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Living On iPad

The crashing of the waves is intense and reverberates across the lania (Hawaiian for balcony). My feet are up, a Guava juice with a wedge of lime and a bowl of rice chex at my left. I have the WordPress iPad app open. We landed 2 days ago, with a brand new ipad but short one functional macbook pro. A little flick of the wrist and a full glass of water spilled across the keys. The screen flashed white and immediately went dark.

I screamed. Then opened the chassis, poured out the water and set it to dry. A quick trip to the apple store right before our flight, and the tech just shook his head, wished me luck and sent me on my way. His advice, wait 3 – 5 days, say a little prayer and hit power. Today is day 4. Perhaps this exercise will end tomorrow.

Now in full disclosure, Peter, dear man that he is, raided my house and brought an ancient computer and my backup drive to SF. Phew. Except that my fairly new time capsule backup was corrupted. Four hours of internet research later and only a few hours to go before our departure, I gave up. No sleep for me. I did bring the old lappy with me, but as it really had almost none of my software or my development files, its basically good for watching Hulu and little else. A tangent but Hulu really should get an ipad app, which I would gladly pay for it – even repeatedly. Heck, I pay $17 a month for netflix.

In the end, I found myself on the ipad, trying to run a company. Now if I was a full time technician, this would be a disaster, at least for now. I have yet to see MAMP (IAMP?) on the iPad (wouldn’t that be sick?!?). But, those days are slowly fading and now I am a full time freelance art-director / project manager / sales person. I spend the day communicating. For that, the iPad has got me about 80% of the way there. Ok, onto the good and the ugly (or just plain uninformed).

The Good

Battery Life: Impressive!! I spent over 8 hours on this little box drinking deep from the internet the whole time, and at the end I had 14% remaining. A battery charge lasting a full day’s use. Now that is what a battery was meant to be.

Touch: I was prepare to rail against the loss of my mouse. It was only at the end of the day that I noticed I never missed it. Turns out, Apple, and many of the application developers out there have done a nice job with UX. My appreciation and respect!

Apps: Considering how young this platform is, the breath and quality of the apps was surprising and this can only get better. I used the following native apps: mail, calendar, safari, notes, contacts, photos. The rest of my time was spent camped out on AIM, Skype, Pages and Tweetdeck. On the web, google docs was a life saver and still worked fairly well. I spent time some time exploring file management tool like Dropbox + RDocs. Next I plan to look for a good time tracking app and an alternate browser option beyond safari, which I found to be frsutrating for the reasons I state below.

Accessories: The keyboard was the make or break (thanks Simon for reminding me). While typing on the screen is far better than I had imagined, I would probably have developed carpel tunnel. The keyboard shortcuts mostly work and the keyboard itself feel really solid. I wish was that there was some way to have it work in portrait mode as I prefer that orientation for some of the apps. Overall, a total win.

Beauty: Peter has a saying, “Work comfortably”. As I sit here on the lania overlooking the surf and swaying palm trees, I find myself somewhat captivated, calm and inspired. Spending the day on the ipad (technical limitations aside) is much the same. Its nice to be immersed in elegance and beauty. I am happier for it.

The Bad

Linear Workflow:

In some ways, being focused on one thing at a time is quite nice. But the reality is that I often use multiple tool to accomplish a task. Like taking notes when reviewing a design. I either have to open and close, open and close, open and close (annoying) or find alternate means of multitasking. Hopefully the 4.0 update will improve the experience.


Push notification is way more disruptive than growl (it forces you to acknowledge it) – can’t I have a passive push style notification that fades in and out on the top of the screen? Di I really need to stop what I am doing because Reid just sent me something on aim?


  • Email client needs basic format tools – ctrl-b doesn’t bold on highlight. Is a super simply wysiwyg too much to ask for? maybe textile would be ok?
  • I didn’t realize how important push email was till now. My imap email on dream host just doesn’t support it (to my knowledge). Maybe its time to consider google apps or some other service because waiting 15 minutes or having to click refresh manually is lame.
  • The disappearing email bug (maybe its just dreamhost) went from nuisance to dangerous. On my iphone I found it annoying, but I wasn’t solely dependent so I could live with it. Why do some emails show up for a sec, then disappear? Sometimes it takes 4-5 refreshes before they stay.
  • How I miss flags on my emails. Good folder architecture is a reasonable second option but…
  • Search only searches one folder at a time. Since I use folders a lot, it makes search way less powerful, even close to useless.
  • Email hangs pretty often. It will start to search for new emails and spin for 20+ minutes. I end up restarting the iPad just to get email syncing again.


  • First of all, Nice work AOL!!
  • I wish it would remember my group, but as I can keep running conversations open in a reasonable manner, I can live with it.
  • I can’t copy text from IM’s?!? That is just inhibiting.
  • No image sharing yet, probably ok for many people, but not for an art director managing a remote team.


  • It handles large images oddly, shrinking their actual size without allowing me to see them at full resolution. This is a HUGE HUGE HUGE problem as I can’t see details on large comps
  • I keep seeing the mobile version of sites – makes no sense on this form factor. Ultimatly it is the site developers fault for using useragent rather than screensize, but I would love to be able to change the user agent with some toggle? Mobile view VS web view? I seem to loose about 70% of features on the mobile views.
  • Is there a way to have mobile safari not try to reload pages every time I change tabs? This is a huge time sink, especially when reviewing 2mb comps.


  • iPad drop menu limited width – went to ing direct and can only see the bank name but not the account numbers when trying to transfer money. It was like playing bank transfer roulette. Good thing there is a confirm page.
  • Moving apps between pages often doesn’t work.


  • What do you mean you can’t open an .ics calendar invite?!?! you’ve got to be kidding. Now I have to reply and ask for time and place and details to every meeting invite. I can’t confirm automatically. Super unprofessional.
  • I can’t change / delete events I was invited to that are in my calendar from the good ‘ol mac days. Sucky. Got lots of those.
  • Something is really wrong with timezone, but I have yet to identify what it is. One day changing to Hawai’i worked great. The next day, everything is back to pacific time and wont change.


It is doable. The future is here (almost). As Reid told me earlier today, this would have been my greatest fantasy when I was 12. Really all that stands in my way is a small amount of finess to improve workflow. Better searches, integration between apps, file management (although I think I woud be happy with a tagging approach rather than traditional hierarchy), better poweruser support in safari, and more good apps. In fact I have a request for Intuit: make me a QB Lite app where I can do basic actions (invoice, receive $, pay bills) from a QB file stored on dropbox. That would impress me.

For those of you on the same adventure I am on: Which apps have been helpful? Any tips on optimizing the core apps to solve some of my issues?

Follow the adventure on Twitter (@justlikeair): #livingonipad