Category Archives: General Thoughts

Loving The Lack of File/Folders

Do you like your directory?
Seeing files in a hierarchy tree?

I do not like them Sam-I-Am
I do not like file/folder land.

(…apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

This will seem a bit contradictory after my last post, but one of the complete joys about working on my iPad is the lack of a file/folder structure to navigate. This is one of those discoveries that I would not have predicted at the beginning of this experiment.

I love just going into any application and just working on what I need to work on. The headaches (and time suck) of organizing folders, finding where things are, is gone, simply because the iPad doesn’t have any user-facing file/folder structure. Any files are stored within the application. I don’t have to worry about where that last Word doc is, because when I open Pages or QuickOffice (more on that later), there it is.

It kind of make sense, right?

Do you search Finder or Explorer for a file, or do you open Microsoft Word, go to “File>; Open Recent”? I bet the latter. The iPad, ever the bastion of simplicity, takes that to the next level. It is training us (me) to learn to love the lack of file/folders. In fact, dealing with folders and files when I use my computer has begun to really frustrate me.

The idea of files and folders is just that: an idea. The desktop metaphor is just that: a metaphor. Ideas and metaphors can change. And this experiment with the iPad is making me think that perhaps the time is ripe for a change. We’re living in an app-centric world now, after all. Why not link files only to the apps that they belong to?

The only problem is that, with any change, there is usually an uncomfortable period where the old status quo competes with the potentially new status quo. Which is why sometimes the lack of a file/folder structure is annoying. (Though apps can help mitigate this. Thanks Adamo, for your suggestion!) I have a feeling though, as Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion take more features from mobile to the desktop, the less we are going to have to deal with these annoyances.

There’s a good chance my future kids will back look at files and folders the same way I look back at DOS. “Jeez, how did they DEAL with that?”

File folder land:

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Uploading headaches on the iPad. Any fixes?

The biggest problem, or challenge, with using my iPad extensively is such a simple thing that I didn’t even think about it when I began this experiment: uploading.

The very idea of uploading something is built in to our (my) understanding of a computer that interacts with the web. We download and we upload. Yet, herein lies a limitation of abandoning the aforementioned desktop metaphor. When you don’t have a desktop (metaphorically), you don’t have somewhere to upload from. There is no integration from one app to another (which is what makes the iPad and iPhone so secure), so there is no way that App 1 can access any files from App 2.

This is tough, but usually there is fix, as you are able to upload within apps. Some apps even make this seamless (like DropBox, QuickOffice and Box). But the real challenge comes when I am writing an email in Mail and want to send an attachment. I simply can’t do it within the current email I’m writing. I have to leave mail, go to the app where my file is stored, and send a new email from within that app.

The closest thing I have seen to a solution is that DropBox lets me mail a link to the file in question, which I can just copy to the email I am writing. It’s a limitation for sure.

Anyone else run into this problem? Ideas?

Learning to love the cloud

As I continue to dive into this iPad experiment, I realized the single biggest obstacle to using my iPad for more was that I did not have access to any files beyond my email and Photos. This, obviously, was hugely preventative of doing anything but modest creation on my iPad. And, I imagine it’s probably true for a lot of people. We are so used to this whole file/folder structure that’s on our computers, that we don’t know what to do when we don’t have that.

Now, I must admit that not having a file/folder structure is a blessing in a way. It’s a holdover from the “desktop metaphor” and not having that metaphor on my iPad that helps me stay focused.

But, more focus is useless unless I can access the things I need to focus on. Since I doubt Apple will ever introduce file management on the iPad itself (it seems to fly in the face of Apple’s simplicity model), I had to find an app for that. And, in fact, I found a few really good ones for creating that file/folder structure on my iPad itself. (The best being FileApp Pro, which I would highly recommend for managing any files you want to save locally on your iPad). But then I realized, with that, I lose one of the most compelling aspects of today’s tech world: seamless syncing.

If I read email on my iPad, it’s marked as read on my iPhone, and when I next log into gmail. But if I had a file on my iPad that I edited, and then I needed to access it on my computer, I would need to sync it through iTunes file sharing (or email it to myself). I don’t want to do that every time I edit a file. I want it to be seamless – like reading email. And there is one truly seamless way that exists… I moved to the cloud.

Enter two wonderful free cloud services (that both have apps) where my files now reside: Box and DropBox. Because of space limits for the free accounts, I decided to use both; Box is for my personal files and DropBox is for business files.

So, it took a few days of periodically syncing files while at my computer, but I finally have all of my business and important personal files on DropBox and Box — and therefore on my iPad. It feels really liberating knowing that, wherever I am, I can actually access that important file — or any important file.

That’s one step closer to never using a laptop again… (I jest. Or do I?)

[Once again, typed entirely on my iPad. Although this time, I heavily used the new iPad’s dictation feature. Great for creating a rough draft.]

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Typing on the iPad

First things first with this new iPad adventure: typing. I consider myself a good typist on a regular keyboard, hitting somewhere around 70wpm on a regular basis. But typing on the iPad intimidated me, a lot. And, if it intimidated me, I can only imagine that it intimidates a number of others as well.

If I’m going to take my use of the iPad to the next level, I have to be confident of my typing on it. It’s the main way I communicate at work and with many friends. Before I started this adventure, I clocked in at roughly 20wpm in my iPad (-50wpm from my normal typing ability). Not good enough at all, and totally preventative of using my iPad to the fullest extent possible.

There are three options, as I see it. First, I could get a Zagg Portfolio, and basically make my iPad into a laptop. When at work, I could use my external Bluetooth keyboard on my iPad. Or, finally, I could learn to rock the touch screen typing.

If you had asked me three weeks ago, I would have promoted Zagg. Or the external keyboard. But then I read a series of tweets, which reported on how teenagers are clocking in at 80-100 wpm on their iPad. What?! I know there are plenty of typists who type that fast on a normal keyboard. But on an iPad? I honestly didn’t even consider that this was possible.

More than anything else, this made me actually stop and say, wait, maybe touch screen typing quickly and efficiently is possible. With this possibility in mind, I went back to basics: I downloaded a phenomenal app that teaches touch screen typing, TapTyping. It reminds me of Mavis Beacon…. But for the iPad. And it works. Again, I started out clocking in around 20wpm. Again, this is ridiculously slower than I’m used to typing. But I did the ff jj dd kk fj dk lessons. And my muscles started to flex their memory.

I practiced. And practiced. And practiced. I took practice beyond the TapTyping app. I downloaded an instant messaging app (IM+) and started conversing on gchat. Let’s be honest, wanting to quickly reply to friends who are chatting with you is one of the best motivators to efficiently type.

Armed with the TapTyping lessons, I am now twice as fast – hitting around 40 wpm. Just the other day, I peaked at 62 wpm. More than anything it’s learning to trust my fingers to hit the right part of the screen/keyboard. There are also some cool “secrets” that are helpful to type even faster.

Note that this part of my experiment has occurred over the past few weeks, so these posts aren’t not in sync with life. In other words, it didn’t take two days; it takes practice. But it’s totally doable. With every accomplishment in typing on my iPad, I feel a bit more confident about typing on my iPad, and a bit less intimidated.

Let’s be honest — touch screens are likely here to stay. And the next generation will be (is already?) totally adept at using touch screens to type. No reason to fall behind the future today!

[This post typed entirely on my iPad.]

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There are no “life police”

Everything seems so secure when we’re younger.  Everyone has it all figured out.  And there are people with rules, who enforce those rules.   And there are often a lot of rules.  And conformity is encouraged.

As we grow up, there are less rules.  There are less enforcers of rules.  Sure, there are societal compacts –“murder is bad”, for example — and local/state/federal police to enforce those.  In between, however, there is a lot of leeway.   And no one is watching our every move, policing us.  We have to find it in ourselves to create wonder, because few people will call us on anything.

Is it a rule that you have to get up at a certain time?  Is it a rule that you have to do something every night?   Is it a rule that you have to ___________?

Or is each a choice?

We all watch each other, and try to figure out the best decisions to make.  The secret seems to be that no one has it all figured out.  (But that so many are trying to figure it all out.)  Since there aren’t any “life police” and there are less rules than we think, why not try on what you think would work best for you?  Maybe you can make the rules conform around your world instead of the other way around.

Baseball

Baseball fascinates me because it’s the only major sport without a time limit. There is beauty in it being not as constrained. I think it adds to the element of “anything could happen.” Of course it would be nice if that “anything” would be the Sox winning – especially after playing some decent baseball. Ah well, good night and good luck boys.

Long Day

Today I woke up at 4:45, took a cab to Logan, flew to NJ, drove to the campus of a prospective client, made an important presentation, drove to the Amtrak station, took the Acela to Boston, took a cab home, and then went grocery shopping. That’s what I did. And man, let me tell you…..

Long days are hard. They take a lot out of me, they remove me from routine, they have so many more stressful moments.

Long days are fun. They require my A+ game, they take me to new places, they have so many more exciting moments.

Both are true. But I tend to choose the second story.