It’s a grand experiment, this iPad, but I’m still getting mixed results.
For me, a computer is primarily a writing and communications tool, especially if one includes online research and Web posting as part of the broad category of “writing.” I do, and consequently, Web browsers are one of my main writing tools, especially since I’ve been converted to Webmail as my main email medium.
However, I have a big beef about email on the iPad, which is a branch of my even bigger beef about working on the iPad in general—its stupefying lameness when it comes to text manipulation and editing.
But focusing specifically on email, something that just drives me to fury is that it’s well nigh impossible to select and copy text in some Webmail email messages, and I’m looking at you Gmail. I’m singling Gmail out here because that’s where this issue is most troublesome. Occasionally, with dogged perseverance, I can persuade the iOS to select and copy a block of text from a Gmail message. However, this ability is not efficient, consistent, or reliable.
Again, this appears to be a mostly Gmail issue, as I have no problem selecting and copying text from email messages in Yahoo! Mail open in a different tab in the same browser. I’ve also tested it in a variety of iOS browsers, as well as in the dedicated Google Gmail app, and I get the same behaviour in all. My best guess is that it must be something in Google’s Gmail Web page coding. Not fun.
Not infrequently I’ll run across someone praising the iPad for providing a “distraction-free” writing platform. I suppose much—by which I mean just about everything— depends on what sort of writing you’re doing. For purely stream-of-thought creative writing, or off-the-top-of-the-head stuff like this blog I’m composing right now, the iPad is fine. I’ve even made my peace largely with the on-screen virtual keyboard. However, for much of my prose production efforts, the alleged “distractions” (at least some of them) are an important part of the process—one that I’ve found just can’t be conducted with tolerable efficiency on the iPad, at least at this stage of iOS software development.
I’m talking about when you’re working from notes and collected research materials. I recently set out to compose a newspaper column, and decided to try it on the iPad. Now, normally, on a Mac or PC, my MO would be to have the document or documents containing my notes and research resources open in one window, and my working draft in another, switching back and forth frequently. They don’t even have to be in the same application. This is not possible on the iPad, where everything is full–screen, and you can only have one app running at a time (the notion of iPad “multitasking” with apps running in the background, being a myth for the most part, with a few rare exceptions).
Instead, I was obliged to keep bopping back and forth between a couple of different text apps, plus a browser, as well as contending with the miserable iOS text selection, copy, and paste menu. There is just no way that a touch-based menu like that can ever be as slick or efficient as a mouse, touchpad, or my personal fave for speed and comfort: a rollerbar.
Maybe if there was an app that let you view two windows or a split window of a text application side by side, the process would be more tolerable. Maybe there is; I don’t have encyclopedic knowledge of the reported 500,000 iOS apps available. However, I’m not aware of any such software.
As it stands, today I lasted about half way through my 800-word article before giving up in frustration and switching back to the Mac, on which I produced the second 400 words or so in half or less the time it had been taking me on the iPad.
Let’s hear it for multitasking and the “distractions!” A MacBook Air is looking better and better.