Thursday, March 15, 2012

Initial Impressions

Like others, I've been trying to use the iPad for productivity.  I migrated to LC's Google mail account a few months ago, and the iPad integrates this and my existing private Gmail account seamlessly.  So no trouble there at all.  In fact, it is much easier to use on the fly than the online interface, and you can toggle back and forth between email accounts easily, if you do not want to use the master inbox option.  The one major problem comes if you need to do things like search all emails with attachments, as it seems that the iPad does not have this functionality (clue me in if I am wrong).

Google Docs
Here at Watzek in Collection Development, we share lots of Google Docs, mainly spreadsheets.  This is a serious problem on the iPad.  Problems include distorted fonts, inability to scroll, the upper half of the screen wasted on Google's negative space, and horrible navigation.  I have not tried the handful of apps out there supposedly created to interface with Google Docs because they all have poor reviews.  Very frustrating but still looking for a workable solution.
QuickOffice vs. Pages
Having tried many writing apps, the one that I have found the most useful is QuickOffice.  It isn't cheap but I was sick of paying $.99-2.99 on apps that did not really meet my expectations so decided to pay the $15 for this one after reading the good reviews.  Among my primary criteria was the ability to handle many different kinds of cloud storage services, like DropBox, Evergreen, SugarSync, etc.  And this app literally handles them all, along with several more obscure options.  Word seems to work well enough, but it is still a poor substitute if you need to customize spacing and margins.  I can't speak for Excel or PowerPoint yet (see someone's comments below, as they did not have a good experience with Q.O.'s PP).  I gave Apple's app Pages a shot but it felt bloated and useless, more concerned with aesthetics than functionality.  It also forces you to use iCloud as your online storage and does not allow for DropBox, SugarSync, or any third-party solution.   

SugarSync vs. DropBox
Of these two file sharing services, I much prefer SugarSync.  Apps are increasingly using both as upload options, and SS has some functionality I really need, like the ability to quickly sort files by date.  Also, DropBox requires that you place files into a special folder.  This folder also exists with SS, but it also allows you to sync other folders from locations elsewhere on your PC/MAC.  This was a huge plus for me, as I wanted to keep my existing file structures intact on my work desktop and home laptop.  I simply checked off  the ones that I wanted to keep synchronized in SS.  If I am altering a document or spreadsheet in QuickOffice, it is automatically uploaded to SS and synched when I save.  There is also some "push" functionality for offline access that sounds handy, but I haven't read up on this thoroughly.  Overall it just feels like a more polished and superior product, although I am still using both at the moment.

Current Favorite: iA Writer
I love this app.  It achieves the minimalism I expected from Apple's Pages.  The developer's goal was to clear the clutter and gimmicks so common to writing apps and focus strictly on the writer's creative interaction with the text.   To that end, the typography is clear and concise, and the redesigned keyboard offers easy access to punctuation.  It uploads to DropBox and iCloud and can print wirelessly to Apple printers designed for this.  The only thing it lacks is a TAB key, which seems to be a problem with all writing apps.  
More on ebooks in my next entry.  Still working that out.

Jim Bunnelle
Acquisitions & Collection Development Librarian

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