It happens in every romance. You meet someone new. For a while, you think they might be all you need. You introduce them to your family. They seem cooler, faster, cuter than what you had before. And if they have a few obvious lacks, you tell yourself that doesn’t matter because they’re so cool, and they promise to get you where you want to go somehow. It’ll all be better, they promise, in a little while. With the next operating system.

The next what?

I’m talking about the iPad, of course. If we all personify the gadgets we need, from cars to computers, Apple culties like me tend to get even more personal.

Not that I regret buying the device when I did. Six months in, iPad still does everything I loved it for in those first few months. It’s still a gift to the disabled (and my nephew still loves it.) I’ve read dozens of e-books and hundreds of magazine app-pages. I use it for most of my insta-Internet needs, from email to websurfing to Twitter.  I’ve even gone gingerly to cutting-edge apps like Flipboard, which organizes the information tsunami according to your preferences and keeps it updated. I now watch iPad video  the way my parents turned on the TV, when I’m cooking or stretching. And the photo gallery was certainly useful after I recently married: “Wanna see wedding pictures?”

But I also bought it for work. And on that score so far, Apple, you’re nowhere near as pleasing.

I wanted the Pad to be a supplement to my computer, for use when I’m not in my home office. That was promised at the iPad’s launch last winter, which featured the keyboard dock and lots of happy spreadsheets. But iWork for the iPad makes me think of a quote from The Princess Bride: “I do not think that word [work] means what you think it means.”

Yes, it’s good for tight spots. I can write simple documents and save them, email them, paste them into whatever blog software I want. And it keeps me on for emergencies;  if something needs changing on WVFC while I’m out reporting, I can do the repair on the Pad as soon as I get a wireless connection. And it was obvious that the productivity stuff — from word processing to PowerPoint — would be a little trickier, at least at first. But it’s a little late for  “at first.” The iPad productivity apps I’ve used, whether Apple’s or independent ones,  all come so far with big helpings of FAIL.

Six months into this relationship, I had to come to terms with the truth: iPad just isn’t that into me. Not the writer-me, anyway. Three examples:

  • Pages. This is my main gripe, I guess. The lovely word-processing application in which I’ve written countless words elsewhere becomes a shadow of its former self on iPad. Navigation is limited, placing and keeping images is tricky, and when you import documents from a computer, important style elements can be lost. Until the most recent  software update, that included deleting all the footnotes. (Luckily I didn’t try to import a book manuscript of mine  with hundreds of those.)  When I realized the notes were routinely stripped, I said “Bye-bye, academic market. Bye-bye, attorneys.”  Realizing this, Apple recently changed the software so that notes aren’t stripped. Not that I can create a footnote, or turn footnotes into endnotes, or do anything else complex.
  • Keynote. I don’t use presentation software, but apparently the iPad version similarly makes a hash of your ever-so-carefully crafted bullet points and accompanying images. (“iPad Cripples iWork Documents,” Information Week wailed.)
  • WordPress. The web page content-management system I use most often doesn’t play well here, likely because of security issues (dueling passwords). I’ve tried both the WordPress app and BlogPress–an independent effort that claims to help you with any blog software–with intermittent success. I end up doing most of my back-end work using the browser, but even there  I don’t have easy access to what I really need to create something. I end up drafting on the Pad and putting on the finishing touches when I’m sitting, as I am right now, with my full-fledged laptop.

With characteristic elan, Apple tends to treat these issues as features, the wave of the future (just like when we all stopped using floppy discs). When pushed, sometimes they go on to address the issue in the next software update. And right now, every iPad user I know is chanting “iOS4.2! iOS4.2!” in the hope that the new world order already available to iPhone users will make everything new. Someday, my prince will come…

As for me, I think instead I’ve finally put the iPad in perspective. And like a wife rebounding from an affair, I’m taking new comfort in my stolid old Mac. It may weigh twice as much with half the memory, but it treats my words with the respect they deserve.  I’ll keep the Pad for the stupendous extra it is, but won’t forget where my heart lies.

And I promise not to go back to that glassy store the next time Apple unveils another geegaw. Unless it also adds something really useful—like transcribing interviews, or editing video for multimedia stories, or……..

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  • Samia Lee May 15, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I often use my iPad at work especially for meetings.
    I used as note taking App EverNote and then Awesome Note for a long time and their ability to sync but both had a disadvantage ; the lack of features to accommodate tasks, to-do and make monitoring.
    So I was seeking an alternative application to save time for my meeting. I have almost tested all the apps on Notes/ ToDo on the APPstore and I must admit I am still surprised they do not fit with a pro use. I have just discovered Beesy, an note taking and management app ToDo which apparently include taking notes with a business way. I have tried for several days and until now i’m really satisfied by Beesy. It’s really efficient and maybe the only disadavantage is you need time to use it efficiently. I guess this App really deserve we spend a little bit time to understand it

    I love shortcuts of Beesy’s icons in order to use it quicky and easily add notes. Also, the advantage is to submit easily by email minutes about my different meeting
    If you are interested you can google “Beesy” of go to the application’s website http://www.beesapps.com/beesy-ipad-to-do/

    Best,

    Samia Lee

    Reply
  • Jamie S June 27, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Hmm. I agreed with you, until I read the iPad for Work Guide. I didn’t really integrate iPad into my workflow, but with the tips from the PDF, I was empowered with a lot of ways to integrate the iPad, and it is now my best productivity tool. I think they even offer consulting for your business, and a free PDF on decision rules of including it in your company.

    Reply
  • Diane Vacca October 11, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Wow! Chris — You’re such a gifted writer. What a great read.

    You confirm my impression that the iPad is a fabulous (and expensive) toy, but definitely not a workhorse.

    Reply
  • Alexsandra Stewart October 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Ah too bad. I’m waiting for the next gneration. As a die hard Mac person, have learned that the first take isn’t always the best one. Glad to have the report!

    Reply
  • Kathleen Rawlings October 10, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Ah, reality. Great read.

    Reply