Tag Archives: iPad

Does the ‘Back in Time’ iPad app give a glimpse of the future?

Back in Time is an app that really utilises the power of  the iPad for delivering beautiful content in an easy to use format. It begins with the Big Bang and ends with the Human Genome Project. A timeline of major events from the beginning to now (whether the beginning was defined by a single event or has there there multiple ‘Big Bangs’ is a different thing and for another debate but this starts at our beginning).  It’s visually stunning and beautiful to navigate through.  The first night I got it I spent hours exploring it.  I couldn’t put it down.  The video below on YouTube from the makers gives a sample of just what it is like.  The sequence you see of the app is exactly as it appears, dragonflies and insects included walking across the screen.  The ability to slide so beautifully backwards and forwards through time either by the graphics or via the clock is fantastic.  The mix of text, pictures and video is so very nicely put together.  They have successfully been able to condense billions of years into a small app and allow us to understand and visualise just how small that portion of time for which man has existed.  They have tried to break away from the book type feel that normally accompanies many such apps and this new format works so much better while still providing vast quantities of easily accessible content.  When I was a child this was my World Encyclopedia, my Space  Encyclopedia, books that I would spend hours reading and flipping through.  This experience for my kids is so much richer, accessible and enjoyable.

This app for me is the future of books in many ways.  Imagine learning geography or history in school in this format as opposed to the traditional book.   I don’t mean simply digitizing the current books and putting them on a iPad type device.  I mean immersing yourself in a truly interactive app for example in a piece of history where you could read about it, hear it, watch it.  A speech from Martin Luther King, pictures of the 1916 rising, a video of protests in Tiananmen Square or the walk to freedom of Nelson Mandela.  How much better could we educate, excite and instill knowledge and curiosity into those young minds.  How much better would it suit all types of kids and learning types and abilities.

All that aside I said a glimpse in the title as I think it is only a glimpse as its not complete.  I said ‘truly interactive’ in the paragraph above on what the app should be like.  This app while excellent is not truly interactive .  I want this app to interact with the outside world.  And yes by that I mean the internet and not washing your dishes. I want to be able to enhance the experience and access to knowledge and material by easily incorporating the resources on the web.  Yes I could close the app and simply Google the topic of interest or search for a video on YouTube but what if I could just click on a word in the app that gave me even further options? What if I could touch the word ‘civilization’ and it brought me to the page on Wikipedia.  What if when I touched the word ‘Maya’ it auto built a Google search with that word, or it gave me options to go to the Maya National Geographic page, or Google Maps showing where the Mayan people lived.  I look forward to when this app is truly interactive with it and the web.  When I don’t understand a word its definition is only a touch away, a place named in the text is only a touch from viewing on Google maps and a topic I would like to learn more about can be explored simply by a touch!  Am I asking for too much? I really hope not.

The iPad – what can make it a tool as opposed to a toy!

Just this past week I heard again on the radio that the iPad is still a ‘toy’ from a presenter who had spent all of 5 minutes with it.  I think it’s a real pity that some so quickly take that view and dismiss it.  Many of the same people admit its ‘cool’ but conclude that you could not really be productive on it.  This comment made me think about what I use and how I use it that helps me form such a different opinion.

I had a post already about my favourite apps which is somewhat out of date now but some still hold true such as Star Walk or the Formula 1 timing app.  However I can go weeks without being in them – months even as e.g. when there is no Formula 1 season there is very little reason to use the Formula 1 timing app.  Also these apps don’t help me be productive.  They are nice even great to have but they don’t help me do any work.  People talk about the thousands of apps available but realistically there are a small number that you will be using frequently and an even smaller number that you will be using daily.  So I am going to highlight the apps that help me to be productive.

Yes the list of daily used apps will be different for each person but its an effort to show the versatility of this tool for practical purposes as opposed to just passing time or ‘playing’ on it.  Just before I get into that I wanted to point out that I don’t sit in front of the iPad all day.  It doesn’t replace your laptop or PC or essentially your normal computer working environment.  However it does significantly improve your ability to be productive when not at your desk (that said I am finding myself reading documents, reports, articles more and more on it as opposed to on my computer even when at my desk – and reading in my job as many others can be considered productive as we research new tech or trouble shoot issues).  Yes you could use a laptop but in many cases the iPad suffices and is faster, less intrusive and just nicer to use in those mobile or non desk environment type situations.

  • Mail – I use the email app every day.  On the train to and from work, at home, in the office and at meetings.  Yes I could use a Blackberry or iPhone but with the large keyboard it is so much nicer and faster to type on especially for longer emails compared to those small devices.  Reading on with the large screen is also a lot nicer.  Of course a laptop has a proper keyboard and a large screen I hear you say but I still prefer the iPad for these short times and its significantly easier to carry around with a much greater battery life.  It’s the app that comes with the device so no extra cost.  I have five email accounts setup within it covering my work and personal life and its super easy to flick between them.  There are a few things that annoy me such as lack of Flags on emails as I normally use that feature to keep track of mail I need to follow-up on but that will be added in iOS 5 in a few months.  For now I mark as unread and then flag when back in the office.
  • Penultimate – As discussed in previous posts this is the app I use to take all handwritten notes and thus has enabled me to abandon my paper notebook in favour if it.  You can maintain multiple notebooks and easily change between them.
  • GoodReader – Used for reading pdfs/documents. I can add notes to these pdfs in this app and I can carry them ALL around with me and thus have access anywhere.  Gone are the large pile piles of paper that used to sit around my desk and generally never have near me when away from the office when I really had time to sit down and read them.
  • Sign and Send – I only have this app a short while but find I have used it almost every day.  I get quite a few invoices/contracts attached to emails that need a signature.  With this little app I can sign it directly on the iPad and send it back.  It means I can do it wherever I am.  I don’t have to wait until I get back to the office or home to print, sign and scan it in. (A stylus helps here but you can sign with your finger! And thanks to Andrea Altenburg who pointed me to this app in a comment on a previous post)
  • Safari – I like the Safari app for web browsing, the ability to keep up to nine different web pages ‘active’ and I like how easy it is to switch between them.  Yes there are other browsers but I haven’t felt the need to go looking for more features.  I also use Safari to access our work Sharepoint sites.  Either on the wireless network in our office or using the iPad VPN facility to access the Sharepoint sites when at home.  It means I can access our Helpdesk tickets and also our project lists and tasks and update and review as needed all from the iPad (for accessing internal websites, intranet, sharepoint you may need to contact your IT team for details as you possibly need specific information to be able to connect to it).
  • Winadmin – A remote desktop application.  I can access any of our servers globally to work on them.  Not as easy to use as a remote desktop session from a laptop or PC but definitely great to have and saves me carrying a laptop with me everywhere especially when heading off for a few nights.  I use it regularly when on the couch to jump in a check a system, restart a service or reset a password and saves pulling out the laptop.
  • Citrix App – Like many others our organisation delivers applications and access to corporate systems via citrix.  Through this app I can access ALL those apps which includes Dynamics, Word, Outlook, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. (it will depend on what your company delivers via citrix)
  • Flipboard – This is one of the nicest apps out there.  For many of us trying to stay up to date on latest news and developments in our area of work can at times be laborious. Flipboard offers a way to simplify this and build your own personal magazine with all your favourite internet sources.  It makes the aggregation and consumption of the information you want super easy, even effortless.  It has the added benefit of being very very cool in a Jean-Luc Picard type of way as you relax in your chair and flick through pages of information that you can easily mark and share.
  • Amazon Kindle – So paper books are a thing of the past.  I don’t buy a book anymore if it’s not on the Kindle (part of my effort to go paperless!) I wait until it is but I have to admit I have bought less of late as with all the material I get on the web I don’t find myself looking for books on particular topics as often.  The vast majority of my reading would be work related and on technology, project management, social media and the reason I have listed it here.
  • WordPress – Yes I use it most days now to keep an eye on the blog and often start or edit some posts (many of which never get published!)  And yes my blog is personal so it’s not really productivity for work but many use blogs in their work and business which is the point I am obviously trying to make.
  • Twitter – Yes I use the native Twitter app.  It’s not perfect but after trying a few I found myself going back to it each day.  Twitter I use for news, updates and more.  The amount of information relating to my job on new products, issues or solutions is hard to quantify but it really is a benefit and not a waste of time as some might have you believe.  Once you follow the right people and companies!

So it won’t cut down a tree, change the oil in the car and may not be best suited to typing up a 10,000 word report with embedded Excel charts and complex graphics that is collaborated on with 6 others.  Yes productivity is a relative thing.  However for many I think it can help find and communicate with someone to cut down the tree, help find out how or someone to change the oil in the car and provide a great tool for reviewing the final report and providing feedback on it.  And it can do all those things without the need to be chained at your desk or even in your place of work.  In my view it can do it easier and better via a design that is simply superior to anything else currently on the market.

I strongly believe that with some time invested in researching apps and becoming familiar with the devices strengths it could help many to see that this new tech can be just as good at being a tool as they say it is at being a toy.

iPad Keyboard Shortcuts (via iPad Notebook)

Nice few tips for iPad users thought it was worth sharing. This blog actually has a nice list of useful pieces relating to Apple hardware and software….

iPad Keyboard Shortcuts Keyboard shortcuts make typing even quicker on the iPad. Interestingly, depending where your cursor is when you are typing effects which short cuts may be available. UPDATE (I have posted a more complete list.) For example, if you are typing an email and the cursor is in the to or from name field, certain domain names become available when you hold down the "." Accented Characters If you are writing someone or about something and need to use a fo … Read More

via iPad Notebook

Damn but it’s a wonderful piece of tech!

So I have fallen in love with tech many times. Yes love is a strong word but I am a techie geeky type so it works for me :-) My Spectrum 48k, my first Motorola StarTAC and of course my first Blackberry. I fell in love with the iPhone a couple of versions ago but quickly fell back out of love after it constantly let me down and betrayed me. However glad to say I fell back in love with version 4 albeit a little more cagey and taking baby steps until I was sure I could trust it. Actually recently there have been a few Apple pieces as along with the iPhone there is the Apple TV which is just wonderful and then there is the cream of the crop, the most versatile of all, the iPad.

It has really hit me this current trip just how good this little piece of tech is. It has been a movie player for us on long trips. It has been a game station to help pass long days. It has been a music player most evenings. It has been a research tool. An important facility in these searches is it’s ability to switch keyboards at the touch of a button from QWERTY to Thai(or any language you need) – show me a laptop that can do that! It has enabled me to do some work all without having to carry around a laptop and a lot more comfortably than on a smartphone. It has been my Kindle providing books and it has been my Newspaper to catch up on the world. It has been how we shared photos and videos with family. It has been used to keep in touch with family and friends. It has been super easy to use for all from my 7 year old daughter to her grandmother with no training required. It is one small piece of tech and it has done all of this in the last 7 days.

I suppose it really is a luxury item even though I don’t like to admit it so its not a ‘must have’ item but it sure is very VERY nice to have it. I think they should steal that old Mars bar slogan and say ‘an iPad today helps you work, rest and play!’ cause damn but it’s wonderful piece of tech.

The #F1 magazine – A digital edition disappointment

I am a huge F1 fan and enjoy the F1 magazine so when I recently heard that they were launching a digital edition I was delighted. The last paper mag I regularly purchase was about to go digital. This would mean all my regular reading material could now be downloaded onto my iPad.

I downloaded it tonight as soon as it became available. I expected to be immersed in it and looked forward to the added pieces that a digital version would bring. I pictured the BBC Focus mag that I get and envisioned that the F1 version would have to beat even that with interactive graphics, links, video and sound. After all F1 is the cutting edge of technology, it excels at sparkling, at giving that ‘ooooh’ and ‘ahhhhh’ factor, at being polished and generally ahead of the curve!

How wrong I was! What I got was just a scanned in copy of the actual mag, where the print is so small I have to zoom in to try and read it and constantly move around the page to follow the text. Graphics and pics are split across what are normally paper pages and nothing is interactive. there is no sound, or video or interactivity what so ever. I think being called a digital version is misleading. In the strictest sense of the word yes it is but as a consumer I expected something more. Especially from the leading F1 magazine. A magazine I have enjoyed for a long time. A magazine that has let itself down. For now I will stick with the paper version.