Pages for iPad: Preliminary thoughts

I was sitting at the house yesterday, pondering whether to update my resume and make it more concise (it was 3 pages in length, and I had been in the mood for a 1 page resume for quite some time), when it occurred to me that I could just open up my fresh, new copy of Pages on my iPad and do it right where I sat.

I had a chance to take Apple's new Pages for iPad application for a spin, and I can honestly say that I'm just that much closer to leaving my MacBook Pro at home for all but the most rigorous photo editing. If portability is what Apple had in mind (at least in part) when creating the iPad, Pages gives you a huge advantage towards that goal. My first document? The aforementioned resume.

Pages for iPad gives you a few template options when you fire it up, but not nearly as many as on a full-fledged machine (16 on the iPad), including resumes, general letters, flyers, proposals and party invites amongst others. Once I had chosen my "photographer" resume template, I was off and running.

Without delving into the minutiae of writing a resume, let me generally tell you what worked well and what didn't. First off, the good: I was able to create a quick, easy resume that would be suitable in most situations using my own pictures (small, in the top-left corner) and by simply tapping each field type, I was able to fill in my personal details very quickly using the virtual keyboard. It just felt natural to choose one of my pictures and to use my fingers to resize, rotate and move it around. My first thought when doing so? Star Trek or Minority Report. Yup, it's very fluid to be able to use your fingers on a touchscreen like the actors in those shows do. Pinching, zooming, tapping and placing objects into your document with your fingers is pretty freaking cool!

What also worked? Well, everything flowed wonderfully while moving around objects and text. The text moves around in response to your movement of objects, and alignment grids would show up as needed to keep things tidy. Something also of note, different "zones" could be configured from the document setup button at the top of the toolbar that would allow different sections of text to be manipulated independently.

The overall presentation of text and images is very rich. You can zoom in and out with ease, making it a pleasure visually. If you have poor vision, you're not limited to tiny, unreadable text...just zoom it in and you're good to go! Images, as well as text, can be manipulated in a variety of ways to suit a wide swath of personalities and preferences. I would venture to say that it is about as close as you're going to come to actually placing real, printed images onto a real piece of paper. Also, mistakes are only an "undo" away!

The font selection is very nice, but that actually brings us into the territory of things that certainly need improvement. While many fonts are available for use, I found that some of the default fonts in my document on the iPad were not available on my MacBook. The "Helvetica Light" font wasn't on my MacBook, therefore prompting me to change the font to something else when I imported the document. A little research showed that it seems most everybody is complaining about this. Font synchronization between the iPad and our computers, whether they're Mac or Windows, seems like a no-brainer.

Something else that seemed a little goofy was that, while in landscape orientation, there is no way to access the toolbar to perform tasks such as text alignment, tabbing or font fine-tuning. You are pretty much stuck with the virtual keyboard on the bottom, and a small, no-frills text area at the top. No tools can be accessed until you place the iPad back into portrait orientation. I am able to thumb-type fairly fast, so keeping the iPad in portrait mode wasn't a huge deal-breaker.

Probably one of the most confusing things about Pages for iPad is how documents are handled when you export them. Once I was happy with my revised resume, I wanted to export it to PDF. So I tapped back on "My Documents" to see them all, made sure the resume was the active choice, hit the little "forward" button (for those familiar with the iPhone's onscreen button), and chose export-->PDF. After that, nothing. No indication of where the document actually ended up. After a bit more research, I discovered that the document ends up in a sort of "no man's land" on the device until you synchronize it with iTunes. Once hooked up, the document I saved as a PDF on my iPad showed up under the applications section of my device in iTunes. I have the choice to save it to my Mac from there. VERY ambiguous, if you ask me. I'm a seasoned Mac/Apple/technology veteran, and it took a trip to google to find out that little, undocumented gem. Once again, too, was Adobe Acrobat's message once I opened the PDF about missing fonts, and a choice to change them to something else. Ugh.

Overall, making or editing documents in Pages on the iPad is a simple, straightforward procedure as long as you can deal with the couple of niggles I mentioned above. I still have yet to import a document from my Mac (which also requires a trip to iTunes sync-land), but I've read that there are the same font issues present as there are with exporting documents. I still think, however, that it will still be a great way to stay highly mobile, while having a solid document creation solution literally at your fingertips.

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