One of the great things about being a researcher for a living is that simply ‘finding things out’ is the successful conclusion of an experiment.
If I attempt something, and it’s a complete failure, then I have found out that it didn’t work, and that’s a win.
In the case of my iPad experiment – I didn’t just find out that I can’t spend a week without using my laptop for work purposes (or rather, I can – but it’s just incredibly impractical) – I also found out that there’s a lot I can use my iPad for that I might not ordinarily have considered.
Those video blog posts, for instance, would never have happened if I hadn’t been kicking at the edges of what’s possible to accomplish in convenient tablet form.
But some things were just too hard. I’m in the throes of marking assignments at the moment, and filling out forms in Word documents is difficult to do quickly without the trackpad/mouse option – and things don’t necessarily work the way that you’d like them to in the Office-based programmes you might ordinarily use.
More frustrating than that was the iPad’s resistance to audio. I work with audio a great deal (more than I thought, it turns out) and the fact that you can’t import audio files into the iPad without the intervention of a separate computer with iTunes was a deal breaker for me.
I could record directly onto the iPad, and I could, it turned out, edit files that are stored in Dropbox, but even with the correct interface (both an SD and a USB adaptor for the iPad) I could not get audio files onto the machine or into Dropbox without going through another piece of equipment.
In the end – that was just too frustrating and too difficult. Even with an external keyboard, adaptors, extra software and various accounts and clever strategies – the iPad is not capable of being the universal device that my laptop is capable of being. But that doesn’t mean it’s not useful – and nor that I’d be better off with another kind of device.
For instance, for the kind of video editing that I do (rough and ready), I prefer iMovie on the iPad to iMovie on the Mac. For simple dialogue and interview editing of audio files that are in Dropbox (and now that I’m using the laptop as well, I can put audio there) I prefer the Hokusai audio editing app to anything I currently have on the Macbook.
For portability, the iPad is phenomenally useful – and when I travel for short periods of time (just a few days), that’s what I’m going to take with me.
As a bit of experimentation, what I found out was that I can achieve an awful lot with the iPad AND the Macbook in combination – and that I needed to attempt to ditch the Macbook for a while just to find out what that combination should be.
There’s a longer blog post to be written some time in the future about my observations with respect to ‘lean back’ and ‘lean forward’ computing (not to be confused with ‘passive’ and ‘active’) and another outlining my most useful apps (and my favourites of the less ‘useful’ ones) – but for now, let’s just say that as failed experiments go, this was a good one.