It’s hard to believe it was three years ago that we went through the hype, insanity, and general hysteria over the launch of the Apple iPad, the first tablet computer to achieve wide success with the public.
Do you remember those days? Nobody knew what it would be called, what it would cost, how big it was, or much of anything else.
Now, iPads and their competitors seem to be everywhere. On airplanes, in the hands of the people helping you check into the hotel, mounted in vehicles for ready access by delivery and service people.
The tablet has proven its utility in hundreds of ways for millions of people. And we’re now raising an entire generation of iPad trained, touch-screen sensitive kids, whose affection for the iPad seems to be universal.
But the iPad has also always had limitation, some of which I’ve written about before.
I acquired my iPad about a month after launch, and have been using it just about every day since. Most of the writing that has appeared on my blog since then started out on the iPad.
iPad as Writing and Mind Mapping Tool
Over time, the novelty wears off everything, and the iPad is no exception. I marveled at some of the ways magazines have moved onto the tablet but, to be honest, I don’t read many magazines, and the ones I do read tend to be printed on paper.
Games? Who has time? Watching videos? Yes, the iPad is perfect for that, and for shopping and it’s not too bad for browsing. Viewing PDFs? Fantastic, and great to take to a client meeting to show samples, too.
But most of my use of the iPad has focused on writing and mind mapping. I’ve used Writer for iPad almost exclusively, and it’s fantastic. For mind mapping, the iThoughts HD app makes the best use of the touch screen interface and is a joy to use.
However, the iPad (at least my first-generation model) isn’t that fast, and it’s a horrible platform for text editing due to Apple’s insistence that you can’t use the keyboard (mine is an Apple bluetooth model) for any commands.
When I thought about all the traveling I’m doing this year, I decided to upgrade to a laptop. This was pretty big for me, because I don’t own a laptop and haven’t since the 1990s. After doing some shopping, I settled on the smallest, least expensive MacBook Air, an 11″ model that costs about twice what the iPad costs.
Making the Comparison
The biggest difference between these two devices is the operating system. Although Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, has gotten better and better, it’s still the same one that runs tablets and phones.
Everything is an app, the touchscreen rules, and you are basically single-tasking all the time.
The MacBook, on the other hand, is a fully functional Macintosh, albeit in an incredibly small and light form. All my software runs on it, you don’t have to keep poking the screen to get something done, and multitasking is a given.
For traveling, you might think there’s a big tradeoff, but you might also be surprised. Here’s how the sizes of these two devices compare:
The iPad weighs just under 2 pounds, while the MacBook Air weights 2 pounds 6 ounces. But the iPad needs accessories or it’s useless to me. As a regular writer, I need a keyboard, a stand to hold the iPad upright, and a pad under the keyboard because the little feet do almost nothing to damp the recoil and noise of the keyboard under serious use.
Here’s the whole kit, which comes in at 3 pounds 3 ounces, almost a whole pound more than the Air:
Besides the added functionality of a full computer, and less weight, the Air is essentially “landscape” or wide screen. Although the iPad can be turned to be either landscape or portrait, I usually use it in portrait mode, kind of like a piece of paper. Here’s how they look side by side:
What It Means for Writers
At one time writers wrote, and somebody else did all the other stuff.
What I’ve found over the past couple of years—and I’d be curious if this is true for you, too—is that as a blogger, a consultant, and someone who creates training products, I’m no longer just a writer.
Sure, everything needs to be written, but it also needs to be edited. Trying to negotiate the WordPress interface, or a word processing program on the iPad is painful. Basically, everything takes much, much longer than it would on a regular computer.
Now, as authors, we’re being tasked to do so much more, including marketing and expanding our ideas into other products and formats. So when my tasks involve editing, posting blogs, creating landing pages, working on a video, surfing lots of blogs to curate content, or doing maintenance on my blog, this move has been a great leap forward for my personal work.
I’m heading to Chicago in a couple of days to give several presentations at this year’s IBPA Publishing University, then the next week to Denver for the Author U Extravaganza.
I’m much more confident now that all that travel time will be put to productive use. And when I get there, I can run PowerPoint presentations right from my MacBook. I’ve got Writer for Mac now, so I’m at home on the laptop, although my touch screen mind mapping software will remain an iPad experience.
As a writer, I feel more powerful, more connected, and more capable. It’s a whole new world.
Have you made a big change in the tools you use to write? I’d love to hear about it.