Do writers need an iPad?

Dude, like, I don’t know.

Many writers have them, and Chuck Wendig points out in this great blog how he views his — a tool. A penmonkey for the penmonkey, but he notes that it’s not going to replace his desktop as his primary writing tool.

I’m currently in the midst of a major tech upgrade. My desktop is going on 8 years, and that’s practically a geologic eon in PC terms. I’ve already decided to upgrade to a Mac desktop, because I still do the brunt of my writing on my desktop and my trusty MacBook. The latter is also in need of an upgrade. It’s about 7 years old and I’m still using Leopard OS, which makes it far less compatible with things like Firefox (which I prefer to Safari on the Mac, but that’s just me). I’ll be putting more memory on my laptop and upgrading the OS because it’s still a great tool and it still keeps on trucking.

And I recently succumbed to an iPad. I got it for a couple of reasons. My laptop is heavy, and when I travel, I can’t stand checking email on a phone-sized device. I also blog when I travel, and it’s a lot easier to do that on an iPad than on a phone. I do not consider an iPad a primary writing tool, though I see Wendig’s point in its usefulness as a supplement. It is kind of a cool research tool, and it is a fun entertainment device. In terms of stuffing it with apps, I’m just not really into that. I have a few — Pandora, Netflix, Kindle, and iPad books. I’ve installed Dropbox and also a fun little DJ app because that’s one of my OTHER hobbies. I do like being able to check email and blogs while traveling, and because it’s not nearly as heavy as my trusty laptop, it’s easy to travel with, even when I opt to bring the wireless keyboard. Typing on an iPad screen is a freaking joke for me. It’s a hunt-and-peck kind of situation, and I am a full-blown typist, which is why I opted for a wireless keyboard.

I have a feeling that in the near future, your tablets will have the capability to project a keyboard onto a tabletop, and I’m pretty stoked about that innovation. Here’s hoping it’s soon. In the meantime, I’m using the actual keyboard. Oh, wait. My bad. That projected keyboard is already hitting the market. Here. That technology, however, is going to get better.

So, do writers need an iPad? No. Nobody really NEEDS an iPad. The question is how it will supplement what you currently do, and whether it can make some of what you do easier or less time-consuming. Those are personal assessments, and I certainly didn’t run out and buy an iPad just because OMG new technology must have must have! It’s been a couple years since they’ve been on the market, and I’ve been assessing them during that time. Because I travel a lot, an iPad will help me keep in touch via email and give me the capability to blog without having to take my laptop along. It also takes pretty good pictures, but it’s an awkward device on which to do that. Sort of like holding up a baking tray to snap a photo. It’s a good device to communicate in real-time with people, given its screen/camera capabilities, but I don’t generally do a lot of that.

Will I write novels on it? I doubt it. I may be able to hammer out a short story, but there’s the issue of compatibility with my other machines and Word, which is my primary tool. I’ve tried others, but sadly, Word is still providing decent compatibility between Mac and PC, and that’s useful because so many people are on PC. I know some writers email files to themselves via their iPads and then open them and format them on their laptops/desktops, but isn’t the point of the iPad to make your life easier? Hopefully Apple (or somebody) will develop a better writing app for the iPad that will interface more smoothly with laptops/desktops.

Ultimately, what you use with regard to tech is a function of how you operate. I don’t honestly think writers NEED iPads as primary writing tools. I don’t view mine as that. As a supplement, sure. As an entertainment device, sure. Some professions (like medical and law enforcement, e.g.) find tablets really useful in terms of cutting time and using data. But in terms of what I do, no, an iPad does not cut my time with regard to writing or editing. It does provide some useful tools — as a writer, I use email and social networking quite a bit, so when I travel, the iPad will be handy for that. Otherwise, my laptop and desktop remain my primary writing tools.

Not to suggest that won’t change in the future. But for the moment, that’s how it is. Oh, and for the record, I do not own a smartphone. :D

Anyway, happy reading, happy writing, happy tablet-ing!

About Andi Marquette

Andi Marquette once wanted to be a seafaring pirate. But she realized that could be a problem, growing up in the Rocky Mountain West and Southwest. So she became an editor, anthropologist, and historian instead. But that, too, didn't satisfy her weird cravings for stories and strange realms. Now, she's a writer ensconced in Colorado and when she wants to go pirate-ing, she just makes something up.

Posted on February 24, 2012, in Technology, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. ‘Nobody really NEEDS an iPad’ – think you pretty much summed it up there. I quite like them, but I think that writer’s claiming to *need* an iPad is like saying ‘Oh, I can’t write with this biro. I *have* to have a fountain pen or I just can’t do it.’ Personally, I’d quite like to get an iPad and write a novel on it, but I’m never going to claim it to be anything other than an overindulgence on my behalf ;)

    • There are a few people out there writing novels on iPads to prove it can be done (I have no doubt that it can). For me, it would be a pain to do so because of the limited screen space. I’m used to looking at large swaths of text for context and bigger picture, and seeing only 2-3 paragraphs at a time doesn’t work for me. I’m sure some enterprising soul will come up with an app for that…in the meantime, the iPad will prove useful for my traveling/conference situations. For hardcore writing? Probably not. And you’re right. I view it as an overindulgence. LOL

  2. Andi, Apple has a new tool called iWork. If you create a document in Pages (Apple’s version of Word) you can share it using iWord which will allow the person you’re sending it to to open the doc in whatever format they choose (ie Word, Pages, or PDF). Just thought I would let you know. I think you may have to subscribe to iCloud to get iWork, but I’m not sure.

    • Unfortunately, the reviews on iWork have not been the best. Many people love how easy it is to use, but the problems arise when they try to transfer docs to PC. So though iWork bills itself as able to cross platforms, the reviews are suggesting that this isn’t completely true. Because so many people in the publishing world are still on PC, the best way to go for me is still unfortunately Word, especially when I edit documents. Many of the reviews I’ve seen on iWork have noted that PCs have a difficult time opening documents created in it, though it’s billed as something easy to use. Part of the problem, I personally suspect, is that so many people out there are on different PC platforms. XP is still in use, the horrid Vista is out there, as well, and most recently, Windows 7. So far, Word can deal with all of those platforms from a Mac. iWork seems to have trouble doing that. I use Word for Mac to ensure that the documents I write and edit can cross platforms with as few issues as possible. iWork is available for Mac desktops, at about $99, which makes it cheaper than Word, but I’ll be sticking with Word for now, until smoother interfaces come about. Especially when sending edited documents via email, which I’ve marked up with track changes. I don’t want to deal with the headaches of using iWork and trying to ensure that it really does translate across platforms. You can also run Windows on a Mac (Mac developed a program for it). However, I’m not sure I’ll invest in that. It might prove handy, however… :D

  3. Did you read this David Pogue article in the NYT on 2/22 about a new app which gives you full Word on the iPad along with everything else PC (OnLive Desktop Plus)?

    http://tinyurl.com/7ctsstn

    It sounds pretty cool if you need Word.

  4. I have an iphone, an ereader and a laptop. buying an ipad would mean carrying one more piece of kit around, when I’ve already got three things that do what an ipad would do. Every time I consider one, I talk myself out of it…

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