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Creation Myths?

On the iPad creation myth
Prompted by a genuine question from a friend on whether the iPad is any good for creation, or is really a consumption device, here are my thoughts. As a starting point, the iPad is a great device for consuming media; the web, films, news, TV streaming, books and social media all work extremely well, and you can definitely pass (waste?) many idle hours with your new found friend. The lack of Flash is not a real issue either, as most sites stream H264 video these days, and it’s not something that I've really missed(*).

(*)And you can get around it for video with Skyfire, which converts the streams on the fly to H264.

But is the iPad a device for creation? There is a commonly held myth out there that you cannot create with a tablet, that you need a full computer. Now, I'm writing this post on the iPad, but must confess that I decided to pull out the bluetooth keyboard after I realised that I could be spending some time typing. But isn't that still creation?

How easy it is to use an iPad creatively will depend to some measure with what you want to do with it. It will also depend on how much you want it to meet those needs. I've no doubt that if I had an 11" MacBook Air then my iPad would definitely see a significant reduction in the amount of work with prose and some photography related activities that I do with it. However, I have a 13" aluminium MacBook which is doing just fine, but is nowhere near as portable.

Evidence of Creativity?
Rather than circle around debating how many angels can creatively dance on the head of my iPad, perhaps I should tell you what I do with my iPad, and you can judge whether it meets your idea of creativity or not?

I write on my iPad using apps like
Drafts, iA Writer and Pages. The first two fill the same niche, the second tends to be used for more formal work like material. Some of the finished product will be used 'as-is' – for example for blog posts – and other material may be tweaked in Word on either my Mac or work PC before it is used. It's fair to say that Pages isn't a favourite, and that I will buy Microsoft Office for iOS if it ever becomes something beyond a rumour.

I've written three gaming scenarios to the point of running at convention and taken one to the first draft of publication on the iPad. I've also experimented with synchronising a more detailed project with
Scrivener on the Mac via Dropbox and PlainText, but haven't had the need to do it again.

I produce mind-maps for work and gaming writing using
Mindnode, which is probably the best mind-mapping tool that I have ever used, anywhere. The touch interface is a joy to use. I produce flow-charts and diagrams using OmniGraffle, which is expensive, but excellent, and provides a portable Visio style tool.

I proofread and annotate drafts of gaming and work material using
iAnnotate, these days in conjunction with the excellent Cosmonaut stylus made by Studio Neat, mainly because it feels like using a highlighter. This is supported with the excellent iOS versions of the Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus for reference.

I sketch, using
Paper and Penultimate, and can produce useable vector images with Inkpad. There are other art tools like Adobe Ideas, ArtRage and Brushes which are all excellent, but not really something that I have had cause to do any more than mess around with. If I was talented this way I could see the interface being a joy to use.

I outline, sometimes with
Carbonfin Outliner, sometimes with OmniOutliner, depending on my mood. Not something I do too often, but it happens.

I've knocked together presentations with
Keynote, and also used it to show PowerPoint slides from work. I've taken meeting minutes with the ever-so-useful ActionNotes, and have moved most of my notes from a Moleskine to DayOne. I dabble with Evernote, but mainly for a capture-system for gaming related material.

I've used
Photogene, Touch Up and Snapseed to edit photos before carrying out batch uploads and other changes using Flickr Studio. I've used Skitch to annotate webpages to explain functions to friends and relatives.

If I needed to edit code on my server, I could use
Diet Coda, from Panic, which seems subtly powerful. Fortunately, I rarely need to do this. I've used the Wordpress application to update websites that I manage when away from access to a full computer and browser.

Concluding Thoughts
I find the iPad a fantastic tool which supports a number of my workflows really well. Many are the times I've sat staring at the iPad screen, capturing ideas and inspiration and working them through for a while. The work may not finish on the iPad, but a lot of the hard slog is done there.

My laptop and desktop aren't going to go away anytime soon, as they still have unique advantages (higher performance, screen size etc.), but they have a companion with a unique niche. And that niche is getting bigger, as developers continue to push the envelope of what iOS can do as time goes by. The applications that were around when I bought my iPad 1 have nowhere near the sophistication that current generation applications do, and this can only continue to progress with each iteration of iOS and the hardware platform underpinning it.

In conclusion, I think the iPad is a tool for creation as well as consumption. My evidence is above, but it will always be a matter of how it fits your personal workflow.

I started this in Drafts, using the on-screen keyboard. I then shunted it to Phraseology (a longer form writing app I'm trying out) and got my Logitech Tablet bluetooth keyboard out when I realised that this could be a longer post (c.1,000 words if you're counting). This will then be sent to Dropbox (or maybe emailed to myself) and I will import it straight into Rapidweaver on my Mac for upload to my personal blog.

Secondly, there are a lot of apps mentioned here. I haven’t bothered linking, as you can just search for them in iTunes…