Monthly Archives: June 2013

MagicalPad Review

Brain Organization

Whether taking some simple notes or trying to organize a big idea, MagicalPad may be the App you’re looking for. If your brain is as scattered and random as mine, it may just save your life.

A Minimal but Powerful Interface

The in-App buttons are all found at the bottom of the interface, and they work like a charm. Basic commands are all there (Undo, Delete, Formatting), and a single tap brings up “Mind-Mapping” options, as you can see in this screenshot:

The Beautiful, Minimal Interface of MagicalPadIt really is just as simple to operate as it looks.

I really like how the “Mind-Mapping” menu stays on-screen until you tap it again – particularly handy when you need to switch Auto-Connecting and what type of note you want it to create. If you don’t like it hanging around, just tap it again to restore your screen real estate.

Each note edits with a tap and to move something, just hold your finger on it until it fades, then put it wherever you want. If it’s a connected note, the connecting line moves with it. And if you left a note unconnected and suddenly realize it should be attached to something? Just use “Connect Selected” in the Mind-Mapping menu and tap away. Ultimately, both editing and idea-connecting work exactly the way they should.

Intuitive Functionality and Evernote Integration

The value of making multiple notebooks is a huge plus, and is part of what made this App worth its purchase for me. I tend to have multiple projects at once, so being able to file each one in its own little home helps me stay organized, productive, and task-focused. Also, it’s easy to connect your Evernote account and export the workspace as a JPG, Note, or .PDF. I recommend either JPG or PDF, since you lose any of the “Mind-Mapping” if you export as a note:

Exporting as a Note: Bad Idea if you want to Maintain FormattingExporting as a Note looks like this. You’re welcome.

The notebooks themselves can be filled with lots of rename-able pages. The default system names each page after the date and time, so I recommend renaming right after starting a new page just to stay organized.

The Notebook Screen of MagicalPadKeep your ideas separated for greater productivity and less distraction.

The Price

The price point for this App may prove a little rich for your blood – $7.99 (at the time of this writing) puts it in a category of “over $5 Apps” which, in my opinion, means it better deliver. I can say without hesitation that this app has been worth more than the eight bucks I dropped on it, and I use it for everything from organizing this blog to making plans and modifying them during the execution phase.

If you’re the kind of person who likes being able to organize your thoughts visually, and you value both flexibility and intuitive design, then this is probably the App you’ve been looking for. If you’re just looking for something to take notes in, stick with Evernote.


Five Stars!

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] .

How to Connect a Bluetooth Keyboard to Your iPad (Plus Basic Troubleshooting!)

Typing on the iPad

Touchscreen typing is a pain, unless you happen to be one of the five people on the planet who prefers it. Personally, I’m constantly hitting the wrong keys, forgetting that it automatically capitalizes the first letter (which is important when you’re typing in a password), or worst of all, getting terrible hand cramps from hovering my fingertips just microns above the screen.

Find the Right Keyboard

If you are constantly using your lap to support your device, consider a folio like Zagg or Logitech. I have not used either of these devices, so let the Amazon reviews be your guide. If you’re like me and you usually work at a table, the standard Apple wireless keyboard should do the job, though you should be able to connect any keyboard as long as it’s bluetooth. The key is to find whatever is going to work for you.

Turn Bluetooth On

Go into Settings and select “Bluetooth” from the menu on the left. If it’s already on, do nothing, if it’s not, just slide your finger to turn it on. Keep it on this screen as you follow the next step.

Turn Your Keyboard on and Set it in Discovery Mode

Consult your product manuals for how to do this, as it varies somewhat from device to device. The Apple wireless keyboard only requires you to tap the power button, which will cause a small green LED on top of the keyboard to start blinking.

On your Settings>Bluetooth screen, you should see the device listed under the Bluetooth on/off switch, like so:

The iPad Bluetooth Menu
You may see more than one device listed – make sure you know which one is your keyboard!

Make sure you know which device is yours, and if it says “Not Connected,” tap it. You should see a progress wheel as your iPad and keyboard shake hands, and after a few seconds it should say “Connected.” The keyboard is now ready to type on the iPad, and you’re ready to go!

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Keyboard is connected, but nothing happens when I type

While I don’t know the specifics of this problem, I can tell you what has worked for me – go back into your Settings>Bluetooth menu and switch the Bluetooth off on the iPad itself. After it has finished turning off (when the device menu underneath disappears and the small Bluetooth icon in the upper-right corner turns off), turn it back on and reconnect your keyboard.

Also, make sure you know your keyboard’s broadcast name. Don’t guess. If you connect to an unknown device, you are compromising your iPad’s security, and potentially invading someone else’s privacy. I work in various coffee shops around where I live, and I am constantly seeing other peoples’ unconnected (but active) Bluetooth devices in my device menu. Always make sure you know what device name your keyboard is using, you can usually find it in the documentation. If you can’t find it, email the manufacturer’s support department.

I need to use a special character letter, like this: ü

For this, it’s best to use the onscreen keyboard. How do you get it back without going through all the rigamarole of disconnecting the keyboard, using the onscreen, and then reconnecting? If you’re using an Apple keyboard, simply press the “Eject” key on the top right. This will pull up the onscreen keyboard, but still allow you to type with both.

To get the special character in mind, hold your finger on the base letter of the onscreen keyboard (in our umlaut – ü – example, this would be the letter “u.”), and after about a second you will see an assortment of alternate version of that letter. Keep your finger on the keyboard (don’t let it off!) and slide it to the character you have in mind. To get the onscreen keyboard off, just press the button again.

My Keyboard is typing in a different language

This will happen if you have multiple languages installed on your iPad, like me. The shortcut command (if you’re using an Apple wireless keyboard) is “Command + Spacebar” to switch between keyboard language layouts. Hold down on the Command button to keep the language menu onscreen. If you’re using a different keyboard (one that doesn’t have the Apple “Command” button), pull up the onscreen keyboard and press the key on the bottom left that looks kind of like a globe. Keep pressing that button until it gets to the language you have in mind.

Summing Up

Using a physical keyboard with the iPad helps prevent hand strain and frustration, and is a great way to accomplish large writing tasks as well as exercising faster and more intuitive control over the language input.

Copy Text with the iPad

Deceptively Simple

Copying text is pretty simple on a regular computer – just click, drag, Ctrl+C! The iPad, however, had continually frustrated my efforts with its tendency to highlight entire paragraphs when I just wanted a sentence or two, leaving me to delete several lines of text. But then I discovered a simple technique that for some reason never came up in any of my searches.

Keep in mind that this works in Chrome and Safari, but your mileage will vary in other apps (like the Kindle App).

Step 1: Select One Word

First, press your fingertip against the first word in the chain you want to copy. This will select the word, turning it blue, and you should notice a blue circle at its top left and bottom right. For my example, I have chosen President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, copied from Wikipedia.

Gettysburg Address via

Step 2: Drag The Circles

Now, press your fingertip onto the bottom right circle and drag your finger over the rest of the text you want to copy. If it’s a big block, you can move your finger straight down, as the selection will follow the text just like it would with a mouse. When you lift your finger off the screen, the text should still be highlighted.

Gettysburg Address with text selected

If you find that you selected the wrong first word, you can likewise drag the top left circle and move the selection to the left to grab that sneaky word.

Always Grab the Blue Circles to Extend Your Selection

Step 3: Copy

This varies a little depending on the browser you’re using. In Safari, a simple Command+C will copy the text (assuming you’re using a keyboard and not the touchscreen). Chrome seems a bit finicky about using a keyboard, so it’s best to tap on one of the blue circles to bring up a menu (similar to the right-click menus in Windows). Tap “Copy” and you’re good to go.

Step 4: Paste

When you’ve copied the text, switch apps (or tabs, if it’s meant for something browser-based) and use Command+V if you’re using a physical keyboard. If you’re using the touchscreen, or if the App in question doesn’t see to like taking orders from a keyboard, press and hold your finger for a few seconds (or double-tap with your finger) on the space where you want to paste. A little “Paste” button should pop up: select it and the text should paste. Now you can format it, blockquote it, or just celebrate a job well done.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

If you are among the “fat-fingered” variety of people like I am, you may find this process has a bit of a learning curve. Keep at it! Practice it and be patient with both your device and yourself. It will get easier – within a few days of discovering this method, I had mastered it and haven’t lost a selection since.

If you stumble upon any time-saving tips like this, email me: editor[at] .

My First App Problem: GTA 3

I thought it couldn’t happen to me. I have the latest iPad, the OS is up-to-date and I take good care of it. This kind of thing happens to iPad2 owners, not latest-and-greatest people like me. And yet, there I was, ready to commit fake crimes in a fake city, and the game buttons had shrunk so small I could barely see them.

The App is a game called Grand Theft Auto 3, and it was originally released for PC back in 2001. I was in College at the time, and the game proved a fantastic way of relieving the stress and aggression that so often accompanies education and frankly, life in general.

One night, I saw my update notification from the App Store, and the release notes (which I read very carefully), simply said that they were adding iPhone compatibility to the game, as well as cloud-saving features that would allow people to save their games across several devices. I downloaded the update, and later that night I played the game. This is what I saw:

The Problem

The Heads-Up Display (HUD) was suddenly very tiny and all bunched together in the top corner. I looked through the display menu frantically, and couldn’t find anything to help. This basically renders the game unplayable, and after several unfruitful Google searches, I decided to send a support ticket to Rockstar about it. Then, literally right after I sent the ticket, I found what I was looking for poking around in the game:

The Solution

After selecting “Adjust On Foot Controls,” I learned that GTA3’s entire HUD is moveable and scalable, and I just moved the icons back to where they belonged. I did the same thing with the Vehicle Controls, then I sheepishly updated the trouble ticket so they would know the problem was solved, and so hopefully other people might find it and know that they are not alone.

Have you had App problems in the past? Did you find a workable solution yourself? If you dealt with the publisher directly, how helpful was their customer support? Send your stories to editor[at] .

5 Things I Hate About My iPad

No device is perfect, and as enamored as I am with my iPad, there are times when I want to chuck it out the nearest window. Here are five things I hate about my iPad:

  1. The Touchscreen Keyboard.
  2. It makes me feel like an inarticulate chimp when I try to express my thoughts using its arbitrary sensitivity. Usually the autocorrect steps in, but that creates a whole host of new issues for me. When it corrects something I’ve legitimately mistyped (due to my fat fingers), it feels like it’s patronizing me, and when it gives a suggestion for something I’ve typed correctly because it thinks I must mean a different word, it feels like it’s censoring me. Either way, there’s no way I’d be able to produce content at a decent speed without my bluetooth keyboard, at least not without going through several window-chucked iPads.

    iPad with Shattered Screen
    For sale, one iPad, slightly window-chucked. (Creative Commons Image by iRepairUAE)
  3. The Home Button is Prone to Accidents.
  4. Especially while gaming. It’s a vicious cycle, really: I get so focused on blowing up enemy fighters in Galaxy on Fire 2 or exacting my revenge in Grand Theft Auto 3 that I forget the Home button is even there until suddenly I’m staring at the app screen screaming, “NNNOOOOOOOOO!” in the middle of Starbucks and everyone’s staring at me for some reason. While the game stays in memory and always picks up exactly where it left off when I re-launch it right away, it takes me out of the moment and spoils a perfectly good experience. Considering how many games are best played in Landscape mode, there really has to be a better place for the home button than right where my thumb naturally goes. And speaking of gaming . . .

  5. The Absence of a Universal Bluetooth Game Controller.
  6. While there have been several promising advances, there is still no one controller that works for every game. This is a problem, not only because of the Home button problem mentioned above, but because Touchscreen controls are unimmersive because they have no physical feedback. With a controller, you can feel the push of the button, and steer with a small joystick, even feel the rumble of a hit. While there are some workaround hardware solutions, they don’t really compare to the comfort and immersion that you can get from a physical, XBox-like controller, not to mention the questionable ergonomics of gripping a two-pound tablet.

  7. No USB slots.
  8. This isn’t really a huge complaint for me since I have a habit of syncing my iPad with any files I need from home before I head out for the day. But it speaks to a perceived arrogance on the part of Apple that their portable device doesn’t play nice with other commonly-used portable devices. Even one jump drive slot would be enough, I would think, and if the designers are really concerned that it will mess up the aesthetics, they can always use a cover that’s similar to those on smartphones and digital cameras. Maybe some day we’ll live in a perfect world where everything is wirelessly connected and no one ever needs to use any kind of physical media, but we’re not there yet.

  9. Mobile Sites.
  10. I have kind of a love/hate relationships with “Mobile Sites,” where I completely adore the ones that work well (like Zoho Mail, which I use to host my email account), and want to kill with fire the sites that look terrible, are unintuitive, and basically useless (I’m looking right at you, Google+). Unfortunately, most Mobile sites fit into the latter category, and so my online experience is sometimes hampered by poor design, lack of accessible content, and thrown-together interactivity. While Chrome has a handy option under the menu called “Request Desktop Site,” it seems to only work on a page-by-page basis, and as soon as I navigate to another page on the site I have to request the desktop site again, which sometimes leads me back to the homepage and ALL I WANT TO DO IS LINK TO THIS FUNNY ARTICLE ABOUT NAPOLEON BONAPARTES’ OBSESSION WITH COIN-COLLECTING WHY WON’T YOU LET ME LIVE?!

Still the one

At the end of the day, the iPad is still my preferred device and platform for maximum produtivity. It works great, keeps me focused, and is fun to use, which makes it perfect for me. If you have some iPad frustrations of your own, send me an email: editor[at] and maybe I’ll find a solution in a future post.

The Pogo Connect Stylus – A Love Story

The Pogo Connect is a pressure-sensitive bluetooth stylus available for tablets. In the research I did before purchasing it, it seemed to be the wisest choice for my purposes (mainly painting with Procreate). When mine finally arrived, I was stoked.

I went straight to work, learning about which apps were compatible, trying out the pressure sensitivity, and enjoying the feel of the stylus. My one real complaint is that it can be difficult to see what you’re working on when you’re doing fine detail work because the nib of the stylus is kind of fat, but it has to be fat in order to work with the iPad’s touchscreen. And you really do get used to the feel of the thing after a while, so as long as you’re using a fast art App like Procreate, frustration will stay at a minimum.

After a few months using my fancy stylus, I decided to replace the nib. My daughter had been using it for her letter-learning games, and she had worn it down considerably since she presses down so hard you’d think she’s carving stone. While replacing the nib, the unthinkable happened: my Pogo Connect Stylus broke!

My poor, broken Pogo Connect

To the left is the stylus, the middle is the replaceable nib, and the shiny item on the far right is the magnet that keeps the nib in place and, I’m guessing, connects the pressure data to the transmitter so that the iPad knows what you’re trying to do. I tried just putting the thing back together, but the sensitivity was completely broken. The thing wouldn’t even make an unbroken line.

After frantically checking TenOne Design’s website and my own email receipt, I concluded that I was one day over a 60-day warranty. My heart sank. This thing was expensive, at least for me, and I really couldn’t afford to get a new one. So I took a chance and emailed their customer support, figuring they’d just tell me I was out of luck. They asked for a picture, so I took the one you see above, waiting for the moment when they would tell me the bad news.

Then I read the most beautiful three words in the English language: It’s a defect. Since the product was defective (remember that I have no way of knowing this by myself – I honestly figured it had just been handled too roughly), they would replace it free of charge, sending a new one out via standard shipping right away. And they didn’t even do that terrible thing companies sometimes do where they make you send the defective unit back first on your own dime.

If you’re looking for a good pressure-sensitive bluetooth stylus, I can’t recommend Pogo Connect enough. Not only is it a fantastic tool for creating realistic and natural-feeling artwork, but the company behind it, TenOne Design, knows how to care for its customers. This cannot be said of every company.

Get a Pogo Connect. (Not an Affiliate Link)

iPad5: Four New Features I Want

A Better iPad

With the Worldwide Developers Conference still underway, iPad enthusiasts like me are hoping they’ll unveil the 5th Generation iPad, but they almost certainly won’t.

So while we wait, here are Four features I would like to see in the new iPad5, in order of preference:

  1. More RAM

  2. The iPad4 is incredibly fast considering its relatively paltry 1GB of RAM. It’s a testament to good software design what some games and high-end image editing programs are able to do with such limited resources and they should be commended for their constraint and programming discipline. But enough is enough – give us another gig or two!
    Just imagine the iPad with 4GB of RAM. It wouldn’t just be fast – it would fly! And couple that with the already-impressive Quad Core Graphics in the processor, you’d have a lean, mean, gaming-and-professional-quality-visual-editing machine! No more would budding visual artists, photographers and video editors have to incorporate a “real computer” into their pipeline. It could all be done on an iPad.
    And Gaming? Forget about it. The iPad already has an impressive lineup of games, but this would put it well over the top. You think the recent release of Knights of the Old Republic was a big deal? Wait until you see the iPad version of Crysis3 or Aion. With mention of Gaming comes the inevitable mention of . . .

  3. Gamepad Compatibility

  4. Steve Jobs’s vision for the iPad was an all-inclusive device that didn’t need anything added to it. It’s a great thought, but it means that the iPad has continually been something of a letdown when it comes to supporting third-party hardware. It is time to change the philosophy to something more like, “the average user won’t need anything besides their iPad, but we want to make the device practical for everyone including specialists and enthusiasts.”
    In short, Apple should either make a universal gamepad for the iPad (iGamepad? iController? iPwn?) or at least write compatibility with existing generic devices into iOS. And speaking of iOS . . .

  5. A Better File Management System

  6. I am currently trying out a certain 3D Modeling App to review on this site (stay tuned, modelers!). This particular App can import a certain filetype, but because of iOS’s restrictions and because there is no way (that I can find) to save a file that the iPad can’t attribute to a certain app, I have to transfer the files from my desktop like a sucker. What happened to the all-inclusiveness?
    While file systems can end up being just as disorganized and messy as their owners, I don’t think it would be that difficult to write one in, at least for downloaded files. If they like, it can even make “clean-up recommendations” once in a while, or have a limit on the file size. I think this would do a lot to attract more Windows Users like myself, since they’re used to seeing all their files in a list or as icons. We shouldn’t have to use third-party apps for this – it should be built in.

  7. More Compatibility With Desktop-Quality Apps

  8. You know what I would like to do? Put CS6 on my iPad so that I can use Photoshop or Illustrator on-the-go rather than wasting precious time doing it at home when I could be playing with my children. This would require something along the lines of item #1 actually happening, but I believe this step would be a significant nail in the coffin of traditional, stationary, mouse-based computing and would add yet another layer of deeper, more significant user interaction to an already very user-friendly and handy device.

So will we see improvements like some of these in the next iPad? From what I’ve been hearing, probably not. It seems that Apple is still focused on making it lighter and giving it a slim bezel facelift likely similar to its little brother. Not necessarily bad changes, but still not the leap that some of us are waiting for.