Peter Friese

Developer Advocate / Mobile Developer / Public Speaker

The iPad – a Truly Inspiring Device, Thanks to the Lack of Multitasking!?

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I received my iPad just a few days ago, and despite this short period of time, it already changed the way I work drastically.

One of the first apps I installed on the iPad was iWork. As on the Mac, iWork is made up of Keynote, Numbers, and Pages. Actually, on the iPad you have to buy them all separately, which hides the fact the whole suite will cost you 29,97 EUR (which might make many customers shy away from this investment).

You might think that the relatively small screen of the iPad and the fiddly on-screen keyboard would make apps like Pages really hard to use. Strange enough, I found out that my writing productivity is a lot better on the iPad than on the Mac (or any other full-blown computer). Of course, the on-screen keyboard actually is harder to use than a regular computer keyboard. But as soon as you get used to it, your typing speed will get up to 90% of your typing speed on a regular keyboard. But this isn’t the point. The key advantage is you can start writing anywhere you are: at your desk, on the sofa, even in bed! Basically every time you’ve got an idea. Ok, you can’t use it in the shower, which is where I get most ideas. There’s room for improvement – waterproof iPad, anyone?

The iPad is small enough to be comfortably used on the subway and even in economy class. Try writing an article on an 15.4” computer on a plane! It’s virtually impossible, especially as you need to handle all the service interrupts (“what would you like to drink, Sir?”) without spilling hot coffee over your keyboard. With the iPad, just slide it in the seat pocket in front of you and you’re done!

So the form factor of the iPad is a huge benefit.

Another benefit is the lack of multitasking, as strange as this might sound. The fact that the active application consumes the entire screen without any dock icons or status bar items begging for your attention allows you to really focus on the act of writing.

So every time I really want to get some serious writing done, such as an article or a blog post, I’ll grab my iPad, snug myself on a comfy chair or the sofa and start hacking away at the iPad screen.

The only thing that could use some of Apple’s UX love is how you can exchange files between your computer and the iPad. The built-in exchange mechanism relies on tethering the device with your computer and synching the files in question using iTunes. Not very state-of-the art, if you ask me. Of course, you can export Pages documents to MobileMe, but even Apple should realize many of their users are fans of DropBox by now. Using DropBox for synching the files only works in one direction, however. Maybe Apple will add support for DropBox in the next release of iWork – this would improve the overall usability of the iPad even more.

Despite all those UX drawbacks, using the iPad for writing has been a truly inspiring experience for me so far.