A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get a new iPad at work. Now that I’ve had it for a little while, I thought it was time I shared my first impressions.

The device

It’s a good size with plenty of screen real-estate — I’ve never found myself wishing that I had a little bit of extra space, something I often do when browsing the web on my iPhone. That size also makes browsing much less effort: the buttons and links on most websites provide a big enough target to hit with a finger.

It feels very thin, although that’s partly the illusion given by the bevelled edge, but also nicely substantial. In fact, if I have one criticism in this area it’s that it’s a bit too heavy to hold in one hand and type with the other for more than a minute or so, but then trying to type on QWERTY with one hand is a pain at the best of times.

I expected typing to be quite difficult, but it’s actually pretty painless, especially with a flat surface to set it down on. Because you only have to touch the screen, rather than pushing down a physical key, very little effort is required to type, which seems for me to cancel out the disadvantage of not having any haptic feedback.

Useful apps

There are loads of really good apps for iPad, but a few really stand out. Twitter for iPad is beautifully designed, making perfect use of the extra screen space to pop up profiles, hashtag searches and conversations without hiding the main feed. Because you can scroll to the left and right with a swipe, you can explore many levels deep without getting lost.

OmniFocus is another excellent app, syncing well with the desktop and iPhone versions. It lets me view my tasks in a number of different ways, including syncing custom perspectives (combinations of filters and sorts) from the desktop. You can turn it to portrait mode to hide everything but the list of tasks, which is also nice. Easily my favourite feature, though, is the new Review mode, which makes doing a GTD-style review on a Friday afternoon with a cuppa a doddle and keeps my todo list complete and focused.

GoodReader is a recent discovery for me, though it’s been available on iPhone for some time. It’s a very well designed PDF-reading app, with some very cool features: sync with DropBox and SFTP; download documents from email; and highlight and annotate documents as you read. The ability to both read and annotate documents on a decent-sized screen has pretty much reduced my printing to almost zero.

It’s great that you can connect a projector via the VGA adaptor to the iPad and use it to present, but since I use LaTeX and beamer.sty quite a lot for this I need to be able to project PDF files. PDF Presenter is a very simple app which does just that, displaying next and previous slides on the iPad itself and giving you a selection of simple transitions to boot. Keynote eat your heart out.

Cool stuff

I have a fairly recent iMac at home with one of the new Apple wireless keyboards — imagine my delight at discovering that I can disconnect it from the iMac, pair it with the iPad and start typing away! I can even set it to use my preferred Dvorak keyboard layout.

When I took a look at the “official” iPad Smart Cover, I was pretty underwhelmed — they’re pretty expensive (though coming down in price) and even the leather version just looks cheap and tacky. Thankfully, there’s an alternative in the TeckNet folio case which is both cheaper and nicer.


Support for images in the CMYK colour space is lousy, which is unusual for Apple, since they tend to think things like that through quite carefully. I can’t imagine it’ll affect many people, but it’s been a real pain because the background we use for our slides at CSCT turns out to be in CMYK and the luminous green it became on iPad put me off using it for presentations until I finally figured out how to fix it using ColorSync on Mac.

As I mentioned above, I prefer to use the Dvorak keyboard layout, so it would be nice if it was possible to switch layout on the on-screen keyboard, but that isn’t currently possible.


I can see how it wouldn’t make a big difference for everyone, but for me the iPad has really made a big change to the way I work. I’ve stopped printing things to read (and my annotated reading material is now backed up). My todo list is looking a lot leaner because I can do many of the little bitty jobs on the go instead of needing to sit down at a desk or open up a laptop.

I’m still learning how to make it a seamless part of my workflow, but I’m pretty happy so far!