Update: I wrote this before I added a proper wireless keyboard to my iPad. Since then I’ve changed my opinion, see My iPad, my typewriter.
Portability and an insanely long battery life make the Apple iPad a great tool for on-the-go news journalists.
The on-screen keyboard is good enough when you’re knocking out a quick five or six pars on a breaking story. If you don’t mind looking a bit odd, you can take acceptable pictures with the iPad camera.
In practice you can get a full 10 hours of use from the iPad before the batteries fade. That’s enough for a full shift and then some.
Keyboard not ideal
While typing on the on-screen keyboard isn’t ideal, it is possible. At a pinch there are plenty of add-on keyboards to make life easier.
The iPad is great for taking notes. I haven’t figured how to record audio at the same time as note-taking yet. Maybe I need an app for that.
In my book the iPad writing software, not a word processor, beats Microsoft Word. There’s little to distract me from the writing task at hand and all the features I need – that is; not many.
I’m a freelance, editors often expect to receive Word documents, so delivering a text document is not always an option for me, but my needs are basic – I learnt my craft on a manual typewriter and barely touch the features in Word.
In case you were wondering, I’m writing this on my iPad.
Not over the long haul
Despite all the praise I can’t see the iPad becoming my main writing tool in the immediate future. The iPad is great for the odd, quick news story and terrific when I’m running around.
While the iPad is useful, although less desirable for feature writing. Day-long writing is an ergonomic disaster.
Given I typically write 2000 words or more in a normal working day, it quickly runs up against ergonomic limitations. I need a real computer with a real keyboard and a full screen.
Cloud will help
I also need access to the 25 years or so of archive material stored on my desktop. And a proper file system is essential – although I’m sure an enterprising cloud computing company will offer a sensible alternative before long
The iPad is also weak for moving between electronic documents and the writing tools. On my desktop I can display a website or a PDF on one-half of the display and have a word processor o. The other half – that’s a huge productivity boost.
So, for news events and maybe when I cover conferences, I’ll use the iPad. Otherwise, I’ll stick with a full-blown computer.
That said, I’m so impressed with the iPad, my next laptop will be an Apple MacBook Air.