I admit it. I'm in love.
It got off to a somewhat rocky start. I got her shortly after she became available. The first month was spent caressing her sleek curves and admiring her stunning visage. But the relationship troubled me. I wondered if she were just a blown-up iPod. Was there anyone really at home? Was I seduced by gorgeous, expensive and fragile arm candy? A tragically doomed, short-lived relationship to be quickly supplanted by the next best thing?
Today, there are no more questions. It's for real. Like all worthwhile relationships, it's taken work, which has repaid me in spades. I have become a devoted and committed partner to my iPad. My growing love has spurred aspirants everywhere to ask for my secrets. So here they are:
My favorite outerwear
When I wear Arc'teryx, I feel sleek and stylish, as at-home on Volcán Arenal as I do in Manhattan. The booq iPad cover that my colleague Marci Weisler recently gave me provokes a similar feeling. It's so much better than my bulky leather InCase folio that so uncomfortably reminded me of a 1980s-vintage Coach bag. The booq has a rugged ballistic nylon cover that's a slick silver on the inside, matte black internal plastic rim that holds the iPad securely, with a flange that promises to protect my baby from accidental falls that can crack the screen. And it has pockets.
My can't-live-without accessories
Let's face it, the finger can be a blunt instrument. The pinch-unpinch-shrinko-expando-thingy is just plain-o inconvenient when you want to touch something small. My Pogo stylus lets me make precise selections, gives writing more of a pen-to-paper feel, and adds dimensions to my drawing by improving control over pressure: the harder I push, the thicker and darker the line. (Warning: the plastic clip is prone to breaking but I got one with a metal clip in my Christmas stocking. Definitely worth tracking one down.)
In the front pocket of my booq live a Pogo stylus and a portable WiFi. I have a Verizon Wireless MiFi, but if I weren't locked into a contract, I'd have the Virgin America version. It's the best deal in town for portable, everywhere Wi-Fi that you can tether to 5 devices.
Apps of my iPad
With the right tools and accessories, her inner capacity really shines through. We connect on so many levels, and she never ceases to entertain me and find new ways to improve my life:
Star Walk. Imagine standing in the middle of space with a spherical view of the universe surrounding you with a roadmap that moves everywhere you look, with the ability to zoom in on stars, galaxies and planets. It's a gyroscopic and real-time data retrieval/simulation tour de force that makes the universe simultaneously more accessible and therefore humbling in its vastness. Magical. Even with the corny New Age music turned on.
Radarscope. The combination of weather and real-time data are taken for granted. But what if you could see the actual weather radar feeds in real-time, anywhere in the US, with enough controls to make any weather geek happy for hours?
Google Earth. Do I actually need to say anything about this except that nearly all the amazing features of the desktop app seem to (miraculously) work on the iPad?
Weatherbug. GPS-enabled map + radar + 6-day forecast in the easiest-to-read weather format I've seen.
Skype. Obviously, with no camera, it's video-less. But my calls to my partners in Hong Kong are crystal-clear.
Kindle. Allison uses a Kindle device tied to my Amazon account. So we buy one book and download it to both her Kindle and my iPad.
ZagatToGo. I'm a demanding eater, which means I want to eat what I want when I want wherever I am. This last criterion trumps all others, making this GPS-enabled app restorative of much of the faded luster of the Zagat brand. And if you have the OpenTable app (below), seamless reservations are at your fingertips.
OpenTable. It's good, but it's goodness is so dependent on the far richer ZagatToGo app (above) that alone I don't know that I'd use it. But in combo, they're great.
Weber On the Grill. My dear friend Will Schwalbe launched Cookstr.com two years ago and since then we have been dreaming of the ultimate cooking app. No app, I repeat none, have come close to our vision of what the Cookstr iPad app could be. But the rich, integrated features of the Weber app made me sweat. Then it made me drool. Then it made me cook. 'nough said.
Dropbox. I'm not used to taking tech advice from a CPA, but as I have learned repeatedly, it pays to listen to my CFO, Stan Lau, who was the first Dropbox devotee I knew. But it was Aliza who forced me to use it, resulting in a great "Aha! Duh!" moment. Why Steve Jobs didn't invent this Apple-like user-friendly universal virtual disk drive that is accessible from all your web-connected devices baffles me. Now, this is THE critical app for doing work on your hard-drive-challenged iPad. Just read the next two app reviews.
Noterize. I sketch. I doodle. I think in fragments. And then string it together. Noterize allows me to do all this in a notebook format. Then pdf and email the assemblage right from the app. But that's only part of the coolness. When you open pdfs from your Dropbox drive, you can then attach virtual Post-it Notes, highlight phrases, and type comments. At this point, you think you're pretty cool. But then when you re-pdf and email the mark-up, the recipient will think that you walk on water. The audio recording feature is just icing. Noterize is sooo cool that you will probably forgive the primitive sketching functionality that will make every artist appear to lack fine motor skills. Oh, and save your work to Dropbox.
Quickoffice. Microsoft is sadly a necessary evil. And Quickoffice is the closest approximation. But when you don't have to lug that now-obese-seeming Macbook Pro cross-country, Quickoffice seems downright genius-like. NOTE TO DEAL JUNKIES: I HAVEN'T FOUND AN APP THAT PRESERVES TRACK CHANGES. Quickoffice doesn't allow me to view track changes, meaning that I sometimes have to carry my iPad and my Macbook Pro. So I get annoyed, until I fire up Quickoffice, open a file that Aliza or Liberty has saved in our Dropbox drive, then save my changes to that Dropbox drive, reminding me how technology improves our work lives, track changes or not. Since Dropbox automatically preserves the most recent saved versions, at least I have a way to preserve versions for later comparison.
Noteshelf. This handwriting app seems designed for the Pogo stylus. No, it doesn't do character recognition - does anything? But it fakes weight with squishiness of the stylus tip, allowing everyone to write like a calligrapher or draw like Degas. When I take notes by hand or just sketch, this is the only app I use.
Google. I use gmail, host Tipping Point's email on Google, use Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Google Talk. This handy app rolls up all these URLs and more into a handy, clickable list.
2Do. I hate to-do lists even more than Office, but sometimes there's no other place to put an important to-do item. 2Do is the best, most intuitive app I've seen.
Digits. When I started working in the 198os, I found myself using adding machines with paper tape far more than my HP. Why? Because the paper tape gave me a running account of my work. Digits replicates the big, fat keys and the paper tape of my favorite adding machines. I just wish it had a little HP built-in as well.
Friendly. This app has become my favorite way of accessing Facebook. It gives me the activity feed. And photos. And messages. Reducing the download time for accessing FB via Safari.
Flipboard. I don't often have time for magazines, or even for this amalgam of my social feeds into a beautiful, real-time magazine, but if I did, this would be one of my favorites.
Netflix. Curled up in bed with my iPad and a good Netflix movie makes for an amazingly personal movie-going experience.
KCRW Radio. This is not yet an iPad app at this writing, only iPhone, but I so love KCRW that this easily navigated on-demand radio player has become a staple.
Osmos. Although I'm fascinated by games and have worked with many game companies, Osmos is the only game that has translated its mechanics into a visual dance of physics, math and biology.
Dragon Dictation. The dream of having one's voice translated into text still doesn't satisfy, but if Dragon's PC software is any clue, this one day could be magical.
Notes Plus. Yes, I want my primitive sketches to look better. I want my type to look sophisticated. And I want to group objects and move them together. The promise of Notes Plus can't live up to its execution, but it's a beautiful vision. Maybe a couple more versions?
BlogPress. Yes, sometimes I want to blog across all my platforms. But if Wordpress functionality doesn't work, BlogPress doesn't work for me. But it works for all other platforms. So close but so far.
iPad Keyboard. When I travel with my iPad alone, I usually bring this. It's a visual disgrace to Apple's design aesthetic. Lumpy. Heavier than it looks. Doesn't pack easily. I long for the folding butterfly keyboard that was made for the early Palm Pilot. Or at least a base that folds up easily. But I prefer this to Apple's bluetooth keyboard for its stable, built-in charging stand.