Dan Frakes on iPad Keyboards

Another Macworld buying guide round up from Dan Frakes: Find the Best iPad Keyboard.

Since I’ve replaced my iPad 1 with an iPad 3 [sic], I’m thinking about buying a case and an Apple Wireless keyboard, instead of the Adonit WriterPlus or the ZaggKeys ProFolio+. That’s not because I no longer like the Adonit keyboard/case, I do like it, but I’m traveling less and writing more on the iPad as I use it almost as much as I use my MacBook.

Photobucket’s Stories Akin to iPhoto for iOS Journals

Photobucket has introduced Photobucket Stories as a brand-new Photobucket feature; in fact, it looks like Stories are still in Beta, and part of a general overhaul of Photobucket.

screen shot of an iPhoto for iOS Journal pageThe basic idea behind Stories is that you upload pictures, you select a background, you arrange them and title them, you select their size (small, medium, large), and you add text annotations in the form of small text fields with a choice of color and font (limited in both cases, but quite reasonable options).

You can drag and drop to rearrange; you can change photo size, text placement, etc. And it’s dead easy to Share your saved/published story, or invite collaborators.

Photobucket Stories are strikingly similar to iPhoto for iOS Journals. You can see what I thought about Journals for iPhoto for iOS.

You can’t add weather and calendar widgets, and stories are a bit more limited in terms of options for layouts, but the concept is the same, and frankly, it’s a bit easier to us (at least on the Web; thus far it doesn’t seem to be actively supported by the PhotoBucket iOS app). Like Journals, Stories have built in facilities for sharing a link to a Story, but at least at present there’s no way to download all the content and make a stand-alone static Web site, the way you can with iPhoto for iOS Journals.

What’s interesting in particular about Stories is that you can collaborate with others on a Story. That’s a neat way to create a record of a family or group event, or to share data.

I made, roughly, the same kind of a Story as one of the previous Journals I made with iPhoto for iOS.

Here’s the Photobucket Story about Life in Washington.

Here’s the iPhoto for iOS Journal about A Year in Washington.  

I’m curious to see which of the new features are implements and supported in iOS apps.

Writing on an iPad is Different

Jason Snell of Macworld and TechHive has written an interesting thoughtful essay “Why I’m writing on the iPad” about how writing using his iPad and the on-screen keyboard has changed his writing process, and, he thinks, the final text. You should go read his essay; it’s well written, and thoughtful.

I want to pick up a few specific ideas that struck a chord with me. First this bit:

I’m no Oliver Sacks, but I’d wager that I’m just not taking more time to choose my words, but I’m actually using different parts of my brain when I write this way. And not only does the actual act of writing feel different, but the end result feels different to me too.

I’m no Oliver Sacks either, but I do know a lot about the writing process, writing systems, and, through an odd neurological quirk, my own neurological text processing. I’m profoundly dyslexic and dysphonetic ( I know, I know, but by the time I discovered why writing was so hard for me, I was already a Ph.D. candidate in English). I moved to writing on a computer when my older brother told me about WordStar and started bringing home Trash-80s, Exidy Sorcerers and Apple IIs to debug code for Instant Software games.

I prefer to write on a keyboard because the letters are automatically always facing the right way, and it’s easier for me to put the correct letters in the correct order. When I write in longhand, or I print, no matter how carefully or slowly I write, I’m much more likely to put the right letters in the wrong order. It’s an entirely different kinesthetic memory for me.

But when I started taking classes in paleography and calligraphy as all good medievalists do, I noticed that the discipline required to write the letters correctly using the correct stroke order made me inclined to make far fewer errors. In my case it wasn’t a matter of speed as much as it was a matter of using different parts of my brain. And eventually, via participation in a live functional MRI scan, I discovered that at least in my case, I’m using different areas of my brain when I write with a pen on paper, when I write as a paleographer and when I keyboard.

Lately, as I’ve experimented with using a stylus (rather than a keyboard) on my iPad to write, or dictation, I’m noticing that those also affect my composition process. Dictation especially makes me inclined to write less academic and more casual prose because of my desire to avoid punctuation.

Jason Snell also notes:

The iPad also offers a remarkable lack of distractions. When I write on my Mac I find I am endlessly checking Twitter and email and my weather station’s current conditions page and anything else I can find to distract myself from the difficult task of putting one word in front of another. On the iPad, I am more focused—and when I do finally take a break to check my email, it feels like an actual break, not a distraction.

In the last several years I’ve noticed a number of smaller word processors designed for writers that feature the ability to devote the full screen to the texteditor as a way to remove distractions. WriteRoom is one of those. I suspect that that’s part of the attraction of the OS X Full Screen mode for many. But while I understand the importance of keeping a mind on task, and not being distracted by Twitter, email, or YouTube, I also know that for many writers doing something else is not so much being distracted as letting their hind brain work on writing and (especially for fiction writers, but not exclusively) figuring out what happens next.

As someone who doesn’t write fiction, I know that there are times that stepping away from the text in question and doing something unrelated, whether it’s playing a game, writing a short email or blog post, or going for a walk, or washing dishes, helps me figure out the next thing to write, or unravel a structural knot I’ve created for myself.

Warning Added to Library Borrowed Kindle Ebooks

Screen shot of dialog warning borrowers that Amazon has access to your check out record.
Kindle Warning
As previously noted, you can borrows ebooks from the library for the Kindle reader or Kindle apps. You can even cleverly extend the due date on a borrowed Kindle ebook. So it’s about time that Amazon and Overdrive warned borrowers that Amazon has access to your library record. They’ve added a warning dialog. I say they because while I think it’s Overdrive, it could be the local library; I honestly can’t tell, and both parties have declined to respond to inquiries.

It’s not clear, really, in terms of what they have access to; mostly it just states you’re leaving the library’s site and going to an unnamed third-party site that does not share the library’s privacy policy.

I wish they’d tell people up front that Amazon gets your email, the title and associated metatdata of the book you are borrowing, and the due date, and that Amazon will email you to tell you that the book is due in X days (usually 2) and offer to sell you a copy. I also wish that they required you to opt-in, or at least offer an opt-out.

iPad for Book Lovers

Peachpit has posted an article by me about my love for books, and the iPad:

Lisa L. Spangenberg, coauthor of The iPad 2 Project Book, readily confesses to being nuts about books. Like many of us, she is gradually becoming more comfortable with substituting digital reading for paperbacks and hardbacks, but she is already hopelessly in love with the many free (or very cheap) apps that let lovers of reading explore the written world in a whole new way.

There are so many super iPad apps for readers and bibliophile’s that I’ll be posting about some apps that I had to remove from the Peachpit article because it was already quite lengthy. In the meantime, head on over to Peachpit to read The Best iPad Apps for Book Lovers.