Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Understand the Place of Word Processing on the iPad

If you’ll bear with me for another philosophical moment, I want to provide a bit of context for thinking about word processing on the iPad. I’m a professional writer, so I take my word processing tools as seriously as a chef takes the choice of knives. Whatever else I may be able to accomplish on my iPad, if I can’t use it for heavy-duty word processing, it can never replace my laptop.

So, let me begin with the bad news. At present, no app exists on the iPad that supports all the Microsoft Word features that I use on a daily basis. Things like complex formatting (including fonts, borders, and shading), comments, revision tracking, bookmarks, footnotes, and numerous other niceties are either entirely absent, or severely constrained, in every currently available iPad app—and that includes Pages. In addition, with most iPad apps that can edit Word documents—again, including Pages—you’re almost guaranteed to lose something, and perhaps many things, in the process of importing, editing, and exporting the document. (Documents To Go is a notable exception, as I discuss later.)

For me, personally, no matter how handily portable the iPad is, I won’t be using it to write or edit any technical books—Take Control or otherwise—unless or until Microsoft decides to produce an iPad version of Word, and I’m not holding my breath on that one. If I were an academic, I might easily say the same thing about research papers, theses, and the like—and the same is doubtless true in many fields.

Having said all that, let me now turn to the good news. As long as perfect Word compatibility and pro features such as comments and change tracking aren’t essential to your work, the iPad can be an outstanding tool for writing. I will happily write lengthy magazine articles, letters, essays, and other disquisitions on my iPad, and if the occasion arises to produce a résumé, poster, or flyer, I’ll likely turn to my iPad first. The combination of portability, support for full-size physical keyboards, and solid word processing software makes the iPad ideal for these less-demanding writing tasks.

In short, the sort of word processing for which the iPad is best suited is self-contained. You create the document, from start to finish, on your iPad, and then you email it, upload it, print it, or whatever—but you don’t engage in collaborative editing with other people, and preferably don’t work on the document on a variety of devices.

Office on the Web? In early June 2010, Microsoft launched its free Office Web Apps service in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Ireland. Log in to the service (http://office.live.com/) and you can create or edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents in a Web browser—much like Google Docs. Unfortunately, while this service works great for me in Safari on a Mac, and is supported in several other Web browsers, including a variety of Windows-based browsers, the iPad is another story. You can view Office documents just fine on your iPad, but editing is either impossible or extremely limited, depending on which browser app you use and how it’s configured. The problem is partially related to the fact that Office Web Apps were designed to assume the presence of a mouse, but there are a variety of other issues with the iPad too. It’s possible that Microsoft will update Office Web Apps to make it iPad-friendly, but once again… I’m not holding my breath.

Source of Information : TidBITS-Take Control of Working with Your iPad 2011

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