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Writing from the iPad

by Tilton on January 15, 2012

Note: this entry is a response to a series of emails that were posted on the Association of Internet Researcher’s maillist regarding the ability of an iPad to be a device for writers.

I’m normally considered an early adopter of technology. I love being on the “cutting edge.” My first “portable computer” was a Psion 3. Of course, I’m using the term portable computer loosely when describe the Psion. It is a beefed up PDA (personal digital assistant). I could type on it and write documents, so it was good enough at the time. However, it was a pain in the butt to really do school work. I got my first laptop, a Kiwi Max 486, a year later. That purchase was a huge mistake as it broke quickly and was later nothing more than a paperweight.

The iPad, and by extension tablet computers, seemed to be a logical transition from the laptop. I would normally have a laptop in my messenger bag with the rest of my teaching or research gear. This first incarnation of my kit was heavy and kind of bulky. During grad school, the advantage of having an “office in a bag” was being out weighted by the weight of the bag. When netbooks were initially popular, I replaced the laptop in my bag with a netbook.

Netbooks were a good temporary solution. I owned a couple and they were good for me, for the most part, as they fit well with my workflow. I could take my netbook to my favorite coffee shop or restaurant and write away. The problem for me was that the netbook took up a lot of space in my bag and I needed the AC power supply to use the netbook for a long period of time. Therefore I needed a thinner solution that didn’t need a bulky power supply. Then I saw the iPad and it seemed to be the answer.

I love the ability of simply taking it out of its small pouch and being to type my thoughts. A majority of my dissertation has been produced on one of my two iPads. The form factor has remain the same. I would use a bluetooth keyboard, either the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard or a Zagg Logitech Keyboard. I am currently using the Zagg full time as the Zagg acts as my case and stand for the iPad. In addition, the keyboard is bigger that the keyboards on the netbooks or Psion.

In terms of maintain my writing style or prose, I really don’t notice a difference between writing on my iPad or writing on my office or home computer. The one advantage that I do notice is that I can touch the screen and fix any spelling or grammatical mistake I may make. I believe that if I had this when I was in high school, I probably would have been a better writer in high school. I could have began typing my homework during study halls and had enough space for the rest of my school gear. It would have beat what I normally need during high school study hall, sleep. The ability to collect and express your thoughts on the go is an amazing expression of freedom.

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