So, I’m home sick today. Annoying, but it happens, and I’ve set up camp on the couch, TV, kleenex and meeds all in reach. But the funny thing is that I forgot to charge the Ipad yesterday or last night, so it’s down around 20%. While I charge it, I’m using my laptop and I must admit that while my laptop is fantastic, I would rather be using the ipad. This is definitely a little odd.
This will seem like a tangent, but bear with me: if you were on the web or making web pages in the late 90s, there was a particular aesthetic you saw a lot of, one that revolved around trying to make pages look more like things, specifically classy paper things like libraries, fine stationery, pen and ink, notebooks and so on. Bear in mind this was a new frontier, and there was an enthusiasm to these efforts that was quite compelling. Because there were no standards to speak of, and everything worked kind of badly anyway (dial up, remember) the logic of the day was often to make something that looked nice, and more specifically which looked like the way something *should* work in an intuitive fashion.
Unfortunately, this lead to some really terrible designs. The technology was really not in any shape for the things people were asking it to do, and in many ways this made things worse. Over time, the standards of design gravitated towards what the web could do well, which lead to something of a virtuous cycle and resulted in the current state of things, and this world of google and 43 folders.
But the thing that has been grabbing me about the ipad is that it reminds me of the promise of those easily web sights, only with the technology to back it up. Consider the humble page curl – it was an abomination in web design, but it works wonderfully on things like the ipad map app. I admit this delights me.
For all that there are a lot of apps I’m enjoying on the Ipad, there are a handful that have really blown me away in terms of how they really embrace the fact that this is something new, and the fact that this newness captures echoes of old promise is somehow all the more satisfying.
I’ve talked about other apps that I’ve found useful and fun, but let me call out a handful that I think are noteworthy for their experience.
Carcasonne – There’s some irony to the fact that the first app I mention isn’t an pad app at all, it’s an iphone app which happens to scale up very nicely to Ipad size. Carcasonne was the first game I thought of when I saw the Ipad. It’s a game of tile placement, and that tactile element seemed the perfect thing for the big, friendly screen. It’s delivered in the promise, and it’s a joy. Days of Wonder’s Smallworld is probably more technically impressive, but it lacks the tactile element.
Reeder – I’ve tried several RSS readers, including NewsRack and NetNewsWire, and they’re all good, but Reeder is actually lovely. It’s basically just a shell for google reader, but it does a good job of conveying a document metaphor (Piles are, so far as I can tell, the current hotness in interface design).
AlphaBaby – Fred showed me this one, and it’s basically designed to distract a child. It’s a blank screen which, when you touch, a letter, number or shape appears, with a voice announcing what it is, and the item can get pushed or bounced around the screen. Very dull, I know, unless your two years old, in which case this is the MOST AWESOME THING EVER.
MyTexts – I love the ipad as a writing device, and I’ve tried everything I can get my hands on – Pages, Notify, MaxJournal, Sketchnotes, Paperdesk, Corkulous, My Writing, CourseNotes, Office2 HD and Docs2Go Premium – and Mytexts has taken the lead for the simple reason that it embraces the reasons I like the iPad for writing. The lack of multitasking and the lightweight interfaces makes it easy to focus on the writing part of things. MyTexts has all the tools I need (fullscreen mode, word count and such) and no unnecessary distractions. (That said, I want to give honorable mentions to Scripts Pro – I don’t write scripts, but if I did? Awesome).
Starwalk – Hold up the ipad, and you can see the stars in that direction. It looks like magic. And it’s beautiful.