Tag Archives: ipad

Microsoft Office (Sort of) Comes to the iPad

 

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To much, too late?

As I noted last night, Office should have been on the iPad years ago. I suspect Microsoft was mired down in some combination of failed strategies: trying to force people to buy a (horrible) Surface tablet, trying to force people to use its online services (which even if we wanted to, we couldn’t find them because their names change every other week), and trying to drag people to its online suite of Office products, Office365.

They seem to have given up on some of those strategies, but Meatloaf was wrong. 2 out of 3 is not enough.

I’m simply not going to pay Microsoft $70 a year, forever, to use Word (the only Office app I really need on my iPad). Rather, I’ll continue to use Word on my desktop until someone completes the ongoing process of making Office completely irrelevant. Yes, Word has a stranglehold on corporate America, but Microsoft seems to have either ignored or given up on the rest of the potential user base. And here’s the other thing: the exodus from traditional computers to tablets isn’t going to stop just because Microsoft makes an offer that everyone can refuse. Having Word on our iPads would be good. But not $70/year good.

officeipadSure, you can look at Office documents without a subscription, but hacking up features like that is as unnecessary and disjointed as, you know, having a tablet with two different versions of Windows on it. If they want to require us to use OneDrive (NOTE: by the time you read this, its name will likely have changed again) to sync and store documents, OK. But you can do that without making us pay a never-ending subscription charge.

I’m not saying Office for iPad should be free. Charge for it. $10, $20, whatever. If people will pay 3 figures for the various iterations of OmniFocus, people will probably sell their kids to buy Word.

Even if I was willing to pay $70/year for Office365, that only allows Office to be used on 1 PC (don’t own one) or Mac (I use three regularly). Sigh.

I guess I’m glad Office is closer to being available on iPads. But it’s not close enough for me to jump.

Blogsy Breakfast

Since the day I got my iPad, I have been frustrated by how hard it is to write and publish a blog with it. The WordPress app is an exercise in frustration. Recently I have read a number of positive articles about Blogsy. So I’m giving it a try.

Initial impressions are very positive. Clearly it handles photos and videos well, accessing them via your Flickr, Picasa or YouTube accounts.

The holy grail of mobile blogging applications will always be adding links. Blogsy has a promising approach:

Select the text you want to use for your link on the ‘Rich Side’
Open the browser and find the site/image you wish to link to
Place your finger on the ‘Blogsy Link Button’ (the button to the left of the address bar)
Drag it to the text you selected.

Links will always be a challenge on a handheld, but Blogsy makes it about as easy as possible. Assuming this post shows up the way I intend it to, Blogsy will definitely become my mobile blogging tool of choice.

Snoozing Through the Xoom and iPad 2 Hype

I’m a regular of my iPad and used my Galaxy Tab a few times before concluding that it sucks.  As such, I keep an eye on the waves of new and updated tablets that crash, in varying levels of completeness, onto our shores almost daily.


I like the Galaxy Tab’s pocket-appropriate size

The two new tablets I’ve been most interested learning about are the new Motorola Xoom, because it comes with Honeycomb,  the tablet-centric version 3.0 of Google’s Android OS, and the iPad 2, because, well,  it comes from Apple.

Now that I’ve seen both, I’m a little underwhelmed.  There are things to like about both devices, but I’m not going to buy either one.  Here’s why.

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But the iPad is more elegant and has better apps.

The Xoom looks really nice, and Honeycomb is a significant improvement over the current versions of Android.  But it’s too expensive, too big (I really like the smaller size of the Galaxy Tab) and, inexplicably, it has to be sent back to the manufacturer in a few months to be updated to the new 4G network.  Maybe it would have been better to wait a little longer and release a mature product.  There’s simply no way I’m going to buy some device, put all my stuff on it, become dependent on it, and then mail it somewhere to be upgraded.

The iPad 2 has some nice new features, like a faster chip and cameras, but it only added one item from my wish list.  I view it as a minor step in the upgrade path, and expect the next version, likely to be out next year, to have more material improvements to offer.  Like a better display, wireless syncing, etc.

So for the time being, I’m going to keep on using the tablets I have and wait for a more compelling reason to upgrade.

Why You Should Dump Your iPad

And why I’m not.

Vivek Wadhwa at TechCrunch sets forth the best argument I’ve ever read for dumping your iPad.  He sets forth various reasons, but it really comes down to three.  No useful way to use Microsoft Office, reliance on the outdated, ugly and unnecessary iTunes, and the lack of a camera.

As it turns out, I just returned from vacation.  10 days in God’s country (that would be South Carolina for you geographic heathens).  My job requires that I be generally accessible and have the capability to review and approve Word documents (for those who haven’t read Newsome.Org in a few days, no one in corporate America uses or in my lifetime will use any of the so-called Office alternatives, and any argument to the contrary is naive).

All of this left me with a packing dilemma.  I love my iPad and use it all the time.  I haven’t carried a laptop since I bought my iPad, and I haven’t needed one.  But I also hadn’t been away from home and the office for 10 straight days.

So I got nervous, pussed out and, along with my iPad, toted a laptop and all the related gear all the way to Pawley’s Island.  I felt more comfortable knowing that I could review and revise Word documents from the beach.

The thing is, I never used it.

image Sure, I was in contact with my office and clients every day.  But I did it all via email, on my iPad.  While the lack of Office is a big issue for iPads, there’s no denying that you can easily read Word documents.  It’s only when you want to revise or create one that the frustration level skyrockets.

And the fact is that at this point in my career, I’m much more likely to be reading, commenting on and approving Word documents than writing them from whole cloth.  And I found it to be easy enough (enough being the operative word) to copy and past portions of a document into an email, then paste such portion again below and revise it the way I wanted.

At the end of the day, many of my vacation emails read something like this:

“Change this part:

‘The problem with the iPhone 4 antenna is massive and should be the subject of a massive recall.’

to this:

“‘The problem with the iPhone 4 antenna is a partially a common cell phone issue exacerbated by an Apple design choice and largely bad editorial choices by lazy media.’

It’s not perfect, but it worked well enough for me.

So while the iPad most certainly needs a better way to work with Office documents (Microsoft being the only solution), and a camera or two and while iTunes is perhaps the worst application ever, I’m keeping my iPad.

But you’ll probably see my laptops on Craigslist before long.

Compression Depression & the iPhone 4 (Updated)

Yes, I stood in line for hours.  Yes, I’m a nerd.  And yes, the new iPhone is awesome.

One of the biggest reasons I was willing to get up at 5:00 a.m. and trek off to the dreaded mall is the new camera features.  Front and back, flash and high definition.

Which is all great.  In theory.  Unfortunately, I have run into two hurdles that are all but killing my iPhone video buzz.

Buzz Kill 1: Too Much Compression.

Videos shot on the new  iPhone look great, on the iPhone.  And it simply could not be easier to upload video from the iPhone to YouTube.  The big, massive, honking problem is that somewhere between the iPhone and YouTube the video is compressed so much, it looks like something from the nineties.  As in the 1890’s.

Here’s the way my test clip looks on YouTube.

 

Now on Vimeo

That’s a lot better, although it still looks a little grainy when you view it full screen (see the little icon with four arrows).  Why in this age of infinite cloud storage and broadband do we compress video at all?

There’s no excuse for over-compressing it the way the YouTube process does.  In a few years we’re all going to have the same dilemma we faced after initially ripping our CDs at 128 Kbps.  Those who forget history, and all that.

All of this makes the iPhone largely unworkable as a camcorder substitute, particularly if you aren’t near your computer, because. . .

Buzz Kill 2: No Easy Way to Move Videos

Even if I was willing to forego the convenience of an immediate upload and work with the native video files, there is no way to easily move video files off of the iPhone when you aren’t in front of your computer.  Sure, Dropbox lets you upload video files easily, but they are over-compressed before they are uploaded, even if you select the highest quality in the app settings.

32GB is a lot of space when you’re near home, but not when you go on a vacation.  And plan to take your iPad in lieu of a laptop.

There may be a workaround for this series of problems, but I haven’t found it yet.

I’m still mourning my buzz.

Update:

It looks like the inability to upload videos in HD over the air is a known and much bemoaned feature deficit with the new iPhones.  The man himself says we’ll be able to upload in HD “in the future.”

A commenter on the post above says that the Pixelpipe app will upload HD video to YouTube now, but I don’t have that app so I can’t verify it.

5 Features that Would Make the iPad Perfect

I’m now over a week into the iPad era, and I’ve figured out how to implement it into my work flow, which, as elegant as the iPad is, takes a little work.

But I’ve made a lot of progress.  My current mobile toolbox consists of my iPad, an Incase iPad Travel Kit Plus, my iPhone,  a small legal pad, one ink pen, some sticky notes and some business cards.

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Overall, I think it is reasonable to believe that Apple has changed the portable computer game, the way it changed the mobile phone game.  For the better, and forever.

But It Can Get Better

Much like the iPhone, we can expect the iPad to get even better over time.

Here are 5 things Apple could do that would make the iPad absolutely perfect.  If these things were to happen, I would almost certainly never buy another laptop.  I may not anyway, but here’s how Apple can seal the deal.

1. Add a Phone

You read that right, and I am serious.  Now that I’m used to the iPad, working with my iPhone is very unfulfilling.  In fact, other than making and taking calls, I hardly ever do it.  Why not add a phone, at least as an option, so I could pair a bluetooth headset, and not have to tote my “iPad mini” around with me?

I would happily use my iPad as a phone.  I take it with me most of the time anyway.

In the absence of this feature, we can take another route, via VOIP, once the 3G iPads come out later this month.  And assuming Skype eventually assembles its widely disbursed ducks, takes advantage of the gift given by ATT and allows for calls over 3G.

2. Add Two Cameras

One on the back for photo taking, and one on the front for video chat.

I think this will happen, probably in the next iPad model (not counting the forthcoming 3G version).  The need for two giant batteries to ensure the all-day battery life is an obstacle to new hardware features, but technology will make all of this possible.

In the absence of this feature, developers can create workarounds.  I think Camera A&B is a neat idea, but if I have to do it the hard way, I’d actually prefer a bluetooth enabled hardware solution, that lets you take higher resolution photos and videos that get wirelessly transmitted to the iPad.

Paging Eye-Fi, maybe?

3. Add an Accessible File System

The biggest hassle with the iPad is the inability to move items to and from the hard drive, and to access, manipulate and save documents.  This is a massive impediment to Apple’s enterprise aspirations.  iPads need a better file system.

iPads, particularly my 64 GB model, have plenty of space for document management.  With the emergence of the cloud, there’s no reason iPads can’t be document masters.  Heck, I can already see anything I need via the most excellent SugarSync (sign up for an account through this link and I get some additional storage space).  I just can’t easily manage documents.

This is a software issue that needs to be addressed in the OS.  I don’t know if Apple has plans to do so, but it should be job number 1.

In the inexplicable absence of this feature, we’ll have to hope Google Docs continues to improve, and eventually gives us the ability to edit files from the iPad.  Why hasn’t this already happened?

4. Add Three More Speakers

musicnoteI almost never use headphones, but I love music.  Which means I need two speakers on two sides of my iPad, so I can have stereo in both landscape and portrait modes.  The sound and volume are acceptable now, so all we need is to make it come from more places.

Space, weight and price may be perceived as a problem, but some combination of technology and engineering should make this possible.

I’d pay double the current price for a more robust iPad.  And it’s not like Apple is afraid to charge a lot for its hardware, right?

5.  Add an SD Card Slot

I have decided I can live without a USB port, but I really want an SD card slot, to give me more storage space, and to help move documents back and forth.  Of course, this requires a better file system, which may be why we don’t have it now.

Bonus Dream

And now for fantasy moment.  How about tethering?

It doesn’t look like ATT is ever going to enable tethering via the iPhone (which is absurd on its face), so let’s go at it from the other direction.  Apple should require that all carriers who want to sell 3G service for iPads throw tethering in the mix.  Imagine an iPad with the five features described above, plus the ability to serve as a wireless hotspot for those instances where you have to use a laptop.

Five little things.  Maybe six.  That’s all I want.

Why Does My iPad Suddenly Take Forever to Sync?

When I set up my iPad, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it synced with iTunes, even though I had already purchased quite a few apps.  For the next few days, synching was fast and easy, taking only a few minutes each time.

Then, suddenly and for no apparent reason, syncing started taking forever.  By that I mean forever.  Hours.

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This is where my iPad now lives.  After this message appears for 30 minutes or so, it will very slowly begin the backup process, after which things will move along at the pace of frozen molasses.

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It takes hours for the backup process to be completed,
once it finally starts.

Why?  Why, I say!  I can think of no reason why it suddenly takes hours to sync my iPad.

Very frustrating.

A Business User’s Toolbox for the iPad

This is Part 1 of a continuing series.

image As I noted on iPaday, one of the things I am focusing on is the best and most efficient way to insert my iPad into my work flow.  As a full fledged member of the rat race, who works in a corporate environment run on Microsoft Office and Exchange, this is not the easiest thing to do.

A Brief Rant

Let me get a major gripe out of the way and then we’ll move on.  Apple, seriously, there’s no good reason why our documents have to be kidnapped from the bowels of our iPads by third party apps.  The iPad is plenty powerful enough to support some sort of file system that allows us to access, manipulate and save documents directly.  If for some incomprehensible reason this is not the case, then give me 8 hours of battery life instead on 10.  Or 6.  The other 2-4 hours are wasted trying to get around these needless limitations anyway.

iPads need a vastly improved system for  managing documents.

Apple claims to seek acceptance in the corporate arena, but unless document management becomes a lot easier, it simply will not happen.  This, along with the absence of a camera or two, is the best hope for the forthcoming HP Slate.

But since Apple makes it hard, let’s do it the hard way.

Email

Email via Exchange works great on the iPad, right out of the box.  I, for one, am really glad Apple did not implement the universal inbox.  Those of us with real jobs don’t want to blend our work and personal email.  If Apple does implement a universal inbox, I deeply hope it does so as an option only.

Receiving corporate email on an iPad, even with attachments,  is easy and pleasing.  Sending email with attachments is needlessly burdensome, however, since there is no way to attach a document from within the email application.  You have to start from within Pages or whatever app holds the attachment you want to send.  Again, why?

Document Management

Once you get an email with a Word document attached, it’s a little awkward, but manageable, to open the attachment in Pages, edit it, and then export it as a Word document and email it back.  Tracked changes do not appear on the imported document, and there is no similar feature in Pages.  Apple really needs to figure out a way to view and create tracked changes (or the equivalent) in order to ensure that corporate users think of the iPad as more Word-like and less Google Docs (ugh) like.

Accessing documents is a common annoyance on the iPad.  There is no sane way to move documents to and from your iPad, so you have to patch together a group of apps to end-run around Apple’s insanity.

Here are the ones I’m using, which taken together, work pretty well.

Windows on an iPad?

The first app in my arsenal is Desktop Connect.  It is an elegant and easy to configure app that allows you to access and use your Windows desktop via your iPad.

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See Live Writer, right there on my iPad.  Cool, huh?

Desktop Connect is surprisingly snappy and very useable.  One way I have used it is to view Word documents with tracked changes, by opening Word and then the document I want to review.

Seeding and Seeing the Cloud

While Desktop Connect is handy for running desktop apps and viewing documents that reside on your desktop, it it not a solution for moving documents between your desktop, the cloud and your iPad.

The next app I rely on, for both document access and general backup, is SugarSync.  I’ve been pretty carefree about backing up my data, and so I decided to solve two problems with one good app.  I now have most of my documents, photos and MP3s backed up to SugarSync, which seems to have the best price ($150 a year for 100 GB; $250 a year for 250 GB) and the best iPad app.

Via the SugarSync iPad app, I can access, view and manage my files on my iPad.  The access part works perfectly.  To get a document from SugarSync onto your  iPad requires that you email it to yourself (again there is no reason it has to be that hard).  You can email documents natively from within the SugarSync app, however, so this is not quite as burdensome as it sounds.

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Here’s the way a folder looks in the SugarSync app.  Very nicely done

Document Retrieval

For retrieving documents from my email accounts and my Dropbox and Google Docs accounts, I use GoodReader, which is a very useful app and one of the few, at a very reasonable 99 cents, that isn’t overpriced.

You can easily configure GoodReader to connect to your various accounts, as well as to your desktop via WiFi, after which it is simple to move documents to your iPad, as needed.  Getting them back is another unnecessarily roundabout journey.  Essentially you have to email the revised document to yourself and then get it back to its original location from there.

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See how nicely GoodReader shows the attachments to emails in my Gmail inbox?  Downloading them to my iPad is a one-click process.

Paging all Tech Gurus

GoodReader is preconfigured to work with many email and cloud services, including Dropbox, Mobile.me and Box.net.  I have not yet figured out, but badly need to know, how to configure GoodReader to connect with and access my SugarSync files.  Anybody want to help a brother with this?

Virtual Flash Drive

Finally, I use Air Sharing HD as a alternate way to move files to and from my desktop.  Ultimately, I may resort to a single app for this and cloud access, but for now I’m still experimenting like a Freshman at college.


Here’s the way my iPad looks in Windows Explorer via Air Sharing HD.  It’s simple to drag files back and forth.

Conclusion

It’s a patchwork solution to a problem that, frankly, shouldn’t exist.  But these are some well designed apps, that make the iPad much more useful in a business environment.

I’ll have more later.  In the meantime, what other apps and advice do you have for the business user?

NetNewsWire: an iPad Savior?

I’m now well into my 3rd day as an active iPad user.  Overall, the experience has been very positive, but there have been a few challenges.

The first and most important has been finding a rock solid and reliable RSS feed reader.  I use and very much like Google Reader for my desktop RSS feed reader.  In fact, because the large, large majority of my online content is accessed and managed via my feed reader, it is fair to say that Google Reader is my online control center.

But I do not like the way Google Reader- the regular or the mobile version- works on the iPad.  I don’t know the cause (and I don’t really care), but the pages just don’t display and refresh as crisply as they do on a desktop.  All of this sent me into a state of panic, given that an iPad without an elegant RSS feed reader would be of very little use to me.

So I did what any good nerd should do- I sent out an SOS via Twitter.

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Lots of my friends immediately suggested NetNewsWire.  I’ve been hearing my buddy Dave rave about this Mac-only program for a long time, so I decided to fork over $10 and give it a try.

It was instantaneously clear to me that NetNewsWire is a vast improvement over Google Reader on the iPad.  And since it (supposedly, but see below) syncs with Google Reader, it became not only my default RSS feed reader on my iPad, but also my most used app.

Here’s what I like about it, and some things that I really don’t like.

I Like:

1. The layout and feel of the app is superb.  I love the way my Google Reader folders appear and expand.  It just feels natural and intuitive.

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2. I love the way I can click on a feed link and the web page loads right there in the app (this is the only thing keeping idiotic partial feeds in my reading list).  It’s a better implemented version of the “Preview” feature that Better GReader adds to Google Reader.  Why doesn’t Google add this stuff the the native app?  Thank goodness for Gina Trapani, but why does she have to come along and organize Google’s apps?

3. I like the way the app handles sharing. Click an icon and you can immediately email, send to Twitter or save to Instapaper (but see item D below).

I Want the Developer to Fix:

A. The Google Reader Sync doesn’t work very well.  I compared Google Reader on my desktop and NetNewsWire on my iPad, side by side.  The sync wasn’t just delayed, it seemed sort of random.  Refreshing the feeds didn’t help.  This needs to be fixed.

B. Why do read items and starred items appear in the list along with unread items?  I really, really don’t like this.  There should be an option to display only unread items.  For that matter, are there any options at all?  I couldn’t find a settings (or the equivalent) menu.

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The blue dots are the unread items.  Read and starred items are also displayed.  Why?

C.  I don’t like having to confirm that I want to mark an entire list as read.  Why isn’t there an option to mark items as read immediately, without the confirmation?  This isn’t a huge deal, but it would make my reading go faster, and fast is good.

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D.  I wish the sharing feature allowed sharing at more locations.  Even more, I wish I could configure a standard intro before the shared item, the way I add “Interesting:” before items I share via Google Reader.

E. Finally, I wish I could select my URL shortener.  TinyURL works fine, but I use Bit.ly for everything else, and would rather be consistent.  I don’t live and die by Bit.ly’s stat tracking features, but I have gotten used to them.

Overall, I like NetNewsWire.  In fact, it largely saved the iPad experience for me.  It may even overtake Things as the Mac-only app I’d most like to use on my Windows computers.

But it could be better, and for $10 I expect the developers to get right on it.

WordPress & iPad: a Pretty Good Combo

One of the first iPad apps I downloaded was the new, iPad optimized version of WordPress.  While only time and blog posts will tell how often I do it, I can tell you that it is very easy to configure and use the WordPress app on an iPad.

Photos and links will continue to be a problem, until someone comes up with a better way to create links on an iPad.  The photo insert tool within the app seems to be pretty straight forward, but since the iPad doesn’t have a camera, you’d have to import photos to use them.  I suppose I should try a screen cap.

I added a screen cap of the app interface, and sadly it seems the app still adds photos to the end of a post, and only then when published. I suspect it will also be sideways (it was, and I couldn’t even fix it with Live Writer).

I also had a mild lockup, that required me to close and reopen the app. This happens after previewing a post, and seems to be caused by the categories and tags overlapping the text box. I’ll attempt another screen cap.

It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. And I suspect it will only get better.

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The interface, including the keyboard, works well.  Photos
are still a huge issue, as they get added to the end of the post,
sideways and far too big (I resized these via Live Writer).

ipadtext2

Notice the jumbled words.  The categories and tags are
on top of the text box.