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Tuesday
May312011

Significant Updates to iWork for iOS: A Quick Look

Not only did Apple release "universal"  versions of their iWork Suite (Pages, Keynote & Numbers) today making them available for the smaller screens of the iPhone and the iPod Touch, the releases also included a few significant updates from previous versions on the iPad.

Here's a quick overview in pictures (click on images for a larger view).

In the "I don't know why it wasn't there in the first place" department, files in the individual apps can be sorted into folders. This works the same way that application folders are created on all iOS devices: drag one file on top of another and a folder is created that can be given any name.

 

Files & folders in Keynote for the iPad


Files & folders in Pages for the iPad

A folder's content in Keynote in Keynote for the iPad

Exporting and printing is now handled internally in a document rather than in the file browser as before:


Print/Export features now accessed from within the file (Keynote on the iPad)

No doubt many who teach with Keynote will be thrilled that the Keynote Remote on the iPhone can be used to control slides. The Keynote remote even gives access to presentation notes for complete classroom wandering! The two devices connect over WiFi.


Enable remote from within Keynote on the iPad (cropped image from Keynote on the iPad)


Control Keynote slides with an iPhone or iPod Touch. Presentation notes included! (iPhone screenshot) 

While the new iPad features of iWork are the most exciting to me, no doubt many will find the new iPhone/iPod Touch versions of these apps to be the really big news.

While I couldn't imagine doing serious editing of a Keynote slideshow on my iPhone, I have to admit it offers some new possibilities worth pondering. It was just a little over a year ago that we neded a full-blown laptop to use presentation graphics software. The iPad last year scaled those hardware requirements considerably. But can you imagine now—walking into a classroom and simply pulling an iPhone and an adapter out of your pocket as the only hardware needed for a presentation (assuming the projector is already in the room)?


Keynote on the iPhone: Create a presentation natively or import a PowerPoint or Keynote file created elsewhere.

Creating a new document in Pages for the iPhone

The same templates available in the iPad version are also available in the iPhone version of Pages.

 

Typing in Pages on the iPhone

 

Editing text in Pages on the iPhone


Insert a chart: all the same features available on the iPad version are available in the iPhone/Ipod Touch versions.

 

Again, I'm not totally psyched about the smaller versions of these apps as I doubt I will use them that much (although I may experiment with using Keynote from my iPhone), but simply giving some file management features as well as allowing remote control of presentations really begins to bring the experience up to par with using an actual laptop.


And yes, I know I've offered no screenshots for Numbers, but the same principles above (with the exception of the Keynote remote) apply to that app, too.

Saturday
May012010

Living with the iPad: One Month In

The six coveted spots. What's on your iPad dock?The iPad is not a perfect device. I noted some of its shortcomings in my initial reflections after having it for two days. Having said that, a month has now passed, and despite some of its flaws (and my hope and assumption that certain issues will improve), I can say that the iPad has become a fixed part of my routine. In fact, it is my primary mobile computer.

Not a laptop replacement (yet), but definitely better than a netbook.
A week or so after getting my iPad, a former student contacted me to ask whether or not he should get an iPad or a MacBook for school. He said that he would primarily be using it for email, surfing the internet and word processing. I had to ask him if he had a decent computer already since at this stage, the iPad is not an independent platform. He said that was the deal breaker and he would have to get a MacBook for now.

And that's the thing that a lot of people still don't understand: the iPad does not yet completely replace a personal computer. It's dependent upon a personal computer, in fact, right out of the box. The iPad is clearly designed for secondary purposes—for use on the go, and will end up replacing many, but not all, of the functions that might often be done on a laptop.

I bought a netbook last November. I wanted something smaller than my 15" MacBook Pro to take with me to meetings, to church, to the coffee shop, for use on the couch while watching television. The netbook itself was a nice little machine, especially after I upped its memory to 2 GB of RAM. But the netbook experience was not enjoyable. I tried it with both a Hackintosh version of OS X and Windows 7 Pro installed. Both actually ran fine on it. But the cramped keyboard and awkward size made it undesirable for me. As soon as Apple announced the iPad in January, I sold the netbook on eBay.

Just this week, I was in the library when I saw a student writing a term paper on a netbook. I noticed him typing with only half of his digits to accommodate the keyboard. I mentally shook my head. Really he needed a laptop, but I honestly think that even an iPad would have been better for the task.

The mobile writer's dream: the iPad and keyboard dock

I have no problem with the virtual keyboard on the iPad when using it in landscape mode. Even Kathy commented recently how fast I type on it. But when on a desk, I like to use Apple's keyboard dock. I love the minimalist feel of the iPad sitting at a vertical angle from the aluminum keyboard. It's fast, handy, and in my opinion a writer's portable dream device. So compact, so easy to carry. Write anywhere.

Perhaps a laptop replacement after all.
Since 1991, I've always had a desktop and laptop computer simultaneously. The desktop computer was kind of the "family computer"; the laptop was my computer "on the go."
Initially, a laptop was not capable of being a "main computer" due to limitations in hard drive sizes and processor power. While high end desktops are still technically more powerful than laptops, technology has finally caught the laptop up a good bit. The MacBook Pro I bought in late 2008 has a 7200 RPM 500 GB hard drive (not the original hard drive, but an upgrade) and a 2.8 GHz processor. When I bought it, I decided that I was going to make the laptop my main machine and let the aging PowerMac G5 demote to a secondary machine. I purposefully bought an high end MacBook Pro with the intention of keeping it five years—longer than any time I've kept a laptop in the past.

Maybe when I go to get a new computer in 2013, perhaps I will opt not to get a laptop. Perhaps for the same money, I could get a decent iMac and an iPad. Maybe really, I don't need a laptop anymore because of the iPad.

What the iPad Can Do.
See, here's the thing. When I originally ordered my iPad, my hopes were that it could do perhaps 50% to 2/3 of what I normally do with a laptop. I'd say that the reality is that it's closer to 90%. The iPad has clearly become my preferred mobile computer in only a month's time. If I can carry it and leave the MacBook Pro at home, I do. I carry the iPad to meetings, to church—really everywhere. Remember the days when a leather bound daytimer was always at your side (or maybe it still is)? That's what I do with my iPad. Even in places where I probably won't need it, I can let it tag along in my hand in case I need to look up something, add an event to a calendar, or even if I have a few minutes simply to read.

In fact, the other day, I was stuck in traffic. Really bad traffic. Cars weren't going anywhere. After a while, I shut off my engine, pulled out my iPad and simply began to read. Sure, I could have done that with a physical book, but with the iPad, I was carrying dozens of books with me—my own personal multivolume library.

What the iPad Can't Do.
I wrote a post about teaching on the iPad. It's great for that and allows me to walk into a classroom or Bible study at church without having to carry an entire bag of materials, books and my laptop as I've often done in the past. But there are limitations.

Most people who have used Keynote on the iPad complain about its lack of a true presenter screen. No preview, no notes, not even a mirror of what's on the projector. Okay, I assume all that's coming, but it's a pain for us early adopters. I don't like having to print out notes because that seems so very five years ago. Of course, when I occasionally teach a public speaking class, I tell my students that presentation slides should enhance one's presentation; it should not be one's presentation.

And while that's true, the other day in a writing class I wanted to use a Keynote file I'd prepared a while back that covers basic grammar rules. And contrary to the advice to my speaking class, this Keynote file was the presentation. I mean, this kind of lesson requires rules and examples to be displayed in front of the students. I can't simply talk about the rule and then show a few illustrations. In fact, in this Keynote file, there are no presenter notes. Everything is on the slide.

So to present that from the iPad to a projector meant that I would have had to have my back turned to the class for most of the presentation. A simple remote would have solved the problem, but for the moment, there are no remote control solutions for using Keynote on the iPad. I did end up using the Apple remote control which allowed me to walk around the class during our discussion over the slides on the screen. But I had to present it from my MacBook, not my Keynote. Clearly, this particular lesson was best suited from the laptop than the iPad. This is something that a few enhancements to the Keynote software on the iPad would fix.

Another issue related to teaching— I cannot use the iPad to evaluate essays written by students. I use Word's commenting system in my evaluation and scoring of student papers. iWork Pages does not have this functionality. And even though this is a version one program, I somehow doubt that Apple's iWork Team has commenting high on their list of features to add.

Further, the grading software I use, Gradekeeper, does not have an iPad version and probably will not get one in the future. The program's designer has publicly expressed his skepticism as to the iPad's potential as a mainstream device to be used by teachers (I highly disagree) as well as admitted to his lack of knowledge in Objective C, the iPad's primary programming language. This is too bad as I believe the iPad would be ideal for grade recording, and I really like Gradekeeper, having used it since the nineties. For teachers in traditional primary and secondary classrooms, I could easily see the iPad as a convenient device for walking up student rows, evaluating assignments.

Of course, I expect we'll eventually see gradebook software on the iPad. One app is already available, but it is very limited in scope. I'm very used to Gradekeeper's under-the-hood power and features such as emailed student progress reports that I've come to rely on. But as long as I'm having to grade papers on my MacBook Pro anyway, I suppose having my gradebook on the Mac as well is not too big of an issue for now.

A Game Changer? Ask My Wife.
Kathy got an iPad on the same day I did. It's been interesting to see her interact and even take to the iPad on an increasing scale. I say that because really, in the big scheme of things, she's much more practical than me on these kinds of things. I can often use technology just for the sake of technology. Just the other day, a friend commented to me that I was having to go through a number of extra steps (referring specifically to file transfers) just to be able to do some things on the iPad. While I do think there's a great payoff in the freedom to travel much lighter with the iPad in the scenarios I've described already, I also admit that sometimes I am guilty of using technology for technology's sake. In other words, I'm not always the most practical person when it comes to technology. Sometimes I use it simply because I like using it.

When the iPad was first announced, my initial intent was not to get one—at least not the first generation. As I've said in other posts, it was the presentation of the iWork suite that changed my mind. And that didn't happen overnight, but rather over the next few weeks as I pondered the iPad's potential as a both a teaching tool and a content creation device.

However, I did immediately suggest to Kathy that she ought to get one. Kathy is the Library Media/Textbooks Consultant for the Kentucky Department of Education (I simply call her Kentucky's Book Czar). Over the next half decade or so, I believe a lot of our schools will transition to digital textbooks. Although Kathy will undoubtedly not be in that position when that transition fully takes place, it's an issue that's continuously being brought to the table now. I felt she ought to be able to evaluate digital textbooks as they come along, so I suggested the iPad.

Well, Kathy's taken to the iPad in lots of ways besides books just as I have, but it's been very interesting to watch her—someone who's been a librarian for 18 years—essentially rethink the physical book paradigm.

First, for the last two weeks, rather than taking her two-inch-thick NLT Life Application Study Bible to church, Kathy simply takes her iPad. Honestly, her switch from a physical Bible to a digital one this quickly has surprised me. I'm going to set her up on OliveTree's BibleReader with the NLT Study Bible once the OliveTree app is released, but in the meantime, she's had no real problem using the YouVersion except for one instance in which she couldn't get wi-fi reception.

Second, last Sunday, we went to a Books-A-Million in Louisville so that I could look for a supplemental grammar book to recommend to my writing class. I carried my iPad in with me because I wanted to find a book that was available both in physical form as well as available electronically and wanted to be able to look up titles as needed. Since I was taking my iPad in, Kathy did, too. After a while of looking at books, I found her in a leather chair and sat down beside her. She looked at me, and waving her arm around the shelves of books we were sitting between said, "You know, with the iPad, it doesn't make sense anymore to me to invest in these kinds [i.e. physical] of books. They cost more money and they take up space."

Really, I was a bit shocked. Now, keep in mind, please, that she was speaking in regard to personal purchases and not someone representing Kentucky state government. But it's really an astounding comment from someone in her position if you think about it—someone who has been a librarian, managing physical books for almost two decades.

And I don't disagree with her sentiment. I make about $30/month from Amazon ads placed in some of my posts on this site when I'm reviewing a book. When I got my most recent redemption code from Amazon a few days ago, I spent the entire amount on digital books that I could read on my iPad in the Kindle app.

Yeah, I think the iPad is going to be a game changer. That's becoming more than just hype surrounding the device. In regard to books, I think I'd now be more incline to buy a book if it were available digitally than if it only came out in physical form. Of course, even physical books can be converted to digital books. I've already done this with a book, and I'll detail the steps in a future post.

Follow-up: finding the perfect iPad case.
A week or so ago, I blogged about my so-far-failed attempt to find the perfect case for the iPad. I really liked the portfolio-style case that Apple makes and had bought one with my iPad, but thought I'd like something similar perhaps with a pocket or two in the front cover and some kind of flap that lifted up to allow it to be used with the keyboard dock while still in the case. I wrote about my foolish attempt to mod my case to accommodate the keyboard dock.

Well, I've come to the conclusion that for right now, the best case for me is simply the original Apple case; although I'd like to eventually replace the one I've mangled :-(

But I decided that if I put the iPad in a case that had "stuff" in the front cover, I would be moving away from the thin, lightweight form factor that I currently have. Right now, I can fold the cover back and read the iPad in bed like a book. Why would I want to mess that up? As for fitting the keyboard dock, I've actually discovered that after taking the iPad out of the case numerous times, it gets much easier to slide in and out. So this may not be as much of a problem as I initially thought it was.

Full Disclosure.
I suppose with all this praise of the iPad, I should disclose here on This Lamp that Kathy and I now own a couple of shares of Apple stock (not much, but a start!). But that's not why I'm praising the iPad. We bought the stock because of how impressed we were with the device and how much potential and influence we believe it will have in the coming years.

Friday
Apr302010

First Look: Copying Greek Text from BibleReader to Pages on the iPad

From the very first day I had my iPad, I tried to find a way to copy original language biblical text from any applicable app to Pages for the iPad. I couldn't find any app on the iPad at the time that allowed me to do this, but had to resort to loading a document on my Mac with Greek text from Accordance and then transferring it to the iPad.

Therefore, I'm very thrilled to see how easy this is to do using Olive Tree's Bible Reader for the iPad (full review forthcoming). Copying text is quite easy. You touch the verse number and a dialogue box appears offering a number of options, including text copy. Selecting that allows you to specify one or more verses.

 

Then, in Pages, the text pastes perfectly just as I hoped it would:

I found that the Greek text could be moved around, but I could not compose in Greek. The text as shown above is in the Helvetica font (the default in Pages), but if someone wanted a more serifed look, it can be changed to Times New Roman with results that look similar to the text as originally displayed in BibleReader.

Unfortunately, my attempt to copy Hebrew text was unsuccessful. I could copy the text in BibleReader, but when I tried to paste in Pages, nothing came through except the verse reference. This isn't a flaw in either BibleReader or Pages, but relates to the iPad's current lack of a Hebrew keyboard.

Although I was able to transfer a document with Unicode Hebrew from my computer to the iPad when I tried a month ago, I found this text to be nearly unusable as it could not be easily manipulated. My hunch is that like on the iPhone, we may have to wait a year or two (or at least until the iPad goes on sale in Israel) before Hebrew is easy to work with in Pages.

Regardless, the ability to at least work with Greek text from BibleReader in a word processor moves the iPad one step closer to becoming a tool for serious academic work in biblical studies. I was also delighted to see that the text in BibleReader remains in the same place as it did when I switched to Pages. That means that even though there is no true multitasking on the iPad (this will change in the Fall), there is no real difficulty in going back and forth between the biblical text and a word processor.

 

Stay tuned. More to come...

Monday
Apr052010

Two Days with the iPad: 41 Reflections, Discoveries, Critiques & Tips



No, I'm not going to write a formal review of the iPad. There are a thousand of those out there, and I doubt I could add anything relevant. After having spent the last couple of days with the device, though, I've discovered a number of interesting things in my poking around that I thought I'd share. These aren't in any particular order, but I'll try to keep similar items together.


  1. Yes, as everyone else says, the iPad is heavier than what one first expects. While some have criticized this aspect, I like it. The iPad feels solid.

  2. Those who still criticize the iPad for not having a widescreen display don't get it. It would be so awkward goofy to hold it and turn sideways if it were widescreen. Watching movies would benefit from a widescreen, but few other things. This is more akin to holding a book. I don't want a widescreen book.

  3. While the screen seems just the right size at the moment, I don't know if other sizes might be appreciated, too. A full 8.5 x 11" screen might be nice to use. I've heard rumors that Apple may offer different sized screens in the future.

  4. Immediately upon turning the iPad on for the first time, you will have to connect it to a computer to set it up. This is not an independent machine at all. While I think the iPad would be great for taking notes in a classroom setting, the university that announced a few days ago that all incoming freshman would get an iPad instead of a MacBook need to rethink that strategy. The students will have to have a computer, too. This situation may change in a few years, but right now, the iPad is not an independent platform.

  5. Those who criticize the iPad for not replacing a computer, don't understand it. The iPad is clearly intended to be a secondary machine. Of course, it's also criticized over this. "Why do I need another device to carry around?" That's not getting it either. I still remember the first time I saw an entire computer dedicated for use as a cash register. I thought that this was a waste as this computer could do so much more. An entire computer wasn't needed to simply function as a cash register in my opinion. Regardless of whether you agree with that (or even if I still agree with that), the reality is that often I take my MacBook Pro into situations in which a much lesser device would better suffice. I'm not getting rid of my MacBook Pro. I still need it for "heavy lifting," but there are many contexts in which all I need is something like the iPad. I am thinking of those times such as going to a faculty meeting or a deacons meeting at church in which I basically need to take a few notes and have access to my calendar. Yesterday, I took my iPad to church and taught our Bible study using Keynote for the iPad. It was a nice change of pace to not have to lug my entire laptop bag.

  6. For both Kathy and me, the first sync was excruciatingly long. We both opted to include our photos in iPhoto on the iPad. I have over 10,000 pictures, and she has over 6,000. iTunes has to "optimize" the photos for the iPad just as it does for the iPhone. Then, it still has to copy them. This took about two hours for each of us.

  7. When connected to WiFi, the iPad continues to receive mail—even beeps—just like the iPhone when turned off (or technically in sleep mode). That may seem like an obvious feature, but my computer doesn't do that. What's really weird is having my Mac running with my iPad and iPhone in the same room. Three beeps for every one email!

  8. Like I've always done with computers and my iPhone, I turned up the brightness to full capacity. I soon found this hurting my eyes. Really, all the average person will need is the brightness set to the middle position in preferences. Really.

  9. The interface animations are extremely fluid. Pick one up and slide from the first screen to the second. You'll see what I mean.

  10. Speaking of interface, I'm very impressed with the aesthetic detail of some of the iPad apps. I can't remember such attention to visual interface details on standard computers since...well...ever. To me applications like Contacts and Calendar look gorgeous. Not all agree. Paul Thurrott wrote yesterday, "Contacts is ridiculous. Apple needs to get over its desire to ape real world interfaces. That does not work." To each his own. I think it looks great. It has an old school charm, even down to the stitching in the center of the address book. Perhaps, this is why Paul prefers Windows :-)

  11. I love reading and respond to email on the iPad. It's not just a great interface, but also a very handy and comfortable form factor. However, I dislike not having a junk mail filter. I could easily see myself using the iPad for email more than my Mac, but I don't like the junk mail that gets through.

  12. Biggest complaint against Mail app on the iPad: no integrated inbox—not even an option for this. I thought Steve promised this a couple of weeks ago in an email? Hopefully that's coming.

  13. The virtual keyboards work great. In landscape mode, the keys are the size of a regular keyboard. In portrait mode, I'd equate my typing to that on some of the smaller netbooks I've tried. I've actually got the external keyboard dock on order and it should arrive this week. But I've found that I'm actually pretty fast in landscape mode. It's easily the size of a regular keyboard sans the numeric keypad. However, I keep trying to hit an apostrophe and end up hitting the return key. Actually, one really doesn't have to enter apostrophes at all as the interface will simply add them to common contractions and even some possessives. Like the iPhone, the apostrophe key is on a second keyboard layer. Yet the exclamation mark and question mark are included on the regular comma and period keys, respectively, by using the shift key. I understand having two separate keyboard layers (really three) on the iPhone, but with the larger keys on the iPad, I believe many of them could serve for two separate characters like most keyboards. That means adding an actual number row above the character rows.

  14. The iPad offers four different slide show modes: Cube, Dissolve, Ripple, Wipe and Origami. The last is easiest the most fascinating and fun to watch. Unfortunately, when I connected the iPad to a projector yesterday to show a shuffled rotation of over 1300 photos in our Bible Study group, I could only choose from the Dissolve transition. Clearly, that's the least interesting. I don't know why it would be limited to just this one.

  15. My biggest gripe about the iPad is the lack of an accessible file system. Each application has to hold its own files and you cannot create folders. Why would this be an issue? Well, for instance, I'd like to see if I could use the iPad in the classroom. For any given course I teach, I have multiple files: syllabus, gradebook, Keynote presentations, etc. It's convenient to keep them in one folder or a grouped nest of folders. The iPad simply doesn't work that way. Each file has to be transferred to its own program.

  16. One would think that the above issue could be overcome by placing folders in my MobileMe iDisk. And while the MobileMe iDisk can be accessed on the iPad via its iPhone app, I can't simply tap on a Keynote file and have it open in Keynote on the iPad. I have to transfer a Keynote file either through iTunes on my computer or email it. Why the iWork apps don't have access to my iDisk built in is beyond me.

  17. PDF documents create an interesting issue. Yes, if someone emails me a PDF file, I can view it in the Mail app, but there's no way for me to group a batch of separate PDF files. To me there ought to be some kind of application built in just for reading emails. Fortunately, I found an excellent app for 99¢ called GoodReader. It will connect to a MobileMe disk, email account, network server, Dropbox, Google Docs and more to retrieve documents and group them in the application. It works well and has a very intuitive interface.

  18. I spent quite a bit of time in the three iWork apps: Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. Here's what's interesting. The iPad apps are not actually sharing a common file format with their counterparts on the Mac. It doesn't matter whether you have a Pages file or a MS Word file, both have to be imported to Pages on the iPad and then exported back out. I guess in the final analysis, it doesn't really matter, but I do find it very interesting.

  19. If you have iWork '08 or earlier, you're out of luck. iWork on the iPad won't read your files. You have to have iWork '09.

  20. Some things about the iWork apps are not intuitive at all. There's no menu system because the interface has been completely rethought for touch. But this can cause problems. How do you rename a file? How do you perform a "Save as" for a file. I had to go online for these answers. You have to rename a file in the "My Documents" section of your app by tapping on it. I don't think I could have figured that out on my own. If you want to do a "Save as," do it before you edit the file by choosing to duplicate the file.

  21. Interface conventions are not always consistent across the board, but some are. Double-tapping a word in programs like Safari, iBooks, and the iWork apps selects the word. The iWork apps allow you to triple-tap a word to select the entire paragraph, but this doesn't work in any of the other apps. You might want to do this in the other apps to copy text.

  22. Neither text nor graphics can be copied out of the iBooks app or the Kindle app.

  23. I bought the initial April 12, 2010 issue of Time Magazine released for the iPad. I like the interface in which each article can be read on one screen with vertical swipes while swiping horizontally to move to the next article. However, Time is extremely overpriced at $4.99 an issue. Last week, I updated our print subscription to Time for the entire year for $20. That's about 40¢ an issue. There's no way I'd choose digital over print at those prices.

  24. I'm astonished at the fact that Pages does not allow footnotes. Really. Or even endnotes. In fact, if you import in a document with footnotes or endnotes, it removes them—completely strips them out! There's an alert upon conversion to this regard, but frankly it's startling to me. I cannot even write a thank-you note without footnotes! I've seen text conversions between word processors on the computer in which footnotes might be converted to endnotes, but strip them out completely? If Apple wants the iPad to receive heavy use from students, let alone academics, Pages will have to include the ability to add footnotes. Either that, or another company has a chance to come along and create a much more robust word processor for the iPad.

  25. I've already noted that the iWork apps on the iPad are not truly sharing the same file format. That also means that like the footnotes that are stripped out, other things can be stripped out as well. First page headers and footers get deleted. An alert is offered if a particular font is not available. Keynote will accept some video formats in a presentation but not others. I'm not certain yet which ones work and which ones don't. As soon as you import a file, an alert is offered to tell you what will be missing. Needless to say, you need to fully check any imported files before rushing out the door to a context in which you'll need them.

  26. Some apps like the iWork and iBooks app do not reset when closed. I was initially worried about this based upon my experience with the iPhone in which many apps have to completely "restart." In iBooks, the page opens right where you left off. If you are working on a document in Pages, you can go read your email and then come back to pick up right where you left off.

  27. The most egregious missing feature in iWork for the iPad for me is presenter notes in Keynote. And it doesn't make sense because when connected to a projector, the iPad creates the equivalent of an extended desktop. It's not a plain mirror of what's on the iPad. So why not have a presenter's screen with notes like on the Mac version of Keynote? I haven't printed out notes in at least three years and to do so seems like such a step backwards and the antithesis of what the iPad is supposed to represent. I hope that a future revision will remedy a lack of presenter notes. .

  28. I've actually managed to completely crash the iPad once. I imported a particularly media-heavy Keynote file that I used on Sunday a few weeks ago, only to watch as Keynote crashed during the import process. Then the entire iPad rebooted. There's no warning if an app crashes; the iPad just goes out to the desktop. And if the iPad itself crashes, it simply reboots on its own.

  29. I was particularly interested to see how Pages (and Keynote) would handle biblical original languages texts. Since there is a Logos app on the iPad (no Accordance app yet and Olive Tree's iPad-specific BibleReader app has not made it to to the app store as of this writing), I thought I'd try copying text from the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Bible. After struggling a while to copy text, I realized that the Logos app doesn't allow for copying. A comment on their website forums says it's coming in a future revision. So, on my Mac I copied unicode texts of Genesis 1:1 from both the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Septuagint from Accordance into a Pages file and imported it into Pages on the iPad. Both texts showed up great, and the Hebrew text even read from right to left correctly except for bere’shit at the beginning of the Hebrew text. I could change the font size, but I could not edit text. I couldn't even place a cursor in the middle of the Hebrew text, and while I could do that in the Greek text, neither would allow me to edit in Hebrew or Greek. I have no idea how to switch to a unicode keyboard in the application for this level of editing.

  30. There is an updated WordPress app for the iPad. It's somewhat better than the iPhone version, but really with the larger screen, I don't know why one wouldn't want to simply use the WordPress admin site in Safari. I'll have to try this later and get back to you.

  31. iWork apps come with 43 fonts. From what I can tell, they're not system-wide for other apps to use, but I could be wrong.

  32. Pages and the other iWork apps don't convert straight quotation marks to "curly" quotation marks. A lack of such is so 1991. You can achieve them manually, however, by holding down the quotation mark key and selecting the symbol you want (do you have any idea how difficult it was to get that screenshot?).

  33. I would not want to do a lot of data entry in Numbers using the virtual keyboard. I updated our monthly budget for April using Numbers on the iPad based on last month's budget file. Although Numbers is smart enough to change the keyboard based upon what kind of data fill you're in, a spreadsheet is just a bit awkward. It would definitely be better with an external keyboard—one that had both a tab key and a numeric keypad, to boot.

  34. There are too many steps to change fonts and font sizes in Pages. I recognize the power of predetermined styles, but that doesn't mean I don't want to occasionally make minor changes to a selection of text that I don't need to create a style for. Right now, simply to change the font of a word (without using a predetermined style), here are the steps: (1) selection your text, (2) select the inspector, (3) scroll down past all the styles, (4) tap "Text Options," (5) tap "Font," (6) scroll through the fonts, and (7) tap the font you want. This should be easier.

  35. Ironically, iWork Pages on the iPad autosaves in spite of the fact that its Mac equivalent does not.

  36. As I mentioned,  took my iPad with me to church yesterday. It was a nice change of pace to simply carry my Bible and and the iPad in its case. It really looked and felt like I was carrying two books with me. This is again why I say that the form factor on the iPad is just right. So why did I need to carry a Bible if I have Bible apps on the iPad? I needed it because I planned to teach from Keynote on the iPad, so I needed a separate Bible. This is really not a big deal as I usually have my Bible, MacBook Pro and my laptop bag. I felt much lighter yesterday!

  37. While sitting in church as our pastor gave his message, I decided to use my iPad instead of my printed Bible to follow along. Lately they've been turning the lights too low during the message to actually see a Bible anyway. Although my pastor was teaching from the NLT, I decided to use Crossway's dedicated ESV iPad app. It opened to Genesis, and it took me a moment to figure out how to get to John 21 which was the text of the day. After I figured it out, I was delighted to see what a nice app for the iPad that the Crossway ESV app is. Certainly, it doesn't have all the frills of a larger suite of software like the offerings from Logos or Olive Tree, but it doesn't have the distractions either. At one point, I accidentally double-tapped some of the text only to see a window pop up showing the single verse, cross references, and a place to add my own notes. As an added bonus, text can be copied out of the ESV iPad app and pasted into other apps such as iWork Pages. I was very impressed by this app as having more depth and features that I originally realized. I know that some of you reading this are heavy ESV users, and I think that you would probably want to check out this app if you have an iPad.

  38. Also, toward the end of my pastor's message, I had an idea for an extra slide in my Keynote presentation which I was going to use in our Bible study that was to follow the service. It was so easy with my iPad already opened to simply add a new slide and the text I needed. Previously, opening my entire MacBook Pro would have seemed just a bit too conspicuous.

  39. Speaking of my Keynote presentation, I created the entire file with nine slides on the iPad. While it's very nice to be able to do that, and especially nice to do quick updates unnoticed, I imagine I will normally want to create them on my Mac. Like my mention of spreadsheets above, I believe that some things are still going to be easier and faster to do on a regular computer as opposed to a touch interface.

  40. On Saturday, when I tried logging into the Logos app (you have to log in to access the books that you own in the desktop software), I was initially confused by the process. There was a place for my user name and password and two buttons: one that read "Skip" and one that read "Sign Up." Well, I didn't want to do either. But I went ahead and entered my information and checked "Sign Up." That took me to a screen to create an account which is not what I wanted to do. After going back to the first login screen, I noted that the virtual keyboard had a "Go" button instead of the normal "Return." I've discovered that the iPad will often change types of keyboards based on what type of task the screen requires. So this time, I hit the Go button and—voila!—I was logged in. Although I tend to use Accordance primarily and Logos secondarily on my Mac, I can see very real potential for reading some of my Logos books from beginning to end on the iPad because of both the book-like form factor and the higher resolution screen that will be easier on the eyes. Although I have thousands of books on my Mac, I use them more for reference than straight reading because I find it difficult to read for long periods of time on the computer.

  41. Speaking of reading books, I tried out both the iBooks app and the Kindle iPad app. The Kindle app downloaded my four previously acquired Kindle books with no difficulty. Both are very straight forward, although the iBooks app has animated page turning. I don't know if this will get annoying or ignored in reading, say, a 300 page book. There should probably be a preference to keep the animation from occurring. Regardless, it seems to impress those to whom I've shown my iPad.

All in all, despite having some "version 1" gotchas, I'm very pleased with my iPad. Again, it's not made to replace anything, but can be a very nice secondary alternative. It has that "curl up on the couch" feel that a laptop or even a netbook does not have. I plan to carry it with me instead of my laptop to those places that don't require the extra computing power that a laptop or desktop computer offers. The iPad is my way to go "lite" and realistically, this may be for half or more of my normal computing needs.

When I bought my MacBook Pro in 2008, I purposefully spent extra money and bought a high end model that could be upgraded and would last me for a while. I even said at the time that this was my main computer and I wouldn't replace it for at least five years. I still plan to hold to that time frame, but in 2013 when I go to buy a new Mac, maybe I won't need a laptop after all. Maybe I can go to a less expensive iMac desktop Mac, knowing that the iPad of 2013 may very well be all I need for portable purposes.

Thursday
Jan282010

Reflections upon Electronic Books & Why in Spite of the iPad, I Probably Still Want a Kindle

First, let me say that with Accordance, Logos & Wordsearch all installed on my MacBook Pro, I literally carry with me thousands of books everyday. Thus, you can't say that I haven't embraced electronic texts. I've done that probably more than a lot of people.

And yet, I still have a soft spot for a good old fashioned, physical book. I can curl up on the couch with a good book, but not so easily with my laptop. I always joke that you can't read an electronic book in the bathtub--or at least you shouldn't (however, it's probably been over a decade since I read a book in a bathtub anyway). I still like to use a physical Bible when teaching or preaching in front of others. For that matter, I still enjoy the exercise of writing actual notes in the margins of my Bible as part of my preparation--even though I often do the same thing electronically in Accordance (certainly much more than I use to). There's something that I get experientially from physical books that I don't yet get from technology. But keep in mind that having said that, I still own thousands of electronic books--so I'm not being a Luddite here.

Regardless, I believe that while physical books will never completely go away, the electronic book is going to be an increasing presence. Supposedly, Amazon sold more books for its Kindle over the holidays than physical books for the first time ever. If true, I'm not surprised. And the new iPad may be an example of what Apple often does best--taking an already existing technology and moving it into the mainstream.

I was never interested in an electronic e-reader beyond my own MacBook Pro until about 3 or 4 months ago when I held a Kindle in my hand. Before that, I had rejected the Kindle as yet another gadget that probably most of us didn’t need. As already mentioned, I carry thousands of books, mostly biblical reference works, on my laptop, so why would a Kindle be necessary anyway?

But I ran into this guy—a pastor of a church—at a Starbucks, and we struck up a conversation about the Kindle. He had one and told me that it made buying books so easy and was so portable, he’d read well over 50 books last year. That’s much more than I read.

What really got me was the screen on the Kindle. Yes, I have thousands of books on my laptop, but I essentially use them all as reference. I never read one from beginning to end because my laptop screen is too hard on my eyes after extended periods of time. Not so with the Kindle from what I saw in my brief enounter. The Kindle had a screen that was very relaxing to the eyes. I really could see myself actually reading whole books on this thing.

Since the Kindle reads PDF files, I could also see myself converting some of my books on my laptop to PDF format and carrying them with me on a Kindle. In fact, I imagine that would be my main use for a Kindle. I definitely wanted one after I saw one first hand. But I'll come back to that.

There are other ramifications for the electronic texts and readers. Yesterday, the New York Times was given prominent treatment during the iPad announcement. The New York Times has already been experimenting with newspaper subscriptions that only show up on the Kindle. You wake up in the morning, turn on your Kindle and the NY Times is already downloaded on it. They are actually pushing a lot of subscribers to go this route because it removes the cost of delivery and actually is cheaper in the long run (even factoring in the cost of the device) for subscribers. Not to mention saving the wasteful cost of printing something on paper everyday. Electronic delivery could very well save the newspaper industry if they could get enough people to subscribe. And of course a device like Apple's iPad offers the benefit of multimedia that the Kindle doesn't currently offer. Suddenly even we muggles now have moving pictures in our newspapers.

Think also about textbooks. When I was in college, I kept a few of the books that were in my major area of study—I still have some of them—but like most students, I didn’t keep the majority of my books. I sold them back. What if the price of textbooks could be significantly decreased—perhaps even cut in half—by allowing them to be downloaded to a Kindle or an iPad or other similar device? The publishers should like the idea because it eliminates the reselling of textbooks which brings in no money back to them. Students would like it because electronic books should be much cheaper. I could even see a scenario in which a student registers for her classes and by the time she gets back to her dorm room, all of her textbooks for the quarter were already downloaded to her Kindle or iPad. I could imagine a similar situation in high schools, too. There's an incredible amount of potential for electronic texts in education

For me electronic texts on my personal computer have been a boon. I really appreciate not having to carry a stack of books with me to work on a project. I use the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary as a prime example of the benefits of an electronic edition. I've got both the physical set of the AYBD and a copy in Accordance. The physical set is six thick volumes. The electronic set is simply virtual. Further, the physical set does not have an index. You might wonder why an index would be needed with a dictionary, but you'd be surprised. Without an index, I have to search for a subject second guessing the way the editors would have arranged it. Plus, sometimes an subject is covered in more than one article. The physical set makes further treatment difficult to find, but an electronic copy that is searchable makes it much easier. Also, note in the graphic on the right that in the Accordance version of the AYBD, I can search specifically for certain fields. Besides the benefit of searching for the content of the dictionary, I can also zero in specifically on the way the dictionary treats biblical references, or search for all articles written by a certain author and more.

A concern I often hear in regard to electronic texts is whether or not they will be accessible twenty years from now. Think about it--I have a copy of Huckleberry Finn that was printed in the first half of the 20th century. It was given to me by my great aunt. As long as I take care of it, I should still be able to read it when I'm an old man. But how do I know that I will still be able to read an electronic text in 30 years that I've invested in now? That's a legitimate question, but one that the eventual creation of standard formats will answer.

I'm not worried about my investments in my biblical software. This is a field that is essentially all these companies do, and they've been doing it for quite some time. In a worse case scenario, if Company X were to get into financial trouble, I would think it would be worth another company's effort to acquire them and their customer base. Although certain variations of this scenario would be more frightening than others, I'm not worried about my current investment in this area.

For electronic texts seen in devices like the Kindle or iPad, however, it's important that standards can emerge. In an earlier experiment with electronic texts a few years ago, Amazon sold PDF versions of certain books. These texts had digital rights management built in to keep a purchaser from copying it willy nilly for his friends. I bought one of these PDF versions and have it to this day on my laptop. Unfortunately, I cannot open it. It was tied to the computer on which I purchased it. Amazon can't help me because they no longer sell the book. This is the kind of nightmare scenario that one fears if a significant investment is made into electronic texts. My decades old copy of Huck Finn on my shelf simply isn't affected by that kind of problem.

There's the other issue of ownership. Electronic books are virtual, made up of bytes of information on a storage device of some kind. Last year, Amazon made quite a stink when after discovering they'd sold electronic copies of George Orwell's 1984 for which they didn't have permission, they simply yanked them from Kindle owners who had bought the book via the Kindle's wireless connection. Not surprisingly, a store credit was not satisfactory to their customers. You know, if I buy an accidentally unauthorized printing of 1984, the manager of Barnes & Noble can't come into my home and take it off my bookshelf. Due to the outcry, Amazon has promised not to do this again, but the very idea that they could, is still a bit unnerving.

Yesterday, as you know unless you were hiding in a cave, Steve Jobs formally introduced the iPad. The worst kept secret in the computer industry, this "portable media device" promises to be something more than an iPhone/iPod Touch, but less than a full laptop computer. It's been called a "Kindle killer," but I hope this isn't so. I hope there's still room for both devices, but I also hope that the price of the Kindle comes down a bit in case I decide to eventually get one.

If you read the tech press at all, there's a surprising number of people disappointed with the new iPad. Paul Thurrott, for instance, has already written two posts about his disappointment with the iPad (see here and here). In his first post, he writes, "The thing I don't get here is... So far, nothing new. This has all been done before elsewhere. I'm astonished this isn't nicer looking or more interesting." But as much as I respect Paul, I think he misses the point. Yes, the iPad is less powerful than even a netbook, but for many people the iPad will be all the computer they need.

I know of no certain figures, but I would guess that there are a large percentage of computer users who do little more than read email, surf the web, and occasionally use a word processor. They don't need everything a full-fledged computer offers (whether laptop, desktop or even netbook). And while netbooks are nice (I even have an Acer Aspire One D250), they have many compromises that make them difficult to use as a main computer. But for the folks who don't need a full computer, the iPad may be ideal.

For education especially, the iPad will be beneficial. Not only do I imagine a scenario as I described above where one device could hold all of a student's textbooks, but with word processing capabilities as demonstrated yesterday with iWork Pages, it becomes a complete device for many users. And if you don't like iWork, don't worry. There will be plenty of other word processors available within a couple of years. If the iPad is successful--and I think it will be--I wouldn't even be surprised to see Microsoft release a version of Office for it. And I wonder what Google Docs would be like on the iPad right now?

The iPad will also be a very good option for people who need a smaller, less-capable, secondary computer. That's why I bought my Acer netbook to begin with. There are times when I don't need to take a full computer with me. Church is a good example. I teach on Sunday mornings from Keynote, but I wanted something less than my 15" MacBook Pro to carry with me. I had dreams of buying a netbook and making it into a Hackintosh and running Keynote from it. But that hasn't worked as well as I wanted and I'm back to using my MacBook Pro. So, of course, I'm very intrigued by the fact that the iPad has its own version of Keynote. I could also picture myself sitting in a church service taking notes on an iPad, something that I simply feel too conspicuous doing on a regular laptop.

There are also many times when I wished that my iPhone had a keyboard of its own. On an occasional weekend getaway, I don't necessarily want to take a whole computer, but I would like to keep up with email. The iPad would be perfect for this kind of use.

However, I want to see how Keynote really works on an iPad before I'd ever commit to one. When I teach with Keynote, I make extensive use of my notes in Keynote which show up on the presenter's screen but not on the projector. I have my doubts that the iPad will make use of extended desktops--at least in its initial version.

[Side note: Having read rumors that the iPad would have it's own version of the iWork suite, I was secretly hoping that Apple would release a Windows version of iWork. You might laugh, but that's not without precident since Apple's previous office suite, Claris/AppleWorks had a Windows version. This would have solved a main problem with the use of the Netbook. Currently I have Windows 7 installed on it for lack of a better solution, and a Windows version of Keynote would allow me to use it on Sunday mornings again.]

Thus, I really do think that in spite of the naysayers, the iPad is a significant offering. Yes, there have been tablet computers and e-readers and all the rest. But they've never been mainstream. The iPad may be the just right mix of everything that many people will realize that they don't need something more powerful. But time will tell.

I also hope that the iPad is not a "Kindle killer." I hope that there is room for both devices. Many people may just need a Kindle for reading without all the features of the iPad. Regardless, I think Amazon will be fine either way. They already have a Kindle reader for the iPhone which will presumably run just fine on the iPad. Even if they were to eventually quit manufacturing the Kindle device, Amazon could still sell books for their reader that would work on the iPad.

If Apple is successful with the iPad, I may want one eventually, but not the first generation. I had the first generation iPhone, but this time I think I'll sit back and let some of the rest of you work out the first generation bugs. The second generation iPhone was much better than the initial iPhone, and I imagine it will be the same for the iPad.

In the meantime, I'd still like to convert a number of my electronic texts to PDFs and read them on a Kindle. I have a hunch that four hours of straight reading on a Kindle is easier on the eyes than what it would be on an iPad. So, I'll be watching to see if the prices come down. Or if you want to yours, maybe you can make me an offer I can't refuse.

Tuesday
Oct132009

So Long, MS Works! You Were Great in ’88 

Ms-works-2.0-dos MS Works 2.0 for DOS screenshot (borrowed from the Wikipedia)

You know, before I was a Mac guy, I was a Windows guy. And before I was a Windows guy, I was a GeoWorks Ensemble guy. And before that, I was just a plain old DOS guy. And what was the first word processor I ever used to write a college paper? It was Works 1.0 for DOS. I used it my junior year in college in 1988.

So, I read a post on ZDNet last week about the demise of Microsoft Works (see "Goodbye, Works!"). Evidently, Microsoft is discontinuing it in favor of a stripped down, ad-laden version of Office. The opening paragraph of the ZDNet article especially caught my attention:

How many of you have received files from students (or even teachers’ home computers) and been unable to open them because they’re in Works format? Sure, there’s a converter utility, but it’s one more thing to install on the computers you manage and doesn’t help if you’re using a Mac, Linux, or Google Apps. Of course, since it’s pre-installed on most home PCs, many of our students don’t think about the file format issue.

As I've begun to accept more papers electronically, the issue above occurs all too frequently. Quite often students pay no attention to what software they use to write their papers. When asked, they often don't know whether they're using Works or Office. They're not thinking about it; they simply use whatever came with their computer. Word 2007 for Windows will read Works files, but Word 2008 for the Mac will not because there hasn't been a current version of Works on the Mac platform since the mid-nineties.

Now, if I want to go out of my way, I can convert a Works file on my Mac in one of two ways. I can fire up Windows Vista in Parallels where I do have a copy of Office 2007 installed. Or I can launch MacLinkPlus. But most of the time, I email the student back and ask that he or she export the file to Word format or at least RTF. I also encourage them to buy Office. As cheap as our students can get a full copy of MS Office, I really see no reason to go through an entire college degree using Works.

But it was great or me--back in the day. I thought Works 1.0 for DOS was amazing. I sat down with the tutorial and went through every lesson. It had a word processor, spreadsheet, database, and a communications program (the last of which I don't think I ever used). I mainly used the word processor, eventually upgrading Works to v. 2.0. But my stepfather, who was a banker, told me that for quite a while he ran the whole bank in a Works database. Imagine that.

When I began work on my M.Div in 1991, the Works word processor wouldn't cut it for me because it couldn't create footnotes (I believe current versions of Works will). I switched to WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, and spent another week or two, going through every lesson in the tutorial. But around this same time, I was also using GeoWorks Ensemble. It had a great word processor, but again no footnotes. Nevertheless, I saw the value of a graphical user interface, and so I eventually made my way to Windows, using MS Word, and then in 1998 I switched to the Mac.

Anyway, I still have some of those files from Works for DOS. I believe I've converted most of them to Word by this point. And there's the rub. At the end of the ZDNet post, the writer commented, "Works is dead. Long live generally accessible file formats."

Accessing files from twenty years ago is possible, but it's a pain. In twenty years, I don't want it to be difficult to access the files I create now. Word processing is one of my major uses for a computer. I have multiple word processors on my MacBook Pro. I have Word 2008 for the Mac, Word 2007 for Windows, WordPerfect 2002 for Windows, Apple's iWork Pages '09, Mellel 2.7, and even an old copy of AppleWorks 6. In addition to these programs I have installed, I keep up with Nota Bene for Windows by subscribing to their email list. I am also a member of the WordPerfect for Mac email list even though Corel hasn't released a version for the Mac since 1997.

And with all that, what word processing software do I use 90% of the time? Microsoft Word 2008. In the end I'm a pragmatist. I know that for better or worse, Word is the standard and I'll be able to read my files two decades from now. I simply have no doubt whatsoever about this. I've learned this lesson the hard way because I have to jump through hoops to open old Works or WordPerfect files. And I cannot open the GeoWorks files at all right now (although I'm looking to change that).

Everyone likes to throw stones at Microsoft. I've always said I'm not anti-Microsoft; I'm just anti-Windows (even though I also have Windows installed on my Mac in Parallels anyway). I'd love to switch to something like Pages for the bulk of my work, but I'm a bit reluctant. Apple ditched AppleWorks and before that MacWrite. Who's to say that one day, they won't ditch Pages?

But I'm not such a pragmatist across the board. I have switched completely over to Keynote for teaching instead of PowerPoint because it is so much better. For the first year or two I used it, I would save a backup copy of my file in PowerPoint format just in case. However, I've stopped doing that and even delete these PowerPoint versions of my files now when I come across them. I believe that regardless of what happens with Pages (and Numbers), Keynote will remain because it's garnered quite a following. And hey, it's what Steve Jobs uses, so I would think that guarantees its staying power. I wouldn't be surprised if there's not eventually a Windows version of Keynote. I think those of you who are Windows users would really like it.

As for Works? I haven't used it since 1989 or ’90. It brings back fond memories of my early days on the computer and my first academic work. I hung on to the floppy discs after I stopped using it--just in case other things didn't work out and I needed to reinstall it. But after almost two decades, I think I can safely say that won't happen (I still have those WordPerfect 5.1 discs, too).

I guess, it's sad to see Works go only from a nostalgic viewpoint. But who needs yet another file format? In fact, I'm surprised it even stayed around this long. And as long as I can open my files without hassle, I'll be happy.