On the subject of creating with an iPad, I'm a bit of a Johnny-come-lately. Yes, creating on the iPad has been possible since the day it launched. And yes, I’ve used it for a bit of writing. But I never embraced it like many others have. I was of the opinion that my more powerful and functional laptop was always the better option.
I've been working on a side project for the last five months. Like many of you, I've a full time job to take up most of my time. And so my early mornings have been dedicated to working on this idea, a major chunk of the work has been writing. All of which has been done on the iPad.
But as the work shifted to design and other tasks, I noticed a change. My early morning work sessions that took place with my laptop were both less productive and less enjoyable. Trying to identify just why this was has given me some ideas, but no firm answers. What makes me reach for the iPad first?
My first thought is that time spent writing or working on the iPad was simply more productive due to the lack of distractions. On the laptop, I have Notification Centre, emails, usually a Twitter client, muscle memory that seems to open Safari and “check” things if any task takes longer than 3-4 seconds … the list goes on.
Yet, the iPad has distractions as well. NC (Notification Centre) is also present on iOS. There is email, Twitter, and RSS. But overall, the distractions are somehow less … distracting. The bunny trails are fewer and shorter in duration. All the apps are out of sight and must be activated on their own.
I'm left with this conclusion: with or without the external display, my laptop has a screen size that is rife with potential distraction. The act of simply flicking my eye away from the task at hand to another part of the screen is enough to move my attention from what I'm trying to accomplish to something less important. And so, my work sessions on the iPad resulted in more progress towards my end goal than the ones on my MBP.
Is touch that intimate?
Another aspect of these iPad work sessions is they were more enjoyable. A difficult thing to measure, for sure. But I have to admit there is a certain fondness I have for working on the iPad, which makes me wonder if the reason, at least in portion, is due to the touch interface.
This project is sitting somewhere in the range of 30 to 40,000 words. All of which have been typed out on the iPad’s on-screen keyboard. An exercise in futility, right? I would have thought so myself. But I've never gotten around to picking up one of those iPad-external keyboard combo kits that Shawn Blanc and the like all use. Thousands of words later, I can say its not really needed (although it may have resulted in far less typos and made me faster).
So is the touch screen that enjoyable over our traditional interfaces? I love to work with my hands! But the cynic in me says tapping on glass doesn't really count in that regard. Nonetheless, the feeling is there … I love to work on my iPad.
One last thought occurred to me. I treasure my 5:00 AM work sessions. The house is silent. The coffee is hot and it's the best cup of the day! Every idea seems golden in these moments, every typed out paragraph full of lustre.
Perhaps these iPad work sessions seem ideal due to the circumstances of the day. How would I feel about the device as my primary tool for creating after a long day of work using only it to perform my regular tasks? Would the feeling be the same if I used it for creating after the caffeine has worn off and I'm more prone to irritation? These are questions I can't answer because I've never used the iPad in such a manner.
In the name of research, I will be giving it a try in the coming weeks. But for now, the fact remains that I prefer to write and work on the device that I assumed would be best left for consumption.
Habit fields, reversed
Jack Cheng’s ALA article Habit Fields comes to mind when thinking of this subject. I love his idea, that the iPad is the place where he’ll have an RSS app to check feeds or a Twitter client, rather than his laptop. Or that a particular chair is where this activity will occur. This idea still makes sense to me, but I wonder if the activities should be reversed.
Jack hits the distraction nail right on the head:
Thanks to the computer’s ability to multitask, sometimes these habit fields actually become oriented around the act of switching programs! If you’re conditioned to alternate between different modes of working every few seconds, it’s no wonder you have a tough time staying focused on one thing.
That describes my habits on my laptop. The constraints of the iPad shine through when it comes time to create.
In the past, I've tired of listening to writers & bloggers talk about how great the iPad is for creation. For writers, sure … what about everyone else? But good software enables.
It was good software that drew me to Apple early this century and it’s good software that is the major factor in the enjoyment of using an iPad. I include third party software in that statement, but the majority of the praise has to go to Apple.
In terms of sheer power, my MacBook Pro greatly exceeds my iPad. The smaller device is simply less capable, but maybe that’s the point.
Apple has been focused on the overall experience in their rise in the last decade and a half. I suggest that the success of the iPad proves their direction to be true. I base that partly on market numbers, but more so on my own usage and how I feel about the Apple products I own. It's somewhat unexplainable, like trying to describe to my kids why I'm fond of my splitting maul or my impact drill.
It's something you just have to experience for yourself.