First day with an iPad

I’m still learning the quirks of the iPad, which has turned out to be mostly fascinating, and a little frustrating.

Mike Arnzen sent me a link to Jakob Nielsen’s recent column on iPad usability. Yes, the iPad works intuitively, but each designer’s intuition is just a little different. With my brand new gadget, I don’t mind experimenting to see what happens when I type, swipe, tap, double-tap, or tap and hold. But when i started trying to get serious work done, I noticed how the inconsistencies affected my ability to stay on task.

For instance, some apps seem to personalize the popup virtual keyboard, but others don’t.

The apostrophe key is too hard to find, though I suppose I’ll get used to it. I notice that the system will autocorrect most contractions, but well have to recognize that lifes too uncertain to depend on computers ability to sort through all this can’t about autocorrection. (Typing that made me feel rather I’ll.)

The wysiwyg editing window in MovableType does not work on the iPad, though the plain text tab works just fine. Still, I couldn’t find an MT app. I can’t scroll to view category checkboxes that aren’t visible by default, and I don’t expect to be able to copy and paste urls from another browser window, so I am not motivated to try.

I got momentarily excited by iAnnotate, an inexpensive PDF annotation tool. I liked the fact that I could personalize a toolbar to highlight or cross out text in different colors. (In the hopes of speeding up my marking while still giving detailed feedback in Turnitin.com’s GradeMark feature, I have experimented with highlighting in green to mean “I like this part” or highlighting in orange to mean “proofreading error,” and so forth. But the two or three extra steps it takes each time I adjust the highlighter tool really add up when I leave scores of marks on scores of papers –that could be a thousand extra (and unnecessary) clicks.

While iAnnotate does seem to simplify the process of leaving most of the same kinds of marks I might want to make on a printout, I’m worried that the hassle of getting the PDFs on and off the iPad will eat up all the time I save while marking the documents. Plus, I’m not sure whether my students will need to buy a copy of iAnnotate in order to read my annotations. Plus, in Turnitin.com, I have paragraphs of canned text that I can just stamp into a comment.

I would pay considerably more than the usual app fee for the right document annotation tool — one that really helps me do my marking, without a clumsy interface getting in the way.

Having said all that, I really do find the iPad a delight. I am still frustrated that so far Google and Apple have not worked out a way to let users edit Google Docs on the iPad (though I do appreciate being able to read them, at least).