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Impressions After Two Months of Using an iPad

iPad stand

Hello. My name is Kathleen, and I’m an early adopter.

Hi, Kathleen!

I picked up my iPad from my campus bookstore on the morning it arrived. I’m pretty sure I was the first person to do so, in part because I’d beaten the delivery truck on my first trip to the store that morning, and in part because, when I came back after breakfast, the staff were just getting started unpacking the demo models.

Anyhow, I’ve lived and traveled and worked and played with the iPad for a little over two months now, and while I’m still completely head over heels for it, I’ve got a few ideas about how to make it better.

First, the obligatory fangirl gushing: I love having a device that provides such a flexible multi-channel personal media consumption environment. I read a lot on the iPad, in a range of book and document reading applications (including, as Jason described last week, the fantastic iAnnotate), I watch a fair bit of video, I read and respond to email, I take notes and do some basic writing in Evernote (thanks in part to to Shawn Miller’s guest post about the application), access the files on my computer via Dropbox, and a whole lot more.

That said, there are a lot of things that would make it even better — beyond the obvious lower pricetag. Some of these improvements are small, and some of them big; some of them are likely coming with the iPhone OS 4 update, some of them I’m not exactly holding my breath on.

Multitasking. This one is coming with the iOS4 update this fall, at least in theory, and at least in some limited fashion. It’ll make a huge difference to the ways that I read and take notes on the iPad if I’m able to have iAnnotate and Evernote running simultaneously.

A decent stylus. There are a few out there, such as the Pogo Sketch, but none that seem up to real pen-quality document annotation as yet.

contentEditable. This one falls into the “wishing and hoping” category: please, oh please, let the new version of Safari that comes with iOS4 support the HTML5 “contentEditable” tag. Right now, accessing your Google Docs via the web browser works fine, but they’re read-only, and actually being able to edit them natively from the iPad would be a game changer. (There are some applications, like Office2 HD, that allow a range of word-processor-like interactions with both local and cloud-based files, including Google Docs, but native GDocs editing would be better.)

Arrow keys. Another one for the “wishing and hoping” category: when I’m working in a text document, I don’t always want to have to move to another point in the text by, well, pointing; sometimes, especially if I’m just going up or down one row, it’s easier to use the keyboard arrows. Or it would, at least, if the virtual keyboard had them. The keyboard dock does, of course, as does the bluetooth keyboard, but putting them on screen would be nice.

Swype. While we’re at it, maybe we could just make the entire virtual keyboard work a bit more efficiently. This can go one of two ways: either make it more like a physical keyboard, with modifier keys and everything, or make it more fully virtualized, recognizing that on-screen text input need not take place by “pressing” “buttons.” I recently got to play with a pal’s Swype-enabled Droid, and oh my. WANT. (This one’s actually more for the iPhone than the iPad, but I suspect the iPad could benefit as well.)

Search across content. There’s a sort of nominal Spotlight search on the iPad, but it’s pretty limited in what it will enable you to find: the media, notes, contacts, email and other stuff that’s managed by the iPhone OS itself. Apple’s managed to figure out searching within its iBooks (which the Kindle app has not, as yet), but what I’d really like is the ability to search across all of my content on the iPad: all of the books, pdfs, and other documents it holds, regardless of what application is managing them.

And this brings me to the big three, which fall under “not really holding my breath”:

A proper file manager. How much nicer would it be simply to have your files stored on the iPad in some logical fashion, where they could be opened by any appropriate application?

One e-book format to rule them all. I’m with the publishers here: I’ll pay for the books; you let me decide which application I want to read them in. (I don’t expect Kindle-iBooks sharing any time soon, but adding PDF functionality to iBooks is a start in the right direction.)

Open, open, open. And let me decide how I want to interact with my files, my content, my devices. I understand Apple’s “we keep it closed so that it just works!” philosophy—and it does just work—but allowing a means for expert users to tinker with the ways their devices work can allow for much, much greater innovation. Permitting this innovation rather than criminalizing it would benefit everyone involved.

How would you improve the iPad, or whatever your favorite mobile device may be?

[Image by Flickr user Veronica Belmont / Creative Commons licensed]

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