How My iPad (Maybe) Makes Me a Better Writer

So, I bought an iPad last week. To be honest I’m still trying to figure out if that was a good idea. Unlike most blogs I’ve seen examining the iPad for a writer, I’m not writing this post on my iPad. In fact, I can think of nothing more maddening than writing long form documents on an iPad.

Though the iPad will never replace my laptop as my primary writing instrument, I’ve been finding some pretty useful ways to use it to make me a better writer. Here are a few I’ve discovered over the last couple days.

Content

Obviously the best part of the iPad is its content consumption capabilities. By using my iPad as my primary content reader, I can utilize a number of apps that help me when it comes time to actually write.

Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal app is great for me since I do a lot of ghostwriting for business clients and financial gurus. I can read the daily edition on my iPad, save articles for later reading and review, and look through back issues.

Instapaper

With the Instapaper app, I can browse the web through the built in Safari browser on the iPad and save pages, blogs, articles, and more for later offline reading.

Reeder

With Reeder, I can sync up with my Google Reader and blow through my RSS feeds in comfort. The app also syncs with Instapaper, so I can enjoy articles that interest me later on when I have time even if I’m not connected to the Internet.

iBooks / Kindle

Obviously, the iPad is pushed as an ebook reader. The great news is that my Kindle books can be read on my iPad, and the note taking on the iPad is actually easier and more intuitive. I love doing ebook reading for projects because I can save my notes and highlights to a .txt file that is easily searchable when I’m looking for the perfect quote or idea.

Note Taking

Part of the writing process is taking copious amounts of notes. In the past I’d do this with my notebooks by hand. Then I graduated to Evernote on my MacBook. It was great, but I don’t like having to lug my laptop with me all the time. Thankfully, with the iPad there are a number of innovative ways to take notes. Here are the two I use.

Evernote

Though I love Evernote on my computer, like I said, I don’t always want to lug it around. With the iPad version, I get the same functionality but in a much lighter, more portable device. I can easily switch between books and the iPad while sipping an Americano on the couch at a coffee shop. I know it’s not revolutionary, but it’s the little things in life, right?

Penultimate

This app is really the most exciting to me. Penultimate is a touch sensitive app that lets me write on the screen in notebooks resembling Moleskine’s little brown, thin notebooks. I can create as many notebooks as I want for various projects. It’s also great for meetings with clients to be able to do hand-written note taking that can be emailed easily from my iPad and categorized in ways that make life easier for me.

Productivity

As a freelancer, I’m always looking for ways to be more productive. There are some great apps on the iPad that do just that.

Things

I’m a huge fan of this app, which I also use on my laptop. It’s a todo program that lets you schedule out your todo lists as well as categorize them a number of different ways, including by project. Things has saved my bacon many a time. The iPad version is sleek and easy to use, and it syncs with my desktop version so I’m always on the same page, digitally speaking.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud-based storage service that’s free and easy to use. I can save documents and files in Dropbox and pull them up for review on my iPad. I can also share folders with clients. It’s very handy.

Fun

Finally, sometimes we just need to take a break and relax. The iPad is great for that. I especially enjoy watching Netflix movies on it and playing some fun games.

Conclusion

While the iPad isn’t near what you need as a professional writer in and of itself (for instance, while there are many word processing documents, none of them yet support track changes), it can be quite useful in helping you during the writing process. In addition to all the apps listed above, it’s also just great to be able to use the iPad as a secondary device while writing. I can pull up articles and type in quotes without having to toggle between windows.

My advice: If you’re going to spring for one, go with the baseline model. These days it’s rare you’ll be without some kind of wireless Internet access. And with apps like Instapaper, you’ll have plenty to read in the meantime should you find yourself without it. Also, since the iPad won’t really work as a primary computing device, you don’t need huge amounts of hard drive space, especially with great cloud-based storage apps like DropBox.

In the end, I think I’ll probably keep my iPad, though recognizing it’s more of a luxury item than an essential tool.

I’d be interested in hearing if any of you are using an iPad and how it’s been helping you.

[Photo by 邪恶的正太]