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iPad use case: Pro blogger

Over the past few weeks, we've heard many people say, "The iPad is cool, but what would I do with it?" This new series aims to answer that question. We'll examine one user case per post, from couch surfer to mobile professional, and describe just how that person uses his or her iPad.

As a professional blogger, there are 5 things I need to do my job:
  • A comfortable, reliable keyboard
  • A text editor
  • RSS feeds
  • Web access
  • A reference tool for compiling research
The iPad lets me get nearly all of that accomplished. Let's start with what works.

The keyboard

The iPad's software keyboard is more usable that I expected. It's forced me to develop a hybrid typing method that's part hunt-and-peck and part touch typing. Years ago, I learned to keep my fingers in the home position, lightly touching the keys. On the iPad, "lightly touching" means "pressing," so now I hover just above the keys.

The landscape keyboard is just a bit smaller than a standard keyboard, so I can't keep my hands in the true home position. However, knowing each key's location without having to look is tremendously helpful. With a bit of practice, my muscle memory has adapted to the smaller keyboard. The real key, as with the iPhone, is to be fearless and type. The iPad will correct the vast majority of your mistakes.

That being said, I don't want to write more than a few hundred words with it. Even with the above accommodations, I still make more errors than I do with a physical keyboard. Therefore, Apple's Bluetooth keyboard is essential. It's a breeze to set up, fits squarely in a bag and is barely wider than the iPad itself. With the iPad docked and the keyboard in place, I'm ready to write.




A text editor

Most of my personal blogs run on WordPress. There is a WordPress app for the iPad (free), but I can't recommend it. It has inexplicably devoured posts on me, and the Bluetooth keyboard's tab key crashes it every time. I had a similar experience with BlogPress (US$2.99) in the form of frequent, unexpected crashes.

Of course, I can just use the WordPress dashboard via Safari ... with a couple caveats. First, you can't enter text into the compose field via the visual editor; you must be in HTML mode. All other fields receive input fine.

Additionally, if you're adding a photo to your post, it must be either in your media library or at a URL that you've got handy, since you can't browse the iPad's file directory with a browser to find an image (pulling photos is something the WordPress app does, so I'm hoping an update makes it usable).

I use Pages for iPad ($9.99) to compose longer posts that will require editing and revision before publication. Pages makes it very simple to browse drafts, and once the post is written, I can either copy and paste it into a WordPress compose field or sync it with my Mac.

RSS Feeds

Here at TUAW, we've got to keep on top of the news. On the iPad I use NewsRack ($4.99). It works well, looks nice and lets me quickly find and share the news I want to post to the blog.

Web access

As an early adopter, I've got a Wi-Fi iPad. At first I thought the lack of 3G would be a hindrance. But I've realized that it works everywhere that my laptop works, and that's what I've been using to blog until now, so there's no problem. In fact, it actually takes up less room on a table than my MacBook Pro, even with the Bluetooth keyboard in place. That and the far superior battery life make it a great choice.

Reference tool

I use Evernote (free) and Instapaper ($4.99) to compile reference material for longer posts. Both are a pleasure on the iPad. I use the Instapaper bookmarklet from Mobile Safari to grab articles as well as my Instapaper email account via Mail.

So there you have it: How a pro blogger uses his iPad for work. It's not 100% perfect (an update to the WordPress app could completely take care of that for me), but in may ways superior to using my MacBook Pro: lighter, better battery life and super portable.

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