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Mobile Me

Or, an attempt to switch to a mobile-only working environment. I need your help, or at least someone's help.. Since January 2nd I have been attempting to live without my MacBook Pro to work exclusively on my iPad2. I can honestly say that for 90% of the time the iPad is the perfect tool for my daily work activities. As an added bonus it's many pounds lighter than the MBP and the battery lasts hours longer. Yet, as to be expected, there are some shortcomings that are holding me back from becoming a 100% mobile user.

I'm tapping away writing this post on a Bluetooth Apple keyboard using an app called Blogsy. It works well, as does the Wordpress app, although after trying both my preference is for Blogsy. In this instance, the apps are not the problem, it's a different take on user experience - I'm so used to writing posts in the Wordpress admin tool in Chrome that I, the user, have to forget that experience. These apps are not meant to match the experience of writing a post in a browser: they are their own thing. And here's a weird one which was unexpected. Apple, in it's wisdom, discontinued the iPad docking keyboard which is a shame as it was more functional than the standard Bluetooth keyboard. Not only did it charge the iPad when docked, it had a specific Home button where the esc key would have been, and that was particularly useful as moving from app to app is the norm on an iPad. I now have the Bluetooth keyboard with an esc button that is totally redundant. Could Apple have not made a version for the iPad with a Home button? And one more thing: it feels strange to move from the Bluetooth keyboard to tap the screen to select something. I'll get used to it.

Adding images has been another issue. There are a few useful Apps for image manipulation and currently I'm playing with PhotoForge2. It's a solid and very functional photo editor and it includes many useful options. The learning curve with this app was different: when working in a browser I would simply find an image and drop it into ImageWell where I could quickly resize it and send it via FTP to the server. Photoforge has the option to post to multiple social sites but not to one's own server. If anyone knows of an app solution for that please let me know.

Unlike the original iPad, iPad2 has external monitor options - the Apple Digital AV Adaptor connects the iPad via HDMI to my Samsung LCD TV providing a superb HD image when streaming video. There's one issue I found with using an external monitor as I do at North: mirroring is not actually useful as half the screen is taken up with the iPad touchscreen keyboard. If anyone can give me a work around for that I'd be very grateful.

Productivity apps have been my best friend: Evernote, Dropbox, Pages, Gmail, Keynote and iZip are the one's I use the most. The ability to print directly from Evernote is extremely useful and being able to project PDFs from Dropbox is also a plus. PDFs can also be stored using the Apple iBook app.

I'm not a fan of the "magazine" apps such as Flipboard. Instead I'm using the Instapaper and NetNewsWire apps for all my reading needs. The Instapaper Read Later Javascript tool was a little clunky to set up in the Safari app but then again so was the Amazon Wish List, but they both work fine once installed. Interestingly, the NetNewsWire app syncs easily with my web account and pulls in all of my feeds seamlessly. I've had sync issues with NetNewsWire in my Chrome browser on my iMac at home which resulted in having to export and import my feeds as an OPL file. The iPad app syncs without having to jump through those hoops.

One thing that has struck me in my daily iPad use is how ambidextrous you become. Most of the apps I use have navigation tools on the left side, so not being left-handed I found I was reaching across the iPad from the keyboard to select something on the screen. I've learned to use my left hand for that.

Biggest problem: Companies that provide an app that is built for the iPhone and not the iPad, although they open in iPad: that x2 zoom just isn't cutting it.

Minor beef: Twitter. I use the native Twitter apps on iPhone and iPad and I find it irritating when I check in to Twitter on the iPhone, check my direct messages and mentions and then discover, when I open Twitter later in iPad, that those messages and mentions remain unread. Sync please Twitter. (Unless I'm not getting it right, let me know in the comments please.) And here's a puzzle I can't solve - the native iOS Tweetdeck shows new follows which is useful. Why can't I see that in the mobile apps, or once again, am I missing something?

Those are some of the few cons. And the biggest pro? Focus. You have to select each app you'll be working with, so no distraction from Mail or Twitter while working in Pages or Evernote for instance. And I no longer have 30+ tabs open in Chrome.

Here's Harry McCracken on his iPad transition.

More later.

Dave Allen

Another take on the medium is the message

Another take on the medium is the message

Musical interlude: tUnE-yArDs