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Apple iPad - Sheer Tablet Brilliance

By Kenny Yeo - 7 May 2010

Office Productivity (Mail, Word Processing)

Office Productivity (Mail, Word Processing)

The iPad comes preloaded with a Mail app that is similar in many ways to the one on the iPhone and iPod Touch. There are, however, some changes with regards to the interface so that the app can take full advantage of the size of the screen. You can view your mail in both portrait and landscape mode and interface differs slightly between the two as you will see in the images below.

The Mail app also accepts attachments and will open and display a wide range of files and formats, be it images, documents or video. There's a downside to this, however, because like Mail on the iPhone and iPod Touch, only image attachments can be saved directly onto the iPad, everything else such as music and documents can't and will only exist on the iPad in as attachments in the mail.

This complaint aside, we think the iPad is a great tool for reading and replying emails.

Mail works best in landscape mode. The dual window layout displays mails in your mailbox on the left and contents of the selected mail on the right.

In portrait mode, the contents of the mail will take up the entire page, but you can still see your list of mails via a floating pop-up.

Apple has also created iPad-specific versions of Pages, Numbers and Keynote. We downloaded Pages (US$9.99) to see if you could actually write whole articles on the iPad and get some 'serious' work done.

Pages for iPad is very much like its desktop counterpart, and all the basic text formatting functions such as alignment, inserting images, creating tables and charts are all present. Like all other iPad apps, you can use Pages in both portrait and landscape mode, although using it in the latter removes toolbar, which is annoying because that's where all the formatting tools are.

You can even select templates for your document. Pages really tries its best to be a full-fledged word processor.

The app itself is pretty competent but more complex documents with tables of content, footnotes and endnotes cannot be accurately imported, which limits usability of the iPad.

That aside, getting documents in and out of the iPad is also poorly implemented. You can export documents only via three methods, iTunes, or email.

Again, the virtual keyboard is pleasant enough to use for creating documents, but some might find it frustrating having to always tab between templates to enter punctuation and numbers. Whether the virtual keyboard is good enough for word processing really depends on individual tastes. For some of us who are too accustomed to the traditional keyboard, using the iPad to compose articles is tiring and inefficient.

The lack of multitasking also poses problems. Checking facts on the Internet means that stopping halfway to fire up Safari and that is disruptive. And for professional writers, Pages doesn't have a built-in thesaurus nor a word-count function.

All in all, the question of whether you can actually do real work depends on what you need to get done, and your tolerance of the virtual keyboard as well as single-tasking.

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The Good
Gorgeous screen
Form factor is just right
Blazing fast and ultra responsive
The Bad
Restricted in some ways by the iPhone OS
Screen is highly reflective
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