25.4.10

iPad Blogging: My Experiences




I've been blogging for a few years now, and I've been writing tech news and reviews for longer than that. The one thing I can honestly say I'm always on the lookout for is a way to streamline my workflow, especially when I'm on the go and I want to travel light.

I've owned an iPhone since the day it was released in 2007, and it's only gotten better over the years with really solid firmware and hardware updates. I can tweet and Facebook all day long on my iPhone, but I just can't get on board with full-bore blogging on it. That's where my trusty MacBook Pro has stepped in while doubling as my Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop/World of Warcraft workstation. The issue there, however, is the increase in weight and size of carried items if I was mobile.

Well, I've discovered a new way to feel less burdened on the go and still remain productive with my blogging and social networking infatuation: Apple's iPad.

It's no secret that I'm an Apple fan. We have four Macs, two iPhones and now an iPad in the house, and I'm working on schematics for an Apple-branded neural implant for each family member (don't tell them, it's a surprise). The one thing I've always loved my Apple products for is that they mesh with the creative gene very well. Now, it looks like I've finally managed to strike that perfect balance of capability, creativity and mobility with the iPad. Without further adieu, I give you my unabridged opinion of the iPad as a creative writing and blogging tool...

I began this assignment like most others, except that I had to figure out how to blog on a device I'd scarcely used before. I had downloaded the official Wordpress app onto my iPhone, but had decided that thumb-typing an entire post on a 3" screen would require far too much patience and possibly large amounts of alcohol to accomplish on a regular basis. Ok, so this iPad has a MUCH larger virtual keyboard than the iPhone, along with a very beautiful and crisp LCD screen...so let's use it!

As I fired up the Wordpress app on the iPad (there's an optimized version for the larger screen), I began penning a post. I quickly realized that I couldn't post pictures easily with Wordpress (it puts all pictures at the bottom of the post, and there are no formatting options), which is pretty much a deal-breaker. I went on the hunt for another iPad-optimized blogging app, and one of the candidates that kept cropping up was BlogPress. I paid the $2.99 asking price and downloaded it because photo-formatting was one of it's strong points in all the reviews I read. But since this isn't an app review proper, let's just skip ahead by saying that Wordpress needs some improvements (and caused the most frustration of anything blogging-related so far) but BlogPress setup and operation was quick, easy and painless, and photo placement and manipulation is straightforward.

So, how is it to play professional blogger on the iPad? Well, it's wonderful, interesting, frustrating and fun all at the same time. While it has a very spacious virtual keyboard (especially when the iPad is turned to landscape mode), I still have difficulty "assuming the typing position" and burning away at 66wpm like on a normal keyboard. I find that I'm still using just a couple fingers at a time instead of using a normal typing posture due to mis-taps from errant fingers or palms. I know this is something I'll overcome, but it's just a learning curve to be sure. I'm already getting better, but with no tactile feedback from a physical keyboard, it's a bit frustrating to not be able to just put a flurry of words down like normal. Again, I'm already getting better, and with words being corrected automatically as I go, it helps quite a bit.

So, how about the screen? Well, it is simply a joy to use. I still have good eyesight, so I find absolutely NO issue with the iPad's 9.7" screen, particularly in landscape mode (there is a lock-switch on the side of the iPad that allows you to lock the screen orientation to portrait or landscape while you're working). The screen is crisp, bright and can be brightened or darkened to fit most lighting conditions. The viewing angle allows me to see the screen while tilted in almost any direction except completely away from me, which is also a good feature since it will most likely be used in a lap or in non-traditionally-sitting postures.

The case design works well ergonomically, and the device is light enough to be held for long periods of time without causing fatigue. As well, it certainly won't be burdensome on your lap if you choose to lay it there while you type (which is how I've got it positioned while writing this). The aluminum back isn't too slick, so I don't feel like it's going to slip out of my hand while changing from seated to lying down, for example. Also, I'd say most adult hands would be able to thumb-type if you were lying supine and wanted to hold the device up with both arms, although typing speed might suffer.

How about battery life? Well, let's just say that's one area the iPad shines. I haven't tested it fully yet, but Apple's claim is that it will last 10 hours on a charge. So far, I've charged this unit once and have gotten a solid four hours of intensive use and I've still got 61% battery left, and that's over two full days. I'd say that I'm going to get some serious writing time in off of a single charge on this baby! That's huge as compared to most notebook computers.

I'm sure I'll have more to say in the coming weeks and months but preliminarily, I think I've got a great, efficient and highly mobile way to stay socially connected now.


6 comments:

  1. Hey Linden! Actually, the iPad is great in the social networking arena if you have the right tools (as I touched on a bit in this post), but it also has great creative capabilities. As far as editing goes, it depends on what you're talking about. Once I found BlogPress, the process was very easy and smooth. I just couldn't get the native Wordpress app to play nicely, and that's something that is Wordpress' fault and should be fixed.

    As far as the virtual keyboard is concerned, it does take a bit of getting used to, and I'm by no means completely comfortable with it. It is, however, pretty easy to become proficient enough to zip through a concise post (unlike the novel that is this particular post!) fairly quickly. I started trying to type like I normally would on a regular keyboard, and it can be done, but with a few mistakes here and there as evidence of my "rookie-ness" with a full-sized, yet virtual keyboard. Time, I believe, will make me and anybody else much more proficient and comfortable on the virtual keyboard.

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  2. By "creative/editing area," I meant "Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop/World of Warcraft workstation." I get the impression from this post that the iPad is mainly good at social networking only... Or is that just your experience so far?

    When I tried the iPad at Best Buy, I though that some of the mistakes were caused because I'm typing to fast and the VK recognizes two touches at the same time and doesn't accept either as input. I know you can't do that on the iPod, but with the full-size keyboard on the iPad, it's even more crucial that the input sensors (or whatever they're called) can handle rapid touches. But who knows? Maybe it was just me using a new keyboard.

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  3. Thanks for clarifying. BTW, this post pretty much seals the deal: no iPad for me. I can't justify the cost of a device that I can't really work on. *sad Lindy* Maybe someday... when I make millions from my blog. :)

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  4. I just can't picture the typing position. I do most of my blogging on either an iMac or a Macbook and for preference I'd choose the iMac every time...because it has a nicer keyboard and a better screen.

    The iPhone is great, but it's teeny, a pocket rocket. It can do so, so much; it's like a very clever Jack Russell, but it can't always do what the big dogs can. I think blogging is too much for it, even a long email is too much.

    Can the iPad keyboard pick up double keystrokes? Like a touch-typers speed? Do you have to lean it on something to get comfy? Is the cut and paste as fiddly as on an iPhone?

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  5. I'd say that the biggest hurdle to overcome is, quite simply, the lack of any sort of discernible tactile feedback (as with a normal keyboard. With the virtual keyboard having absolutely no raised edges whatsoever, it's hard to keep your fingers within the confines of a "key." Also, the lack of ridges on the "F" and "J" keys don't allow your brain to discern finger placement for true touch-typing. That's not to say, however, that I didn't become at least somewhat used to typing on the virtual keyboard for this particular post.

    As far as iPad placement in relation to your body or surrounding surfaces, it's really just a preference thing. To test out normal, seated posture (on a couch), I set the iPad on my lap, more or less flat. It seemed to work fine for a post of this length, but I can imagine your neck getting a bit stiff with longer typing sessions. For my next full post, I'm going to try it flat on my desk. Then, a subsequent post will be typed with the iPad elevated in some way (similar to how existing, aftermarket cases/holders perform).

    In reference to cut-and-paste, it's the same as the iPhone, but I found it to be a bit less of an issue because of the sheer size difference in the iPad screen as compared to the iPhone. I, too, don't just love iPhone copy and paste, but I had to do it a few times on the iPad so far, and it's not AS much of a chore. But, the actual act of cutting and pasting via the little movable bars with the dots on them is the same. However, if you're copying a URL, for example, it's only a matter of tapping twice in the URL bar for the "select all" option to appear, then the "copy" option automatically pops up afterwards. It was a really easy process after a time or two, and I have been using that method quite a bit for Twitter...

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  6. Thanks for the info: really helpful and detailed review.

    I am torn between getting one or not. I can totally see how it would be a great way to consume media and access the internet. it looks like a great movie watching platform. I just wonder if I would miss the ability to use Photoshop every now and again and the sheer ease of using a laptop?

    I think, for me, it would end up as our 'living room machine' and we would use it to browse Facebook, Amazon and check emails...maybe that's the future of media consumption.

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