Impressions of iOS 4.2

So, iOS 4.2 is finally here. This version finally brings all iDevices to the same version and feature level. I hope this parity continues with iOS 5. While iOS 4.2 is an update to every iOS device, I think it’s fair to say this update is more of an iPad than an iPhone update.

Since iOS4’s release this summer, iPads have been stuck running iOS 3.x. So, no multitasking, no folders, no fast app switching. On a device one hopes to use a mobile computing platform, this was a hinderance — especially the multitasking and fast app switching. Now, the iPad can do those things. Sure, it’s not the same multitasking, but it’s a big update.

On a daily basis, my iPad gets tons more use than my iPhone. I use it for e-mail triage, surfing, reference,  video watching, ebook reading and it’s my preferred way of reading RSS. I’ve never quite adopted the multiple display workflow, but my iPad is usually next to my MacBook doing something. Without fast app switching or multitasking, my iPad would often be stuck finishing one task while I wanted to do another.

Take Evernote, for example. My Evernote library is huge, and the main reason I spring for the Premium service is for offline storage on my iPad. I’m in the middle of a few projects where I’m storing research notes into Evernote. I recently dumped about 100mb of PDFs up in there. The subsequent download to Evernote for the iPad was painful. Now, with iOS 4.2, that sync would happen in the background. We’ve been seeing a slew of apps updated for iOS 4.2, so most of my apps now support the new features. I’m thrilled with the update. My iPad feels a ton snappier. I love that folders condensed five screens of apps to two rows.

Game Center, AirPlay and AirPrint I’m less thrilled about. I have never wanted or needed to print from iPad. Even when I’ve travelled, I haven’t had to print out a document since I was in England in 1999.

A while back I stated that almost everything I write in some way passes through the iPad. Recently, that’s changed from “almost everything” to “most things.” I’m writing more how-to instructions and their heavy reliance on screenshots pretty much leaves the iPad out of the running. I do have hopes some day of just grabbing my iPad and a keyboard and heading to Starbucks to see just how an iPad would hold up to a day of writing.

Advertisements

Elements for iPad Updated with Folders, Markdown Support

Two iPad apps that have been very near and dear to my writer’s heart: Elements and PlainText. They are two simple apps, that let me edit plain text files on a Dropbox folder — each app uses its own Dropbox folder, named Elements and Plaintext respectively. I’ve loved both, but PlainText was winning because it supported subfolders in its folder, which Elements lacked before this update.

Another writing tool I often take advantage of is Markdown, a sort of formatting shortcut language created by John Gruber. The lack of native support wasn’t a big deal for me. I already know most of the formatting commands so I could just enter them in by hand and preview them when I exported them.

The Markdown implementation is a little tricky. If you’ve created a file on the iPad, you’ll need to change the extension to .md, .markdown, .mdown or .mdwn. That will activate the Markdown preview button. It doesn’t appear to add any shortcuts for common Markdown elements, like #. It’s too bad since the need to access the secondary or tertiary on-screen keyboards can slow you down. If you are a heavy Markdown user, I recommend the excellent Edito iPad app.

Now that Elements supports both subfolders and Markdown in version 1.5, it just might become my iPad plain text editor of choice