Monthly Archives: May 2013

How to Check Your iPad’s Free Space

The base model iPad comes with 16GB of space, and the max is 128GB. With these sorts of limits, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t exceed your device’s free space right when you need to download a .PDF for a meeting or create a new project proposal.

Luckily, checking the free space on your iPad is easy. From the Home screen, launch your Settings and select “General Settings” from the list on the left side. Choose “Usage.”

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You should now see how much of your hard drive is being taken up. If you’ll wait for the full context to load (this may take some time on large-storage iPads like my 128 Gigger), it will show you how much space is being taken up by each individual app. Handy if you need a little extra space and realize you haven’t really played Bejeweled in six months.

Another quick tip: be judicious with your video and music storage. If you have a reliable, fast internet connection, you probably don’t need to download those iTunes or Amazon videos – just watch them from the cloud! Or, better yet, download the ones you will want to watch while charging the unit overnight and kill two birds with one stone!

Procreate Review

Paint Like You Mean It

Procreate for iPad - $4.99Get Procreate From the App Store Now.

Procreate has evolved into one of the most popular art creation apps on the iOS system today. It boasts an intuitive interface, a simple-yet-innovative brush creation system, and an active and helpful online community. On a personal note, it is my primary painting app, and I use it for nearly all my art creation on the iPad, along with my Pogo Connect stylus.

The Positives

The idea behind Procreate is to have an App capable of painting fast, yet also able to handle the small details and nuances that take most paintings from “nice layout” to “wow, awesome.” The performance is impressive, it is indeed very fast at laying down color and manipulating with a stylus or a finger. The App will set you back five bucks, but it comes with more brushes than you would expect, a whole six sets (48 brushes in all!) and they range from pencil to painting as well as subtleties like textures. And though Procreate offers nine more brush sets for purchase at $0.99 each, you probably won’t need to purchase them unless you feel the need to support the creators because the App comes with its own innovative Brush creation system.

Each brush is composed of two elements; shape and texture. This helps give each brush its own unique feel, and I set about taking pictures of textures I found around me (wood grain from a table, my own blue jeans, even rusted jagged metal) and quickly became immersed with different brush combinations.

Seasoned artists should quickly pick up on Procreate’s features, and many have already shown just how impressive the App can be when it comes to creating beautiful art:

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Even amateurs like me can get in on the action, like with this painting I did of a 400+ year-old bonsai tree named “Hiroshima Survivor:”

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It is worth noting that, just like any tool, Procreate will not do the work for you. You still need to know basic elements of painting like composition, color picking, and lighting. That being said, there are a few things about Procreate that struck me as negative, though to be fair they are pretty minimal and don’t hurt its final score too much.

The Negatives

It’s a little too “painterly” sometimes, especially when it comes to erasing. Often I would paint a large swath on the canvas with the intention of erasing it into a certain shape only to find (much later in the process) that I had left behind a few tiny artifacts which, while initially barely visible, are now making my faces look old or my boat look like a paper bag. It’s easy enough to direct-paint over the small mistakes, and there are workarounds I learned for the early blocking-in process (like temporarily setting a layer to multiply to emphasize artifacts for easier extermination), but all of these things feel like extra steps to someone who’s used to Photoshop.

The other issue I had was with color mixing. I searched and searched but couldn’t find a reasonable way to mix the colors onscreen the way I am used to doing when painting in Photoshop. Smudge doesn’t work, opacity doesn’t work, and the load controls are buried in the brush settings and don’t act the way that I’m used to.

The color-picker works fine, and is fairly intuitive, but I’m still pretty weak on palette harmonization, and onscreen mixing is a pretty common technique even for professional digital painters and designers, so it seems weird that it was left out. Again, maybe someone out there has a good and non-time-wasting way to do this, and if so, I’ll happily edit this section of the review, but for now it seems that Procreate is just one tool shy of being as useful to me and other amateurs as it could be.

A Robust Community

The typical response from the Procreate Community when someone complains that Procreate lacks this or that feature is to claim that adding more tools would make Procreate slow, just like the other iPad art Apps (their claim, not mine). They have added their own ingenious workarounds, usually hinging on a custom brush, which they provide and share freely among one another.

While I admire the community for their share-and-share-alike mentality and extreme helpfulness, I have to say that a workaround in itself implies that something is missing. While Procreate doesn’t make any claims to having every tool you’ll ever need, some simple settings like being able to draw a straight line or even some better blending when using “softer” brushes doesn’t seem like too much to ask when other painting programs have been providing these tools for decades. Again, none of these negatives cost them more than half-a-point here or there in their star rating, and maybe I’m just not a good enough artist to make the most of this App yet.

I have nothing but respect and admiration for the creators, who really put together a solid painting App. Despite its limitations, it’s still my go-to painting App and frankly, I love it!

Rating:

  • User-friendliness – 4.5
  • Functionality – 4
  • Aesthetics – 4
  • Performance – 4
  • Honesty – 5

Overall: 4.3 Stars!

4.3 Stars!

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The iPad as a Productivity Tool

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Get Stuff Done

The iPad might be the most powerful productivity tool on the market today. I can say that sentence without any trace of irony or sarcasm for the following reasons:

  • It has limited realtime multitasking.
  • It is responsive and quick.
  • There are a huge variety of apps that get things done.
  • Limited realtime multitasking? Isn’t that a bad thing?

    This is what I used to think when I saw someone sitting down in Starbucks swiping their screens and tapping at the keyboard. How can you respect a device that can’t have music playing, a video showing, a ten-tabbed web browser, and a few documents open all at the same time? The question here is not about ability, but productivity. Does the ability to be doing so many different things at once really help you be more productive? On the contrary, study after study shows that so-called ‘multitasking’ results in less productivity, inferior work, and limited potential.

    I heard that the iPad is slow. And stupid.

    Well, I don’t know who you heard that from, but they’re wrong. I have found the iPad to be incredibly responsive. Those times when it wasn’t responding to my swipes or commands either I hadn’t actually touched the screen sufficiently or the app I was working in was trying to divide by 0 or something and was about to crash. I have put my iPad through its paces, but I have never had to restart my iPad because of a functionality issue.

    Yeah, but my industry uses special software that isn’t available on the iPad.

    Anyone who tells you the iPad handles every filetype is probably not to be trusted. It doesn’t. However, handling certain kinds of files is different from being able to accomplish a task. For example, if you are an engineer working on a certain part of a bridge and your boss simply needs a printout of your design, it doesn’t matter what program you used.

    That being said, the iPad can handle a lot of file extensions that are standard in many industries, for example: pdf, doc, jpg, png, rtf, and more. However, you are technically correct that the iPad may not support your specific software or have an app equivalent. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the same work done faster, more efficiently, and more conveniently with the iPad than you can with a laptop, desktop, or good old paper-and-pencil.

    I’m not saying there isn’t a learning curve, I’m just saying that it’s worth it. Because there’s one more feature of the iPad that makes it an incredible productivity tool – it is fun to use! It might seem silly to say so, but the truth about humanity is that we love having fun. And if we can have fun while we’re completing tasks for work, it makes us want to complete more tasks for work.

    And if you can have fun and feel awesome while getting your work done, why would you work any other way?

    This site is my attempt to help others navigate the world of iPad productivity with tips, shortcuts, expertise, and advice. Whether you’re thinking of making the jump, a longtime owner, or ready to throw your iPad against the wall, my hope is that you will find something here that will help you use it more effectively to get your work done, no matter what you do for a living.

    App Review: Chrome

    The Google Chrome Logo

    Can Google’s Browser Deliver on an iPad?

    As a PC guy, I was understandably reluctant about the iPad’s prospects for my life. One thing I especially loved about the Chrome browser on my PC was its speed and ability to open multiple tabs, something which is now standard among browsers. I was also curious whether I could sign in to my Google account and sync my bookmarks.

    As usual, Google did not let me down, and neither did the iPad.

    The App launches quickly and saves your previous tabs without a problem. I usually have one or two tabs open all the time (my Deviantart messages, blog analytics, etc.), so I found this feature useful. Also, I was happy to see that all of my bookmarks were synced automatically once I signed into Chrome, and I now have a new category – mobile bookmarks. To find my old bookmarks, I just had to look under “Desktop Bookmarks” and there they were.

    Just like its PC counterpart, Chrome for the iPad handles PDF’s, a good feature since I had quite a few bookmarked from my Desktop. It also gives a “Request Desktop Site” option in its drop-down menu right of the address bar, which is handy when I don’t want to download a token iOS app (usually just a dumbed-down and less-functional version of the actual website).

    In addition to its PDF functionality, Chrome also handles Youtube videos, but retains all of the video quality controls that are somehow missing from the actual Youtube App. One thing it can’t do, however, is Flash, but this isn’t really a point against it because there’s only one iPad browser I know of (Photon), which handles Flash with any decent functionality. Someday Adobe and Apple will resolve their differences or buy each other out or something, but until then, this is what we’ve got.

    Looks just like the Chrome we all know and love.

    Forms in Chrome work well, and I haven’t run into a website yet that it can’t load or any that render incorrectly. There was a period where Facebook was acting weird, loading with my messages, friend requests, and notifications all dropped down and no amount of tapping would hide them, thus rendering updating my status an impossibility. However, I haven’t had this problem in a few months, and I strongly suspect that this has more to do with Facebook as a webpage than Chrome as an App. Anyway, since the problem seems to have solved itself, I can’t really count it against the App.

    One thing to be aware of when you use Chrome for iPad is that it does not keep every single tab in active memory all the time. This is a functionality issue associated with the iPad – it only has 1GB of RAM, so it has to be careful not to use up too much at once and turn into a sluggish mess. So, Chrome seems to only really load the tab you are currently viewing, keeping perhaps a few others in its memory at a time. If you’re switching pretty quickly between two to four tabs, it shouldn’t be a problem (again, depending on the page). Just be aware that if you leave a tab unviewed for a while, it may have to reload when you look at it again. However, it does load pages very quickly, and I’ve never lost time because of this feature.

    Rating:

    1. User-Friendliness= 5 Stars
    2. Functionality= 5 Stars
    3. Aesthetics= 5 Stars
    4. Performance= 5 Stars
    5. Honesty= 5 Stars

    Overall Rating= 5 Stars!

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    Final Verdict: If you’re a longtime Chrome user like me, you’ll find plenty of functionality on the iPad version. If you’re looking for a viable alternative to Safari, Chrome is worth a shot, plus it’s free. Fast tabbed browsing, efficient interface, and smooth operation.

    On the iPhone:Chrome – Google, Inc.

    On the iPad:Chrome – Google, Inc.

    Standard Review Disclaimer:

    All of my reviews are done on the 4th Generation iPad that is about five months old. I can’t vouch for the functionality of something on an iPhone, an iPad Mini, an iPod Touch, older generation iPad, or a steam-powered spaceship. If you agree or disagree with any particular rating, please feel free to leave a well-reasoned comment, or send me an email: editor[at]iPad4Life.net .

    App Review Criteria

    All Apps are given ratings from 1 to 5 stars, 5 being the best. I take a weighted average of those ratings to give the app its overall rating. I review and rate Apps using the following criteria:

    1. User-Friendliness – Whether the App is easy or difficult to use and navigate upon first impression.
    2. Functionality – Whether the App would be easy to use and add to productivity on a daily basis.
    3. Aesthetics – How the App looks, specifically, whether its appearance enhances or detracts from the experience of using it.
    4. Performance – Whether the App is stable or crashes all the time or freezes up?
    5. Honesty – Arguably the most important aspect, whether the App functions as advertised.

    The overall ratings mean:

    1. 5 Stars – Easy to understand, highly functional, good-looking, fast and responsive, lives up to its claims. In other words, perfect.
    2. 4 Stars – A highly functional and well-designed app that has perhaps a few things missing or overlooked. Still a great app, just unpolished.
    3. 3 Stars – Functional App, but doesn’t do anything that can’t be done better (or cheaper) by something else. Probably also has some interface issues, but is largely stable and workable, just run-of-the-mill.
    4. 2 Stars – This App will launch. The odds of it doing anything more complicated than starting up, however, are not good.
    5. 1 Star – Technical difficulties. Either crashes, fails to launch, or otherwise damages the iPad experience. Avoid.

    All of my reviews are done on the 4th Generation iPad that is about five months old. I can’t vouch for the functionality of something on an iPhone, an iPad Mini, an iPod Touch, older generation iPad, or a steam-powered spaceship. If you agree or disagree with any particular rating, please feel free to leave a well-reasoned comment, or send me an email: editor[at]iPad4Life.net .

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    iPad Touch Basics

    Touch Basics

    You will control your iPad by touching it, so why not get more familiar with how to make the most of it with different techniques?

    Single Finger Touch Techniques

    The Tap – Tapping an App with one finger launches it. This is the basic principle of the one-fingertip tap, and if you want an app to do something (play a video, make text bold, send an email), you’re going to tap the appropriate button with one finger. Make sure you don’t tap too hard, however, as the iPad’s surface is not pressure-sensitive and won’t respond faster if you’re hitting it harder. In the long run, you risk damaging the screen, so keep your temper when tapping.

    The Swipe – On the home screen (where all your apps are shown), you can “swipe” your finger by placing it on one end of the screen and sliding it over, as if you were sliding a coin around on a smooth tabletop. You can swipe left-to-right or right-to-left, and you should probably think of the gesture like turning a page of a book. If you have all your apps organized on one screen like I do, then the only other screen you can swipe to is the search bar, handy for finding apps.

    Multi-Touch Techniques

    For these, you’re going to be putting more than one finger on the screen and may even move them around. Also, these are generally only used in-app and have no effect on the homescreen. These are pretty standard, but please check with your app’s documentation before attempting them because there are always a few outliers.

    The Pincer – Place two fingers close together on the screen and spread them out. This will have a zooming effect if you are viewing a picture or a webpage, and is very handy for small print. To zoom back out, place your two fingers on the screen far apart and bring them together. Make sure both fingers are touching at the same time or else you may accidentally click a link or make some other command you don’t mean to. Also, I recommend using the old thumb-and-pointer if you’re doing this one-handed because it’s more natural and less likely to cramp than say, using the middle- and ring-finger.

    The Claw Swipe – Place all five fingers on the screen. Swipe them to the left to switch back to your previous app, or to the right. Also try swiping up instead to reveal the “Multitasking Menu” at the bottom of the screen. Make sure you give each app a few seconds before trying to use it when you switch to it, though, or you might crash it.

    The Squid – Once again, place all five fingers on the screen (just like they naturally do- give plenty of space in between fingers). Bring all your fingers together to close whatever App you’re working in. Though it takes longer than pressing the Home Button, I have to admit it’s a lot more fun and officially my favorite way to close an app.

    In-App Swipes – These vary from App to App, so make sure you look through the tutorials if you’re not sure. For example, a three-finger tap in Procreate will cause the tool bar to hide, which freaked me out the first time I did it by accident. In Blogsy, a three-finger swipe on your copy will switch the post to the html mode.

    Utilize better touch and swipe techniques to improve your workflow, productivity, and take advantage of the increased interactivity available on an iPad.