Apple iPad, day 4: Hiccups and pet peeves

We're only on day 4 of a 30 day series, but I already have a growing list of issues and pet peeves

I know I am only 4 days into 30 Days With the iPad, but I am already developing a list of issues and annoyances. Let's take a look at some of the problems I have encountered so far with using the iPad as a Windows 7 notebook replacement.

Let's start with the virtual keyboard. I have an issue with it, but not the issue you might assume. I don't have any problem typing on it. I can type at a pretty decent pace tapping away on the iPad glass.

My problem with it is twofold. First, when the virtual keyboard is in use, it takes up half of the display, leaving little room to actually view the content I am typing. A second, semi-related issue is that because my display is also my keyboard and I have the iPad laying on the desk in front of me, the viewing angle sucks as a display.

I might not mind it as much if it were a dual-tablet solution where I have one tablet for viewing and a separate tablet for typing. At some point, I will probably at least experiment with one or more of the available wireless keyboards available for the iPad and cover the pros and cons of using one of those in place of the virtual keyboard.

I am finding the iOS autocorrect feature to be a double-edged sword. I have come to rely on it to some extent when texting or typing on my iPhone or iPad in a more casual sense. I will fat-finger a word and just expect iOS to fix it for me without giving it another thought. But, when typing longer content I find I have to be much more vigilant about paying attention and making sure the iPad doesn't automatically 'correct' words to be something different than I intended.

Then, there is the problem of actually creating and posting the articles. My normal workflow is that I write my articles and posts in Microsoft Word, save the file locally, then copy and paste the content into the PCWorld tool online to publish the post to the Web. Now that I am using the iPad, I don't have Microsoft Office available, and there are issues with using the PCWorld online tool.

I have a few different options available to me as Microsoft Word alternatives--the iWork Pages app, DocsToGo, or using Google Docs or Office 365 from the Safari browser (or an alternate iPad browser). Unfortunately, all of these options have issues of some kind.

The problem with the apps--Pages and DocsToGo--is that there doesn't seem to be any way to insert links. You will notice that my articles all contain links to relevant sites and information scattered throughout. It is a problem trying to rely on a word processor that can't insert links.

I can write the post in Google Docs, but only in the Mobile mode which also doesn't provide a means of inserting links. When I tried to switch to the full desktop mode of Google Docs, I got an error message. When I tried to use the Office 365 Word Web app I also had some issues and errors.

I haven't taken the time to try to really troubleshoot these issues, so I am not sure yet whether the problem is the iPad, the Google Docs / Office 365 service itself, or something I have configured funny or that I am doing wrong. I'll try to figure that out over the next few days.

I thought I would just write my article using Pages, then paste it into the PCWorld tool and add my links there after the fact. But, I discovered that the PCWorld tool won't let me paste the content. I can work with the tool up to a point, but the main window where the body of the article goes will not allow me to paste the content copied from Pages.

Then, it occurred to me to try it in reverse--actually write the content within the PCWorld tool in the first place, then copy and paste that content into Pages so I can save my copy for my personal archives. No can do. I still had an issue with that main content window. I can add and edit text in a variety of other fields, but in that main window it won't seem to recognize it as a text entry field. The virtual keyboard doesn't appear and there is no way to work with it. The icons on the menu for the window don't show up either, which would make it difficult to add links or images, or make text bold or bulleted, etc.

So far, it seems that working with the iPad is a little like working with Ubuntu Linux. It does some things very well, but it also just doesn't work nice with some things. In those instances, there are most likely solutions or workarounds if you are dedicated and resourceful enough to find them. The question--which we will hopefully answer by the end of the 30 days--is whether or not it is worth that extra effort. Hopefully, after some initial hurdles and a little learning curve, things will work more smoothly.

Some of the issues I am encountering are not a function of Apple, or the iPad itself. Some may be blamed on PCWorld, or Google Docs, or Office 365, or whatever. The issues I have with the PCWorld tool are probably the fault of the PCWorld tool, and I will address them with the PCWorld developers to see if they can be fixed. Ultimately, though, it all affects the ability to use the iPad as a primary computing device in place of a traditional notebook, so the blame is sort of irrelevant.

Perhaps there are some things here that Apple can put on the iOS 5.1 list--or at least iOS 6.

Read the last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux

Day 3: Setting Up and Using Email

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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