First Impressions of Pages on the iPad

So I decided to make the move to Pages for the iPad.  What followed was eye opening – you need to change the way you think and work.

The first thing I did was to import a Microsoft Word (docx) file and see what happened to it.

 Fonts

The document I was importing contained a number of different fonts and bullets (more on that further down).  Calibri font does not exist on Pages, so it was converted to another (most probably Helvetica).  The most recognisable fonts I’ve seen are:

  • Helvetica
  • Arial (here it’s called ArialMT)
  • Courier
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet
  • Verdana

Changing a font is relatively easy, just highlight the text and choose the font from the list on top.

 Images

Upon importing my sample document, I lost a lot of the images and had to reload them.  You can load images from your local image store (Camera Roll).  This means that you may have to keep copies of the images required across your devices on some sort of shared drive.

Apple have made the formatting and alignment of the images relatively easy.

You can flip vertically and horizontally and wrap with your text quite nicely.  Just touch the image and then the painter icon and choose the effect.

Train

Resizing is also a no brainer.  Just tap the image, pick an anchor and off you go.

Styles (Format Painter)

If you want one piece of text to have the same kind of style as another, use the “Style” selector (this is similar to the format painter in Word).  It’s pretty simple:  select the source text, choose “Style -> Copy Style”, select the destination text and choose “Style -> Paste Style”.  I found this very easy to do in the current interface, because I did not need to take my hand away from the device to find the mouse.

Step 1 – Style and Copy

Step 2 - Mark and Paste Style

Bullets

Bullets in Pages are pretty ordinary, which does not really bother the author that much.  Upon the initial import of my source document I lost all my fancy bullets defined in Word.

  • Bullets are defined using the Style -> List menu option.
  • There are 4 formats, pick one.
    • I have not seen a way to import any other bullet icons.

There does not seem to be any multilayered numbering available (e.g. 1, 1.1, 1.1.1). (ps.  There was a member of staff who was known for using very deep list numbering!)

Export Format

Exporting a Pages document involves emailing it.  You have 3 formats available, namely Pages, PDF and Word (2003 format).

I have not been able to find the kind of properties one has in Word (e.g. base URL, comments etc).  This makes Pages not a good choice if you want to use is as a product for editing documents that rely on properties for source control.

There’s no RTF format :-(

Cat-unfriendly

There is no mouse, use your fingers or a stylus.  This means that the product has been designed from the ground up not to use a mouse.  The paradigm has changed somewhat for this product.  They’ve given it a lot of thought, making finger navigation easy.  I have also found finger/tap navigation very easy – I’m starting to tap my laptop screen and then wondering why it won’t work!

Standardisation

If you want to use this product together with Word then you will have to set some standards.  This affords a company the opportunity to clearly define a style guide as to which formatting is allowed in its documents.  The use of a Word template document is highly recommended.

Bullets

  • Keep them simple, not fancy.
  • Try not to use multi-layered lists, if possible.

Fonts

Use that standard fonts (it won’t kill you).  If you need the portability, not just for your own company but also for external parties,   fonts will save a lot of time and hassle:  the recipient will not have to reformat your document.

Conclusion

I’ve enjoyed writing this article on the iPad.  There’s a few odd things as mentioned, but you get used to it.  As with most software, change the way you work as the software won’t always change itself just for you.

Interestingly, the images I’ve used were taken on the iPad (using screenshots), edited with Adobe Photoshop Express (well worth the buy, I might add) and imported into the document.

So, what has been your experience with Pages?  Care to share with others?

Note.  Having written this article on the iPad, I wanted to post it to WordPress.  I tried the email-to-Wordpress, but all it gave me was a link to the “.doc” file.  Eventually I had to email the document and all the images to my PC and (re)build the blog post from there – not quite what I had in mind.  Will have to do some investigation about blogging from the iPad.

Possibly the following link would help:  http://www.gottabemobile.com/2012/04/12/9-essential-apps-for-blogging-from-the-ipad/

iMovie and iHomework

Introduction

So, the other day my daughter came home from school and said she had to create a movie for homework.  She had already taken some shorts with her iPhone and now needed to fit them all together.

How to do that?

Well, I need to explain that my laptop (which would have been my first choice) is a little on the slow side.  Video editing is not her best attribute.  But, in the meantime, my daughter had already hit the App Store and found some video editing software.  I had a look and saw Apple’s iMovie for just over USD 5.  I needed to look no further and promptly bought it.

Experience

I didn’t have too much time to work with iMovie so, once I had the videos loaded and synced, I gave it to my daughter and told her to “carry on”.  I was amazed at the ease with which she used the product.  She was sitting there with the headphones on, using a stylus to move snippets around and taking notes on a piece of paper.  Before long she had her first draft and had added some background music.  All this with no prompting, training or manuals.

Follow up

Once she had completed her initial version I played around with creating a trailer.  I showed it to her and she immediately wanted to add credits.  So we just added the trailer to the end of the movie and cut out most of what we didn’t want, keeping the credits.

Adding pictures was very easy.  We just hit the net, got what we wanted, saved them to the pictures folder and added to the movie.  Very soon we had about 3 minutes of footage, including bloopers.

So, well done to Apple for creating a really cool, good looking and intuitive product for the iPad.  I have a feeling this is going to be one of those products that will be used quite often.

iPad – Consumption or Creation

Around about the time when the iPad 2 was released you would hear me saying that if you want a laptop then buy one.  The iPad is for consumption of media, not creation.

And now I’m writing this blog to revise my opinion.  There’s a lot of media that you can create with this beauty.  I’ve had mine (the new iPad) for a month now and getting more impressed with it each day.

Before we carry on, I want to discuss content creation.  Or at least, who do we think of when we talk about it.  It’s important to note that content creation is NOT limited to big people (you know, adults and stuff).  Your very own (and mine too) teenager can also be a content creator.  Do yourself a favour and leave your iPad with your 14 year old for an hour or so.  You’ll be surprised what they download.  Mine just loves downloading drawing packages and those wonderful tools that take a photo and morph it into something weird.

One more thing, just because your iPad can’t do it now, does not mean it cannot do it in the future.  Software grows and matures.  The future is pretty awesome.

Now, onto some of the kinds of content you CAN create at the moment:

Graphics

  • Adobe Photoshop Express – a cool product that allows you to manipulate photos and images.  There’s a freemium version but it also has numerous addons you can buy.
  • Children’s drawing – this is where your children come in.  There is a really good collection of programs out there for kids.

Productivity

  • Word processors and spreadsheet packages exist, most notably Pages and Numbers.  And they don’t cost a fortune either.
  • Business Intelligence.  In this sphere there is one really great player, namely Microstrategy.  The app is extremely powerful allowing for a number of different charts and drill downs.  The data can also be cached for offline viewing.  Imagine setting up a dashboard, walking into a meeting and connecting your iPad to the projector to show it.

Coding

  • CodeA.  Extreme awesomeness.  An editor created for the iPad to create apps on the iPad, for the iPad.  It is based on the Lua programming language.  You actually CODE on the iPad and then run the program.
  • HTML Editors.  These abound.  There are many of them so you just need to take your pick.
  • Development environments.  There are Integrated Development Environments that support a number of programming languages such as PHP, HTML and XML.

Use it as a interface to the Web to create content.  You can connect to the internet and then use whichever website is geared towards working with a tablet.  Although not strickly creation on the iPad, your device serves as an entry point to such places.

While doing research for this post I came across an editor called iDocs HD which allows me to write documents and save to my Google docs folder.  This is what I used to write this blog with.

So, what really cool things are you (or your teenager) creating on this beauty of ours?

Where is my home computer?

Intro

We recently moved into a new apartment and needed to decide where to put the laptop.  It would be used by myself, my wife and daughter.

Possible locations

We had a spare room that we could have used as a study.  I was in favour of this because I did not want the laptop and accessories in the lounge.  The other was, of course, the lounge.  It was at this point that we needed to decide the role of the laptop in our lives.

The decision

We decided to put the laptop in the lounge and make it part of our daily lives.  It would be accessible to anyone who happened to be in that area at the time.  We are lucky that both the wife and I have iPads which we could use for most of our social media interactions or reading of books (I just love Amazon’s One-Click buy) – that meant that we did not need to be on the laptop for large amounts of time.

The result

The computer is now not something special to be kept in a special place.  It’s just another appliance that we use to communicate and do things with.  Not much different than your average microwave oven.

What’s nice is that when one person is using the laptop, the other could use the iPad for other purposes.  Having multiple devices frees you from having to be in one particular place to do something.  Of course there’s one important thing to remember here, and that is wireless internet connectivity.  You can still do a lot, but having to go to one place to download books and other items limits your freedom slightly.

So, what do you think?  Is a PC part of your family life, or do you prefer to have it somewhere else, away from everything?

11 Items for my new iPad

Today I dived in and bought a new iPad. The aim with this iPad is 2 fold:

    Load my professional/business apps
    See how it can change my life

The first aim was quite easy.

Twitter and Hootsuite

I cannot live without them. Twitter is necessary to get the tweets going and Hootsuite to manage my content. I follow people using Hootsuite because of the filters, streams etc.

LinkedIn
This manages my online professional profile, CV and business connections. I can also view the updates of the people I follow.

Facebook
For keeping in touch with family and friends. I don’t actually use FB for business, but do follow certain companies (e.g. ReadWriteWeb) on it.

Amazon Kindle
To read all those wonderful books with.

Zinio
I use this to read my online magazines. They are delivered automatically whenever they are ready.

WordPress
This allows me to manage my blogs and view stats. I’m also using it to type this blog entry with.

Flipboard
This allows me to aggregate a whole lot of different information. It’s like a board that flips over to reveal more info. I’ve linked both my Twitter and Facebook accounts to it as well. It does a very good job of getting a stack of info onto one screen.

Skype
How else will you make those all important calls?

Dropbox
A cool utility for getting files from wherever you are onto your iPad. All you need is an internet connection.

iBooks
This is a good place to store all those odd ebooks and PDFs that you get from other places.

6 Things I learned from Microsoft’s vision of the future

Location, Location, Location

Where you are, matters, not just to you but to those around you.  For instance, if you are new to a university campus and need to find your classes, your current location can be mapped to buildings and your timetable to tell you where to go, when.  If you happen to be in a country that speaks a different language to you, a translation would be immediately available because it knows WHO you are and WHERE you are.

Multifunction Devices

Anywhere, any time on any device.  This should be the aim of devices in the future.  A device does not just have a single function, but should be able to do many different things and interact with environment around it.  Of course, it must know where it is.  One possible feature could be projection functionality to tell you, for instance where to go.  Picking up gestures important where touch functionality is not available (kitchen table).

Copy and Paste

This should be as easy as touch and slide.  Touch the object, and slide it to the other device.  This “other” device could be the table top at home or the wall at work during a meeting.

Intelligence – Business and Home

HI (Home Intelligence) will become important to the family.  The example is to project (or display) onto the fridge door what is inside, how much of each and what was reordered, without opening it (think energy savings).  You’ll want to know what your home’s battery life is at the moment and when it will be switching to solar or grid.

Integration

Data does not just appear.  It exists somewhere else and your device will require interfaces to different systems to aggregate the data for presentation.  If you want to know what your child is studying at school on a particular day, the calendar should be available somewhere for you to view on your device.  Already we have all sorts of integration (mail, calendar etc), but here’s hoping for some sort of standard in the future.

Battery Life

Power sources will become much stronger and last longer.  Devices will also be able to consume less energy when not being used and be able to charge quicker and easier.

Reference URLs

The world in 2021:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4bJEqoCAuI

Microsoft Office Labs vision:

It’s so wonderful to dream about the future and hope all your expectations come true.  Let me know what you think.

Let your PC go green when idle

What does your PC do when you’re away and it’s switched on?  Except for a few downloads, most probably not much.

Here’s your opportunity to do good and help society – donate unused processing time to large research projects.

How do I do this?

The BOINC Logo

It’s very easy, just download BOINC (http://boinc.berkeley.edu).  There is a nice wiki explaining the install process here:  http://boinc.berkeley.edu/wiki/User_manual

What is it?

BOINC consist of a controller program and various project programs.  The controller handles the loading of projects and sending the results back to the servers.

To get started is quite simple.  You just install BOINC and choose the projects you want to donate to.  There’s a large variety of projects to suit all kinds of tastes, from searching for prime numbers, mapping the universe, doing climate prediction, searching for medical cures to checking for signals from outer space (SETI).  You can choose however many projects you wish to connect do.

It’s quite safe to run with a minimum risk of viruses.  The software runs on Linux and Windows.

What’s really cool is that it can use the massively parallel capabilities of your graphics card.  So if you have one (or more!) of the new babies from nVidia or AMD in your machine, your processing will really fly.

Go ahead, give it try.  You’ll actually feel that you are contributing something positive to society.

Of course, as always, I’d really appreciate your comments.