Random Ipad Links & Musings

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Apple has negotiated a product-placement deal with the fabric of reality itself. All this week, your friends are required to tweet about iPads, and comedians are required to work the iPad into bad jokes. Obama is going to tape his weekly video address while holding an iPad.

Here are some things that popped into my head after two days of ipad use.

  • In the App store, I don’t see any indication of whether an app has an offline mode. I joyfully downloaded the Epicurious and Dragon Dictation app only to realize that neither tool worked without a wifi connection.   That almost begs the question about whether these are really standalone apps at all or simply simplified interfaces to what were already  free web apps.
  • What I miss is being able to try an app for a trial period. Frankly, sometimes the description gives  no indication about whether the app really does what it’s supposed to.  Let’s see  demo videos, not just screenshots. 
  • Youtube is terrible in ipad’s Safari. I had lots of problems trying to load videos. The free youtube app works better, but it is missing a lot of videos in search results (plus, there are not search prompts). Don’t assume that because a video is on youtube that you can access it from iPad’s Youtube app. Many vids which are easy to find on youtube.com can’t be found in ipad’s youtube app.  (Want an example? Go to the youtube app  and search for  “Chemical Brothers  Let Forever Be.“  It’s nowhere.  (here is the actual link to the video on youtube.com – by the way, this Michel Gondry video is amazing!)
  • Speaking of which, can anyone really recommend an RSS reader with the usual features plus an offline reading mode? This is the app I need the most!
  • To my knowledge, there are no popup/ad blockers on Safari, so prepare for the onslaught of web ads. (On the positive side, lack of flash on iPad will make ads less intrusive).
  • Are the Apple people allergic to providing  documentation inside the iPad itself?  (Despite what you might think, the minimalist/Zen  Apple User Experience guidelines don’t say anything about abolishing documentation). I was happy to see the familiar question mark help icon in Goodreads, but that’s the only app I could remember that had it. 
  • In Goodreader, I used the wifi transfer option to transfer things from my laptop to ipad.  I’m amazed at how easy it was (despite the long sequence of steps required). Goodreads has some webdav/ftp/cloud storage methods for accessing PDFs which is a lot more impressive than what  iPad does  out of the box (Ed Dumbill complains about this too).
  • You can’t search the contents of a single Safari page.  On Windows, Ctl-F causes a search box to appear in the browser, but in ipad’s Safari, there are simply icons for Favorite, Multipage View, Forward & Back. For a use case where you would need this search, go to this page and look for Sonnets  by Shakespeare. (even if you narrow down your search, scrolling through the results is tedious). 
  • I tried viewing the biggest PDF document I know about in Goodreader: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. Although  this 13 MB PDF  took a while to load, it worked fine after it did.   Goodreader  doesn’t have the fancy page-turning animation feature or an attractive bookshelf, but its interface is intuitive and one of the most functional of all the apps.  
  • Mike Cane’s ipad blog provides a lot of daily links about ipad-publishing topics (with a dose of snarkiness thrown in).
  • I am not opposed philosophically to the idea of iTunes; I just think it is expected to do too much. At some point, it will become unwieldy.
  • I can’t tell you how many people seeing my iPad have exclaimed, “that just looks like a big iPhone".
  • While doing one of my iTunes syncs, I noticed that all of my downloaded apps disappeared! How strange. If I synced the apps again, everything returned, but minus the logins and account information.
  • I have never entered my credit card so many times on a single device without actually purchasing anything. Also, I have entered my AppleId way too many times (next time I won’t use such a convoluted password).
  • Liz Castro wrote up about how layout of pages with image can suck when you view in landscape mode. This is an issue, but it’s a debatable question whether this requires a CSS solution.  Given the ease of switching back and forth, shouldn’t we entrust the reader with deciding which orientation is more desirable?  As much as I like the landscape mode for scanning long docs, landscape mode is always going to compare unfavorably to portrait mode.  
  • Castro also notes that smashwords-generated ebooks have  design problems:image


  • Liza Daly notes the peculiarities of iPad ebook presentation. Embedded fonts and @font-face don’t work and won’t work until Webkit has been updated.  She summarizes: “iBooks is pretty good for a first-generation ePub reader. The biggest concern is of course that once you purchase books from iTunes, you’re locked in to only reading them in iBooks.”
  • In this slideshow, Daly makes the point that despite the plethora of books, there are really only two reading engines to worry about: Adobe Reader Mobile and WebKit. At the moment, all gadgets use either one or the other (with iPad using WebKit).
  • Isn’t it ironic that iPad doesn’t have a free PDF reader and yet the main user manual is a mega 18 MB file PDF?
  • According to Daly  internal and external hyperlinks in iBooks work fine. (PDF Hyperlinks work as advertised in Goodreader also). 
  • Maybe I’m just being stupid, but if you can’t drop an SD card or USB storage device into the iPad, you would need to put original images on your laptop first before they can be transferred to the iPad.  I understand why you’d want to use iPad as a photo displaying device, but I don’t understand why you’d actually want to edit graphics or Keynote presentations if you already have your laptop out in the first place.  (Yes, the eye-fi SD cards offer another elegant solution for avoiding  the laptop/itunes altogether.
  • Here’s a thread where  Calibre creator Kovid Goyal says  it won’t be necessary for Calibre to create an output profile specific to Ipad (and that the Sony profile is sufficient). We’ll see how long he  sticks to that position.
  • At a SXSW panel about the Ipad, someone asked whether the keyboard would be friendly enough for shopping cart applications.  The keyboard is not bad, but I keep having to remove extra spaces and make the first letter of a word to be lowercase instead of uppercase.  Frankly, I am growing sick of logins and registration forms.
  • I’m not sure how painful it will be to find things when  your home screen has dozens (if not hundreds) of ipad apps. Did you know that some individual ebooks are regarded as apps? There is the Dr. Seuss app, the Cat in the Hat app, the Twilight app. Arrgh!

In summary, I totally love the ebook reading possibilities of the iPad. Sometimes the minimalist design seems too minimalist, but it’s cool after you’ve figured things out. Ibooks seems cool too (although I wish it supported  font-embedding).  And I’m still waiting for a decent  offline RSS reader!

See also: David Rothman’s review & PDF tips  and Teleread’s guide to free ebooks.



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