iPads and Writers: Don’t Throw Out that Laptop Just Yet

I know, I know, the bright thing would have been to wait for the now infamous iPad 3. Honestly though, I wouldn’t be all that bothered even if the new iPad turns up with the power of flight or invisibility. Maybe if Apple gives us the next iPad with bonus time travel capabilities; that would seriously bother me. Until the iTardis appears, though, I really wouldn’t care.

So yes, I bought an iPad 2. Not just because I want to see my Smurf comrades on a bigger screen (Smurf Village is my case study on the pros and cons of a socialist commune), but also because I’m a freelance writer, and I’m the kind of freelance writer who prefers writing while reclining and watching telly.

I’m not going to say that I harboured illusions that the iPad could take my laptop’s place. I work in IT (yep, day job) so I know what limitations tablets have. Still, there’s nothing like actual experience to get these limitations all up in my face.

I started working on my writing projects a day after I bought the iPad. The setup part for any Apple product has always been a breeze, and I do appreciate that. Now on to the actual “get to work” part. I anticipated difficulties, but the problems I encountered were really not the ones I was expecting.

Multi-tasking works. This is something I was really worried about because I need to switch between several applications in the course of writing an article. I’m happy to report that multi-tasking on the iPad 2 is really good. Just be sure not to have too many apps open at once, because hey — this is not a laptop.

Typing is really easy. I type like I would on a qwerty phone. The great thing about this is that there’s the option to have the keyboard split, which makes typing so much easier. To be honest, with or without the split keyboard, I find typing on the iPad 2 extremely easy. I also love the multiple language keyboard options, especially the handwriting recognition option for Chinese. See, I’m also a translator (surprise, I’m a juggler) and typing/writing in Chinese is an important part of my work process.

So many apps to choose from. This is a wonderful boon, really, since you get to pick the apps you need to really personalise your work flow. Writers have very different work processes, so this is a cool way to get your iPad to really work for you.

You can unzip files from email attachments. This was another major concern I had prior to getting the iPad since my Odesk clients often send me zipped files to work on. The unzip app (I use UnArchiver) is really highly useful. Let me draw up a separate article on the apps I use for writing soon.

You can’t attach documents to emails, or anywhere else. Now this was something I was really unprepared for. It’s so basic that I figured any tablet worth its salt should be able to offer this feature. The iPad doesn’t. I learned this the bloody hard way after I completed my writing projects (all on the iPad, and I was so chuffed, too) and visited Odesk to send everything to my client. Surprise, you can’t attach anything. How is that for fucked up? There’s a workaround for this if you’re not using a website to contact people; you can email clients through apps like QuickOffice Pro HD.

Cannot insert images into Word processing apps. I use QuickOffice Pro HD, as mentioned, and although it’s a wonderful suite of applications, I got massively pissed when i realised adding photos into my text docs was not possible.

There’s no way this baby is replacing my laptop anytime soon, but as far as writing and research is concerned, I can get the bulk of my work done on the iPad 2, and that’s really good enough for me. It would be so much better if the lacking features I mentioned would be include in the next update, because then at least working on the iPad 2 would be seamless and a lot easier for freelance writers like me.


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