which has the nice side effect of saving trees. (The Economist's iPad and iPhone apps are great examples of how to do digital magazines right.) I say "nearly all" because some publications aren't available yet for the iPad (Smithsonian), are available only at a per-issue charge on top of the print subscription (Consumer Reports), or are available only as essentially a glorified PDF product minus the ability to zoom (National Geographic). Guess which publications I'm least likely to renew?

The iPad is also comfortable to hold for long periods of time, and due to its light weight and small size, it's ideal for plane and train travel. I can load the iPad with a half-dozen books and movies without increasing its weight -- which means my bag is not as full and stands a chance of fitting under the seat in front of me. And in today's scrunched airplane seats, I can see (and type on) the iPad screen on the tray table, whereas my Mac is too big to fit in the same space and have its monitor tilted back far enough to read. In hotels with dozens of channels of trashy TV, I can stay entertained on business trips.

What I rarely do with the iPad is listen to music or radio. That happens on my iPhone, which I can put in a shirt or jacket pocket and have the earbud cable not get tangled on passing objects or force me to keep one hand engaged in holding the device, as would be the case with an iPad.

Messaging and monitoring
When working on my computer, I still use my iPad to handle much of my messaging: monitoring and replying to emails, tweeting, checking various news and blog sites, and watching the status of story flow in InfoWorld's content management system. Yes, I can do all those things on the Mac, but with the iPad as an auxiliary computer, I can use the Mac for more intensive editing, layout, and production work and swivel to the iPad on my desk's return to keep track of and respond to everything else. (I do use the Mac's email when I need to send an attachment in a reply, since that file is likely to be on the computer.)

I didn't expect the iPad to become my communications and monitoring companion device, but it has.

When I'm traveling -- to a meeting or across the country -- I can do a lot of routine work on the iPad, from editing stories to conducting research. I no longer take my MacBook with me on trips of fewer than three days. When I bring both, the Mac stays in the hotel room for intense work at the start and end of the day, and the iPad comes with me everywhere else. Not only does its 10-hour battery life make that plausible, its light weight and easy connectivity makes it better suited for on-the-go work.

It's also amazing how often a question comes up when I reach for my iPad and find out via a quick Web search -- if I'm a passenger in a car or taxi, for example, or sitting in an airport lounge or bulding lobby. I've found myself doing the same when I want to check the status quickly on some task or if I realize I want to make a small change to a piece I've written or edited. I can do it almost anywhere and almost any time -- so I do. The iPhone can also help in these occurrences, but I favor the iPad's larger screen and keyboard -- as long as I'm able sit or put it on a work surface. If I'm standing on a train or in a line, the iPhone is the tool I use.

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