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Book Review: iPad - The Missing Manual

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Brian Whalley reviews a manual to help support your use of an iPad - 'the book that should have been in the box'.

iPad: The Missing Manual, by J.D. Biersdorfer

iPad: The Missing Manual. By J.D. Biersdorfer, O'Reilly Media, 2010, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1449387846

The Missing Manual Series, originally written and published by David Pogue has expanded and is now published by O'Reilly, who deal mainly with computer books. Like many other publishers, they have jumped on the 'ibandwagon'. A quick count on Amazon Books gave a dozen similar offerings (excluding developers' guides).

This is a review therefore of just one of these paperbacks, and is not a comparative review – with one exception which I shall come to below.

Comments

For writing this review I settled down with the IPad on my knee, Bluetooth keyboard below that and glass of chenin blanc at my right hand – but wondered where to place the volume under review. As yet, nobody has produced a 'skyhook' to hold one or the other. IPad: The Missing Manual (MM) is a little smaller than the iPad itself, about as thick and uses glossy paper with colour illustrations on most pages. In general, each page has a new topic and is organised by basic chapters. Get to know your iPad, Interact with your iPad, etc. They are logical and you can easily flick between them to find the section you need. Not that, with an iPad, you really need to find much. Just plug in applications (apps) and play to find your own way around. This, of course, is typical for Macs of whatever kind. With the iPad however, there is less freedom to find new ways of doing things than with the usual Linux-based Mac OS. The main difficulty is to link up with a computer; fire up iTunes and use this to get started. The basic leaflet that comes with the iPad will tell you all this. Even if you have not used a Mac before, it is fairly intuitive. If you are unsure about the basic operations and included apps, the Apple Web site [1] gives some short, but informative videos. The Missing Manual elaborates on them. If you have not used an iPhone, or perhaps an IPod before, then the MM helps a bit. If you want to do something, for example, move around the icons of apps on the screen and you don't know what to do, then a brief incursion to the MM is undoubtedly helpful. There is a substantial index to help matters but you may well have picked up the basics from Apple's video tours.

At this stage I wanted a 'top up' and went into the kitchen, but I also did an experiment. The weight of iPad on the kitchen scales was 856g; weight of the MM was 427g, ratio, almost exactly 2:1. By a volumetric comparison this is approximately 1: 0.8. The MM is by no means small, so what about information content per volume or mass? Here is another experiment if you have just bought an iPad. First, download the app iCabMobile [2], this is another browser that can be used instead of, and is rather better than, the bundled Safari. Now download the app GoodReader [3] and then into the browser type: manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/iPad_User_Guide.pdf [4]. Lo and behold you have the 'true' missing manual from Apple. Now, in the browser, insert the letter g before http:// of the target URL of the pdf and press 'return'. This downloads the iPad_User_Guide pdf into GoodReader. It is 19MB but should come down easily. You can then browse Apple's free manual in GoodReader as an e-book.

Steve Jobs boasts that there are 8,500 apps for the iPad [5] but which ones are necessary for your Personal Learning Environment? Well, this review (via MacUser [6], thank you) suggests two very good ones. GoodReader is excellent, you can leaf through the pdf as a book, search it, and so on, so put all your downloaded pdfs there. If you do not use Mobile Me [7] and if you want to get hold of a pdf (or other) file from your office machine, then use Dropbox [8] for your office machine and iPad. Upload it in the office and download it to your iPad at leisure. Some apps are mentioned at various places in the MM, but of course more are added all the time so a print-on-paper book is not a good venue for them.

By this time, it is probably fairly evident that the Apple User Guide is better value than the O'Reilly version; at £12.34 from Amazon, retail £18.99. You can buy a fair number of apps for that and I have already suggested two important ones. If you want the Apple equivalents of MS Office then Pages, Numbers and Keynote will cost another £5.99 each. These are covered, albeit briefly, in the MM (Chapter 10) but again, you get a good video guide from the Apple website. There, for example, you will find that if you use the screen keyboard and type 'cant' then the Notes application (and Pages) offers 'can't' as you type, which avoids shifting to a new keyboard screen. This useful feature is not available if you use the Bluetooth keyboard when you have to know where to place apostrophes. There are lots of useful apps and ways to do things beyond the strict confines of the iPad platform. The best way to locate them is to keep an eye on magazines or hints from colleagues.

Conclusion

Although there may be better and cheaper offerings, you will not find iPad: The Missing Manual unhelpful, especially if you have never used an iPhone. But if you are happy to experiment with the iPad then you might prefer to rely on instinct, Apple's videos and its pdf manual. Furthermore, there are plenty of video 'how to..' offerings on YouTube.

References

  1. Ipad support http://www.apple.com/support/ipad/ and
    Apple-iPad-Guides Tours http://www.apple.com/ipad/guided-tours/
  2. iCabMobile bit.ly/icabipad
  3. GoodReader bit.ly/goodreaderipad
  4. iPad Manual http://manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/iPad_User_Guide.pdf
  5. Jobs to developers: Stick with the winning team http://news.cnet.com/8301-31021_3-20007010-260.html
  6. MacUser http://www.mac.user.magazine.co.uk
  7. Mobile Me http://www.apple.com/mobileme/
  8. DropBox http://www.dropbox.com

Author Details

Brian Whalley
Professor of Geomorphology
School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology
Queens University
Belfast BT7 1NN

Email: b.whalley@qub.ac.uk
Web site: http://web.gg.qub.ac.uk/people/staff/whalley/

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Date published: 
30 July 2010

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How to cite this article

Brian Whalley. "Book Review: iPad - The Missing Manual". July 2010, Ariadne Issue 64 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue64/whalley-rvw/


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