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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Doing "real" work on the iPad
Many people complain about onscreen keyboards and simply can't imagine writing or editing an extensive piece that requires a keyboard in the iPad. Be patient -- it took me a few weeks to get comfortable typing on the onscreen keyboard. It may help that I'm not a touch-typist and make lots of typos even on a regular keyboard -- facts I've long come to terms with. I don't get upset that I make even more mistakes on the onscreen keyboard. It's easy enough to fix later, after all.

I have no trouble writing email tomes from the iPad, even on a bus or train. I've covered major events from cramped theater seats on the iPad, with the audience none the wiser. I routinely take notes on the iPad when doing phone interviews (you need a headset to be able to type), which has it advantages. My notes won't need to be transcribed later and they sync automatically to my email server, so I have an instant backup and the ability to share it with colleagues immediately.

I've tried using a Bluetooth keyboard, which is easier to type on, but you have to do so much via touch gestures that your hands end up leaving the keyboard a lot, and switching back and forth is annoying. Unless I'm doing stenography-style meeting notes or typing a paper, I find the Bluetooth keyboard to be more of a distraction than a productivity aid.

Where work gets tricker is when you deal with formatting and other attributes. There are no shortcuts for boldface or indenting on the iPad, even for apps that support such formatting, so you have to stop, select text, and apply the relevant controls. It's not hard, but it's a much more awkward process than using a keyboard and mouse on a computer. If you use special characters such as for HTML coding, the keyboard mode switching required really slows you down. For example, when I edit text on the iPad, it takes me about twice as long as on the Mac. That's fine if I'm at a conference for a few days, where lugging the laptop would be a greater net inconvenience. But it's why I couldn't rely solely on an iPad.

For presentations, Apple's Keynote is simply amazing, letting you create, edit, and play back presentations easily. The iPad is a great presentation device, especially if you use an iPhone or iPod Touch as a remote control; you can walk the stage while giving your presentation from the easy-to-carry, long-lived iPad. And you can easily give personal presentations anywhere by simply handing your iPad to the other person.

Obvously, the nature of your work has a huge effect on this iPad/PC balancing act. But the net effect is that I can work more flexibly and stay better in touch and informed with the iPad than without it -- though at the price of working more, or at least of falling victim to obsessive emailing, tweeting, and other such monitoring.

A year later, the iPad has made itself a key part of my personal and professional workflows. I read more, I lug less around on trips, I am more aware and in touch, and I can be more flexible in when and where I work. And I still really enjoy using it.

This article, "A year with an iPad: How it has changed me," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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