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The iPad As A Freelance Writer’s Tool

The iPad turns out to be an excellent tool for writers.

The iPad turns out to be an excellent tool for writers.

About six months ago I bought an iPad. I bought it as a toy. I don’t have a television and I’d thought I’d get a laptop but my oldest son kept saying “Mom, get an iPad.” Finally, mostly to shut him up I headed for my local Apple Store.

I was entranced with the device. The screen is so bright, the colors so clear.

After about an hour’s demonstration I headed off to look at laptops, but as I was exiting the store I asked myself which device would I rather have in a hotel room – a five to seven pound laptop or the less than two pound iPad?  Which made better sense, a device that had a battery life of a couple of hours or one that works for eight hours or more (lots more) per charge?

It was clear to me that the iPad would make a better traveling companion. I did an about face and bought the thing, complete with a leather cover that helps it stand up. The truth is I don’t travel much, but was able to justify my decision that way.

And sure enough it’s a great toy. Because it’s a wireless device, as soon as I set up a wireless network at home, which these days is a cinch, I began stream movies, play games, get clips of the Daily Show and follow many of my favorite websites and blogs from the comfort of my living room – exactly what I intended.

From Toy To Business Use

But the darn thing is insidious. Gradually I’ve gotten more and more work done on it as well.

I started with simple lists using the Notes app that came with it.

Then I discovered I could email manuscripts to myself using my gmail account (gmail is the default email program on the iPad)  and read them on the iPad. That meant I could move to the living room or out on my deck to read, making notes as I go.

Finally I bought Pages for all of $10 and I’ve got an almost full-fledged word processor that’s compatible with Word. I’m still exploring all I can do with that.

I’ve also made a dent in those .pdfs I’ve always meant to read. Now I email them to myself and read them on the iPad away from my office computer. Makes them almost a pleasure.

When it comes to ebooks, I’ve got a Kindle reader, a Nook reader and several others as well. The colorful screen isn’t quite as good as e-ink because I have to be careful of glare, but that’s mostly a small problem. Since I’m getting ready to launch an ebook blog, being able to read in multiple formats is a real plus for me. And having color is a plus with some ebooks.

Brining my iPad to a coffee shop is way kwel too. I’ve yet to open it up and turn it on without someone asking me about it. A great way to meet folks.

A Must-Have?

Is an iPad a must-have tool for a freelance writer? Not quite. The on-screen keyboard is hardly adequate for real writing, and adding a keyboard like the Kensington KeyFolio Bluetooth Keyboard and Case for iPad is an additional but worthwhile expense. Even then, so far there isn’t a truly ergonomic keyboard for it.

The glare from that brilliant screen is a, well a trade off. The outstanding color apparently requires some glare. I’ve found turning down the brightness helps when I plan to do a bunch of reading.

And all those apps! They are so easy to buy. I solved this problem by not buying any for the first month and then going very carefully. There are enough free apps to keep you happy for years.

No, you don’t need an iPad, but one is sure a nice-to-have for any freelance writer.

What computer or device do you take traveling or to the coffee shop?

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{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Jamie Sharp

    The Kensington, with their rubber covered keys, are even worse for typing. darn, guess I better get with it and go Ipad hunting! Great post, Anne!
    Jamie Sharp recently posted..Heather PenkoMy Profile

    • Well, the iPad screen keyboard isn’t great, but it’s usable.

  • Patricia Mayo-Luz

    Apps I can’t live without:
    Knowtilus
    Textastic

    Hardware:
    iPad 2 (purchased in May 2011, still works like a charm)
    Apple Bluetooth Keyboard (same time, new battery once)
    inCase keyboard stand (balances on my knee! But the Velcro fault is true, just superglue it back on)

  • Bob

    For me it is a netbook. I have everything I need in a small package with more memory and I use Zumo cloud so that I can read on my desktop and laptop.

    I can do more than the iPad can do and all I need is a WiFi connection.

  • There are some good uses for my Ipad when it comes to freelance writing. I mainly use it to check out my blog statistics and to view my emails, but I also use it to look up grammar and use the dictionary app at times. Other than that I do not enjoy writing using the iPad it is just to awkward. It does not feel as good as my fingers hitting a keyboard all day 🙂
    vincent frogameni recently posted..Free Ebook For Followers!!!My Profile

    • I don’t like the onscreen keyboard much – okay for texting and such.

  • I love my Kindle reader, and like you, Ann, take it out on the back deck or the comfy recliner and READ all those PDF’s I’ve “collected” for years! I’m reading THINK AND GROW RICH (I believe it was a free download from Amazon, amazing book despite it’s age).

    I’ve resisted the IPad but my laptop is darn heavy when travelling. I now stuff it into the suitcase, so I can roll it along, instead of it’s own bag. I *need* it, but it’s a pain to travel with.. darn, guess I better get with it and go Ipad hunting!

    Thanks!
    Wendy recently posted..What is Medicare Federally funded health care program for seniors-disabilitiesMy Profile

    • The iPad is truly a lovely traveling companion.

  • Great post, Anne! So timely….I was just thinking about getting an iPad for business and personal use. Just so I’m clear, though, is it true that you can attach a regular keyboard to it? As I’m sure is true for many writers, I always get an idea for a project while I’m in bed and have to either write it in a notebook I keep bedside and transcribe later, or get up and go into my office. So I’m looking for something I can actually do some word processing on. Thanks again for your insight!

    • Yes, in fact you have a choice about keyboards… apple keyboards and those by others. I think you’ll find the ipad perfect for night time writing.

  • There’s a lot more you can do with the ipad as a freelancer. The OneNote app that syncs seemlessly with OneNote for Microsoft Office is a great tool. I also use the free Dragon Dictation program as a way to avoid using the on-screen keyboard. It’s not perfect, but as a relaxing way to get some thoughts on “paper” I find it adequate… of course, my iPhone does all that for me as well and is more compact.
    NovelistWIP recently posted..Jazz for Novel Writing Inspirational BadassitudeMy Profile

    • Never thought about using Dragon… great idea… I’m going to try that one. Thanks

  • I’ve been wanting some kind of tablet device to help with writing away from home. Plus, I need to diversify the way I sit while I write and research due to health problems. I’m not sure if I can swing the expense though. I’ve been hoping some cheaper android based option would come along and be worthwhile. I’m hearing that some of those are coming out this summer. Have you any thoughts or experiences with those?

    Thanks for the article!
    Brenna recently posted..A loving goodnightMy Profile

    • Brenna, I’ve seen some cheaper ebook readers… and the Kindle is now down to something like $114 if you’ll accept advertising… I like the kindle… I haven’t liked the readers I’ve seen at say CVS pharmacy.

      As far as tablets go… my hunch is they won’t come down much… smart phones haven’t – they keep adding features… I’d only consider something with the andrioid operating system as an alternative.

      • There are some androids coming out soon for about $250 that are supposed to be pretty good. Why would you only consider the android operating system as an alternative?
        Brenna recently posted..A loving goodnightMy Profile

    • Brenna – I have a Nook Color that uses the Android OS, and it’s great for answering emails on the go, web surfing, etc, and it’s in your price range. I wouldn’t want to type extensively on it, but using it for note taking is a simple process.
      Benjamin Hunting recently posted..Five Thoughts about the Auto Industry for June 3- 2011My Profile

      • Huh, I never thought about that. I’ll have to check that out. Thanks!
        Brenna recently posted..A loving goodnightMy Profile

      • Good to know about the nook… how’s the screen for lots of reading?

        • Honesty – I love it. For reading it is amazing, I can move through books quickly, and the magazine interface is great. It’s also very handy for long-form reading on the web, as it auto-resizes columns to fit the screen, etc.
          Benjamin Hunting recently posted..Five Thoughts about the Auto Industry for June 3- 2011My Profile

          • So that’s the nook, right… how’s the glare? It’s not e-ink is it?

          • So let me get this straight. With the Nook color you can get online and surf any website? Even those with flash? Youtube? You can post to a blog? Does it have a full keyboard? I probably should google it and I can answer at least that last question.

            Thanks!
            Brenna recently posted..It takes all kindsMy Profile

            • Yes, you can surf any site, including flash and Youtube. You can post to a blog, as far as I know. It has an onscreen keyboard that is very complete – I wouldn’t want to type a manuscript on it, but for note-taking and emails it is fine. You can also download over 150 apps (and growing) from the BN app store.

              It’s not e-ink, and glare hasn’t been an issue so far. Battery life is about 8 hours.
              Benjamin Hunting recently posted..Three Thoughts about the Auto Industry for June 10- 2011My Profile

  • Steve Adams

    Anne,

    Keyboards that fit in an iPad sized case have smaller-than-normal keys, making for more difficult typing. The Kensington, with their rubber covered keys, are even worse for typing. Better alternatives are the chiclet-style keys of the Clamcase and Zagg offerings.

    Your best bet for an ergonomic keyboard is Apple’s standard desktop bluetooth keyboard.

    • Steve, I forget that I have smallish hands… and that concave curve on the apple keyboard makes me crazy… but you’re right to bring this to our attention… Thanks

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