I've been at DrupalCon in San Francisco for the past few days and I thought it might be helpful to talk a little about what I'm finding in the process of leaving the laptop at home and using the iPad as my primary conference tool.
Battery life is key.
There are 3000 technology folks at the conference, mostly with power hungry laptops. Good luck finding a power source during the 10 hour day. In contrast, the iPad keeps going without the need for charging, or the need for additional batteries or power cables. I had used it all day Monday, recorded a number of talks while taking notes and I had 41% battery life when I got home. Today I elected not to record and that gave me the chance to bounce around to different apps (yea, yea we don't have multitasking yet) and my battery life is suffering a bit more at 29% after a solid 10 hours of use. If I push it I suspect this thing would last another few hours, and much longer then I can go!
Keyboard still rocks, cursor position UI feels slow.
I had very little issues getting text into the device in all of my notes. When I made mistakes, it took me a longer then desired to fix and edit my text. I would suggest editing be done after the fact and perhaps on a normal keyboard based computer. As a simple note taking device, this thing is fantastic. Please be careful with the auto text fixing functions with the OS. I had a number of times it would change something for me that I didn't want changed. You have been warned.
Weight is ideal.
A number of people have made comments on the weight. I was one of them. As a book reader it does seem a little heavy, but as a conference/meeting tool, it is so nice to toss the iPad into a small case, or just carry it from meeting to meeting. I can't stress this enough, when there are 3000 people coming and going from 8 different rooms, being portable makes things so much easier on life.
We need a better note app.
While the built in Notes app does the job for a quick note, I want something a bit more powerful. I've tried Evernote and a few others, but the one that seems to be the best mix of functions and stable releases seems to be SoundPaper. What I like about sound notes is the ability to record the meeting at the same time as taking notes. This is not new in this class of apps, but what sound notes does that others don't is the ability to tap on a word of your notes and have the recording auto jump to the time point when that word was typed. This is a killer feature! That is not to say the app is not error free. There seems to be issues with some of the core OS functions of text entry, but the developer mentioned in a private email that updates are coming soon that address some of the issues, and additional updates in the next month that should help.
Some notable runner-ups would be Audiotorium, but the bookmark feature is not as clean as SoundPaper and the app is very unusable with bugs that would not allow me to scroll, or do bookmarks in the app. I'm also not a big fan of the script font so having some settings to change the font to something a tad more readable would be nice. The developer also mentioned an update coming very soon that would address some of these issues, so I would like to reserve judgement on this app until I see some updates. Who will win my heart in the end? I'm pulling for SoundPaper as I really like the ability to tap on a word and have the recording jump to that time point. Send an email to the developer to mention that you would like to see this app continue to see updates, and new features added.
UPDATE: in the process of editing this post the Audiotorium app was updated and it looks like they too added the same feature of tapping in text to auto jump in the audio I've found that is the killer feature of SoundPaper. I've not had the chance to field test it during the conference so look for an additional update in the future.
UPDATE 2: Still having issues with scrolling, and the new feature does not seem to be working. I suspect this app needs to bake a bit more.
Evernote is also an option. I'm not a fan of the UI so I dropped that app pretty quick. I find that Evernote users really like the option to sync between different devices, but in my use case, I would love to have a notes app that would have some option to integrate with Google docs and primarily the ability to edit and save up to Google Docs universe. This would kill Evernote.
We need a better Twitter client.
TweetDeck is my choice presently, but the app is not the same as the iPhone or desktop app. Version 2 will give us similar options, but not much has been said on the timeline on the release. There are others, but what I like about TweetDeck for the Mac and even the iPhone is the feature rich options that allow the management of both Twitter accounts and Facebook.
Laptop or iPad?
At this point, I suspect I will likely never need to bring my laptop to conferences again. Meetings are also a no-brainier. I feel the battery, and weight loss totally outweigh the small negatives that come up when the pad is your primary device. As apps improve and we get an update to the OS that will allow multitasking, it will be even more useful and further reduce the need to for a laptop.
What do you think?
Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section. Would love to hear how you use the iPad in similar situations, and if you have additional apps that might be better choices then what I suggested, please speak up.