TechnologyTell

The iPad as a work tool and serious writing machine

Sections: Features, iPad, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Opinions and Editorials

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MONEY Magazine’s Rik Fairlie says that if you can’t justify buying a $500 tablet simply for entertainment [I couldn't, but like millions of others, I bought an iPad anyway], then take it seriously by investing even more capital in productivity add-ons.

Fairlie’s hardware suggestions include a case and keyboard or a combination product like Logitech’s Keyboard Case for iPad 2, plus some productivity software that will let you deal with the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, files that are an inevitable necessity with business computing. He also recommends getting a Seagate GoFlex Satellite portable hard drive that holds up to 500 gigabytes of business and personal files, runs for five hours on its internal battery, and lets you stream files wirelessly to as many as three iPads via built-in Wi-Fi, plus an Apple VGA Adapter to enable you display anything you can see on your iPad 2 screen on a projector, monitor or flat-panel TV.

Of course, by the time you’ve paid for all that stuff, plus the iPad, you’re likely getting within shouting distance of the price of a discounted or Apple Certified Refurbished MacBook Air—something to consider.

Focusing on the iPad as a serious writing platform, ZNet’s James Kendrick says he writes thousands of words a day in his work, and finds that the iPad 2 with a keyboard can be a serious writing machine to get this done.

Kendrick maintains that key (no pun intended) to getting the volume of writing he produces done on an iPad starts with a good keyboard, and that the Logitech Keyboard Case (made by ZAGG) is as good as any he’s tried—describing it as “a touch-typist’s keyboard without compromise” that turns the iPad 2 into a workhorse for wordsmiths.

Interestingly, Kendrick says that in his estimation what makes the iPad 2 and keyboard combo so effective for his writing is the one-app-at-a-time nature of the tablet. The running app takes up the entire screen, and thus his entire focus, with no distractions presented while writing; just inputting words on the screen, which he finds “liberating for a writer,” saying he can write more, and better, on the tablet system than on a real computer.

I have to dispute that as a universal analysis, and find the one-app-at-a-time restriction of the iOS restrictive and frustrating rather than liberating, so one’s perception of the iPad as a workaday writing machine does depend substantially on one’s workflow preferences and tastes. I profoundly miss the ability to to have several apps open on the screen simultaneously on my iPad, the way I do on my Macs, although the much-streamlined app-switching in iOS 5 has helped a lot.

In his how-to article, Kendrick also discusses app support necessary to allow the iPad to become a serious writing tool. His production suite includes the Reeder app that lets him spin through his Google Reader feeds, as well as Flipboard and Zite, iThoughtsHD for outlining, and Evernote for the actual writing and editing, as well as the Blogsy app for short blog entries.

I have used none of those apps, preferring instead the superb text processor TextKraft and its new sister application—the multilingual dictionary Schreibkraft—from German developer Infovole. And I sync documents among my various devices via DropBox, which I love and can’t imagine how I ever got along without. I still haven’t become a convert to the iPad as my favored content creation platform, but I’m using it a lot more than I had been, the tipping points for me being iOS 5′s enhanced so-called “multitasking” app-switching and TextKraft, about which I’ll say a little more below.

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One major distinction between my use of the iPad for production/writing and that of Rik Fairlie or James Kendrick is that I’ve been using the on-screen virtual keyboard rather than an external Bluetooth unit. I have a Logitech diNovo Edge keyboard that pairs up with the iPad nicely, but using it negates the biggest iPad advantage in my estimation: easy, uncumbersome, comfortable portability. If you’re going to bother with a big external keyboard, why not just use a laptop? Happily, TextKraft and Schreibkraft make using the virtual keyboard less of a pain, but it’s still far short of ideal for extended work sessions.

Back to the software. TextKraft is described by developers Infovole GmbH as a smart text processor for the Apple iPad. The TextKraft app is coupled with a comprehensive dictionary and various communication options, including Dropbox support, focusing on the main activities of the writing process: to write, correct, research and share.

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For serious writers in particular, who mainly want to edit text and complain about the iOS user interface’s indifferent an inaccurate cursor navigation, complicated selection of words and phrases, missing tabs and em-dashes, and other shortcomings, Textkraft provides an integrated working environment, adding many of the iOS’s missing text editing and navigation features, plus a built-in dictionary and thesaurus, online research tools and an intelligent spelling aid that identifies words the way you pronounce them. It also comes with Wikipedia full-text search and several online-dictionaries, text import/export from Macintosh, Windows, Linux and other iPad Apps, and detailed document information such as word count and file size, plus a spell checker and cursor keys better than on a real keyboard—8 keys with 10 functions, Undo/Redo, and gradient functions. Upper and lower case Change buttons, text export via Clipboard, email and direct transfer to other iPad apps are also supported as are external Bluetooth keyboards and cables and printing directly from the iPad. Finally, it’s AirPrint compatible with iOS 4.2 up, offers 9 font styles to choose from, and has freely selectable text size.

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Last week. Infovole released a companion app for TextKraft, Schreibkraft, an all-in-one, multilingual professional text editor for the iPad.

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Schreibkraft shares much of TextKraft’s appearance and functionality, and according to Infovole spokesperson Kathrin Sauerwein, differences between Textkraft and Schreibkraft are that Textkraft has its own dictionary and is only made for writing in a single language (English and German versions available so far, with French in the works).

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With Schreibkraft, on the other hand, you can write in 10 different languages at the same time and turn on/off languages to suit your needs, but Schreibkraft only uses the Apple Dictionary and doesn’t show synonyms. However, you can add new words to the dictionary; for example, ones that Apple’s autocorrection likes to “correct,” and there’s also the “magical” éüç- button, an Infovole invention, that can set all diacritical marks for you with one tap.

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TextKraft sells on the App Store for $7.99, while Schreibkraft is $2.99. For more information, visit www.infovole.de.

Products [TextKraft and [Schreibkraft]

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One Comment

  1. TextKraft EN single-handedly makes the iPad a breeze for text-entry. I only wish it were the default keyboard for iOS.

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