A friend recently gave me a wireless keyboard that works with the iPad. It was a generous gift and it can be very useful for writing longer pieces. The keyboard is small enough to tuck together with the iPad, and for awhile, it went wherever it did. But I’ve found that the keyboard really isn’t a necessary accessory for most applications.
Speaking of applications, there are thousands of them for the iPad (in addition to iPhone and iPod apps that work well with the iPad). But for this first article, in what I hope will be a long series of practical, fun and useful tips for the non-techie iPad user, I thought I’d start with a few of the basic apps that come with the device.
I love the mail program on the iPad. It automatically syncs with Gmail (and other mail services as well), so my email is synced as it is on my phone—instantaneously. It’s readable in both portrait and landscape, with the mailbox running down the side of the screen and the email being read taking up most of the screen. Mail is in HTML, so you get graphics, links, colors, etc. (which is no different than on my phone), but it’s all so much more readable.
On my Droid, which has an excellent Gmail interface, the links are tiny, the words are tiny (hey, I said I was middle aged), and to read the fine print, I generally have to blow up the email and scroll back and forth through it. The email experience on iPad is so much better than the best phone experience I’ve ever had. It’s as good as anything I’ve used, including Gmail’s site itself (which is what I’m using most often these days). But there’s a hitch.
As with the iPod Touch, you have to have an internet connection to stay current. This is one of many reasons why I ended up buying a 3G iPad and not the Wi-Fi. (I spend a lot of time with no Wi-Fi access.)
Responding to an email is a joy with iPad. Hit reply and the keyboard appears, taking up half the screen. Type, hit send and off it goes into the ether of the Internet.
And speaking of browsing the Internet…clicking a hyperlink within an email opens up the iPad’s native Safari browser. I rarely use Safari on my Mac (I really like Google Chrome), but I’m very happy with it on the iPad. You can view whole complete pages, and I’ve found it’s really equivalent to a smaller (but eminently readable) MacBook experience. The font is smaller, of course (but not unreadable), but it’s easy enough to manipulate the page size by pinching and pulling it with your fingers. Pages are best viewed landscape, because most web pages are configured that way. I have generally found that far from being a poor (but necessary) substitute for my computer’s browser, the iPad really provides an excellent browsing experience. It has its limitations, particularly regarding viewing embedded videos. But browsing on MSNBC.com, I had no trouble either accessing or viewing the many embedded videos on the site.